Tag Archives: Meaningless Milestones

EverQuest Turns Eighteen

The date has come again where I tell you I still have that receipt from Fry’s for a copy of EverQuest dated March 16, 1999 and reminisce for a bit about the good old days and what a revelation an open, 3D world was back in 1999 and how far the game has come and how amazing that here, eighteen years later the game is still live and viable and getting updates and expansions.  I think you will find similar posts just about every March 16th (or 17th if I was lazy) over the life of the blog.  Ten years ago today there was a post here on the blog about EverQuest turning 8.

And there is nothing wrong with that.  Why shouldn’t I celebrate something that clearly left a mark on my life?  The EverQuest team is celebrating as well.

They can now buy cigarettes and vote

There are all sorts of things going on in old Norrath, with new events, bonus experience, and the return of old anniversary favorites.

You can even get a free level 85 boosted character between now and March 31.

Being level 85 makes you heroic by default

The offer is good for any account that has ever played EverQuest or any new account that is an All Access subscriber.

There is also a new Producer’s letter up that, among other things, promises a new Progression server called Agnarr that will stop unlocking content at Lost Dungeons of Norrath and simply stay there.  There is also an explicit statement that there will be an EQ expansion this year, as though we would doubt that at this point.

All good stuff for a game that continues to defy expectations and carry on despite its age.

1999 EverQuest Trivia from 2011… the level cap is 100 now

But the anniversary also brings up some questions as well.  A lot of MMORPGs have come and gone during the game’s run, and it is purported to still be one of the most popular/highly populated games at Daybreak.  This leads me to wonder how long can EverQuest last?  How long will it keep getting updates?  What combo of critical mass and notoriety does an MMO need to hit to achieve this sort of longevity?

I have failed to answer those questions before, though not for a lack of trying from time to time, starting with a post back in 2007 when I wondered how many more expansions the game would get.  This was at the time when the EQ team moved from two expansions a year to just one.  I guessed two or three.  So very wrong.  Currently Daybreak summarizes the game’s features as:

  • Experience 18 years of continuous development including 21 expansions of amazing content
  • Build your character through 100 levels of power
  • More than 500 zones to explore
  • Choose from 16 unique races and 16 distinct classes
  • Thousands of Alternate Abilities available to further customize your character
  • More than 50,000 items to earn and collect
  • Hire and control unique mercenaries to aid you in your heroic adventures
  • A robust in-game marketplace containing potions, weapons, armor, and mounts
  • Solo, Group and Raid across continents filled with perilous dungeons, eerie crypts, floating landscapes, and underwater adventures
  • Participate in several seasonal and holiday events throughout the year

Anyway, another year passes and Norrath still seems to be going strong.  Same time next year?

My past anniversary posts, just to keep track:

One Hundred and Seventy Million Skill Points

Another milestone in training as, even in the age of skill injectors, I continue to roll on forward the old fashioned way and let my skill points accumulate slowly over time.  Call me cheap… though because I have so many skill points a skill injector only nets me a 150K skill point gain, so I am cheap with reason.  Actually, I am about a day early with this post, but I had posts planned for the rest of the week and nothing for today, so here it is!  The posts never land exactly on the exact mark in any case.

Anyway, another seven months down the line brings us to another post.  Here is my skill point journey in New Eden so far, if you feel the need for the historic precedent behind this post:

This is how skill points are currently distributed on Wilhelm Arcturus.  An asterisk indicates that the skill point total has changed since last post.

 Spaceship Cmd   51,351,483 (55 of 75)*
 Gunnery         17,197,141 (36 of 46)*
 Fleet Support   12,896,000 (14 of 15)* new name
 Drones          11,704,870 (22 of 26)
 Missiles        10,836,471 (22 of 26)
 Navigation       9,660,314 (13 of 13)
 Engineering      7,253,895 (15 of 15)
 Electronic Sys   7,189,415 (14 of 15)*
 Armor            6,131,137 (13 of 13) 
 Shields          5,994,039 (11 of 13)
 Science          5,462,151 (21 of 39) 
 Resc Processing  4,569,908 (22 of 28)
 Trade            3,271,765 (9 of 14)
 Targeting        3,207,765 (8 of 8)
 Neural Enhance.  3,202,510 (5 of 8)* 
 Subsystems       2,186,840 (20 of 20)
 Scanning         2,045,230 (7 of 7) 
 Rigging          1,312,395 (10 of 10)
 Production       1,157,986 (5 of 12) 
 Social           1,130,040 (5 of 9)
 Structure Mgmt   1,084,784 (2 of 6) 
 Planet Mgmt      1,069,079 (5 of 5)* 
 Corp Mgmt           24,000 (2 of 5) 

 Total         ~170,000,000 (338 of 428)

The additional 10 million skill points saw an additional six skills added to my list, bringing the total up from 332 last time to 338.

Spaceship Command continues its reign at the top of the list.  Internet spaceships does seem to require training that is focused specifically on internet spaceships I guess.  That got a boost this time around from training current skills up to level V.  I finished Transport Ships V, trained Command Ships V for a bit before swapping out, and I have been working on Amarr Carrier V for the last few weeks.  That provides a boost both for me carrier and my fax machine, so seemed worthwhile as a long term goal.

Archon, also in Purity White, hanging off a Fortizar

Archon in white

Electronic Systems got a big point boost as I trained up Tactical Logistics Reconfiguration so as to be able to run the Tech II triage module on my Apostle.

Medical White Apostle

Medical White Apostle

On the new skill front, those were actually easy for me to remember this time around.  There were four skills in the Drones category related to fighters that I needed to train up so as to get my carrier skills up to the CapSwarm requirements.  The other two were under Neural Enhancements; Neurotoxin Control and Neurotoxin Recovery, which are related to the use of skill enhancing drugs.

Use More Drugs

Use More Drugs! The station ad commands it!

Then there is the side effect of doing these posts at regular 10 million skill point increments.  Not only does it track my own progress, but it also tracks how skills themselves change over time.  For example, we now have the category Fleet Support, which is mostly a new name for what was once Leadership.  I am missing only Spacial Phenomena Generation, which is a titan skill.  But that change also heralds the changing in fleet boosts and structure.

Another fleet boost hitting

Imagine that boost effect on drugs

My skills, broken out by level:

 Level 1  - 2
 Level 2  - 8
 Level 3  - 45
 Level 4  - 101
 Level 5  - 182

182 at level V puts me five up from last time.

As for my “fly all the subcaps” metric that replaced my somewhat dates “fly a titan” metric, I did actually make progress on that.  Another of the Spaceship Command skill I raise to level V was Amarr Industrial, so I can fly the Amarr blockade runners and deep space transports.  That leaves the following on my list:

  • Expedition Frigates (Prospect, Endurance)  – 10 days
  • Gallente Transports (Occator, Viator) – 20 days
  • Loki strategic cruiser (subsystems trained) – 45 mins
  • Marauders (all factions) – 90 mins

Of that list, only Gallente Transports is in my current queue, next up after Amarr Carrier.  So, as a metric, that list is getting as thin as flying a titan was.  While I should train up the Loki just for completeness, I am unlikely to train Marauders due to the expense.  Expedition frigates I might do on a whim some day, but they are not at all a priority.  That doesn’t leave much room for change.

So feel free to suggest a new metric, or else I am going to have to come up with one before the next post.  Granted, that gives me some time, as I expect that won’t come to pass until late August or early September.  However, I am likely to forget about the whole thing in the interim.  Maybe I could come up with a skill set that would be “enough” and allow me to move the training queue to an alt on my account.  But what would ever be “enough?”  And then CCP would add some new skills and I would have to chase those as well.

We shall see if I come up with anything before the next post.

Five Years in Null Sec

Back in December of 2011, even as Hilmar was telling the CSM that the era of the “Jesus Feature” was over, I was again subscribed to EVE Online.  Having unsubscribed after the debacle that was Incarna, I was back to see what CCP had done since then as they launched Crucible, an expansion that promised to get back to the nuts and bolts of the game and start a trend of fixing stuff that people had been complaining about for years.

I had to admit that it was pretty, with new nebulae and start gates that appears to be lined up to shoot you at the correct star even.

Jump Gate in Action

Jump Gate in Action

But as pretty as the update was, it wasn’t holding me.  I was back and looking at all the stuff I had in my hangar, leftovers from the various paths I had trod over the previous half decade in New Eden… mission, mining, production, arbitrage… along with 70 million skill points in training and felt no inspiration.  I was subscribed for a month and figured I would spend it toddling about looking at pretty things and then let my account lapse.

Even my friends, the people who came and went from our little corp, were all gone… all save Gaff.  Gaff was back and playing, but he was out in null sec where he had gone a year or so previously, and there was not getting there to visit, though he did stop by in high sec for the occasional romp.

He had tried to get me to join him in null sec in the past, but I am one of those people who gets stuck on “things,” and all of my things were in a station in Amarr space and I couldn’t imagine trying to get them all up to where he lived in Deklein.

This time, however, my commitment to the game was waning such that I was up to take a chance.  I filled out an application to join BSCL, got accepted, changed my home station, and self-destructed.

I was revived in the station at CU9-T0, the headquarters of my new alliance, TNT, but quickly scooted off to 0P-F3K, the system that BSCL mostly called home.  It was December 18, 2011 and a conflict had just broken out.  After the great VFK headshot Goonswarm had taken what was once DekCo, transformed into the Clusterfuck Coalition, or the CFC, once its boarders expanded, on the road after some neighbors to the northeast that were seen as threats.  The CFC struck out at them and these foes, White Noise and Raiden, announced they were set to come get us, promising to rid Deklein of Goons, a statement which was turned into the infamous cry of “VFK by February!”

It was war and I had to figure out what was what in a hurry.

I got to our staging system in VFK-IV, got on coms, got myself a doctrine ship, and was soon bumbling my way through fleets trying to figure out what was going on and not screw up.  But by December 21 I had already bridged off of a titan, been in a fleet fight, done a structure shoot, and had seen all sorts of new things in the game.  And probably more importantly I became part of the ongoing story that is null sec space.

Null Sec Sov. December 27

Null Sec Sov. December 27, 2011

Long after seeing a titan was no longer special and I had trained up skill points to fly in every subcap doctrine the coalition could come up with, being part of the sweep and story of null sec space has kept me interested in the game.  Before I came to null sec I used to drop my subscription and take a break every so often, usually after I wore out whatever goal or project I had been working on.  Since I came to null sec I have remained subscribed and logging in.

As something of an MMO tourist, being in a null sec alliance and part of a contentious coalition has afforded me the opportunity to witness many of the noteworthy events that have sometimes made it to the mainstream news.  To abuse a former CCP advertising catch phrase, “I was there” for:

  • My first “big” fleet fight in EWN-2U which saw the newly released time dilation mechanism in play (post)
  • Burn Jita of various flavors (Burn Jita tag)
  • Z9PP-H when CCP fumbled the node and saved TEST (Post, though I left just before that happened)
  • The Lazamo at 3WE-KY (post)
  • 6VTD-H at the end of the Fountain War (Post with lots of links about the battle)
  • HED-GP when we were killing nodes with drone assist (Post)
  • B-R5RB, which remains the most expensive battle in New Eden history (B-R5RB tag with several related posts)
  • M-OEE8 and the great betrayal of the Casino War (Post)
  • Defeat in the Casino War and the great migration to Delve (Delve 2016 tag)
  • M-OEE8 Keepstar fight with the most pilots ever to pile into a single system (Post)

Those are points in time that a lot of people will remember.  I think the one big event I totally missed was Asakai, which happened while I was at work and was done before I got home.  And these are just peak events.  For each great clash there are many smaller battles.

And even when there isn’t a wider war going on… which is usually when some vocal non-null sec players start chanting about “blue donuts” and “stagnation”… there is always something going on, even if it is just planning and building for the next conflict.  We can’t sustain constant war, it takes too much out of people.

And the story continues.  That series of discreet events I listed out are just points on the arc of a much wider and ongoing tale of which so many people have been a part.   Some actors and organizations come and go, others change sides or become part of new organizations.  If you read Andrew Groen’s book Empires of EVE, that is just part of the story, a great snapshot from null sec, but only a snippet from the ongoing saga of 0.0 space.  War, alliances, spies, betrayal, conquest, victories, defeats, old hands, bitter vets, new bros, null sec has it all.

Null sec sov Dec. 20, 2016

Null sec sov Dec. 20, 2016

Granted, null sec isn’t a game niche for everybody, and there are aspects of it that do get tiring.  After a couple of years of mostly being in the blob of main fleet, the whole effort was starting to wear on me.  If you look back at January of 2014, when B-R5RB happened, I am only on six kill mails.  They were six titans from that battle, but I wasn’t doing much else and my Dominix got left behind in the system after the Russians collapsed and lost all of that space.

And then Reavers came along with ops where 100 ships is a big turn out for an op and got to do all sorts of different sorts of fights all over New Eden.  And that isn’t a constant activity.  We deploy for a bit, have some fights, then come back home to do other things.

All in all though, being part of null sec is pretty much what made EVE Online finally “stick” for me.  Every time I think maybe it is time for a break, something new comes up in the story and I decide to stick around a bit longer just to see how that plays out.

A Decade Under the Influence of Online Games

Here we are, ten years and more than four thousand posts later, and I am still notably bad at online games.  But I persist.

Being there achievement, blogging version

Being there achievement, blogging version

The title is actually wrong, but I couldn’t come up with a better one.  I can prove I have been playing online games for 30 years.  I even have physical artifacts from the era.  Hell of a year for games… and movies.  I’ve merely been blogging about them for the last decade.

Anyway, for those keen to review past attempts at anniversary posts, here is the list:

I actually did a lot of work on those posts around years five and six.

Base Statistics

An attempt to quantify what I have done here in the last twelve months.  The change over last year’s totals are noted in parentheses.

Days since launch: 3,653 (+366)
Posts total: 4,075 (+368)
Average posts per day: 1.11 (-0.02)
Comments: 27,959 (+2,401)
Average comments per post: 6.86 (-0.04)
Average comments per day: 7.65  (-0.15)
Spam comments: 1,312,165 (+34,173)
Comments Rescued from the Spam Filter: 408
Average spam comments per day: 359.2 (-29.6)
Comment signal to noise ratio: 1 to 46.9 (-3.1)
Comments written by me: 3,531 or 7.9%
Images uploaded:  10,416 (+1157)
Space used by images: 2.3 GB of my 3 GB allocation (78%, up 8%)

I continue to post about once a day, but all other metrics remain in decline.  Even spam comments were just one third of what they were last year.  What does it mean when even spam bots are tiring of your blog?

Then I go over to Feedly and look at the stats for the blogs feed and is says crazy things like this:

9,000? That cannot be right!

Seriously, it says this

9,000 followers can’t be right… hell, even 9 stories a week is optimistic.  The stats from the blog say 7 tops.

Meanwhile, the site (noted down below) that sent me the MOST referral traffic shows up with this number.

Being on the CSM doesn't help on Feedly I guess...

Being on the CSM doesn’t help on Feedly I guess…

So there went logic out the window I guess.

The next highest number I could find in my feeds was this:

WoW, really not as popular as me it seems...

WoW, really not as popular as me it seems…

I call shenanigans on the whole thing, unless my site is just a magnet for people addicted to RSS feeds and daily-ish posts.

Life on the internet.  Anyway, those are the basic numbers.  More detailed nonsense is available after the cut… unless you’re reading via RSS, in which case it is all there in your reader of choice, because I love you right back RSS junkies.

Continue reading

Ten Years of Internet Spaceships

Ten years ago today I signed up for EVE Online, made a character… Wilhelm Arcturus… yes, EVE Who says August 30, but 03:58 UTC was still August 29 here in California… and undocked for the first time in New Eden.

Wilhelm Avatars Through the Years

Wilhelm Avatars Through the Years

Or tried to undock.  The freakin’ tutorial back in 2006 had me sitting in the station, in my pod, but kept telling me to open up the hangar.

Still, I somehow managed to get in a ship, undock, kill the elusive pirates, and advance into the serious business that is internet spaceships.  When I started the game was going strong, passing 100,000 capsuleers according to the old timeline graphic (and this dev blog).  Also, the game broke the 30K PCU mark!  The current expansion was the forgettable Bloodlines which, so far as I could tell, only really added a few character creation options.

Bloodlines - March 2006

Bloodlines – March 2006

Okay, tech II modules came into being as well with Bloodlines, along with a few other details.

But Revelations was on its way soon.

Revelations - November 2006

Revelations – November 2006

And with Revelations would come salvaging, invention, rigs, many bugs, and motherfucking warp to goddam zero, something that changed everybody’s lives.  Seriously, that was the end of the “uphill, both ways, in the snow” era for travel by gates.  (Sugar Kyle has a post up about that era and its events.)

It was a strange and wonderful time.  MMORPGs were a thing, World of Warcraft caused a lot of “if we build it, they will come” moments as its subscription base continued to climb, causing even Richard “Lord British” Garriott to say at GDC that you would be foolish not to be making such games. (As opposed to when he said that about Facebook games.)  Blogs and podcasts about MMOs were all the rage and a flourishing community of people seemed to coalesce around VirginWorlds to discuss and debate the relative merits of various entries in the field.  This blog was still two weeks from going live and I was still debating possible names.  A pity I went with the one that seemed the most amusing at the time.

EVE Online was in the thick of those discussions because back then, as now, there wasn’t really anything else quite like it.  And one item that kept coming up was the fact that you couldn’t get out of your ship.

We had long discussions back in the day about whether or not simply being unable to interact face to face would limit the appeal of the game.  Space is huge and very lonely and, even where ships congregate, a passing ship is just a cold machine that doesn’t even have a dance emote.  That was a hot topic and CCP was on the case even back then.  Of course, after seeing what more than five years of work gave us in the Incarna expansion, a lot of people (myself included) changed our minds on whether or not it was worth the effort.

No, a far bigger problem with EVE Online to my mind, the one that persists through to today, is the fact that in order to play the game effectively a capsuleer must avail themselves of the many external utilities that players have created to support the game.  If you want another variation on “EVE is Dying!” take a look at how things are going in that arena.  Battle Clinic has gone away, EVE Mon support seems to be tottering, EVE Fitting Tool was last updated back in May, Pyfa is likewise behind, and over on Reddit, /r/eve has sucked all the joy out of any discussion of the game by becoming the primary focus for several key groups and where a mass of howling morons are more interested in adding their voice to the comments than considering whether or not their comments adds any value.  It is Sturgeon’s Law run amok.  It makes me miss the Kugutsumen forums badly.

And in a world where if Wollari decides he’s taking down DOTLAN EVE Maps we’re all doomed, what has CCP been up to?  Back in 2006 I was pissing and moaning about the in-game map, which was pretty but useless for actually getting information you needed in any expedient way.  CCP has worked on that map for years and made it somewhat useful.  At least I can see where my fleet members are.  And after that, they rolled out a new map, which is even prettier but, in terms of usefulness, brought us back to 2006 or earlier.  I think even CCP realizes they fucked up there and I won’t be surprised to see a release note about how the new map has been removed from the game at some future date.  Wasted opportunities while the game remains as dependent as ever on the charity of players.

But my purpose wasn’t to rant about CCP’s stewardship of the game, though it is hard not to slip into that now and again, hindsight giving one such clear vision.  It was to meander a bit through what was going on a decade back in and around New Eden.

There was the great Intergalactic Bank scam, a ponzi scheme wherein somebody set up a bank, took deposits, promised to pay interest, paid some out of the ongoing deposits, and then folded up shop and ran off with more than 700 billion ISK.  Brent had a good summary on the VirginWorlds podcast (episode 27, with a follow up in episode 29), where he brought up one of the key post scam issues: How do you get back at somebody who doesn’t have a space empire, just a pile of ISK?  And this was before ISK casinos allowed a few people push their agendas through payouts while remaining immune to any response.  CCP was more interested at the time, as they are now, in any illicit RMT transactions involving that stolen ISK.  They were even hinting about a plan they had to make ISK selling obsolete, though it would be another 3 years before PLEX would land in the game.

It has also been almost ten years since CCP partnered with Vivox to bring voice coms directly into the EVE Online client, thus removing our need to use external voice software like TeamSpeak or Mumble.  Hah, hah, hah!  Seriously though, does anybody use the built-in voice?  Or does turning on sound still cause a big performance hit to the game?  I haven’t had sound on for years.  This was another topic covered by Brent on the VirginWorlds podcast (episode 29).  That podcast is a gold mine for anybody who wants to get a glimpse of the MMO scene a decade back.

My own history in New Eden has had its ups and downs.  I ended up cancelling my account after my first three months in game, then came back to it a few months later.  I created a second account 11 months after my first, when I started the great trek to master mining.  Two years in I created another blog just to post pictures of the game.

During that second period I ran missions, did manufacturing, invention, played the market, did some hauling, dipped a toe into factional warfare, learned to scan well enough to get in and out of wormholes (which I have since forgotten how to do), and generally stuck in high sec for about four years, after which I took a break.  I came back for Incarna and unsubscribed almost immediately upon seeing what was being offered, then came back again for Crucible, when CCP promised to actually start working on the broken stuff in the game.  About then Gaff offered me a chance to run off to sov null sec, and I have been there for almost five years now and have seen many of the most publicized moments from that time.

I have 1,080 posts up on the blog that focus on EVE Online in some way or another that cover topics from the big fight at B-R5RB to simply moving my ships from one location to another.

According to Zkillboard, up to this point I have been on 2,038 kill mails, a large portion of which are structures.  One of the things I did upon arriving in null sec was train up to fly logi, which I offer up as an excuse for my low total.  Also, I remain bad at EVE.

Still, there are some memorable kills on the list.  While my trophy page on Zkillboard shows I have never been on a kill mail in wormhole space, that I have never managed a solo kill (so close that one time), and that I have never killed any mining ships, I am on ten titan kill mails.  Those are always fun.  Oddly, I am also on ten super carrier kill mails.  One would think those would be easier to get.

And after all this time, EVE Online remains a strange game.

It remains a pain to get into.  It seems to dare you to like it.  You really have to make up your own story in order to stick with the game.  I think that one of the reasons null sec remains popular with outside observers… though not I would guess not as popular as we might think… is that it represents a long running space soap opera, a story of conflict and powers rising and falling.  It is an accessible story in a game that generally refuses to give you a story.  I know that being within the framework of that story has helped keep me interested in the game for the last five years.

Wilhelm - current avatar

Wilhelm – current avatar

Still, sometimes I undock just to look around in space and get a sense of its vastness and beauty, something I have done since I started in New Eden.

Cormorant Docking - Trails On

Cormorant Docking – Circa 2007

That isn’t enough to keep most people playing long term, but it is a hook that can get you on your way.

So here I am, ten years in and still playing regularly and planning to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Jacketpals unite

Me, being my avatar – EVE Vegas 2015

A pile of other MMOs have come and gone in the time EVE Online has been hanging about and being different.  Not bad for a game that has been dying for almost as long as it has been live.

One Hundred and Sixty Million Skill Points

Another skill point milestone, made somewhat more meaningless than usual by the advent of skill point injectors, which lets players buy skill points from other players, so that those with enough ISK can have as many skill points as they want.

My skill points have all been “earned” the old fashioned way, via the skill queue and the waiting game.  That is less a point of pride and more an admission that I am a cheapskate, along with the fact that, with more than 80 million skill points, each skill injector is worth only 150K SP to me.  If I had a brand new character I would be much more inclined to inject skill points.

Anyway, here is my skill point journey so far:

At some point I imagine I will have “enough” skills, but I haven’t reached that point yet.  There is still a 700 day long list of skills in my queue that I want.  Also, I would never extract any of my skill points, as you never know when they might come in handy.  As I mentioned yesterday, all those mining skills from way back when were useful again as we had a mining op in Pure Blind to raise ADMs.

Rock crushing in a Procurer

Rock crushing in a Procurer

So here are how skill points are currently distributed on Wilhelm Arcturus.  An asterisk indicates that the skill point total has changed since last post.

 Spaceship Cmd   47,008,495 (55 of 75)*
 Gunnery         16,202,145 (36 of 46)*
 Leadership      12,803,000 (14 of 14)
 Missiles        10,836,471 (22 of 26)*
 Drones          10,070,483 (19 of 23)
 Navigation       9,660,314 (13 of 13)
 Engineering      7,253,895 (15 of 15)*
 Armor            6,131,137 (13 of 13)* (skill moved/removed?)
 Shields          5,645,390 (11 of 12)
 Science          5,462,151 (21 of 39)* 
 Electronic Sys   5,141,415 (13 of 15)*
 Resc Processing  4,569,908 (22 of 28)
 Trade            3,271,765 (9 of 14)
 Targeting        3,207,765 (8 of 8)
 Neural Enhance.  3,072,000 (5 of 8)* 
 Subsystems       2,186,840 (20 of 20)
 Scanning         2,045,230 (7 of 7) 
 Rigging          1,312,395 (10 of 10) 
 Social           1,130,040 (5 of 9)
 Production       1,157,986 (5 of 12) 
 Structure Mgmt   1,084,784 (2 of 6)* (new section)
 Planet Mgmt        769,335 (5 of 5) 
 Corp Mgmt           24,000 (2 of 5)* 

 Total         ~160,000,000 (332 of 423)

Spaceship Command remains at the top, both in total points and in total points gained, up by about 6 million SP.  Flying ships trumps all.

There was some swapping about of skills and categories.  There was one less skill in the Armor category.   I am not sure where that went, but it took 768,000 skill points with it somewhere.  Then, with the release of citadels in New Eden, a new section called “Structure Management” appeared, which borrowed some skills from Corporation Management, like Anchoring and Starbase Defense Management, which accounts for all my skill points in the new category.

I added nine more skills to my list since the last update, bringing me to 332 skills, up from 323.  But I am not keeping up with the total number of skills, which is now at 423 (if I added them up correctly), a 25 skill boost since my 150 million skill point post back in December.

My skills, broken out by level are:

 Level 1  - 3
 Level 2  - 9
 Level 3  - 44
 Level 4  - 99
 Level 5  - 177

177 skills at level V puts me 8 up from last time.  There was also a general rise, as level IV and III skills went up in number, while levels I and II decreased.

Following my change over last time from tracking how long it would take to fly a titan to how long until I can fly all the subcaps as a random metric.   Here is the current list of sub-caps I cannot yet fly and the time required to train in order to get into them (rounded up to the nearest convenient value value):

  • Expedition Frigates (Prospect, Endurance)  – 10 days
  • Amarr Transports (Impel, Prorator) – 20 days
  • Gallente Transports (Occator, Viator) – 20 days
  • Loki strategic cruiser (subsystems trained) – 45 mins
  • Marauders (all factions) – 90 mins

That list got a lot shorter since the last post, standing at about 50 days now, down from about 80 days previously.

I knocked out interdictors and tech II logi frigates and the T3 destroyers and electronic attack ships and a few other, which were all a few minutes in order to get the minimum skill level required, though I trained them all well past that.  The biggest skill I trained for that list was Minmatar Battleships V, a 30 day skill, which gave me the Panther Black Ops battleship.  I can now fly a blops… well, all the blops… once I figure how.  There is always a gap between having the skill and having the actual skills to use that skill.

Our blops finally arrives

A Panther Blops

However, I am not sure what I would bother with when it comes to the rest of the list.  The Loki might be useful, and I could get it to level III or IV in a short enough time.  Expeditions frigate might be worthwhile at some point.  But do I need Gallente or Amarr transports?

Meanwhile, right now I am training up Tactical Weapons Reconfiguration V, with Minmatar Dreadnought V next on the list.  If suicide dread bombs are going to be the supercap killing machine, as they were at Okagaiken, I would like to have the option to join in on that at some point, and the Minmatar dreadnought, the Naglfar, is the dread of choice.

A Naglfar at the shoot getting hit by fireworks

A Naglfar displaying vertical supremacy

I can actually fly the base CapSwarm Naglfar, but those two skills will allow me to fly the upscale fit.  And then I have to actually find a hull and fit it.  Details.

I have also started abusing my alt account for skill goo.  I decided to set him up to farm skill points.  He was past 115 million, but I stripped out about 5 million points for skill injectors and now have him optimized so I can keep him stable with his skills and pull out a skill injector worth of skill goo about once a week.

The weekly cycle means I can be patient and get a better price, both for buying extractors and selling injectors.  The skill goo market is still very active… I price well above the current low offer and still sell within a day… so this is now pretty much a 400 million ISK a week income stream for me.  This has made me more ISK rich than I have ever been in New Eden.  I am not Gevlon rich by any means, but I can afford that Naglfar and a few replacements.

So that is where 160 million skill points puts me.  Given the ~7 month cycle time for me to train 10 million skill points, I should get to 170 million at some point in February of 2017.

Reflecting on a Year with Minecraft

In which I write a lot of words about a game… again.

As of today I have spent a full year playing Minecraft.  It was on Father’s Day last year that my daughter suggested we play together, a suggestion she has come to regret in that dismissive way that only teens can manage.

“Are you still playing that?” she says with that eye-rolling world weariness that she gives all such parental endeavors.  But I still remember our first little house in the game, and remind her of it.

A house on the hill

A house on the hill

A lot of time has passed in the world since.

According to Raptr I have spent more time playing Minecraft than any other game besides EVE Online and World of Warcraft.  Considering that I have been tracking with Raptr for five and a half years and I have only been playing Minecraft for one year, that says something.  My top five games on Raptr, as a percentage of time tracked, are:

  1. World of Warcraft 24.5%
  2. EVE Online 20%
  3. Minecraft 9%
  4. Rift 8%
  5. EverQuest II 7%

There are reasons that Minecraft has gone up the list so fast.  We’ll get to that.  But needless to say, I have spent some time with the game over the past year.  Bang for the buck, even with server hosting, has been pretty high.

And I have a pile of blog posts that follow what I have done, which I will just list out here as a retrospective, in case you want to catch up with the story so far.  In order from oldest to newest:

  1. Father’s Day Minecraft
  2. Further Exploration in Minecraft
  3. Minecraft and the Importance of Not Falling off of Things
  4. Minecraft and Bringing Light to Dark Places
  5. Sheep Stole My Mining Cart
  6. Minecraft and the Accumulation of Material
  7. Minecraft and the Gift of Fire
  8. Minecraft and the Hosted Life
  9. Paving the Nether
  10. Minecraft and Another Vision in the World
  11. Minecraft and Dungeon Making
  12. Major Minecraft Setback with NetherByte
  13. Don’t Throw Eggs at the Zombie Pigmen
  14. Minecraft – Our World
  15. Minecraft and a New Age of Exploration
  16. The Demise of NetherByte and the Portability of Worlds
  17. Into the Roof of the Nether
  18. So Close to Taming an Ocelot…
  19. The Barad-dûr in Minecraft – First Attempt
  20. Minecraft, Bases, and the Urge to Explore
  21. Minecraft – Under the Sea
  22. Minecraft and the Great Northern Road
  23. Finishing the Great Northern Road
  24. Minecraft and The Guardian Farm
  25. Prismarine Towers and Horse Field Dreams
  26. Minecraft – This is The End
  27. Our Automated Farms in Minecraft
  28. Upgrading to Minecraft 1.9
  29. Just Another Pig in the Wall
  30. The Move to Minecraft Realms
  31. Minecraft Rail Plans
  32. Collecting Tears…
  33. Finding the Northeast Passage in Minecraft
  34. One Hundred Million Copies of Minecraft
  35. Abandoned Mines and Prismarine Spans
  36. Minecraft 1.10 The Frostburn Update
  37. Minecraft and Closing the Rail Loop

So, after a year of this, I figured it was time to reflect on the game, the good bits and the bits that maybe aren’t so good… because I have to have that whole dichotomy thing I insist on bringing with me wherever I go.  Bear with me.

The Good

The game really scratches the whole “wordly” itch, something that used to be the domain of MMORPGs like EverQuest, Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft.  Your Minecraft world is a place to explore and live in.  That has, no doubt, reduced the time I have spent in what I would consider my more traditional domain, fantasy based MMORPGs.

In addition, the whole persistence aspect of the MMO genre is also covered.  We’re still working with the same world my daughter and I started a year ago today.  A work in progress.  It has been hosted at home and on three different hosting services so far, so not only does it persist, it is portable as well.

The multiplayer aspect is a big deal and, again scratches an itch that was otherwise the exclusive domain of the aforementioned MMORPGs.  That I was able to setup a server and have friends along to play in the same world was a big draw, one that keeps me coming back.  Going to see what other people have done in the world is a treat.

Then there is how each of us tackle the world.  Everybody has their own vision and things they like to do, and that makes looking in on everybody else all the more interesting.

And, of course, the variety of hosting options out there make sharing your world easy.

The sandbox nature, the ability to not just explore, but change the world factors in my enjoyment.  I spend most of my time either building things, or collecting resources to build things.  Crafting and farming enter into this as well.

There are still some nice things to find in game, like villages, desert temples, abandoned mines, dungeons, along with the whole nether and end experience that give you something to work with in the sandbox.

Survival mode provides the requisite friction to make building, exploring, and whatever seem… game like maybe?  If I set the world to creative mode and could just create things out of thin air and build whatever I wanted, flying around and placing blocks, I would have likely tired of the whole thing fairly quickly.

Which is not to disparage creative mode in general.  A lot of people like that, my daughter included, and that is great for them.  But for myself, in order to scratch that itch that video games satisfy, the environment has to impose constraints to work against.  In Minecraft survival mode that manifests itself in the day/night cycle, hostile mobs, the need to gather resources and move them to the site where I want to use them, the time it takes to travel places, and even little things like falling damage, food requirements, and the need to work around things in the environment like water and lava.  Certainly the possibility of death brings spice to things, but even things like item wear and inventory management forces you to adapt.

The requirement to collect raw materials is actually one of my favorite bits of the game.  I spend a lot of time mining in Minecraft.  Funny that.  I dig down to level 12, set up a central area with storage and an auto-furnace, and start throwing out shafts every third block.  I put on an audio book or a podcast and I can mine away for hours.  It can be quite relaxing… or exciting if I dig my way into something under ground.

There is a certain joy in the simplicity of the game, from graphics to actions.  I am not a fan of pixelated graphics for their own sake, but Minecraft has hit a happy balance for me.  The simple nature of the basic game “feels” in accord with the graphics.  The game itself is an odd mix of sophistication and doing things in what I might unfairly call “the easy way.”  The game graphically looks like something from a past era of video games, but in ways couldn’t exist outside of the current era.  Our world currently occupies about 1.2GB of drive space and requires fast internet to load and play effectively on the server.

So it looks like it could be from the 80s, but needs resources that have only become generally available… things like high speed internet and cheap 1TB hard drives… much more recently.  You couldn’t do this on an Apple ][ or a 486 Windows 3.1 PC or probably even that 400MHz Pentium II Windows 98 box with a TNT2 card I had around the turn of the century.  However, even with those requirements, its simplicity makes it feel happily retro.

Finally, there is the whole mod situation, which extends from simple client mods like texture packs, to handy additions like a mini-map, to server mods to change the very nature of the game.  There is a wide world of choices out there which I have yet to scratch the surface of at this point.  All I have really used is Minecraft Overviewer, which renders your world into Google Maps format so you can see it all.  I love this.  And it even has a UI now, so you don’t have to learn the command line if you don’t want.

The Downsides

The world in Minecraft can be a repetitive place.  For every interesting bit of scenery there is another plain or forest or desert or ocean that looks very much like the last one I saw.  Exploration can end up being very much a race to find something, anything interesting in a world of sameness.  I feel like I am most likely to get lost because any stretch of forest looks pretty much like any other, causing me to work out my frustration by setting things on fire.  Burn, forest, burn.  I’ll find another just like you over the next hill.

The downside of persistence is that sense of wanting to hang on to your work.  There are times when I want to just start another world, but then I look at all the work done on ours… and I don’t want to redo that.  I don’t even want to play on other worlds because if I want to play Minecraft, I want to spend the time improving our world… for specific definitions of “improving.”

Sharing your world with others is very cool, but actually doing things with other people can be annoying.  It can be surprisingly difficult to do simple things like travel overland together.  The whole first person view thing makes keeping and eye on other people a chore.  And, in this sandbox which is focused so much on building, we do tend to just build away on our own little projects.  I did get significant help on resources for the rail project from both Skronk and Aaron.  But you tend to let people do what they’re doing because it is their project.

Sharing is also… complicated.  Now and again I want more people to join in on what we have, but who can I really trust?  Who will be compatible and who will just come in and just blow up our stuff.  The joys of a destructible world!  Doubly so since a couple of us have our kids on the server now and again, so there are minors to protect, which lets out almost anybody who plays EVE Online as a possibility, because we’re all horrible people.

The weight of the sandbox nature of the game can be a burden.  When you have a project, all systems are go.  But when you have finished it… well, you have to come up with another project or else just potter around with what you have already setup.  And, frankly, pottering around mostly involves waiting; waiting for crops to grow, waiting for villagers to get something interesting up for trade, waiting for your automated production marvel to make the stuff it makes, or just waiting for the sun to come back up again.

I feel a bit of emptiness in some of my projects.  When my daughter and I first started, she built us a shelter that was just what we needed and no more.  It was pretty cramped.  Then she built the house we moved to, which was nice.  It had a few rooms, but there was something going in on each room.  Then I went and built a castle.  I had a vision of many rooms, each with a function.

However, as I completed the castle, I noticed that I really only used the room that I had setup initially to shelter in over night, plus some empty space around it where I put in chests for storage and built an auto furnace.  That and the automated farm on the roof are about all that the castle has in it.  The problem is that there is nothing to “do” in the castle.  I don’t need any rooms outside of the one where I sleep.  Likewise, in the area I refer to as The Kremlin, I have built several towers, a stable, and a large two story building, all of which are starkly empty inside because I still just sleep at night in the little room I dug in the side of the mountain when I first arrived.

Enaldi and Skronk have built the most amazing Italian town in our world.  Great buildings decorated inside and out.  They set it up with NPC villagers so that they go about their business around the town square.   It is the most wonderfully alive place in our world.  I love it.  But, in the end, there still isn’t anything to “do,” it is just decorative.  Enaldi and Skronk, to my knowledge, don’t log in to “play” in their creation.  They just add more to it.  Just building more and more can feel a little Sarah Winchester now and again.  (I live not far from her house.)

And, without that sense of function, I have stopped putting up large buildings for the most part.  Bridges I like, because they have a function.  But putting up a castle or the like doesn’t appeal to me now because they just end up feeling empty and lonely.  So I work out my anger by marring the landscape with giant public works projects.  I have seriously considered making the rail project double tracked.  Or maybe a six lane highway right through the middle of the continent.

Meanwhile, the friction which keeps the world interesting can also make it annoying at times.  The day/night cycle especially.   If you are on alone, you just hit a bed when the sun goes down and then the day begins anew.  But if other people are on and in the middle of something… nobody cares about day or night deep in a mine, nor when they are AFK waiting for their automated device to crank out some supplied… you have to coordinate or interrupt them or just deal with the night side of the cycle.  And, in the way of things, the day always feels too short because you’re getting things done, while the night feels like it goes on forever because you’re stuck inside or you’re fighting zombies, skeletons, and the seemingly endless supply of creepers the game loves to spawn.

I am unhappy with the behavior of water in the game.  Lava too, but I don’t want to create rivers of lava in the world.  Okay, that’s a lie, I would totally create rivers of lava as well if I could.  But working with water to create anything like a river just involves too many runs with a bucket.  I could just turn on creative mode and do that, but then there goes the magic of friction in the world.  And I want water to flow.  I want to drain lakes and flood mines.  Instead water just sits there or, at best, runs off for a few blocks, gets tired, and gives up.  It does make very nice waterfalls at times though.  I will give it that.

I have also had some poor experiences with hosting services.  There are so many to choose from and there is no real way to tell how things are going to work out.  Who knew NetherByte would fold up shop suddenly?  I suspect that our problems with MC Pro Hosting were related to them co-hosting us on an over taxed machine, so performance went to hell during peak hours.  I understand that problem, but for what we were paying I expected more.  Minecraft Realms has been good, and it is probably the simplest solution, certainly it is the one most integrated into the product, and the price is right, but you give up a lot of control options there.  So I remain vaguely dissatisfied on that front.

Finally, I have, to this point, spent exactly zero time with mods.  Part of that is because in my long history with video games I have developed a love/hate relationship with player developed mods and extensions to games.  I like them, but I have been burned enough times that I also try to keep them to a minimum.  Part of it is a desire not to screw up our world based on experiences related to the former.  Part of it is that it is nice just to be working with the simplest possible set of rules.  And, finally, since we now host on Minecraft Realms, we cannot have any server mods, and even if we could, they would all be broken right now because Realms is always running the latest release version.  There are still mods out there that haven’t been brought up to version 1.8 and we’re now at version 1.10.

Also, totally off the farm here, but I hate when versions don’t get zero padded and the plan is to change the digit count.  For me the sequence should be either this:

1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 2.0

or

1.07. 1.08, 1.09, 1.10

Where I grew up, 1.1 = 1.10.  But that might just be me.  I still like monospace fonts too.

Summary

If you are reading this and just love Minecraft beyond life itself, don’t take my comments too much to heart.  The day I cannot find something to complain about is probably the day I show up dead.

For me, understanding what I do not like about a game, and why, is as important as understanding what I do like.  No, I cannot just play the game.  It just isn’t in me.  And, I will add a the long standing policy here at TAGN is that I almost never bother to write about games I simply do not like, and certainly not at depth.  This is just a bit of my collected thoughts after a year of playing the game.

I logged in and played yesterday, I will likely log in and play again tomorrow or the next day.