Tag Archives: Rambling Detected

New Eden and China

One of the big aspects of EVE Online is that we all play together on one server.  The game needs a critical mass of players to keep the complex economy and the things that drive it going.  It enables play styles from the solo explorer to coalition level wars with battles that see thousands of people involved.

Except, of course, there isn’t ONE server, there are TWO servers.

There is Tranquility, or TQ, which serves most of the world’s population.

And then there is Serenity, the server in the People’s Republic of China.  It was kicked off in 2006 because China doesn’t like its citizens to be subjected to the corrosive influences of outside thought.  Words like “freedom” get the government ready to roll out the tanks.  As we have seen in Hong Kong over the last few years, political dissent is not allowed.

The two servers ran in parallel, though with very different stories.  That players craft the tales of New Eden was never so evident than when comparing the two servers.  On both servers, null sec saw titanic battles between factions.  While TQ saw wars that never led to total victory, that would just realign the traditional three pole structure of the balance of power where two groups might unite against the third, but they were never quite enough to win a total victory, things played out differently on Serenity.

On Serenity, one faction won.  The Pan-Intergalactic Business Community and its vassal alliances defeated their foes and established essentially single party rule over their version of New Eden.

Serenity null sec sovereignty – Jan 17, 2023

This turned a tide in the game.  At one point some groups, like the famous Rooks & Kings, had moved from TQ to Serenity… VPN and all that… because the two servers were not just separated by the Great Firewall of China, but had also diverged when it came to code and mechanics, with Serenity being behind.  Those who were not keen on the changes that had come to TQ moved to Serenity to relive the glory of the older mechanics.

But with the end of the war on Serenity, the tide of players flowed towards TQ, where new mechanics might vex, but the balance of the great powers had not devolved into a uni-polar situation.

I wrote about the last (as of this writing) Rooks & Kings video that documented the fall of Serenity and the movement of players to TQ, including Chinese players.  Once again, VPN comes to the rescue.

This came about at quite a fortuitous moment for TQ because online numbers were beginning to trend downward.  EVE Online reached its peak around 2013 with more than 500K subscribers world wide, including China, and had been trending downward since.

Players from China were not unknown on TQ up to that point.  And in late 2017 the sovereignty map for TQ shows Fraternity, an alliance made up of exiles on the losing side of the war for Serenity, already holding space in the southeast of null sec.

Null Sec Sovereignty – Sep 1, 2017

There are a lot of old and storied names on that map, scattered around in the configuration that they settled into once the dust from the Casino War died down.  If you click on that map to see it full size, you can find Fraternity at about 4:30, a violet patch just to the west of the purple of Triumvirate.

Compare that to a sovereignty map from this week.

Null Sec Sovereignty – Jan 17, 2023

On that map Fraternity now has a pretty big slice of the north of null sec and is a serious power.  Down in the southwest there is Dracarys, a member of the Imperium, who holds space in Querious and Catch.  And in the northeast there is the Pan-Intergalactic Business Community, a name which at least suggests Chinese influence, though its proximity to Fraternity, who should be its bitter enemy, suggest that it is using the name but otherwise is not affiliated with the Serenity version of that alliance.  My theory that it might be the remnants of the collapse of The Army of Mango Alliance and Ranger Regiment, two other Chinese null sec alliances, seems unfounded.

Anyway, the point is that Chinese alliances are a pretty big part of null sec, much more so than they were even five years ago, and that their arrival has probably helped forestall an even more drastic decline in the player count in the last few years.

So I felt that CCP announcing the addition of Simplified Chinese to the TQ client was at least a tacit admission as to the importance of our fellow capsuleers from mainland China.

Simplified Chinese went live with today’s update, along with the launch of Lunar New Year celebrations, including the usual round of login rewards.  More SKINs and skill points, I won’t say “no” to that.  From the Patch Notes.

Patch Notes For 2023-01-19.1

Features & Changes:

Events

  • To Celebrate the Lunar New Year, a special set of login rewards are now available to players who login from now until the end of January.
    • Rewards include themed SKINs, skillpoints, Wightstorm Boosters and fireworks. 🎇

Localization

  • Simplified Chinese is now available as a language option on Tranquility.

Seems straightforward.

The odd bit was that the patch notes from the day before were just a single line item:

Patch Notes For 2023-01-18.1

Features & Changes:

Technical

  • Added access restrictions to Tranquility from mainland China.

On the face of it, that seems like an odd contradiction.  On the one hand, adding Simplified Chinese to TQ seems like a welcoming gesture to mainland China, with ~1.4 billion people, and our fellow capsuleers who share the server with us.  (Yes, Singapore and Malaysia also use Simplified Chinese, so CCP benefits there as well, but population wise they are a small fraction of mainland China.)

On the other hand, what does “Added access restrictions to Tranquility from mainland China” even mean?

The problem is that patch not is short and cryptic in a way that wants to announce something without really saying what it means.

The automatic assumption by many over in r/eve is that the Chinese government required these additional restrictions, and that would certainly align with the general outlook it has about the west and western video games.

The follow on assumption is that this won’t affect Chinese players who use VPNs to connect to TQ.  They already needed to do this, so this shouldn’t have much of an impact, if any.

Those are reasonable assumptions and I certainly don’t have any information that would prove them false.  Only CCP and NetEase likely know what is up on that front, which brings me to an alternative theory.

CCP didn’t just put together a Simplified Chinese language update in their offices in Iceland.  As with their Japanese translation, they most certainly needed external help with that, and who more appropriate to do that than NetEase, their partner in China who runs the Serenity server.

NetEase has been in the news of late mostly due to their aggressive and confrontational relationship with Blizzard over World of Warcraft in China, a relationship that has very publicly fallen apart, with NetEase heaping both blame and scorn on Blizzard in the news.  WoW in China is not currently a thing and WoW players there are likely to have to start fresh if Blizz can find another partner.

Given that context, it wouldn’t surprise me if, as part of the deal to get a Simplified Chinese UI from NetEase, that they might demand that CCP… essentially stop stealing their customers.  Certainly the way NetEase has behaved in public lately is also sending a message to beware of crossing them.

Again, whether or not this will have any real impact on mainland Chinese players on TQ is yet to be seen.  We will just wait and watch and hope.

Related:

Reflecting on Star Trek as a Film Series

In coming to the end of watching all of the Star Trek films I feel like I seriously have to ask myself if I even like Star Trek anymore, or what Star Trek has become, or if it has just shrunk in the context of so many other options, or if I have just outgrown it.

Does Khan look like Kirk summoned him like a genie here?

Seriously, as powerful of an influence as the original series had on me as a kid the way things have carried on since then has been one unfulfilled promise after another.

I guess, first of all, I have to try to describe how important Star Trek was between the cancellation of the original series and the launch of the first film.

I have mentioned, in reference to the Star Wars expanded universe, the great Star Wars drought, where between Return of the Jedi in 1983 and The Phantom Menace in 1999 there was this huge longing for more Star Wars stuff that was filled by books and models and toys and games of different styles.

It was like that, only more so because, for most of that stretch, there wasn’t another major space fantasy IP to distract. (Okay, maybe Doctor Who, but sharing cons with those weirdos…)  The original series wrapped up due to production cost concerns while still very popular.  The Spock’s Brain episode aside, it never jumped the shark, never tired people out by dragging on too long.

So the three seasons of the show were continuously available in syndication.  In the age of broadcast TV before VCRs, it was a show you could find on the TV schedule a few times a week if you lived in a metro area with more that a couple of broadcast stations.

But to fill the void, the feed the need for more, all the things you might expect from your Star Wars memories of its drought appeared.  Toys, posters, games, cosplay, conventions, and books… so many books.  There were books about the ships, books about the series, books about the toys, posters, games, and action figures, and its own expanded universe of novels, some good, though most were pretty bad.  But they sold because people wanted more so badly.

There was a store at the same open air mall where my beloved San Antonio Hobby Shop was located called Starbase One or some such, which basically sold Star Trek stuff.  Yes, there was some Doctor Who stuff in its own corner and the occasional Blake’s 7 item would appear on the shelf, but it was mostly Star Trek stuff… and the place survived for a few years in the mid-70s selling toy phasers and bad uniform tunics and plastic models of the Enterprise and whatever other tchotchkes were available.

So I am going down a rabbit hole here for a bit about a time 50 years in the past to set the stage for how I feel about Star Trek… and, honestly, Star Wars… today.

I grew up in an era where there was an almost desperate desire to have more Star Trek on TV or on the big screen.  This is absolutely parallel to the feeling many Star Wars had in the era between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace.  It was a deep seated desire to have MORE of these stories, and I just happen to be of exactly the right age to have a double dose that desire, and it never really goes away.

So despite having sat through thirteen mostly mediocre and occasionally regrettable Star Trek films and having seen how many seasons of whatever shows they are up to producing, I will always say I want more, because there is no way to sate that need for more that the initial lack brought about.

And it is the same for Star Wars.  I don’t really like more than half of the Star Wars movies and have felt the ups and downs of their television productions from the Holiday Special onward, but if you put me in a focus group and pitched a show about Bib Fortuna and his life on Tatooine before he went to work for Jabba, I would unhesitatingly be in favor of that show being produced.

This is the same me that bitches how everything has to happen on Tatooine and who doesn’t like half of the movies.

But something within me would rather have more crap than another drought… and, of course, there is always that sliver of me from the mid-70s who just wants to feel the way I did about Star Trek and Star Wars the way I did back then and maybe, just maybe, THIS TIME the

Anyway, enough rambling.  The sum of this is that I will always want more in search of the unlikely goal of making me feel the way the franchise did when it was new.  In this case, to feel about a film the way I felt about the original series back when I was… well… somewhere between very young and merely young.

Which means, for the final ranking of the Star Trek films, I am going to split them out by the degree to which they made me feel like I did when Star Trek was just a cancelled three season science fiction drama that was pretty much constantly available as re-runs in syndication.

Now, that is a pretty hard to quantify metric.  It is an emotion response, a gut check on the feels of hope, exploration, and *pew* *pew* that the original series instilled in me when I was a kid, the things that made Star Trek a future I wanted to live in.

And, just to clarify, this is how successful they were at that measure in this re-watch of the film.  Each is also linked to my post about that particular film.

Hit The Mark

Which of the films I think met that rather nebulous criteria?  And the ordering in these categories is irrelevant.  This is entirely an exercise of sorting them into buckets.  I ranked them previously by generation if you want that sort of scoring.

These are the three films that most closely got me there.  Star Trek II, of course, was a direct pull from the original series with the original cast still not too old relative to the series, with a script that aligned well to how those days felt.  It probably helps that the current remastered version also looks pretty good.

Then there are two of the three J.J. Abrams re-boot films.  What can I say?  Despite their obvious flaws in script, story, continuity, and lens flare, those two managed to evoke a sense of the original in me that I was not expecting.  As I noted in those reviews, there were a lot of powerful performances and effects and music that helped them along, but those are not things to be set aside, they are part of the whole of the picture.

Add in the fact that they also go to pains to link themselves to the original series, that what we are seeing isn’t another version of Star Trek, but a parallel universe version where events transpired differently… a possibility established in original series canon back with the Mirror, Mirror episode… and I am willing to embrace the whole thing.  I want to be in the original series Star Trek, but I would happily go to the J.J. version of Star Trek.

I would also turn around and re-watch any of those three again.

Came Close

These four have some emotional resonance that put them at least close to the target.  They are imperfect wessels of my fandom, but I still feel like they had something that was able to capture a bit of the elusive magic of Star Trek for me.

The third J.J. film is here.  It fell off the rails a bit for feelings for me largely based on script.  Performances were still powerful, but not enough to overcome the seeming obsession with the film series of blowing up the Enterprise.

The rest are original series films which, while goofy at times, did still sell the original cast pretty well without getting too deep into that.  Star Trek III was kind of a tough call, but Christopher Lloyd’s occasionally erratic Klingon commander performance kind of sold it.  I know, not original cast, but somehow an original feel.

Likewise, The Motion Picture is a very flawed tale, but it still manages, in its own way, to pull on the threads of desire I felt back then to have some Trek, any Trek.

Wide Misses

For reasons below, these just did not cross the emotional threshold.

I am not necessarily going to declare these bad movies or anything.  That is not my criteria.  It is more a matter of my own emotional attachment.

As you can see, all four The Next Generation films are here, not because they were of poor quality, but more because TNG has never really felt like *my* Star Trek.  By the time TNG came around we had not only had six Star Trek films, we had also had Battlestar Galactica, Aliens, Terminator, and the original three Star Wars films, including arguably the two best out of the entire bunch.

In that mix, TNG was kind of okay.  It had a rough first season for me.  I don’t think I have even seen the full first season.  And even when it settled down in season three and I was watching it every week, it still didn’t have that special feeling that the original series did.  And I have never really spent much time watching TNG in re-runs.  So Kirk, for all his flaws, will always be my Enterprise captain.

But even that can’t get past the last two films in the series.  I know I am bucking the even/odd good/bad legend of the original six Trek films, but those films feel tired.  The scripts are tired, the cast is tired, the Enterprise… whatever version it was… is tired, even the aliens seem tired.  And, to give TNG its due, there was better Star Trek available on television while those films were being made.  Neither connected with me, and I am going to claim to be to have been the core audience when they are released.

So there we go.  I have ridden the gauntlet of Trek films and come through on the other side.  It was certainly a more manageable task than trying to watch all the shows… or even all of one of the shows besides the animated series or Short Treks or one of the new shows that doesn’t have too many episodes.  But if I were to go watch something at the end of this, it would probably be some of the remastered originals.  But that probably says more about me and where I came from than what the best options are.

Finally, if there is one lesson I can draw from the entire series it is; when in doubt, put your goddam shields up.  Beyond blowing up the Enterprise, how often do they get caught with their shields down?  There should be a Star Fleet regulation about that!

The End of Twitter as we Know It?

Elon Musk… backed by some sort of consortium of financiers, because there wasn’t $44 million in quarters in that sink he hauled into Twitter HQ this past Wednesday… has purchased Twitter.

Tweet, tweet motherfuckers

The sink was an attempt at a visual gag because Twitter had to “let that sink in,” one of those quips that he loves to append random statements that he thinks lend substance to his ignorance.

So there goes the neighborhood.  His publicly stated plan is to restore free speech by firing 75% of the company employees.  Anybody who has worked in tech knows that most companies over a certain size can shed 10-20% of their workforce and likely see a dramatic rise in average productivity.  But 75%, that might kill the company, because the high performers who can get another job quickly will walk the moment things get too bad.

The starting point was the executive staff, which was probably to be expected, including Vijaya Gadde, who was in charge of the company’s legal policy and who probably did more for free speech on the platform than we will likely ever see during Elon Musk’s stewardship.

Basically, protecting their users personal information from litigious rich people and foreign governments by going to court rather than just handing over the data was far more important as a free speech concept than being able to harass people and use the n-word about anybody with a dark skin tone.

But now Elon owns the place and, as I said last time this threat seemed to be looming, he can’t just burn the place down.  He isn’t the sole owner.  He has financing from other sources, including loans, and his backers will be pissed if he takes this $44 billion boondoggle… probably double the price it was really worth… and devalues it through stupid egoistic blundering.

The problem is, that is kind of his brand in public.

I mean, he may actually be the technical genius his fanboys claim he is, but as this article over at The Verge points out, the problems with Twitter are not technical.

I mean, not that he doesn’t believe somehow there is a technical fix to perfect Twitter.  Leaked internal email says that he wanted to personally review code with all of the developers on the team, actually asking them to print out their last 30 to 60 days of code submissions so they could review it with him… only to have that order countermanded later in the day, with instructions to shred all those print outs.

The problem with content moderation is that it always seems like an easy problem to solve with code… right up until you start trying to actually do it.  And I speak as somebody who spent half a decade working with attempts to automate responses to support request email messages.  That was summed up nicely by a Stanford grad student who interned with us over a summer to do research on text analysis.  His grand summing up was to announce that the fewer sorting categories we had, the more likely we were to route messages to the right one.  He was not amused when I asked if that meant if we just had a single “miscellaneous” category we would achieve 100% accuracy.

But I digress.  There is no technical solution to what ails Twitter… though that won’t stop somebody suggesting blockchain to make everything worse.

There is no problem so bad that blockchain can’t simultaneously make it worse, dumber, and more expensive in one go.

No, the problem, as The Verge points out, is political, and even Elon knows that is the real truth.  While he may be yanking the collective chains of his developers, probably looking for people to fire as much as anything, his first outreach as head of the company was to advertisers promising them he wouldn’t be turning Twitter into a free-for-all hellscape.

Twitter is barely a break-even situation even on its best day, so driving away advertisers willing to spend money on promoted Tweet would only make things worse for the whole enterprise, no matter how many people he lays off.

Still, laying people off is every the tech company’s solution to budgetary problems.  He’ll do that, probably move the HQ to Austin, and freely hand over user information to any subpoena or  totalitarian regime that requests it.  That last will save a lot in legal fees.  Expect more people getting jail sentences in dictatorships.

Content moderation though… even he is backing off of his grandiose pronouncements.  Nothing is being changed today, Trump hasn’t been unbanned, and as much as the MAGA “own the libs crowd” has been crowing, it still looks more like Elon got taken to the cleaners his, chained as he is to this $44 million albatross.

But I am going on about the absurdity of the situation, which I find both funny and horrifying in various measures.

The question I should probably get to is what am I going to about it?

Probably very little right now.

To start with, as with every takeover or merger, not much is going to happen after the first few dramatic firings.  And it will be hard to look away from the train wreck, should it come to pass.  I don’t plan travel to totalitarian states, so I should be safe.

But mostly I am going to stick around because I don’t have a good replacement for Twitter.

Everything else is either too siloed up into little friend groups (Mastodon, Discord) or are worse hell holes than Twitter has ever managed to be (Facebook, NextDoor, Reddit).

Twitter is kind of a strange mix of people I know and follow, people who are interesting to follow, and random reactions to news and events, often before I hear about them elsewhere.  It works for me in ways other options do not.

So I will continue hanging out, at least until something really stupid happens.

What Will it Mean to have a Bunch of 20 Year Old MMORPGS?

I know we already have some MMORPGs that are over 20 years old.  EverQuest turned 23 earlier this year, Lineage hit 24 last week, and Ultima Online has its 25th anniversary celebrations coming up soon.  Even Anarchy Online has managed to shamble past its 21st birthday.

Welcome indeed… we’ve been here a quarter century

But we’re getting past the point where that first generation of financially successful MMORPGs have passed two decades and are rapidly coming up on the next generation, the successors that tried to learn and adapt what was learned from the first titles to cross the 100K player mark.

We are now about a half a year away from EVE Online turning 20.  This coming November World of Warcraft and EverQuest II will hit the 18 year mark.  And after that pair hits 20 we’ll see some long surviving title like Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online hitting 20.

I was just going on yesterday about 16 years being kind of a long time in the life of a person, a significant portion of their lifetime experience.  Hell, part of the reality of this blog is not so much that it has been around for 16 years, but that I have been writing about and playing the same half dozen games for most of the time I have been writing it.

What does 20 years mean in a genre that is only 25-50 years old, depending on where you want to mark the starting point?  If you subscribe to the notion that video games are for kids, what does it mean when you have a set of titles that are old enough to be considered adults?

MMORPGs kind of broke the mold when it came to video game development.  You used to make a game, ship it, maybe do a couple of patches and maybe an expansion if the game was a big freaking deal, then you moved on to the next title.  In the end, selling boxes was the goal.  You might rework the same game… how many annual Madden titles have we had after all, or Call of Duty, or even Wizardry if you want to go back to my youth… but you shipped the game and started on the next one.

MMORPGs though, they just keep going.  Or some of them do.  There are, of course, some bodies along the side of the road to 20.  Some less successful titles were thrown overboard to keep various companies afloat and their senior execs in lemon scented moist towelettes or whatever.

But for a set of titles, if they hit a certain critical mass of core players and establish just the right amount of social bonds, they seem to be able to go on forever.

Yeah, sure, they are past their peak.   There aren’t 250K players in Ultima Online anymore, or 400K in Dark Age of Camelot, or 500K in EVE Online, or 550K in EverQuest, or 12 million in World or Warcraft, or however many in whatever other aging titles you care to mention.  Their prime is in the past.  But they managed to hold onto enough players to remain viable, even profitable.  Very profitable, in some cases.  EG7 is never going to let go of EverQuest if it keeps up, nor will Blizzard ever abandon WoW, which still pays most of the bills even in its decline.  The only thing that will kill them is gross mismanagement… and even WoW seems to be able to handle that.  (EVE Online though, that remains a test case for management that wants a different game.)

Even if new content is out of the question, there are always events and special servers and a host of tricks and enticements to keep people playing and paying.

It used to be Mark Jacob’s gig to go on about how the market for MMORPGs was vast beyond anybody’s measure. (A quote of one of the many times he said something like that.)  But I do wonder what it means to have a market where the old competitors, rich in content, history, and memories, are hanging about as the occasional new entry shows up and tries to compete.

I’ve gone on about the peril of the market for new entries, and the thing isn’t unassailable if you’ve learned the right lessons from the past.  Go see how Lost Ark has been doing, a title that had its act together, versus New World, an entry in the genre that seemed determined to forget every lesson ever learned.

I do not have any deep insight or huge conclusion to wind up this post with.  It is just something that occurred to me as I was tidying up yesterday’s post about my blog turning 16 and how its fortunes have tracked along with some of the games I’ve written about.  I’m past my peak as a blogger as well, but enough of you show up and drop a comment now and then to keep me going… and enough comment spam bots land to load up ads to pay the bills.

Reflections on What Keeps You in New Eden for Sixteen Years

We are here again at the anniversary of my start in New Eden.  16 years ago today I created my account and logged into EVE Online for the very first time.

My New Eden birthday in the old character panel

It has become a tradition for me to write about some aspect of the game… because I can only recount my first day of play so many times.  My frustration helped prompt me to start this blog, its anniversary being less than two weeks distant.

Some of the topics I have covered in the past on my anniversary.

But here, at year sixteen, I am struggling a bit for a topic.

It has been a something of a bad year for the game, as I wrote about previously.  But bad times and bad decisions by the company are hardly unique, and they tend to bring out more opinions from me rather than less.

It isn’t like I couldn’t drag out a topic.  There are a multitude of things that I could potentially run on about related to sixteen years of playing EVE Online.  The problem is that post like this, opinions and remembrances and going on about what a strange and wonderful place New Eden can be, that comes from the emotional part of me.

And my feelings for the game are a little flat right now.

I know, I know, it has been a down year for the game, and that no doubt enters into it.  It is much easier to find some passion for writing when things are happening.  Even when things are not going your way.

Especially when things are not going your way.

I am sure I have said this before, but it bears repeating; being on the losing side isn’t all bad.  Being on the defense in Saranen during the Casino War or backed up into that last constellation in Delve during World War Bee, those were some of the most active times in the game.  It gave things an edge… and it is convenient when the enemy brings content to your front step on a daily basis.

There are a couple of reasons for that.

First, it is a video game, so the stakes aren’t really that high.  Nobody dies, everybody respawns in a fresh clone to undock and fight again another day.  Ships are expendable.  Losing them is what we do every day.  If you haven’t lost a ship, you aren’t really playing the game.

Second, the odds being against you can really heighten the experience.

You don’t want to be completely overwhelmed.  There is no fun in extremely long odds.  But when the chips are down and there seems like there is no way to win and a fleet gets pinged and you and a hundred or more other members of your space tribe log in, ship up, and undock all the same.

That comes as close to a “This is Sparta!” sort of moment as you can get with an internet spaceship simulator.

It is almost as though a certain amount of difficulty or adversity makes the game more interesting.

I am sure I have mentioned this before.  It is certainly more fulfilling to write about heavily contested battles, bloody clashes, and close run defeats than it is to try to spin a tale about an uncontested structure shoot.  Not that I haven’t done the latter, it just isn’t as interesting.

Of course, there is adversity and then there is adversity.  CCP having made it more difficult to earn ISK or harvest resources, putting a strangle hold on the economy of New Eden, that isn’t the good sort of adversity.  Making ships expensive to replace does not drive conflict.

I’d much rather have the assets to throw ships into a desperate defense, like the ones we had at FWST-8 almost two years ago, or betting some assets on a clever trap that goes bad, like the one at YZ9-F6, than to be wondering if my PI yield this month is going to keep me in enough ISK to invest in whatever the latest doctrine is.

But that is sort of the Tao of EVE Online.  The interesting bit can come upon us unexpectedly, and nobody is guaranteed a good time just for logging in.  But if you don’t log in you’ll never get that special high that arrives when things come together and events are suddenly swirling and you are in the moment in a fight and, while you want to win, the whole thing will still be memorable and worth talking about even if you don’t.

So, even in the face of the last year and then some, I am still subscribed.  I still log in.  Something interesting is bound to happen even as another year goes by.

Fruits of the Cultural Revolution

When I went out to null sec back in late 2011, it was not without some trepidation.  I was going to join a friend out there and be part of a small corporation.  In the social structure of New Eden, the corporation is often the most basic unit, a small group that identifies together, very much the guild analog in EVE Online.

But the game takes it beyond that, and above corporations there are alliances, which are groups of corporations that can band together under a unified banner in order to work together.  Alliances are a meta-guild of sorts.

The players, ever ingenious, have managed to create their own social structures beyond what the game provides.  I often speak of the Imperium and PanFam and PAPI and FI.RE.  These are coalitions, alliances of alliances, an idea that has no official structure within the game.  But CCP gave us enough tools through standings and such to make them possible.

And then there are informal groups, at least so far as the game is concerned, what we call SIGs and Squads in the Imperium, but which exist in other alliances and coalitions, which try to group up people with like interests so they can do things together.

This is somewhat relevant to my own tale in null sec, which started with my joining a small corporation, BSC Legion, back in December of 2011 and getting mixed up in the never ending tale of war and drama that is null sec space in New Eden.  It may also relevant to where this post will go, though I won’t really know until I get there.

Back then the organization now known as the Imperium, at the time called the CFC, was a very different place.  This was after the great war between Band of Brothers and Goons, and null sec was a mix of survivors of the war, successor organizations, and some new groups.  It was very much the age of suspicion and spies and getting into a null sec corp required some thorough vetting and a vouch from somebody already in the corp.

And life in null sec was like a lot of other PvP games at the time.  There was a lot of casual racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the usual bad tropes of “gamer” culture, with no real incentive to change and a lot of people set in their ways.  The CEO of my first alliance, TNT, told us quite bluntly at one point that he would ban and blacklist anybody who complained to CCP about people posting porn in fleet chat, which was incredibly common at the time.  An occasional FC would ask people to go make a porn channel to keep fleet chat clear, but that was a rare thing indeed.

It was the price of playing the game… because it wasn’t just null sec that was like that.

Then things changed.  Sometime after the Fountain War Goonswarm and the CFC started to clean itself up.  The cultural revolution was declared.  A huge push was made to normalize better behavior.  The name was change to the Imperium.  We were no longer going to tolerate casual racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, and other toxic behavior within our ranks.

This was not an easy lift.  There had been some efforts before to try to get people to tone down their behavior, at least in coalition level fleets, and it was met by a lot of push back.  There are a lot of fragile young men out there who feel less than whole if they can’t been abusive.  I recall many surly complaints about not being able to link porn in fleet chat or harass any female that showed up on voice chat.

But the cultural revolution, which was most loudly proclaimed by The Mittani, mostly succeeded.  It was directed primarily at Goonswarm and coalition operations, so other alliances in the coalition did what they pleased on their own time.  There had to be a second cultural revolution after the Casino War to stamp out corners of toxic behavior… a task made easier by the fact that the Imperium had shed some of the more toxic groups during the war… and some basic standard of behavior was created and enforced.  I have been on fleets where somebody slips into that old toxic behavior only to have the fleet commander firmly remind them that “we don’t do that here.”  It is always good to hear somebody in authority holding the line.

And I am sure somebody will point out that coalition member X said something toxic somewhere… in local, in the forums, on r/eve… and they are probably right.  There is no way to police this sort of standard outside of coalition sponsored operations.  But at least people could go on coalition operations and not be subject to that sort of thing.  Life was better.

As for why this happened, there are probably a few reasons, not the least of which is that unchecked toxic behavior tends to drive out your best players over time.

But this time frame was also a point of change in null sec.  Brave Newbies had showed up and, while not exactly a power house, demonstrated that an open recruitment policy and an eagerness to help new players could generate interest and put ships on grid.

In a game where “n+1” had long been the formula for victory, this simple method of recruiting people to fill fleets was a too good to pass up.  We were also entering the “farms and fields” era of null sec, where defense of sovereignty would depend on the Activity Defense Multiplier.  You would have to live in and use your space to make it defensible, and having more people made that easier.  Also, there would no longer be “bad” space in null sec, systems whose true security gave them little value.  Upgrades via infrastructure hubs would make any system viable for ratting, mining, and industry.

So the Imperium copied the Brave formula, grabbing some of their leadership along the way, and set about recreating it in the form of KarmaFleet.  Goonswarm already had a fairly strong training and informational program for new players, so this was expanded and evolved to handle new recruits that wanted to go to null sec.

All of this was a large set of changes to the organization, and it is hard to imagine that they could have occurred without somebody as driven and frankly ruthless as The Mittani championing them.  He had been out in front of this declaring that we shouldn’t be shitty to each other.  We were all in this together and should look out for and support each other.

This is the sort of thing that builds the bonds that gets people to hold out for more than a year against three to one odds, as happened in World War Bee.

So there has been a strong belief that, no matter what our foes say, that we’re the good guys, demonstrably better people than those who attack us.

Which isn’t to say that everything was perfect.  Individuals will be jerks of their own accord.

And so it was that somebody in the coalition was stalking and harassing one of their female corp mates.  The corporation diplomats asked the coalition to ban and blacklist that person, but the coalition wanted more information.  The victim of the harassment sent more information, however nothing happened for four months, so she began complaining in the alliance forum about it to get attention.

This got the attention desired and the harasser was banned.

But so was the victim.

That was obviously wrong and the victim was unbanned.

If that were it, and my summation here is grossly simplified, it would have been bad but something to be learned from.  Mistakes get made, but they are only wasted if we fail to use them to improve.  The first I heard about any of this was a ping went out about the coalition needing a harassment policy because part of the excuse was that people handling this were not sure what to do.

But then people who were calling for the victim to be unbanned then got banned.  The victim and their defenders were banned for drama.

And there was The Mittani, in the middle of this, banning people, blaming the victim, and generally being an ass.  Quotes from him, posted all over r/eve, were the first thing I saw that made me feel that something was really wrong.

The Mittani as imagined by CCP in a video from The Scope

As more leaks came out I really began to think it might be time to leave.  This wasn’t what we fought for in the past.  I started calculating in my head what I ought to do to get out… sell my caps, ship smaller stuff to Jita… and be done with it.  This was not where the cultural revolution was supposed to lead us… or rather, it seemed to be pointing out that being better only applied to line members, that those in power could continue to behave badly behind closed doors, something we see all to often in the real world where rules only apply to those down the food chain.

That was on Wednesday evening, and I mulled it over on Thursday as more leaks sprung revealing what was going on at the top.

Then, Friday morning, The Mittani resigned.  He put out a statement that was posted over at INN about his reasons for leaving, highlighting people dragging his personal life into the fray.  And that was no doubt so.  He has made a lot of enemies and there are a host of people on r/eve and Something Awful that will drag him at every opportunity.

But there isn’t anybody outside of the Imperium who can take credit for this, though they are trying to.

The call came from inside the house.

This was an internal revolt.  When leadership chats are leaking, it is because people are not happy inside and they can’t see being able to make any change without going public.

So The Mittani has stepped down, handed over the keys to the alliance, driven there, arguably, by the cultural revolution he championed years back.

What happens next?  That remains to be seen.  Internal dissent won’t be quelled by shuffling the deck chairs.  But there are also people who feel The Mittani did no wrong, some still in leadership positions.  Goon unity is an illusion, except when people bunch us into a collective group to take a swing at us.  Outside attacks bring us together.  But left to our own the Imperium is a large and diverse group and no stereotype fits.

And how does the Imperium and Goonswarm Federation move forward from this?

The Mittani has often openly declared the organization to be an autocracy, and like its real world counterparts, it had a strong and recognizable main leader and then a host of others doing the real work mostly behind the scenes.  That means that there is no immediate and obvious heir to the leadership role.  Some care takers have taken over the main roles, but there isn’t anybody at the top now whose voice I would recognize on coms, much less know what they really do in the Coalition.

All of this has happened not too long after the ten year anniversary of the notorious “wizard hat” incident when The Mittani encouraged people during his alliance panel presentation to harass a player who claimed to be suicidal.  The Mittani apologized the next day and attempted to make good with the player in question, but CCP revoked his election to CSM 7 and banned him from the game for 30 days.

Anyway, that was an unexpected turn at the end of a disappointing week.  And, as often happens with EVE Online, now I feel I have to stick around just to find out what happens next.  I do not expect that there will be much immediate impact.  The wheels of the coalition will continue to grind on, I will still log in and fly with the same people in the same time slots and the same SIGs that I usually do.

But this could lead to a dramatic change over time.  Leaders of Goonswarm have generally left their mark on the organization, and none have led as long as The Mittani, so what happens next remains to be seen.

Related:

Things Like Valheim in a Post MMORPG World

I watched a video the other day about how to save the MMORPG genre.  It was an hour reasonably well spent if the topic interests you.

 

The video brings up a lot of problems and contradictions that the community has long discussed and argued about, such as the importance of community, servers, end game content, and a whole package of other items that will no doubt sound familiar if you’ve been part of the discussion over the last decade and more.

And I will say that there isn’t anything critical that I disagree with when it comes to the discussion.  It is largely a quest to get back to the things that made the genre exciting and fun back in the early days without necessarily throwing out every single “accessibility” feature that has shown up since EverQuest was the booming vanguard of the genre.

The result, which is necessarily a bit vague, can charitably be called a tightrope walk over a pit of knives, suggesting as it does some sort of balance between contradictory goals.

In the end, it seems unlikely that anybody is going to come up with a perfect and sustainable mix of features that will bring back the early joys of the genre, if only because much of what we were willing to put up with nearly a quarter century ago will no longer fly now that we’ve experienced better, easier, or more relaxed versions of virtual worlds.

The novelty of the experience has passed for many of us and, while we want a lot of what virtual worlds bring us, the price we’re willing to pay in what can seem like sheer bloody minded inconvenience is nowhere as high as it used to be.

Yes, you can run a special server now and then catering to the nostalgia of the good old days.  But that is no more sustainable than it was the first time around.  People will clamor for the quality of life changes, only much more quickly as one of the quirks of redoing a game for nostalgia is that the experience runs in fast forward mode because the whole thing is already a solved problem.

I don’t think MMORPGs are dead, but they aren’t going to go back to the dawn of the 21st century in anything but indie niche form.  The mass market voted with their wallets for WoW in droves… and then asked for the rough edges to be smoothed down to the point we have arrived at today and the dichotomy of the whole fun vs effort thing.  In the end we do seem to favor low friction entertainment.

But I also wonder if the edge has been worn of the MMORPG experience by some of the alternatives.

Back in 1999 you couldn’t even run two EverQuest clients on a single machine.  Multi-boxing meant literally having two machines.   So the idea of being able to run your own personal persistent world was out of reach for most people.

That changed.  I think Minecraft gets some serious credit for popularizing running your own world for just you and your friends.  I am sure there are other games titles that pre-date it for that sort of thing, but Minecraft created an industry around hosting worlds, a big enough industry that Microsoft felt it was worthwhile to run part of it.

Minecraft isn’t the ideal replacement for MMORPGs.  It can lack that sense of purpose, which is why I have Valheim in the title of the post.  Sure, you could substitute in something else for it… there are other options… but it is the one that resonates most with me at the moment.

Setting sail

Having your own Valheim server with your friends gives you a lot of what MMORPGs offered back in the day.  A persistent server to share with friends, monsters to find, a major quest to follow in order to win Odin’s favor, a world to explore, bases to build… and you even get that holy grail of online adventures, the ability to change the world and have it persist.

Which leads me to wonder where the future of online gaming in the MMORPG sense ought to be heading.

Valheim is imperfect… and largely so right now because it is incomplete.  It is currently impossible to gain Odin’s favor and win or otherwise finish what you started.

But the promise of it?  Now there is something.  We have twice now spent three months and more going through the content of the game… and in a rapacious manner, throwing many hours into our efforts to explore and move ahead… when it isn’t even half done yet.

What happens when there is a year of content for an industrious group?  What happens when there are multiple titles such as that?

I don’t think the MMORPG is going away.  There is still something to be said for the big game with many people playing in parallel.  But the smaller world, the shared persistent space you and your friends can share… that feels like it has a long ways to go before it seems over populated as a genre.

Of course, that might be why Blizzard is looking into the idea.  Or maybe the devs there just liked Valheim as well.

EVE Online and the Return to Expansions

There is a joke about business consultants that says if they go to a company that has a diversified portfolio of products that they will say the company should focus on its core competencies, but if they go to a company that is focused on their core competencies they will say the company should diversify their portfolio.

Distilled down, consultants often get paid to tell you that the grass is measurable greener, complete with supporting data, case studies, and customer interviews, on the other side of the fence.

But some times we don’t need a consultant to make us change course.  Sometimes we run off in pursuit of that greener grass all on our own.

Which brings me, in a round about way, to CCP’s decision to return to the idea of expansions, which was something that CCP announced at Fanfest.  Expansions are back.

Those who have been around for a long time remember that twice annual expansions used to be part of the EVE Online experience, and many of us remember those expansion names with a mixture of fondness and dread. (I have a bunch of those splash screens here if you want a ride down memory lane.)

Incarna – June 2011 – That guy looks more skeptical every time I see him

But back in 2014 CCP decided that expansions were not the thing anymore.  The era of the Jesus feature was over. Instead they attempted to go to a ten release a year cadence.  Incredibly, in hindsight, they tried to give each of those ten update a name… and theme music.

A new musical theme used to be a feature of every expansion or update for a long stretch.  those were the days.  It was a time of many things.

That proved to be too much work… names fell away and music stopped being a thing… but at least we were getting timely updates.  One of the downsides of the expansion era was often large gaps between any fixes as the company preferred the expansion to be the release vehicle.  And once the expansion hit, updates were often focused on fixing things broken in the expansion as opposed to other areas of the game.  And not every expansion was a big splash feature event.  I think we ended up with Revelations II because it was mostly fixing what was shipped with Revelations.

Revelations II – June 2007

CCP eventually opted for the quadrants idea, where each quarter of the year would have a theme and would feature updates based on that theme.  That was a bit more reasonable, better suited a modern development cadence, and still delivered fixes and updates on a regular basis.

And it wasn’t like we didn’t have some expansion-like releases.  I called the Invasion update an expansion, as it introduced the Triglavians to New Eden.  Kind of a big deal.

The Invasion was May 2019

So, in my way, I get why CCP wants to go back to the twice annual big expansion format.  It hearkens back to the peak years of the game, when growth was continuing and it seemed like CCP had the potential to conquer the world.

And believe me, some part of me wants to relive that era.  Amazing things were happening.  Huge wars, new features, crazy new ships, new areas of space, it seemed an endless bounty if you just squint hard enough through those rose tinted lenses.

But there was a lot going wrong, a lot of dropping features and moving on, a lot of broken things left unfixed, and not a lot of focus on quality of life.  The end of the expansion era saw a team show up dedicated to just fixing things, and we liked that a lot too.

Finally, while I haven’t gone and done a study of the time between announcements and launches like I have done with WoW, even years later I am left with the distinct impression that the time frames there were short, that we got 6-8 weeks build up before an expansion.  That is almost nothing compared to a WoW expansion or a new Pokemon game release, which we might be fed tidbits and updates about for a year of more.

Which is pretty similar to the build up for big features we’ve had since the end of the expansion era, so I fail to see much of a difference… unless they plan to announce things much earlier.

Anyway, I don’t have a hard point to drive home here.  It is more of a question as to whether or not CCP can recapture player enthusiasm with expansions again.  If nothing else, an expansion implies the company is bringing something big to the game.  You can get away with tuning and adjustments with quadrants, but for an expansion to land it needs to bring something new.

We shall see.  It was another of the things at Fanfest about the future rather than the present.

The TL;DR

  • The expansion era had its own set of issues.
  • CCP has been able to deliver expansion-like content with full fanfare since that era.
  • So what are we solving for by going back?

Is EVE Anywhere Anything to Care About?

I like the idea of being able to just play any game in a browser rather than having a dedicated client, but are the limitations worth the effort of building such a client?

This, of course, is related to CCP’s EVE Anywhere implementation, which was announced quite a while back and has been out in a limited beta version since March of 2021.

EVE Anywhere as long as you accept the limitations

I bring this up again because CCP released a dev blog yesterday announcing that EVE Anywhere was now available for Alpha accounts, which are those who haven’t opted for the monthly subscription plan.  The free players.

(As an aside, to whoever wrote the headline for that dev blog, it sounds like EVE Anywhere is ready for alpha testing, though it has been in beta for over a year.  I can’t tell if that was poor phrasing or a warning about the state of the implementation… though why not both?)

I tried it out when it was first available and I tried it out again this past week and… almost everything I complained about back then is still true now.

  • Fixed resolution (1920×1080)

Not the worst sin possible in and of itself, but if your monitor is not that resolution things may not look right.

  • Can only be run in full screen

This, on the other hand, is a pain in the ass, and all the more so as the app makes you think you can run it in a window or some mode besides full screen.

The lies the client tells me

But no, as soon as you get out of full screen the window is obscured by the banner that required you to click to get back to full screen.

No, you must play full screen

Oh well.

  • Doesn’t remember any settings client settings

I could probably live with the first two and find some utility in being able to log in with a web client, but then there is this.  This is the deal breaker.

Basically, any setting that the standard client stores locally… which is pretty much all of your UI choices and your overviews and such… are not picked up by the web client.

You might expect that.  The real problem is that it doesn’t remember any changes you make in the web client either.  Every time you log in it is the new unconfigured client experience.  I don’t like fiddling with my overview on the best of days, so I certainly don’t want to do it every time I log in and undock.

I will say that at least it does run in Firefox now.  It wouldn’t work for me last time, though I will admit I have my copy of Firefox locked down pretty tight.  Now it will run… it just doesn’t work very well.  Keyboard short cuts don’t work so you need to mouse and click on everything, including quitting the client.

I know, you’re going to tell me it is in beta.  It says so right there on the launch button, so it is a work in progress, and I should be charitable.  And, even a year in, I can buy into that idea.  It still isn’t very useful to me, but nobody is forcing me to use it, so its problems do not have my problems.

The little red beta flag is there to deflect criticism

And I wouldn’t have bothered with this post at all save for one detail in the dev blog.

They did, indeed, make it available to Alpha clone players, but those Alphas have to pay to use it.

Every 24 hour period required you to pay 30 PLEX which, assuming you buy the 3,000 PLEX package, means you have to pony up $1.25 a day to play.  And that just blows be away.

There are, in my world view, only two reasons you would bother making a web client version of EVE Online.

The first is that CCP is concerned that some portion of their player base, real or potential, don’t have machines that can run the client in a way that makes the game look good.  A cloud based thin client, something about which I wrote about previously, puts all the processing and rendering on the server side of the equation and the end user can just look at the pretty space pictures on their Chromebook or whatever.

And maybe that is the aim of the feature.

But the other reason you would do all of this work on a thin client so that players could run your game in a web browser is to reduce the friction that keeps new players from trying your game.  Remember that chart CCP showed us back in 2019?

How many new players log back in as time passes

CCP has been focused on the 10K or so players who log into the game to keep them logging in.  But you could argue that the stand-out number on that chart is the gap between the number of accounts registered versus how many actually log into the game.  Half of the potential players don’t even make it to the point where the game is confusing and the UI is indecipherable.  They fail somewhere between making their account and clicking “play” on the client, and I would guess that most of those fall off somewhere around download and install of the client.

Downloading and installing and configuring, those all represent friction that can keep players from getting into your game.

Ideally you could find a way… like a web based client… that would remove that friction and allow a player to just create an account and then click a button to start playing.  So the web client should at least push more new players into the game so they can hate it for what it is rather than for making them download and run an installer.

Except, of course, that new player cannot do that with EVE Online because in order to use the web client you need to spend some money to get some PLEX, and if you think downloading and installing a client is friction, getting people to pull out their wallet will dwarf that.

Back when MMORPGs were making the transition to free to play en masse, one of the primary arguments was that not forcing people to pay up front would get more players to try the game and that some percentage of those who wouldn’t pay up front would pony up once they experienced the game.

And, just because I feel like piling on a bit more, I am also very much of the opinion that if you charge for something, “it’s in beta” is not a defense.  If I’m paying you can call it whatever you want, but I am going to treat it like a finished product because what else is it at that point?

But wait… what if it isn’t actually still in beta?

CCP also ran a press release on their corporate site that said that EVE Anywhere launched yesterday.  That was enough to get some gaming sites who did more than copy and paste what they had been emailed to point out that the service is live.  Game Developer (formerly Gamesutra) took that to mean that it was out of beta.  They should have tried logging I guess.

Or maybe CCP should just be clear in their freaking press communications, because the dev blog headline sounds like it is in alpha, the dev blog itself doesn’t say it has left beta, and the corporate press release says it has launched.

I am this close to making unfavorable comparisons to Daybreak when it comes to communications here.

So what are you going to do?  As I said, it something that doesn’t affect me really, so I can safely ignore it, but it still managed to irk me and serves as an example of a poor product being handled badly.  And I can’t even start in on the fact that EVE Anywhere is not available everywhere, but still in a limited number of countries. You can’t make this up.

All of which makes the answer to my question in the headline a pretty definite “No!”

Related:

EVE Online and Damage Meters

One of the long time gripes about EVE Online is that CCP does not allow any addons or mods to the game’s UI.

I am not sure I have mentioned this in the past, except briefly in passing, but this is kind of a big hairy deal for a bunch of people because of the notorious nature of the default EVE Online UI.  There are few things EVE players agree on as much as how awkward and often impenetrable the game’s interface can be, especially to new players.

To be fair, it is working in an environment more complicated than a standard fantasy MMORPG, where a player is standing on the ground, sword in hand, and pressing an attack button to smack an orc.  But still, the design philosophy for EVE has mutated over the years and there are times when you can feel the design paradigm shifting under your feet as you attempt to do something out of your usual daily routine.

So the argument is that a mod-able UI that allowed addons and the like would help solve that.  For a game that literally survives on third party tools… for example, the two in-game maps would struggle to be the 4th and 5th best maps of the game, with DOTLAN logical and navigation maps probably being 1st and 2nd… harnessing the proven ingenuity and resourcefulness of the community seems to be a no brainer.

Except, of course, CCP rightfully fears the outcome.  They fear that if they allow modification of the UI that the community will come up with changes that lend distinct advantage to specific users.  They have been smacked around for nearly 20 years by the wisdom of the crowd that flows like water through all of their carefully laid plans to find the optimum solution.

And in a game that is, at its heart, PvP focused, that is death.  Something like HealBot in WoW doesn’t spark much real ire because, in a PvE situation, it only helps fellow players.  A similar addon in New Eden, where an addon would lock up ships in your fleet needing reps and highlight the repair module for you, that could be game breaking.

So we soldier on with the old UI, with the promise of something maybe better in the future in the form of the Proton UI, which they have spoken about in the past.  I remain dubious about the new UI and expect it will be the map situation all over again, where the new map wasn’t much better than the old map, and less useful in some cases, so they ended up with two in-game maps.

We shall see.

So that is almost 500 words about the EVE Online UI and mods.  What does this have to do with damage meters?  Can I get to the point already?

Elsewhere in the genre of late, and in FFXIV and WoW specifically I gather, there has been some community flare up about damage meters yet again. (See Kaylriene and Belghast, they link out further on that.)  The argument is that they turn people into toxic aholes and should not be allowed.  FFXIV specifically does not allow them, though peeling back some of the rhetoric, that seems to be at least in part because they support PC and console and they don’t want console players to be second class citizens.

I generally run damage meters in MMOs if I am going to group up because it is an handy way to analyze what you’re doing in a genre where feedback can be huge numbers flying around without context.  I hit for 20,000, is that a lot or a little?  So I view them as a tool for self-improvement.

But the meta community views of FFXIV and WoW, can be summed up respectively as “you don’t pay my subscription” and “git gud” when it comes dungeon performance with others, both of which I find obnoxious in a grouping context.   There is a lot of emotion in there.

Whatever, I don’t play either currently and find neither community a draw to play their respective games.

But that led me to think about EVE Online, which I am sure both communities would look down upon, if they knew the game existed, as a toxic swamp based on its PvP focus alone.

As it does not allow mods or addons, EVE Online does not, strictly speaking, have damage meters.

Strange days.

There is nothing I can slap onto the game that will put up a UI like Recount, the only damage meter addon I can recall at the moment, to give me immediate feedback on how much damage I am applying against which targets and all the fun data that comes with that.  (I also run damage meters just to see the data.)

But EVE Online does have a pretty healthy relationship with data and allowing users access to it.  But it kind of needs to, just to overcome the amount of options available to players.

I’ll use 425mm railguns as an example, a battleship weapon that happens to be fitted on a Megathron in my hangar, which is the ship I last flew on an operation.

Megathrons out and about

There are ten variations of that particular weapon available in the game, each with some different parameters, and nearly 60 different ammo variations that can be loaded into them, with differences in range, damage, capacitor use, and other modifiers.  That is a lot of combinations to play with.

For fleet ops the choices are generally winnowed down to some specific loads and the weapon is generally the tech II version.  But there has been a graphic going around for ages to illustrate what to do with your Megathron.  (It goes in a fleet doctrine called “Baltec Fleet,” named after Baltec1, who used to fit out Megathrons so they would work with other doctrines and I remember being on cruiser fleets with him in a fast warping Mega.  He moved on to an alliance hostile to us ages ago, but his legend remains.)

The “How To” of Baltec Fleet

And the game gives you your base damage output fairly readily.  For the seven 425mm guns on my Megathron it says:

Damage, range, and such

So the base damage of my volley is about 1,400 points, divided between thermal and kinetic damage type.  That is about 200 points per gun.  With firing rate calculated in, that is a little over 300 points of damage per second output.

I have spike loaded, which is the very long range ammo, and it gains that range by sacrificing some damage output.  There is a correlation between range and damage, with shorter range ammo tending to hit harder.

(Also, as an aside that shows the scale of EVE Online, that can hit out to 160km, or about 100 miles.  That is far enough away that all but the most massive ships or structures become too tiny to discern.  On earth, out at sea, you would have to be 2,000m in the air for the horizon to appear to be that far away.  Distances in space are kind of daunting at times.)

Strictly for comparison, here is the same ship and guns loaded with antimatter, which is a shorter ranged ammo.

Damage and range again

There are, of course, things that can affect the base damage, such as if the target is outside the optimal range or the falloff range, which will see damage reduced and eventually stop landing hits.

And then there are the resistances to damage types that a ship can have.  I’ll use my Megathron as an example again.  From the ship fitting window:

Offense, defense, and targeting

If somebody is shooting me with a kinetic… the damage types are electromagnetic, thermal, kinetic, and explosive (blue, red, grey, gold)… my shields deflects 48% of incoming damage, my armor armor layer deflects 58% of incoming damage, and my hull deflects 60% of incoming damage, fit as I am.

So while my hit points add up to just under 60K total, the effective hit points (EHP) is closer to 130K due to the resistances. (That is an estimate, it could be more or less depending on incoming damage type.)

Some other ships that were around while I was on that op

There are other things that affect damage application, such as implants, signature radius, and drugs, but I will skip past that for now because I am once again wandering far afield from the idea of damage meters.

So, when it comes down to it, do you get to see how much damage you applied to a target?  Of course you do.  It is all there in the kill mail notification that the person who gets in the final blow receives in game as well as the kill report that appears over on zKillboard, if it gets captured there.

So, for example, there is a Claymore that we blew up on an op this past weekend and I was on the kill mail.  You can see the kill report over at zKillboard.

The record of the dead Claymore

And along the side it shows how much damage each of the involved parties applied… net damage, after resists.

I’m #6 on damage

The difference between the list is likely related to lock speed, drugs consumed, being optimally positioned, and just paying attention. (Oh, and skills trained.  I said I was working on Large Railgun Specialization V in my last skill training update.  Every level of that gets me 2% more damage out of the tech II guns I have mounted.)

And here is where we diverge from WoW or other titles where DPS is judged by their damage output.

Nobody cares how much damage you did.

I mean, it is cool if you got top damage.  And I know when we do structure shoots there are people who will show up in bling fit, polarized high DPS ships to compete to see who gets top damage.  There are some bragging rights associated with that.  But I have never been on a fleet where somebody got called out for being down the damage list.

Seriously.  I might live in a rarefied arena of the game, but it just isn’t a thing where I have played.  I am sure it might be in some elite PvP orgs.  Toxicity will find a way.  But it never seems to bubble up in r/eve or the forums, which is often where complaints about that sort of thing find an outlet.

I remember when Gevlon tried to make damage output a thing, his way of rating the value of pilots on a fleet op, because he couldn’t quite let go of the WoW raider mentality.  But it was an absolutely garbage idea.  By his logic logi ship, the space priests that repair damage, had no value at all, nor did tackle or electronic warfare ships.

Now, I will say, life in a null sec coalition means getting recommended fits handed to you, so most everybody in a Megathron on that operation was likely fit the same way I was and firing the same ammo as the fleet commander called for.  Coordination like that is what makes fleet doctrines work as it gets a critical mass of players with the same engagement envelope and damage type to hit targets in a coordinate fashion.  As it says on that chart above, always shoot the primary.

I have seen people get mocked in less organized groups for having a poor fit, and there is a list of fitting sins you can commit as far as the fitting theory crafters are concerned.  But the general result from that is to go back to the drawing board for a better fit.  Ships and equipment are expendable so you just go buy some more.

Meanwhile, the game does record your own damage application in its log files, down in the gamelogs directory.  You can take that and tease out your own damage, or you can use one of the file parsers out there… and of course there are a few, the EVE community loves to make tools… to see what you did.  I went to one called EVE Combat Log Analyzer to see how I did on that op I mentioned above.

My combat record for the May 8th op

There is a gate rat in the mix there, the Angel Warlord, but otherwise all player stuff.  So you can get something of a damage meter after the fact.  But it doesn’t really have  the same impact/influence as something you might get after a dungeon or raid in WoW.

Here, at the end, I will say that this post doesn’t have any sort of dramatic point to make, other than to illustrate how damage and its measurement in EVE Online compare to the more traditional fantasy MMORPG counterparts.  Just something of a Friday text ramble.