August 14, 2016

Reflections on Eve from No Man's Sky

“Are you cheating on No Man’s Sky with Eve?”, asks my wife as she sees glances over to the computer as I jump a gate.  It’s a reasonable question.  My son and I got through the PC launch problems Friday night and took turns putting a decent number of hours in.  No 24/7 marathons here, and my son is equally interested in catching up on episodes of “One Piece” as playing.  No Man’s Sky is definitely the new hotness though.  So why am I logging into Eve?

The answer isn’t quite comfortable for me - it feels as much like obligation as entertainment.  I have market orders that need updating, PI that needs to be moved about, and manufacturing jobs that have completed and replaced by new ones.  That’s not exactly the same as “let’s see what’s on that next planet” that No Man’s Sky offers.  The Eve activities have the feeling of obligation because they are means to an end - an end that isn’t here quite yet.  In some of those cases, there are people expecting me to run those manufacturing jobs, so I don’t want to let them down.  The market orders and PI are to make ISK that I can use in the future for ships.  All that sounds like great training for some simulation that means to teach kids about responsibility and planning for the future.  But is it fun?

Yes, it’s an argument that the Eve community has had many times.  Other games come along and Eve players give them a try, but in the trope we all know the players come back to Eve.  There’s a novelty to the new game. To carry my wife’s joking analogy along, it’s the flirting fun of that new relationship that puts the sparkle in the eye.  That novelty wears away and then it’s back to the tried and true, the more deeply engaging, where the longevity sits.  (Note: don’t carry this too far - Eve is far less likely than your spouse to throw you out for straying.)

No Man’s Sky fits this well with its theme of discovery and exploration.  The game teased the audience pre-release with a sense of wonder.  While we have an activity we call “exploration” in Eve, it’s hard to get that sense of wonder.  It’s hard for CCP to generate wonder when their cool new thing is visible on Sisi weeks ahead of launch, if not leaked of the Chaos server before that.  By the time it gets the Tranquility anyone who is clued in knows all the tricks.  Ghost sites?  Sleeper redoubts?  Mapped with optimal strategy from the get-go, which means that CCP has to balance it for perfect player knowledge, so if you intentionally keep yourself ignorant you’re probably going to get nuked.

The community has been talking about procedurally generated PVE sites for years - since I started playing at least.  I’ve opined before about the idea of the “new space” on the other side of player-build jumpgates being procedurally generated, with a new batch of NPCs driven by the latest AI routines.  We’re seeing serious discussion amongst CSMs and even hard-core PVPers that a reboot of Eve PVE is needed.  CCP has seen many possible rival internet spaceship games come and go, so I’m not saying they should be threatened by No Man’s Sky, but there is something to learn from it.

I expect my next log-in of real duration to Eve will be in response to a fleet ping (most recent ones in my corp seem to be for the EU TZ or out-of-school US types.)  When I look back, I hope it won’t be because of a feeling of obligation rather than excitement.

July 30, 2016

Eve hotdropped my vacation

Like many Eve players, I was away for quite a bit this month on vacation.  Unexpectedly though, Eve caught up with me.  I guess you really can't escape the spaceships!

About three years ago I was on vacation with extended family and watching AT videos on my iPad.  My nephew was very interested and had lots of questions, but after my sister asked me a bit about what Eve was like she said "No."  He had enough distractions going on to add Eve, which was almost certainly a good call at the time.

Fast forward to this July out on the Outer Banks and my nephew unfolds his laptop and says "Guess what, I've been playing Eve the past few months."  He had moved pretty quickly into Signal Cartel and was running wormhole sites in a Tengu.  When not in the wormhole, he had been running incursions.  In short, he had immediately moved to two areas of the game that I hadn't actually experienced yet.  It's a testament to how much Eve offers that this little coincidence is probably not all that rare amongst two randomly chosen players.

So we ended up chatting a good bit about Eve during the vacation.  The WiFi where we were staying was a bit shaky the first couple days, which convinced him he didn't actually want to undock and go wormhole diving while there.  Instead he spent downtime playing around with EFT and asking questions as we rotated through the ship browser.  He's a bright kid, so I'm not really surprised that he's taken in so much over a relatively short time.

Now that I'm back home that's increased my interest in wormhole diving for PVE.  I've used wormholes to get to null to try ratting there for the bounties and the sec status, or to cut to other areas of low where a solo Gallente pilot might find a different kind of fight than in the warzone.  Looking around the other day I found a hole to a C13, so remembering Longinus Spear's backpacking blogs I fitted up a Confessor and gave it a try for an hour or so.  That blog was apparently before the nerf pass on the Confessor, but the idea held up well even without bling.  I was pretty surprised at the value pulled in drops and salvage - yeah salvaging, that's something I haven't done in a long time.

Wormhole living isn't suddenly going to pull me away from my home in Gallente FW, but it is a nice sideline.  Profit isn't bad either, and I continue to need more income streams if I'm going to actually be flying capitals down the road.  All the more things that can open up in Eve - sometimes even when you're on vacation.

July 4, 2016

Summer Blahs and New Temptations

A couple bloggers have mentioned Eve things slowing down for them.  I expect that a lot of us are in that boat.  Schedules change as the kids get out of school and are staying up later, vacations kick in (I'll be out for a week in a bit), and other obligations come along (I have in-laws visiting the past week).  This blog was written over three days and four sittings, when normally I kick out a blog in one or two.  all those things can easily cut into Eve time.   It's understandable for us to ask if there is something more.

I read a lot of opinions on people not being thrilled with the Shadow of the Serpent event.  I have barely even logged in since it started, and I haven't tried any of the challenges, so I don't have any first hand opinion.  I wrote a piece for Crossing Zebras about the structure of the rewards before it started, though I'm glad to see now that it's out that it is a bit of a hybrid between the approaches I mentioned.  Getting the right structure is important for motivating players, and I think what they did was actually a good mix.  Unfortunately, the rewards behind the structure are underwhelming for people, particularly when compared to the Thrill of the Hunt SP-fest that was just terminated.  But I can't say that the event's apparent failure to engage the Eve community is part of me not getting undocked more.

It's certainly not the content generated by my corp.  Rapid Withdrawal has been racking up the kills, including getting in on some big fights through blues to local pirates.  One of our FCs and content generators, Nate Atol, is on the Top 10 killer list on zkillboard right now.  Our new alliance, Pen Is Out, is almost certainly going to start showing on the Alliance lists as soon as it has existed long enough for the kills to mount up.  On the other hand, I won't be surprised if starting practice for an Alliance Tournament team means we'll see a sudden drop of kill stats for our top pilots.  So there's plenty of content for me there if could just get free from guests and such when the quite frequent pings go out.

The more immediate threat to my Eve time is Path of Exile, which I played and then put away.  When my son was looking for something to do with his extra free time, I figured maybe he was ready for some modern murder hobo hero action.  Showing him how it worked got me playing again of course - I never had finished the story and now we're both racing through it on my Steam account.  Maybe someday I'll try introducing him to Eve, but I know it may be a one-shot thing - if he gets turned off by the complexity then it may not be something I can try again next year.

My Eve time is probably lucky that No Man's Sky got delayed from June to August.  I expected that would be the big game-time pull.  Well, it still will be I hope, it's just that now it will overlap more with the end of summer vacation and thus another set of schedule changes.  I expect my son and I will dive into it, and since both of us will be playing that will make it all the more appealing for me to spend time on rather than Eve.

Click for link to Tiger Ears wonderful WH resources - wish she still played and blogged

So when I get time again I think I'm going to try throwing myself into something different.  Maybe a concentrated effort on solo pvp, but the downside of the massive content-fest that is our FW zone is that you're up against some tough odds solo.  Another option that I'm finding appealing is fitting up a Stratios and start wandering through wormholes without limiting myself in having to find my way back every play session.  It's not too hard to have a PVP fit that can do some PVE (granted, not the big anoms) or that you can mobile-depot refit to.  The Stratios is better than my cloaky Proteus for not needing ammo (technically) between lasers, neuts and drones.  I'll have to hit up pyfa and try out some options.

Beautiful image by zombietychus via Reddit - click for original

In the end, this is the beauty and the longevity of Eve.  Other games may come and go.  Right now I hear plenty of comments of people playing Overwatch or Stellaris.  Then they're back to Eve again, either in the same kind of game as before or maybe something new.

June 18, 2016

BB76: The Field Marshal upon Yonder Hill

BB76 - Why should Eve persist in an Iron Age model for command, rather than moving up a millennia or so to a more Napoleonic model of command.  Let's give our FCs a steed from which they can command from a distance.

Blog Banter 76 asks:

At fanfest CCP Fozzie proposed a potential new ship class. Let's call it the fleet commander's flagship for now. This is to try and prevent "FC Headshotting" where the opposing fleet knows who the FC is and alpha's them off the field leaving the rest of the fleet in confusion and disarray. Fozzie mentioned a ship with a great tank but no offensive abilities. Is this a good idea? Is FC head-shotting a legitimate tactic? If CCP do go down the route of a "flagship" how might this work? Also is a new ship the answer or is there another way of giving an FC the ability not to be assassinated 12 seconds into the fight without letting players exploit it?

Eve's Mask of Command

Military history fans will have read "The Mask of Command" by John Keegan.  If not you should add that to the stack by your bedside immediately.  This post is not about that book, but from a small bit that I remember from the decades ago that I read it.  He describes the change in the role of command over the centuries, notably from the warband leader ("Heroic Leader") who is first amongst the charging ranks to the field marshal sitting on a horse on a hill with a telescope ("Anti-Heroic Leader"), and eventually to generals in a city far away getting reports from the front lines ("Post-Heroic Leader").

Our Eve FCs are very much in the first class, with the huge disadvantage that Keegan talks about - they can get killed right in that first charge.  In melee the leader's troops can be inspired to follow and surround their leader to protect them.  Keegan talks about Alexander the Great personally scaling the wall of a city he was seiging, forcing his troops to follow him or he would be lost.  But in Eve as we know the only way to protect an individual is to keep reps on them.  That still leaves them vulnerable to alpha - Eve's equivalent of an arrow or bullet right to the face.

This implies there are two ways to protect an FC.  The one talked about most is making an "alpha-proof" tank of a ship with enough buffer/resists for reps to land.  Perhaps an ultra-Absolution kind of ship, or one with a special module similar to the new Capital Emergency Hull Energisers that also shuts down offensive capability.  Lore wise this could be interesting to build out of the recent Amarr experience with getting alpha'd by Drifters, which of course as with all Eve things would be immediately copied by all factions.

The second way I don't hear people talking about - put the FC in the place of the field marshal watching everything through field glasses.  Keegan's example for this case was Wellington, and as depicted above you can think of this leader as very near the battle but above the scrum.  Carriers already fulfill some of the needs for such a Napoleonic leader, such as the ability to lock targets over extreme ranges.  So is an answer perhaps for this new "Grid Command" ship to be a cruiser hull with super-long lock ranges, a high number of simultaneous targets, EWAR resistance/invulnerability, and probably a good speed and sensor strength.  If your FC is so valuable that you are willing to give up their ability to contribute dps, then why have them in the middle of the scrum anyway?

CCP would still have to worry about abuse of such a ship of course - but that's true of any new ship hull.  it would be cool for some of the ship's new abilities to only exist (or be enhanced) when in fleet command positions - perhaps brain in the box makes this possible. Having such a tie would also reduce abuse since it inherently limits how many people in a fleet could exploit the ship in the inevitable, creative way that Eve players do.

So if CCP Fozzie was to ask my opinion, that's the direction I would point him in.  Eve FCs should move past the Iron Age commander and at least up to the Napoleonic era. :)

Side note - the AIs are taking over the spam

I have moderation turned on after some spam posts.  I had this comment pop up on an old post.  The artificially generated posts (Markov chains or whatever the latest hotness is) are getting good enough that for a brief moment I was really trying to parse it as if it was written by a non-English native speaker.  Unlike usual there was no hyperlink embedded for the advertising - that was done in the "poster's" URL, so you wouldn't see it unless you tried to find out who this poster was.  The second sentence is definitely more successful in picking up from Eve phrases.

"This is very considerably some sort of assurance connected with way as an alternative to whatever massive, in addition to many pleasant keyword phrases including suffering on the excess weight connected with its very own awesomeness. When i recognize of which Empire living space is usually a realistic beginning point having many stuff witout a doubt constantly in place, although I however hope we were looking at wanting to create the concept of this sailing factions to be a beginning point."

May 19, 2016

Dread-ing Training

After Eve Vegas when the capital balance changes were first announced, I decided to make the leap and slotted in Advanced Spaceship Command to get into a capital ship. There are a lot of expensive schoolbooks involved and very long training cycles, as I noted in my blog at the time. I was looking forward to being able to get into a Moros that would have utility in lowsec beyond POS takedowns.  That was on 31 October, so I'm all done and a capital pilot now, right?  Not exactly.

Since then I have deprioritized some of this capital training as we learned more about the capital rebalance and what it really means in practice. High angle weapons don't have quite the punch against subcapital targets as we might have hoped. That's still a very expensive ship to put on the line to try to blap subcapitals with given the DPS numbers. (Though I'm amused to hear of MBC HAW Titans on the Saranen undock)

I know I didn't show the full fit (it wasn't good, don't worry) but that 3.3B for fittings is notable (and I didn't go as shiny as many I'm sure).  As I talked to local capital pilots and got advice on slave implant sets for the traditional buffer tanking approach.  We'll see if the new active-tank pirate implants end up making the scene for smaller engagements (oh, and that means Capital Repair Systems skill). In any case, that means another couple billion ISK. My wallet will definitely need reinforcement long before I can undock such a capital ship, given a guideline of being able to immediately replace any ship (and pod) that I undock. In other parts of Eve players could rationalize buying a carrier knowing that they could use it for high-value ratting to help pay the cost of that same carrier. That is not exactly advisable in low sec, and definitely not in a dreadnought.  The carrier meta does look very interesting, though it is an even longer and more expensive training cycle.

But what has really derailed my plans though is the ongoing use and value of battleships in both PVP and PVE. When I started down the capital training road I only had Gallente Battleship V. While the Dominix is a quite serviceable battleship for fleet use, the king of the PVP subcap mountain today is the Machariel.  Like most of the PVP focused corps around lowsec, RDRAW has a Machariel doctrine, which makes Minmatar Battleship V seem like a good value train.  On a side note, I went to slap a T2 Heavy Neut on my Machariel and realized that I'd never trained that to V either - since until the neut rebalance there wasn't any reason to use T2 neuts.  So that's another couple days of training.

On the PVE side the Rattlesnake is the undisputed moneymaker whether you're running L5 missions or hopping through a WH to hit nullsec anoms. Fortunately this also uses Gallente Battleship for offense, though the Caldari Battleship V seems very appealing for that extra bit of resists.  In my case that also meant polishing up some missile skills.  All to get the ISK that could make it possible to get that even bigger ship.  Hmm, this is starting to sound like a trap, isn't it?

Really all of these are the classic trade off of more short-term pay off compared to a very long-term payoff. Capitals are not something that I see regularly in my current line of work. Battleships are.  The capital skills will remain in the queue but have gotten pushed back by those 30 day battleship trains. At least for not I'm not tempted by the distractions of Marauder or Black Ops...

So I can technically sit in a Moros now, but I haven't spent for the hull and don't see that happening soon.  I don't regret putting in that big train for advanced spaceship command but it doesn't look like I'll be putting it to use quite as early as I might have hoped.  Instead I'll follow along and see how things develop for capital ships both in the wider universe of Eve and in the part of space in which I now reside.

May 2, 2016

Please let me pay money for more Eve stuff

Somewhere there's a twelve-step program for Eve players, but it doesn't culminate with freeing you from your addiction to the game, but instead ends with being completely nerded out on the game.  Or as a CCP employee I suppose.  It seems that CCP is working hard to save us from that fate, making sure we can't spend too much more of our RL cash on Eve RL goodies.  But we can try.

Swag Tease

Once again with FanFest CCP has teased us with what swag attendees can buy.  Clever t-shirts, sharp-looking button-downs, and even caps.  Oh, we can buy those on the online store after FanFest, right?  After all, the new online store is going to open in the first quarter of 2016.  Sigh.  Soon?

At least they've finally made some deal with Rixx so that we continue to see his prints for sale.  Those are sore tempting too - I'm quite curious what reactions I'd get at work if I put the print of the Myrmidon up in my office.

I could do with more of that trend.  I can understand if CCP can't prioritize all the logistics and such to get their own merch out, but perhaps can license others to use their IP and get a cut or something.  That has it's own overhead though - perhaps worse that actually getting the merch going.

Empires of Eve

I've never lived in nullsec, but I got drawn in and bought "Empires of Eve." I'm enjoying it as a history, but the sense of history as a lesson to be repeated is just too delicious not to apply to current events. For instance, fill in this Eve Mad-Lib.

[Coalition Name] was constantly antagonistic.  It fought against everybody and schemed to conquer every star system possible.  [Coalition Leader] had created a political climate in nullsec where [Coalition Name] was feared and hated across New Eden.  This was manageable when his enemies acted alone, because [Coalition Name] could mop the floor with any single adversary.  But the [inciting event] was a crystallizing moment that brought all of [Coalition Name]'s enemies together.  The adversaries of [Coalition Name] knew that at this moment they had the political momentum needed to unite in a grand coalition to destroy [Coalition Name] foreever.  Nothing else mattered more than destroying [Coalition Leader]'s empire.  The stage was set for what we now know as [Big War Name].

I bought the paperback, somewhat cheaping out in case I found that nullsec really wasn't that compelling.  I'd recommend others to go for the hardback or the Kindle edition.  The typeset in the paperback is not dark black, and the format is smaller, so I find that I can't read it at night in bed if I'm tied - it's just too hard to focus on.  Those readers here who haven't hit their 40th birthday yet may find this isn't a problem for them though.

Fanfest 2017

This year Fanfest happened to ride right along with a local school vacation week.  Since my wife is a teacher that means that if we'd planned for it then we could have both gone to Iceland, done some sight-seeing, then I could go on to Fanfest.  She's finally open to the idea... but sadly Fanfest 2017 is April 6-8.  Amazingly the wife is still on board with the idea of me going for the first time next year.  She looked over my shoulder and saw the Eve Vegas dates and suggested that, but I think I'd rather see Iceland.

But really, I shouldn't have to go to Fanfest as my only way to give CCP money for some swag...

April 21, 2016

Fanfest from a Distance: Build Your Dreams, Wreck Their Dreams

Fanfest may be a long way away from here, but I'm plugged in to watch some of the key presentations.  So this is my Fanfest at a distance, somewhat live-blogger style, with lots of links from videos and stills that are being posted...

While waiting for the stream my characters are making the pilgrimage to Amarr to register for the YC118 Amarr Championships Community Draw.  This is a bit trickier for some of my characters (*cough* Gallente factional warfare *cough*) so all of them might not make it.

Opening Ceremonies - Connections

Nice touch listing Upwell Consortium as a "sponsor", that's a fun little teaser.  The light and smoke for the Amarr Championship seemed a bit out of place as Hilmar dropped right back into his calm, paced presentation.  I don't know about other folks, but for me the React website wasn't loading the scripts needed to actually have buttons to press.

Rooks and Kings: I love their videos, but honestly "Message in a Bottle" isn't their greatest.  What I really wish is that we'd see them breaking out with the next great thing - Pantheon, Pipebombing, ... do they still have the skills and creativity to make it a trifecta?

I get the grand vision Hilmar is looking for, but I'm not sure if joining Tranquility and Serenity is a good idea.  Both have grown into their own communities, their own balance of economics, their own reality.  There were some cool ideas tossed around on reddit for limited connections via wormholes that certainly would be a nice way to slowly bring the two together.  In the end the barrier to making this happen is more of a political thing than a gameplay thing of course.

I had to chuckle at the Eve Valkyrie "Carrier Assault" video.  When will ship designers stop putting their main reactors right near open bays where people can blow them up?  I'm sure the lore experts will jump in and the idea of the "recovering tech" that is referenced in this scenario.

Project Arena: the overlay of the video footage and the VR rendering really helps sell that concept.  Obviously very Tron-like here.  I really like this as the next-level after the Wii first came in and got so many people up and "bowling" into their television across the room.

Project Nova: the successor to Dust 514 on the PC using a free-to-play model.  I'll be curious to see what the Fanfest goers report on this.  I'm not a FPS player really, but since Nova would be on the PC I could see giving it a try.  My son might actually be more interested in this than I am, which could be very cool.  "Dad, I need an orbital strike, now!"  However, the o7-segment between the two sessions mentioned that Nova would focus on space locations more than just planetary settings, which is a nice nod towards the potential teaser with videos for some time.  How long until we can deliver a troop carrier full of space marines to take on an opponent's Citadel, perhaps to be able to shut down modules or otherwise affect the ongoing space battle.

Eve Keynote

Overall I like how they slipped a bit of an RP feel into the Keynote segment, with the pirate broadcasts interrupting things and the references to Upwell and ORE as groups who are present and active in a real sense.  There's a lot of "great stuff coming, but you'll have to wait" that points to things whose delivery date is out past the next Fanfest, but that's balanced by more immediate deliveries as well.  But on to the subtopics...

CCP Quant.  It's all about pi in the chart porn.  I'm looking forward to bloggers and podcasters like Eve-Prosper, Nosy Gamer, Eve-Fail, and marketsForISK tear into this.  I love the teaser that the Palantine Citadel would require liquidation of 1/15th of all of the active assets in Eve today.

CSM Elections.  Low turnout isn't a surprise, but it is disappointing to see.  I'm sad that Apothne's real-life troubles kept him out, as I'm sure he would have been in.  Given that Hyde got a permanent spot, chances are good that this would have been Apothne's to win.  Will the Imperium folks be able to put their drama behind them enough to contribute constructively to the CSM?  We'll see.

Frigates of Eve book.  I gotta says that I was a bit disappointed at the end that the book is only frigates, but on the other hand that means they are going to be more comprehensive and in depth on just that class.  Of course, it's a teaser of moving up through the ship hulls should the book be successful.  Summer 2017 is a pretty long way away though.

Official Eve App for iPhone and Android.  The big question is of course where this puts third-party apps like Neocom.  I'm glad to hear that they do not expect this to be the only Eve app on your phone.

Industrial Arrays: That teaser video was hilariously good.  Getting into it though, I love the idea of the owner of the industrial array can allow usage for a fee.  This is something that I'm itching to be able to do right now, as I don't have quite enough time and toons to run a POS on my own.  First blueprints not until this Fall though, so that means the actual release is Winter or so.  I'm not so thrilled at how far out this is though.  Drilling Arrays in Winter is the next step, but not as sexy for me.  The promise of beginning the full replacement of POS with Citadels by next Fanfest is a big one.  Mining changes aren't quite my thing, but I'm glad to see that the Rorqual owners finally the rework, though I see there are already people whining on reddit that it will be unworkable.

Faction Titans and "Shadow of the Serpent".  You know that Larriken was just waiting to be able to say "mere run of the mill Erebus."  I'm curious about how this event will work, along with the whole idea of rat caps and supers.

CCP Ghost and new player retention.  This is very much a promise of direction rather than anything big, other than some nice phrases like "suffering from the weight of its own awesomeness."  I agree that Empire space is a logical starting point with a lot of material already in place, but I do still wish they were ready to add the idea of the pirate factions as a starting point.

And the Eve Fanfest Trailer for 2016.  This really should be titled "Build Your Dreams / Wreck Their Dreams."  I can't imagine that  you're reading this blog and you haven't seen it, but there's the link to watch it gain.