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27Feb/12Off

Group newbies together and give them a Titan to shoot at

Like mana from Valhalla (yes I know I'm mixing my religious metaphors), the recent Dev Blog by CCP Legion asks questions which make for perfect Blog Bantering. To quote him,

"...we want to make the first days, weeks and months in EVE enjoyable and not just something ‘you have to plough through in order to get to the good stuff’" and the newly formed Player Experience team will focus on "...where and why people lose interest in EVE...".

"We invite you to pour your heart (or guts) out and tell us what you think is good or bad with the current new player experience and what you think could be done about the problems."

So let's get self-eviscerating. Banter on. 

My online presence this february was severely limited, and this reply to Blog Banter #33 is long overdue. But I always say, better late, than never.

The current EVE Online community has grown quite big: New Eden is no longer an empty universe filled with NPCs. CCP has been gradually removing the NPCs from market and economy of New Eden, has provided some group oriented PVE and PVP content (Incursions and Faction Warfare respectively), but never thought of grouping newbies together. The new player experience as it is right now, is still based on a single player experience. The handy instructions from Aura and tutorial missions from the first handful of agents don't pull the newcomer into the great and amazing community of players. Instead, the NPE ends with a "Tutorials are finished, now go find yourself a corporation".

August 2005 - My first screenshot from EVEIt is true from psychology point of view, from real life experience and from multiplayer gaming experience, that you make the strongest ties with people you started with. Be it coleagues at school, be it players who started the game at roughly the same time, or co-workers who arrived in the company at the same time. I don't say newbies have to be hardened for PVP from day one; let the tutorials still be a PVE experience. But grouping newbies together, giving them a mission, will give them a great opportunity to make friendships, which will last throughout their entire EVE Online experience. I still keep in touch with the first group of friends from EVE, even though we are from different countries. Some of us managed to meet out of game and we had a really good time. These are the people, most of whom I met in EVE 6 years ago! If not for the solo New Player Experience, I would have a chance to get to know these great people much earlier.

One more thing I remember very well was the "CASTO". CASTO meant Center for Advanced Studies Tactical Operations. It was a channel where noobs met experienced pilots, who took them to do level 4 missions together. I remember being in a fleet of 20+ ships, most of them frigates and dessys doing an L4 mission together. Payout was not that important, but the fact that we did it as a group was a lot of fun.

Dear CCP, it can be done. Please give new players a meaningful task, that will give them a common goal and bring them together, letting them forge friendships of their own.

18Jan/12Off

By starting EVE Online account you agree to the rules.

This post is a reply to the Blog Banter #32.

This month's Blog Banter comes from Drackarn of Sand, Cider and Spaceships. He has foolishly chosen to poke the hornets' nest that is the non-consensual PvP debate. Whilst you read his question, I'll be finding a safe place to hide.

"A quick view of the Eve Online forums can always find someone complaining about being suicide ganked, whining about some scam they fell for or other such tears. With the Goons' Ice Interdiction claiming a vast amount of mining ships there were calls for an "opt out of PvP" option. 

Should this happen? Should people be able to opt-out of PvP in Eve Online. Should CONCORD prevent crime rather than just handing out justice after the event? Or do the hi-sec population already have too much protection from the scum and villainy that inhabits the game?

EVE Online is a game that tries to model the reality, at least when it comes to people interaction. In real life there is no security status, is there? Innocent people get hurt sometimes and offenders go to jail. This is life. Why should a game world be different? Other games let you choose if you want to interact with other players or not, but this is from my point of view completely flawed. Why? Massive multiplayer games are about being massive and multiplayer, right? Then why should people be given the ability to play completely solo? This is against my idea of a multiplayer game.

EVE Online developers decided it is a PVP game in as many aspects as possible. PVP is not just pure combat: undercutting market prices by traders is a form of PVP, because the one with the best prices will get his goods sold, and will make ISK, while the one with higher prices will not make a dime. PVP is present in industry, where players try to minimize their operating cost, so they can compete with other industrialists. Alliances fight alliances over space and a place to have other activities. As you can see from the examples above, PVP is basically another term for competition, about someone being better at the game and someone being not as good. Players with better intel, better ships, bigger numbers, or better business plan WIN.

By starting EVE Online account you agree to the game rules.

By signing up you have agreed that EVE is a PVP game, and that PVP exists everywhere in the game, even in high sec. If you decide to fly a paper thin ship that mines Ice, it is your decision in the first place. You know that someone might come in and destroy it, no matter the security status of the system. If you jump to low sec or null sec, you know there will be others who might want to destroy your ship. You have to accept this fact, embrace it. Treat this ship as already lost, calculate it into your costs. If ships weren't lost, the precious EVE economy would be ruined and irrevocably lost. One of the things that make EVE "real" would be gone. Isn't that why you play EVE and not, say, World of Warcraft?

As soon as opting out of PVP is introduced to EVE, I will ragequit over it think how this affects me and act accordingly.

Miners don't stand a chance

I agree that both Mining Barges and their tech 2 counterparts are paper-thin, which makes them ideal targets for suicide attacks. Miners have everything against them: big signature, low EHP, low speed, low agility, the element of surprise and even the NPCs. Most gankers fit their ships to alpha their targets - kill them with the first volley. I agree that there is no real counter against it, but preventing gank by the game rules is not the way to solve the problem.

If miners want to combat gankers, they should be given a tool for that - better tank, some weapons, or just different ship. For mining ore the best solution to avoid being ganked is mining with a battleship: a Rokh can sport more than 85k of EHP, while easily outmining a Retriever. Unfortunately it will not work for mining Ice, as mining barges are the only ships which can do it.

Orca pilots can easily hull tank their expensive Command Ships. An Orca with DC II, Reinforced Bulkheads II and 3 active shield hardeners in meds has about 194k EHP, compared to 51,7k EHP when fitted with cargo expanders and cargo rigs. Remember: modules (and rigs) used for increasing the capacity of your cargohold reduce hull (and armor) HP!

So here is my solution:

  • Make new ice cubes which will be 10 times smaller and contain 1/10 of the isotopes,
  • Introduce a new Ice Miner I (and II) turret, which will mine 1 new ice cube per cycle,
  • Current "Strip" Ice Harvester modules will mine 10 new ice cubes per cycle,

This will give ice miners the tool they need really: a choice to mine more ice in a weaker ship, or mine less, but in a less vulnerable one.

EDIT: One more idea.

After reading what other Blog Banter participants have to say (both pro and against the "opt out of PVP" button), one more idea came up to me. It's similar approach to Kirith's, but a bit different. The Isolation Matrix is a ship setting, I would see it as a module instead.

I think there are other ways to improve safety of miners and mission runners, like specific "siege type" module that would be increasing your resists to 99% for example (let's call it an Invulnerability Core for the moment), but disallowing you to target, warp, move or dock and makes your drone bandwidth 0 mbit. Or instead of resists, make you untargetable (this one would be called Signature Scrambling Core). It could only be fitted on mining barges (+exhumers and orcas obviously) and would only work in 0.5 and above. What do you think about such solution?

22Dec/11Off

Challenge, Thrill, Choice and Internet Spaceships

This post is a reply to the Blog Banter #31.

Welcome to the thirty-first EVE Blog Banter, a community conversation between anyone and everyone with an interest in discussing EVE Online. For more information on how this works, check out this link or for details of this edition's topic, read on.

As any games journalist would probably tell you, a true and complete review of a Massively Multiplayer Online game is impossible. MMOs are vast, forever evolving entities with too much content for a single reviewer to produce a fair and accurate review. However, a collection of dedicated bloggers and EVE players (past and present) with a wide range of experience in various aspects of the game might be able to pull it off.

This special 'End of Year' Blog Banter edition aims to be a crowd-sourced game review. Using your gaming knowledge and experience, join the community in writing a fair and qualified review of EVE Online: Crucible. This can be presented in any manner of your choosing, but will ideally include some kind of scoring system.

With each Blog Banter participant reviewing the areas of EVE Online in which they specialise, the result should be a Metacritic-esque and accurate review by the people who know best.

Writing an unbiased review of a game one kept playing for several years is not easy, but I will try nevertheless.

Freighter class ship about to explode in Murethand

Freighter class ship about to explode in Murethand

EVE Online is a space themed starship MMO set in a distant future. It is a game very different from most MMO games, which are centered around the players represenatation - avatar. In EVE, your avatar is not  flesh and blood... it's a starship. Of course since 2011 it is possible to leave the ship and walk around captain's quarters, but it is not related to the main gameplay. Another difference is fully sandboxed nature of EVE: players are free to do whatever they wish or go wherever they want to go. There are no classes in EVE, and there is no experience points - EVE has an offline training system instead. And most importantly, EVE is a PVP oriented game.

Let's have a closer look at the features of EVE:

Single shard experience

EVE Online is one big persistent world, and everything happens in the same universe. The game is powered by one of the biggest clusters of servers in the gaming industry. This is what makes EVE such an unique experience.

  • tightly bound player community
  • working player-run economy
  • ability to meet in game any other player
  • actions of one player/corporation/alliance resonate throughout the entire game world

Character advancement

Avatar and the capsule

Avatar and the capsule

EVE does not have XP system known from other MMO and RPG games. Instead, characters are "training" skills, even if the player is offline. Each skill is capped at level 5, so new players can quickly specialize and attain the same level of skill as seasoned players. Every level takes more time to train than the previous one: simple skills train to level 3 in minutes, and level 5 only takes 4-5 days. This also means that experience grinding... simply does not exist. Skills allow operating different starships, weapons and modules. They also allow characters to engage in crafting, exploration or trading. The only disadvantage of the offline skill training system is that it takes time. Training can be sped up with "implants" or careful rearrangement of character attributes (it's called a "neural remap" and can be done once every year), but above certain level it is impossible to decrease training times any further.

Character professions

Characters do not have classes, which means everyone can engage in any kind of activity. It also allows players to try out every "profession" available in the game: all one needs is a proper set of skills trained. New players can choose from several types of activities:

  • Combat
    • PvE
      • Missions
      • Ratting
      • Incursions
      • Salvaging
    • PvP
      • Small gang warfare
      • Fleet warfare
      • Piracy
      • Fleet command
      • Faction warfare
  • Exploration
    • Archaeology, Hacking
    • Running hidden complexes
    • Finding hidden resources - gas clouds, minerals, salvage
    • Finding wormholes
    • Running wormhole complexes
  • Crafting
    • Basic - Tech I
    • Invention - Tech II
    • Reverse Engineering - Tech III
    • Rig manufacturing
    • Mining resources (minerals, ice)
    • Planetary Interaction
  • Services
    • Out-of-game services - webistes, killboards, blogs
  • Administration
    • Running a player corporation or alliance
    • Maintaining a player-owned space starbases

As you can see, there is multitude of things players can engage in, which also makes it very hard to be bored with EVE. If you don't like your current activity, there is always many other ones to give a try instead. You can read more about what  to do in EVE Online here, or in the official EVE career guide.

Customization

Noctis salvaging ship (Primae hull) (c) CCP

Ship fitting window

Player ship can be customized in many ways. First off, ships have module slots, which allow to fit weapons, electronic warfare, scanners, shield or armor. Second, they can be fitted with rigs, which work like "tuning kits" for cars: they extend performance in specific field while decreasing it in other. Third, different munitions can be used, which affects weapon range or deal damage type.

Player character can be recustomized anytime by putting different clothes, tattoos or piercings. Hair and its color can be changed as well. Characters can also use implants, some of which decrease training times (attribute enhancers) or increase performance in a specific task (hardwirings).

Tech III ships, which were introduced in Apocrypha expansion allow one more level of customization: the ship itself is built from 5 subsystems (player has a choice of 4 types for each of the five). Subsystems affect not only the capabilities of the ship, but also its look.

Player vs Player content

EVE Online is a combat oriented game, especially regarding Player-vs-player combat. Game world is divided into four zones:

  • high seceurity space
  • low security space
  • null security space
  • wormhole space (which in many aspects is very similar to null security space)

In high security space there is NPC police dubbed "CONCORD", which will destroy anyone attacking other players. This does not mean players are protected against non-consensual combat. CONCORD merely discourages it, but does not remove it. Players flying ships with expensive fittings or cargo have to be cautious even in high security space.

Players can also engage in wars between each other: for a small fee, one corporation (or alliance of corporations) can declare war on another. After 24 hours since war declaration fighting can begin.

Low security space gives shelter to space pirates and anyone else who likes to shoot other players rather than NPCs.

Null security space can be claimed and fought over by small and big player alliances alike. It is completely lawless, and offers more tools for warring parties to use.

Factional Warfare has been introduced in Empyrean Age expansion, and allows players to sign up for militias which fight the opposing faction militia. Rewards for killing opposing faction players include exclusive ships and equipment.

Emotions!!! Due to specific nature of ship loss (unlike in other MMO games, if you loose a ship in EVE, you do not respawn. You loose it for good and have to buy a new one) EVE offers a high level adrenaline experience. The level of adrenaline is comparable or even higher than in FPS shooter games. EVE is real!

Scamming and meta-gaming. EVE is just like the real world: people try to exploit others and often succeed at it. Simple scams like selling low tier equipment for high tier prices or convincing other players to invest in a business venture, which turns out to be a Ponzi-scheme are quite common and not only allowed by the devs, but even encouraged to do so. EVE is one of the games known for this kind of events, some of which made to RL press! Golden rule of EVE: trust no one.

Player vs Environment content

Live event with Sansha NPCs

Live event with Sansha NPCs

To fund equipment, players have various PVE content types to play with. NPCs can be found hiding in asteroid belts or in hidden complexes accesible through exploration. Questing is also available in form of "Missions". Most stations have agents who can be interacted with. They offer various missions, some of which are about killing a group of NPCs, mining a specific asteroid or moving goods from place A to place B. Each mission is rewarded with in game money and special "Loyalty Points" which can later be redeemed into special Navy ships or Navy munitions with increased damage.

Apocrypha expansion brought new AI and new NPCs called "Sleepers" which can only be found in so called "wormhole space" (part of space only accessible through unstable wormholes which randomly appear in space). New NPCs will try to swap targets and effectively attack either the weakest or the most ship which deals most damage to them.

Incursion expansion has added a group-oriented PVE content dubbed "Incursions". A system affected by incursion look different (space is in greyish yellow hue) and has some systemwide effects applied: reduced bounty from NPC pirates, reduced damage and damage resistances. NPCs infesting such systems are much more "intelligent" and require a group of players to effectively combat them.

Crafting

EVE offers an unprecedented crafting system. Every ship in the game, and majority of equipment has been made by players. The in-game economy resembles the real world very closely: by manufacturing ships and equipment you can sell them for profit to other players. You can gather the materials yourself or just buy them from other players. Crafting has several forms, depending on the items produced and materials used. If you like to build stuff for others to blow up - you will enjoy EVE crafting system very much.

Not sure if you can find a niche for yourself? You can manufacture basic Tech I ships and modules, you can invent their enhanced Tech II counterparts, you can reverse engineer the Sleeper drones into usable Tech III technology. It is possible to research blueprints so they use less materials or take less time to manufacture. It is possible to produce performance-enhancing boosters. You can build planetary colonies and manufacture planetary interaction goods there. The list is almost endless.

Visuals

EVE runs a third generation of CCP proprietary Trinity graphics engine, which offers high quality graphics based on shader model 3.0. Engine offers such effects as light shafts, self shadows and HDR rendering. The warp drive effect, which has recently received an overhaul, looks better than most TV Sci Fi series and movies.

Music and sound

"EVE has sound, you know" is a known meme, at least in the EVE community. Most players mute the game sound to better hear other players on voice comms (its worth mentioning that EVE offers a Vivox based built in voice comms as well). When you turn the volume up however, you will hear cool ambient tunes and good quality sound effects one could expect from a Sci Fi game. Each weapon and most modules have a specific sound, so players know what happens around them even when not looking at the screen.

"The Score"

Character advancement: 10 for offline training, 7 for time based experience system, overall 8,5/10

Character professions: 10 for multitude of activites, overall score 10/10

Player vs Player 10 for emotions, 8 for possible unwanted combat, overall 9/10

Player vs Environment 9 for multitude of options, 7 for missions that can be boring over time, 10 for exploration, overall 9/10

Crafting 8 for too complex crafting system, 10 for multitude of options, overall 9/10

Visuals 10 for realistic warp effect, 8 for small glitches and unrealistic light shafts in vacuum, overall 9/10

Music and Sound 9 for music score, 8 for sound effects, overall 8,5/10

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

EVE Online is a complex game, and this is one of the biggest issues for new players. Many people will not even try EVE because they think it is overcomplicated (one of the EVE's nicknames is "Excel in space"). The complexity and broad spectrum of activities is on the other hand a huge advantage: EVE is not just another brainless game, but offers a real challenge. This challenge, the emotions connected to it, and the choice to make what you want make it a game you can play for years - I'm just one more proof of that (been playing EVE for 6,5 years).

Click here if you want to try internet spaceships