Friday, 31 August 2012

Day 75 : So Long And Thanks For All The Sagefish

Today I feel a bit of nostalgia for Warcraft. The latest pre-expansion patch came out, step one in Blizzards usual and excellently stage managed routine of building up anticipation to a fever pitch. Whatever I might say about Warcraft, it is a great game and it is very well run.

My nostalgia isn’t provoked by the game itself. I’ve spoken before about how I don’t like the direction the game, primarily the setting, has gone in. Instead it begins when I see a news item on Massively about the patch. Instead of reading that I wonder if the fact that the expansion is imminent has caused any regrowth to start among the player base. I head to my old guild website and check that. They've applied a new layout to the Warcraft setup. It’s oddly shocking after having the old one as a common background to online guild activities for so long. It has been a long time since I saw something new about Warcraft even if it is just a new background and stylesheet to a forum engine. My old guild leader (and real life friend and sometime casual member of the EVE corp - o7 G) has put up a couple of posts indicating that he has the bit between the teeth again and is raring to go, as is his other half who has been a real life friend of mine for even longer. Down in one of the posts I find an old guild mate, Daz, has come back to the game and is ready to get going. This is when the Warcraft longing hits me. I’m not looking forward to the the expansion itself. I am mildly interested in some of it and will take a look if I’m not busy shepherding the multitude of plans that EVE constantly births in the back of my mind.  What I am looking forward to is the fact that lots of old friends, some of whom I played alongside for years, will be back there. Except, of course, I doubt I will be. Not like I was before, 
raiding two nights a week, playing at least half the weekend and maybe a couple of other evenings. I’ll be back for a slow casual run around. Perhaps a last goodbye even. I think I might be one of the Eveborn now and my destiny lies elsewhere.
With this realisation I decided to compare what I liked about the two games. Often people claim to hate Warcraft. I can’t do that. It’s a great game that I think is slowly going bad but it’ll be a long time before it gets bad enough to outweigh the fact that I played it on and off for six years, and the fact that nine million other people are still playing it.


My friends. I played the game for a long time and took some of my friends to Azeroth with me. C, G, and D - you have my greatest apologies for all that time (and money on PCs) you spent after I got you hooked. The first one month was free as I said, correct? I spent a lot of time with these and other people, trying to achieve the same goals and working together. Doing that in any scenario is going to build some bonds. Could I ever raid again? I don’t think so, I think I’ve burnt out. I’ll still miss it though. I still worry that this will effect me if I ever reach null sec ops in EVE.

Swords n Sorcery. I love a decent fantasy setting, science fiction and fantasy war constantly among my bookcases. Epic Erikson re-read or brilliant Banks Culture revival? They sandwich anything contemporary I might read, though I do make room and my favourite author might surprise you. Warcraft could be a bit... well, cartoon like, but it was a good fantasy setting and more importantly had a large and atmospheric world to base it in. I still remember arriving at Darkshore after leaving the starter areas for the first time, finding myself in a haunted forest and having to trek for ages to reach the next town. I don’t remember the scenery, I remember the atmosphere.

The characters. Cartoony or not, I played them for a long time and you can become attached even to the digital representations of your psyche. That’s what they are at some level, no matter to what shallow depth you think you are trawling. I found a way out of this trying SWTOR. I took the names with me, if they were representations of my subconscious then they were with me in whatever game I played and the names were labels. My character name in EVE is built from two of the names I’ve used in every game I’ve played for the last ten years. I have good memories attached to things done playing those characters but I’ll always have those memories. The particular digital manifestation of these archetypes is just a shadow of structures in my mind, cast by that particular game.

Pandas. I could legally slaughter a lot of Pandas if I went back. Something we all want to do really, provoked to fury by their good natured, bamboo eating harmlessness. Sitting around, going extinct on a mountain and being voiced by Jack Black is naturally something that would cause Mr Average Joe to fly into a murderous rage that makes 28 Days Later look like an episode of Sesame Street.

Wait.... Ignore that last paragraph. That’s not what I think about pandas. Thats what I think about Pokemon....

So I can’t abandon Warcraft completely, I’ll be “super casual”. Never again will I run 21 dungeons in one day. To be fair I only did that once and it broke me. I’ll attempt to run 21 DED sites instead. To those of you headed back to Warcraft, looking for a guild to get some casual raiding done then Virtue on Hellfire are looking for at least one healer. It’s a good bunch of people and the reason I can’t fully abandon Warcraft just yet.


Old friends and new. A couple of the guys from Warcraft jumped over to EVE following my rantings. One even subscribed from my invite gifting me with the free month of play. I’ve made quite a few new friends in EVE, even one old hand from the same Warcraft server. A few I met as I spent the first week grappling with the basic concepts and finding other people in the same boat. With others I’ve been even luckier since this blog has had a LOT of kind responses. It’s good to get out and meet people without the irritant of having to leave the flat, then again I am looking forward to the London meet up. I’m not sure my friends from real life who came to EVE will stick it out for much longer, it might not their thing. This too is important as it means I’ll need to catch up with them more, back out there in Real Life, and take some time away from the pod.

Science fiction. I’m a science fiction fan in addition to being a fantasy fan. A science fiction fan was always going to be enthralled by the concept of EVE. I’m hoping that one day I’ll have more time away from the manic rush of getting things done to go and explore more of the back story of EVE. I imagine that most science fiction fans will be space nerds too at some level. Personally I can’t get enough of the vistas on offer in EVE, and the ships in which I fly through them. I spin the camera when I’m in systems at the heart of the nebulae and try to work out where I am relative to the view from outside. I regularly read planet statistics. I’m particularly fond of reading temperate planet statistics and wondering if I’d live there (I want lower than 9.8m/s gravity because I’m lazy and it genuinely would make it easier to get out of bed in the morning). I have the ships and I have the space. I can will myself into this universe, the sandbox awaits and I can do anything I choose. What science fiction fan wouldn’t come and roam here for a while? I should say here that I don’t have a problem with the ships being my avatar. If you do have a problem with this, go read Excession by Iain M. Banks. It’ll fix the problem. I once met Iain Banks. It was the only time I’ve been star struck and even though he was massively hungover he was amusing and generous.

Complexity. EVE is complex, a lot of it is statistics but there is a tricky learning curve beyond that I’ve covered elsewhere. I’m adapting to it because I  enjoy using my mind. It’s like exercising after a long illness, it’s almost euphoric. Before I launched into EVE my plan was to use my brain by spending a lot of spare time coding, getting back up to speed with what’s out there since the company I work for uses a lot of internal tech. I’ve almost forgotten that I used to be a decent Java coder, I have almost totally forgotten all the C I knew and what is left is a serious amount of adaptability and a need to learn. In EVE there is a lot to absorb and it branches out into the “meta game” as you plan. I’ve learnt more about spreadsheets than I ever knew before for a start! Not that this was the intended aim but you know what I mean. One day I’ll have the spare time to merge EVE and the coding and start writing my own apps to streamline some of the processes I’m dealing with manually.

The blog. I’m enjoying writing, though I’m a bit scared of how prolific I appear to have been. Other people liking it is a serious advantage. It makes it easier when I look back at the earlier posts and wince, despite the enthusiasm, at the unedited stream of consciousness I find there. I’ve a long, long way to go. It’ll be a long time before I reach the liquid prose some of the other bloggers I’ve read produce but a lot of it is practice. Maybe one day I’ll look back and grimace as I read this post. I never thought about writing about Warcraft.

Attitude. EVE is darker than Warcraft, it suits my mood these days. It has been a rough couple of years out there in RL, dealing with illness and a bit of post relationship wreckage. At least EVE is going to prevent the latter occurring again by ensuring that I remain single. A nerd anchored to the keyboard (you don’t even have to learn Anchoring I, hooray - the skill queue is undiverted!) is not a nerd going out and falling for someone. I am doing exactly what I want and enjoying myself fully for the first time in a long time. In addition, EVE is the most adult game you are going to get, at least until I write Porn Empire Manager (TM),  despite some of the attitudes you see out there. I haven’t had to deal with a lot of the nonsense you usually see in MMO’s. That said, I did stop reading EVE News 24 after the vile thread of misogyny following a Mintchip posting. That’s the internet though, you get used to it.

In the end I struggled to find a way to summarise the reason why, for me, EVE is the place to be. I couldn’t do it until a song made me look up a quote and it turned out to be stunningly relevant to EVE in more than one way, if a tad bit misappropriated. The full quote of Peter Fonda in The Wild Angels:

We want to be free! We want to be free to do what we want to do! We want to be free to ride. And we want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man. And we want to get loaded. And we want to have a good time! And that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna have a good time. We’re gonna have a party!

To all you glorious bittervets. It’s a call to arms. Come back. There is a war on. See you in the black.


Loaded by Primal Scream


The “sagefish” of the title was a type of fish you caught and cooked in Warcraft. When eaten it gave statistic boosts useful to spellcasters. Fishing is like the Warcraft version of Mining except with the relaxation taken out and annoyance put back in its place. I still did it anyway. I’m an obsessive. In the last expansion Warcraft had a new version of these Sagefish that REQUIRED raiding casters to go and fish in one of several locations for quite a long time unless they wanted to pay the super inflated prices that both time and location had created. Not doing this ever again is one of the single greatest things about not going back to Warcraft full time. Thanks for turning my down time into a grind Blizz. Greatest small mistake ever.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Day 74 : Skills To Pay The Bills

Hardly anything gets done today. I write a post but it feels like a Monday and I’m tired. I’ve just put Gallente Frigate V in the queue. That is the key element to frustration as usual. It means about 9 days training and has the usual effect of making you want to sit back and do something other than EVE while it ticks down, or maybe nothing at all. I force myself not to log off even though really I’m just a bit knackered and need to get some sleep.

I fly out and do some scanning practice, building on the epiphany yesterday ( Practice? Like combat, scanning using probes is one of the skills you need to train outside the skill queue and inside your own head. There is a real world element to it. It starts me thinking that there are quite a few of these that you need for EVE beyond the usual MMO “don’t stand in the fire” and dps maximisation techniques. I get to scribbling down a list of the stuff you might need. Since I don’t get up to much other than discovering a couple of wormholes, you have to suffer reading my musings. It’s the classic joke of translation of MMO rules to real life. Don’t tell me you haven’t done that down the pub.

The Real Life Skill List Needed To Play EVE

Internet III : EVE has a good installer, good sign up mechanism, and a good game launcher (apart from the full log out when changing character). It’s the only start I’ve seen for an MMO that was better than Warcraft. I nearly gave up with the sign up process on SWTOR, I laughed out loud at Warhammer antics and gave up, LOTR felt like it had been hacked together at the last minute and scared me off. For RIFT I had a “free month” promotion that didn’t work so I didn’t play it on principle. The worry when signing up for EVE was that it was so fast I thought I’d missed something. Honestly, all the companies doing the sign up grab for identity and cash are probably losing loads of potential players. Get them signed up easy and then make it hard to leave using the game. Don’t make it the other way around you pillocks (I’m looking at you SWTOR owners). If it takes longer than 90 seconds it is wrong. If it takes longer than 60 you should be thinking about streamlining. God help you if there are bugs in it. Learn some HCI and/or UI techniques. Why Internet III? Because thats the level at which you get the magic “turn it off and on again” solution when something goes wrong while playing. I’m in I.T. Works 9 times out of ten, guaranteed. (Space Noob is not responsible for any damage incurred by use of this technique, up to and including causing the grid to black out or the entire Internet to vanish).

Interpersonal IV : The game is an MMO. MM stands for massively multiplayer. Shockingly there are other people in the game. To get the most out of the game you’ll need to communicate with some people. Don’t train too hard. There are a few people out there you won’t want to talk to (o/ noob scammer down in Clellinon that I told off in Local at the weekend).

Writing II : Initially all communication will be through text entry. It is no good having Interpersonal IV if no one can read what you write. It is the internet however, so don’t bother learning this over II. Hardly anyone else in Local will. You’d be better off going in for the long haul and learning “Jargon & Acronyms XV”.

Adrenaline Rush IV: The ability to resist the effects of PVP combat adrenaline and be able to focus. This skill can probably be sidestepped by taking beta blockers but that isn’t going to make the game very fun is it? In the same vein - don’t learn it too high. This stuff is all about the rush. If you don’t learn this, then don’t try to light a cigarette or pick up a container of liquid for a few minutes after a fight.

Organisation IV : This is the important one. Everything from running a checklist in your head before undocking to knowing where your assets are without the interface. Thats right, EVE is the only game ever to make you really understand what a “pre-flight checklist” is. You know, you’ve undocked, realised you’ve forgotten something and then raged at the five second gap before being able to re-dock. Worse, you’ve gone four jumps before you realised and half an hour later arrive at your destination to find that you can’t make new ships with minerals that are ten jumps away.

Combat-101 V : The ability not only to understand what the hell is going on with your ship but why. Flying skills, ammo choice, weapon choice and tanking schemes. Balancing your fittings and aiming the skill queue in that general direction. System safe points. What gate guns do. I find that the latter is particularly vital.

Tactics V : This is the ability to see beyond the F1 key and come up with long term plans. I am badly lacking in this at the moment. As I said in a comment the other day I think my current idea of combat tactics is a spaceship based version of the scene in The Blues Brothers where they drive the car through the shopping mall. Chaos. I have no idea what I am doing. It might be a good idea if I did. As long as it doesn’t stop me laughing so hard.

Combat Awareness V :  The ability to see what the enemy is doing, analyse it and pump that info back into your Tactics skill at record speed. You are going to have to get at least four in the next few skills I mention in order to use it. In fact I’ve only included this skill because it makes the next two sound less boring, almost like the Leadership skill!

Statistics M : Yes, level M. EVE is, at some level, a spreadsheet game. Get used to absorbing thousands of statistics and then combining them to make your own thousands of meta statistics. You’ll need to have lots of them on instant recall. When drifting in hi-sec, draw graphs and point at them like you know what you are talking about. Write some spreadsheets and then get bored of updating them. Store useless amounts of sales information on ships just before they are “rebalanced”. Use percentage calculations more than an average accountant. Numbers, man, they are some crazy shit.

Brain Space V : You’ll need to learn a lot, so make room for a for more in there. This skill allows you to start throwing all that useless mental junk out to make space for EVE information. You can throw out stuff you’ll never need again. You know - like how to leave the house, how to make and eat non junk food, what your job is for, those other walking things on two legs. You know. Junk.

Meditation III : You’ll want to go mining at the start won’t you? This will help. Don’t go too deep into this skill or your reactions will start to skew. The other day I scared the living daylights out of myself because I’d reached a level of Zen like mining calm and then had to target a new rock. The part of my brain that now doesn’t like targeting sounds burst forth from the Zen state with a mighty shout. I jumped out of my chair cracking my knees on the keyboard shelf.

Anger Management V : Once you’ve got your meditation skills you are going to find that often occasionally things happens in EVE that make you incredibly mildly angry. You might put something on the market and miss out a digit. You might say hello to someone in real life when playing and turn round only to say hello to your fresh new clone. You might get so close to winning a PVP fight and then do something completely stupid. You might learn scanning in all the wrong ways. This skill at V will reduce the rage to reasonable levels below mild. Something along the lines of what that big green guy in the movies feels when he says “HULK SMASH!!!”. You’ll be okay with this. After a while you learn to keep your monitor out of punch range anyway. If you are a calm person anyway then still learn it to at least level III before going on any sort of forums.

That's my list so far. I’m bound to have missed loads. Stick them in the comments.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Day 73 : A Painful Lesson In Probing

It’s Bank Holiday Monday, morning of the free day. It’s time to take on Exploration skills. I've redone the Career Tutorial mission series. I've got a free Imicus exploration ship from that, a set of Scanner Probe I’s, a launcher. All I need now is the attitude. A day after the events, since I write with a bit of delay, I find the perfect description of how I develop this attitude. Taking Stabs ( description slightly out of context I have “resized my balls and re-positioned them". I'm going to get into a fight with this.

Firstly I watch a video. This has been recommended several times by fellow bloggers and also by The Tengu Dude in game. I’m not going to ignore any of these professional explorers but I am still worried that exploration is just something I won’t get, something that I have a mental block against, something that requires some spacial awareness that I just don't have. I get a cup of tea and a cigarette and sit down ready to grimace as I have my failings exposed.

Honestly CCP? A browser, but no video player in game? Make five to ten more of these videos at the same standard, put a video player in game and that's the famous learning curve graph ( kicked right between the axes. I’ve just sorted out 90% of my problems and it was totally painless. Ok, not totally painless - when I saw the probes being all selected and the scan range being changed for the group rather than individually I spilled hot tea on myself. How can I have missed this bit of interface work? It’s practically an I.T. standard use of lists by clicking using the CTRL or SHIFT keys. Perhaps I had a bad first experience, believed  it to be difficult, and so went on believing that was the way. EVE is hard, so I’d simply taken for granted that this was the way.

The list isn't the only thing I discover watching the video. I discover the SHIFT key used when moving all the probes will move them as one. At this point I've put the tea down and I’m staring at the screen like a fool. This is the reverse of an Out Of Context Problem, its an Out Of Context Solution. It’s like some hitherto undiscovered race of pacific islanders seeing a modern warship sail up to their island, pass them antibiotics and antimalarials and then bugger off leaving them in paradise with medicine.

Next up are the professionals. I’ve chosen two. First I go to read the Tiger Ears guide. If you read any Tiger Ears then you'll know that she is so good at scanning that she'll probably know your location in a Wormhole system before you do.

The what now? ALT key? Was that in the video? That could have been during the scalding hot tea moment. The lines in the circles are ranges?  

Finally I go and read Stabbed Up who pretty much excellently summarises what I've seen and in the process reminds me that I am one hell of a stupid bastard indeed.

There is some discussion here about techniques such as the number and positioning of probes. I particularly liked Tiger Ears use of a central probe with its range set lower than the others, just in case the increase in resolution over the suspected location ruled out the need for another scan to get 100%.

Since I’ve proved to be rubbish at this in the past, and working on the simplistic axiom that “less isn’t more, in fact generally more is more, keep pouring that stuff on”, I am going to use the maximum number of probes that I can. That is 7 at the moment, enough for one on the end of each positional axis and a single, central probe. Lets not muck around either. Sisters of EVE scanning gear is too expensive but the rigs for scanning are cheap. I stick a couple of the T1 scanning rigs on the Imicus. I've got Gallente Frigate IV so I am getting a decent bonus from the ship. I've got pinpointing and rangefinding skills. I should be ready.

What do I find? That shockingly for EVE it isn't that hard. Sure I'm using techniques written up by the pro's but it is still a Space Noob trying to employ them. Over the course of a few hours I find half a dozen wormholes, some mission sites and a couple of Gravimetrics sites. I fly on, not using any of them, simply practising the art of using the probes to minimise the time required.

Eventually I run one of the smaller sites with Rob and we catch a faction drop we slap on the market for the corp. If successfully sold then that’s the corp offices paid for the next two months.

Later on my own I scan down a DED site. With tip offs from Rob and others I find it is rated 3/10 and look up precisely what’s in there using Apparently there is the chance of T2 salvage. There are a lot of rats in there but I figure a rail fit Cat can handle them with a little bit of kiting. I'm busy clearing the site and am getting near the possible T2 salvage ship when I notice more drones than there should be. The Overview shows that an Ishkur has warped in. It clears out the place within a few minutes and warps off leaving me with the trash. I need to be able to blitz these places faster. It's a little disappointing but I've still got a buzz from "adapting to the probing". Next up, at some point, is refining my Dscan skills and using Combat Scanner Probes, but before that I am going to watch every CCP tutorial video I can get my browser on. If there are any.

All in all, a bit of a result. Two things learned.

1) Scanning isn’t that hard.

2) Wear long trousers when watching explanatory videos.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Day 72 : Where Familiarity Doesn't Breed Contempt

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately, running to catch up with the community while trying to figure out what everything means (what is a “whelp”?). One of the things I came across recently was the monthly Blog Banter. A topic is posted and bloggers who want to participate jump in with their posts on the topic and you get an interesting exchange of ideas and opinions. Is it only EVE where something like this could happen? The community seems so tightly knit. Though like any community it has its rivalries and conflict everyone appears to be headed in the same general direction. Sure, they all play the same game but that game has so many ways to be played and so many opportunities to foment hostility that you’d expect the community would be a text based version of 1990s Mogadishu.

I thought I’d never be able to get into the Blog Banter series since a diary format discusses what I’ve been doing, rather than a particular chosen topic. Interestingly though this months topic gels with what I thought about all day, and what I’ve been thinking about on and off since any time after the first week of playing ( Apologies if I do this wrong. The Blog Banter question that I'm about to pollute with my diary format?

"Some say a man's home is his castle. For others it is wherever they lay their hat. The concept is just as nebulous in the New Eden sandbox.

In EVE Online, what does the concept of "home" mean to you?"

Today I’ll be going out in the evening, I’m curiously tired considering it is a holiday and I didn’t do much physically yesterday. Perhaps I’m worn out by laughing at myself over the gate gun incident. There is something I can do, I can do the exploration Career missions down in Clellinon. I’ve done the first four but wanted to save Exploration for a purpose. I’m rubbish at it and I want to compare it to other online resources that it doesn’t mention.

By the time I’ve completed the tutorial, I am starting to think that exploration isn’t for me, I find it annoying and difficult. Fortunately I am supremely bloody minded and no game mechanic is going to defeat me, I’ll be back. Until that point I am going home, set my industry jobs on the way, maybe chill out mining for a while and chat with the corp guys doing other stuff in system. Sure I can chat with them from here but oddly it isn’t the same when I know they are all up there. I get a pathetic sense of relief when Tengu Dude drifts through the system, says hi and wonders why I am there at all.

Unfortunately I’ve amassed a serious amount of junk doing the career missions. Most of it I reprocess down into minerals and stack into Serenitys' hold but I’m going to have to come back for the ships. That is a trip to Algo with the minerals, a trip back in the hauler, a keeping the fingertips crossed all the ships fit in it, another trip back to my industrial base in Algogille, and only then home with the ships I need to take there. This takes a while, and it is annoying me for some reason.

Finally, I emerge from the stargate into Caslemon. There is a palpable sense of relief at this point. Its nice to see the glare from the small blue sun, nice to see the familiar names in Local, nice to drift up to the FDU and hear “docking permission accepted”. I even sit back and sigh when I am finally docked, not even emptying the hold.

I’ve just altered my location in a game. I can’t even see it from where I am sat now. I’m in the station. What is it that provokes this sensation of home?

I know this place. I can fly here from Algogille without setting the destination beforehand. I know the names in Local even if we don’t chat much or at all. I know the belts, their relative merits, their scenery and when they are being used suspiciously. I've visited every moon in the system. I know the exits to the surrounding systems and the routes they open up. I’ve six cans set up in one of the belts, actual physical evidence of my effect on the system. I’ve changed the place in however small a way, I've made my mark upon it. Even now our youngest corp member is out there with the password using them to defy rats and can flippers. I've stocked most of my mission gear here, the only thing I don't do here is industry work. Who would want to live in their own factory? I left mine at Algogille for the rapid links to other regional markets. When we opened a corp office I placed it in the station that didn't have manufacturing capability even though I knew that made it of less use. It was the station I got the best refining rates at, so the station I always went to and so the place I habitually returned to.

Everything there is familiar. This is a comfort in EVE where so much of the universe can seem harsh and confrontational. All MY stuff is here. Much like my messy and small London flat which is frankly less than welcoming to others, it is familiar and because of it, comforting and a refuge from a harsher outside world. This engenders a sense of place above and beyond the anonymous name on a map, beyond the numeric underpinnings of planetary and orbital statistics. A Space Noob lives here. They say that familiarity breeds contempt. If that was the case then I would have never put a tank on my miner. This is where I chill out, plan, and return to from said disastrous plans. This is where in future I’ll try to anchor a POS that makes no economic sense. I’m home.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Day 71 : It's a TRAAAP!

Saturday. The best day of the week. I’m going to ruin it slightly and get the Space Noob in trouble.

Owing to some serious scientific investigation of a new theory of economics ( see day 70 ) I start the day feeling a little off colour. With the experiment a success though I can slack off for a while and do something mindlessly easy from my TODO list. I fly down to Clenninon and run the Career tutorial missions again. Its easy to roll through them without thinking too much. Its even easier with the new drop down menu on screen detailing options for the missions I am currently on. I run the missions in tandem as much as I can, only accepting one mission at once but keeping them all at around the same stage. This means they work together, Business complements Industry, Military complements Advanced Military. The first time around I didn’t do this, I ran one chain at once right to the end, missing several key concepts explained in the others. That resulted in me getting my ass handed to me on a plate at the end of Day One. It’s good to see I was right about the strategy of running them in sync. If you see a noob running them, warn them about it.

I avoid the Exploration tutorial because I actually NEED to do that again. Exploration, like PVP, is one of those parts of the game where you need to develop actual skills rather than just rely on your characters skills. Speaking of PVP.

Jax and Robbo are online and we decide that it is high time we go shopping for trouble. Spanish is busy investigating Ice Mining (and surprise, surprise, finding out it is useless without setting up the skill queue for a month), so it’s just three fools heading off into the low sec black.

Before I get into this, let me state that even the most experienced noob can fall into a trap.


I gear up the Pale Horse as a tackling scout, Robbo comes along as spotter flying something cloaky, and Jax comes along as the artillery. Jax is flying something so expensive it makes my head hurt even more to think about it.

RULE 1 OF NOOB PVP : do not plan to go looking for a scrap after drinking beer that comes with tequila automatically put in it.

We end up in a quiet low sec system and find a couple of pilots who hurriedly vacate the area when we arrive. A couple of minutes later one returns and begins scouting the area. Jax, our most experienced pilot stars trying to determine where he is based using Dscan. Rob checks the stations and then takes up an observation point cloaked on their entrance gate. I begin zooming from point to point because a) I want to shake up any pattern the scout has and really b) I’m too hungover to think clearly.

I catch the scout on a gate but he vanishes as I get there. Rob is sure he is cloaked and hasn’t warped. All this running around has annoyed me and sent a lot of blood rushing to my damaged brain. At this point I’m going to fire first and regret the security status loss later. So I don’t think “what the hell is an Atron doing running around with a cloak on?” which is what I should have been thinking.  


The call comes in from Rob that the Atron is on the gate. Jax turns up just in time and sets drones on him as I’m flying in. From my warp in point I manage to be in range quickly, slapping a web and a warp scrambler on him so he can’t get away. Jax moves in for the kill and I’m too high on hungover adrenaline to pay attention which is why I don’t have a clue how Jax just exploded. Did the gate guns get him? He fired first and I webbed which means we are both criminals and the automatic defences of the local stargate are going to open fire. I have sense enough to press F1 to set my own tiny guns blazing and finish off the Atron. Now I need to get out of here and think about what is going on. If I can think. I am shaking so much I probably look out of focus.

RULE 3 OF NOOB PVP : When ignoring RULE 2 do NOT warp to the last thing you bookmarked. It is NOT your safe point.

Hastily I warp to my pre-prepared safe point and start the calming down process and try to figure out what happened. This is when my ship starts screaming at me as my shields are reduced to nothing in a couple of seconds, then my armour, and I don’t even notice the hull go. What the hell? In the midst of panic I’d warped to my last bookmark instead of my safe point. My last bookmark was where I thought the Atron had cloaked. Just off a gate. So I made the kill, dodged the gate gun reprisal and then thoughtlessly warped straight into the fire of another set of gate guns. Nice one Space Noob. Class.

RULE 4 OF NOOB PVP : Despite being lured into a trap, blown up by your own stupidity, having to warp home in a capsule : enjoy that grin on your face.

I’m gutted for Jax who lost his astoundingly expensive gun platform but what the hell happened? It was a trap. As we locked and chased the Atron across the face of the gate a Myrmidon class BattleCruiser appeared out of the gate and shot Jax to hell. I’d taken the scout and got away only to commit gate gun suicide. It was a trap and a well laid one. Noob PVPers getting so enraged by the zipping around of the scout that we not only engaged first, taking a security hit, but also never considered WHY the scout was doing it.

I’m laughing as I warp home in my pod. What else can you do? Its a learning process. We got a good taste of low sec PVP, and a good story - ganked or not. We had a good time working as a group, finding out how these things go and running afoul a plan we might be able to duplicate. Next time I’ll consider the situation more carefully. I’ll hone my Dscan skills, I’ll watch my bookmarks, I’ll not fly with a headache that even a greasy breakfast and a bottle of Irn Bru couldn’t shift.

Apologies to Jax for the lost of an expensive ship. You signed up with the Noob Crew!

Thanks to the German Army Aviation Corps (there's a phrase I never thought I’d say) for a well laid trap.

Apologies to Rob for not getting in on the measly little kill, but thanks for the observation work.

I start to gear up a replacement set of new ships designed just for this. I’m having another go as soon as I can.

I talked the other day about what I’m reading. I’m reminded of another book that might be relevant to PVP. They say "never judge a book by its cover" but this one has a useful message on it.

I now go to the land of sitting on my bed drinking hair of the dog beer, since none of the usual cures worked, where I will do nothing for a few hours but watch the first four episodes of Falling Skies. 

The shine is later taken off the day when I hear of the death of Neil Armstrong. A self confessed nerd who went to space for real. Someone I think all EVE players respected and admired. A hero of mine. o7 Mr Armstrong. Fly safe.

Day 70 : Nearly There

The final day before the great Bank Holiday Blowout of Laziness and EVE. Yes. I am that much of a sloth.

Instead of looking forward to this my mind gets derailed and starts thinking about a couple of things from back in the week.

I’m at work, altering some templates on a gallery website to display some new data. The templates are simple but the data is tricky since I have to strip out the text and images from about nine thousand PDFs, format it and get it into a database. There's a lot of sitting around monitoring the thing. I’ve split it and run it across 9 processes so it’ll finish faster but I’ve still got too much coding brain space left. When I first started EVE I found the web API’s early on. It was a godsend, I thought that I could get a coding project done at home. I’d been looking for one for ages, this cropped up, a game and yet a one I could write my own tools for. I promptly didn’t do anything about it. I got sucked into the game and subscribed to other peoples tools like EVEMon. Then, the other day, I was reading a blog and came across something that awoke the desire to do it again.

They are handy tools. I’m going to be having a think about this and seeing if I can’t automate my spreadsheets in a similar way, maybe write an Android app equivalent to EVEMon. Currently I have too much to do in game (and an entire new blog to read). Hopefully when the download of the static data starts arriving in YAML format it’ll present a challenge too tempting not to have a crack at.

The other thing I am thinking about is getting a second account. From what I hear many EVE players have more than one account. Group ops are possible at slow times, alts can be specialised and one used for combat. My main character could remain the industrialist adventurer he is now, and the second could be trained up initially to fly frigate combat and maybe join Red vs Blue. Red vs Blue, or RvB is a pair of corporations set up simply to organise constant PVP fights. They are at constant war with each other but there are rules governing things like podding and use of ECM. Not only would it be fun, I like the challenge of PVP in EVE, but it would be good practice. Character skills are one thing but I have found that combat skills are a real world thing that needs training. It’s hard to get this training out on the main since the loss involved at the start would be crippling. If I was in a no podding situation in cheap frigates that I could build and supply from my main character then I’d have no real barrier to entry. I could just go up for a few fights a day and learn a little each time.

The downside of the two accounts notion is that I don't yet want to dilute this Noob experience I’m going through.
I'm refusing offers of money and items to preserve it. It's a one time thing and I want to go through it on using my own skills (I count theft of an unanchored POS as my own “luck” skills, ahem). EVE is a difficult game in many ways and if I can get through it using my own resources then I’ll be a better player. It is a social game so I do listen to the tips people pass on and investigate most of them later but donations of cash and items, while greatly appreciated, I can’t accept. Once I declare the noob experience complete then everyone can send me as much cash as they want. Hows that?

The other barrier to two accounts is the obvious, the insertion of real world cash. I can start a new account with 51 days time by running out an invite to myself and then subscribing with ten pounds to get the PLEX reward and using it on that account. I’m very lucky though, that amount of cash isn’t that much for me. Ten pounds a month is easy. In Pint Economics thats less than three units of the lowest denomination, well, in London anyway. Pint Economics is how I justify spending money on games. I am going to go out and go to the pub and spend money on Pints. That's a given. Until the doc' tells me my liver is going to explode. Until that point the cost of any game can be judged by how many pints I’m not consuming because I'm playing it. Missing an hour in the pub with a couple of people equals one slightly healthier Space Noob and a month in EVE. Since I am rarely in the pub for just one round, a single night in the pub swapped with EVE will easily cover another account. Yes, I am slightly delusional, possibly borderline alcoholic, your point is?

I dismiss the cost issue of an extra account by experimentation. I avoid coming back to EVE and go down the pub instead. At some point later I am sat in Trafalgar Square talking with an old mate and drinking a bottle of beer that already has tequila in it. It tastes like pop. It costs 40% of a month in EVE a go and will make my head hurt tomorrow. This and the other "fuel for discussion" my friend and I have costs me more than two months game time. Yeah. The cash isn't a barrier, if I decide to get a second account I have to deal with the other issue.  

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Day 69 : RL Fleet Action

I undock from my regular industrial station with a sense of trepidation, this evenings mission could lead to serious damage or loss. My corp mate must have already begun his run of gate jumps out of the bizarre low sec constellation of X and down through to hi-sec space where I’ve been making ISK. The plan is an all out assault on a particular Ship, and attempt to obtain and consume it’s most precious cargo. I’m thinking we are going to end up paying for this mission in a more than one way.

In other words, after work I met up with a corp mate who was working up in Essex and travelled into town on the Underground, through many stations, to have a pint a pub called the Ship behind Holborn station in London. That's why I don’t get much done on EVE at all. If I was on, and you saw me, then it was probably some kind of drunken autopilot.

I heard about some other guys who might be meeting in a pub in London soon, even before the big London meet up. o7 to Einia over at Nebula Inc. who got in touch to say hi and offer me yet another opportunity to investigate null, yet another shed load of tips, and yet another excuse to drink more beer. Nice to meet someone else from my old Warcraft stomping grounds. How many ex Warcraft players are out there?

One more day, and a couple of short posts, until the three day weekend....

Friday, 24 August 2012

Day 68 : The Lonely Planet Guide to EVE

No, this isn’t the guide. I'm just wondering where it is. It could well be EVE Travel where I’ve enjoyed some reading. Reacting to said reading, some recommendations, geeky desire and some good comments on the blog, the other night I headed off on my first sightseeing trip - the Titan at Luminaire. 

Being a Noob I warped straight to the thing without thinking, juddering out of the warp tunnel into a cloud of fat red crosses. Luckily they couldn’t see me through the monitor saluting, with the digitus medius - Gallente to Caldari style, so none of the ships that the Overview had emblazoned with the fat red crosses decided to get shirty and start something. Lucky for them too really, the flare from the engines when I ran away really, really quickly might have blinded them.

The Titan is so big that you can see it at a distance where its attendant ships are specks you can’t see without the Overview markers. You can approach until your engines cut out without antagonising the local swarm. At this distance you can see the running lights of what looks like some huge launch bay. Along the side some kind of trains run up and down, ferrying space blockading b*stards from one end of the Titan to the other. Its that large. They are quite animated over there, maybe it is rush hour, or maybe they’ve just seen a Space Noob astride the Pale Horse arrive and are in a bit of a panic.

Right. Enough trying to get in the Gallente character, I’ve enough to do without hating the Caldari for having slightly disturbing space stations or having parked this magnificent steel baguette in the way of Luminaire traffic. I've as much in common with them as the Gallente thanks to my desire to make piles of ISK.

People have told me you can actually attack the attendant ships. I’ll leave that for another day, but I’m thinking of trying a hit and run mission at some point. I wonder if I can get a fleet together and we could just gank the things? I'm looking forward to one day seeing one of these things in action down in null. That might not be for many, many months though.

The trip reveals more of the back story of EVE that I've been seeing glimpses of in the missions I've run, and in some of the (very minimal) reading about factional warfare I've done. I really want to get into this and read some more, flesh out the role of a space noob, but lets face it - my head is already stuffed full of other EVE topics. For now I'll confine my lore research to the occasional  sightseeing trip and reading things. Seyllin and the shattered planet next, a low sec run!
Thanks to Matt E,  Rhavas ( ), Mark726 for writing EVE Travel (, Tur (, and everyone else who offered tips.

I'll be able to equip tier 2 guns tomorrow as I finally managed to resist altering the skill queue ahead of Small Hybrid Turret. Not that I am going to equip tier 2 guns just yet. I need to look and consider for quite a while. There is, like so many areas of EVE, room for a spreadsheet in here somewhere. The skill queue is getting filled with Exploration boosts as I’ve said before. I aim to spend some of the upcoming three day weekend out in the black, littering it with used probes. So, if you are mooching around Gallente empire space and find a patch so littered with dead probes that it rivals the local parks late night teen hangout, then it was probably my fault. The space that is. Not the park.

In other news EVE has a competitor. Not a game, more competition for my time. I’m normally an avid reader consuming fiction at a rate of somewhere between four and eight books a month depending on size and intellectual intensity (for example, two good books. “Wise Mans Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss, two days. “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy took me a week!). The rate of reading fiction has dropped slightly over the last couple of months while playing EVE. I’ve been reading the ISK guide, bits and bobs that I printed out, and lots of blogs. However, today I finished a book earlier than expected on the way into work and needed a new one for the journey home. I found Neal Stephenson’s latest, REAMDE, had come out in paperback. Thats a thousand pages of utter reading pleasure there, with the additional benefit that the the plot of this one explores the relationship between MMOs, “gold farmers” and Real Money Trading. If you have never read Stephenson, then this could be the one to start with if you are an MMO player, this or maybe Snow Crash. My favourite is Cryptonomicon, so far anyway. The latest is going very, very well.

EDIT: PPS - Thanks again to mark726 for having the link to on his blog. The funniest chat read since (NOTE: NSFW) Which now I've had to go and read again, wasting EVEn more time!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Day 67 : Heal Me

Filled with a desperate need to think about something other than a stolen POS and perhaps revealing all I found out yesterday, I read something on the forums today. Something that wasn’t a rant, wasn't a comment war, wasn't a troll of proportions so epic that even Sauron would have said “I say old chap, I’m not really sure about this”. You’ve been there. You’ve seen the good posts. You’ve skimmed the hatred and playground insult trading. I’m growing up a tiny bit in EVE terms, beginning to follow the community. I’m even on Twitter (@SpaceNoob1), which is something I never expected and still can’t get used to. I’m not there quite yet, running to catch up, but this post has me interested.

It’s about the ongoing rebalancing of frigates, our first real ships when we join the game, not counting the rookie-mobiles. I’ve been here before, missing out narrowly on a large profit when the Atron got boosted into something that could reliably be used to join the swirl up at 4/4 in Jita or for throwing into Red vs Blue scraps. If I’d made loads of Atrons at the lower mineral costs and stockpiled them, I could have sold them for massive profits after the materials to make them got increased. As a side note I just went to check the prices now and saw have a nice little interface upgrade in progress. Not too intrusive a change but makes things clearer and easier to read.

Back to the forum post. It seems that the old mining frigates are to become beginner “logistics” ships. This means healer ships, “logistics” seems to be the EVE term for ships dedicated to remote repair of allies. The new ORE frigate will take up the slack where newbie mining is concerned. I don’t need one of those but I’ll be buying and trying one when they come out. There is no material gain in doing that, I just want to have one!  

Anyway, healer ships. Why do I call them that instead of “logistics”? Firstly because as a Noob I don’t know any better. The name suggests they do far more than “heal” other ships. Finding out what other boosts they supply is on the never ending mental TODO list I’m developing which has to be written down soon before it turns into a short FILO queue instead and stuff begins falling out of my head. The second reason for calling them “healers” is that I played a healer back in Warcraft. I played a healer for a long time, since just before the second Warcraft expansion. I healed through a couple of end game raids. I never could be bothered with the Lich King one. I attempted a couple of heroic raids but they were more pain than they were worth for my limited amount of time in game. I even healed a couple of Flashpoints in SWTOR, I was running the PVE quests on my main as a healer too. EVE was an escape from that role.

I’m now wondering what an initially available healing role would do for me, and for new players coming to the game from other MMOs where the tank/dps/healer roles system is more firmly entrenched. Will I go back to “watching green bars”,  replacing them with small red ones? It would certainly be more difficult here in EVE, perhaps more interesting. Escaping that boxed tank/dps/healer role restriction was one of the appeals of EVE though. I’m trying my hand at anything that comes my way. Apparently Guild Wars 2 is doing away with the role restriction in some fashion. It was on my list of things to try but I just don’t have the time. Perhaps if they add spaceships to it.

Retaining a sense of boxed purpose might give other new players a leg up though. If some new EVE recruits came along having played other MMOs together they might be able to form up a more or less traditional MMO “party”, in EVE a “fleet”, and go out and achieve something more quickly. New players who had been healers elsewhere might get into the social aspect of the game more quickly by looking to fill their traditional role and advertising the fact. Will EVE suddenly see an influx of groups of four or five small ship fleets, manned by one or two month old players? It’s a can flippers worst nightmare. A lot of PVE missions would get played to death. Is it just another scene in the upcoming CCP made feature “The Road To Low Sec”? I need to get there before the reanimated Bing and Bob get there.

There will be a moment or two of confusion at the start for some newbies, since in EVE the “tank” seems to be an attribute every ship has, the amount of damage you can take, rather than a role. In Warcraft during PVP the “tank” role was rarer as the aggro mechanics used to ensure that computer generated enemies always attack the same person don’t translate well to a human opponent attempting to crush whoever he wants. I think SWTOR caused tanks abilities to reduce the damage done to other players, making it an efficient choice to do what a computer opponent would have done - wail on the tank. EVE has similar tactics that could be, and probably are for all I know, adapted. Tackling (reducing the opponents speed and ability to run), and ECM (Electronic Counter Measures - preventing targetting of others) would make you a prime target.

I don’t yet know what happens in fleet actions but I know it would be possible within a week or two to fit a five man fleet with all the necessary roles to do some group missioning, if not PVP, fairly effectively.

I’ve gone way off topic here and started rambling about fleets and the translation of the three MMO roles to EVE. I need to have more of a think, learn some more, and come back to it. Call this a hypothesis and shoot it down for me. I’ll need to read around and see what others have written and I already have a reading list as long as my arm. Most importantly I need to watch the market and start building some frigates. In the meantime if you are out can flipping when these new logistics frigates are out and you are tackled, jammed and swarmed by four or five frigates you can’t seem kill, you know why.

Back in EVE.....

Being a slow week and having little time to get on means that some market orders have gone down. I spend some time reseeding and reactivating markets where the profit was enough to sustain it. In several of those I make sure I have to log in again soon since

A single skipped dropdown that annoys me more than probes. Hopefully probe annoyance will go away soon, I’m going for exploration skills soon and Tiger Ears pointed me at their guide to scanning

I think the corporation that does nothing may have another recruit! Don’t worry guys, there is a Bank Holiday in England this weekend and I’m planning on spending a lot of it in EVE to make up for my lack of log on time this week, and I am finally having a think about stuff to do as a small group.