Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Day 60 : The Two Month Summary

60 days in! Two months! I’m completely lost to the black. A bit of a summary is in order I think. I might not do EVE justice here, I might not do myself justice either. It is hard to convey what I get out of the game when so much of it comes from either my own predilection for space based nerdiness or from the sandbox where the sense of freedom of action magnifies your stories and your place in them. It's all in my head. The blog entries exist to cover what I may miss out.

What have I got?

Around 200 million of my own cash, sat around being a buffer against disaster. It’s a little much for that but I’m looking to push some of it into industrial purposes.

Somewhere between 20 and 40 ships of varying types, fitted for different uses or just fitted experimentally. I have a stash of smaller ships packaged and ready for use or sale. I think I have too many ships but I just like having them. Economically sound? No, but it is a game still and not a job, a fact which I have to remind myself of now and again. Current favourites are The Diceman (a Retriever mining ship), Pale Horse (a PVP fit Incursus), The Constant Sorrow (a Catalyst class Destroyer that I ran the epic arc story in, and my most well travelled ship). I could stand to lose them all, which makes me feel a) sick and b) a better EVE player.

Lots and lots of items I won’t go into in detail about, mainly ship mods for rapid fitting of new ships but also a couple of skill books bought in advance of actually needing them, and a stack of blueprints I’ve been using to make my own ships and a few other things. Yes, that too is probably uneconomic (actually not all according to my spreadsheet) but again - the game. I like making stuff. I am using the blueprints for a couple of items in active industry and trade.

A couple of spreadsheets on Google docs that are rapidly getting out of date. Shockingly I enjoyed creating them and learning stuff outside the game as well as in it. Take me out and shoot me. Please.  Here they are.

Ore and Refining calculations

Manufacturing calculations

Skill wise I’m still unfocused except perhaps in the area of refining and drones. I planned out a 119 day long skill queue plan in EVEMon the other day and it almost lasted 24 hours before I changed my mind and shoved stuff in at the top.

What do I think of EVE?
EVE is gorgeous, nerdy, thrilling, infuriating, has me obsessed and is just brilliant. Right from the start, out in space, seeing the planets and the nebulae strewn backdrops I was lost. Hanging out in the asteroid belts, finding odd little bits of scenery while mission running, checking out the different station types, looking at the planets, the changes in backdrop in different parts of Empire space. 

Checking out random places in the game (I’m looking at you Mysterious Probe in Charmerout), pondering planet statistics and the orbital layout of systems, flying different classes of ship just for the sake of flying them. 

Risking ships where the potential for loss is greater than any other game I’ve been in. It isn't just the fights themselves but the treks through low-sec and into null where at any moment you'll become prey. I've been left shaking by the adrenaline rush more than once. 

The learning curve, mentioned so many times as a barrier, while occasionally maddening is also a draw. This is a game where the brain must be turned on at all times. Yes, even when out mining. If you have this, then the obstacles become targets and lure you in further. It’s a shame that these barriers - the time to competitive PVP in low sec, some of the cash generation techniques, piloting some of the larger ships and the evil demon behind it all - the skill queue - might put off a lot of new players, when in fact it is just a series of achievements in waiting and the skill queue is an excellent concept. 

I haven't even got to the nature of the sandbox and the interaction with other players that underlies the entire game. I've not even seen the larger manifestations of the the sandbox scope but what I’ve seen is enough to keep me going. There is still so much left to see and do. The game occupies way too much of my thought processes. This blog is an indicator of that and EVE is responsible for my enjoyment writing that.

Other MMO's have the social aspect, and the ability to create stories that expand beyond their bounds. These are always the best bits in the game. I don't have a broad experience of MMOs, I was mainly a Warcraft addict, but none of the ones I've played or read about felt as unlimited in scope as EVE does. I did play, and even wrote, MUDs long ago where interaction was everything since the world was just a text description.

What is EVE missing? Some newbie ideas.

EVE is large and daunting, space is a vast and dark place after all. You personalise this with the individuals present in game, checking out their ship names, their character bio’s and their behaviour in space. You tend towards associating concepts and stories with people and places in game that don't exist outside of your own head. How is it that I can think of a particular system as "home" when it is merely a collection of pixels on screen and I'm embodied by the model of a spaceship in those pixels? Yet I do. There is a feeling of recognition, security and familiarity whenever I return there after long trips. How can I think of another miner as my rival when I've never actually spoken to him. I'm aware of their travel habits, mining choices and login times.

You could boost this sense of place and of personality, with some “small” additions. EVE players have long called for personalised appearance to ships, and have been informed that it would quickly descend into madness, breaking the mood or tone of the game. Surely there are ideas that wouldn’t be intrusive and yet would foster more stories and game play. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that anything is “missing”, or saying I could make the game “better”. It is great as it is. This is just a few ideas I had while playing.

More Space Scenery. I love flying through EVE, and there is a lot to see if you know where, and have the skills, to look. I’d like to see some more basic things. Comets for example. I haven’t seen one or heard of one. I’m assuming they don’t exist but they might. Other basic space phenomena with specific patterns per system might make the places feel even more recognisable, might distinguish them even more. I’m not asking for the Star Trek experience of crazy alien situation around every corner, that wouldn’t be in keeping with the dark atmosphere of the game world. Just some more physical manifestations of locality.

Names on produced items. I think it would be good if you could optionally brand some of your created items with your name, or the name of your corporation. Not everything, since I imagine the load of every round of ammo being individually labelled might be overwhelming. Ships or particular types of modules however would be great. There would be no game advantage in it but the sandbox would make something of this expression of identity.

Copiloting. I’ve mentioned this before. It would be great to be able to fly ships in a basic way without having the necessary skills. Being able to equip a ship to allow this would create a whole new business and give new players the ability to see what’s out there waiting for them.

Player driven visual effects. It would be nice to affect the universe a little more other than mining it, or blowing parts of it up. Some form of gadgetry or gimmick equipment would be nice, the space pilots cantrip. Some form of ship equipment that had no bonus to combat, cash generation or any other advantage beyond personalisation. Something thats not too intrusive, something that would be less of a load on the system than a custom paint job on every ship, and yet something that could be picked up by storytellers. For example - searchlights on the ships, guidable beams of light you could play over rocks or other ships or use in some form of signal. Running lights on the ships that could be adapted to blink in patterns or in different colours. Temporary damage effects that could be activated on your ship whenever. The ability to flare the engines without increasing speed. Any other ideas? Is there anything I’ve missed that people are using?

How could EVE get more people in other than revamped tutorials? A new players opinion.
I haven’t gone through the tutorials since the recent update, but by all accounts a lot of confusion has been removed. They did feel a little bit slap dash in places, and now apparently things are a lot more straightforward. Already, even though I’m only 2 months old, I feel that the tutorials shouldn’t get too easy. They should prepare you for the sometimes harsh environment of EVE. I like that EVE is difficult. I like that it can be cruel. It shouldn’t be a bully though. It shouldn’t be needlessly painful to navigate. Revamped tutorials should some of achieve this while retaining the potential for loss. Possibly the best thing that happened to me to prepare me for EVE was the loss of my favourite ship at the end of the first day, resetting much of what I’d worked towards. I came back next day ready for revenge but many players, not all of whom would have been “bad” for EVE, would have given up

So apart from the tutorials what else?

A starter pack would be good, a set of links to pages that are up to date and not bogged down in abbreviations. All MMOs are notorious for shorthand and jargon. EVE beats them all. You can’t even read the news without having to figure out what the latest meme for referring to a particular alliance is. A concepts starter pack would go a long way to clearing up some needless confusion.

Most of the learning in EVE was good, part of the game, enjoyable. Trying to figure out what was going on in the EVE universe was annoying. The starter pack should include some good starter guides and blog links. Using the Internet for research is second nature for me but critical reading of EVE sources on day one is impossible. So - CCP, get your shit together and employ a decent journalist, perhaps a historian, and maybe a documentation writer. You’ll gain more players determined to stay just from revealing what is possible. There is already tons of good stuff out there. It just needs collating and reviewing.

Highlights of the journey

The best bits are all covered in the blog posts, but these are some of my favourites off the top of my head.

Days 1 to 3 - obviously. Getting started, being absorbed by the game for an entire day, losing everything at the end of day one and returning to get it back.

Day 12 - where I get my mining cruiser and plans for the future start falling out of my head.

Day 14 - First example of getting seriously toasted by a geared up, well skilled, PVP pirate.

Day 21 - Getting involved with the locals and making new pals in EVE.

Day 27 - My first adventures in Low Sec space.

Day 32 - The arrival of friends, and the first purchase of a blueprint for more than just a personal desire to make stuff.

Day 35 -  More low sec and null sec adventures, the sight my first gate camp

Day 38 - Forming a corporation

Day 44 - An enjoyable day rolling through the epic arc missions.

Day 51 - The first “real” good fight

Day 54 - enjoying having a relevant opinion on, thinking and writing about some aspect of the game

There are probably many moments I've missed. It's that good a game.

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