Monday 20 January 2014

Day 584: Choose Your Own Adventure

Here we go. I've never been much of a lore man in games beyond the simple need to immerse myself in the world. I save my lore brain for useless factoids from Lord of the Rings, though EVE has tempted me before now. I've never been much of an RP'er beyond my D&D (and other games) days years ago. Loved the games but my RP talents pretty much came down to an ability for daft voices while being a DM. In any case, bear with me while I blur the lines.

Yesterday I inadvertently got involved in a lore quandry. Whether by the wicked auspices of paracetamol and decongestant or by the sheer boredom that was the illness enforced non-combat role, I found myself captivated by the question of the odd cylindrical feature on the Zephyr. I wondered if the same Intaki polymath, Valsas en Dilat, was involved in the creation of the new Sisters of EVE cruiser, the Stratios. I reached out to Rhavas and Mark726 via the ever trusty Twitter, seemingly the linchpin of the EVE community. They revealed that Dilat was a character of some infamy and at some point player controlled. They pointed me at an article which didn't reveal much but which left a teaser at the end: an abandoned research project in 3-IN0V. Gulp. Nullsec. I have no real Nullsec skills yet. I've done a little exploring, taken a few shortcuts and come to a sticky end once or twice. I need to go out there more and yet view the place with some trepidation. Bombs and Bubbles! Insta-death!

Two factors work in my favour. Firstly 3-IN0V is in Syndicate which can not only be fairly sleepy in the UK morning hours, but is also near my home system of Barleguet (Braves reading this : I'll be back out shooting soon, honest. More on that in another post.). In fact 3-IN0V is only 9 jumps away. Secondly the Interceptor rebalance made them able to ignore warp bubbles. I'm trained to IV in Interceptors and have a Taranis docked and almost ready to go. Looks like breakfast entertainment is sorted. It'll give me something to do while I get a mix of olive oil and tea tree oil into my ear canal. It might help the mild infection that is swimmers ear but it makes you smell like a hippys bathroom. Yep, not just got a cold.

In Barleguet I hastily load up the Taranis with bits and bobs. I'm a little shy on ammo but this is a recce so I'm warp stabbed and probably won't get up to much. I fling a few things in the hold as an afterthought. The game is on the minute I undock into a small cloud of Goons. "Punch it Chewie" I mutter, the story driven mission awakening the barely dormant Star Wars fan within. I warp off safely and engage in a few minutes of comedy where I realise just how bloody fast Interceptors are. I blow through a bubble and through a system where Rote Kapelle have something going on. I note that for later reference. There is a name in local that I recognise.

The last three systems are devoid of capsuleers, as is the final destination. Lucky. I get to nose around in peace. On arrival in the system I can instantly see the Abandoned Research Project on the overview. There is nothing on DScan. I warp over to the Project giddily, forgetting my usual caution. It's not abandoned entirely. Serpentis are there. A couple of Battlecruisers and a couple of Battleships. Now, I've been killing Serpentis since day one of my EVE career. I doubt they'll let me just look around. I hastily warp out to the sun, dropping a bookmark along the way which I promptly warp back to. Hanging in space I dig out one of the things I brought with me. A Mobile Depot. Given a minute to anchor it allows me to refit my warp stabilisers with some armor and an ancillary repairer that I also brought with me. Since there isn't a station in system this saves me precious minutes.

Back at the Project I scream in under MWD, maintaining some transversal before arcing around to shoot at the first battle cruiser. The screen fills with the lurid green light of rounds of metal superheated to plasma and magnetically launched slugs. Might as well be tracer fire to my Interceptor which slips between them with ease. I relax and launch the couple of lads I brought along for the ride, they go to work assisting my 75mm guns which might otherwise take a while to deal with ships this big. Hobgoblins. The little tinkers. Always getting into trouble. I'm packing Javelin rounds. Not cost effective but higher damage. I don't have many of them. I wasn't expecting a fight. Cocky, I turn off my UI to get a better look around. "Trust in the force Luke" whispers a ghostly voice as I turn off the Overview.

I'm doing well. In under the guns they can't track me and the lads are filling in the DPS to offset the enemy repair rate while I slowly chew away at them. I turn to orbit the latter half of my opponents and make a mistake. In an instant my shields are gone. I should have manually arced around instead of hitting the orbit command. I slowed to almost nothing as I turned at range from an enemy.

Son of a bitch must pay.

I turn with a thirst on the remaining Serpentis, hurling a few insults and forgetting that I too once loved the old Space Potato hull. I cycle the armour repairer and curse the Serp' for making me waste a charge of nanites. 

In the lull following the eradication of the Serpentis menace I regret that I didn't bring a salvaging module. The loot is, frankly, awful. I feel like I've robbed drug addicts rather than the drug dealers. Hey ho. Time to look around.

What's this here? Yet another cylindrical structure. A massive and partially wrecked particle accelerator. I'm no science whizz. I got my science skill kicks from mass producing T2 neutron blasters back in the day and then forgot about it when I learned that firing T2 neutron blasters was a lot more fun. I give the surrounding structures a good sweep, mindful of the early warning notice about radiation but trusting to the gold armour of the Taranis. Up close the station is obviously a wreck. There isn't anyone hiding in the "Broken Metallic Crystal Asteroid" though I wonder what use it served. I can't resist buzzing the surface and flying through the rock arch I find. Dilat isn't here, if indeed he ever was. I hang in the shadow of the rock and wait for someone to uncloak but nothing happens and an empty local is too good to be true. Time to get moving. I'll be back for a longer look at the system once I can get a Cov' Ops ship in place. I know just the pilot for that. My scanning alt, the ridiculously named Wildgun Badstar. The fool.

I set my destination for home. Good ole Barle'. I'm wondering what this all means and what I can do next. The investigation has fallen at the first hurdle. I can get a friend to ingratiate themselves with the Sisters of EVE. An afternoon trawling the Blood Stained Stars should do it. I'll see what happens there. I could buy myself a Stratios. Not a small amount of ISK involved there but it might be worth it to have a look. Again I might have to rely on a friend. Flying a Strat' near home would probably draw every devil this side of hell. 

What is the mystery of the cylinder? Is the structure coincidental? Am I almost literally going round in circles? Was some stealth tech' along the lines of guided particle acceleration being researched here? Was Dilat involved? Who the hell is Dilat? Where is that blueberry muffin I was going to have for breakfast? All interesting questions to consider though I fancy I may have accidentally just trod upon the solution to the latter. 

I begin the laughably rapid nine jump sequence back home, passing by the earlier name I recognised.

It's Teg! I'm here with the space famous and the man responsible for putting almost as many hits as Reddit on this blog. Thank you Vice Chairman. Apparently he's been reading too much Goblin of late judging by the Biography header line but he gets a thankful, cheery "7o Mr Teg" from me. I don't have time to stop and chat, RL beckons and my sinuses are clear enough to stand up on the London Underground. I'm docked and done for now.

I chose my own adventure, out in the 'verse, checking shit out. EVE. You've got to love it, no matter your approach. Remember that. Remember that when you're missing out on, or losing, stuff for RL reasons. Remember that when EVE fails to support more players in one system than any other MMO could do. Have you used EVE? Have you paid your dues? Yes sir, the check is in the mail.

[ Apologies for the late tangent. angry responses can be directed at Steel, Sheffield, UK. Internet points for recognizing the reference he inspired me to follow ]

EVE Track of the Day

Shockingly none. Go watch this instead.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Day 583: The Lure of the Lore

I missed Ganked 100 which was the intended source for this post. I was barely awake at the time and in no condition for combat. I spent the time snoozing, watching the great EVE-Kill map, laughing at Top Gun on TV (really Tom? You hadn't heard Sitting On The Dock of the Bay in ages? What planet were you on? Presumably a Thetan one), and doing some more flying around aimlessly for no apparent reason.

This time though I did some retail therapy and picked up a ship I've always wanted. The Zephyr. Pictures follow of me faffing around on the belt of a gas giant, click em to see em. At one point, even though I was static, the belts moved across the ship leaving me underneath. It appears the belts are included in the planets rotation.

The Zephyr is a quiet ship, no AB or MWD can be fit to her since there are no slots bar the single high for the specialised probe launcher. It's oddly calming to fly in though makes you want to rush off and watch the pod racing scenes from Phantom Menace. All in all, and odd ship. The most puzzling oddity was the rotating wheel at the rear of the ship. Being in an weird mood I found myself speculating as to the purpose of this ring. Propulsion? Guidance? Crew gravity wheel? The only other ship I could think of with any similar feature was the Stratios whose "cylindrical structure" is connected with its ability to employ covert operations cloaking devices. The Zephyr is also stealthy in that Sleeper drones won't attack it in wormhole space. So perhaps the wheel is a stealth feature? Is it some kind of super high tech prayer wheel - "Please don't notice me, please don't notice me, please don't notice me....". Does it also mean that "Intaki polymath Valsas en Dilat" was involved in the creation of the new Sisters of EVE cruiser? What would that mean? Dear holy Bob! I've fallen under the spell of the lure of the lore. There are better minds out there that know more than I do about this kind of thing. Quick! To the community-mobile!

Until then, here are the pics of me doing what I referred to as "sailing the sky road" in my Zephyr. It's named the "The Zeppo" in defiance of it's exceptional nature, and for poorly alliterative reasons, and because I recently rewatched a favourite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'm ill. Comfort telly required. Sue me. I toyed with Mary Celeste but that's too depressing.

EVE Track of the Day

Sailing - Rod Stewart

Saturday 18 January 2014

Day 582: One Small Step

Under the hammer of Winter, on an endless day.....

ie I have a cold, plus swimmers ear, and it's a Saturday. Whether the illness or the pills taken for the illness I went a little random and flew all the way to a moon. Warping to a moon gets you no where near so it's a ten minute or so journey under Microwarp. It's a shame the damn thing vanishes at 0km but you can circumnavigate them at around 10km with no jarring effects.

An that's all he wrote! Thinking is for when your brain works.

EVE Track of the Day

Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Saturday 11 January 2014

Day 575: BB52 : EVE Mentality

First of all. Happy New Year New Edenites!

Now we've got that out of the way, let me piss you off with an answer to Blog Banter 52 that is long winded, faintly boring, sandbox-violating shocking, unsubstantiated supposition based, and incredibly ill thought out. I'm subverting the BB52 somewhat to get something across that I've been thinking about. I'm shooting from the hip here, it's mostly unresearched (bar a couple of opinions) so take care. It's not like I'm Jester or anything.

and...... on with the show.

BB52 concerns the apparently static concurrent account log in stats for EVE based on the EVE Offline graphs
For the past four and a half years, the graph has hovered around that 30,000 mark; it is, for all intents and purposes, a plateau. But everything must come to an end sooner or later and that is what this blog banter is about.
What's on the other side of that plateau?

Is there any path for CCP to follow to raise those numbers upwards for a sustained period, or is EVE going to enter a decline to lower logged in numbers from this point? How soon will we see an end to this plateau? Months? Years? Or will you argue that 'never' is a possibility? Or you can look at the root causes of the plateau and tackle the question if it could have been avoided or shortened if CCP had taken different actions in the past.

Also, what would EVE be like with an order of magnitude fewer or more players?

I took off northwards for most of Christmas and New Year. Some subconscious level of planning allowed me to step lightly between long skill trains so it's been almost fun grinding out the 20 days of Drone Interfacing V, for example. Fun. Well, no, not really. Not in the sense of fun exploding, not in the sense of fun playing. More the fun sense of the potential once completed. The same old EVE trap. The planning and scheming are the fun bit. Waiting for the skill queue to catch up is the boring bit but I've a multitude of other plans and a main in Brave Newbies where things like hilariously out of whack killboards are born . I've many fingers in many pies.

However this is the same trap that causes new players, in fact ENCOURAGES new players, to log off once the tutorial is complete. The friends I introduced to the game both got bored with the ISK grind (mining initially) while waiting for the skills to go do something else. There were other issues involved but it's the same symptom as later bittervet log off time. Almost everyone leaves EVE at some point for an extended period. It's a common thing. EVE can be working away for you behind the scenes but you don't feel there is a point to logging until a skill train is complete.

Now you are going to say a couple of things

1) Why not PLEX some ISK

2) There are things to do with a small amount of skills

Firstly PLEX. A big draw of EVE to game players is the lure of earning your game time. Not all players feel this of course but it's a thing. The ISK to cash ratio. A lot of players grow weary of the Real Money cost of battles being shown but it never fails to intrigue the gaming press and their readers. New players are less likely to want to spend more cash on ISK that they feel will soon vanish. Some new players do. They possess an EVE mentality.

Secondly, things to do. There are loads of things to do but there isn't a structured way of doing them, there isn't a reason to do them beyond interest. Gamers are lazy by and large. They want their content on rails if they can. Not all players are like this. Some posses an EVE mentality. They scheme and plot on multiple levels. What can I do now? What can I investigate? How will this contribute to my long term plans in some way. Scheming, invention and patience.

Notice that I haven't mentioned that EVE is hard. It is, but this is a draw. I don't think that EVE being too difficult causes most new players to leave. Tough games are good games. Certainly EVE being difficult doesn't cause older players to leave.

This EVE mentality isn't too common in the gaming world. Why should it be? We live in a world of being entertained rather than entertaining ourselves. Perhaps there is a finite number of gamers, a percentage of gamers as a whole, who have this EVE mentality naturally. Perhaps it's about 30,000 at any one time, new gamers with the natural attitude replacing old hands who've moved on.

What does that say? Has EVE reached saturation point within it's audience? If true, then EVE will take it's share of the gaming community and continue in equilibrium. There isn't anything that can be done.

Actually there is. I refer to the EVE mentality above as a natural thing, a talent. What if this talent can be trained? What if can become a skill? What would the training programme be like?

The training programme I envision follows on from the tutorials. It's an extension of the New Player Experience. It violates the sandbox slightly. It needs to. We are training people to think differently and that requires some guidance. Some rails. Some pushing.

I would allow some kind of grindability of level 1 and perhaps level 2 skills that have no prerequisite. I'd provide faint rails for the rest of the theme park playing work. I'm not mocking here, I still like theme park games and their content even though all of my gaming time vanishes into EVE. I'm currently enjoying the posts on where a return to Warcraft is under way. My time vanishes into EVE even when I'm not logging on. From EFT, EVEMon skill plans, spreadsheet work, hammering plans into Trello (I'm not kidding) and in the future coding my own tools.

Back to grinding skills. In a recent thought experiment Jester proposes doing away with the skills I'm looking at in order that new players would have them immediately. I think the skills are valuable for immersion reasons and more could be made of them. I think these skills should be open to being learned more rapidly by actually doing stuff in EVE. We can take the mechanism from earning this experience from the various Achievement systems in theme park games which cause players to do all manner of random things in order to fulfil a vanity type goal project. Often this takes a lot of planning and time. It always draws you out into the game world. Ask anyone who has gone after the various mount acquisition achievements in Warcraft for example. So, aims, planning, patience, less linear content than a normal experience grind. Sounds like a good grounding for an EVE mentality.

Interesting aside: Whenever I say "planning" in regard to EVE players, my mind attempts to insist I write "scheming". What does this tell you about EVE players? Or me?

Some examples of tasks that might advance skills. In each case you'd give more points for doing this in low and even more in null. I guess we should be aware of the potential for older players gaming the system with their alts.

Afterburner : complete a full orbit of a station under afterburner in a system with more than 30 players in it. Only applies once per system

Navigation : points awarded for each system visited where the player does at least two things from a list of, for example, docking, visiting an asteroid belt, visiting a POCO. You could give extra points for visiting landmarks. See for details...

Warp Drive Operation : Award points for merely warping through systems. Give hardly any for hi sec. Get the player to fly to distant and more dangerous places.

Resource processing skills : award the player for mining, refining and building. Get rid of those ISK generation skills out of the way faster but give the player a sense that they are doing something rather than waiting.

Scanning skills : award the player points for finding things, especially where it is more dangerous to do so

Social skills : award the player for missions but award them far more when completing objectives in a fleet. Perhaps award more points for the specialised roles. Get some players flying fleet logi on day one.

You see where I'm going with this. Feel free to suggest more while you deride me for suggesting breaking the sandbox. I lay claim to the name Active Skillpoint Acquisition System, pronounced "ass-ass". Because I'm just in that kind of mood. What I want to see is a new player join the game and in the tutorial system say "Hey, I'm going to fly as far as possible, anyone want to fleet up and do Social and Navigation SP at the same time?". Stuff like that.

Not everyone would develop an EVE mentality from this. Some would pass from the game after they had completed the tasks. Others would however be exposed to the other facets of EVE that it is difficult to plan to do when you are thrown in the deep end and forced to climb the legendary skill cliff on the way out.

What would happen if this caused a slight rise in the graph. What if there was a slow but steady influx of new players remaining longer? There would be more people in space. When there are more people in space things become more interesting for other players. More people log in to see what happens. Organisations develop around these players. You can imagine the EVE University course for skill point acquistion now. What I'm thinking is that some active plan like this will not only cause an increase of new players but will have a secondary effect of reactivating older players who haven't logged in for a while. There is stuff to do. This being EVE there are also people to do.

If all this fails? I think the equilibrium will persist as long as EVE continues to evolve and attract enough attention from the gaming community. New players with the EVE mentality will succeed older players leaving for all the reasons they do.

Hurrah for unsubstantiated opinion!

What I'm really interested in is the question:

"Did you ever introduce a real life friend to EVE who passed the tutorials but then left EVE for good? What were their reasons for leaving?". If you know where this has been asked, point me at it!

EVE Track of the Day

Experiment Number Six, Lemon Jelly


Faction Fit Pod - Steady As She Goes
Sand, Cider and Spaceships - Eve is in a Coma
Roc's Ramblings - The Other Side
Golden Crusade - What's on the Other Side?
Warp Drive Active - Falling Down
Freebooted - Homeostasis
Eveoganda - The Graph is a Lie
Morphisat's Blog - Over the hills and far away
Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah - Limits
Life on the Bubble - Art of War Alliance - Enjoy the Ride
In Local, Everyone Can Hear You Scream - There Is No "Other Side"
Mabrick's Mumblings - Causalities of War and Industry
Evehermit - Are we at the base of the mountain, or on top of it?
Pilgrim In Exile - The EVE of the Future
Oz Ox In EVE Blog - But Will It Tick?
Fua Consternation - Just another day as an astronaut
Jester's Trek - Another way of saying "never"
A journey through the mind - Flogging a Dead horse
A CARBON Based Life - Live Fast and Die Young, or...
Mad Haberdashers - Most Plateaus End In Cliffs
Diaries of a Space Noob - EVE Mentality
Khanid Kataphract - Living Space
High Sec Carebearing Extravaganza - The Other Side
The Ancient Gaming Noob - A Horrible Community