All Hallows’ EVE

This weekend my wife and I took our daughter to a corn maze/pumpkin patch place. She had fun and I enjoyed the finally cooling weather brought to Florida by the far away Frankenstorm. That night we had friends over for our yearly pumpkin carving tradition – currently in its third year. I stuck with the tradition of showing off my nerdiness in pumpkin form.

Of course, I immediately took pictures and shared them on twitter with #tweetfleet. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of people retweeting it and spreading it around. Made me feel warm and fuzzy.

Anyone else celebrate the holiday with nerd-tastic aplomb?

Social Itch

Playing a lot of EVE when I get MMO time in. DoTA2 when I only have an hour and nothing is going on in the wormhole. I’m feeling a themepark itch, and it’s coming at me in a weird way. My eyes keep falling on Rift, which is a game I always enjoyed, but I just never got into. I think that was for a number of different reasons. If I recall, I was busy in a bunch of different games at the time, and it fell in when I was still happily engrossed in WAR. The biggest remembrance I have of the game, is that it was like my on-again, off-again, nostalgic affair with EQ2. A lot of the things I like there, I like in Rift (thanks Hartsman!). This gaming version of a casual glance I gave it wasn’t enough to cause me to set down roots and grow any social connection.

The social connection is really what keeps me in games long term. I’ve been playing EVE for longer than I ever have in the past, primarily because I’m in an alliance of people I really enjoying hanging out with. So, beyond just the fun pew-pew I get when we jihad enemy holes, or the carebear riches (that are a bit less rich of late) from phat sleeper loots, I just enjoy the people, and I’ve made connections that keep me coming back. So, a dalliance with Rift is tempting to me right now, but also worrisome.

I don’t want to jump into Rift, with expectations of fun and enjoyment, then find my ideas squandered on the solo-wonder of playing by myself. Conversely, I don’t want to start playing it and have it pull away from my EVE time. Basically, I want it all, and I want it now. I may have to accept that my reality does not allow for the gaming that I want when it comes to MMOs. Life is telling me to suck it up, jump into Dust514, and enjoy mowing down people and LAVs with my heavy machine gun.

Humorously enough, I said this about the game when I tried it over a year ago:

What they seek in their MMO is maybe some social interaction, and mindless gameplay. Chugging through rifts and quests with little planning or forethought in it. Quickly jumping into the game and just doing.

So maybe that’s what I’m looking for now. Or maybe I’m just wanting a change of scenery and I don’t really know what I want. Or maybe I just want to PLAY MORE VIDEO GAMES. NO REALLY, ANY VIDEO GAME WILL DO!

Anyway, any Corps forming up in Dust514 want a 30 year old, poor reflexes man to join them. I have a headset and mic!

Breaking the wall

Sad news today for all Americans, and it hits home for those of us who play EVE.

Wilhelm’s post is better than what I could do at this point, so read it, and join us all in mourning for the loss of lives today.

Well said!

From John Smedley in an interview at TheMitanni.com:

At some point as an industry we need to realize that we have already lost the race to outpace players in making content. … The problem is you get to the endgame and as game makers it’s not just expensive. it’s impossible to stay ahead of the curve…We need to focus on game systems that are perpetual and give players a lot more control over what they can do rather than JUST putting yet another dragon in front of them with scripted content. We need to be doing both in order to be successful. And that’s our plan.

Matching the payment model to the product

I briefly touched on this topic when writing up my post yesterday, and it was one of those mental moments of clarity. The time where a thousand light bulbs go off in your head to shine a line on a topic and idea, that seems so foolishly obvious that everyone should have realized it. I wouldn’t use the word epiphany, because moments after the realization, the full vision of all that the idea encompasses starts to fade, akin to a dream upon waking. In a desperate attempt to retain the idea, I’m typing this out on the same day as writing my last post – highly uncharacteristic of me.

The idea essentially goes like this: theme parks in real life charge you a ticket to get in. You then run around and go on all the rides and entertainment that you want. When I go to Islands of Adventure, I can spend all day riding on the Hulk, or I can hit the Doctor Doom after, and continue forth to the Jurrassic Park amusement. It won’t cost me any more as the day precedes. However, if I didn’t smuggle in food/drink, or buy a revolving day pass, I may be stuck spending money inside on other things: food, drink, trinkets, memorabilia. Some theme parks even let you purchase a “jump to the start of the line” that you can use a limited number of times.

You should see where I’m going here. If not, here’s an interesting glimpse at a full post about the topic of themepark revenue. The image of the annual pass at the bottom should look familiar to any MMO’er who’s glimpsed at a F2P tiered structure.

Theme parks, of both the real world variety and the gaming kind seem to follow a great pattern on the price point, and is why you see so many theme park MMOs of late moving into the F2P market. You bought the box, and now you can go on all the rides you want, but the cotton candy is extra, and that $7 burger is going to be $15 if you buy it at the park. These conveniently located extras, time-saving tools, and impulse buys are where a good chunk of the revenue comes for these parks. So, why have companies been trying to bill you for entrance, and then ding you again at intervals just for playing in the park you bought a ticket for? The traditional myth was operating costs and expansions (oh wait, I bought that separately…).

When I talked yesterday about GW2 being able to charge a monthly, and no one would be surprised, I meant it. We’ve all been conditioned to accept it in our traditional theme park MMO. But the more I think about it, the more it feels like the traditional square peg/round hole scenario. It feels like a carnival instead of a theme park, and no one walks away from a carnival thinking, “Yeah, that was money well spent.”.

Now, I need to think on how my outlook on sandboxes fit into this. Should they follow the same price point methodology and sell convenience items? In an (ideally) infinitely, horizontally expanded sandbox, what does convenience really mean in the long run? Are sandboxes, by nature, more likely to output more systems and less content. I argue that systems are more challenging to design, develop, and implement than content. It’s the difference between taking your kid to the gym for a game of H-O-R-S-E, and being the first person to invent the game, then build and install a basketball hoop in your driveway to play it. So, I’m not sure how I sit on that still. It’s something I still need to work through and think on.

De-facto

I DID play GW2 this weekend.

Just. Like. Everyone. Else.

Overall, a pretty fun game. Launch had a few hiccups, but I’ve seen far, FAR worse. There was a bit of downtime (which I noticed when I took a break from Dust514), and the server I wanted on was full at first (which was not a problem the next day with instant server transfer). Otherwise, smooth sailing. I didn’t have any lag that other’s complained over, or performance issues in the slightest.

Overall, very solid gameplay so far, and the progression is the completionists wet-dream: listed counts of events and tasks to complete in each zone, and when done you get get a big reward! It’s a nice change to the quest-hub paradigm that has pervaded and perverted the MMO genre. For that alone, I give it my thanks. Also, beautiful map and world/UI interfacing. This is a game that could probably get away with charging a sub fee and noone would bat an eyelash at ArenaNet doing so, but I think it’s better in the long run for them if they don’t. Because even though the game diverts from the traditional MMO play structure, it still is a primarily themepark experience thus far, and the subscription model is not a good match to that type of game.

As for specifics…

I mentioned to Mr. Meh in one of my replies that GW2 felt more like WAR to me in the headstart than it did in the beta events. Which for me is a good thing, because it sucked me into the game. I started off the weekend playing an Asura Engineer. Loved the race, hated the class. I really didn’t care for having different “kits” to swap weapon types around in lieu of a more integral class mechanic or robust skill system. It felt very shallow to me. It didn’t hurt that the whole reason I wanted to play the Engineer was so I could dual-wield pistols, when the defining class system is something that overrides the main reason I was playing it, conflicts arise. So, after getting to level 12 on my Asura, I swapped over to a Norn Guardian. Far more my style, and I got him to around level 15 if memory serves me correctly.

Overall, I’m much happier with the game than I expected to be, but what’s even better is I found I can run both GW2 and EVE on my computer at the same time. One for each monitor. Of course, I’m not doing anything heavily attention-required in EVE, but low-risk alliance ops are doable. So, my gaming time got expanded by multi-tasking. Yay efficiency!

Last quick aside before I got: I got a headset for my PS3 to use in tandem with Dust514. The game is continuing to improve and so are my skills. Positive KDR is a nice change of pace for me, and I’m really looking forward to when the game goes live and I can keep my progress. Next build, I’m going to try a sniper in lieu of my love affair with assault.

Huh. Friday? You don’t say.

How do I feel about GW2 and the head start in two days? Go read Syp’s, um, consternation, over the delay.

I’ll wait.

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Why I stopped playing LoL in favor of DotA2

Of these two games, I would not say that the gameplay of either is superior to the other. Each play with their own style and have things I like/dislike about each. As far as the actual game goes for either, I’m Switzerland. Neutral. Gray like Gandalf. I’m pH7 you might say. However, I stopped playing LoL on a regular basis months ago in favor of DotA2. It wasn’t some concrete decision, where I had a moment of choice that I can point to and say, “There, that is why I no longer play”. It was just a gradual subduing of my time spent in game. This weekend, after watching a YouTube video from Riot about the history of their champions, I decided to go give the game a whirl again. All I got was one game before the stark contrast between the total experience of the two games slapped me in the face and reminded me why I never went back – the community.

It started off badly. Within seconds (literally), my 4 teammates were bitching at each other. Calling each other noobs, criticizing choices on champion, spell selection, calling what lane they are going to take, and then being yelled at for going there. Within the champion select, before everyone was locked in, someone even threw out the “GG”. It wasn’t friendly banter; it wasn’t joking humor; it was bitter, vitriolic condemnation of their own teammates and fellow human beings. Did I mention this wasn’t even a ranked game? Just a standard match for fun. The attitude didn’t improve during the length of the game. Not surprisingly, the match didn’t go well. I lasted 12 minutes in game, reading condemnation, proclamations of superiority, and demands of subservience from half of my teammates, before I finally ignored them. That’s a two-edged sword sadly, because once ignored, communication is gone, and a game that relies on teamwork is basically lost. The game finally ended at about the 30 minute mark (the surrender was no-voted). I left the game, closed LoL, and doubt I will return any time soon.

I’m not saying that the community of DotA2 is the gold standard. I wouldn’t even call it the bronze standard. However, it’s not complete shit, and the average interaction is light-years beyond my experience yesterday. Not every game in LoL occurs like mine did, but it’s an indicative example of the aggregate. I talked about it on the forums at Inquisition, and one of the leaders commented something along the lines of “This is the norm in hyper-popular games.”.  The norm is not acceptable, and if it’s bad enough to drive away a veteran of online gaming like me, chances are, it will do the same to others.

Best. Killboard. Ever.

This.

I cried little tears of joy at this. Lots of possibilities, but in the end, it is greatness.

Moving the alliance

The Inception

A few weeks back, an idea was floated to the alliance:

What did we think about moving into a C6 wormhole?

With EVE, everything is about setting personal goals and continuing to move towards it. As you achieve goals and accomplish tasks, the need to set a new goal often arises. Somehow, I’ve gone from being a terrible spaceship pilot, to joining a corporation I mesh with, going into a C3 wormhole completely unprepared for it, then joining an alliance that LIVES in a C5, and now, invading a C6 wormhole to help its inhabitants realize we live there.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The idea was to move up to the greater profitability (and danger), of a C6 wormhole. As a corporation, we seem to be outgrowing our britches rapidly. In the C3, right when we were hitting a groove of complacency, we moved into a C5, which is a couple orders of magnitude more demanding than a C3 – both in terms of logistics, pilot skill, and player skill. Now, less than a month after that, we’re contemplating moving into the highest difficulty of wormhole life.

And critics say EVE is slow.

After the alliance as a whole decided that life in a C6 was the obvious and natural progression of the group, we set to finding out where to go. Spreadsheets ensued. Yes, actual spreadsheets are a common site in EVE life. Much like work, an alliance is often a conglomeration of up to hundreds of people, and organization is crucial. But this spreadsheet was different (sort of). Instead of containing columns of values for various items, and their relative price in Jita, then tallied up and tabulated using functions, THIS was a document used to examine the various qualities of C6 wormholes. As we  chain collapsed to find our way into one, we recorded the information of each potential relocation. All qualities were examined, and ranked as a result. With list in hand, we finally went shopping.

In a surprisingly short amount of time, a strongly ranked choice became available, and we pulled the trigger on the operation planning. By “became available”, I don’t mean to insinuate that it was empty, or we had some nice trade deal worked out to buy it from the current occupant. That’s not how we work. This is the alliance that declares jihad on others for pay. No, we planned on helping convince the resident Russians that their lease had come to an end. Forcefully.

Initiating Plan Alpha

That Thursday, we executed a trip out of our wormhole. A good number of characters left for their favorite trade hub to pick up their choice of the acceptable ship type for the fleet composition. We were to then wait around for the soon to be ex-homeowners to do their sleeper sites of Friday, jump in, flog them mercilessly, and blap some capitals to convince them home sweet home was not so safe anymore. What ended up happening was significantly different.

The plans of mice and men oft go awry, and ours was no different it seemed. Much to our frustration, it looked as if some outside source had run all the sites in our hopeful-home, ensuring a dearth of target capitals to turn into space dust. Then a slew of other potential scheduling problems, manpower limits (in both directions at one point), and late night almost ran this thing into the screeching halt of “we’ll do it later”. Thankfully, that did not happen. Domino’s fell, planets aligned, and a fleet entirely of our alliance worked our way into the new home.

After some a lot patient waiting around, we were FINALLY at a time to strike the enemy. Realizing that sites were gone, we decided the far less entertaining tower-bash would do to send a nice message. Our carefully constructed fleet of reppers and triage was put to excellent use against a derp of epic proportions on the part of the Ruskies (ProTip: You have to set any tower guns to attack people below a certain rating. The default is 0 (zero), so if someone is neutral, it will not attack them). So, what would have normally turned into a somewhat more entertaining experience of hitting guns, and paying attention, turned into a snore fest that was only mildly interrupted by a couple of Moros showing up at clockwork site-running time. It promptly logged off, with all of its comrades. Simultaneously.

Before too long, we had reinforced the tower and all guns, then blown up some small side tower that was sitting defenseless, and erected our own little safe haven in the skies to work from. The enemy tower would come out of reinforcement in 1 day and 8 hours (or something like that), which turned out to be around 8:00 AM EST on Sunday. Right when I would be leaving to go run the sound board for church.

What happened after is second hand information, but all seems to have gone well.

Things get Interesting and Plan Beta

The truth of EVE is that it’s exciting in two ways. Excitement is found in the aggregate of game play, and the political machinations inherent to such a socially dependent game. So, the above events were dreadfully boring in the specifics, but a neat and exciting experience over all. New things, new places, new conflicts and all that. The big-getters of attention in the EVE universe always stem from the political intrigue (and the resulting pew pew). Our corporations zeal to move ahead with our conquest blinded us to the reality of just how small space can really be, and into the quagmire of the political fax pas.

It turns out that the Russians on the receiving end of our forced extraction team were in reality a “sort-of” ally of ours. Yes, we were invading our quasi-friends. You don’t get pretty green arrows or name tags in EVE online, so the waters can be a bit murky at times. So, we felt a bit awkward, but mostly frustrated by our stymied plans. This meant we had to revisit our spreadsheet of glory and chain collapse holes again until we found our new NEW home. I spent the next few days spending time playing EVE by NOT playing EVE. I’d log in if needed to update my queue in the ruskie’s home, but that was it. Others who had the means and tools necessary to find what needed finding went about their job. In time a home was found, and the clarion call for a migration was given.

Our Bastion had been discovered.

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