Confession of a Spaceship Captain

I’m going to admit something to myself (and you by consequence): Historically, I have been incredibly bad at the game of EVE. That is to say, that I’ve always been almost completely broke, never having any amount of savings, and not having a good kill record. Point of fact, right now, I believe I have about 10 million isk in my bank account. There are reasons for all of this of course, and I like to call them lessons. In EVE, being bad is only a temporary set-back if you learn from it, and I’ve had a lot of lessons in being “bad”, and I think it all boils down to a problem of ambition.

When I first started playing EVE, it was with a mix of many different dreams. There was so much to do, that it all sounded like amazing fun, and I wanted to do all of it. I wanted to do everything. Be the lone-wolf space pirate scourging any care-bear I find. The massive carrier pilot flying with impunity, ready to destroy anyone foolish enough to challenge me. A deep space explorer, finding wormholes and ancient technology. I wanted to build a base and own a corner of the universe with friends to start an empire. Or to fly a fighter ship and enjoy thrilling dogfights in massive air battles for my nation. So much to do!

So of course, I immediately headed for low-sec space. I attacked some people, died a lot. All while watching my sec status quickly plummet to under -5. By the time I started to actually learn what the game was about, and how foolish my first decision had been, shit had gone south. As I joined corporations, I became vividly aware of the realities of sec-status in Empire space. The number of ships I lost to Concord gate-ships easily numbers in the dozens (mostly Caracals). I keenly recall being in Blue Federation, joining a fleet and expressing concern that my sec-status will get me wrecked as I traveled to the 0.9 security system they had designated. I was assured of my safety.

That did not end well.

Consequently, a lot of my time in EVE has been practice in frustration, albeit, good frustration. The time has contained the feeling that persists when trying to solve a problem you KNOW there is a solution to, if you could just work at it a bit longer. A knot or logic problem that you could solve if you just had a little more time… But I get distracted, and go off to pursue another avenue of fun, and the next time, I landed in Null-sec, with a group of players that are good people, but probably not the right fit for my play-schedule. It was a corporation in the Romanian Legion, and I actually learned a lot in my time there. Of jump bridges, jump clones, and star maps.

To stop this from winding further into an abbreviated history of my time in EVE, I’ll summarize the sentiment with this: I never approached EVE with a concrete plan. I bounced around like a suger-high three-year old in shiny object factory. This last month of play for me has been very directed and intentional (for lack of a better word). I’m still a bit broke, but it’s from purchasing investments as opposed to loses. My plans going forward are to place myself on what is a more traditional evolutionary play-track for the game, perhaps 29 million skill-points later than usual. Once I feel I have a solid handle and a happy cushion in my wallet, I’ll see about moving onto other endeavors.

This is one of the great things about EVE, no matter where you may be, you can still achieve in the game, because all your goals and markers are of your own making. Success is defined by the player.

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!


If you haven’t read this yet, you really need to. It is probably one of the sexiest  bits if MMO news I have ever read. Beyond just my fan of the game and the genre, it brings a layer of connectivity and interaction that has been unseen of before. This is the kind of innovation and advancement that MMOs should be headed. When you heat MMO 3.0, this is the level of change I think of.

Where is this all going?


I can’t help but wonder what route MMOs are going in the future. We have games like Rift, that are revolutionary in their playability, and polish – changing the perception of the industry only releasing rough products, but at the same time, reinforcing the same repetitive themepark PvE gameplay that has been done ad nauseam. As players, is this really what we’re all looking for? Am I so singular in my tastes that the style of Rift is something I can only take in small, irregular doses? Have we, as a gaming community come to the point of development that we want to be guided by a nose ring to each “event” in a game? I can’t help but look at what is constantly released, and think to myself, that the game creators obviously seem to think this is what we want.

I’m over this paradigm.

I don’t want levels anymore. I don’t want zone lines, or explicit groups, or dungeons, or scripted raids. I don’t taunts/detaunts, I don’t want traditional aggro mechanics where one guy takes a beating while everyone else supports him. I don’t want a finite number of repeatable, divided playrooms that hold no permanent impact beyond the couple of minutes or hours I put into the task. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one specific style of play, and I don’t want to be coddled from my mistakes.

I want the freedom to cause myself more troubles further down the road.  I want the tree I chop down for lumber to actually be chopped down. I want that steel broadsword I forged after spending months mastering the skill to last the rest of my character’s life. I want to take that sword to an enchanter to imbue it with magical properties. I want to name my sword, and have it be a part of the character of my avatar, as iconic and intrinsic to who my avatar is as his eye color and race. I want my corner of the world/universe to really be just a corner of a greater, far-reaching, MASSIVE whole. Just a portion of a system that functions beyond my understanding, and that I will only find out about if I go and discover it first hand. I want that discovery to take time, travel needs to be actual travel. Going to the south of the continent? The quick way is by boat, the slow way is by horse, and if you expect that horse to run the whole way, you’ll be in for a surprise when it drops dead of exhaustion.

I don’t know if those things are possible anymore. The existence of recording programs, screen-shots, proliferation of internet and refinement of search tools may have just created too much information access to be able to adhere to any of my above desires. Others though, surely must still be able to be retained, and are separate from information propagation. None of those things seem to be what developers are trying to make though. The majority seem to be “telling a story”, or “crafting an experience”, or “guiding the fun”. It seems to me though, that the more explicitly these things are trying to be artificially engineered, the further they get from hitting the mark.


Because it works.

Players stopped wanting to work for reward, and companies saw profit in facsimileing achievement through faux effort. They were right, and profit has been achieved – at least for those who disguised the effortless achievement well enough. So, MMOs have become more about gaming, and less about player habitation in the environments. I’ve talked about what I see as the difference between games and MMOs. I’ve talked about the difference between virtual worlds and games. Both of those concepts form legs of the entire reasoning of what I believe has caused the divergent path the genre is headed on, and I do mean divergent. The genre started as a graphical realization of the free form games played on pencil and paper, or (more chronologically relevant) in text via telnet clients. The place where MMOs are going now, is not the natural predecessor of those limitless worlds.

I remember reading an article when in I was in highschool, about the fundamental differences between JRPG’s (Japanese RPG’s – i.e. Final Fantasy, Fantasy Star, etc…) and WRPGs (Western RPG’s – i.e. Fallout, NWN, etc…). It highlighted the linear, singular path available in most JRPG’s contrasted with the more free-roam, open-ended WRPG’s. Where one focused on telling a very specific story, the other told the story, but let you influence how the story was told. The themepark MMOs of now are as much different from what was originally idealized, and are as different as JRPG’s are from WRPG’s. Today’s MMO games are limited, walled off, and narrow, artificial boundaries abound, and prevent the player from experiencing anything outside of the predetermined experience envisioned by the creator of the game,and that runs counter to what it is I love about these games, as well as my oft-written statement of “options are good”.

So, is the entire genre headed to a themepark guided “bliss” of queues and sanitized experiences that you and thousands of others can “share” via identical experiences separated by actual cooperation? With games like Rift being as big of an initial hit as it is, and the temporarily abated fervor of SW:TOR, it seems that way. Players want to play alone, but they want to be alone with everyone else. There’s an apparent desire for all the trappings of a single player game, but with the inclusiveness and Scooby Snacks of progressive accomplishments, but none of the collaborative effort that makes those prizes actually rewarding.


There’s a large part of me that hopes Zynga keeps exploding, and takes up so much of the market that it will be very clear that what the believed segment of MMO players were, was actually just a lot of people who enjoyed some games. I love the MMO genre, but what it’s turning into, is something that I don’t really recognize on the whole. It’s become a beast of monotony and repetition, brimming with illusory prizes and illusionary accomplishments. If it means that the bottom has to fall out for companies to get a realistic read on the customer base for players who actually want virtual worlds, then so be it.

Of course, maybe that’s already happened, and that’s why what’s happening, is happening.

THQ in Montreal

THQ is opening a huge studio in Montreal. That link is the news story that tried to distill the information in this interview with Danny Bilson. The reasoning for a new studio in Montreal is pretty straight-forward: lots of talent locally, and (more importantly) a huge tax incentive for the studio. Game companies are having to spend enormous wads of cash on games now to get gamers to play them, and a 37.5% tax break is a HUGE incentive. Business go where they can do the work they do the cheapest, and Bilson encourages States here south of Canada to do more to entice companies to make bases in their cities. I’ll leave the eco-political remainder of that idea alone.

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European Colleagues

In case you weren’t paying attention, this last weekend, Games Workshop held their Gamesday event in the UK. Those WAR fans out there should take special note of this, because Andy Belford flew over there to take part in the event and to reveal gobs of information to the fans, and our great Euro Bloggers were there to get all the information.

  • Start with WarAura, which has an amazing write-up conglomeration of a mass of info.
  • Then head to Bruglir’s Blog, who has a similar write-up, with his own twist.
  • Later on, head to Bootae’s Bloody Blog, who supposedly will have something up, eventually. Until then, check out his pretty pictures!
  • The Price of Wargh! already has some commentary and responses to the news. Find out why he is underwhelmed.
  • Werit, in his typical freakishly-early morning post schedule, talks briefly about the Skaven.
  • Skar gives Mythic props for their willingness to change things, but is dubious about the direction micro-transactions may take WAR.

It’s early still, and I expect a lot more to come from the WAR blog community as well as maybe a few chirps here and there from those who pay attention to MMOs in general. Oh, wait, you want MY commentary and thoughts on all these announced changes so far? Well, golly gee-wilikers, follow the jump, and you may just get it.

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Ninja Leglolas in 1.3.6

It’s alway been surprising to me that the shadow warrior class didn’t have a bigger following given it’s immediate visual references to popular pop-internet-culture memes. Namely, the fantasy fan-boi hardon for the theatrical adaptation of Legolas, and the ever popular Ninja. The appearance of the class is a clever blend of bows, swords, and masks that make the career appear to be a deadly assassin and get the adolescent juices of every young boy firing in over drive faster than Angelina Jolie in Gia. I think it’s always been a bit of a testament to the lackluster state of the career that it remained near the bottom of the barrel of population despite its immediate “pick me!” appearance. Maybe this is why almost everyone you know has a Shadow Warrior alt left languishing in tier 2 or 3, but never seemed to take it any further.

However, there are a lot of things coming with the new patch that I believe are culminating in a very substantial step towards the class being competitive. Maybe not desired, or a first choice, but competitive, and I mean this for both single target assist trains and bomb groups. The class is seeing an overall slight boots in damage thanks to the recent change of including the melee weapon into the calculation for ability damage. With a 70.0 DPS sword, Shadow Warriors will see about a +36 DPS universal to all physical attacks (sorry, not for you Festerbomb). This, in it’s own right, isn’t a game changer, but it’s a rectifier for a long-inequitable situation. It’s also one of the many small changes we’re seeing.

The class is also waving adieu to minimum ranges, the damage increasing tactic is being lowered BUT the situationaly negative aspect is being removed, a range increaser for the mid-range attacks, and a tactic that gives a situational cast-time increaser. The career is becoming more dynamic and varied in its play. I can easily switch between short and long range without seeing a detriment to any of them. I can apply all my debuffs when that Choppa is standing right on top of me, and I can hit you with my fast, low-damage mobile attacks from 100′ away. The play of the class is being opened up to actually play more in line with its intent, of being effective at multiple ranges.

That said,  I think the career is still going to lack the consistent killing power/utility that lets the other RDPS’s (Sorc, BW, SH) be so deadly. In future iterations of the game, I hope to have the lethality of the class placed somewhere other than a once-a-minute trick pony.

Produzentenbrief – Juni 2010

That’s German for “just under the wire”. Or Producer’s Letter June 2010, if you want to be a kill-joy. Did I ever mention that I really want to learn German? Always thought it was a very cool sound and interesting language. Anyway, goodbye tangent, hello message. Yesterday, Carrie dropped her June letter on all of us eagerly waiting and squirming fans of Warhmmer Online. We wanted insights and gleans into the details of what’s going on. We want that every month, and that doesn’t happen. It’s almost as if the producer’s letter is more of a general outline and not a detailed laundry list…

In all seriousness, this was a pretty typical letter. Sadly, I feel like a good chunk of the letter got necessarily eaten up with information about the consolidation of all European servers under the Mythic name and control. We got about four paragraphs of the seven on game-substantive changes and plans. It took out a bit of the sexy lingerie and gave us boy shorts instead. Cute, and attractive, but not the mouth-watering hotness we want. That’s not to say the letter itself was devoid of information or empty of things I can really sink my teeth into. Instead, only half of the letter was stuff that, if I am honest, aren’t on top of my priority lists and are a bit of old news. I mean, come on, we knew about it a couple of days ago (I know, I know, I’m being a jerk. Europeans need to be assured that all will go well and this is for the best). In internet time, news more than a day old is history.

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The magical tripple-E

Nothing says "sex" to geeks like a game logo on a woman's ass.

E3 has arrived.

I remember a few scant years ago (okay 6 years ago), I had no idea what E3 was. That’s right, I was clueless as to its existence. I was coming off my college-years high of booze and women, so super-awesome video-game geekery wasn’t high on my list of things I was interested in. Once I settling into “real-life” I found myself looking into the video game industry and it’s communities more and more, including E3. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably aware of this event already, and if you’re not, go here. Just know, that E3 is a magical place, where wonderful things happen. Hot women entice nerds to their booths, fun drama occurs everywhere, and the newest toys get represented. Actual magic can happen there. Not your uncle’s trick of cutting your mom in half. No. Real magic. If I was to show up there, ever, I would expect Cthulu to be summoned.

Just sayin’.

In any matter, to get to the meat of what I’m talking about here: Warhammer is approaching close to two years old now, and Mythic made it clear they didn’t plan on having any presence themselves at the expo. I don’t think even the magical powers of E3 can conjour up a game company that doesn’t want to present itself to the masses.

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Do I need to wash my hands?

Just an FYI: this is going to be a long, rambly post, with probably no concern to anyone other than myself. I’m trying to work through what it is I’ve been experiencing in-game of late and the resulting future participation I am worried about by putting it to word. Feel free to read if you’re REALLY bored, but don’t expect any great insight, hilarity, or scathing witticisms in this one. It’s more what you read from a teenage boy, laying on his bed as he hurriedly scribbles in his journal (not a diary! diaries are for girls!).

You’ve been warned.

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The Big Q’s

Man, I just thought of a much better title for my post on the city thanks to this one (The Big Queue). Sigh, inspiration often comes late.

This will be the final set of questions from my time at Mythic on Friday with Carrie (or Dagny as I will forever think of her now). This was an interesting conversation we had, in two parts. It’s very clear when speaking with her that she is passionate about the game as a whole, and that her outlook on gaming is slightly different from some of the others we had spoken with. She, by nature of her new role, has to take a broader, long term look at the game as a whole, and craft where she sees it going. Frequently when answering a question, she would close her eyes, and you could see them darting back and forth as if reviewing documents or information on a computer screen. It struck me as a form of conscious REM sleep, where there is so much information that it is necessary to block out the surroundings and visually sort her thoughts and memory. So, here is the low-down, I’ll be SW as usual, and Ms. Gouskos will be CG.

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