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!

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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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.

Moros Dead

Yay for corp-wide text messages telling me to get in game. I got to whore a kill on a Moros. 5 billion isk kill is a great way to increase my efficiency rating!

An economic MMO bubble

I started to respond to a reader along this line yesterday, but as I started to churn the idea over and reign in my response to be comment-appropriate, it made me realize there was probably something more significant in the topic I was just barely touching upon in my reply. In my reply itself I alluded to the fact that the industry seems to think there are millions of potential players of MMOs out there, just waiting to be seized up by an appropriately suitable title. That these players do indeed want to be a part of the MMO gaming genre. I’ve mentioned it in the past that I don’t think this is reality, and people seem to be coming around to the idea that WoW really is an aberration and not the standard.

Reality is simple: there are not 5+ million MMO players out there. What we have is a bubble of perceived worth of games in the genre.

The sooner that EVERYONE can wrap their heads around that concept, the better off the industry as a whole will be. I do mean everyone: investors, licensor, licensees, publishers, developers, and fans. We all hold equal a share of the blame in this situation. Investors see the initial cost, and don’t want to take the chance unless really huge and fast returns can be made, with the potential for astronomical returns in the long run. Licensor and -ees want to get the investor money, because these things are big, and having an entrenched IP can help shore up weak points in a product. Publishers are basically in the same boat as investors. Developers want to make games, and many find the logistical nightmare of funding and distribution impossible without the experience and backing of the others – thus they remain beholden to their monetary support. Fans geek out, expect everything, and remain violently enamored of their first experience.

We’ve been seeing an escalation in the production costs of games. Age of Conan. Warhammer Online. SW:TOR. Each game’s release potentially more expensive than the previous, and that’s just in recent history. None of these games have been the wild success hoped for at their inception, and yet, the perception of the MMO pot of gold hasn’t wavered even a little bit. The price of components surrounding the genre is going up. The believed barrier of entry is seen to be getting higher, based on the actions of the players at the perceived top.

They have forced a bubble, and eventually it will pop.

Conversely, we have those who keep their heads “low”. CCP is the Alpha of the “little dogs”, and doing fabulously well on their “meager” 300k subscribers. How many other companies hold a yearly giant party? Last I heard, Darkfall is still chugging along at a good pace, and is working at their expected snail-speed on development of DarkFall 2.0. Wurm? Xyson? These are all games that are unquestionably sandbox, and have been around for a fair bit of time.

Bubbles are always results of perceptions. The pop will occur when outsiders who think that 300k is a back-alley niche of unprofitable business have a light-switch thrown. When recognition of reality sets in; these games are meant to run for years or decades, not for a three month peek followed by a slow 5 year degradation into oblivion and neglect. Play to the strengths of the genre, and rewards will follow.

Or just keep chasing that dragon, but try not to drag the rest of us down with you.

I’m turning into Wilhelm

Old and posting images of EVE in place of actual writing.

Four days a week, I leave the house at 7:00 am and get home at 9:00 pm (work + school). I then usually do homework while I eat dinner. I squeeze in an hour or so of gaming when I can, and in that time, I’m usually on EVE (or DoTA2). Here’s some screen-caps of EVE from the past couple weeks. Follow the jump so I don’t a-splode you on the home page.

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Well, at least I didn’t waste my time

Want to know where I stopped reading this interview?

RPS: You dedicated a lot of the presentation to discussing how solo quests can affect the world – for instance, by putting a horde of restless ghost baddies to rest. Is the goal of Elder Scrolls Online to more or less make the player feel like the hero of a single-player RPG?

Paul Sage: Absolutely.

Right there. The end. Crossed off my list of even-giving-a-thought. It is amazing how a single player game that does SO many things right, can fail on such a big level in the transition. This shit ain’t easy, not going to say it is. But its not that difficult to see the giant flashing light bulbs that are warning of a fail-cascade up ahead either.

The highs are high

But the lows are low.

Some days, you’re darting between sites, killing enemy targets with impunity. Other days, you make 19 jumps to catch the tail end of the action, hearing about it the whole way, only to find the k-space entrance was rolled 3 minutes before you showed up, and the new one is literally 2 jumps from where you started.

Dust, Wormholes, and Inferno

A good chunk of my game-time these last couple weekends has been spent “testing” Dust514, and by testing, I mean playing. The NDA is pretty strict, so I’m just going to tell you that. I’ve been playing it.

Whenever I possibly can.

As for EVE, wormhole life has been chugging along at a good pace. It has allowed me to be fairly casual in my approach to gameplay, which surprises me. I’m able to just log into the game and update my PI stuff on nights I don’t have a lot of time (for whatever reason), and in actuality, we have enough competent people, that it has felt almost like a dearth of activity unless you are able to be on for a fleet op. Like Cyndre said though, there’s a sense of us having stretched the current life to its fullest. We’ve hit a groove, and have been digging it in pretty well. The question of where we go from here and how soon is an ever-present query. I expect good things, and soon.

EVE Inferno related news is that the recent patch (1.06) hit. EVE expansions are an interesting beast, in that there’s rarely an immediate effect that has instant impact on your game life. Instead of recreating the world like traditional themepark games, whether by obseletion of the old or actual revamp of the existing, EVE expansions merely redefine and add greater depth to the existing. The Inferno expansion overall is probably one of the more impactful, in that it had a direct effect on industrialists and drone space that could be felt pretty quickly by most.

I just re-looked at my title, and realized people may think I only wanted to talk about EVE. That wasn’t the intent, but I find it humorous that two games I’m taking part in, both have the word Inferno as a prominent current inclusion. I wanted to just mention that I hit level 60 with my Monk in Diablo 3 and made my way into Inferno difficulty. Which is ridiculous, what-the-fuck, hard. Normal was a breeze, Nightmare was still pretty simple but had some challenges, Hell was genuinely difficult, and Inferno just kicked my ass up and down the street for the couple of hours time I gave it. The rewards had better be fantastic to warrant the level of masochistic tendencies required to stay in it. I’m still on the fence on whether to stick with the Monk to at least get the items I need to finish upgrading my Jeweler and Blacksmith, or to just move onto a possibly more forgiving ranged character.

All-in-all, good times all around.