Important Lessons

Last night, I went out to scout some systems in my Buzzard for a corp-mate going to hi-sec with shopping list. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Beach, this is an event similar to when Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton go out to pick up the necessities for the inhabitants of their jungle paradise home. Well, in one system I was going ahead to scout, I came out of the gate, in my default cloak.

Some things I was not aware of:

  1. Gate cloaks only last 30 seconds.
  2. You cannot use a cloaking device once you are targeted.
  3. You cannot use a cloaking device to override the gate cloak with your own.

Oh, how three small pieces of information could have made a world of difference for my poor carion-eater-inspired ship. You see, as I was relaying the information to the corp mate who was waiting to see what the status was, my gate cloak dropped, and the enemy sitting on the gate had a sensor booster to insta-lock me and then take me out in just a few short volleys. By the time I realized what was going on, I was into structure, and then quickly saying good-night to my pretty, pretty ship.

After a few moments of cursing and vitriol, I asked in vent what went wrong, and the three listed information points were made clear to me. As well as a good method of (more) safely traveling in a cloaked ship.

Eve is a harsh teacher, and as frustrating as it can be at times, you can usually learn something from every encounter.

 

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Light-bulb

Guild Wars 2 = WAR (with three sides and perfect realm balance)

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.

Passing thoughts

Gamescon is over, and I missed a lot of it. My interest in the new and upcoming stuff is waning, or at the very least, not pushing against that wall of excitement the industry attempts to construct from hype and mystery to ensure a continued revenue stream (except for Battlefield 3 – that shit looks crazy yo). Sure, a few things were bound to catch my ear, only by sheer volume of the social circles I run around the perimeter of. Wrath of Heroes and Wildstar seeming to be the two that with the biggest foundation in place amongst my cliques, and I’ll admit – the giant robot that was fought in the raid of SW:TOR perked up my ears. I wouldn’t say that I have ennui towards the institutions or developments, more of a contented disinterest, as nothing really (again, except Battlefield 3) grabbed me by the genitals and dragged me down to the floor with it for a romp in the hay. I am at peace with my current gaming distribution, and calmly waiting for the few objects I see in the hazy distance. I understand now why a placated population is so much in demand by some, and can be so dreadfully dangers to others – then content make no demands, and demands drive innovation.

There’s the portion of my brain, nagging me to research and delve, and find out what all went on. The portion that craves knowledge and information to analyze and decide. To call judgment and declare that THIS is the side of the line that my opinion falls upon. Immediately afterward, the portion that controls the actual doing then points out InFamous, Wipeout, BioShock, and a stack of other games that I still have yet to play through and suggests to me that perhaps the new and exciting can wait, and that an opinion doesn’t always need to be formed early on, as if some type of posterity is at stake.

So, anything you think I should take a look at? What piqued your interest? What do you think I should keep my eyes on?

Oh, and seriously, go watch the Battlefield 3 trailer.

It always brings you back

Feeling the WAR itch again. Going to see about possibly transferring my Knight to Norn and joining back up with my old guild. Going to queue up the download when I get home.

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!

image

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.

Drawing a line in the sand(box)

The defining factor that differentiates a sandbox from a themepark is an end goal. Wait, Fallout games are considered sandboxes aren’t they? Okay, so the defining factor that differentiates a sandbox from a themepark MMO is and end goal. Different rules for different genres, I am on board with that, and it makes sense to apply them as such. So, if we proceed with that being the line upon which genre-specific titles fall, then we have a clear definition and understanding of what to expect.

Except things are never that simple.

In the typical sandbox, you set out with a decision of “what do I want to DO?”. Pick a vocation of sorts, or just a type of gameplay, and you can go have at it. Want to be a space tailor? Have at it! Want to be a bar-room dancer? You can still do it, but not as well as you used to. Build ships and sail the open seas, braving the ocean depths with each league? I think you can do that, in a limited fashion at least.  You can play a pirate (space or sea), a trader, a craftsman, a bar owner, an entertainer, a warrior, an assassin, a leader, a manager, an economist, or even a farmer in some games. The goal behind the sandbox is to provide you options of how to play in the world. In themeparks your options are more limited, or sometimes it’s the world that’s limited. What happens when a themepark becomes astoundingly huge, and your options of what you want to play are exhaustive?

This is the question I’ve been bouncing around in my skull for the past couple weeks, and I haven’t really come up with a clear answer.

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One of those moments

One of the things that I really enjoy about MMOs in general is their overall complexity. The games themselves are so large, so involved, and so varied, that the details and intricacies of each separate game are a bit like a fingerprint as to the identity of the game itself. This complex system of rules and laws can seem quick to decipher at first, but even veteran players can find themselves finding out something new on occasion. When the light of discovery shines on the realization, my response ranges from joy and elation to shame and embarrassment. A tangled web of emotional processes that helps feed my continual appreciation for the genre. Last evening, I was thrust in to just such a situation while playing Everquest 2.

Since I picked up my dirge on my return to the game, I have really wanted to get his crafting level up close to his adventuring level. For those unaware – EQ2 has probably the best crafting system of any themepark MMO out there currently. It’s a fully fleshed out, deep and broad part of the game that’s difficult to find a parallel to in other games out there. In any matter, my desire to maintain the proximity of equivalence between the two is something I had never been able to maintain in any previous endeavor with the game. Killing things has always just been much more fun – but I was resolved this time around.

To that end, almost all of last weekend, I had cranked my experience distribution to go 95% towards my AA and 5% towards my actual adventuring level. This is part of how I was able to skyrocket from 32 AA to 78 AA in a week – which is in and of itself a very useful result, so my distribution is not wasted in the slightest. What I did over the weekend of play, and since, is travel between the zones intended for the 40-50 level ranges, harvesting everything in site, and doing as many quests and timelines as I could. After I felt I needed a break from mindless quest/kill grind, I would go back and grind out recipes to level.

Anyone who actively plays EQ2 is shaking their head in perplexed wonder at this point. The thing that I was not aware of, and that I just found out about last night, is that there are quests in tradeskill halls called “work orders”. These quests don’t give adventure experience like I had initially thought – they reward tradeskill experience – and a LOT of it. To give you  numbers for concrete comparisons: if completing a recipe of like level gave me 150 experience, that would be about 1% of a level. Finishing a “rush order” – a timed set of items I needed to craft – I would get in return about 4000 experience, about 20% of a level. That would be in addition to the experience for crafting the individual items themselves. As you can expect, these put afterburners on my tradeskill leveling. It also left me thrilled that I no longer would have to slave away hunting thousands of mats for crafting, and spend painful hours reproducing the same product ad nauseam. Of course, there is the embarrassment and shame I felt toward myself for being so foolish as to have missed this integral part of the game for so long. This small revelation has completely shifted my entire outlook on a portion of the game – what was formerly a painful and time-consuming chore has turned into an enjoyable side-experience.

It’s hard to remember at times, but no matter how much we may learn about any one game, there is almost always more to discover and find out – and some of it is probably even obvious.

Crossing the line

My wife pounded three Pabst and said I had to use this one.

If you follow me on twitter, you may have already read snippets about what I’m going to say here. If not, a quick refresher: last Thursday I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and was given pain meds for afterwards. Because of this, I had Friday off from work, and have been more-or-less excused/denied from doing anything of real import around the house. Apparently, we don’t need a person hopped up on narcotics driving a vehicle, operating sharp yard tools, or given babies a bath. This meant that I basically had a weekend free to do whatever gaming I wanted. Happily, SOE released their much-enjoyed welcome-back campaign at roughly the same time, in response to the hack-hear-around-the-world.

I played Everquest 2 extensively in my past. It was probably the first MMO I put a huge chunk (over a year) of continuous time into. The welcome back campaign was a great way to entice me back to the game to see how things are going. I didn’t play my level 80 Shadowknight like I expected I would. For some reason, I jumped onto my (adventure/artisan) level 39/35 with low 30 AA’s, and started playing him. I played the crap out of him. All my vitality has been burned for a while, and I’m seeing the game in a whole new way – literally.

When I gave the game a good try, I didn’t have my current video card, and I don’t think I ever tuned my graphics to take advantage of the rig I had, so the world looked a bit like it did to me back in 2006. Now, the game is gorgeous, the textures and lighting that are still in this game continue to impress me, and I actually noticed backdrops and the far-off world around me. Lavastorm in particular has been amazing, in part because it received a bit of an overhaul to accommodate new expansions. Beyond the world itself though, is the character models. I was seeing amazing looking gear and items on players, stuff that made me instantly say to myself, “That’s freakin’ cool!”. There’s a “wow” factor that wasn’t quite there before.

And that’s where it hit me. I saw some gear on Kerra, and when I inspected him, it was all in his appearance slot, and the stats were junk. So in short order of hunting around, I found armor sets for sale on the market place. Oh, the dreaded market place of RMT – the cesspool of MMOs that I disagree with on a fundamental moral foundation. But damn that armor looked awesome…

So I crossed the line. I dropped $5 on a game, that I’m not even officially subscribed to, and bought a whole outfit for my Bard. I’m playing virtual dress-up in my MMOs now. But damnit, I don’t think I care.

Evidence of my betrayal after the jump.

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Light my fire

On today’s Rift article…

I sort of wish I was joking, but I’m not, and today I will be talking about Rift again. I’ve really wanted to get onto the Deepstrike server to actually play the stash of advance names I had claimed there. Two bloggers I know (and LIKE) are playing there as well, also, I hear-tell that a good chunk of old Gorfanger’s from WAR are making that their home. So, when I got home last night with my daughter from daycare (around 6:15), I booted up the client, saw the queue was approximately 45 minutes, and thought, “Perfect! Baby’s bedtime is 7:00, couldn’t have asked for better timing.”. So while I finished doing baby stuff, wife cooked dinner, and had enough time to have a meal with the misses after putting our spawnling to bed before jumping into the server.

As I mentioned before, I wanted to recreate the Shadowknight concept from EQ’s of past, and I continued along that route. Primarily putting points into Reaver, with a side of Champion, and a no-point homage to Warlord. For PvP, it’s been a fun mix. There’s an ability in the Reaver tree to turn all (3) of my DoTs into AoE spells while active. Two of those DoTs right now are ranged, and one of those two is a life-tap. So, in the one Warfront I can play in (Black Forest? Black Temple? whatever, doesn’t matter), the enemy team almost ALWAYS runs up to the center en masse, clogging between some of the giant spikes to where the fang is going to reside. This is the perfect opportunity to drop those AoEs, and ensure a decent incoming health-stream. I then run deeper into the mix, hit my AoE damage/taunt, and start spamming my frontal cone attack. It brings pain. Of course, this is only at level 15, so I’m sure there’s a lot of changes to come.

On the PvE side of the coin, for regular solo-questing, it has worked perfectly fine – as expected. For that type of gameplay, you almost have to TRY to fail at it, by either playing dumb or going AFK for extended periods of time. However, before I hit the sack last night, I got to experience a full scale-fire invasion. I’d participated in some of the Death invasions when I played Defiant during beta, but something about this one last night was different. Perhaps because it was a live environment, or maybe just the setting, but I actually had a good time participating in this. The entire woods of the zone gained an orange-red hue, which gave a real sense of danger, triggering memories of old submarine movies where the red lights bathe the captain’s face during combat scenes. The map was filled with orange swirls, black squares quartered with an orange cross, and crossed swords (if you play the “where’d this feature come from” game, then you’ll recognize the swords from WAR). Blazing arrows from each icon indicated the direction of attack of enemy forces when you hovered over their icon.

It was a fucking war, and the chaos that ensued was appropriate. Raid groups were running around all over the place, forming up to take out the captains and footholds of each invasion. The crossed swords are the invasion forces where the planar parties spawn out of. The footholds are stationary spawn points that need to be taken out to prevent more enemy groups from spawning, but they are often protected until a main leader is taken out first. Rifts are the random, semi-mobile PQs that often spin out enemy groups as well. The shit wasn’t easy at this point either, maybe because of a lack of healers, or just because I was not playing with any groups I trust or can rely on. Total pugs, but things didn’t always go down with ease, until the zerg piled up on it. The events are so big, and so wide-spread, that it’s hard to focus energy on any one attack. The sheer quantity and magnitude of the invading forces is helping to ensure that the players are fuck-all organized and just spread to the corners of the map. This is how PvE is supposed to be. This is PvE that is actually fun.

Sadly, the eternal pessimist in me is sure that in a couple of months time, players will have figured out the best, most efficient way of killing these things, and the fun chaos of the situation will be turned into a structured action list to make even the most stringent German engineer go, “Don’t you think you’re being a bit too particular?”. So, I am going to try to enjoy the insanity of invasions for as long as I can. I hearken it to the ORvR of early WAR, where it was just insane fun early on, but as time went on, and efficiency became king, it lost some of its luster. This is the advantage to playing an MMO at launch. This is the reason why you jump into a game early. The fun of a game after it’s been dissected by the player base is completely different from the fun at launch.