Arriving where you started

There are days in EVE where the best you can hope for, is to end up in the same place that you started, or at least, close to it. Yesterday was one such day for me. I began my day with a fully fit Drake, sporting some high named launchers and T2 fittings, with a good set of shield regen rigs. Missioning happily away for my NPC corp de jour, and padding my pocket-book a bit, in anticipation of making a little fiscal safety net before I venture forth into the realm of a Raven or a sporty little Hawk. Things were going well, until I decided to move systems to a moderately better quality agent a couple of systems away.

The move took a little time, as I was moving about 8 systems out, and had to make the trip twice. Once for my mission boat, and once for my salvaging boat. A 24 jump move, so not the end of the world, but definitely not a quick skip. Once settled I quickly polished off a same-system mission, and then grabbed a second. I ignorantly ignored the warning of “lo-sec” for the mission, seeing it was “only” 0.4 space, I’ve lived much of my life in lo-sec with little drawbacks, plus, I was going to be in the “safety” of mission space.

Rule #2 of EVE: mission space is not safe space.

I got lazy, soft, complacent. Whatever you want to call it, and ignored my local, in large part because it was fairly busy for a lo-sec system with 24 players there. No matter what the reasoning, within 3 minutes of my starting conflict with the mission rats, a red warped in to me. He probably had combat probes out scanning for targets whenever he saw a new name pop up in local. Remember how I said I had been lazy? Yeah, I wasn’t aligned to anything, and in the slow floating brick of a drake, I knew that meant death the second he showed up. Before I could align, and initiate warp to escape, I was scrambled, and in comes another little red skull-square onto my screen and overview. I knew it was officially over once the point was on me, and said as much as local. I still threw what I could at the guy, but in even less time than it took his partner to show up, two MORE came to partake in the fun.

4 v 1 is bad odds for the one.

I don’t know if there were just looking to PvP gank, or if they were potential pirates trying to make a buck. I don’t know, because the tank is so thick on my Drake that I had enough time to tell them not to bother asking for ransom, because I don’t have any implants worth paying for, and they acquiesced, podding me and putting me back into the clone bath after a tortoriously long sit-and-wait on my part.

In the end, between the insurance and the wad of cash I had saved up, I had about the 50 million needed to purchase a new clone, new drake, insure it,  and mostly refit it to where it was. I got everything except the rigs. I still have my skills, and the improved sec status from killing rats that will let me start doing missioning in more safe areas of space in the near future. The day wasn’t a complete wash, but man, it was definitely not productive in the end, and more than anything, I hate dieing, and in EVE that pretty much only happens when you play foolishly – making it just that much more bitter a pill to swallow.

Realm of the Fair

Did my first dungeon in Rift this weekend: Realm of the Fae. I was level 19, and the tank for the instance, so I was definitely on the far side of the power spectrum it was intended for. My PUG group cut through it faster than a lightsaber through the fleshy neck of badly written bounty hunter. My overall description of the experience would be “fair”.

The second role I had purchased let me go with a Paladin primary soul which was a shield specialist according to the tooltip. I figured that’d be a good way to go for PvE, and made a sword/shield at the forge before heading in, so it was very “fair” in allowing the group to get going even though we originally didn’t have the right classes. The rules of the instance were fair, as in equitable.  Tanks tanked, DPS killed things, and healers kept us all alive. Pulls weren’t insane, pathing was fine, not a single mob bugged out. Most of the group had done this before, so they knew how the encounters were supposed to operate, and they worked exactly as expected. Kill left, kill right, kill center. Looting was fair, in the traditional need/greed/pass setup. The story was fair as well, nothing extraordinary. Elf-guy is unhappy with the guardians, and doesn’t think the Vigil will get the job done, so he’s going after an artifact to help him further his agenda of some, blabbity, blah, blah.

The highlight of the whole thing – it was QUICK. Once we got in there, we were done in well under an hour. For PvE – that’s a length of time I can strongly get behind. I hope that all instances in the game run as smoothly and quickly as this one. I can handle PvE like that in a game. In WAR I hated the PvE, they got the “length” of their dungeons right, but the time never was what it should have been because you were endlessly dealing with bugs that invariably set back your completion time. In Rift, I may be able to tolerate it if I can say to my wife, “This will take an hour (45 min, 90 min, or whatever)”, and then it actually take that much time to finish.

I’ve JUST broken into Gloamwood, so open world PvP hasn’t been hopping yet, but I have kept at the warfronts. Guardian PUGs are pretty terrible in there, but they seem to do somewhat better in The Codex than the do in Black Garden.

On a final, unrelated note: my video card has been somewhat stable since I pulled it out of my case and blew the thick, black dust off the fan. The damn thing is still loud, and I hear it struggling at times, and making noises that I associate with a death rattle or a ”  *   ” in a comic book chat bubble. So I’m looking at relatively cheap video card replacements, nothing more than $75 or so. Right now, my eye is on thisthis, or this. The last I’m a bit sketchy on as it’s “re-certified”. I’m somewhat limited for two reasons. My power supply is only 350W, and there is fuck-all for space in there, so huge mega-fans that protrude past an extra expansion slots depth isn’t going to happen (I may be able to remove the capture card I have and release that restriction though). I’m trying to make sure that whatever I get will fit within those parameters. I’m leaning towards the first, the GT430. There’s no SLI, but that’s not a negative for me, as my motherboard only has the one PCIe slot, so a second video card is an impossibility.

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.

…Aw fuck

I don't have any actual animosity towards this kid. I do think it's funny that so many people express such intense dislike for him. To me, he's a non-entity, and I probably wouldn't recognize him if I saw him on the street without a throng of weeping tween girls.

[Edit: WordPress gets wonky when adding pictures with captions. By wonky, I mean, it likes to chop out chunks of  an intro, like this introductory paragraph that Beiber gobbled up. If my post seemed like it was starting out in the middle of a conversation, that’s because it was. Sorry about the mix-up!]

I was happily going about my weekend, doing things that I do. I got my Shadowknight in EQ progression server to 18. Was happy about that. I should have just been content with that. I should have just kept on rolling with the leveling, and continued to enjoy the social atmosphere of playing a game that actually reinforces group cooperation. I should have, but I didn’t.

When I knew I only had a bit of time for short-term play, I was jumping into EQ2. I played around a bit on a new character, and then on a level 39 alt I had, and eventually on my old 80 Shadowknight – and I just wasn’t having fun. There’s too many abilities, my old standby UI (Profit) has gone out of date it seems, and I can’t even update collection quests with it. Mostly, my issue was just too many abilities. Three hot-bars of combat abilities, and at least one of buffs – it’s absurd how much there is. The only thing that keeps me coming back to EQ2 is the housing. What SOE did with housing in that game is amazing, and the level of integration with the rest of the game should be lauded. Beyond that, the ingenuity of players to craft amazing looking homes is some of the best emergant creativity I have seen in any game.

So, my eye kept straying to that Rift icon. After my post on Friday, I was kind of curious to get the first hand experience with the queue. I still had the headstart active from a pre-order I had put with the game a bit back as a “just-in-case” measure, and as a way to ensure a name-grab. All the tweets about the game weren’t exactly pushing me away from the game, and there is nothing like that new-launch smell…

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Something there that wasn’t there before

I'm a dad, I play disney for my daughter in the car. She loves it. Get over it.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, last night was the opening of the open Beta for Rift. You may also recall my relatively luke-warm reception of the game. I’ve said it elsewhere, but I can’t recall if I explicitly stated it here, I had zero intention of playing the game at launch, or after launch. It was a good, clean, crisp, well polished rehashing of everything I’ve done in the past in every other themepark fantasy game. My excito-meter wasn’t exactly breaking the glass. In fact, I hadn’t even played any of the close beta’s beyond the third when I made my UI video, my disinterest was that low.

Last night, saw me in the game. A strange confluence of events left me with no other outlet of MMO-dom. Both EVE and CoH had patches to download that required a whole 10s of minutes, and I’m damned if I’m going to wait around that long to play a game. My wife was happily dominating time on our PS3, playing the copy of Katamari Forever I got for her birthday. WAR, I found out, my subscription had ended, and I didn’t feel a particular urge to re-up, as I hadn’t even played in a number of weeks, and couldn’t recall when my sub had actually expired (I’ll revisit this later).  So, I looked at my Rift icon, thought, what the heck, I’ll start the patcher and see which game wins in the patch-race.

Rift finished first.

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Mixed bags are fun bags

I’ve been having to approach the way that I play EVE of recent a lot differently. Previously, I came at the game, from a PvP standpoint, more like I did an FPS or WAR. I would go find someone, and if the coast seemed reasonably clear, I’d give the fight a go. Usually, I’d be flying in my PvP fit Rifter (a frigate), and frequently, I’d (unknowingly) be taking on a battlecruiser. The end result was commonly to my detriment. The outcome of all these bad decisions learning experiences is that, at 11.5 million skill points, I had, and I shit you not, a mere 600k isk. So, I reevaluated the way I was playing, and refocused on a money-making aspect I had let slide.

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I’ve gone rogue

I >almost< went with the 5th google-image result of "dual pistols", but changed my mind.

I have been playing a lot of the various MMOs out on the market that are F2P. The big shocker: they’ve all been PvE! *GASP* Honestly, it’s more because that’s what I can find, because PvP is niche (and my itch is well scratched by EVE and BFBC2). Beyond that though, the only F2P that seemed worthwhile to me so far, at a base level without any extra spending, has been LotRO. Whether that’s because it’s one I have little experience with so I don’t know what the “full” version is like, or because it is genuinely the best example of what the market has to offer, is something I’ll leave to the reader to decide. For me, the models of CO and EQ2 are just uninviting to a fun experience for me. That said, I wanted to explore a bit more fully something I mentioned in passing a few posts back.

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Incuring a Facelift

The colored dots are where Sansha has invaded.

I’ve been out of EVE the last week as a sick daughter (aka – Baby Vomit Dragon) has required gaming time with, to be blunt, people I don’t care about. It’s far easier to go /afk and disconnect a game of LoL with strangers than it is to suddenly bail on a fleet of corps-mates while doing a lo-sec roam. But, the last two nights, I’ve been able to put my daughter to bed at night at her typical time, and feel comfortable that she’ll stay asleep, and not vomit everywhere. So, when back in the game the VERY first thing I noticed was that the new character creator was implemented, and I had to update my portrait. The very second thing I remembered is that I never put together a video of the footage I took doing this. Self-condemnation set in, I’m a bad blogger. However, I’ll try to make amends for that a bit here, and may actually get around to editing that video in the future. Isn’t it nice how I can lie to myself like that? 

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This quote came from where?

[GAME] supports a lot of solo play. However, we want dungeons to be a group experience. In fact, we think the game is more fun overall when you play with friends, which is why we put so much effort into encouraging players to join guilds for [EXPANSION]. Running a hard dungeon with friends tends to be a much better experience. Communication feels less awkward, and everyone is generally more supportive of mistakes. You learn the strengths and weaknesses and nuances of players that you run with regularly. There tend to be fewer loot arguments as well. PUGs have their place — don’t get me wrong. But we don’t want to sacrifice dungeons being fun and challenging for organized groups in order to have everything be conquered by any possible group. Make sense?

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Stick and move

Rift is the first game I have seen in, well, ever, that I think has an actual shot at competing with WoW for a PvE MMO place of recognition.

I mean that with all subtleties and intricacies you can think of if you look at it through the light of the current treadmill MMO genre design.

Will talk more on it later.