Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Nine Tailed Fox

The learning curve, or cliff as it has been satirized, is overwhelming and will seem to never end. I am not implying that I am a master of EVE, but please consider this a somewhat objective opinion from a non-jaded noob, for what it's worth. There are several popular truisms that exist and are restated in several different EVE guides. Things such as 'don't fly what you can't afford to lose' and the like. I won't restate them here. I will however give my impression of these, and try to fill in some of the gray area left between them.

Tail One--There is no WASD. Among the most difficult thing to adjust to when jumping into EVE is the fact that you do not control your entity, in this case a ship, using typical means. This can lead to massive confusion and a sense of being lost. Try to put into perspective the distances we deal with in EVE. If a solar system is 32 Astronomical Units (AU) across, and one AU is roughly 150 million kilometers, how long would it take your ship to fly from one end to the other without warping. If you're in a frigate going 400m / second the answer is something like 10,500 hours.

Tail Two--You must un-learn what you have learned. I would guess that a very large percentage of players entering New Eden have previous MMO experience. There is no defined path of progression. There is no invisible yet overbearing developer shuffling your piece along a board in a very constrained fashion so that your play experience, while possibly fun, is ultimately limited by it's own nature. EVE will give you a sense of freedom like no other, but your expectations may give you a feeling that there is nothing to do at times. Whenever you find yourself feeling this way, keep in mind it could be simply due to a lack of guidance from a master you never knew you had, and enjoy your freedom.

Tail Three--Don't rush to failure. EVE is at once appealing for the ability to improve your skills without even being logged in. This can also be damning for some players. Those that have been adapted to being spoon-fed what to do and where to do it will have a hard time with this. This is all a matter of how one perceives time, and the fact that EVE time is equal to 'RL' time. In other MMO's, the amount of time you actively spend developing your character determines the speed at which you reach your goal. In EVE, your goal may be dependent on a particular skill which has four or five days remaining on it. This is an overwhelming concept for some, and can lead to making drastic and costly mistakes or may increase the feeling that there is nothing to do. A new player may begin to question why they spend so much time looking at their ship from different angles while safely docked. EVE requires patience. You must learn to apply patience to every aspect of your play.

Tail Four--Time is money. Veteran MMO players will be dazzled by EVE's economics. The market is incredibly complicated, and entirely player driven. Many virtual economies have been ruined by currency flooding the market due to players spending their real world money on in-game currency. The obvious solution is to simply forbid players from doing this, but EVE has simply and ingeniously curtailed this by establishing real world value to their in game currency. This is accomplished by allowing players to pay for their play time with in-game currency. I would submit that the actual in-game currency of EVE is not ISK, but rather it is SP. Ideally ISK is converted to time which produces skill points, which allow you to develop more lucrative forms of making ISK. All of this is guesswork because I'm certainly not an economist, but I think it will improve your play experience if you realize that SP is the true currency, and everything else simply revolves around exchanging this currency.

Tail Five--The Fragile Id. We've seen it repeatedly in our fiction, and I think it is illustrated beautifully by EVE Online. The human psyche is simply too fragile to exist in extreme environments. Reference the learning curve above. The majority of the players above never made it to the top to be crucified by the experts. EVE is perhaps the most brutal game I've experienced. Don't take this to mean it is filled with violence and blood, because if that is what you seek then you will be disappointed. EVE is however a brilliant illustration of the brutality of human nature. Players fall all across the spectrum of behaviors, and questioning why another player just turned your ship into dust is a waste of time. You must accept that the only reason that matters is 'because I can'. There are monsters, and they are out to get you.

Tail Six--Mechanical Wonder. If you haven't yet been overwhelmed by possibilities, you will surely be overwhelmed by game mechanics. It is likely that the new player will be completely and utterly confused by the notion that statistics are not inherent to their character. Your character's skills improve your module's statistics, but not to the point that there is an 'I win' button. I have been working to improve my play for nearly six months. I have spent time in game earning money to buy better stuff. I have spent time training my pilot's skills to levels IV and V. The most valuable use of my time thus far has been spent reading guides and resources and other player's blogs learning what I can about the game mechanics. At least, if you are offended by low-intelligence people, you won't have a hard time socializing in EVE Online.

Tail Seven--We all Tank down here Georgie. Break yourself out of the molds. Tank, Healer, DPS...prisons. These terms have their places in EVE, but not in the sense that new players may think. Every player must be their own tank. In other games, the play basically revolves around damage, and the three things you can do with it. You are either taking damage, dealing damage, or healing damage. These are not mutually exclusive in EVE, and if your character has skills to fulfill one role, you will also be able fulfill another. I think this ultimately leads to a superbly balanced game, in terms of PVE and PVP. The game is not divided into PVE and PVP like others, and although these terms continue to be used in EVE, I honestly think the game is beyond both of them.

Tail Eight--Preparation. I can come home from work, pop on the Wii and have some fun with Mario Bros. Not a whole lot goes into it, and I can play and enjoy the game while completely zoned out. EVE, on the other hand is a high-maintenance, cruel and unforgiving mistress. I've found myself becoming more and more addicted to combat. This is certainly not helping my wallet, but it is hard to restrain myself from the hunt long enough to accomplish menial tasks that fund and procure the equipment I am continually losing. EVE Online might be the most difficult for a new player to enjoy because if you turn it on and zone out, you will become quickly frustrated with your losses.

Tail Nine--Fog of War. The illustration above is very accurate, but it is missing the layers of fog and haze as you ascend the curve, as you would see climbing to the top of a mountain. This fog perfectly keeps you from orienting yourself on the curve. Although you may think you have reached the top, you must always be ready for a learning experience in the form of waking up in a cloning vat.

Learn your lessons well, and if you come to a point where you begin to doubt your abilities, simply count your tails.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Good Impression of Myself.

A chasm between point A and point B this week. A lot has gone on, and my feeble writing skills may not suffice to keep this somewhat on topic. For starters, the Recruiter Fight duel didn't turn out so well for me, but the original intent of an exercise in building Alliance cohesion seemed to work pretty well. Although I lost my Vexor, it was still good to see so many in attendance for the event, and I believe something like 100 million changed hands due to bets being placed. Too bad for those betting on me I made a few critical newb mistakes, even accidentally recalling my drones at one point. Hopefully Symbiogenesis continues to do great things, although I totally disagree with holding a cruiser tournament on the test server. Guess that brings me to my next point. Moving on from Critical Mass Inc.

It's a big decision to leave the corp, but I think it's for the best. Seems like only yesterday I was guided through some sleeper anomaly combat sites, in a domi I could only fit medium turrets on. Nik W, 3rd Panzer, jamesthejust, and others will be missed. I've talked this over with Nik W and I think he understands. When I joined Critical Mass Inc., I honestly had no idea what EVE could offer. But as I began growing in ability I realized what I enjoyed most about my EVE experience thus far. For clarity sake we'll just call it Piracy for now, until I figure a better term to describe the experience. These past few weeks have been marked by more and more solo flights through low-sec, searching for the rush that only that type of engagement can bring. During my time spent as a 'wannabe' I spent a lot of time reading the exploits of the great pirates...Ka Jolo, Wensley, Spectre to name a few. But it wasn't until a glimpse of a pirate in EON Magazine would I finally arrive on the decision to strike out in low-sec. Sard Caid was only briefly mentioned as the author of a blog listed in the EVE DIRECTORY section. After reading said blog I decided to drop into the 'Broadside' channel and give Sard a piece of my mind. And by piece of my mind I mean I wanted to tell him I really enjoyed his writing. As soon as I joined the channel I was completely star-struck. Several of the most famousest of hobbi...pirates were there in the channel, and seemed to be getting a kick out of the newb who was so star struck. At any rate, Sard and Rax, thanks again for inspiring me.

So the final nail in my coffin has to be a lonely patrol in Molden Heath. I had barely 15 minutes in the seat of an interceptor when I decided to get a feel for her. I jumped into an empty clone and set a course for Kamela, taking only five or so jumps through Providence to get there. I felt pretty confident in my abilities to escape a gate camp, which ultimately hinges on decision making ability. Burn away, re-approach, whatever the situation calls for you only have to choose quickly. I figured that given my Taranis' speed, I would surely be able to dodge any campers. I should have calculated the likelyhood that my client would get all 'Socket Closed' right as I jumped gate. Of course I logged back in to see the familiar surroundings of Gamis X - Ammatar Fleet Logistic Support station. Frustrated that I didn't even get the chance to try my 'ceptor's capabilities on a null-sec camp, I threw together another 'ranis and set course for Molden Health, with the plan being to simply park the 'ceptor and the clone in preparation for the invitation to gang-up with Sard and Rax soon.

Arriving in Molden Health, I found no shortage of would-be targets on my directional, and set about narrowing them down. Even though I had no plans to tangle with a Vexor, I was curious about his movements. One belt to another, then a planet, then another belt. Then tech 1 medium drones on scan. Curious. Noticing the local channel, I had my first encounter with Franga. He was piloting the Tristan I was looking at on scan, and attempting to challenge the Vexor pilot to a fight. Delighted at the thought of trying out a tech 1 frigate in my 'ceptor, I began scanning the celestials, and found the Tristan near a planet. Warping in at 100km, he and I were separated by about 70km, a distance I figured I could easily cover. Making my mind to go for it, I again saw him in local saying something to the effect that 'oops, i hate this game sometimes'. It occured to me that he was most likely trying to goad me into engaging him. That feeling continued to build as I noticed he wasn't making effort to align his ship. What better way to describe that type of fight than by calling it a 'blur'...or maybe blankly stating that 'it all happened so fast'. We tangled up, and drones started whirring. I switched from my MWD to my AB and set a tight orbit, checking that I was still within optimal of my blasters. Seeing that his ship was already bleeding some structure before I even started shooting, I swallowed down the bad feeling I was getting from this cat, and overclocked my blasters. My eyes must have bounced between my own ship's armor readout and my target's armor percentage a hundred times in the span of a few seconds. Seeing that he was fueling an armor repair unit with his ship's capacitor, which I had no means of taking from him, I realized that I would get to try my hand at escaping a fight. I set a course as close to 180 degrees away from the Tristan as I could manage, and pulled my drones back in as I anxiously watched my range increase. 6k, 7k, 7.5k...come on come on. Here's where the formula gets all skewed. Take equal parts dread and adrenaline, and combine in bowl. Fold in inexperience and add fail to taste. I turned off my AB. I saw that it had nearly a full cycle left at around 8k, and judged that I would be 10k or so by the end of it's cycle. I had reasoned that I would be clear of his scrambler and my ship would then be able to engage it's MWD to make good the escape. I TURNED OFF MY AB. As soon as the AB cycle ended, the Tristan was right back on top of me and too much of my own armor was in flash-frozen-droplet form to hope for another escape. Anyway, I can't locate the kill mail for this posting, but lesson learned. Good fight. Franga, being the gentlemen he is, discussed the fight with me, curious if I had burned out my AB. Wouldn't that be a better excuse? And does the term 'gentlemen' even exist in Australia?

Anyway, let's move on. That's how I met Franga, who then invited me to fleet-up with him and his Tristan for some more action. I threw together my third Taranis and linked up with the still bleeding Tristan in the next system over. What an unbelievable night. Sometimes I find myself standing at the end of a string of random occurrences, and realizing those random events are telling me something. In this case, they were telling me I'm on the right path, and I was meant to be in Molden Heath that evening. Franga types in fleet chat that he has found a Rokh on scan at a belt, and wants to know if I'm comfortable engaging a BS, considering I just got owned by a tech 1 frigate. I reason that a rail fit Rokh will surely not be able to track us, and give my blessing. We warped in to the belt, and Franga arrived before me exclaiming in fleet chat that the Rokh was indeed rail fit, and I needed to be hauling ass ... POINT!. Franga called primary on any drones he might launch, and then I thought 'oh ya! drones!' and sent my two loyal Warrior II's about their business. It didn't dawn on me for a few days, but I'm still waiting on Franga to pay me back for those two drones. No way the Rokh blew up my Warrior II's that fast man, come on. Anyway, good fight! Of course, it would have been better if I hadn't warped to a gate in my excitment, but everything happens for a reason! Sard Caid himself was sitting at that very gate I had just impaled my busted Taranis upon, and got quite a kick out of local during and after the fight. Apparently the Rokh had backup in the next system, but told them the wrong belt, and they didn't arrive in time to save him. The Rook showed up on overview right as the fireworks started, but I had already pilfered the wreck and engaged the final flight of my Taranis. Franga wasn't so lucky on the escape, but I still want my drones back.

So all these random events are like road signs telling me I made the right decision in leaving the Symbiogenesis alliance. I hope you all the best. Fridge, you talk to much. Waited a long time to say that. Fly safe!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Recruiter fight

About a month ago, two individuals from my Alliance were recognized for outstanding contributions to their respective corporations by winning a recruiting competition. Blackrabs from Crimson Star Empire, and myself from Critical Mass Inc. The directors in the Alliance had formed a cash reward and a sizeable collection of faction mods that was to be divied up between Blackrabs and myself.

I hadn't really spoken much to Blackrabs, but realizing the opportunity to raise moral and build cohesiveness in the newly formed alliance--and of course given my recently discovered bloodlust--I offered a challenge to Blackrabs of a fight to the death, winner take all. It also just seemed easier than deciding who would get what from the loot. Blackrabs readily agreed, and we agreed upon the conditions:

Tech I cruisers, all Tech I mods and drones (named okay, not faction), no target jamming.

A nice simple slug-fest. We both decided that during the first week of January we would establish a date and get our duel on. I then got busy learning about cruiser fittings from our local corp inaugural cruiser tourny winner. I determined several skills that could highly bolster my chances of surviving. Turns out that this was a great opportunity to train some skills that would have otherwise taken a low priority in my training plans. All of my armor compensation skills are now at level 4, and I have gained a few levels of drone interfacing to level 3. What an amazing skill! Twenty percent drone damage per level? How'd I overlook that one?

Anyway, here it is the beginning of the second week of January, and it's only a matter of scheduling a time for the duel. Given Blackrabs is in the UK and I'm smack in the middle of the US of A, this has turned out to be a bit more of an issue than we thought.

Check back soon for an accounting of the duel, and hopefully a story about my hangar being filled with faction loots!

I am not

I am not a Buddhist. I am not even religious. I'm not an English major, and I'm not a writer. I am not a sociology student, nor a theologian.

The thought occurred to me to continue listing things that I am not because it would be somewhat catchy as a disclaimer. Most people with a bit of logic would quickly interject how it would be much quicker to simply list the things that you are. Of course that totally fails as a disclaimer, and these same people would also fail to see the need for a disclaimer in the first place. The cup might be half full folks, but if you are able to quickly explain all the things that make you you, well then, you are a shallow cup indeed.

I've spent several days reading the first posts of all my favorite blogs, thinking I might gain some insight into how to get this thing started and why I even have the desire to do it in the first place. I think this is as good a start as any, and maybe I'll figure out the second part along the way.

Oh, also, I play EVE Online. This blog is intended to relate stories about my experiences in EVE Online, and as everything else it will become more defined with time. I'll simply start out with a bit of background information.

When my EVE Online character first came to be, I simply chose a picture that looked cool. My idea of cool wasn't the typical head tilted forward, mean-mugging grizzly looking dude, or the mysterious cloaked Emperor Palpatine throwback. Nor did I set out to fill the MMORPG (Many Men Online Role Playing Girls) mold. Instead I went for a picture of a pilot that looked happy. I had already created and shamefully deleted one pilot...another story perhaps for a later time. The point here is that I already had a cursory understanding of the truely brutal nature of EVE Online, and I wanted to begin my capsuleer career on the old addage of 'what goes around, comes around'. I set out with a portrait that would smile at every pilot I encountered, and an idea that I would reap what I sow. It is a beautiful coincidince that my chosen happy-panda portrait is one of a Vherokior, because their background and features are perfect for my ideals. Just to quickly recap, I chose a Matari pilot because the picture looked good. Not because I wanted to promote some anti-slavery, Amarrian hating ideals. Slavery gets shit done.

Anyway, don't misunderstand the ideals that my pilot was created on. I don't pretend to fly the stars bringing hope and justice and all the do-gooder stuff. The notion of reaping what one sows is quite a bit deeper than what you might know of it. Most of us remember the notion as a grammar school lesson--Don't pull the other childern's hair, because you wouldn't want your hair being pulled. To better explain...I am a noob. But, even though I am a noob, my pilot still has enough skills to fit a battlecruiser capable of tanking sentry guns and fast locking other noobs who stumble into lowsec in a destroyer. I could sit and camp gates and get at least a few kills. However, I don't engage in that activity. I know that if I were to put myself in that situation I would overlook some obscure game mechanic, or a bigger fish that better understand those mechanics would come along...and I would reap it (what I had sown). Again, don't misunderstand. This doesn't mean that I am opposed to kills. I have a few 'good kills' already, and my falling security status reflects that. I'm simply saying that I would not set out fill my killboard with crappy kills. This would be bad karma I think.

Everyone has their purpose. It might be that you are helping noobs learn the brutality of EVE. It might also be that your purpose is simply to serve as a warning to others. I trust that there are more than enough of both types in New Eden, and I will continue to seek The Middle Way.