EVE Online Chronicles: the unusual pacing of space

Before I started playing EVE I had heard over and over that the game is actually pretty boring in between flashes of heart-stopping action. Now that I’ve been playing it myself for a couple of weeks I think “boring” is unfair but I can see where the sentiment comes from. In between shooting and fleeing and selling and fleecing, there is an awful lot of waiting around.

Over the weekend a few friends and acquaintances offered to take me out on my first trip to low security space, where life is hard and likely full of rockets to the face. It was a fairly lengthy process, certainly more so than usual because I am a newbie.

First I had to travel to our meeting place close to a low-sec border. Travel is no small matter in EVE. There are over 7,500 star systems in the game, so even with the warp drive function it can take a very long time to get to certain places. My course this time only required 11 jumps, but that’s still a fair bit of time — imagine having to take 11 gryphon flights to your destination in WoW. (I’ve taken to playing Candy Crush Saga on my phone while I’m travelling in high-sec space.)

A while later I finally arrived at the meeting point, where my friends graciously gave me an appropriately appointed ship. After a few minutes of fiddling with our UIs and going over protocol, we formed a fleet (group) and headed towards low-sec.

Group travel is a little strange in EVE. With the game allowing travel in any direction and few landmarks (spacemarks?) it’s pretty easy to get separated. Because of this, Fleet Commanders can warp the entire group to one spot. In this group we would warp to a spot, everyone would use the jump gate, and then we’d indicate when we were through so no ship was left behind.

I was starting to get the hang of it all when things got very exciting. We warped over to a gate only to discover that there was a large group camping it, hoping to pick off unaware travellers like us. Everyone in the fleet started talking at once as all the hostile red names popped up on our Overviews. “Jump! Jump!” the Fleet Commander called out, and I scrambled to click the little “Jump” button.

As soon as we all appeared on the other side of the gate (and we all did surprisingly), the FC warped us a short distance away. After a moment someone said on Mumble, “They’re through the gate! That blob is coming after us!” and I felt a tinge of panic. We started zipping around the star system, eventually chilling out between a couple of planets until the scanner came up empty. My heart was pounding the entire time.

After that we skipped across the universe some more until we found a suitable spot in low-sec. The FC told us to start a 2500 meter orbit around a nearby abandoned space station.

And then we waited. Slowly, gently, quietly drifting in a rough circle around a bit of space debris, we waited for someone to come along and shoot at us. And waited. And drifted. And waited. No one came. I started to play more Candy Crush Saga.

“Welcome to EVE,” someone said on Mumble.

 

(PS: Would you like to see some boring video of people talking about EVE while floating in space not really doing much? Watch my video!)

WildStar is WoW 2.0 and That’s Okay

Despite the fact that I still think their player character models are unexciting (boob-bots! two different human races!), I’m already looking forward to WildStar.

Much of my anticipation is simply because their videos are quite good and have a fun tone. I also really like some of the new gameplay ideas we’ve seen so far, such as Paths. But probably the biggest reason I’m looking forward to the game is that the devs are not promising new paradigms or pillars or any of the other grandiose claims we’ve seen in MMOs recently. Instead I get the feeling that Carbine is trying to make an updated WoW in Space, and I am pretty okay with that.

They’ve certainly referenced old school WoW quite a bit in their development, helped by the fact that Carbine includes over 17 lead and senior developers who once worked for Blizzard. (Caydiem, one of the original WoW Blues, is on the staff too.) There are 20 and 40-man raids for the 1%. Resource nodes are not instanced, and mobs are taggable. You have hotbars with many skills. There’s a hit rating stat. Old school, people.

But wait — this appreciation of the Burning Crusade school of MMO design is tempered by features straight out of 2013, like incredibly robust player housing, remote quest turnins, in-combat dodging and double-jumping, and a twist on the multi-guild idea called “circles“. And, yes, promises of ample content for level-capped solo players.

It’s this combination of old school attitudes with new school quality-of-life features that has me most excited for WildStar. Many games have come out in the last few years that directly mimiced WoW, usually with limited success, and I’ve done my fair share of complaining about “WoW clones”. For whatever reason though WildStar feels less like a clone and more like an update. It’s not quite the old school grind of Burining Crusade, but it’s also not quite the solo gaming of Guild Wars 2.

Of course the proof is in the playing, so who knows if the game will actually live up to its promises. For now, though, consider me a tentative passenger on the train to hype town.

EVE Online, Day Two: Death, here is thy sting
May23

EVE Online, Day Two: Death, here is thy sting

Yes, despite all expectations I am still playing EVE and in fact just bought a month of subscription (or PLEX or whatever). I’m still working on the many career tutorials in high-sec space, and picking up lots of good world tips from my corp.

At this stage much of the game is like an endless UI puzzle. The features are surprisingly deep and customizable, but cryptic at first. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong, but navigation and awareness seem to come more from overlays than from actually looking out of your ship. The Overview Scanner is your true window to the world, and I’m currently in the process of bashing it into something I can understand — red is bad, obviously, but the list of names and symbols still takes me some time to decode.

eveoverview EVE Online, Day Two: Death, here is thy sting

Your window to the world, from the EO forums

For one brief moment last night I felt I had perhaps actually grasped the basics of space combat. I was doing a Military mission and blasting away some NPC pirates. Everything seemed to be coming together — I was picking off pirates that got too far away from their pack, starting on the outside and working my way in. I would orbit in close for a few shots off my close-range, more powerful gun, and then move back out to continue plinking with my less powerful ranged weapon. I got in the groove of activating my shield repair for a couple of cycles and then turning it off again, keeping my ship healthy while not depleting my capacitor. The pirates were no match for me. I was Liore, SPACE WARRIOR.

Then five more stronger pirates popped out from behind a structure and blew up my ship real good. Oops.

I flew my pod back to the local training station and assessed the situation. First, rereading my mission showed that I should have spotted the second wave of pirates and then warped the heck out of there. Look, people, I am Liore, Space Warrior not Liore, Space .. Mission Reader! Okay fine.. there might be a lesson there.

Second, I had no ship now and my “good” (the finest fittings newbie tutorials have to offer!) shield and weapons were gone. Welcome to the sandbox. It was a little disconcerting, and it took me a minute to realize that I should hit the Market. Fortunately Ibis Frigates were cheap and my station had a lot of sellers. It took about 30,000 ISK to get back to a flyable state, which in the scheme of things is not much. (Being blown up also activated the Insurance tutorial, which was amusing timing.)

Azuriel wrote in his recent post on Dust 514 that he is the kind of player who doesn’t like using consumables, “still hesitating to use the stockpile of Elixirs while fighting the final boss”. EVE makes me feel the same way. Technically I have a very slightly better ship in my hold (a Mantis) that I got from a mission, but I’m afraid to use and then lose it. I think just like how raiding in WoW got me used to the idea of dying all the time, I am going to have to get used to the idea of losing my baby ships in EVE.

Plans for the future: More tutorials and my first trip to Jita, the big market hub.

Cat Context 26: You got your story in my first person shooter! (Bioshock Infinite)

This week on Cat Context we finally figure out what the heck happened in Bioshock Infinite, and discuss if First Person Shooters are really a good vehicle for story.

Special guest Mangle is back again, and we get into the Bioshock Infinite spoilers. Did the game kind of lose the plot in the middle? Were the racist tropes used effectively? And just what happened at the end, anyway?

The Bioshock chat also got us talking about whether cramming intense stories into FPS games is really a good idea both creatively and financially. Liore argues that the average game player doesn’t care about story and would probably rather keep it out of their action games if they had the choice. Elly, on the other hand, feels that story and action go together like peanut butter and chocolate and we’ll only see more Bioshock-like games in the future. Mild shouting ensues, of course.

As always Liore is joined by the most excellent Arolaide and Ellyndrial.

Send your questions or comments to podcast@lioreblog.com, tweet @Liores, or call our voice mail at (347) 565-4673 and be entered to win a copy of the Humble Bundle – Blendo Games edition on the next podcast! (That includes Atom Zombie Smashers, 30 Flights of Loving, and more!)

It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)

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Adventures in Space: EVE Online, Day 1
May20

Adventures in Space: EVE Online, Day 1

I’m on this week’s episode of the MMORPG.com podcast, “Game On: Epic Slant Press Edition“, talking about RIFT’s move to free-to-play. Thanks a lot to hosts Adam and Chris for having me on — it was a ton of fun!

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In my post about RIFT last week I mentioned feeling like a bit of an MMO dinosaur. The things I value in my massively multiplayer games — community, group problem solving, rewards for completing difficult or time-consuming tasks — have fallen out of favor recently with both players and developers, and while the market goes where it will I still wanted a game to play.

I moped about it for a day or two, honestly. “I need an MMO that still values old school style”, I thought to myself at some point. “One with an emphasis on teamwork and difficulty and slowly working towards goals an– oh shit. EVE.”

And that is how I came to start my new life in space. My mission: be social, throw myself into group activities, embrace the infamously inconvenient game design, and see just how much of my pining for the old MMO dinosaur ways is nostalgia and how much is truly how I like to play MMORPGs.

Day One

2013 05 15 23 38 22 EVE 150x150 Adventures in Space: EVE Online, Day 1The first thing I did after creating my character and logging into the game was join a Corporation (guild). A discussion site I frequent has a smallish corp that seems full of chill adult nerd types, so that was my first stop. Even here, though, I had to go through a series of tests, sending emails around with secret codes and whatnot to prove my identity and that I was probably not a spy coming to steal space valuables. Truth be told, I enjoyed the extra layer of skullduggery.

Once that was sorted out, it was time to actually learn how to play the game. One of my new corp-mates said that my many years of MMO experience would make the learning process faster, but I’m not sure how true that is. EVE has.. many menus. Many. Maaaany. At one point in the very first tutorial the game reminds you to close UI windows when you no longer need them, because otherwise your entire viewport very quickly becomes stacked up with information grids.

evebig 500x375 Adventures in Space: EVE Online, Day 1

EVE newbie interface. Image from GiantBomb.com. Click for big!

The trend towards streamlining the first few minutes of an MMO and packing them with action doesn’t seem to have made it to CCP’s headquarters in Iceland. For example, shortly after I undocked for the first time I realized that I didn’t properly pick up a quest. I managed to figure out how to turn around and head back to the station, and then I had a very peaceful 10 minutes or so while my pod slowly putt-putted its way back. Was it the most exciting use of my game time? No, but it made me laugh and I certainly learned a lesson about checking I had everything I needed before jetting off into space.

I will have plenty of time to learn these kinds of lessons before I meet up with my corp. Along with the basic introductory tutorial there are 50 advanced tutorial missions that teach you skills in Business, Industry, Military, PVP, and Exploration. These missions are optional, but they give skills, ships, currency, and other bonuses that seem useful for a new player so my plan is to work through them. (I’ve finished the intro tutorial and about half the Military missions so far.)

While I’m doing the tutorials I can start training my skills. Even my casual corp has a list of strongly recommended skills that will take players anywhere from two weeks to a month to learn. That’s right — it could conceivably be a MONTH before my character is properly prepared to jet off and meet up with the rest of the corp. Things do not move quickly in EVE, it seems.

Speaking of proper preparation, I have already managed to earn my first PVP death although it was a little underwhelming. At one point my game crashed while logging off, and I guess my little pod was left drifting through space. When I logged back on I was in a strange location with an automated “Sorry you got blown up” letter in my mailbox. I look forward to being a more active participant in my death in the future.

Tutorials and skill training started, corp joined, and a space death. Day One of EVE: success!

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