Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Comfort Zone...

I played Eve a lot of yesterday...probably the single biggest ISK-making day since I've been playing...even if you don't count another timely and generous donation.

Yep, I'm now about 2/3 of the way to my Myrmidon, thanks to Davin Intaki, a really nice guy from T-GRADS. I found a very nice surprise waiting for me when I logged in yesterday, so I sent Davin a thank you note and he found me in-game. He invited me to something that I'd really like to do someday but don't think I'm ready for just yet...a trip to the Eve gate. I know it's a dangerous trip, so I want to wait until I can fly something I can afford to lose, and which could at least theoretically could survive a pirate attack long enough to get the hell out with my pod intact. One day I'll have the skills and the hardware to say "Oh yeah? Fuck you, pirate...chew on this....", but until I reach that point discretion is definitely the better part of common sense.

I blasted my way through about five missions yesterday, including a repeat of "Human Cattle", the one I was having so much trouble with when I met the BoB guys. This time, I got through it in time to collect the time bonus...a hell of a difference.

Today, I dunno...I've got a pretty full RL day ahead of me, so I don't know if I'll get any Eve in today. Maybe, if I'm lucky, an hour or two in-between appointments, but today is my big "deal with RL" day...for some reason, a lot of important things seem to fall on Wednesdays.

Still, right now I'm feeling like I'm back to making real headway toward my goals in this game, and that makes me all the more excited and anxious to get back out there asap.

There's actually more I'd like to write right now, but I just don't have the time...perhaps later, but certainly tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

/me <3 Armor Hardeners

Yep, I beat it...and, in fact, pretty easily once I had the appropriate armor hardeners installed for the damage I was taking. One thing I've had to get used to in the last day or so is following the one part of the advice of the BoB guys: To be an armor tanker, not a shield tanker.

This was slightly difficult to get used to at first. Instinctively, I'm prone to wanting to prevent as much of my indicators from going red as possible, including the outer layer. Being an armor tanker, though, I don't even go in with a shield booster anymore. When I take enough hits to lose the shield, I turn on the hardeners and my tech-2 armor repper and I have enough resistance to stay in the fight much longer than I did before, making clearing deadspace rooms full of NPC pirates a far easier proposition than it was before.

The other nice thing, of course, is that now that I'm off that mission and onto others is that I'm whipping through these level two's pretty easily. I'm still a bit hesitant right now, but once I've gotten more well-versed in the effective use of these hardeners (thanks to a timely donation, I now have two for each damage type), I might even try to go back to that ultra-low-level 3 mission I almost got instantly vaporized on the first time I tried it and give it another shot. Not just yet, though...there's more I want to learn and practice before I try something like that.

If there's any one thing about Eve, outside of the game design itself, that distinguishes it from other MMO's it's the maturity level of the players. The young smacktalker is the exception, not the rule in Eve. Yesterday, I just happened to be watching corp chat for a few minutes ( I think I was sitting outside a station running my reppers after a deadspace run), I saw someone start a conversation in which some of the players compared their or two were in their twenties but the vast majority were older, most in their thirties or forties, one I think even mentioned he was in his fifties with college age kids.

That's not to say there aren't some terrific people in other MMO's. One pleasant memory I have of Everquest is some of the people I interacted with when I played. I belonged to a terrific guild with a very generous and helpful leader...but there were also plenty of people who didn't fit that mold. In Eve, I've found a more challenging and less forgiving game, but also a player community that's more welcoming, more helpful, more mature-minded, and just more intellectual in general.

It occurs to me that the overall Eve story would make a pretty cool sci-fi fact, I'm frankly amazed it hasn't already happened yet. Talk about a movie that, by the very nature of the source material and its storyline continually evolving and progressing forward, would absolutely demand a sequel...and another...and another...maybe a series on the Sci-Fi Channel? Can you imagine the special effects budget for that one?

Personally, I suspect that the reason why the playerbase in Eve is more mature than in other MMO's is the same reason why they haven't gotten around to making a movie yet: Eve is something you have to proactively be willing to get into and immerse yourself in. The world of Eve doesn't conform itself to your desires as much as you conform your desires to be able see them realized in Eve. Eve doesn't come to you, you have to come to it. Epic battles there may be, but this is not the universe of Luke Skywalker or Captain Kirk, this is a much colder and darker place, less forgiving, less accessible, but for a certain kind of person absolutely fascinating and riveting.

So, in a little while I think I'll jump into Eve and enjoy both some good gaming and some good company.

Monday, February 26, 2007

...And Have You Met BoB?

Well, I have now...sort of.

I was in the GLBTA channel yesterday, chatting with a few people while I prepared for and then eventually tried to finish the final part of a five-part mission that was proving pretty tough. I'd gotten through the first room once the day before, but it had taken me so many runs to do that by the time I'd cleared it and made it to the second room it was time for bed. Yesterday, the entire mission had been reset and I was having the same problem.

I mentioned this in the channel and a couple of the guys in there gave me some excellent advice about my fitting and a more effective way to use armor hardeners, which I've only just begun using recently. One of them gave me a donation to cover the costs of the hardeners. Terrific guys, very willing to help out a noob in need.

The interesting part came a little later when one of the guys noticed a bug in the little indicators in the chat window. For some, including me, it had indicated we had a negative status with ourselves. Yet, when I logged out for a minute and then back in, the negative indicator on my own character went away, but it remained for two of these guys I was talking to, and I was curious as to why. One of them said something like "A lot of people have a negative status with BoB these days...". I commented that it was interesting because I'm a member of Eve-Uni and I doubted that most of the members of our corp, who are noobs or relative noobs, could ever pose even the slightest threat to BoB. Apparently, that was the wrong thing to say for some reason because within about five seconds both of these guys disappeared from the channel, as far as I know yet to return.

If I broke some unwritten wartime protocol here, I still haven't a clue what it might be. The first major war in Eve since I've been playing has broken out, but since I've had virtually zero Eve wartime experience, I suspect I may have broken some sort of taboo. On the other hand, considering how often I've heard the charge thrown around on the forums in recent times, it's possible these guys might think me a spy from an opposing alliance.

Me, a spy? Yeah right...I'm going to be infiltrating BoB through GLBTA, while still getting my ass blown out of space by level 2 NPC pirates on a regular basis. Yeah...uh-huh. What would be the point in trying such a thing? It's not like BoB is going to suddenly decide they need to recruit a pilot with two months experience, who still learning to fit and operate her ship to best effect, so, if I actually were a spy, how would it gain me anything to try to hook up with BoB using a character at my level? If I were really a spy, wouldn't I create an alt that was far more well-skilled and better equipped than I actually am, in order to hopefully entice BoB to bring me into the fold as a fighter?

I can understand the lack of trust...this sort of thing has happened before. Yet, I have to wonder if any attempt at infiltration or spying in Eve has ever been attempted so ineptly as what it seems I might be suspected of here. In addition, I've been so open and so public about my playing Eve and even the name of my character, that I can't imagine anyone who really thinks this through seriously believes I could be an alt spy. Of course, then there's the other question: Were I truly a spy, what exactly would I gain by chatting up BoB members in GLBTA? When you really think about it, you realize it makes no sense at all, especially when you consider this question:

If I truly were a spy, why on Earth (or any other planet), would I be writing a blog like this one? Seems to me that probably one of the very worst things for a spy to do would be to promote their in-game identity publicly, as I have in the course of promoting this blog on the Eve-Uni and E-O forums.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope these guys just suddenly had something else to do and vanished from the channel for that reason. These things have a way of getting out of hand and don't always jibe with common sense or even basic rationality.

In any case, I owe those BoB guys a debt. Their help was invaluable, and their advice was excellent. I'm a much more effective fighter as the result of their council, and a big reason why I hope they really don't suspect me of being a spy is that I'd like to be able to call upon their advice again in the future when I encounter them.

And just in case those guys, anyone else from BoB, or just anyone involved in the current great war is reading this, I'll spell it out right here:

I do not support BoB.

I am not opposed to BoB.

I don't know enough about BoB or any other major alliance to judge them as good, bad, or otherwise. I'll leave such judgments to those more qualified to make them.

Thus far, at least, the current war does not affect me in any could it? I've never been out of empire space, only a few times even outside of Gallente space. To reuse what I think is an apt analogy, for me to offer opinions on this war, who's right or who's wrong, who cheated or who didn't, or anything in relation to any of the surrounding events, would have all the credibility of a sandlot baseball player offering her opinion on steroid use in Major League Baseball. Maybe by the time the next major war rolls around, I'll have enough time in and experience with this game where I can speak intelligently on such subjects, but certainly not at this point, and so I've resolved to keep my mouth shut on that particular topic...for now, at least.

Now, thanks to that great and timely assistance, I'm ready to head back into deadspace and finally complete the last part of that mission. After I take care of a few things, I think I'm going to do just that. I'll let ya know how it goes...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Spaces In-Between

As artful a method of controlling player progress through time may be, there are times when it's just a complete and totally unnecessary pain in the ass. This is one of those times. There are certain missions I've drawn in this game that seem specifically created to take up as much time as possible. I'm doing one of those now.

In order to reach the actual combat area, I first have to warp to an area with a warp gate and then fly about 25km to get within the 2500m activation range. That's a few minutes at the 207/ms my Thorax manages. Once I do that, I'm warped into the first room of this mission, which I finished last night. Then, I need to cover another 50km or so to the next gate before getting to where the action is. Once there, I now have a new set of ships to deal with...since I did completely clear the first room and the wrecks timed out and vanished after a couple of hours, I'm hoping that I won't need to clear that room again today when I go in there. All in all, it takes probably around ten minutes or so just to reach the combat area right now, and I can only last in the kill zone just so long before I have to warp out and repair damage, so it's ten minutes, and then another ten minutes on the next run, and another...

I've already missed the time bonus reward on this one, but I'll get a quarter mil when I finish it. My mission here is to make it as far as a fleet of battleships and then warp's hoping they're in the next room.

I've already got a storyline mission lined up after this one, and it's one I've successfully done before with a Celestis. That one will likely be easy money once I've gotten this one done.

It's Sunday. No work, no errands to run, no social schedule, and it's cold outside. I think I'm gonna make myself a nice, steaming hot pot of coffee, and then go blow away some Amarr frigates.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"You're Gonna Make It After All..."

A little while ago, I read back the new description I just added to the title of this blog and thought to myself, "It sounds like you're the interstellar Mary Tyler Moore." Yeah, well, ok...I kind of feel like that right now, anyway. If I am, though, then I haven't even reached the beginning of Mary's show yet, when she heads out to the big city to make it on her own. No, by that kind of storyline I'm still in college (literally if you consider what corporation I'm a member of), still going to school, working blue collar part-time jobs, and preparing for that big day.

Since I began playing Eve, I've often thought about how long it would be before I'd be comfortable heading into 0.0 for the first time. I know it's where I eventually want to find myself in this game, but I also know that it's probably going to be at least a little while before I'm ready for 0.0...or before 0.0 is ready for me. Chances are, I'll probably make my first venture into 0.0 space in the course of joining a corporation with an established base there. This seems highly likely given what I've heard from other pilots as to how they were recruited to low-sec corps and made their own first forays into 0.0.

I am, at heart, an explorer. For me, there's just no better, more satisfying vacation than getting in my car and driving a very long distance, preferably well out of state. Playing Eve helps me satisfy those instincts when I can't get in the car and disappear for a while (which is generally most of the time), and more and more I find myself looking for excuses to go to places in Eve I've never been to. The only time I've ever done such a thing in this game without a valid reason was my trip to Jita. As I wrote earlier, I do want to make a trip to Korsiki and Eve-Uni HQ, but since it's twentysomething jumps each way, I don't expect I'll be doing it until I have a specific reason to go...but I do hope it'll be soon.

In my last post, I wrote that the Eve-Uni folks aren't the only terrific people I've met in this game. Now, I'm gonna be a little careful here because when I started this blog I made a promise to myself that I was going to keep this about Eve and avoid RL issues that don't directly relate to the game and the players. I write and talk about these issues enough in RL and in other media I create or participate in creating, so there's little or no need to for me to again bring them up here.

The group of folks I'm talking about find each other on an in-game channel called "GLBTA". These initials stand for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Accepting. These are folks, connected by a common bond of difference, who come to meet and connect with others like themselves. It's a terrific and very welcoming place to spend some time, and I find myself doing so regularly. The group is small, but there's a comfort level and a familiarity in that channel that I really enjoy when I'm playing. I used to be one of those who always had the chat window minimized, I've actually, I kid you not, actively carried on conversations in chat while blowing away Serpentis spies (or somesuch) in deadspace at the same time. The fact that I'm a pretty fast typist helps, a lot.

I tend to try to keep up with the corp chat and GLBTA while I'm in-game, with occasional checks of alliance and local. On the other hand, should I be heading into low-sec, I'm trained totally on local from the time I enter to the time I exit. Doing so has provided a timely alert that saved my butt at least twice. When I'm docked, I follow whatever's active.

I'm sure by now you're wondering if I'm one of those letters, G, L, B, T, or A. Well, I'm obviously A for accepting, but does the rest really matter? If I were to tell you, for example, that not one but two, or even three, of those letters applied to me, would it make a difference to you, as a reader of this blog, as a player of this game?

No, I'm not going to tell you. If you really want to know, with enough digging you can probably find the answer in plenty of places's just not going to come from me. Because when all is said and done, it's not about the answer, it's about the question.


Yesterday was a tense and busy day, but today I got to really unwind and spent most of the day playing Eve and finishing about five missions. It's slow but steady going, and I'm doing pretty well. It's weird...except for "Blockade", I seem to plow through level two missions pretty easily for the most part. One thing I do need to remember to do is launch my drones. I'm seriously considering training up my Drone skill to level 5, but I'm just not sure I want to take a week of time when I could be training probably several other things to do it....not sure it's really worth it just to be able to put 5 instead of 4 drones in space at the same time. Hmmmmm...I'll have to give that some thought.

It's nice to see the wallet beginning to fatten again. :)

I've been giving some thought to what kind of corp I'd be interested in working for when the time comes, as it eventually will, for me to leave E-Uni. Today, someone from one pretty well-known corp told me that their corp HQ was moving to 0.0 but once they were settled they'll be looking for new pilots and to look them up when I was ready. I'm sure I'll do exactly that, but I'm also sure that they won't be the only corp I'll be looking into.

Several corps interest me, but none truly intrigues me as much as the Star Fraction. I find their political philosophy interesting, although I haven't really worked out how much of it I agree with yet. Their brand of cosmic anarchy is something that I'll admit does my aging punker heart good to see. They seem to piss off a lot of establishment types...kind of reminds me of my late teens and early twenties. Would I actually join Star Fraction? In all honesty, I don't know. I'm not yet skilled or proficient enough a fighter that it's a question I have to answer immediately. Still, when I saw news of SF thumbing their noses at the conservatives recently, I couldn't help smiling.

Well, whatever...right now, I've very happy in Eve-Uni...there's a lot I still need to learn, and the people there are terrific. They're not the only terrific people I've met in this game so far, though. Perhaps I'll talk about them a little next time.

For now, it's late...g'nite.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Back In The Saddle

Around ten last night, after I was done doing something that required all of my attention and computer resources, I fired up EveMon just to check how close I was to having to change my skill training. I was still kind of busy so I really didn't give it my full attention, but after I saw I still had an hour to go and just as I was closing the program window, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my ISK total didn't look right. I knew I had less than a million, but it seemed that EveMon was telling me that I had over ten mil. Since I knew that certain stats in EveMon, such as ISK, update less frequently than others, I assumed it just hadn't updated recently and didn't really think too much about it, once again focusing on other things. A little later on, though, I realized that even if that were true, ten million-something ISK still didn't sound right. Upon firing up Eve, I discovered the truth.

The first thing I did, of course, was check my wallet. A mouseover on the Neocom told me that yes, indeed, I had well over ten million. A check of recent transactions gave me the answer I was looking for: A fellow Eve player and reader of this blog (I don't know how this person feels about being ID'd so until I do, I'll err on the side of caution and keep them anonymous) made a wonderfully sweet and generous gesture and donated ten million ISK to the Myrmidon Fund.

Now, thanks to this totally unexpected, greatly appreciated, and perfectly timed surprise, I'm back to pretty much exactly where I was before I lost my first Thorax. I finished fitting the new ship last night, but got started a little late (Thursdays are always extra-busy for me) and so I didn't get a chance to take on any missions...that starts today.

Sometimes in this game it can be tough to balance risk with boredom. In other words, if I want to absolutely sure I'll be safe, I can take on lower level missions. Sure, they pay less, but what I've got fit on this ship will plow through them easily. On the other hand they also pay far less and therefore would require a much longer time overall to earn the same amount of ISK and probably be pretty boring. The alternative, of course, is to take some risks and go for the bigger rewards. In fact, a lot of this game seems built on fostering exactly that kind of in-game behavior: taking risks and going for the big prize. It makes a lot of sense...after all, how much does a reward really matter if you didn't have to work your tail off to get it? On the other hand, when you take risks sometimes you come out on the losing end. Now flying my twenty-first purchased ship, christened Blackheart XXI, that's one lesson I've learned very well.

I've decided that at some point soon, when there's a class or some other reason to do it, I want to take an excursion to Korsiki, where Eve University HQ is located. I've never been there but it seems that a lot of what goes on with E-Uni happens there. I did make one of these "field trips" out of Gallente space about two weeks ago to go check out Jita. At first, I kept hearing people constantly refer to it but I had no idea what it actually was....a corporation, a planet, and alliance...I had no clue for weeks until I asked and found it's a system in Caldari space where Eve has developed its very own black market. I can't really tell you exactly why, but for some reason I had to go and see what the big deal was, so I set off on a thirteen-jump route through Gallente and Caldari space to Jita.

When I got there, the first thing I noticed was that there were over five hundred pilots in local. I clicked to the channel to find what seemed more like an auction than a discussion. I quickly got the idea of what was going on there, so I docked somewhere and just watched the channel for a while, knowing I had nowhere near enough ISK to even think about participating in one of these deals. The fun part of this little field trip was when I decided it was time to get back to home space.

I undocked and headed for the Kisogo gate (this was before the last patch when it was still there) and experienced something new when I tried to jump: I had to wait my turn. Understandable, I suppose, given the amount of traffic that gate must see, but still unexpected and jarring the first time. Traffic continued to be slow for the next two systems in my route back to Gallente space, but once I'd gotten past that it was smooth sailing all the way home, as I wondered if my trip to Jita had really accomplished anything other than consuming an hour and a half of my time.

I almost made the trip to Korsiki to see the recent "Frigate Smashup" event, but unfortunately, as I'd feared, I couldn't make it to my computer that day for any length of time until it was almost over. I hope they do another one of these things sure sounded like a lot of fun on corp chat.

So, yes, I'm back in the saddle and ready to rock...and in just a little while, I'm gonna log into Eve and zap me some bad guys! :)

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Another one...fucking space dust.

This makes the third Thorax I've lost since I've been flying them. Better, I suppose, than the seven or eight Celestis' I lost before I figured out that they're shit for flying missions above low-end second level. I've got a pretty good fitting worked out for the Thorax that seems to pretty easily plow through just about everything in second level missions...except for one stupid mission, that damn "Blockade".

Needless to say, the first thing I did when I docked was tell my agent where to put this stupid mission. Then, I set about putting yet another Thorax together. I'll put the finishing touches on it later, and I've got just about enough to ISK pull it off.

I'm already well under a million ISK right now and by the time I'm done, I'll be lucky if I still have a half a mil left. Insurance? Forget it...if I'm lucky, maybe I'll be able to afford one of the middle grades until I can get a few missions done and have some more ISK to play with.

Funny thing is, I am pissed off, but I'm not angry. What's the difference? I'm pissed off, in other words extremely annoyed, that I've lost yet another ship, in large part due to lag. At the same time, however, I knew I was taking a risk when I did it and I did it anyway, so can I really completely blame lag? Maybe, maybe not...either way, the Myrmidon Fund starts from scratch again...sigh.

If I do ok and complete several missions, I'll have myself a little nestegg again...if I get my ship shot out from under me again before that happens, I'm in deep shit...I'll be back to flying a destroyer for another week or two, again.

I really should train up my mining skills, but I really hate mining and thus far have successfully avoided having to do any since the tutorial. That's not a streak I really want to break, to be honest.

Tonight, I'm busy until around 11, so maybe then I'll see what I've got when I put it all together and hopefully take her out for a spin.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Just One of Those Days

While I did manage to get in one run a little earlier, it's just been one thing after another today, with not much time to really sit down, fire up Eve, and try to blow away some bad guys. Now, here it is, coming up on 8pm here on the east coast, and I'm thinking about making a few runs right after I finish this post...but I also remember what happened last night around this time in terms of lag. Nevertheless, I'm sure I'll be giving it a try shortly as common sense and patience have never been two of my most practiced virtues.

Earlier today, I posted a notice about starting this blog on the official Eve forums. It's been interesting to watch the notice sink lower and lower on the forum throughout the day until just now, when it was hovering just above the bottom of the second page of "EVE General Discussion", I bumped it back to the top. Now, I refresh the page every so often and watch the number of reads rise. Amazing how busy the Eve official forums are...I've been a member of some pretty popular ones, but nothing even close to this. I try to keep up with certain topics, but sometimes it seems like the only way to really keep track of the discussion would be to give up playing Eve and just read the forums...

One my favorite Internet radio shows is on right now, but after it's over, at 11, I think it'll be time to go rack up some bounties...

A Change In Plan

I did end up going back to try to finish the Vylade mission last night. It's the "Blockade" mission, the one where nearby pirate gangs keep dropping in to join the other words, just as you start making headway, fifteen or twenty more ships show up. I must have made at least ten runs with my new Thorax, making headway each time, but never seeming to run out of NPCs, until finally, once again the need to sleep overwhelmed the need to finish the mission and it was time to bag it.

As I wrote in my last post, I'd intended to bail out of the mission if I wasn't able to finish it last night, but during my last few sorties into deadspace I realized that I was taking out more ships each time. Also, once I'd docked for the night and checked my wallet, I also realized that I'm making a fairly nice chunk of change doing it, so I decided that it's worth at least one more try.

I'm hoping things will be easier today...Eve seemed a little, well, funky, all day yesterday. Extreme lag, along with little weirdnesses such as my suddenly being unable to lock onto ships that are indicated as being well within my range, and ships I've already locked onto suddenly unlocking as if they've gone out of range. I strongly suspect that it's the distances indicated on the overview rather than the actual distances that are inaccurate because generally when this happens it seems that while I can't hit them, they can't hit me, either. Another funky little weirdness was that the counter on the front of the Eve client when you log in indicated that there were 25,600 players pretty much all night long. I can't wait for that damn patch next Tuesday, which I believe is supposed to fix this stuff...when this shit happens, it makes combat much harder and survival that much less likely.

I suppose that this, too, is a good thing. The more handicaps I have to deal with as I learn to become a better combat pilot, the stronger and more skilled I'll be when those handicaps are eliminated or lessened...but shit, six more days of this crap? Sigh...

It's ok...I'm not complaining too loudly. Every time this mission resets, I go in there and make myself another nice pile of ISK. Eventually, I think in a few days, if I don't actually finish the mission I'll have failed it, but considering how much I'm making in bounties, it's a risk worth taking.

I'll probably jump into the game in a little while, after I take care of a few RL responsibilities, and add a little more to the Myrmideon Fund.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lag Blows

Really. What a pain in the ass! I was trying finish this stupid mission and the lag is so bad right now I barely escaped with my ship intact. Feh.

On the plus side, I'm getting better at anticipating it and having certain things ready to go or already running by the time they're needed. It doesn't eliminate the risk of untimely lag, but it does cut down on the damage a bit...usually. The way I figure it, I made my last attempt at about 8:45 (eastern local time), so I'll give it a while, maybe an hour or two, and then I'll try again and see if it's gotten any better.

I've lost several ships to the lagmonster, but there's no need for me to lose one here. With a bit of careful setup and preplanning, I should be able to finish this mission tonight. If not, I'll take the standing hit and tell my agent to shove it. It's better than losing another ship.

It's funny how I'll take more risks as gain I more ISK, knowing that if something happens, the biggest expense I'll have in getting back to where I was will be time. Thing is, it rarely lasts. I was doing pretty well, about halfway to a Brutix or a third of the way to a Myrmidion, my currently most wanted battlecruiser. Then, I got my Thorax blown up...twice. Now, I've got my ship back, but just couple of million ISK, and now this stupid mission I can't seem to finish.

Grrr...I hate waiting.

The Morning After...

So, I finished putting my ship back together last last night and headed back to Vylade to finish the mission that had taken out my last Thorax. I did manage to take out several ships before I was forced to flee (a bit sooner this time, with my ship battered but intact), but not enough to finish the mission. At that point, I was forced to confront an enemy for more powerful and insidious than any opponent I'd had to take on before in this mission: exhaustion.

It had been a busy, full day, and I was beat. I knew there was no way I would be able to keep my eyes open long enough to make another run into deadspace, so I cursed myself for not getting the mission done earlier, docked in the nearest station, and went to bed.

It's now 1pm the following day as I write this and I expect I'll be firing up Eve soon after I post this. I know that my entire mission will be reset when I attempt it again, so if I really want to beat it I know I'll have to set aside at least a couple of hours to get it done.

More and more, I keep seeing how this game's mechanics are designed to keep players from getting too far too quickly, and I don't really have a problem with that. When I'd trained the relevant social skills and started getting access to level 3 agents, my ship couldn't provide the firepower to even effectively challenge, much less beat, the opposition in even the lowest L3 missions, and I quickly realized that until I'm able to buy, equip, and insure a battlecruiser there's just no way I'm going to be able to start doing L3 missions. Right now, with my ISK depleted after having to put a new Thorax in space, it's going to be a while before I can afford such things.

The funny thing is that if this were Everquest and I'd found something similar within the game blocking or hindering progress I'd probably have screamed bloody murder, but in Eve it's acceptable because it's a hinderance that makes sense. When you move to a higher level of missions in Eve, the opposition is tougher and so must you be. With your "level" in Eve more determined by your skills and what you fly than other things such as number of kills, etc., it makes complete sense to limit player progress in this way. It makes far more sense, for example, than limiting access to certain enemies or content to characters that have achieved a certain total of experience points, are in possession of a certain artifact...or, most annoyingly, to those players who shell out more cash for a new expansion.

One of the things I love about Eve is that you're forced to stop and smell the roses, despite yourself and your in-game ambitions. Unless you are very wealthy and/or have access to an inventory of ships and modules that will allow to quickly replace what you've lost in battle, progress can be slow, but there are always ways of helping to speed the process along. Still, regardless of how potent you are in-game in terms of skills, wealth or ordinance, there are times when the only way to get what you want is by spending the necessary amount of time to get it. I read somewhere, probably on the official Eve forums, that in addition to the extremely expensive blueprint, massive amounts of various minerals needed for its construction, and astronomical requirements in production time, it takes somewhere around six months for a previously well-skilled pilot to train the necessary skills to fly a Titan.

Make no mistake, this is a very good thing. Can you imagine, for example, if every two-bit alliance in Eve that wanted a Titan could have one in fairly short order? Think nuclear proliferation...if it didn't take even the biggies an enormous amount of time and resources to produce and field one of these staggeringly lethal behemoths, no one would be safe. Eve would quickly become a drastically different game, one that a lot of the less bloodthirsty players probably wouldn't be too interested in playing. Making ultra-high-end hardware like a Titan extremely difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to acquire and field is not only in keeping with this game's seemingly endless real life correlations, but it also helps protect the game itself from becoming less friendly to new players.

See what I mean? There's a depth of thought and planning that clearly goes into this game that's far deeper than any other game I've ever played. Yeah ok, there's a lot of stuff I've never played, online especially, but I've been playing video games since Odyessy. When I was a kid, I actually won one of these first-generation video game systems as first prize in a contest sponsored by the Good Humor ice cream company. Before we started each game, we would attach a translucent plastic cover to our TV screen that contained all the graphical details such as boundaries or obstacles. Once the correct plastic-handled circuit board had been inserted into its slot on the console, Odyessy itself provided white lines on a black background to fit the screen and run the actual game. In reality, all the games were just variations on PONG in some way, and most of the difference between them was within the player's own imagination. Even so, my brothers and I had a blast with it, for a while...

It's now over 30 years later. I've watched this industry top and re-top itself over and over. To me, Eve seems an excellent example of the kind of elegance of design that can be achieved when a game is designed to continue, expand, and evolve, rather than one which has a self-contained set amount of content and an eventual end. To my way of thinking, it's MMOG's, and Eve especially, which are truly at the leading edge of gaming in terms of quality of experience.

Ok, enough...for now.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ok, Here We Go...

In a little while, I'll be running Eve and beginning the process of getting back to where I was and what I was doing before I had my Thorax unceremoniously blown out from under me. Really, it's not as big a deal as it was the time before last, when I had to go back to using a destroyer and running lower-quality level 2 missions to put together enough ISK to afford to replace my last ship with another cruiser. Five days of that shit....that'll teach me to try to get cute and take out just one more ship before warping out.

This time the chief culprit was my own stupidity, ably aided and abetted by some significant server lag. I've been numbering my ships since I started playing this game and my next ship, which will be another Thorax, will be christened Blackheart XX.

I've been steadily losing ships at a rate averaging out to about one every couple of days, and I suppose this is to be expected. Still, it seems that I'm getting better at keeping my ships from destruction as time goes on, and I'm learning more and more about how best to take out the enemies I'm encountering. Every time I'm forced to rebuild my ship I end up putting it back together a little bit stronger than the time before.

In a way, it's kind of a good thing. Unlike in some games, I can't just jump back into the fray at a moment's notice. First, I have to buy my ship and all the components and ammunition it needs. Then, I have to fly all over the region, collect all the things I've just bought, and take them to where my new ship is waiting. After that, I put it all together and fly my new ship back to the scene of my last destruction. Sometimes, I can get it all done and be going back after the bad guys in an hour or two...sometimes, it takes a lot longer.

Once it's all done, I fly back to the site of my ship's demise and take out what's still waiting for me. This stupid mission has already cost me one's not going to cost me another.

Why I Play Eve

Hi and welcome.

I'm a relative newbie Eve-Online player (coming up on two months now), one who's fallen in love with this game so completely that I just shelled out for a year's subscription just a few weeks ago...that's how sure I am that I'm going to continue playing. I'm also probably a bit different than most people playing this game. For reasons I may or may not eventually go into here, I'm fairly well-known in certain circles outside of the game itself, and the fact that I play Eve and the name of my character are known as well. So, if you're one of those who found this blog and knows the connection between my Eve and RL personae, that's fine. If you've got no clue and to you I'm just another Eve player, that's cool, too.

I'm a writer, and Eve has given me many ideas in terms of subject matter, so much so that I'm going to be trying some of them out here, separate and apart from my regular personal blog. Some of what you read will concern my in-game experiences, some will be relevant to some aspect of Eve which inspired it, and some...who knows? I'm not to paint myself into a corner in terms of content so keep reading and we'll see how it goes...

Today, I am a pod...again.

It's ok, I deserved it, forgetting to activate my armor hardener and armor repair modules until it was too late. My Thorax was pounded into space dust and the lag didn't help, either. Call it a hunch but I have a feeling this particular level 2 mission will be far easier to complete if I attempt it around midnight or 1am eastern, when only about half the number of players are on
as are usually on during the day and early evening.

This is a damn hard game. No, I don't mean difficult, I mean hard. You fuck up, it costs you, sometimes a lot. Sometimes, a lot of times, it costs you even when you do everything right except be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When you're on the losing end, you have to pick yourself up and work your way back up to where you were before...and the wealthier and more powerful you become, the easier it is to weather the losses. In some ways this game is so much like real life it's scary.

I used to play was the first MMOG I ever played. During the six months or so I played EQ, I found myself constantly repeating certain things over and over in order to reach certain places and items. After a while it became more about what items I was able to acquire or how high a level I had managed to achieve rather than just about the enjoyment of the game itself. In EQ, I followed a path pretty clearly marked out for players and it wasn't that long before I found it boring...too much like all those Dungeons and Dragons-style games before it to truly prove a unique experience. After a time, I moved on.

The next thing I found was Second Life. I found the concept interesting, but the software was simply too much for my computer at the time to handle. I moved on (While my current computer could probably handle SL without a problem, I've been too busy with other things to try it since I got it. Maybe soon).

Then, about a year ago, I ran across Eve. I signed up for a trial account, did the tutorial, and headed out into the great, vast universe...and got my ass shot into smithereens by gate campers, over and over and over and the point where this, too, started getting boring. Add to that the fact that the game itself barely ran on my computer and after about a week I decided it wasn't worth it and again moved on.

After that, it was Pogo, GameTap, anything that seemed a good candidate for satisfying my gaming instinct. Nothing held my interest for all that long and most of the decent games one could buy had system requirements far in excess of my little 660mhz...

Then, my best friend Robyn told me that her Dad was getting a new computer and I could have his old one, which is almost twice as fast as what I had. One of the first things that immediately came to mind upon hearing this was that now I'd be able to play some of the more demanding games I'd been wanting to try. Yet, by the time Robyn had gotten the thing up and running, I'd already become involved with Eve again.

A few days before Robyn had come over to set up the new machine and transfer all my files over, I'd dropped by the Eve-Online website to take a look at where the game had gone in the year or so since I'd played it. I noticed that there had been several updates, including the introduction of an anti-gate-camper "Warp to 0" ability that I found especially appealing. Even though my new hardware wasn't yet online, I decided to sign up for a trial account, download the client, and see if Eve was better the second time around.

It just about every way imaginable. The game ran much more smoothly this time than a year previously, and I quickly found many new things within to appreciate and enjoy. Clearly, the people who create this game had been busy. Once the new computer was working and Eve ran almost flawlessly, I was hooked.

After about a week and a half of playing the free trial, I started running into the problem of needing or wanting skills that were blocked from being trained on trial accounts. This was actually kind of surprise at first, but in reality makes perfect sense as a way of limiting progress and content within the game for those who aren't paying customers without limiting their ability to use the tools that are within their reach to truly get an idea of what Eve is about before plunking down their cash for a subscription or time code.

This kind of inventive thinking is one of the things that most appeals to me about this game and the way it's designed. The more you play Eve, the more you understand the level of thought and attention to detail that has gone into every aspect of this game. Progress in Eve isn't tracked by attainment of levels or possession of certain items as much as it's regulated by time and money. In Eve, many of the things you can do require you to spend a certain amount of real time in order to complete them. In addition, many also require significant sums of ISK, which can be attained through various activities in the game...essentially, if you want something and you don't have the money for it, you can go to work and earn the money...or start your own company and have others work with and for you.

Being slightly less than two months into the game gives me a perspective unlike that which you can read on Eve's official forums. It seems that in the most well-read areas of the forum it's the hardcore PvP'ers who dominate the conversation. On the other hand, the forum of the corporation I belong to, Eve University, seems to offer a consistent voice to a much more diverse collection of posters. Funny thing is, the first conversation I've gotten into over there was not only started by me, but has little to do with Eve itself.

So, why do I play Eve, really? Why not Second Life, or World of Warcraft, or...? Some of the reasons are easy...others, less so. If you understand Eve and you knew me, you'd know the answer. The easy answer is that I'm a total sci-fi geek and I like blowing things up. The harder answer is that I'm a student of culture and, in my experience thus far, Eve is certainly a culture unique unto itself in many ways.

In the real world, a lot of what I do is tied up with real world problems, social issues, politics, and the media. In Eve, I find myself in an artificial reality that is at the same time both like and completely unlike the real one. To make headway, one has to work and study, but to truly attain power and influence one has to get political. The guns and the warp drives are just one part of the game...the people and how they interact with each other are what truly determine the course of events in Eve, just like in the real world.

In truth, for me to comment on the political happenings, the wars and such, of this game at this point would be pointless. Right now, I'm just a second level mission runner who's got to learn to bail a little earlier from skirmishes than she'd really like to in order to keep her ship one piece (insurance is a really, really wonderful thing...don't undock without it). I can't tell you if developers helped Band of Brothers to an unfair advantage...I wouldn't even hazard a guess. In truth, I couldn't care less. From my perspective, it matters about as much to me as an Eve pilot as Jayson Blair committing plagiarism in the New York Times matters to me as a journalist, which is to say not at all. I love the game, just as I love to write, and if some people get ahead by cheating that sucks, but it's not going to stop me from doing something I enjoy.

So now you see a little sampling of what you can expect to read here in the future, and there's much more to come. I doubt I'll be heading off in a shuttle to go explore 0.0 space on a whim...I'm much too cautious and prone to preplanning for something like that. That's not what this blog is going to be about. This is just the ramblings of one of the many denizens of Eve with a story to tell...just a girl and her Thorax.

Stick's just getting started.