Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Thorax Rides Again

Yep I did it. Made myself a Blaster-rax this time. I haven't really given it a good workout yet, but I've done one easy mission so quickly I barely had to turn on my weapons. Next I go up a level and see how that goes, and I'll keep nudging my way upward until things start getting dangerous. I'm still tweaking the fit a bit but so far it's pretty rockin'.

When I logged in earlier, I checked and discovered that it would have taken me more ISK than I had left to insure the Myrm at Platinum level. My choice, therefore, really wasn't a choice at all. There's no frakking way I'm taking a Mrym out on missions without insuring it first, no matter how well-armed it is. And of course even if I did have enough for the insurance I had nothing to outfit it with.

I was able to buy, fit, and insure the Thorax for less than half what it would have cost just to insure the Myrm. Sure, it'll take me a little longer to get the Myrm in space by doing it this way, but that's ok. When I'm done I'll have two well-armed ships, not just one.

Oh yeah, and I went to visit Caldari Prime tonight since it's the closest Empyrean Age-relevant system to where I'm doing missions. Definitely the planet is different, and I think the station is different from the last time I saw it as well. I'll hit some others in my travels as time goes on. Interesting...

It's good to be back. :)

Almost Back To Normal

My PC is back home at last, and I'm deep into the process of re-tweaking it to my taste, downloading and installing essential software, the usual routine. EvE is already installed and ready to go, and now that my AV is finishing its scanning and updating process, I'm just about ready to reboot and reenter EvE for the first time in about nine days.

Should be interesting...I'll let ya know.

A Fine and Lovely Morning...

I finished Empyrean Age this morning over coffee. I enjoyed it a lot and now that I'm done with it, I'll be reading those news stories I haven't read yet and probably going to check out some of the results. I must admit that I find this really interesting, perhaps even a completely new way of telling a story. It's fascinating to me that the results of what I just read in a novel can be actually traveled to and seen for oneself in the game.

A novel, a self-contained sci-fi story, that actually happens in "reality" in an MMO, with events you can actually witness for yourself as they happen and which carry lasting changes for that world. This, my fellow capsuleers, is truly the cutting edge of fiction storytelling and of sci-fi in particular (where readers/players/viewers are generally much more receptive overall to such innovations than the average media consumer).

This might not seem like such a big deal to some, but consider this: Until now, virtually all fictional media has been, generally speaking, originally presented in one format or another, with almost all of the crossover coming between print and film or television. In sci-fi, and particularly in media based on well-established franchises such as Star Trek, there is always the issue of which stories are considered "canon", part of the established "official" history of the franchise. These are generally arguments for the fanboy faithful, but the rule until now seems to have always been that if the story was told on television or in film then it's considered canon, but if the story appears solely in print or in a videogame, it's generally not.

What makes EvE: Empyrean Age so innovative and groundbreaking is that it actually eliminates the fourth wall and brings EvE players actually into the story itself. The events of the book are indeed canon and the results of those events are physically manifest within the game. In this way, even players who were not playing at the time these events occurred within the game (like me) are drawn into the scenario as well as they must deal with the repercussions of the events in the book just as every player must.

More than just breaking down the fourth wall, though, CCP goes even further here and gives the events and results of the novel a 3-D existence within the game that players can visit and interact with. I know of no other sci-fi franchise that's ever done this (and no, I'm not counting Lord of the Rings, which has been done and redone to death, to the point of torturous boredom).

From a player/media consumer perspective, this is the first sci-fi novel I've ever read that "matters" in a significant way to the universe it presents beyond its own pages. It changes the way I perceive the book, and it might even influence how I play the game in the future in some way.

I think a big part of why this could be done with EvE but not with a media monolith like Star Trek is that there's just too much Star Trek media already out there in every format to keep it all coordinated to start adding additional canon in more than just dribs and drabs.

EvE, first and foremost, is the game. Other media comes from and is based on the game, not the other way around as with LotRO. In addition, there's a lot less canon established in EvE than in a 44-year-old franchise like Star Trek, and so there's a lot more they can do in terms of shaking things up and taking risks with the overall story arc.

What I'm now most interested in seeing is not only the physical results of Empyrean Age, but also how/if the next novel (now apparently due out in March) will play out within the game. One thing is for certain, I won't miss this one.

Oh and hey, in another hour or so I'll be heading to Best Buy to pick up my PC. As you might imagine, I'm very much looking forward to that. Hmmm, I've been writing this post for so long that it's not even morning any more.

Soon, life will return to normal. Eight days without my PC (and without EvE) is just too freaking long.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Diagnosis Is In

Oh, this one's just fucking brilliant.

It turns out that the problem with my PC was a rather simple one. I have a RAID array on my machine. It works great with Vista, but there's no software for it that works with Windows 7 yet. That's why it recognized my drives as removable apparently. There's no one to get mad at or blame, not even Microsoft really. Even they can't provide me with software that hasn't been written yet.

So, looks like until there's a Win7-compatible driver for my RAID array available, I'll be stuck with Vista. It's hardly the end of the world. I know there have been a lot of complaints about it, but Vista Home Premium has worked fine for me since I've had it, in fact, I like it better than XP. I should have probably saved my money and just left things as they were.

So, tomorrow I'll go pick up my PC from Best Buy and my copy of Windows 7 will go sit on a shelf for a while until I can actually use it.

At least I'll finally be able to get back to playing EvE again. It's been a week now, and there's just so much a woman can do to distract herself. I'm almost done with Empyrean Age. I think I'll have to make it point to finish that tonight.

Tick, Tick, Tick...

I just spoke to my guy at Geek Squad. If all goes as expected, I'll be picking my PC up tonight. I hope so...I'm almost finished with Empyrean Age and it feels like I've watched every video and listened to every podcast.

It turns out my instincts were right to have him fix it rather than try to do it myself. I'll get more details later I'm sure, but I already know that the problem was waaay out of my league as far the technical skill required to fix it. Once again it is proven: No one, and I mean no one, can fuck up a PC like Microsoft.

I've passed on Fallen Earth Bloggers to the one other blogger who was writing for it. He's the sole blogger there at the moment but I hope others will join him there soon. It's a good game, created by a good company, and played by good people. They deserve success and I hope it comes for them.

I'm still thinking a lot about what I want to do as far as a ship goes once I can log in again. I'm leaning toward the Thorax idea, but I want to take some time checking out the market and the cost of insurance to see exactly what I'm dealing with before I make any decisions.

Until it's time for me to call James in around six hours I'm pretty much just marking time as far as EvE goes. Hopefully, later tonight that'll all be over.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Now I'm Seriously Jonesing

Hopefully, my PC will be ready tomorrow, Friday at the latest. In the meantime, I've been getting a lot of Empyrean Age read. I'm about 3/4 through it now, and it's still a great read. After getting into it a bit I decided not to read any of the news items posted at the site until I finish it as many seem to be relevant to the events in the book. What I'm curious about, and I haven't yet seen talked about anywhere (but could easily have missed it) is whether this novel is considered EvE canon, and what about the one due out next month? Not that I really expect it would change anything in-game much either way, but it would be useful to know.

I did a little research today and read everything I could find on the disbanding of BoB. Not surprising, but oh so typical in this game. Can't say I'm unhappy to see it happen, either, just kinda sorry I missed being around for it. I like the idea that things are at least a little more balanced in terms of political power in this game than they used to be.

I've also been thinking about which corp I may want to join once I've done my solo time. I really don't know yet, though I'm considering re-applying to EvE University. It never hurts to brush up on one's PvP skills when you haven't been playing a couple of years (and I didn't do a whole lot of PvP while I was playing in any case), and on top of that, they're some of the best people I've ever gamed with. I haven't made any hard and fast decisions, but that's definitely one thing I'm thinking about.

Sigh....what I really want is my frakking PC back...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Years Is A Long Time...Or Not

In real life, a lot can change in two years. In gaming life, life-milestone-level changes usually occur much more frequently than in real life. In gaming, two years can be a lifetime.

When I first returned to EvE, I was surprised that more hadn't noticeably changed in-game during the time I was gone. Sure the graphics were better and the game played smoother, but I also had a fast new gaming PC. Aside from the ability to overheat systems and epic mission arcs, there didn't seem to be much in regards to gameplay that I hadn't seen before (though obviously there are many areas of the game where I would not be in a position to notice if changes had been made).

What I learned after I'd fully come back to EvE and began doing "catch-up" research was that there are major developments planned for the very near future, some of which I fully expect will change the way a lot of people play this game in fundamental ways. Imagine, for example, a Fleet Commander who directs the defense of an outpost from his cell phone while waiting to board a flight in RL, or a corp CEO who can approve requests and allocate resources for his corp on his lunch break.

The truth is that this ability probably won't change the way I play EvE all that much. I have no intention of going the same route as before, and I don't use my own cell phone for much other than making and taking actual phone calls. I've never tried to text anyone, though I think I have gotten a couple. It's hysterical. I'm a total PC power user, but I'm a complete and utter incompetent when it comes to doing things with my cell phone other than handling phone calls.

Nevertheless, the ability to be able to interact with EvE and not actually be in-game would be a very useful tool in other ways. Wouldn't it be great to be able to update your skill que from outside the game? I'd be loving that ability right about now. I have no idea if players will gain this ability with New Eden, but considering how much time I spend online but out of EvE it's definitely on my personal wish list.

Also, Walking In Stations/Ambulation/Incarna. This was being talked about before I left. In fact, it was the feature story of one of the issues of EON I bought during my time in-game, #7 I think it was. It's now clearly just on the horizon and that's very exciting to me. I've always thought of EvE as a game where the social aspects needed a lot more love than they've historically gotten from CCP, and I'm excited to see that being addressed with this and New Eden.

So, I guess I've picked a good time to get back into EvE. It's a little more than a month before the next major expansion, and more major improvements are planned for soon thereafter. Best of all, thanks to both fortunate happenstance and the generosity of a reader, getting back into the game is proving less difficult than I'd anticipated. Of course, one thing that will help immensely in reaching that goal is getting my PC back from the Geek Squad (I expect it tomorrow or Fri. the latest). It's just a little bit difficult to make any progress unless you can actually log into the game.

In the meantime, I'm just checking out whatever looks interesting and EvE-related. There are some nice fittings for Myrmidons on the BattleClinic EvE site. Most of them are so expensive I could never afford them, but I can already see where some judicious cost-cutting could be employed to tweak a few of these loadouts into affordability range.

I also have another idea that I'm toying with for when I'm able to log in again. Right now, all I've done is purchased and assembled my new Myrmidon. I haven't fit or insured it yet, and as a result I still have about 20 million left. I'm strongly considering taking that 20 mil, buying a Thorax for around 5, insuring and fitting it out sweetly with most of the rest.

Then, once I have my tricked-out Thorax ready to go, I spend some time doing missions with it to fund fitting the Myrm with some really nice stuff. I'm not saying that's my definite plan yet, but I am giving it serious consideration. Hey, at least it would finally justify the title of this blog again.

The reason I'm considering this is because A) I need a well-fit battlecruiser if I'm to progress and get back to where I was in this game before I left, and B) if I take what I have and insure and fit the Myrm with it, I won't be able to fit it as well as I'd like. If I go with the Thorax, not only can I really trick it out because the insurance and fitting costs are substantially lower, but after I'd used it to earn what I need to fit the Myrm I'll still have that ship in case I need it. My previous adventures in EvE have proved to me that a well-armed Thorax can prove very convenient to have around sometimes.

I don't know what I'm going to do yet, and I probably have at least 24 hours still to think about it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More EvE Media

I'm listening to podcasts now. I just got an email from the Geek Squad telling me that they're working on my PC. I know who'll be working on my machine because I went directly to him. I know who the best techs are there because I used to work with these folks. It takes an extra day or two because I don't want just anyone working on my PC, I want the guy who I know knows what he's doing. For that, I can live with an extra day or two wait.

I'm halfway through Empyrean Age now. It's still a good read.

I want my PC back. I want to get back to doing what I do, the way I want to do it.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gettin' Itchy

Now it's been about four days since my PC stopped working properly, and I'm really starting to miss it. There's so much I've come to take for granted since I've had it, such as being able to run basically any software currently on the market, virtually instantaneous websurfing, and a lot more that I just feel out of synch when I use this old Dell. Normally, I'd never touch this machine except to keep it updated. Now I'm on it for long periods every day until I get my own rig back and it just feels "off".

In order to get my EvE fix and to try to catch up on some of what's been going on in the game while I was gone, I've been watching some of the 2009 Fanfest videos. Some are very interesting, others are...less so. I'll no doubt be watching at least a few more of these today. Playing video is one thing this PC does pretty well, even though I have to play 'em on lo-res or they take too long to download. Another advantage my PC has that this one doesn't is that it's directly connected to the cable modem via the wireless box. This PC is connected wirelessly and gets roughly half the upload and download speed mine does. Even if this PC could run EvE, I'm not sure it could maintain a stable and strong enough connection to play, or play well.

Y'know it's funny. Since I've been back in EvE, I'm tending to focus on it more and more. Two weeks ago, EvE rarely crossed my mind and hadn't in quite some time other than the occasional gaming media article about bank collapses, etc. I completely missed the whole BoB thing. Now that I find myself without the ability to log into EvE for a few days, I'm spending more and more time searching out EvE-relevant media.

The truth is that I'm a media whore. I love it, especially when it's about something I care about. I'm not just a media consumer though, I'm also a media-maker. In fact, I'm making EvE-relevant media right now. It's because I'm a media-maker as well as a media consumer that I understand how important it is that there's both "official" and "unofficial" media being created around a game like EvE, or really around any product, cause, or idea you're seeking to promote if you're hoping to market it effectively in modern mainstream culture. EvE is a game that succeeds at both, though it's arguable which is the more potent.

CCP has released a plethora of videos through its YouTube Channel and there's a pretty regular trickle of dev blogs. Yet at the same time, there's also a buffer between CCP and the bulk of the player base, the Council of Stellar Management. Ideas flow from the player base to the CSM, and then those which get support are passed upwards to CCP. From what I've seen and read, the system works pretty well as far as getting good ideas passed upwards to the devs, but it's nonetheless a filter between the average EvE player and the game's creators. We've heard that COSMOS/New Eden/Spacebook will enable new levels of communication between players and CCP but we've heard precious little detail on what this actually means in the practical sense as yet.

On the other side of the coin, there's the unofficial EvE media, the underground, if you will. It's blogs like this one. It's gaming forums where EvE comes up regularly in conversation or even has its own separate discussion forum. It's everywhere EvE is being talking about and CCP isn't starting or participating in the conversation themselves...and that's a lot of places.

The fact is that there's enough media out there about EvE that I could fill my day with nothing but EvE media if I wanted to (and that's not counting the EvE novel I'm reading right now). That's a great thing as far as I'm concerned. The more of it is out there, the more people read, watch, enjoy and participate, in the media and in EvE. It's a winner all the way around, and especially for the game we all love and are seeking to promote.

In addition, underground and unofficial media serve another, equally important purpose. It fosters a sense of community among EvE players beyond the confines of the game itself and the official website. The reality is that very often players will feel freer to speak their minds outside of official media sources where participants are often identified as they are in-game. That's not to say that many official forums, including EvE's, don't have plenty of trash-talking and negativity already, but there are no doubt many players who either ignore the official forums entirely unless they no choice (such as an official CCP announcement) because of the tone often seen in these places. Those players who still wish to read about and discuss EvE will look for other places, places with interests and social interactions more in keeping with what they're comfortable with.

Personally, I think the prevalence of unofficial community media that springs up around an MMO is a great gauge of the overall level of interest in and commitment to the game in its player base. People who don't really care much or who aren't really interested in playing a game over the long haul don't (usually) create blogs and other media promoting and talking about it. Only the players who are in deep and looking long-term do things like that. Of course, I should also note that I'm talking about real fan media here, not commercial enterprises. and Ten Ton Hammer have some great stuff quite often, but their content is written by paid professional writers, and that's just not the same thing.

As someone who has worked professionally as a magazine and newspaper columnist as well as someone who has maintained a personal blog for six years on and off, is a contributor to a popular group political blog site, and has created, written, and moderated three different gaming blogs (so far), I think I'm pretty well-qualified to address this issue.

First, the commercial gaming media does not enjoy the same kind of popular deference as mainstream newsmedia like the New York Times, NBC News, or even Fox News (assuming we're still calling what appears on Fox actual news). Unlike the knotty social and political issues of our time, there's usually no one right answer that even people on the same side of the issue can agree on. Games, unlike real life, are entirely subjective. Except in the more extreme cases, video games are not good or bad by definition, that can only be determined by those who participate, and only by and for themselves. One player's alliance collapse is another's reopening of valuable null-sec territory.

In my experience, the commercial gaming media doesn't really get any more credibility from the gaming community than the more well-read unofficial media, even though the folks in the marketing departments apparently think they do. They'd do well to learn from the punk movement of the early 80's where the record reviews that really mattered to the hardcore punks didn't appear in the big glossy magazines, but rather in mimeographed 'zines, usually created by a single person or a small group and sold at local clubs, concert venues, and on the street. The people creating non-commercial 'zines were seen as doing it for the love of the music and the band, while the commercial media was seen as doing it for money. Thus, the reviews were seens as far more honest and credible and carried far more weight with the hardcore faithful.

I believe that's what we're seeing now. The blogs and online fan media are, in fact, the next evolutionary step of the 'zine, and I believe they're being perceived by the truly hardcore much as they were thirty years ago.

Companies like CCP could do more to support us. For example, have you taken a look at CCP's fan sites page? I don't think it's changed much in the two years I was gone, and that's really sad. Crazy Kinuk's on there, but he's the only EvE-relevant blogger who is. Frankly, that sucks! There are literally dozens of great EvE blogs that should be on that list. This is something that would require just a small amount of effort on CCP's part, and considering how much effort we put into our blogs and media in promoting their product you'd hope that CCP would do whatever it could to make it easier for us.

Methinks I might pose this issue to the CSM. Any other EvE bloggers and blog readers think this is a good idea?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cutting Strings

I wrote and posted my goodbye post at Fallen Earth Bloggers this morning. I hope I can find someone good who cares about the game to take over for me there. Those folks are good people and deserve the best. That's the biggest reason why it can't be me. I'm too focused on EvE now to be a good moderator or reporter for Fallen Earth. It's the very same reason why one of the first things I did when I came back to EvE was restart this blog. Every writer knows that they'll be at their best when they're writing their passion. That's why I'm at my best writing about EvE and why I want someone who's as passionate about Fallen Earth to succeed me over there. If you know of a good candidate for the job, please send them my way. Thanks!

Now, getting back to EvE and to this blog, I do hope that if you like what you read here you'll let others know about it. I'm always up for link exchanges with other EvE-relevant sites as well.

Since I haven't been able to log into EvE in about two and half days, I've been spending some time reading EvE: Empyrean Age. I'm about a third of the way through it, and I must say it's a great read so far. Like most good tie-ins it's a novel that succeeds on its own merits, but also offers a little something extra to those who know and understand the universe it portrays.

I'm not going to go into detail about the story here, but suffice it to say that if you play and enjoy EvE-Online, you'll find plenty to enjoy in this book. It's set in the EvE universe and the attention to detail is obvious. In addition, it's exactly the kind of story you'd expect to find in New Eden, synchs in perfectly (as far as I can tell) with the established canon, and most importantly is engaging and keeps you on the edge of your seat wanted to find out what happens next. Very good stuff, a very fitting tribute to and a window into EvE.


Have you ever tried to explain EvE to someone who doesn't get it at all, someone who all they know of videogames is boxy-looking plumbers in red overalls saving blonde princesses? This happened to me a few months ago. At the time I hadn't been playing EvE for about a year and a half, but I was wearing an EvE t-shirt and someone asked me what EvE was.

When I told her it was a video game I used to play on my PC over the Internet I could see she was clueless. Her next question confirmed my theory. "So, you play this on the computer? Is this". Alright, no big deal, not exactly the first time the name "Eve" has been associated with X-rated media. "Um, no." I replied, "It's actually a game involving spaceships and combat." "So you fight with other people in spaceships over the Internet?" "Well, yes, sometimes, a lot of times, but there's also a lot more to it than that." "So you fly around in these Internet spaceships and shoot at each other?" "Well, yes, but..." "Ooooook. Oh, look at the time...".

Sometimes it's hard being a geek.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Holding Patterns

So, the PC is now at the Geek Squad. $213 later and a few days in shop from now, I'll have a PC again that can play games more sophisticated than those found on Pogo.It's kinda funny actually. My PC has 16 times the RAM than the one I'm on right now (512mb vs 8gig), and is a lot faster (2.4 single-core vs 3.0 quad), yet this PC has never had the slightest problem in all the time we've had it. The old Dell may not be much in terms of performance, but it's pretty damned reliable. When all else fails, I can still get online, check my email, and post to my blogs.

Rather unexpectedly, my Fallen Earth account seems to have been erased or blocked. I know there was supposed to be a payment made yesterday and I thought I'd set it up to make that payment automatically. Since all of my login info is on my main PC and the bank is closed (and I never got around to checking on this when it was open) I'm guessing the payment didn't go through for some unforeseen reason. Right now, I'm trying to decide if I'd actually be upset if that proves to be the case, and if so, how much.

The fact is that as much as I've been dancing around it and trying to be fair and even-handed about the whole thing, I've made my choice. I'm having more fun with EvE and that's what I'm most looking forward to getting back to when I get my PC back. Fallen Earth is a great game but when push comes to shove and I have to choose one or the other (and I think I do), EvE is the game I'm going to stick with. If I were really smart, I would have come back to EvE before getting involved with something like Fallen Earth. I had plenty of fun in FE to be sure, but If I'd come back to EvE first I'd have saved myself a lot of time and money.

In between bouts of ripping my hair out over having to shell out a couple hundred and do without my main PC for several days to pay for the mistake of wanting to upgrade my Microsoft OS, I'd been thinking a lot about what I was going to do about my one too many MMOs problem. At one point, I asked myself "If the PC magically sprang back to life right now, which game would you play first?"

I knew the answer immediately. EvE, of course, I need to update my skill que. Plus, I just bought a Myrmidon and was going to start fitting it...right after I installed Windows 7. Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

The point being that I do really enjoy playing Fallen Earth, I just like EvE more. It's where I want to be. That's what it really boils down to. I don't have to be fair about this, it's about what's the most fun for me.

Interestingly, my EvE account at the website (which I reactivated several days ago) works without a hitch, smooth as silk. Somebody's telling me something, I think...and I'm listening.

I Am In Microsoft Hell

Fuck fucking Microsoft and their fucking shitty-ass software!

Ok, now that I've gotten that out of my system, here's why: I tried to install Windows 7 but the installer recognizes my internal RAID array as removable drives and won't install to them. As a result, I'm now stuck between Vista and Win7. Neither will run properly. After an hour on the phone with Microsoft and another 20 minutes with the Geek Squad, it seems my only way out of this is a $200 Geek Squad repair job. Needless to say, I'm not a happy camper right now.

And of course, among the many things I'm unable to do right now is play EvE. The old spare PC I'm on right now can't handle it. I am getting some Empyeran Age reading done in-between phone calls, so I guess I'm not really going cold turkey. Besides I survived two years with no EvE, I'll manage another day or two.

Rassa frassa...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ok How Weird Is This?

Or is it weird at all?

According to Amazon's website, my copy of EvE: Empyrian Age should be arriving today, the same day as my copy of...wait for it...Windows 7.

Yes, I took the plunge back in June and got the discounted upgrade. I don't know if I'd have been willing to pay full price for it, but for fifty bucks the promised improved gaming performance is worth it. Not that my PC isn't a pretty damned great gaming machine right now, especially compared to what it replaced, but anything that lets me squeeze out a little more performance from this new PC and especially anything that gets the kind of rave reviews Windows 7 has been getting is worth at least a moderate investment.

So I'm sitting at home waiting for these things to arrive. It's actually great timing, or at least I hope it will be. I'm told this will be a long install so at least I'll have fresh reading material handy. It also means I should probably go into EvE and update my skill que before I start the upgrade.

What I'm really most interested to see is if there's any noticeable difference in EvE after the upgrade. I'll let ya know.

When I first started playing EvE, I was on a single-core 2.0ghz PC with a lower-range video card which barely met the minimum specs for the game. Now I'm on a quad-core 3.0ghz PC that exceeds all of EvE's recommended specs by a pretty good margin. In some ways, it literally makes all the difference in the world, but they're often the kind of differences that you don't notice unless you have something better to compare it to.

For me the game is now smooth as silk, in a way that I never experienced when I played two years ago. While I haven't yet gone anywhere with an overload of ships in the same place like Jita since I've been back, I also haven't yet experienced anything more than the slightest hint of lag anywhere in the game since I've been back. How much is my machine, how much is server-side improvements by CCP, I have no idea. All I know is that the game looks and plays better for me than ever before and that's definitely part of what drew me back in.

And so here I sit, waiting for my new toys.

Hmm, I just realized...I haven't been in Fallen Earth in three days. I've been spending all of my available gaming time in EvE.

Funny that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Does EvE Have A Soul?

Oh I don't mean it in the way you're probably thinking. It is, after all, a piece of software. It's also a lot more though, because without the community of people who play it, EvE as we know it could not exist. Even if it could exist, it would not the same. I tend to think that there is a community spirit in EvE that's like in no other game I've ever played.

I mean that's not to say that there isn't plenty of help and community available in other games, it's just that I've never seen it expressed so generously by so many people as frequently as I have in this game. I was reminded of this earlier tonight when I logged into EvE and discovered that an amazingly generous reader had apparently read of my financial woes and donated 50 million ISK to my wallet. Wow. That's the kind of thing you just don't see in most games. With that, I'll be able to put something decent in space and start making some real ISK. I'm not sure what I'm going to buy just yet, but I'll be giving that some serious thought tomorrow.

By the way, I've always made it a policy that unless I get an OK first or I already know it's not an issue I don't usually mention people who make those kind of donations by name in the blog. Not that I don't want to, but because I know that not everyone wants to be acknowledged publicly, so I like to always get an ok before I mention someone by name here.

It reminds me of EvE University, a massive corporation set up with the purpose of training noobs to play EvE. Pilots good enough at the game that they probably could be leading frontier battles in 0.0 are instead teaching noobs how to PvP. Think about it: In what other games do you see this much generosity and willingness to help others just because a need is noticed? Of course, I haven't played everything, but I've never seen anything else like it.

So yeah, I think EvE does have a soul, and it's a soul that can be as warm and soft as the environment it encompasses can be cold and hard. It's an interesting juxtaposition, but not an entirely surprising one when you think about it.

No matter who you are, what you do in-game, or how long you've been playing, everyone can agree on one thing: EvE is a tough game.

EvE has probably the steepest learning curve of any MMO out there. In addition, it also has probably the steepest cost of death as well. You fuck up in this game, you remember it, and you pay for it, maybe for a while.

In addition, this game has legitimized griefing and given it an in-game role as piracy. This sets EvE apart from pretty much any other game I've ever heard of. I used to have a big problem with this, but over time I've come to accept it as part of the game.

Given all this, with so much stacked against a new or returning player getting ahead, I guess it's not so surprising that a force has emerged in response to even things out a little. Just as there are those who enjoy preying upon and taking advantage of noobs, there are also those who enjoy helping others out. There are the folks who hear about someone like me who could use some ISK and just donate it. I don't know what to call it, "spontaneous generosity" maybe? Maybe but E-Uni's been around so long you could hardly call it spontaneous. No, I just think it's a natural outgrowth of the kind of players this game attracts, and a testament to the diversity of the playerbase. Not everyone wants to be a pirate, and in fact, while they may not be as interesting as the pirates and thieves and we may not hear about them as often, there's still a place for heroes in EvE.

I don't know what it is, but I do know that in my experience it's unique to EvE and part of what makes it special. Yes, EvE's rough edges are very sharp and dangerous but there's also a lot of comfortable places to be found within it.

Kind of feels like coming home.

A Sudden Change In Plans...

...but a good one.

In the comments to my previous post, Escoce suggested I forget about my trial toon and reactivate my old one. This got me thinking. I knew there'd be at least something of a tradeoff to be made here. When I gave away all my stuff to my brother, that included all of my ISK. I knew I'd be flat broke and to be honest I just wasn't sure that there would be a way to get back on track in this game with that toon after all this time.

After careful consideration and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to go for it. I reactivated my Bekka Jae toon (note old spelling) this morning, and logged in.

It was kind of like waking up from a bender the night before, having no idea where you are, how you got there, or what you were doing before you got there. I check my wallet. As expected, my ISK balance is 0.00. What is completely unexpected, however, is when I check my personal assets and discover I still have stuff all over Gallente and Caldari space. An ammo cache here, a shuttle there, an Imicus I didn't know I had, all kinds of leftovers from previous missions and lootings. Most of it is bits and pieces, far too strewn out in terms of distance to make it worth tracking it down, but some of it's loot from Level 3 and 4 missions I was running before I left the game. I begin to realize that while it will take a bit of effort to really get back in the swing of this game financially and in terms of ship capabilities, it's not by any means impossible.

The first thing I did was run a few missions with the Velator I fortuitously discovered waiting for me in the hanger of the station I found myself at. Then I took a ten-jump trip through high-sec to get to my Imicus. This is where I first noticed how nice it is to have all those skills trained up to 4 or 5 which would have taken me a long time to accomplish if I'd stayed with the trial toon.

Basically what I did for the next few hours is go from system to system, docking in each station I had stuff worth bothering with, and selling or reprocessing it to generate some extra ISK. There were also a few items I reclaimed for my own use, such as an extraordinarily conveniently unsold Small 125" Compressed Coil Gun, perfect for my little Immie, and allowing me to install a pair of them and not break my still-tiny bank.

As I did this, I also kept checking the market and buying new items, an afterburner, an overdrive injector, and a shield booster. As I traveled to pick up each of these items, I'd stop at the stations along the way, do my business to build up my ISK a little. Then I'd pick up and install the item, order another item I need with the ISK I'd generated one the way over, and repeated the process until I had my Immie fully outfitted well enough for now.

I flew back to where I was running missions with Velator. Yes they're the simplest of the simple missions but that's ok. Because of all my experience and agent loyalties I can write my own ticket on the lower levels as far as agent missions go and I want to be very careful about the missions I accept until I'm more secure financially and shipwise. I'll start at the bottom and work upwards depending on what my ship of the moment can handle.

Here's the really funny part. I'm having a blast. I don't think I've ever had so much fun in EvE (well ok maybe I have, but you know what I mean). I'm in a corp with four other members who haven't been seen in-game in a month or more. I'm literally my own corp, not even in an NPC corp. I have no corporate responsibilities (what, I'm going to tax myself?), nothing to concern myself with other than my own in-game interests.

I do want to join a real player-run corp again soon, but perhaps not right away. I think I want to take at least a week or two and just be a pilot again before I start thinking about who I want to fly with.

Y'know what's even funnier? The way I fall into a kind of abbreviated EvE-speak when I write for this blog, using words like "corp", "Immie", and "E-Uni". I haven't written in this style for over two years and somehow it flows as naturally as if it were yesterday. It's almost...not quite but almost...scary.

So I made the tradeoff, and now I've got a major advantage in skills but at the cost of a moderate disadvantage in ISK and ships. All in all, seems like a pretty good deal to me. The ships and ISK will take me a lot less time to recover (and surpass) than the skills would have.

Yes, I think this is going to get interesting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hello, Old Friend

It's been a little over two years since last I posted anything in this blog, or since I was a regular player of EvE. Those who were reading at that time saw me just vanish without a word. There were reasons, but at the time I just wasn't able or willing to take the time to talk about them. I will now.

Why I Left

When first began playing EvE, I was a solo player for several weeks before I joined a corporation, EvE University. During those first days, and during the time I was with E-Uni, I played essentially on my own schedule whenever I had time for the game. The problem came in when I'd left E-Uni and formed a new corp with a friend. I found the style of play required to be a director of a manufacturing corp not really that much to my liking, and I began to become bored with it.

Then the responsibilities at my RL job increased dramatically, as did its demands on my time. It eventually got to the point where personal free time became a precious commodity. I was having to rearrange my real life to suit my duties in EvE a little too often, and I decided that I had no choice but to leave the game.

The problem was that I really didn't want to leave EvE, but I felt I had no choice. I didn't know what to do and I guess I still held out half a hope that somehow I'd figure out a way to keep playing EvE and still maintain my insane work schedule, so I just stopped. Stopped logging in, stopped blogging, I just stopped.

For the next two years, I was solely a single-player gamer. I just didn't have time for anything that wasn't completely centered around my own schedule. I played when I had time to play and that wasn't all that often.

Why I'm Back

In all honesty, I had no intention of getting back into EvE. I'd started playing Fallen Earth when it was in closed beta and I was (and am) enjoying it very much. I'm also the moderator of a group blog site called Fallen Earth Bloggers, which I'm sure is self-explanatory. In addition, I recently started a blog on I've got plenty already on my plate and I had no intention of getting involved with EvE again.

I'd had the idea that it would make for a great blog post if I revisited EvE almost exactly two years after I'd left, and wrote about it from my perspective now, as an MMO gamer with a bit more experience under her belt. Basically, the plan was to go in, take a look around, maybe run a few missions and try a few things, log out, write my piece, and then move on, back to Fallen Earth.

I knew the graphics had gotten a major upgrade as well as a few other new things like overheating systems because I'd kept up with the major news from EvE. Even though I wasn't playing, reading stories about banks failing, player reps using embargoed insider info to their in-game advantage, and the destruction (disintegration?) of the vast monolithic force that was BoB (this one I'd actually like to know more about...I heard that it happened, but I've heard nothing about how) helped keep me kind of in the loop.

I also decided that in order to get a good idea of how the game is now, I wasn't going to attempt to reactivate my old toon with a year's skill training but instead I signed up for the two week free trial and started from scratch as a new player.

All in all, it was a good plan, a well-thought-out plan, a sensible plan. Thing is, it just didn't work.

After going through character creation and basically recreating what I looked like the first time around (though I did add a cute tattoo on my cheek this time) as well as a slight variant on the name I used last time (my in-game name is now Bekka Jaie, note the new spelling), I stepped back into EvE for the first time in 2 years. My plan was to spend a couple of hours in-game, but I ended up losing myself in the game for hours as I remembered why I fell in love with the game in the first place. It's the same as when I played, only better.

Yep, I think I've been sucked back into the EvE wormhole.

The interesting part of this is that unlike last time when I didn't start blogging about my adventures in the game until I'd been playing for a while, this is only my fifth day on the trial account. I've been wrestling with the question of whether or not I should subscribe again once the trial is over (last time I signed up like two days after the trial started, but the system doesn't give you credit for the unused days, so since I have no immediate need to learn the Contracting skill, it seems silly not to wait until the trial is just about to end before I convert to a paid account).

Right now, I'm mainly just flying around in a Tristan running missions. I'm in no big rush to figure out my next move. It's just a girl and her Tristan (I'll get a Thorax and re-justify the title of this blog when I can afford one...soon).

If you're a returning reader, thank you for coming back. If you're a new reader, thanks for coming by and I hope you'll enjoy what you'll read here.

And as for what you'll read here, you may very well read a lot of stuff that's similar to what I've written in the past in some ways, but I can promise you this: I won't be going the manufacturing corporation director route this time. What that actually means remains to be seen.

Stick around, I have a feeling this is going to get interesting.