Sunday, July 18, 2010

I'm Baaack...Sorta

So I got one of those "Come Back For Five Days Free" emails about a few weeks ago. Usually I just hit the delete key and move on, but this time I paused.

I left EvE back in January because there was just too much going on in my life to devote enough time to the game to make it worthwhile. I'd made it to 0.0 and then discovered that there really wasn't a whole lot to do out there for someone who had trouble making appointment gameplay sessions. To exacerbate matters, a few of my non-gaming-related articles had been picked up by major media at the same time, requiring me to devote virtually every free moment to capitalizing on that for several weeks.

I didn't want to give up MMO gaming, but I did want a game that fit into my life better and I thought I'd found it in Star Trek Online. I bought a lifetime subscription and spent the first couple of months completely engrossed in the game when I had the time for it. Most of the early content was soloable and many missions could be completed in just an hour or two. For that period of time, STO was pretty close to perfect in terms of fitting into my life, as I'd expected it would be. Then, things changed.

Once I maxed out my rank (level), it quickly became clear that most of the higher-end content was going to be a team-up affair. That wasn't necessarily a problem in and of itself, but when I tried grouping with players I didn't know to do missions in STO, I'd never manage to finish any of them because my teammates would always become bored or get a better offer and bail out on the mission long before the end, often leaving me alone to face fairly instantaneous death in the middle of an intense firefight I could not possibly win by myself.

When I wasn't being left alone to die it was because there weren't enough available players to form a team in the first place. During first several weeks of STO, the spaceways of Alpha Quadrant were pretty crowded and it was easy to find teammates, but those numbers seem to have decreased significantly in recent weeks and now when I go in there's rarely even half the apparent numbers of players on as there were during those first few heady weeks of the game.

Over the last couple of months, I've entered the game maybe a total of six or seven times, just to see what updates have brought or if there's any new soloable missions that might be worth trying. Each time, it's been same: Sparse numbers of players in the sectors and stations, often fruitlessly trying to create teams to take on multiplayer missions. After a few minutes of this, I get bored and start looking for something else to do.

And you know, that's really my core problem with Star Trek Online. I just don't care anymore, not in the way I did in those first few weeks. Even though I know that as a lifer I can play STO whenever I feel the urge as long as the game exists, I'm just not really all that motivated to play. And so, I've been looking for something new.

I've done single-player games. I finished Borderlands (but got screwed by D2D by ordering one of the DLC's which has faulty serial verification and can't be unlocked so no more of that) and I'm currently making my way through Far Cry 2.

I've tried other MMO's. I bought APB, which is a shitload of fun, but really just a glorified version of "Cops and Robbers". I'm sure I'll use up the 50 hours of game time that comes with the software purchase, but there's just not enough real meat there for me to see it as a long-term solution. I joined the beta of free-to-play LotRO, too. It's a decent enough game, but as I'm not a huge fan of the genre just in general there's really not a whole lot for me there long-term either. Add to that the annoying way these "free-to-play" games nickel-and-dime you to death in order to make money and I just don't see myself getting into LotRO enough to bother shelling out actual money or continue with it past the beta.

And then a few weeks ago, the "Come Back..." email from EvE showed up. I didn't do anything at the time, neither clicking on the link to reactivate my account nor deleting it. At that time, I still wasn't ready to consider returning to EvE, but I knew it would be smart to keep it open as an option so when a second email from CCP arrived about a week ago reminding me that it wasn't too late to reactivate for five days free, I saved that one too.

Last night, after I'd spent a few hours trying out LotRO and had come to the conclusion that it's just not what I'm looking for over the long haul, I remembered those CCP emails and dug out the most recent one. I didn't do anything right away, mind you, I just stared at it, wondering if I really wanted to insert myself back into a game that I'd already had to extract myself from twice because it proved to be too intense and time-consuming.

Things are different now, though. The wave of interest in my writing has ebbed for the moment, and while of course I hope that will change in time, that and the economy have conspired to provide me with substantially more free time now than I've had in a while. Much of that extra time is devoted to promoting my work and creating more of it, but I still find myself looking to fill some of that extra time with a game I can really sink my teeth into. For me, there's only one game that has really fit that bill in all of the time I've been an MMO player.

EvE is the only game that's managed to draw me in and keep me in over the long haul. Nothing else has even come close. It's the MMO I understand the best, even though there are aspects of the game which I really don't understand at all and probably never will. There's always something new for me in EvE, always something I've never tried or somewhere I've never been, and it matters to me in a way that other games never have. I'm willing to devote a level of time and attention to it that no other game has inspired me to.

In reference to the title above, whether I'm back to stay or just for a visit will depend on a lot of things, not the least of which is how my schedule plays out over the upcoming months. Also, I've decided that if I am going to re-enter EvE, I'm not going to make the same mistake I did last time. For me, war and battle is a lot of fun, but exploration is even more fun, and probably more consistent with my RL lifestyle. War is by it's nature a team event that must be coordinated and executed in concert with others, while many aspects of exploration can be done solo, even though in order to really profit from it will likely require a team effort to effectively plunder any riches you find if nothing else.

I've created a new alt and I've set her upon the exploration career path. This is really little more than an experiment at this point, just to see if I like it. So far I've yet to successfully scan down my first cosmic signature (though I have pegged a few anomalies), but I'll be jumping in later today to try again, after I do a little more research.

If I decide I do like exploration (and even if not), I'll then have some choices to make: Do I like it enough to resubscribe to EvE and try to get back into it long-term? Do I do this path with my newly-created character basically from scratch, or do I go retrieve my far more established and skilled Bekka Jae toon from 0.0 to take on this new venture?

On the one hand, I must admit I'm enjoying taking the beginner route again. I finished the tutorial last night, downloaded and set up EvEMon for the alt, and basically got her ready to go out there and take on New Eden (once she learns how to reliably scan down a cosmic signature, of course).

On the other hand, I'm also very much aware that I'd be giving up a lot by going with the new alt. I have literally over a year's worth of skill training invested in Bekka Jae as well as a fair amount of property and it seems a shame to willingly give all that up. It's also the toon name that's linked to this blog and I've enjoyed encountering people in-game who read and enjoy it and recognize me in-game. For me, that's part of the fun of blogging about EvE.

So, I guess we'll see. Obviously, I'm leaning toward returning but I think I'll take advantage of the full five days to think about it, and of course, to figure out how to position those damned probes correctly.

Until next time, fly safe.

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