Wednesday, January 15, 2014

So, I'm In A Weird Place Right Now...

...and I don't mean just in-game.

I've spent the last two weeks re-familiarizing myself with Eve, and it's amazing how quickly so much of it has come back and how easily I've fallen back into the rhythm of this game. I've been running security and distribution missions all over high-sec and doing well enough that I'm now flying a well-fit Thorax that can (currently) put four medium scout drones in space. It holds its own pretty well on level two missions, but I'm still regularly running into situations where I know there's no way my little cruiser is going to be able to win and end up having to bail the mission, at least until I can come back with something stronger and more durable.

I'm ok with where I am in-game right now, but I've spent so much time and focus on getting there, and frankly, just enjoying being back in New Eden for the first time in a very long time, that I haven't spent any time thinking about what I was going to do when the free trial time was up. Today's the last day. Decision time.

It occurs to me that  Eve is an odd game. For an MMO, that is. There's plenty of mission-based content to teach you the basics but beyond that what you do in Eve is pretty much up to you. Most of these games, no matter how "sandboxy" they appear, tend to force or at least strongly urge the player along some sort of pre-determined path, whether it's from mission to mission, or more commonly, region to region. In just the couple of weeks since I've returned to Eve I've been to and run missions in all four empires and the Ammatar Mandate. I go where the agents are, crisscrossing high-sec as I need to.

It's really a completely different game structure than what most people, including me, are used to. Don't get me wrong, I love a good overarching story as much as anyone, but do I really need one to validate my gaming?

That's kind of where my head is at right now.Recently, I've spent a lot of time with Star Trek Online, which is what I left Eve for originally. In between now and then, I played STO for about a year, left that to play several other games, then came back to STO just after the recent Romulan exansion was released. I still enjoy STO, but I've reached the point where I've played all the new content and so I'm starting to get bored with it again.

This would probably be a good time to mention that I'm seriously ADD. For-real-no-fucking-around-misnaming-a-short-attention-span-but-actually-diagnosed-by-a-real-doctor ADD. It's not something that's curable, you just learn to live with it and make it work for you. What this means for me in the context of gaming is that a game not only has to win my interest initially, it has to work to keep me interested.

Here's the thing, though: When you're talking about story-based games, new content requires often long waiting periods for new chapters in the story to be released. Eve's updates usually have very little to do with actually new content in terms of story, it's more about adding to and improving on what's already there. When I feel the need for new content in Eve I can simply start doing something different because there's so many options. I don't have sit and wait to wait for new content to be fed to me, I have to go out there and find it for myself. I like that...I like it a lot.

What's really making me uncertain about re-subscribing to Eve doesn't have anything to do with Eve itself, it has to do with me. I know myself well enough to know that sooner or later I'll probably become bored with Eve and start playing other things. Could be a month from now, could be a year, or it could be three years, like it was the last time I played. The truth is that I have no idea. What I do know is that the last time I decided to move on from Eve, I'd bought a years' sub and basically wasted six month's worth of access I never used. I'd don't like wasting money on stuff I don't use and so I'm skittish about pulling the trigger on buying gaming time I may or may not use.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do, but I am thinking about it. By tomorrow, I hope I'll have an answer.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Money Changes Everything...

...well, almost everything, anyway.

When I was last playing Eve, money was at a premium. I was working a low-paying job and there were times when I had no choice but to let my Eve account lapse and not play for a while because I just couldn't afford the $15 that month. When it's a choice between paying the rent and eating that month or playing Eve, there's really only one credible choice you can make.

These days, money's not quite so tight. I'm not wealthy by any stretch, but I can afford Eve now, especially since it appears they've cut the subscription price by about a third. Also, I have a much better PC than I did when I was playing before. I have far less issues in terms of frame rate slowdowns and other issues related to processing. The game doesn't run perfectly on the highest graphical settings, but a lot better than it did on my old machine. Once I can fix my escape key issue (CCP customer service just replied to my ticket and I'm going to try their suggestions in a little while, after I finish this post) I'll be able to back my graphics settings down a notch, which I expect will allow the game to run without a hitch (right now the frame rate issue usually only occurs during the jump animation).

I've now officially decided that once I get this escape key issue resolved I'm going to re-subscribe.


Well, part of the answer is easy: I love this game. I always have, since I discovered it for the first time about 7 years ago. There's something about it that draws me back in every time I play and keeps me coming back for more. That's not to say that I don't enjoy playing other games, but for someone who's as ADD as I am, long-term commitment to anything is rare. If you were somehow able to track all of the time I've spent gaming over the last, say, ten years, I have no doubt that you'd find that Eve is the game I've spent the most time with overall, even today. I've played and enjoyed many great games, including during the times I've actively been playing Eve, but no other game has ever had the kind of hold on me that  this one has.

The other part of the answer isn't so easily defined. Eve gives me something I'm not finding (or, at least, not finding enough of) in other games, but it's hard to put my finger on exactly what that is. As time goes on and I get back into Eve and writing this blog, that's one of the topics I expect to be exploring here: What makes Eve so compelling?

I've also decided to make it a point to read up on the big events in Eve over the last 3 and a half years. I've heard about some that made the general gaming press such as the cash shop revolt and a few of the bigger scams, but I also know a lot of important stuff that happened in this game over the last few years hasn't been reported in the gaming press. In order, to really get back into a game like Eve, I think it's important, and probably a major advantage, to know what's been going on since I was last an active player.

For the moment, however, I still have 7 days left on my free trial. I'm going to use those days, at least unless and until I run into an issue getting missions, and then once that's about to end I'll have to make a decision on what subscription plan I'm going to take.

And then, once that's all done, I'm going to start looking for a corp to join. In my experience, that's when Eve really gets interesting.

Ok, that's it for now. Until next time, fly safe.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Suddenly, Three and a Half Years Later... looks like I'm coming back to Eve, again.

I don't know what it is really. Yes, Eve-Online is one of the most beautiful and deep MMO's out there with a loyal and vocal fan base. Yes, it's one of the most unique gaming concepts I've ever played, one that offers players true freedom with the very minimum of hand-holding necessary, a game that basically makes you aware of the tools you have available to you to succeed in the Eve universe, teaches you the basics of how to use them, and then unceremoniously boots you out of the nest to make your own way in the New Eden star cluster.

I left Eve, for what I believed would be the final time, three and a half years ago, right around the date of the previous post. The truth is that I'd grown bored with Eve, for reasons that really had nothing to do with the game itself...well, at least not directly.

Between Spring 2007 and Summer 2010, I was an Eve loyalist. I managed to keep my account active for most of that time, kept up with skill training for the most part, and so had a pretty potent and wealthy toon after a while. After spending about a year with Eve University, I eventually joined a tiny manufacturing corp called Stonewall Interstellar and served as second-in-command there. When our CEO left Eve, I was left with the wealth of Stonewall Interstellar but no real desire to run it on my own, so I sold off SI's assests and decided to see about getting into a 0.0 corp.

0.0 was a lot of fun, for a while. Eventually though, I came to realize that in a game that features space travel, I wasn't doing much traveling anymore. In 0.0, one generally doesn't leave the station without good reason, and so I found myself spending most of my time in 0.0 sitting in a station looking at my ship, and chatting with corpies. Great people, but I just needed more game in my gaming. And so, I made the decision to move on.

Star Trek Online was in beta at the time and I'd become involved with that. I later discovered that the CEO of Stonewall Interstellar had resurfaced in STO so that was a big draw for me as well. I bought a lifetime subscription to STO but about a year afterward, when Atari decided to sell its interest in STO and basically put all development of the game on standby to cut costs while they secured a buyer, STO began a year-long content drought and eventually I lost interest in that as well.

There have been no shortage of other contenders for my gaming time. I've played SWTOR, Fallen Earth, Aion, TERA, The Secret World, Age of Conan, and many others. All were fun and entertaining, but none of them captured my imagination in the same way as Eve did. With all of these games, even in the ones that could be fairly labelled sandboxes, sooner or later you find yourself following very prescribed paths to accomplish certain goals. For example, if you want to accomplish certain goals and fill certain roles in most MMOs you'll usually have to make those decisions early on, often during character creation. Not so in Eve. In Eve, I can pursue one path for a while, then change my mind and try another, and perhaps return to the previous path or try another completely different one, all without penalty or problem.

While most games feature an epic overarching story and fit the player into that story in some way, Eve offers really very little in that regard, and instead provides the opportunity for a new player to create their own story within the Eve universe virtually from scratch.

That's what I've decided I want to do.

My old account is gone, as far as I'm concerned. I don't remember what credentials I used and besides, it's been a while. I want to relearn the finer points of the game and I'm not going to be able to do that using a toon that's as far along as my old one in any case. Sure, if CCP sent me one of those emails asking me to reactivate my account like they used to, I might just take them up on it as that toon had a lot of skill training. If that never happens, though, I'm ok with that. I'm only a few days in, flying a Thorax (as of yesterday), and doing Level 1 missions. The closest I've gotten to low-sec or 0.0 is a couple of 0.4 systems I had to fly into or through during my travels. Saw a few possible pirates lurking about, but I wasn't flying or carrying anything valuable. Yeah, it's been three and a half years, but I've been ganked in this game too many times not to remember that when you've got to go through low-sec, you don't fly or carry anything you can't afford to lose.

It's seems there have been more than a few changes since I last played as well. Two days ago, a GM contacted me in-game just because (I suspect) I'd undocked from a station but hadn't engaged warp drive and asked if I needed help. I've never seen this kind of proactive customer service in any MMO I've ever played and I have to say I like it. The graphics and the jump gate mechanics have been updated and the UI has been improved since I last logged in as well. I like.

All that said, there's one thing about my return to Eve that's bugging the hell out me. I'm not sure if it's a bug, a bad interaction with another program running on my PC, or something else, but for some insane reason my escape key usually doesn't work in Eve. That means that not only do I have to shut the game down from the task manager when I'm done playing, but also that I can't access any of the graphics, audio, and other options on the menu the escape key is supposed to bring up. Nothing else in the game seems affected in any way, the damn escape key just doesn't work, until it suddenly works for a little while then stops again for no discernible reason.

I don't remember ever having this problem when I played before. I'm planning on contacting CCP on this because I need to be able to adjust my settings even more than I need to be able to turn the game off properly. I set my graphics options to the highest setting when the menu was working, but now I know I need to back them off at least one setting because of frame rate issues...but I can't, because I can't get to the menu to adjust them. Grrrr...

So, obviously in addition to coming back to Eve, I'm also returning to this blog. I make you no promises about frequency of posting, how long I'll be doing this, or anything else. For right now, all I can tell you is what I said at the beginning of this post: I'm back.

More soon.