Wednesday, 29 December 2010

So...

I could play the game... or I could play with the character creator on SiSi for hours.

Todays efforts:

Laria mk 2:
Laria Mk2


Laria Mk2, Full body

And a throwaway alt, Sebiestor Female







Saturday, 18 December 2010

I've been fiddling around with my look, trying to balance practicality against a fashion sense that feels like it's on life support. Not entirely sure that I'll settle on this, but I'm quite pleased.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Learning Skills and the Progress Quest Problem

I've ended up with a fairly mixed feeling over the Learning Skills removal, so I thought I'd blog about it.

On the plus side:
It's not entirely clear to me what function learning skills were supposed to have. It looks like they were designed to promote specialisation, which is something that EvE does in a variety of ways. The fundamental problem with that is that a) they didn't do that very well and b) they did it early in a character's life, rather than late.

On (a) - rather than promoting specialisation, they were just a requirement that the majority of people trained up, as early as they could bear to. Most EveMon plans I came up with had an extensive period of learning skill training to optimize them. I trained some, played hookey on others, because I wanted the useful stuff earlier.

(b) is poor game design, and this is the same reason that CCP introduced attribute remaps and changed character creation. It's not as easy in EVE to start over with a new character as it is in some other games. Penalising a character forever for their early choices is a poor idea - you want people to try it, get into it and /then/ specialise once they understand the choices they're making. Now, learning skills could always be trained up, so you could de-specialise in one direction and move in another. But that's the opposite of the way you actually want it to be - if they did anything at all, they created a bubble of specialisation that started early then went away.

Now the minus side:
Players want to progress. In other MMO's, this has largely become the sole purpose. Actually playing and enjoying the game seems to be a foreign concept - if it's not maximising your XP per hour, or getting you a cool item, it's not worth doing. EVE has slightly less of this, but the desire to progress is still an important driver.

It's a driver that eats games, though. Because players are always going to want to progress faster. Everything that impedes progress is an obstacle that ideally will be removed. It's important that the owners of the game resist this. Yes, remove things that are unintentional blocks, but don't remove things that you want characters to have to do. Everquest made a horrible error when they introduced "The Planes of Power" (and to a lesser extent, "The Shadows of Luclin" - suddenly, the world went from being a big and dangerous place where travelling was an often exciting and significant prospect, to it being an easy pop across two continents to pick up lunch. That was the point that the game became less interesting to me. The desire of players to progress quicker is an insatiable monster, and it eats games and spits them out as pale shadows of what they once were.

Particularly pernicious is the desire of new players to be super-duper powerful. They will always couch it as "being able to compete", but it's a sham. EVE is already a game in which it's possible to be useful to and active in a corp remarkably quickly. Here's a frigate, there's a warp disruptor, go tackle. Or whatever. Be the little guy for a while. Because, actually, being the little guy is fun. Don't try to win the game in the first week of playing it - you won't be able to, and if you were, you'd hate the game and be done with it in weeks.

Looking at the Learning Skills change, the big improvement is from 1.6 million skillpoints up to about 4 million, which I roughly calculate to be about week 4 of a character's arrival to week 12 or so. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. But I don't think it should go much further than that. Leave the rest alone.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Newbism

*Clueless F*cking Noob*


I'm an EVE Newbie. I've been playing for about four months now, discounting a brief trial back in 2004 (really brief). And I've managed to get past the "clueless" bit of this - I understand basic things about the game. I know what the buttons do. I know what much of the terminology means. I've been on both sides of PvP battles.

I'm still a Noob. There are vast swathes of the game that I don't know about. Have never seen. I can't fly vastly powerful spaceships. I'm not and have never been in a nullsec corp. And I love this. EVE is hard, dangerous and huge in both a physical sense and a knowledge sense, and there is no hurry to conquer it all. My enjoyment isn't linked to some deluded power drive - it can't be, because that's ultimately futile. There's always someone bigger.

And here's the thing: I don't ever want to stop being a Noob. I want to keep finding out new things, flying new ships, going to new places and getting blown up by new people. I want to keep the "this is cool!" thing going. And I want to avoid becoming cynical, believing that I know and have seen it all. I've been there, I've done that, in many other games and places. It's dull, negative and it means you stop having fun.




“There are worlds out there where the skies are burning, where the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice... and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on Ace...we've got work to do!”

Friday, 5 November 2010

Incarna

I was listening to the "NotALotOfNews News Hour" podcast - and there was a discussion on Incarna, based on the CSM meeting minutes. Given that what's likely to be delivered in Incarna seems to be very much in an inchoate state, I decided to have a think about it. And not just because "What would you like to have in your "Captain's Cabin"?" sounds rude.

Some thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. If the developers are going to err, err in the direction of making Incarna chrome (i.e. attractive but basically non-critical-functionality), rather than have it negatively impact the current game.
  2. Expanding the existence of our characters beyond their ships is potentially strongly game enhancing.
  3. If it ends up being like stations in Star Trek: Online, it'll just be annoying. 
  4. EVE is a slow-paced game, with a grimy futuristic feel. Incarna should enhance that, rather than make it seem more shiny and clean.
  5. It would be really nice to be able to look out of a station window and see ships coming in/going out, etc, rather than having the stations feel like separate worlds.
  6. It would be nice if the stations were differentiable in some way, rather than all being clones of each other.
  7. If there are NPCs, and they are mission-giving, they should in NO WAY have big yellow question-marks over their head. Wrong feeling, wrong tone, wrong idea. Incarna should enhance the experience, not make "running about collecting qwests" an irritating and time-consuming necessity.


While I'm on missions, they really are a bit lacklustre, aren't they? The following conversation is typical:

Shay Deebloak (Agent): Laria Raven, out in the depths of space the Ivil Company is running illegal drugs, hidden in the holds of innocent-looking frigates. The customs officials race frantically from station to station, gate to gate, attempting to stop them getting through. Despite my misgivings about you, I feel that you have the ability to help in this battle.

Laria Raven (Me!): Oh...coool... I'm up for that, on the side of good, trying to stop these dirty smugglers! So, what's it to be - policing a blockade? A letter of marque? Blowing them up as they approach the station?

Shay Deebloak: Could you take these documents to the next system, please?

Laria Raven: ...

Shay Deebloak: It's important! For reasons that will never be very clear! I'll pay you moderately well! And if you come back, I may well ask you to do exactly the same thing again!

Laria Raven: ... meh.

It seems to me that if Incarna can be used to leverage more dynamic, less repetitive, more involved missions, that would be a positive.

Also, there should be bars. Cantinas. Whatever. (Actually, I think that's a given).

It seems unlikely that there's a way to stop there being lots of idiots in station alternating between yelling "Boobies", spamming, and whinging about how their ship got blown up and now they have nothing and how could this happen? (Gee brain, I dunno, possibly because you ignored everything you've been told ever, and attacked the game like it was a cross between X-Wing vs Tie-Fighter and World Of Warcraft.)

Back to my list

  1. (actually, 8, but html does not like long digressions). I want to change my character's clothes. Just occasionally. So she doesn't stink. This kind of thing isn't for everyone. It's pointless and useless and so it's exactly the sort of thing that Incarna can and should do.
  2. I want people to be able to organise events, entertainment, amusing stories. I want there to be an in-game news channel I can watch.
  3. There should be gambling. I know this is contentious, but I can't imagine EVE as a place where it doesn't go on.
I guess, in the end, what I'm saying is that Incarna should be a genuine expansion, rather than a modification of what's already there. Because what's already there is pretty darn good. Open the world up, rather than modifying it.

Some of this is hard. But it seems to me like EVE has the ideal platform for dynamic content, because of the sheer amount of space in the universe. Lets have some ambition (particularly in missions).

Oh, and as for what I want in my Captain's Cabin? (or my Lieutenant's Locker? (Or my Midshipman's Manor (or my Ensign's Enclave (or my Admiral's... Annexe....))) I want it to be a space that (a) feels private, so perhaps a limited amount of customisation. (b) I can invite people to and (c) uh... You know, I'm really not sure.

Sidenote:
...TS is coming to EVE... I can feel it...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Loss

The Velator disgorged its pilot into the transfer tube to the dock. Laria stormed down the tunnel, her expression etched into a frown. For the second time in as many days, she was fighting to hide the tears that threatened to creep from her eyes.

Oh, she'd taken the Instigation #1 into the engagement willingly, alright. Knowing that it could be lost. Knowing that her own life was at risk. But the impact of her ship disintegrating around her was something she hadn't expected. She'd flown that ship on many operations. Indeed, it had been the ship that had taken down the criminal Davan in that prolonged battle. It had done good service, and it deserved a better end than being snared and shot to pieces like it was nothing better than a Serpentis Scout.

Without conscious thought, she had made her way to her quarters. The "Message Waiting" display was flashing, as she entered. Still lost, her mind stuck on the dying, flailing, Incursus Frigate, she opened it. There was a picture of an Incursus Frigate, fresh off the production line and fitted out. She keyed its name into an instant reply, knowing that its registration would be instantly processed. Out of the ashes of Instigation #1 - and, Laria admitted ruefully, the insurance money - Instigation #2 rose like an angry phoenix. Laria would gain vengeance for her loss, she swore, the white knuckles of a tightened fist the indicators of her passion. She wasn't sure on whom, and she wasn't sure how, but vengeance would be served.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Must Be Something In My Eye

How many parents disown their child for joining the family business?

Laria Raven closed the mail on her datapad, and stood up. Across the square a fellow student, someone she knew by sight, had flown with on training missions, waved in her direction. She turned her face away, striding out of the public space. She had a reputation for being aloof, detached. Good. Sometimes it came in useful.And other times it came in essential. She strode on, aware that her movements seemed unnatural, robotic. Consciously, she leaned into the co-processing implant, letting the smooth logic flow into her mind. Calm is a state of mind that can be manufactured, she told herself.

The thunk of the door of her quarters closing was like a cool breeze across her skin. Safe. Away from prying eyes. She re-opened the mail. "We are dismayed at the choices you have made. Not only have you disobeyed our express wishes, and trained as a miner, but now you have left Gallente space and are living with the Minmatar." She could hear her father's voice, almost spitting the last word. It was a strange and unique prejudice he had - his world was ordered, Gallente first, everyone else at best ninety-fifth. For years, the Raven Mining Company had been hamstrung by his unwillingness to even allow ships to venture outside Federation space.

Laria closed the mail again. And, her finger hesitating for only an instant, stabbed the "Delete" option. So. Alone. Without hope of family support or recognition. She brought up another document on the pad, and, this time without pause or hesitation, indicated her agreement, and transmitted the enlistment papers. It was a big moment, signing up for a tour of duty in the Navy. A big decision. One that required concentration. That was why it had been difficult for her to see the papers. No other reason.