Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

Patch Day! It seems nothing brings more excitement and fear to the MMO gamer than patch day. I’d also be willing to bet nothing causes more people to quit than patch day.

In a perfect world, patch day is the day when the bug that has been driving you crazy finally gets fixed. It is when new content is added. It is when the “too powerful” get nerfed. It is when the “too weak” gets buffed. It is when you get that new game feeling again if only for a moment. All in a perfect world.

The reality of it is that patch day breaks things. It breaks the UI. It makes more lag. The class/item you have come to love does not work as well as it used to. It makes you revise previous successful strategies. It makes previously worthless items priceless and previously priceless items worthless. It adds content you finish in 3 hours. This is not to mention the headache of getting the patch downloaded in the first place.

In general, people don’t like change. You create a game and rules for play. The players learn the rules and play according to them (not talking about cheaters here). On patch day, the rules often get changed. This upsets players who had been playing by the rules. They get tired of the game having the rules changed each patch day and they quit.

Patch day often will have small changes that would originally appear to be minor. Changes like the voice of a character or the revision of a custom logo background. People get used to things and when you change even the little stuff it becomes a big deal to them. They liked the old logo background. The old voice was fine, why did you change it?

A new player would not even notice these items. In fact, they will get used to the way it is currently and would likely get upset if you changed it back.

I’ll cite a recent example from EVE Online. They just had a patch come out. In this patch, the power of missles was changed in various ways. Now you need to buy some skills to make them work as well as before, and they deal damage in a different way. Big missles are not as deadly to small ships.

Now, I already read the patch notes and recognized the missle changes so I just avoided missles for the most part. It is how I prefer to deal with change. After the patch came out, I started training missle skills and I do not notice any issues with them. People that had jumped all over missles because they were so powerful are currently upset. Even though the patch notes were available and a test server was in place for people to see how it would impact them.

Another thing they changed was the voice of the ship computer. I rarely played with sound up so I do not recall much of the old voice. I like the new voice, even though she sounds a bit apethetic about everything. I half expect her to say, “Oh bother, I suppose I will request yet another permission to dock for you.” But still, the player complaints abound.

To be expected, people will quit. It happens at every patch when you change something people like. The truth is, almost everything in the game is liked by someone for some reason. No matter what you change, you will piss someone off.

I’m glad I’m not a dev.

– Ethic

Enemies are your best friends

[EVE Online] In an interesting diplay of game mechanics, I can now make friends in EVE Online by blowing up their ships. If I have never talked with anyone, they are neutral to me; if I have run some missions for them, they like me a little; if I have blown up some of their stuff, they are surprisingly friendly.

You see, there is a skill called “Diplomacy: Skill at interacting with hostile Agents. 0.4 Bonus per level to effective standing towards hostile Agents.” I took my first level of Diplomacy tonight, although I could theoretically take up to five. Checking how much my contact likes me after running my last mission of the night, I was surprised to see how many pirate factions had taken a liking to me. My corporation is in a massive war against the Blood Raider Covenant, who now gives me a +0.38 rating. Guristas Pirates, Angel Cartel, and all the other pirates now like me more than all but one of the groups for which I have run missions. I failed a mission for one group, since it involved my being ganked by a dozen NPC pirates; if I start running missions for them successfully, my faction rating will take a big hit.

If you’ll excuse me, I am going to go make some new friends by blowing up ships, attacking random passers-by, and generally pushing people into traffic. That is apparently the most efficient way to make friends in EVE.

: Zubon

Ships = Classes

[EVE Online] You know, honestly, I don’t like blathering on about an MMO that I am actually enjoying because I have been here before. Sooner or later (and recently it is always sooner) I grow tired and bored and start to lose interest in playing. The magic fades away and the mechanics are all that is left. Going through the motions is not fun and “The Cancel” soon follows.

But here I go again.

EVE is scratching me in all the right places. The latest itch is classes. EVE does not technically have classes, but you can fill the role of most traditional classes. You can fight, craft, tradeskill, work the market, support, etc. You can be any or all of those. To change class, most of the time all you need to do is switch to a different ship.

Let’s say you are out mining ore because you want to make some money when out of the blue your friend says he needs help with a mission. You fly back to the station and switch into a ship set for support. This ship has devices on it capable of remotely boosting shields and power on your friends ship. After the mission’s battle ends, you return to the station and check the market. Seeing that your ore is more valuable 4 systems away, you get onboard of your transport ship and load all the ore. Off you go to make some extra cash just for making a little trip.

Upon returning, another friend is out mining and there are pirates bothering him. Hop into your sleek fast fighter and go get them off his back. Loot their goods and collect the bounty and you are making money again. I could go on but I think you get the point.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, there are some “rats” out there with my name on them.

– Ethic

New Shiny

[City of Heroes, Guild Wars, EVE Online] This has been an interesting time for in-game new shinies.

A little while ago, I logged on to City of Heroes and just was not terribly interested in doing anything. I had hit the level cap, and I did not have a strong urge to begin the climb to level 50 again. I decided to try out my Kheldian and see how that went. Level 22 is the first time that you can have the best enhancements possible (before end-game raid loot), so it was pretty cool to fly around and two-shot large groups of even-level enemies. I mentioned the glory of Striga Isle and the content in the 20s, so that was great. I flew up 7 levels fairly quickly, worrying more about out-leveling content than about leveling. Actually, I did fly past one of the Striga contacts, but he let me proceed to the next. I re-did the re-furbished Citadel task force on my Tanker, since our group needed one. After that, the shininess just sort of faded. Hmm.

My wife, of all people, expressed an interest in trying Guild Wars. She likes City of Heroes, but the other games she likes all have “Mario” in the title. Still, Guild Wars is pretty, and if she likes CoH… A friend of mine lost interest by level 11 there, so I borrowed his copy/account. Not too shiny; I have played several fantasy MMOs, and for a non-PvP player, there was not too much shine. Level 9 (8? whatever) came pretty quickly, but it is not calling me back. The wife? Logged on twice, didn’t like the controls, and it is too much like World of Warcraft. Yeah, I know, there is a world of difference between the two games, but in the beginning and in the ways that matter to her, they are not too far apart. Besides, if you click on anyone, it looks like you are inviting them to group, and that made her nervous.

Okay, shiny #3: EVE Online. Now this is distressing: we cannot have three bloggers on a site commenting on the same game. Well, maybe we can, but would you, the reader, stand for it? Maybe, since there are differences in perspective. Anyway, EVE Online looks a bit like A Tale in the Desert (deep economy and trade skills, player-run economy) without the developer-run social experimentation. This may or may not be an improvement, based on your perspective. Oh, and prettier graphics.

I suppose there was a point here…one moment… Let’s go with:
Rapid experimentation is fun. Having friends to borrow from is always good, since games can get expensive. Sometimes it takes many shinies to find a prize worth keeping.

At any rate, I have my City of Heroes supergroup, and I have a new corporation in EVE Online. The two games have vastly different play styles, so we shall see if I can stand playing two MMOs at once and still have a life, such as it is. Now if only I could get the sound card to work in EVE without crashing me…

: Zubon

Perfect Fit Or New Shiny?

eve[EVE Online] I’m still quite suprised at how well EVE is working for me as a casual player. You start the game with a few skills, but you’ll need new skills soon enough. Normally you would get new skills by grinding on mobs or questing for XP until you levelled. But in EVE, you don’t get new skills by killing mobs or doing quests. You get new skills by purchasing them and then training them. I don’t even see how you could gimp yourself. Don’t like a skill? Don’t buy it. If you already have it, it’s not hurting you in any way.

Skills have various levels, 1 through #. To train each level takes time and the time varies based on different aspects like your attributes and other skills. Lets just say a typical skill takes 30 minutes to train to level 1, 4 hours for level 2, 1 day for level 3, etc. Each level means that you are better at the skill. A combat skill level may mean more accuracy, damage, rate of fire, things like that. Some ships may require you to have level 3 in a navigation skill (for example) so you must train that skill to 3 before you can use the ship. Refining skill levels means you get a better return on your ore refining. I could go on and on but there are way too many skills. Important to note, you can only train one skill at a time.

So why does this work well for a casual player? Simple; the skills train in real time no matter where you are or what you are doing. Log in, start training a skill, and then log off. It will keep training.

This allows me to feel like I am progressing whether I am playing or not. Sometimes I just log in to start training a new skill because I don’t have time to play. In fact, since it saves your training progress, sometimes I stop training a longer skill when I am playing in order to train a shorter one that will finish while I’m still online. Then before I log off I restart training the longer skill and it begins right where it left off.

Granted, to buy skills you need money – sometimes a lot of it depending on the skill. Getting money requires you do something in game. Mine, kill pirates, run missions. All generates income. Therefore, you cannot just play the game by training skills and logging off (unless someone gives you a lot of money). Also, getting the skill to fly a battleship does not mean you really know how to fly a battleship properly. To do that you need to play the game and use the ship.

I really like it because when friends of mine play a lot more than I do, they do not really get any further ahead of me as far as skills are concerned. They may make more money and know more about the game, but heck they can just share that with me hehe.

This game is not for everyone. I’m sure many will get bored with it and that is fine. It is not a fast paced game. It is more of a thinking game. It is what you make of it. When I log in, I decide what I feel like doing. Get in my destroyer and go mine while defending myself from the occasional pirate? Get in my frigate and go pirate hunting to collect bounties and loot? Get in my industrial ship and do some trade routes? The options are only as limited as you make them.

Last night I took my frigate out and scoured asteroid fields for pirates. If I found any, I would launch a few missles at them to take out their shields and as they got closer I would open up with my railguns. After taking them out, I could loot their cargo holds for equipment. In fact, I have a cargo hold scanner so I can see what they are carrying before I even attack.

I haven’t even got into all the other options. There are all sorts of electronic warfare available, things that shut down your ship, or keep you from targeting the enemy. You could train up cloaking devices and stealth your way across the galaxy. You could join up with a corporation and manaufacture ships or equipment. You could claim a spot in 0.0 space and defend it from all others. You could even hunt down other players with bounties on their head.

Only time will tell if this game really is what I’ve been seeking or if it is just another new shiny, blinding me from seeing the truth. But I know this; I talk to many people in game and a lot of them have been playing it like I do and still are playing (and enjoying) it after 2 years.

– Ethic

An EVEning With Pirates

integrale destroyer[EVE Online] I have a new ship now, a destroyer I call “The Integrale” (picture shown). One of the advantages of this ship, besides the improved cargo space, is the fact that I can run multiple mining lasers and multiple weapons. This can come in handy for defending yourself from pirates while mining. I needed it last night.

I decided to travel to a less secure system, because you can often find more valuable ores to mine. However, the lower security also means an increased chance of aggression. I went to visit the system that Zxyrox was in as he was going to mine with me. It was a 0.7 system.

I looked for some descriptions of the different security ratings so I could explain them somewhat here. I found lots of information on EVE-I and I summarized it below:

  • 1.0 – 0.8 Security: Safe around stations and gates, no NPC pirates. Players could possibly destroy your ship and pod you before the police get there, but it should be rather rare.
  • 0.7 – 0.5 Security: Safe around stations. Most asteroid fields and gates will have NPC pirates around them. The lower the security, the tougher and more numerous they will be. You should be safe from players, but if someone is determined they can destroy you before a police arrive.
  • 0.4 – 0.1 Security: Little or no police presence, numerous NPC pirates around asteroid fields and gates. Other players can attack you with no police intervention. The sentry guns around gates and bases will fire on anyone starting an aggressive act (within range).
  • 0.0 Security: The worst NPC pirates and players are in these systems. It’s free-for-all when it comes to combat. Fire first with no intervention, no sentries, no police. Don’t enter unless you have experience.

So you can see I was still in a pretty safe system, but I had a good chance of getting attacked by pirates while mining. And by good chance, I mean that they did. Several times.

After insuring my ship to guarantee I’ll get a good chunk of the cost back should it be destroyed, and cloning myself to make sure I don’t lose any skills should I be killed, we warped out to the asteroid field. On the way, I created a “safe spot” by marking my place in space during the warp. This bookmark is a random spot created for escape should I need to. Odds would be good that it is empty of pirates and the chance of someone finding me right away are slim. All I would need to do is to warp to the bookmark and I’m safe.

Zxyrox and I started to mine, him in his mining barge and me in the destroyer. It was not long before some NPC pirates warped in. I stopped my mining temporarily and locked onto the closest pirate. I set my ship to orbit about the pirate at the optimal range for my railguns. When I got within range, I opened fire. I made short work of all three pirates this way and looted the ruins of their ships for goodies. Back to the mining.

As my cargo hold approached full, Zxyrox told me to jettison the ore. I did that and it created a canister which I named as mine so it would hopeful discourage someone from stealing my ore. This is where I learned of the first immersion breaking aspect of this game so far. The canister I jettisoned from my ship had a capacity much greater than my ship. How does that work? Anyway, what I would do is keep the mining going and transfer ore from my ship into the container as it got full. Zxyrox was doing the same.

We were attacked by NPC pirates a few more times during the mining operation, but my destroyer was making easy work getting rid of them. In fact, I didn’t take any damage at all. Once Zxyrox’s container was full, he warped back to the station to get a ship with a large cargo hold to haul our ore back for processing. While he was gone, some additional NPC pirates came in but again I dispatched of them quickly.

It took a couple of trips to get all the ore back to the station, but after processing it all and splitting up the profits, I had a cool million ISK in my wallet.

I found out I am really enjoying the slower pace of the game. It may not be good for someone that wants to interact with the game all the time. Truth is, I watched TV while I was playing. Mining is simply “press a key” for each mining laser and wait for your cargo hold to fill up. Of course adding in NPC pirates and player pirates to the picture means you need to be alert. But still, in general the pace is slower than your typical MMO and I am thankful for that. It’s just right for my playstyle at this time in my life. That’s not to say it is always slow. I imagine combat with other players could be quite fast-paced and overwhelming.

I’m subscribing when the free trial is over. Any questions about the game, feel free to ask and I’ll try to get them answered. Oh, one other thing. In EVE, they call pirates “rats” so I guess my site name still applies, heh.

– Ethic

Ethic’s In Space

ethic[EVE Online] After logging into EVE for the first time and creating my character, I was sent through a tutorial. There are no player avatars in the game, unless you consider a ship your player avatar, which I guess is actually the truth of it. Your person only exists as a character portrait. My character shown here, is named “Ethic KTR”.

This doesn’t bother me, as the ship is kind of like the ultimate loot. Well, except you don’t really loot it. Um, well you can sort of loot other ships.

When you start the game, you get a free ship and 1,000 ISK (the native form of currency). My ship was called an Ibis, but I renamed it to be called “The Alcyone”. That is something cool off the bat, you can name your ship. The second image is of my ship.

alcyoneThe tutorial was good, and it got me started. I really did need help and thanks to Zxyrox I was able to get most of my questions answered. I ran a few delivery missions and did some mining and managed to get my ISK up to around 65,000 at the moment. I’m on the verge of buying my first new ship.

Here is a typical mission for you: While docked in a station, an agent asked me to deliver some cargo to another station. I open up my cargo hold and also the station items window. I drag the cargo from the items window into my cargo hold. Then I click on undock.

I then find myself outside the station. I open up my map and do a search for the destination. When it finds it, I mark it as my destination point. I then click on autopilot and it takes me all the way to my end destination system (even through the jump gates) with no interaction needed. I could have done it by going from jump gate to jump gate on my own, but this is much easier. It did not take too long, but I will admit that at this point it is pretty much a waiting game. You do not need to interact with the game too much so far.

Autopilot takes me to the system I needed, but I still need to find the end station. There are icons on the screen and you can just hover over them, or there is a window that shows what is nearby. Finding the end station, I click on “warp to within 15 km” and away I go. When I get to the station, I request docking privileges by right clicking on the station and choosing dock.

Once docked, I can click on my agent and tell them the delivery is complete and I collect my fee. I could then return to my original station and get another assignment, or I can talk to a local agent (if available).

miningI also spent some time mining for “feldspar” which comes from an asteroid. I would find a nearby asteroid field and lock onto an asteroid with the mineral I am searching for, and then click on my mining laser. Then I wait until my cargo hold is full and warp back to the station for processing and sale. The third image is of me during a mining expedition.

So that sums up my first weekend in EVE. I find the game to be very peaceful. I also find it to be very complicated and I like that. It means I have a lot of things to learn. I also find the immersion level to be very high, because everything makes sense. Private chats, email, storage space, everything fits the setting. And the scenery, at least so far, is nothing short of breathless. And only one server, means I can play alongside, and chat with anyone that is playing.

– Ethic

A New Beginning

eve[EVE Online] I’m downloading the free 14-day trial offered at Penny Arcade as I write this. I’m going to give EVE a shot, but I’m going to need some in-game assistance. Someone to show me the ropes a little.

Anyone up to it, send me an email and tell me how to get ahold of you. Thanks in advance!

UPDATE: “Currently there are 10692 players on the server and of that 799 are trial accounts. The server is configured to accept a maximum of 800 trial accounts.” Bah. They did tell me that if I wanted to subscribe I could log in right away. Thanks for that I guess. I suppose my 14 days is going to countdown regardless of my ability to try the game or not.

UPDATE p2: I did manage to get in a good amount of time this weekend, I hope to have a “beginning” write up sometime this week.

– Ethic