Monday, April 25, 2016

BB74: The big thing at Fanfest

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 74th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are, please visit the Blog Banter page.
So when this Blog Banter goes live, Fanfest will be over. Hungover geeks from around the world will be departing Reykjavik after a five-day binge of important internet spaceships and partying. Whether you were there in person, watched the streams or read the dev blogs on your mobile hidden under your work desk there was probably something in there that gave you a “nerd-boner”. What for you personally was the most important thing to come out of Fanfest 2016?
Not being able to go to Iceland and partake of the festivities myself, my Fanfest experience was much like the rest of the player base as I crowded around either my work computer or phone in order to keep up with the steady stream of information while constantly checking over my shoulder to make sure that I wasn't caught paying more attention to internet spaceships than whatever it is I do for real world money. I couldn't really help it though, because the stream of information was a good one and really easy to get wrapped up in. This didn't feel like the past two times I had kept up with Fanfest, where everything felt like more promise than probability. The content of this year's Fanfest just seemed so much more tangible than I had experienced before. The update to Valkyrie, Projects Arena and Nova, all the new content coming in Citadel, planned changes coming beyond that, and a host of other things on display just seemed to really nail home the idea that CCP is alive and kicking and ready to kick some ass.

Which is good to see. The company has had some major set backs in the last few years. The failure of World of Darkness, the coming death of Dust 514, and the general stagnation of Eve itself have just made it feel like CCP is struggling to find itself in the current landscape of digital existence. Add in the fact that the company has taken some pretty big risks with its flagship product over the past year, with things like jump fatigue and skill point trading, and its safe to say that the foundation was looking shaky at best. But, the gamble on virtual reality seems to be paying off with Gunjack and Valkyrie being legitimate hits for the new technology. Eve itself is getting a massive update this week, complete with a killer new Permaband song, and coupled with the hype surrounding the current war, enthusiasm for the game is at a significant high point. 

While it's good to see CCP growing as a company and Eve growing as a game, the biggest point I took away from Fanfest is the need for the player base to be growing as a whole. CCP Ghost's presentation on the new player experience presented one jaw dropping stat that I think everyone needs to take to heart: in the past year, 1.5 million new people tried Eve and most of them didn't even last a few hours. Imagine that for a few seconds. Eve with one and a half million extra people flying in space. I know we're pretty married to the idea of "the learning cliff" and take pride in the fact that we play THE hard game, but that's just stunning to me. I've heard many stories of people starting and giving up on the game multiple times (sometimes something as simple as "I gave up with the character editor") and I can't help but wonder what the game would be like if more people who started it stuck with it. It should be said that there's no way that entire 1.5 million would stay, and we wouldn't want them to anyway. Eve exists as it is because its played by people who "get" the game, whiners aside. Not everyone who tries it is going to get it, but if we can get to a point where even a tenth of that number is able to get through the new player struggle and latch on to the game, per year, then we would wind up with a vastly different experience in our day to day gaming lives.

As a part of Signal Cartel, I encounter plenty of people new to the game. Exploration is considered to be a fairly newbie friendly career to pick up, and we've worked hard to be the name people think of when it comes to that career path. And I've found it interesting that as people move on from being "Signaleers" they still retain a certain kind of enthusiasm for the game at large. I think a major aspect of enjoying this game is finding a group to enjoy it with, and Signal has done a lot to grow this sensibility in our ranks. And I think that is a sentiment that can carry over to CCP's growing arsenal of titles. Think of it, four individual games united under one universe (five if Arena gets an Eve tie in). There is massive potential there, but only if we can make the flagship as accessible as possible. We don't need to do away with the learning cliff, we just need to give more people grappling hooks to scale it.

The potential growth of the Eve universe, and growth that is being missed, is the biggest thing I took away from Fanfest 2016. Much as it was a celebration of where New Eden stands today, it was also a glimpse at where it could be even a year from now. There's work to be done in making that happen, sure, but there was an incredible amount of work involved in getting to where we are now. At the end of the day, I'm more optimistic about the game now than I have ever been, and its fun to play in the only universe where this kind of thing would even be possible. But those possibilities are tied to numbers, and not just warm bodies. There's clear evidence that Eve can draw outsiders in. We just need to find better ways of keeping them in without losing the identity of what makes Eve EVE. This includes bringing in folks who check out Eve because they tried one of the other titles in the universe, such as Valkyrie or Gunjack. I don't have the answer on how to do that, but I'm confident it can be done and CCP Ghost has made me hopeful that he's the guy to do it.

We'll see what happens over the year though. The Citadel expansion is another big gamble by CCP, Valkyrie and Gunjack are still riding high on "novelty" aspects, and Nova and Arena may very well go the way of WoD. But after this weekend, I see no reason to not be hopeful about the game itself, and as such I see no reason to not be hopeful about the appeal to new players. A good game will simply draw people in.

Also, faction capitals look cool as shit.

Friday, April 22, 2016

When Eve gets too real

With all the hype around Fanfest and the upcoming Citadel expansion, the Eve player base is riding pretty high at the moment. But, there are a few things that have happened today that I'd like to touch on.

The first is the harassment of  Eve streamer Crass Kitty. Recently, her grandfather passed away, something that she shared with her stream viewers. About two weeks ago, her stream was flooded with a string of new followers who all had various names making fun of the fact that her grandfather died, along with a few generic misogynistic phrases thrown in for good measure. It got to the point that Crass ended her stream early rather than continue to deal with the problem. As has been revealed today, the effort was orchestrated by members of Goonswarm who apparently don't like Crass because she does a lot of interviews with members of the Money Badger Coalition. Beyond littering her stream with references to her dead relative, it seems that they've also tracked down her real life social media accounts (as in, the ones not associated in any way with her gaming life) and tried to harass her there as well. With the unveiling of the Goons being responsible for this, there has been the expected dramatic outcry and gnashing of teeth, along with a fresh discussion of where the battle lines are drawn in the course of internet shit posting. By and large, its gotten pretty ugly out there.

Secondly, notable Eve personality Yolo Swagtron posted a genuinely heartfelt message to his corp's forums about why he has quit the game and all game related media immediately. This is most noteworthy because at the time of quitting, Yolo was actually in Iceland at Fanfest in the depths of all the Eve he could handle. Long story short, he came to the realization that the game had almost completely overtaken his life and he no longer felt as if he was in control of his personal life because he was dedicating too much time to his Eve life. He stopped what he was doing, got on a plane back home, and disconnected from the game as much as he could the moment he touched down. Essentially, he quit as cold turkey as possible and isn't looking back.

Both of these are examples of the game infringing on a player's real life in ways that are simply unhealthy. In the case of Crass Kitty, a group of players have taken in game events and used them as a reason to harass and terrorize a person out of game. With Yolo, the game is taking the form of an addiction that is slowly but surely squeezing out the rest of a person's life. In both cases, its very important to remember that this is just a game. Its a great game, enthralling in its scope and forever evolving environment and its easy to get completely overwhelmed by it, but it is still just a game. It is not a reason to attack someone personally, and it is not something worth sacrificing the rest of your life for.

Personally, I'm pretty closed off in real life these days. I have a small group of friends I talk to on a regular basis, I spend time with family pretty regularly, and I have a fantastic wife whom I love spending time with. Outside of that, my only real socializing is done online. Be it a forum for my favorite football team, various electronic music communities, social media, or games, the vast majority of people I talk to are avatars that represent people whom I will never physically shake hands with. This works fine for me as I'm pretty awkward and silent in person. Even when I was in bands playing multiple shows a week, I would generally find some dark corner to hide in and just keep to myself. What can I say, I'm just better with text. Hell, I barely ever log into Signal Cartel comms for this reason. Eve absolutely takes up a massive portion of my attention, and as a result most of the people I talk to now are in game. So I can definitely see how being so invested in the game could spiral out of control until the game has simply taken over your life.

On the other side of the "Too Real" coin, I do try to keep in mind that there is an actual person on the other side of that avatar. Someone slogging through a day job who is looking to spend their spare time doing something they enjoy and trying to have a good time before they die. And while I can gleefully roll around in the offensive without batting an eye, there is simply no reason to focus in and try to hurt the actual person behind the avatar, internet anonymity be damned.

So I'd like to wish Tony well in his endeavors in the land of reality and say that I can fully respect the feeling that the game has gotten "larger than life". I genuinely hope you can find some happiness out there and can spend your time the way you want, and if you ever do come back to New Eden we'll be happy to have you back. For Crass, I just want to say that even though the depths of internet depravity get explored by Eve players, I hope it doesn't cause you to shy away from the game because you are benefit to the Eve streaming community. Also, you seem to like exploration and Asteros...join Signal Cartel now!

To everyone else, I just want to say: we're all going to die one day. Till then, can we just have some fun and not be dicks about it? Cause that would be great. TIA.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The New Eden Daily

CCP are introducing the concept of "dailies" to Eve Online. If you don't know what is ment by "daily", its an incentive to log into the game at least once a day to do some simple task for an extra reward. In the case of the current plan for Eve, the reward is an extra 10,000 skill points for killing an NPC once every 22 hours. Put down the gun.

On the surface, I like the idea. I do find it hilarious that in the pre-skill trading world the mantra was "SP doesn't matter, player skill matters". Post-skill trading and suddenly the entire fucking game revolves around an SP total. Now, with the mere suggestion that more skill points will be available to everyone each day, not only are skill points the single most life giving important aspect of the game, but everyone will have too many and ,that makes them meaningless.

Its important to point out something I just said a second time: these skill points are available to everyone, much like the 24 hours that make up each day. I've seen it said that this is a bad move because when time is the only factor for gaining skill points, then everyone is equal. Unlike skill injectors, which do have a price of admission that keeps plenty of people from using them, the daily reward is equal in that anyone can access it. Certainly, there will be days that individual players won't be able to log in and collect, but most if not all players will miss days. The only people hurt by this would be anyone not logging in for weeks at a time or anyone who lets their subscription lapse, and I can't be bothered to give a crap how they feel about it. Its nice to see an extra incentive for actually logging in and playing the game, however briefly.

And skill points are the only incentive that make sense. ISK rewards would only lead to extra inflation go against the idea of a purely player driven market. Similarly, in-game assets would also screw things up. And there is no way things that can be bought with actual money are going to be given out on a mass scale, so Plex and Arum are out. CCP wants you to play, not cut into income streams. Beyond all that, the only real way CCP could offer a reward is in skill points.

The only things that rub me wrong here are the limited activities that offer the reward, the set flat amount of SP rewarded, and the fear of "what comes next".

Firstly, the incentive should be tied to every playstyle possible, not just NPC killing. Hacking a can, mining a rock, shooting another player, selling an item, jumping a gate or wormhole, scanning a sig hell, spinning a ship...all things I would open up to receiving the extra SP. It should legitimately be that when a player logs in and does WHATEVER THEY WANT they get the bonus. Limiting it to a few activities forces all players to do those things, and that isn't Eve.

Second, 10,000 skill points at a time anywhere always is just silly. Like any other reward, this should scale with risk and effort. Lets go with the proposed NPC killing reward. It should not be "kill one NPC anywhere and get 10,000 skill points". It should be more like "1 skill point per high sec rat killed, 100 per lowsec rat, 500 per nullsec rat, 1000 per sleeper (in wormhole), up to 10,000 per day". Similar models for different activities. A flat rate is boring, lazy, and does not encourage actual gameplay sessions. It encourages log in, do quick thing, log out. Yawn.

Third, for this to work in the context of Eve, it HAS to remain limited. There needs to be a hard cap on the amount of skill points that can be earned each day through the daily rewards. You can only passively earn so many SP over 24 hours, after all. If we stick with the 10,000 SP amount, that needs to be the limit across ALL activities that can earn the SP reward. It cannot be rat for 10k, the mine for 10k, the market for 10k, then explore for 10k,et cetera. 10k a day, per character, period. No double days, no extra rewards. Keep it simple and keep it limited.

Again, I'm not against the concept here, and I still believe that skill points don't matter. But if this is going to work, it needs to be done right within the context of Eve. Otherwise, its going to be a laughing stock. Tread lightly, devs.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Starting an alt

When I started Eve, I had long heard it referred to as a "game of alts". It is just sort of assumed that any Eve player has multiple accounts in order to do several things at once. For a long time, I went against this idea, deciding that I would play as a single character on a single account forever and ever, amen. Then, war happened.

A while ago, CCP gave every active player 20 free days of "multi character training" (MCT), meaning that a single account could train two characters free of charge. At the time, I had a few PLEX laying around, so I used one for an extra month of MCT and turned one of my character slots into a servicable gank alt. Her name was Sam (short for Samantha), and she once shot a skiff in high sec just because. Right after she finished her training queue, I joined Signal Cartel. As I dove into the Hug Thug life, Sam just sort of fell to the wayside.

Fast forward a bit, and war has engulfed New Eden. I've already tried moving Ned out of Signal Cartel, and that just plain didn't feel right. But, I really want to take part in this next chapter of the history of Eve. While Ned might be the pacifist, Sam has just been laying around biding her time. She'll need some work to be actually useful in a war, but she isn't starting from scratch either. Problem is, so long as she is on the same account as Ned, she can't train unless I spring for more MCT, which isn't as efficient as just starting a second account.

So I pulled the trigger. Sam now resides in her own account and I have officially joined the "alt" crowd. I'll be putting Sam into Pandemic Horde to do what I can in the war as soon as possible. Ned stays at home in Signal Cartel, and everyone is happy.

Three cheers for multiple personalities!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

War, Baby! (Or, War For Eve Babies)

I joined the game just slightly after the Battle of B-R. The hype over the biggest fight in video game history was still fresh in everyone's mind, the ClusterFuck Coalition was still riding high over establishing themselves as the premiere power in Nullsec, and everyone who was joining the game at the time had visions of being part of the "next big thing". What nobody knew then was that there wouldn't be a next big thing for the next two years. Certainly there were minor conflicts and events but nothing that truly changed the game in any significant way. There were big fights but nothing gigantic and headline worthy outside of Eve specific media. By and large, the game was just in a holding pattern, with no one willing to pull the trigger on the next big war.

As we approach the cusp of the next major set of changes focused on sovereignty and warfare (namely the introduction of new player structures and a re-imagining of capital ships in the Eve: Citadel expansion on April 27), the gears of war have been churning and grinding themselves into a frenzy that culminated this week in one of the largest battles in the history of New Eden, the Battle of MOE. Headlines are being made, both in game related media and gaming media in general. Fantastic videos of the battle have exploded across YouTube, and epic screenshots of bubbles and battleships are dotting the internets as far as a mouse can click. And we all know what (hopefully) comes with a lot of hype and exposure: newbros.

If you'd like to read up on how the Eve universe wound up at the Battle of M-OEE8, Matterall has a pretty great write up here. For an overview of how the battle looked and went, check out this dev blog by CCP Manifest.

Unlike B-R however, MOE isn't the climax of the last great war, but it is (fingers crossed) the first major escalation of what is set up to be the next great war. Unlike all the newbies that signed up in the wake of B-R, there's actually a chance to get in on the fun if you're getting in right now. But it's not like you could just start an account an YOLO it out to the frontlines of a freaking war on day one, right? Eve is supposed to be this long ass waiting game where you first start out by mining for six months just to afford your first good ship right. Screw that, get your ass out there and kill stuff!

There are several groups currently involved in this war who will gladly take your fresh, delicious newbro brains and throw them into the fires of war while laughing maniacally teaching and encouraging you to be the best killing machine you can be. What's more, they help you learn to make some money on your own, and help you get into ships and fleets in order to take part in all this content raining down from the heavens. Let's look at a few options for newbros to get in on the action. These are presented in alphabetical order to keep it simple.

A Band Apart -  A two year old alliance founded by the three year old lowsec PvP group Stay Frosty, ABA has always operated under an open door recruitment policy. Simply send in an application to one of the member corporations (I'd recommend Vagrant Skies first), and you're in. Currently, the alliance has players of all ages and skill levels deployed to support the Low Sec Voltron coalition, with more members joining the fight every day. Once the war is over, ABA will move back to lowsec and do what they do best, undocking and fighting everything that moves. The Alliance also has groups living in various other parts of space, so there's opportunity to try your hand at different things.

Brave Newbies - At one point, if you mentioned "new player" and PvP, it was assumed you were talking about these guys. While they've fallen on hard times as of late and aren't nearly the force that they once were, they are still the first major entity entirely focused around helping newbros get out there and start fighting. In the current war, Brave is filling in a support role for the other major players deployed against the Imperium, using their members to fill in fleets when others need more numbers and assisting in defending others' homelands. These guys have been training new players since day one and through everything they still find ways to have fun. Once the war is over, they'll just go back to learning, growing, being chaotic, and wearing the "We're bad at this" badge with honor. At least until the next coup, of course.

Dreddit - this is the primary newbie friendly corp of Test Alliance Please Ignore, one of the bigger members of the Money Badger Coalition and a long time adversary of The Imperium. Dreddit started out as and continues to exist as a group mostly focused on socializing through, and focuses more on community and recruitment (when not shooting internet spaceships, of course). These guys are very well established at helping new players get on their feet and into fights out in Nullsec, and they've got plenty of war experience to boot. Once this war is over, TEST offers plenty of ways for its members to find fun, regardless of the outcome. Be warned, TEST is pretty well known throughout the Eve universe, so expect to come across plenty of shit talking as you dive into the game.

KarmaFleet - If you want to get in on the Goonswarm (google them if you don't know them) side of things, then KarmaFleet is where you'll want to go. Essentially adopting the Reddit-centric newbie friendly recruitment strategy of Brave Newbies (who basically took the concept from Dreddit first), Karma is easiest way to get hooked up with the largest organization in the game, The Imperium. While The Imperium is basically seen as the villain by everyone else in the game (a role they enjoy), inwardly they view themselves as being the underdog against the rest of the world. All members get access to some great resources, including unlimited free small and cheap ships for PvP, plus a wealth of knowledge from one of the best sources in the game. These guys are on the defensive right now, though, so expect to be fighting early and often because right now it really is them versus everyone else. The only downside it once you're a Goon, its hard to wipe that from your record. Fortunately, these guys offer playstyles pretty much anywhere you can imagine, so you probably won't have to be anything else.

Pandemic Horde - Pandemic Legion is known for being one of the more skill intensive groups in the game, especially when it comes to capital ship warfare, but that doesn't mean they didn't want to get in on this whole "Use Reddit to recruit lots of new players" thing as well. Enter Pandemic Horde. In addition to all the usual trappings of a newbro group like free skillbooks and ships, Horde also has a unique "mentoring program" with their big brothers in PL. The Pandemic Family ("Pan Fam") is very well known for getting content to its members, with or without holding sov themselves. While Pandemic Legion currently backs up the rest of the Money Badger Coalition in taking on The Imperium head on, Horde is charged with a harrassment campaign on the other side of Imperium space, essentially ensuring that the war exists on all sides for Goonswarm and co.

Spectre Fleet - In the lexicon of Eve, "NPSI" basically means anyone who is not in your current fleet is someone worth shooting. Ordinarilly, this was reserved to informal groups who only got together every now and then, but Spectre Fleet has made it the core principle that they built themselves around. Their whole goal is to get people into ships and ammo onto hulls. While not specifically a new player focused group, they will take anyone they can get and force feed them fights to their hearts content. Currently, Spectre is deployed against the Imperium, but if they need to shoot others they will whenever and where ever suits them. When the war is over, they'll go back to doing what they do: fleets every day looking for fights anywhere they can find them.

A few other options - If you're not really wanting to jump head first into this war, but all the hype has you wanting to give the game a try, there are a few places to go. The first is Eve University, who are probably the oldest new player organization in the game. Styling themselves as an actual school for players, they offer classes and training on practically anything you could even possibly want to learn about the game. If you still want to get out where the fighting is, but don't really want to pick a side, consider Affirmative., a null sec based alliance who are happy to take wide eyed newbies out on a hunt, be they fellow members or otherwise. And if you're really not looking for the whole PvP thing, but still want to get out where other players can shoot you, you might be interested in Signal Cartel, a newbie friendly group focused on exploration and general silliness (yes, it's a shameless plug, its my blog :P).

Don't listen to all those comments on the articles you've read that say new Eve players can't get into the fun stuff. There has never been a better time to be a new player in New Eden because there have never been more groups focused on getting new players out into space experience the game. So don't just read about it, get in here and get going, baby!

***NOTE: If I missed any new player friendly groups currently involved in the war, please let me know and I will gladly add you to the list***

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spam that link!

Last weekend, a group of Eve streamers put on a 72 hour live stream in order to raise money for a charity. The event was called "EVEathon" and the charity was the newly created Spam4Heals non-profit focused on suicide prevention and mental health out reach to the gaming community. Any of my twitter followers probably noticed that I was very vocal about the event.

I don't really have any kind of super personal connection to suicide prevention. The only person I've known who has taken their own life is a friend of my mother who killed himself when I was ten years old. After that, as I got more and more into the metal scene, suicide was always one of those things that just sort of came with the territory. Me and everyone I knew was accused of being suicidal just because we wore dark clothes and listened to angry music. Outside of those two experiences, I have no real realm of consciousness when it comes to the act of taking your own life. But, that doesn't prevent me from having an opinion on it.

I do not judge anyone for killing themself. Whatever the reason is, I can fully understand the idea of feeling so helpless and out of control that you decide to take control of the one thing you actually can in your life, namely your time and method of death. Every other aspect of your life is either dependent on the consequences of you previous actions or upon things outside of your control. The one thing a person can absolutely decide about their life is when to end it and how, and I can understand the appeal of that. I don't think less of people who do kill themselves, and I do not think a person is "weak" if they end their own life.

However, I am a big believer in life. The one thing I can tell you for certain is that as long as you wake up, you've got a chance worth taking. There may be thousands of reasons you can think of to end your own life, be it illness or debt or depression or whatever other hardship you can come up with. I say this as someone who at one point was homeless and jobless: tomorrow gives you a chance, take it. The only other alternative is to legitimately have no chance. Yes, you can control the time and method of your death, but the cost of that is absolutely everything else that is even possible. Given the two options, I'll choose "tomorrow" every day.

So when Spam4Heals, an offshoot of the Broadcast4Reps, Best of us, and Care4Kids communities in Eve, became a thing, I had no problem latching onto it. My own optimism for day to day life is my driving factor for supporting it. After the Twitch marathon raised over $6,700 for it, I announced that all sales of my newly released album would be donated towards it. I love life and I want everyone else to love living as much as I do. Adding to that, I love video games and I love having people to discuss those games with, so the ultimate goal of the organization just clicks with me. Yes, things can get to the point that you feel the only option is to kill yourself, and yes, people need to be convinced otherwise. Suicide doesn't end pain and suffering, it just transfers it to folks you know. Tomorrow is an option, albeit a tough one, and its the option worth taking. If I can, in some small way, help convince someone of that, then I'm going to do whatever I can to make that happen. Life is rough, let's have fun.

I'll always be looking for ways to promote Spam4Heals, be it through awareness or through fundraising. As a gamer, I know that gaming as an outlet can feel incredibly lonely and its hard to find a group you can open up to. As a person, I know life can kick your ass and the only option might seem to be ending it. In either case, I'm going to take the stance of "fuck that, let's survive and party".

The world is more kick ass with you in it. I promise that, and I will fight for it.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Eve is hard

Earlier today, a link to a list of 10 obnoxiously hard games popped up in my twitter feed. Now, I've been a gamer my whole life, ever since little five year old me got a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Fun fact: I played Duck Hunt first because the gun looked cooler than a game about a guy in overalls. Ever since then I've feasted on games as the industry grew, and I developed a great enjoyment of finding games that other people would insist were too hard. This probably started with Battletoads, and grew from there (side note: fuck the Turbo Tunnel).

Anywho, so given my enjoyment of finding impossible games, I of course hit the link to see which ones I hadn't tried and which ones I had. I was happy to see roughly half of them were games I had played. Happier still because that meant I had some new games to look into. Because the list doesn't actually link any of the mentioned games, I'll do so here.

10. Kerbal Space Program - Not played
9. Discworld - Played
8. The Talos Principle - Played
7. Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes - Not played
6. Digital Combat Simulator - Not Played
5. Hacknet - Played
4. Spacechem - Not played
3. Victoria II - Not played
2. EvE Online - Ofc
1. Dwarf Fortress - Played

It definitely warmed my heart to see Eve close to the top of that list. I've mentioned before that the main reason I play is because I was told that a new player couldn't come into the game and survive at this point. And I'll agree that the writer has a point that the "spreadsheets in space" moniker and the extrodinarily complex user interface can seem insanely overwhelming at first. But, considering the amount of information and access that UI needs to offer to players, its little wonder that it seems complicated to fresh eyes. At least, until you figure out that you don't need to know every single detail of it immediately. You learn it over time as needed. Likewise, the idea of maintaining out of game spreadsheets in order to keep track of in game information seems like an impossible mountain to climb until you again realize that its something done over time, not immediately. The famously steep learning curve for Eve, in hindsight, is more of a slow walk uphill. Incidentally, I feel like an explanation of this is still missing from the "new player experience" and starting the game still seems too "learn everything NOW!" for my liking.

While the author of the list misses what makes Eve a difficult game, he's not wrong in labeling it a difficult game. As Dirk pointed out on Twitter, the reason Eve is hard is because of the players and their decisions. While other games have their forms of PvP and sense of competition, no other game can present itself as the sum total of the actions of its player base. From the politics of null sec to the movement of the markets in Jita, from the warzones of lowsec to the terrifying unknowns of wormhole space, from the wardecers, gankers, and PvE'ers in high sec to a simple little group of explorers living by the mantra of "we won't shoot first", its all meaningful because its all the result of player actions. And the consequences of those actions. Sure, the sci fi fan in me loves that it all comes packaged as a spaceship game, but the actual game consists of what everyone else is doing and how it affects you (and vice versa). Its not a scripted mechanic that can simply be learned. It is a persistent, evolving existence that requires constant learning, attention, re-evaluation, and adaptation. Its why those who play the game joke about being "bad at Eve". What made you good today is what someone else is going to figure out how to beat tomorrow.

Is that a perfect representation of the "challenge" of Eve? No. But its the philosophy I see in the game and its how I judge the actions of the developers.  Its why I will continuously say that CCP needs to embrace the idea of Eve being "the hard game" because what makes it hard isn't something written in the lines of code and ideally something they'll never have control over. And its a central reason why I remain optimistic that Eve can survive the decline of MMO's overall (a subject that probably deserves its own post altogether). Unlike the feeling of "a bunch of people playing a similar game simultaneously", the feel of Eve is genuinely "a bunch of people playing each other", and therein lies the difficulty inherent to the game. You can learn game mechanics and you can learn to optimize the ways you deal with those mechanics.

People, on the other hand, are hard to learn.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Did 1ronBank win Eve?

1ronBank, he of the fame/noteriety, ran a live stream on Twitch where he injected enough skill points to raise the level of every skill in the game to five, making him Eve's first ever maximum skilled character. Predictably this lead to much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the large crowd of players who insist that this whole skill trading thing is just giving people the ability to pay to win the game. There's also a significant portion of people lamenting that what once had to be achieved over the course of years could now be done in a single evening. Excuse me while I don't freak the fuck out with them, because I don't see how 1ron has won anything and I don't see a big deal over a max skill player existing. Here's a few reasons why.

1. No matter how many skills a player has, they generally can only focus on doing one thing at a time when they undock. This is why the game has its reputation of being a "game of alts". People use multiple characters to do different tasks so that they can train those characters simultaneously, thus reducing the overall amount of time it takes to have a serviceable character skilled to do whatever it is you want them to be skilled to do. Your freighter alts, logi alts, link alts, falcon alts, incursion alts, market alts, gank alts, pvp alts, titan alts, and so on and so forth. Those toons are going to be trained to be as perfect as possible in their assigned roles. 1ron is now, basically, all those alts rolled into one. Yeah, he has perfect skills for whatever he wants to do, but he's still just 1 toon, and has to decide exactly what it is he'll be doing when he undocks. You know...same as that specialized alt you've got lying around.

2. There were always going to be max skilled players. Well, ideally there would be anyway. Regardless of how much time it took to get there, as long as Tranquility is running then every single one of us is slowly marching along to the hallowed grounds of being "All V". The only thing that would have ever prevented that would be the game actually shutting down, and nobody wants that. So the existence of character with maximum skills isn't sacrilegious, it just happened a bit quicker than we were expecting.

3. Player skill always has been and always will be more important than a character's skill point total. Let's say, as an example, that our friend with maximum skills decides to take up a jaunt through wormhole space looking to hack up a few relic and data sites, which just so happens to be one of my preferred ways of playing. Is it instantly assumed that he will be more successful than me simply because he has perfect link and market skills? No. In fact, in the skills relevant to scanning and hacking he will have a very marginal advantage because I've trained those things up on my own and have a pretty respectable skill set in that regard. What sets us apart is personal situational awareness, knowledge of how probing and hacking mechanics work, and amount of actual experience in hunting down and clearing those sites. I'll stack my player skills in those regards up against anyone, mainly because I've already been competing against players who are supposed to be better than me for almost two years and have still managed to carve out my own niche there. The same applies in other scenarios as well. Maximizing DPS skills doesn't mean that a player knows the ins and outs of PvP, maximum market skills doesn't mean a player knows how to read and predict market trends, and maximum mining skills don't matter because they're mining skills (*pats my Prospect and Procurer* shh, shh, I was just making a point).

4. The learning curve of Eve has never been tied to skill points, or at least it shouldn't be. Someone who purchases a highly skilled character off of the character bazaar and then drops billions worth of plex to fit out a blinged up battleship forever will be an expensive killmail waiting to happen if they don't know what they're doing. This will be enhanced ever further if that person first spends money to gain the skills to fly said blinged out battleship rather than just buying a character. A person buying a character at least kind of knows what they're looking for, after all. I'd liken this to owning a powerful piece of software versus using a powerful piece of software. For instance, I have access to Adobe Photoshop. I could open it up right now and poke around and maybe draw a line or something. Meanwhile, my wife, who has spent most of her life learning and re-learning Photoshop and photography in general can pop it open and whip up something remarkably gorgeous in a matter of minutes. Skill points are like owning the software, they're the same regardless of who owns them. The thing that takes time and investment is learning, and that's still true.

For these reasons and others, I don't see a problem with the idea of someone paying their way up to having maximum skills. I don't view it as game breaking, and I don't consider it to be "Easy" mode for Eve. It's just another option in the sandbox.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Carriers have arrived

CCP have been planning a reworking of capital ships ever since the unveiling of the new Aegis Sov system, and have gone to decent lengths to make sure that players who actually use cap ships are heavily involved in crafting these changes. One of the planned changes that really piqued my interest was the splitting of the Carrier group into two different ships: Carriers, focused on fighter DPS, and Force Auxilary, focused on capital logistics. This only interested me because I had planned to train up to a Carrier at some point in the future specifically because of their logistical role. Plus I like drones, so it stands to reason that I'd like fighters too.

With the most recent Patch That Shall Be Nameless, new skills for the Force Auxiliary ships were introduced along with new skills for Light Fighters, Support Fighters, and Heavy Fighters (renamed fighter-bombers). CCP's initially announced plan was that anyone who could fly a triage carrier currently who also started training any of the four racial Force Auxiliary skills would have all of their carrier and triage related skill points refunded when the Citadel expansion hits. It seemed that the idea was to force people who could currently fly a ship that could do both remote reps and DPS into choosing whether they would rather fly a ship that could do remote reps or a ship that could do DPS. As a non-cap player looking in, I could see the reasoning for forcing such a decision, but it certainly flew in the face of CCP's philosophy of "if you could do it before, you'll be able to do it after". Adding to the problem was the fact that CCP announced this forced choice before unveiling exactly what the stats for the new ships were going to be, forcing those interested in them to basically train blind and I can understand the frustration with that. Thankfully, CCP Larrikin calmed everyone down by announcing that CCP was rethinking it's plan for the introduction of the Force Auxilary (FAX) ships.

The change came in the form of a new dev blog which not only introduced the four new ships, but also a collection of new capital focused modules and a healthy explanation of the planned nerfing of combat refitting. Rather than forcing players to choose what to train, the whole focus seems to now be that players will have to choose what to undock, which makes much more sense in the grand scheme of things. Curent Carrier pilots will still be able to fly logistics and dps roles, just not at the same time, and fitting these ships will now be a hard choice before undocking, not something that continuously changes over the course of a fight. I'm very agreeable to both of these decisions because I think they fit in well with the way other ships operate but still retain the unique qualities of Carriers. About the only thing I don't really understand is why the FAX ships have a bonus to Warfare links. It seems like this could have been another place to differentiate Carriers and FAX with Carriers retaining the ability to fit links and FAX maybe giving a bonus to support fighters. Otherwise, I think CCP have done well here.

In any event, I'll definitely still be training to fly these ships some day and I look forward to how CCP tackles the rest of the Capital group.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Glitter Bombed

For about 6 months now, whenever Friday morning rolls around I'm generally pretty punchy. Lately there's been a major up tick in my daily workload and my weekly hours have been 6am-6pm or later Monday through Thursday, 6am-4pm on Friday, and 6am-12pm Saturdays Each day with it's own hour long round trip commute. Total amount of time is 70 hours (or more) a week involving my lovely little factory. So by Friday, I'm usually pretty wiped, with yesterday being no exception.

So when Edohatrem Inur made an offhanded comment about Mighty Mouse dying in a lot of fire, it legitimately made me break down into a fit of live, actual laughter, which I then told him that it probably made me laugh too much. I'm not really sure how, but apparently Edo took this as some kind of challenge and decided that the only way to respond was to reply to every single tweet that I have sent out that he could find. As it turns out, the last publicly available tweets that I had made were done on Halloween last year.

For the uninitiated, Edo is Signal Cartel's resident bittervet, affectionately dubbed "The Glittervet" by the rest of us. He passes his time by telling the rest of us how terrible we are, making remarkably random comments everywhere he can, getting into arguments with Mynxee, declaring that every Corp project or philosophy is too nice and will fail, and generally seeing just what he can get away with saying in Alliance chat. I hope he never realizes how absolutely adorable he is at all this, because I'd be worried he'd stop.

Anyway, back to the twitterverse. At first, I wasn't exactly sure why Edo was commenting on a picture of my Halloween decorations, but I took it in stride and replied back. And then another reply to another tweet in October. And then another. And more. And then into November. Everything I had thrown out on Twitter since October 31, 2015. I ran a quick bit of math to figure up that I average about 14.5 tweets per day (thought it'd be higher) which worked up to roughly 1400 potential comments for Edo to sift through.

At that point, I needed to make a decision. Muting him would do no good because I'd still have to continuously clear out the notifications. Unfollowing would be equally useless as he already had my account in his sights. I could have outright blocked, but he seemed fairly determined and I was worried it might spill out into other venues. So I just had to sit back and be in it for however long he wanted to do it.

At one point, I realized the 70 or so people who follow both of us were going to be equally spammed, and sure enough my tweets from 4 months ago started getting a fresh round of likes and retweets. And then the confusion started setting in over what the hell was going on. And Edo just kept plugging away. Every now and then I replied to him, but I did try to restrain myself there. Somewhere around hour eight I stopped altogether, mainly because others were getting mad at me (don't blame em).

I got several messages from folks asking why he was doing it. A few suggested I report him for harrassment, but truth is I thought a lot of it was funny. Besides, if I can survive an avalanche of death threats for my political leanings, a guy continuously berating me on Twitter is comparatively cute.

15 hours after the first strike of Glitterggeddon 2016, he finally made it to the end of the line. After I pointed out that somehow I had inspired him to use Twitter (a sight he has constantly said he hates) for 15 solid hours, he stopped. Somewhere along the way,he had admitted that the whole reason he had done it was because he had misread one of my comments and thought it was a challenge. So not only did I inspire him, I somehow managed to do so in a way where he tricked himself into spending 15 straight hours on a website he doesn't like.

I don't know how I did it, but I'll take it. It may have irritated a lot of folks, but it made my Friday fly by.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Redoing ECM

So Fozzie unveiled a wide range of module tiericide today, from damage controls to cap batteries to a host of ewar types. For the most part, I'm very happy with the proposed changes and will be penning a full article with my opinions on them tomorrow. But the ewar changes were what really sparked my imagination as I started to think of new types of ewar that could be added to the game.

My philosophy on ewar is that if a player can enhance an attribute of their ship then another player should be able to actively disrupt it, and vice versa. Such a relationship leads to variety in combat situations and helps keep Eve PvP from being simply a boring case of "dps vs tank". And for the most part, this relationship holds true. Propmods are countered by webs and scrams. Points are countered by stabs. Tracking disruptors live in harmony with tracking enhancements. And the proposed changes to cap batteries should bring this element to cap warfare. There are some things left to work out in this regard (i.e. a natural dynamic against target painters or a way to mitigate an opponent's defensive resists) but on the whole I think ewar is in a good place. Which brings us to ECM.

Jams are essentially a coin flip. Either your target loses their lock, giving you a free 20 seconds of killing, or the jam fails and your opponent gets those 20 free seconds. Furthermore, not using the right type of ECM on an opponent generally means the jams are useless. These two factors can usually determine the outcome of a fight involving jams, regardless of fit and player skill, and that is far from ideal.

CCP's answer at the moment is to combine the conter for jams, ECCM, into the sensor booster module tree with an ECCM script. This makes sense as it will increase the importance of pilot awareness in a fight. I'd like to see a similar approach applied to the jams themselves, and instead of having a different module for each sensor type, have the Omni jammer module be a baseline with scripts for each flavor of sensor (folding the new missile disruptors into this wouldn't hurt either). And as a final pass, the cycle durration should be reduced to 10 seconds and if a successful jam fails on the next cycle then the player loses their lock. Meaning both sides of the fight need to relock at the same time. The idea needs some further fleshing out, but I think this method would make fights with jams less dependent on RNG and more a tool for skilled players to change up a fight. Multiple players on either side of this will affect the outcome, of course, and that's as it should be.

Being a member of Signal Cartel, I've learned my way around the ECM tree (cornerstone of any Hug Fleet doctrine), but the current version of jams leads to bland gameplay. That either needs to be fixed, or removed (I'd make a similar argument on the war of attrition that is warp core stabs).

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why I play

Yesterday and today on Twitter, the hashtag #MyEveOnline became a bit of a thing after Proto shared his main reason for playing Eve. The reasons people have for playing this game always fascinate me, mainly because in the world of MMO's Eve is comparatively small in terms of player base. Which makes it stand to reason that the people who play it very likely have some passionate reasonings for continuing to log into New Eden.

Fun fact: I used to be strictly against the idea of massive multiplayer games. Way back when, I used to stubbornly insist on games as a story telling medium and felt that having huge numbers of people playing the same instance of the game as you cheapened that aspect. Eve always stood out to me though. The first vivid memory I have of reading about the game was the antics of The Guiding Hand Social Club. I followed news of the game avidly ever since then, though my prejudice against the MMO genre hadn't broken yet. I watched from afar as B.O.B. was destroyed, wormholes were opened, the monument was shot, and B-R destroyed the GDP of several third world countries worth of internet space pixels. And I slowly got more and more into the idea of playing online multiplayer games, specifically Starcraft. As the online realm took over console gaming as well, my prejudice broke and I embraced the world of massive multiplayer games with open arms. But I still stuck to my single player games for a while.

Then, I made a friend in real life who played Eve, and I mentioned to them that I had always been intrigued by the game and was thinking of starting up an account. They told me, in no uncertain terms, that new players couldn't handle the game at this point and that I should just save my money. Everyone who had been playing for 10 years was too good, they all had too much money, the place is full of sociopaths, and I'd never be able to figure out half the game mechanics that they had all already memorized. I was doomed from the start.

I started my trial account that night.

2 years later, and I've fallen in love with the game. I've found a group of folks to play with that not only fit me both in terms of personality and play style, but also in general attitude and outlook. I've discovered the magic of the Eve community. And I've learned that every time I log off having accomplished the goals I set for myself (namely, sightseeing, hacking sites, and not dying), I legitimately feel better about myself. I set those goals, and I accomplished them, and I'll get to try it again next time. And as I look back over my 2 years, I realize that there really wasn't a reason to believe that anyone can start this game and succeed. The vets are more powerful than you, both in terms of skill points and game skill. Making isk is hard and prices only go up as more isk is made. And more game mechanics to learn pop up all the time to add to the ones that need learning in the first place (i.e. entosis, hyperdunking, skill trading). But that makes the 2 year mark seem even better, because I got past all that, and am still finding ways to play MY game today. I've set my own long term goals and I've achieved them, both SP wise and just knowledge wise.

I play Eve because someone told me I couldn't and because the people I play with are amazing. And I plan on playing until the day I naturally biomass or the day CCP closes up shop.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

New instruments

If you follow me on Twitter (and I can't imagine why you don't) you'll have noticed that I've been sharing a lot of articles about new music gear these past few days. That's because the yearly Winter National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show has been going on. This is the annual trade show where music equipment manufacturers parade out their product line and unveil their shiny new money makers. Tech heads get CES, gamers get E3, gear sluts get NAMM. (There is a summer NAMM as well, but let's not talk about that).

I truly do believe that music production is at an amazing place these days. Where once it would be fairly expected that you could find a guitar in a musically inclined person's bedroom, today you'll find a computer loaded with a digital audio workstation and a decent audio interface, and even that set up is comparatively high end when you look at the landscape of free stand alone ways to make a melody. The push now is either to perform music in a new way, bring analog sounds into the digital world, or make tried and true methods even more accessible. NAMM 2016 had all three on display. Korg's Minilogue finally found the holy trinity of being cheap, analog, and polyphonic. Arturia's Matrixbrute mixes the concepts of modular synthesis and presets. Roland's electric cajon breaks ground on acoustic performace versus digital reliability. Roli brought multitouch expression to the four octave realm, and Expressive E found a way to add the same to any rig out there. Hell, Zoom even found a way to make performance a fashion statement. The methods available to making music have never been more interesting or more accessible. So, of course, the old guard has never been more bitchy.

It never ceases to amaze me that as music production becomes more diverse and accessible, older musicians become more defensive over what they do. This probably most closely resembles the rise of Photoshop in terms of visual artists, or at least the way technology in general has affected the visual medium. As it stands though, with any new controller or synth, you'll get an immediate group of folks who will automatically tell you why that piece of equipment is inferior to everything they use and why you just aren't that good for being happy about it. Especially keyboard players. Find an elitist douchebag bitching about being a "real musician" and I'll bet you a dollar that they insist that everything needs to have a full set of 88 full weight black and whites in order to be considered an actual instrument.

Personally, I don't get this mindset. I enjoy learning to make music in new ways. I've been making music in some form since I was 8 years old. My mom and dad both originally graduated college with music degrees (neither of them found success with said degree). The first instrument I actually learned in and out was the trumpet. I didn't immediately decide then and there that everything I would ever play from then on needed three valves and a mouthpiece. I explored beyond that because I genuinely like finding new ways to make music. Over the years I've learned a number of new instruments: trombone, baritone, euphonium, french horn, tuba, flute, piccolo, clarinet, saxiphone, violin, cello, guitar, bass guitar, drum set, xylophone, piano, synthesizer, and now various midi instruments. I am aching to get my hands on some of the new tech that's out there now, and more importantly I'm aching to hear what other people manage to come up with using all these amazing things. Hell, just look at what happens when you get two of the best gear designers in history together or what happens when an elite player jams out in a new way.

I've made it a point in life to embrace new things when they come along. When my dayjob bought a machine that literally does my job I was the first to step up and learn how it works. Now, I'm in charge of my department and am pretty much the go to guy when it comes to running the computer controlled machines at my job. The same applies in music. Give me something new, and I'll be the first to say "Ok, what can we do with this?". So I just can't wrap my mind around the Luddites who insist that everything needs to cater to what they already know. And while I am talking about music makers here, you'll find these types of people every where. In Eve, at your job, on your Facebook, etc. People just fight change for some reason.

To which I say "Bring it on. I'll adapt." :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Keep Pounding

Sam Mills is one of the best 3-4 linebackers to have ever taken the field. He was part of the legendary Dome Patrol for the New Orleans Saints before moving on to become one of the first defensive stars of the Carolina Panthers. He retired from playing in 1998, becoming a linebacker coach for the Panthers. In 2003, he was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, and his battle with the disease became a rallying point for the team as the Cardiac Cats shocked their way to the team's only (at the time) Super Bowl appearance. Before the first playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, Mills gave a speech in the team locker room about how, no matter how bleak things look, you have to always put your head down and power through to victory. You have to "Keep Pounding". Almost immediately, the team and it's fans adopted the phrase as their motto and their identity. When Mills died in 2005, his number 51 was retired by the team (to date the only number the franchise has retired) and his legacy and legend have lived on in those two simple little words as part of the core culture that the Panthers and their fans operate under.

That's not hyperbole, mind you. As cheesy as it sounds, "Keep Pounding" is something I'll tell myself for motivation when ever I need to remind myself to just keep pushing forward. I'll tell it to other people whenever it seems like they're at a low point and need a kind word (I usually have to explain what it means). To an outsider looking in, it's just a slogan for a football team. But for a guy who grew up with the team, it carries a lot of weight.

I was nine years old when the first rumblings of a professional football franchise coming to North Carolina started up. Before that, my mom and granddad were diehard Cowboys fans and I always liked the Redskins because they had an Indian logo (side note: it really pisses me off that people are trying to get rid of that). My dad took me down to Charlotte to watch them break ground on what would be Ericsson Stadium and I got to hear Jerry Richardson promise that the team would win a Super Bowl in their first 10 years in person. I got a baseball cap with a Panthers logo on it for Christmas that year. I watched them stun the Cowboys in the '96 playoffs, Rae Carruth come out of the trunk, Kerry Collins pickled his liver, lose 15 straight games in a season, X-Clown in overtime in St. Louis, Janet Jackson's non-nipple and John Kasay kicking out of bounds to lose Super Bowl 38, Steve Smith going down for the season, Steve Smith coming back and getting the Triple Crown, a war with Chicago in 2005 that destroyed the team heading into the NFCCG in Seattle, Double Trouble run rampant over the entire league only to have Jake Delhomme have five turnovers against Arizona in the playoffs, everyone getting released in the cap free year, Jimmy Clausen flopping the team along to a 2-14 record, and everyone predicting that Scam Newton would be the biggest bust in draft history.

I watched every bit of it. It's a short history compared to a Pittsburgh or a Green Bay, but I've gotten to be here for the whole thing so far. Through my own personal ups and downs, I've had "my team" to keep me company. For better or worse, me and the Panthers grew up together, and I just simply wouldn't have it any other way. And now that the Panthers are headed to Super Bowl 50 to square off against the Denver Broncos for their second shot at a Lombardi trophy, it's nice to sit back and reflect on everything that's happened up until now. As it stands, this Super Bowl run has been five years in the making, and they've been five years that have forced the team to live up to the motto Sam Mills gave us 12 years ago. As a fan, it feels good, both to see the team you cheer for succeed and to see an organization live up to it's own expectations. In case you're curious, it feels this good.

On to Santa Clara. Keep pounding.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Have A Nice Day

Did you ever watch Mick Foley's professional wrestling character Mankind? It was the character Foley broke in to the World Wrestling Federation as after a successful stint on Japanese hardcore circuits, and later ECW, as his "Cactus Jack" persona. The idea behind Mankind was that he was an escaped mental patient who was abused as a child to the point of deformity. In terms of WWF characters, Mankind had an extremely complex backstory (compared to, say, Doink, whose entire existence can be summed up as "a clown that hits things"). But what really sold the character was Foley's delivery of his catch phrase "Have a nice day".

In interviews, Mankind would routinely talk about some screwed up things. As an example, he once have a particularly dark monologue about his mother breaking the two middle fingers on his right hand because he had failed to play a piano exercise correctly. At the end, Mankind signed off by telling the audience, in a broken and awkward cadence, to "Have a nice day...". The trick was, Foley could make you believe it. You honest-to-God believed that this crazy sonofabitch actually wanted your day to be ok, no matter how much pain he inflicted on others.

I'm reminded of that line every time I see Eve players talking about Real World troubles and triumphs. Like wrestling, Eve is a fake world full of characters played by real people. And Mankind's weird obsession with the dark and violent aspects of life makes him a good metaphor for the asthetic of New Eden. So it's not hard to see the parallel.

During an interview one time, Foley said that the "Have a nice day" line was aimed at his fellow wrestlers as a compliment and a well wish,

Outside of the game, a weird thing happens. We all turn into actual people. Gankers, pirates, spies, miners, carebears, explorers, and everything else. And while we might play Eve to escape the real world for a bit, at some point RL takes over. But I think that's something that works for us all: we have internet spaceships in common. We can talk about movies, music, comics, day jobs, families, and whatever else with each other because we've all got a single base line to work from.

The thing is, that base line is weirdly colored by the spectacle of "Sociopaths Online". To put it nicely, being some one who likes Eve just makes you plain weird to everyone else, and you're going to be viewed as dark and violent no matter what. To be more blunt, EvE is designed for players to screw each other over and anyone who can't hack it is someone to laugh at for the insiders. So when we go back out to the real world and talk about not-eve stuff, there's this weirdly honest quality to it. Anyone on the outside looking in won't get why a bunch of folks will spend so much time talking as video game characters. On the inside, we just talk about games, music, movies, toys, and other nerdery while trying to kill each other.

For my part, I really hope you've had nice day, and I would love to hear about it. Meanwhile, I'll be avoiding you in game because that just how I play. Its a weird dynamic, but one worth embracing.

Have a nice day :)

Skill Trading = Pay To Win?

Back in October of last year, CCP introduced the idea of making skillpoints a tradable commodity in the player market. Ostensibly, this is intended as an alternative to character trading but not an outright replacement, and as such I think the idea is a healthy one for the game. Of course, if you'd like to read that this is the worst thing in the history of New Eden, you could start with the 320+ page threadnaught on the Eve-O forums, but you should consult your regular physician first.

Today, CCP clarified and tweaked the original plan with a new Dev blog. The core concept remains the same. Players can take skill points that they have already trained and convert them into an item that can be sold for isk, and that item can be consumed by other players to recieve a certain amount of skillpoints, and that amount will be smaller depending on the consuming players total amount of skill points in game. The only major difference now is that the amount of skill points received has been increased for advanced players, but not significantly. I would imagine that the SP amounts will remain something that will be constantly tweaked about this system as CCP searches for a decent balance over time. More interestingly, the new blog confirms that the "skill extractor" item will be purchasable with AUR, meaning that actual money will need to be spent in order to scrape knowledge out of your head.

Personally, I don't really see a reason to sell any of my skills. Most will point to mining skills as an example of 500,000 SP they would rather turn into isk, but I enjoy getting out and about in my Prospect and digging into some wormhole rocks so that's not for me. I've got some corp management skills trained that I'll probably never use again, but why get rid of them? And God knows there's none of the ship, industry, trade, or exploration skills I would ever want to give up. I've already paid for the time it took to train these skill points and I just do not see a reason to pay again to remove them. If I need isk that badly, I'll just stick to plex.

That said though, I can see where the system has benefits. The ability for newer players to quickly turn some of their isk into making themselves more effective in fleets is a good thing. The limits on older players prevents the system from being the "pay to win" death spiral that many are lamenting. And giving players an extra level of control over the value of their characters is a good thing. To be clear, I have no problems with the idea of skill trading and do no think it will turn Eve into a game where you can just buy your way to an "I win" button. This is no more "pay to win" than a day old noob with a credit card dropping 12 plex on a fully maxed pvp toon in the character bazzar is now. It's just taking the idea of character trading and turning it into a microtransaction. Big fucking deal, this is Eve. HTFU.

As a seller, I don't think I'll be involved with this any time soon and I really don't see much motivation for anyone else to be either. I expect the market for these "skill injectors" to level out below the price of plex, and I just see plex as a better option for someone looking to turn real world cash into space bucks. As a buyer, I could absolutely see myself throwing down some of my own space bucks to speed up some of my training goals (I'd currently be getting 400,000 sp per injector), but I recognize that at some point the benefits wouldn't justify the cost. On the whole, I like the way that the system is structured and I look forward to watching the player base evolve and acclimate to the idea.

Or riot and shoot the monument. That'd be fun to watch too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Taking stock: 1/12/2016

Something I'd like to start up is a periodic round up of where I'm at, gaming and creative wise. So without further ado...

Minecraft: just after Christmas I started up a new single player survival mode. So far this has managed to dominate my spare time over the last few weeks. Minecraft will do that to me, just grab my attention and not let go for a bit. Currently, I'm living inside a forest with a chicken and wheat farm going. I just took the time out to hunt down some sugar cane and tame some cattle. I've also found some sheep and a pumpkin patch nearby, but haven't set up the farms yet, and I haven't bothered with a tree farm yet due to there being plenty of wood nearby. At some point soon I'll get to work on a house, but for now I've just been digging and building up stockpiles.

EvE: I had ventured back into highsec (ewwww....) in order to have some one on one training time with a newer player, but that never seemed to pan out. At some point soon I'll need to make my way back Thera for whatever highjinks are being planned for Signal's first birthday (note to self: get in empty head first this time), plus I need to update my blueprints. I'm about halfway through training the medium weapons to T2, whether or not I plan on actually using those anytime soon. I haven't given the Endurance a proper round of testing yet, but I have taken one out to a lowsec ice belt and at least tried it out.

Other games: Thanks to Christmas, I've got copies of Fallout 4, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, and Super Mario Maker lying around. Like I mentioned earlier, I've been distracted by Minecraft, and I've been plugging away with some pretty long work weeks at the day job. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to start these three games up soon, but for now they are tragically dormant. Such is gamer life.

Music: I decided to throw a few of my older songs together and put them on Bandcamp as an EP. I'm hoping to make releasing EP's a more regular thing, and at some point I've got a full fleged album to finish. As per usual, my own ADD has been getting the better of me. I'm seriously considering saving up for a Novation Launch Control XL as a compainion for my Launchpad Pro, and that has me also seriously considering just giving in and switching to Ableton. We'll see how that plays out.

Writing: it's been forever since I actually sat down to write some fiction, but I've got an outline for a halfway decent piece of sci fi in the works. I keep flipping it back and forth in my head over whether to make it EvE themed or not. Otherwise, I'm still kicking around an idea for a Twine that I've had for awhile. Besides that, not much happening in writer world. I need to fix that.

That should wrap that up. Later, taters.

Space Politics, A Prelude

I don't envy the next batch of folks who will wind up on the CSM.

I tried explaining the concept of the Council of Stellar Management to one of my non-Eve friends once, and his response basically boiled down to "Are you seriously telling me there are space nerd elections?". I've always been a bit in disbelief myself over the fact that Eve is so self aware that we actually have an elected focus group representing the entire player base to the developers. But, that's the way it is and all things considered I think the Council does an exceptionally important job in keeping our day to day space lives going.

That said, the next CSM is shaping up to deal with an enormous amount of drama. Consider everything that we know will go on in the next year. Valkyrie and Gunjack will be released, and if they're successful there will be endless cries that CCP is taking too much focus from Eve and the CSM will bear a brunt of that (God help us if those games fail). The ongoing null sec revamp is only going to intensify as the quest for the perfect set of mechanics continues. Capital ships are slated for a massive reworking, meaning that a large number of the older and more invested players are going to have their worlds rocked. The upcoming Citadel expansion will start the long slog through a much needed revision to structure mechanics. The advent of "social corps" looms on the horizon, bringing with them untold questions over various aspects of gameplay, most notably war decs. Optimistically, this year will also open up new actual space to play around in once the Jesus feature of player built stargates becomes a reality (side note: this is pretty much my reaction when I saw the words "stargate blueprint" in the latest round of Sisi leaks). I could go on, but I think it's pretty clear that the next CSM is going to have a lot on it's plate, and that's to say nothing of the regular amount of drama that comes up over the course of a year in New Eden.

Taking into account the amount of damage done to the reputation of the CSM over the past year, the next session of the council is going to have a tough row to hoe. I think it's commendable to see new candidates stepping up (or even old candidates returning) in spite of all this, and I'm actually looking forward to hearing the variety of opinions and viewpoints in the upcoming campaigns (yes, even Xenuria's). Once the field is set, I'll whip up an actual endorsement list because my endorsements matter. Beforehand, though, I just wanted to point out what a tall order our elected focus group has before it and wanted to start the campaign season by saying I think all of you who are running are insane. Admirable, but insane.

Good luck :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Stream and Mr. Chicken

For a while now I've been toying with the idea of setting up a live Twitch stream of my gaming habits and, alternately, my music screw-aroundary. This is mostly inspired by Eve streamers, and was kind of solidified when CCP ran a live stream of one of their sound artists composing in real time. I've just kind of been trying to get out of my own way since then.

Truth be told, I've always had massive stage fright. When I was doing vocals in death metal bands, before every show you could find me paying homage to the porcelain throne. My band mates all knew the closer it was to stage time, the more I just needed to be left alone. Once I actually got on stage and the music hit, I'd be fine, but until then I was an absolute wreck. I've never understood why it happens to me. It's not that I'm worried about things like criticism or embarassment. And I legitimately don't like this aspect of myself. But for whatever reason, I just get terrified by the idea of people watching me.

Like I said, I don't like that about me, and I've gone out of my way to push that boundry. I originally tried being a frontman to get over it. I tried my hand at acting a few times because I wanted to prove I could. I've done open mic nights in comedy clubs (and bombed, miserably). I ran for political office. Shit, I've even sunk so low as to do karaoke. Every single time, I was just a shivering little ball of fear beforehand. Comparatively, you'd think streaming would be less nerveracking, but it's kind of bringing the stage fright home. Everything I've done before has been something I've gone OUT and done. Home has been "safe", you know? So I guess that's probably the challenge here, and probably the reason I'm drawn to it.

I know everyone has their own mental crap that they have to deal with, and most gamers play in order to relax or escape their normal stress and anxieties. I just kind of wanted to point out that using things you enjoy to confront things you don't can work out in unexpected ways. I never thought of using video games to take on stage fright before, but this post is me telling myself that I'm going to do it. And yes, the idea is giving me fits and I can't stop worrying about it. But I'm going to get over it.

Damn it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sticker Shoculus

Ah, a brave new world where virtual reality can be enjoyed in every home. Well, not my home, and maybe not your home either, but someone's theoretical home can soon be filled with realities both physical and virtual. If you're willing to pay a pretty penny, of course.

Oculus announced the price for their Rift VR headset today, and turns out the price of admission is going to be just shy of $600. Add in the fact that a good number of folks will be needing to upgrade their PC in order to run the thing, with most estimates saying that a scratch build will run in the neighborhood of $1000. So all told, a charming $1600 at most in order to video game wrapped around your head. Is it worth it? I haven't the slightest idea.

I'm certainly no expert when it comes to price points for consumer electronics. My only experience with the subject would be that I frequently consume electronics and electronic accessories. Objectively speaking, it seems like an ok price for the technology, and we'll see how it stacks up once the competition heats up between Rift, Samsung's Gear VR, and Sony's Playstation VR. Comparing it to other technologies, the Rift is pricier than a Playstation 4 or Xbox One when they originally released, less expensive than current prices for most augmented reality headsets, and I think that's a fair place for it. The real kicker is whatever you'll be spending on a new computer or upgrades. Let's face facts though. If you're enough of a techie that you want to be an early adopter in this wave of virtuositical goodness, then having a top flight computer was probably already on your to-do list anyway.

Personally, I'll have to be a late adopter, but that's pretty par for the course for me. Bleeding edge technology is a bit above my pay grade and I'm ok with that. Not to mention doctors and dentists won't usually accept the "but it looked cool" excuse when you try to explain why you can't pay them (the heartless bastards). I do hope the tech sticks though, and I hope CCP has a hit with Valkyrie. More money in CCP's wallet means more space goodies for me, and I do enjoy my space goodies.

Of course, if I keep pulling 70+ hour work weeks, I might save up some spare change quicker than I realize ;)

Multidimensional Exploration

Fair warning: this will be a little rambling and very music nerdy. I also might not exactly have everything right so take it as you will.

So now that 2015 is behind us, I just wanted to point out something that the casual music consumer might have missed. There was actually a major evolution in the way music is made last year, and you may never notice it. Behold, the advent of multidimensional expression control!

The basic idea is the ability to play notes between notes. Think of the sonic difference between the notes C and C sharp. That difference is what's known as a "semi-tone", and if you break a semi-tone down into 100 equal parts you get what is referred to as "cents". Next time you see a synthesizer with knobs labeled "Semi" and "Fine/Corse/Cent" you'll know what they mean if you didn't already. If you need some fancy italian words to throw around at your next cocktail party and/or want to explore this idea a little more in depth, here's some handy dandy wiki articles: Glissando, Portamento, and Vibrato (each of those would make an awesome name for a breakfast cereal).

In any event, microtonal performance isn't a new thing. The trombone would be an example of a microtonal instrument, as would any fretless string instrument, and as I mentioned synthesizers have always had the ability to be tuned on the fly while being played. Hell, the human voice is a microtonal instrument if you really want to think about it, and God only knows how long we've been using that to make music. The point here though is that in 2015, the concept of microtonal performance was emphasized in several new ways and that trend looks to continue in 2016. Additionally, the idea of performing the movement between two different states has been more heavily applied to MIDI controls, which opens up a whole new universe of audio wankery.

Two instruments that really exemplify and embrace the potential of this concept are ROLI's Seaboard and Roger Linn's LinnStrument. Each of these are vast departures from the functions of traditional keyboard and pad controlers and open up performance capabilities that simply didn't exist beforehand. Throw in something like Artiphon's Instrument 1 to change up how we view stringed instruments, and let's not forget breath controlers while we're at it. Now add in the fact that software developers are embracing the idea of multiexpresion control more and more and you can see just how music production can really change over the next year or so. It might not be readily noticeable, but as this continues to expand and evolve you'll more and more be listening to music that simply wasn't possible to make at any other point in human history. Or, at the very least, it was extremely unlikely to be made.

Personally, I can't wait to hear it :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Signaleer looks at 1

My loving collection of space nerds turns one year old in a couple weeks, which has me feeling a bit nostalgic.

Ok, so they aren't my collection, per se. I don't have them all rounded up and caged in my own private zoo and in all technicality the group exists strictly because of the efforts of Johnny Splunk, G8keeper, and Mynxee. But, they're the nerds I claim as my own, and for whatever reason they all admit I am one of them in return.

Eve blogs are in no small part to blame for my current existence in Signal Cartel. One of the last things Ripard Teg (who really needs to get back to blogging) talked about on Jester's Trek was the return of Mynxee. That was the first I had heard of our future fearless leader, and probably would have been the last I had paid attention had it not been for the advent of Thera. The gigantic and weird wormhole system caught my attention the moment it was announced and I couldn't wait to visit it. At the time, I was living with a small wormhole group who were loosely working with a high sec carebear corp. I had already heard of Eve Scout so I knew finding Thera wouldn't be all that difficult. A few days after it went live, I decided to seek it out and soon found myself in need of a scout in.

While kicking around in the Eve Scout public channel, I struck up a quick conversation with Mynxee. Even in a few short sentences, it was remarkably clear just how enthusiastic she was about the new developments in the game. As someone graciously helped me get my Hound in (cannot remember who!) I wished them all farewell and made a note that everyone in the channel seemed to be having fun and genuinely enjoyed the game. I took my look around Thera, loved the feeling of being there, and then decided to leave. I had been growing distant from the high sec lifestyle for a while, and the Thera visit was the final straw. I knew I needed to move on.

After dropping corp, I poked around a bit in different places, looking for a new fit. I knew I wanted to stay mainly in wormhole space, and my primary activity was exploration. I wasn't against the idea of PvP, but it was something I more prefered to avoid. At some point, I noticed a blog post talking about the newly formed Signal Cartel. After looking into it, I knew it was the place for me. And aside from a brief stint in Stay Frosty, I haven't looked back since joining.

I think Eve needs a place like Signal. To paraphrase Robin Williams from the movie "Toys", there needs to be a place where we can fight fire with marshmallows. And I'm happy to help keep such a place going in my own small way. I think we're proof of the statement of "you can play Eve in any way you choose".

With a year in the rear view, I have to say that I can't think of a better way to play Eve. You can all have your PvP and crap, I'll take fleeting up to throw fireworks and snowballs any day. That's just who I am.

Can't stop the Signal, baby.

A Ned by any other name

I guess this is as good a place to start as any. For the record, no, my name is not actually Ned Thomas. It's Adam.

I was dubbed "Ned" in high school. My best friend was over at my house one day and happened to see an email from the drummer for the band I was in at the time. Fatefully, said drummer's name was also Adam, and his email happened to be To which my best friend immediately said "Who the hell is Adam Ned?" and then immediately decided that was my new name. Over the course of time, the "Adam" part dropped off and everyone just referred to me as Ned. Hell, in the liner notes for every album I've done vocals on I've only been credited as Ned. I'm even thinking it'll need to go on my tombstone/urn if I want people to actually know it's me in there.

Meanwhile, the "Thomas" comes from my granddad. He grew up in a one room shack in the North Carolina mountains too poor to afford the spare time to go to school. He joined the navy before he actually knew how to read and the day after he married my grandmother (who was the one who later taught him how to read). 40 years of service later he retired having been through everything from building houses in the Philippines to loading bombs during the Cuban missile crisis to being a lead mechanic for Air Force One. I have a Chinese to English dictionary that supposedly belonged to Richard Nixon from that last bit. He settled the family back down in good ole' NC where he built their house and spent the rest of his working years building housing developments. He was married to my grandmother for over 50 years (I forget exactly how long) until she died. Roughly nine years after that, he passed away after putting up a long fight with Parkinson's disease. For my entire life, I've looked up to him and considered him a hero, and I've always been proud as hell that my middle name was his first and I like to show it off.

The name "Ned Thomas" was born long before I ever undocked in New Eden for the first time. I first used  it as a pseudonym for sending short stories in to sci-fi rags. Anytime I've ever needed to come up with a handle for myself it's the first thing I've turned to. The name represents two very important things to me, namely friends and family (see what I did there?). So when I first logged into Eve and needed a name, Ned Thomas was just the obvious choice to use. It probably has a lot to do with why I've never started an actual alt account. And also a big reason why I just have no interest in trying to split the real life me from the me that throws snowballs in space.

So there ya go. I yam what I yam and I sweet potato what I sweet potato.

....that last line was terrible. Pretend I ended it with a witty dick joke.

Undocking in the blogosphere

So it's 2016, and it's time for me to get off my ass and actually start a blog like I've been meaning to. So here it is, my own little slice of the internet. Make yourself at home :)

Originally, this was going to just be an Eve blog. But while the idea of writing about internet spaceships was kicking around in my head, it got a bit dented and misshapen. Oddly enough, it bent into just the right shape to wedge itself permanently between every one of my interests and now I can't seem to pry it loose. So I'm afraid that, much like my other social media presences, I'm going to be unable to seperate the Eve player from the music lover or the sci-fi fan or the Disney geek (hail Mickey) or the comic reader or the guy married to my wife or any other thing that I enjoy talking to people about. I will make one promise though. I'll keep my religion and my politics to myself. If you're desperate to hear my opinions on either of those subjects, hit me up elsewhere.

That should keep it short and sweet. Now....where to?