Sunday 29 August 2010

EQ2E: First impressions

I fired up EQ2E and was favourably impressed.

I have rather been holding off on trying EQ2E. The business model seems off-putting and I'm paying for Age of Conan until September. I thought about it today and I realised that although I rather like AoC it doesn't compete with other games and so I'll probably never subscribe. Therefore anything I do in AoC is kinda wasted because after September I'll be forever locked out of that content. For a casual game subs don't make much sense to me.

I am interested in 4 diku style games all of which I see as broadly similar. Purely on preference I would rank them:
1. WoW
2. EQ2
3. AoC
4. Lotro
In terms of the appeal of the business model I would rank them:
1. Lotro
2. EQ2E
3. AoC
4. WoW

In particular as I'm mainly playing single player games, strategy games and Eve and am also much busier with non-game activities a sub simply isn't justified. So I may well up playing Lotro as my main diku even though it's my least favourite simply because of the business model.

EQ2E downloads super fast these days. They really have done a great job on the streaming client.

The theme tune always touches me, I love the main EQ2 theme and it makes me feel like I've come home when I return to EQ2.

There's only about 4 races available but it includes Barbarian, Erudite and Human so 4 of the best. All neutral races. The only race that isn't there that I used to rather favour is Sarnak, the over-powered dragonmen of Timourous Deep. They've rejigged the racial abilities so my Barbarian has +5% speed and an improvement to Sprint which are awesome.

I went with Barbarian Berserker. Probably one of the worst characters to get a raid spot with but I don't care because I'm not expecting to raid. The choices were:
Guardian or Berserker
Templar or Inquisitor
Wizard or Warlock
Swashbuckler ot Brigand

All very solid picks, I'm not going to pine for the unavailable ones. Not like they're making us all play Monks or what have you.

I started in New Halas, a tundra region. It's rather like starter areas everywhere, it feels more generic than the wonderful Timorous Deep (which of course is still available).

The AA tree has the Shadow Odyssey AAs available, the first time I've seen that. So tons of choice there.

I have limited bag space but that's partially offset by them giving you ginormous bags. At level 4 I have a 24 slot bag (that I started with), a 12 slot harvesting bag (from the crafter trainer), and a 36 slot bank box (from the crafter trainer). So talk to the crafter trainer even if you don't want to craft.

Combat is fun. EQ2 combat is generally slower than most dikus but the Berserker is on the more violent end of the scale.

Overall I really like it. I loaded it up with the intention of playing for free but I can see myself spending $10 for the one-off upgrade. I think Lotro has a much friendlier F2P system because you can gradually earn cash shop points by simply playing and because the one off payment also gets you points. But I prefer EQ2 as a game.

With F2P there really is nothing to lose as long as you have good impulse control. This will definitely sit on my hard drive for years now. I may even sub at times to do some raiding knowing that unlike WoW when that sub lapses it's not all lost, I can still access my characters.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Warhammer 40K Online: design strategy

The Orks have begun trundling the titanium-armoured hype wagon down the hill and the community is pessimistic.

Lum is disgusted. Syncaine agrees. Warhammer 40K decided they were walking a legal tightrope and re-branded just in case Games Workshop decided to cease and desist order them. Kotaku are impressed by the hype video. Personally I thought it looked astonishingly like sci fi WoW, you could even recognise the WoW Troll and Forsaken models as well as the WoW helicopter. I also suspect it's time new MMOs stopped using the phrase "Next Generation MMO", it's become industry code now for WoW-clone. There's another video out too. In it you see heroic sci fi people killing Patchwerk and the deployment of WoW-style Harleys. In an attempt to pop one of Lum's blood vessels they boast that you'll be able to play space marines - you won't. Guess the guys making the hype don't talk a great deal to the guys making the game.

The basic problem is that while any sensible gamer would start from the premise that Warhammer Online sucked donkey balls and work towards not re-making that, these guys seem to consider themselves the inheritors of the great online Warhammer tradition of cloning WoW badly.

Maybe it was an interview question: “in your opinion is Warhammer Online the finest MMO ever made?” and if you laughed you didn’t get hired.

Sunday 15 August 2010

MMOs: reflections on the word "hype"

Hyperbole is the art of exaggeration for effect. As wikipedia has it:

Hyperbole (pronounced /haɪˈpɜrbəli/,[1] from ancient Greek ὑπερβολή 'exaggeration'), is a rhetorical device in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.

Hyperboles are figures of speech that are exaggerated in order to create emphasis or effect. Hyperbole is a literary device often used in poetry, and is frequently encountered in casual speech. An example of hyperbole is: "The bag weighed a ton".[2] Hyperbole helps to make the point that the bag was very heavy although it is not probable that it would actually weigh a ton. On occasion, newspapers and other media use hyperbole when speaking of an accident, to increase the impact of the story. This is more often found in tabloid newspapers, which often exaggerate accounts of events to appeal to a wider audience.

In geometry a hyperbola is a curve. Viewed with the edges down it starts low, rises to a peak, then goes low again.

In MMO hype is also a curve. There are rumours that a secret MMO project is planned, vague speculation on whether it will be a wow clone or a shooter, then excitement rises to a peak as awesome trailers are released and old game functionality is re-explained as if it were something new and special. Then the game comes out, you crash 4 times a night and people who can bunny hop well own you.

Don't believe the hype is simply wisdom. Hype is not there to be believed. It's a rhetorical effect, a trigonometric pattern that ends with anti-climax.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Eve: the future of PI

The current state of affairs

PI can be seen at the moment as an industry producing for 3 main markets:
- the POS fuel market
- scientists and industrialists putting up new POSes
- Nullsec wars.

At the moment the buzz is about POS fuel. Coolant has spiked as have Electrolytes. Either a great deal of this particular POS fuel is being used up or people are speculating. As there hasn't been a comparable jump in the other fuels used for POSes I think it's just clever speculation. All over Jita there are vast hangars crammed full of coolant waiting for the price to hit 30K, 40K or some such.

There are several reasons why speculating in coolant is canny. First most POS-owners are relying on diminishing stockpiles bought when it was a NPC good. Those will run out. Also war-based PI demand is seasonal and spikey. When commanders start dropping 10 SBUs per day all of PI will get really expensive then will collapse again. So even if the market were to flood with coolant it's likely that anyone left with a large overstock could clear it at some future date during a war. Coolant is produced on gas and storm planets and the producers are quickly learning not to set up on gas planets.

All the same I think now you've missed the bubble on coolant if you're looking to speculate. Other POS fuels will be more lucrative.

Regarding the other two elements they're rather dormant. Not many scientists are putting up POSes in the face of rising fuel costs and shrinking profits and war consumption is minimal and largely met by stockpiles.

The short term future

The future is WAR! Nullsec alliances, bored of stand-downs and ratting will brave the lagmonster and get busy during the later part of August and the whole of September. There won't be constraints caused by key personnel being away on holiday. There's lots of money and not much to do with it. Eve will surge out of its summer slump with an explosion of violence.

It's just possible that this will be facilitated by improvements in fleet battle lag. CCP Hammer mentioned they have several fixes in mind that they would deploy between Tyrannis and the Winter expansion. I'm not holding my breath.

War is wonderful for PI producers. All those buildings being blown up. You even have to deploy special one-use buildings to contest sovereignty.

Another factor that will help PI profits is boredom. A lot of people got all excited over the new feature, trained 10 alts to each run 5 or 6 planets and then discovered the clickfest became horrible at that scale. Some of these people are burning out at the moment.

However the big question mark over PI as a way of making money is how well the macroers do at it. Many people will try to cheat in this way and on the face of it the system looks open to it. I really have no idea as to whether there are working PI macros already but it's likely they will figure it out soon.

The longer term

We know of a couple of planned changes that CCP have said are coming.

Links between players are coming. That's actually really good. An industrial corp that cooperates could set up substantial production cities.

The dreaded clickfest of turning all your harvesters on is set to become a "thinkfest" instead. So for example instead of double-clicking each harvester twice you might have to complete a short game of Minesweeper to enable the Turn All Harvesters on for a planet. This not only makes doing PI a bit more fun but would seem to make macroing much harder.

Another thing that may happen is the extension of planetary industry to more product types. There are several Trade Good categories which as yet have no in-game use. One of them (Carbon) even has had a Production Information tab mistakenly added. Most likely they were considering it for PI during the Tyrannis build and forgot to change it back. Obviously if this is announced then get those region-wide buy orders up and stock up on these while the NPCs sell them.

The massive change with be DUST514. DUST will allow Eve players to contract console gamers to kill opponents' planetary set ups. Here's some guesses about the shape of the coming system:

- security levels will match Eve, in other words High Sec PI will be pretty safe, Low Sec something of a free-for-all and NullSec will be driven by space-holding alliances.

- generally at any given time it's unlikely that your PI will be lost

- they will take a fairly major effort to destroy and will be able to be defended. I expect some kind of SBU mechanic which will allow Eve players to frantically muster defensive forces to save their planet before the timer runs down.

- WH PI will be something of a loophole. While corporations could attack other WH corps on the planets I don't think these guys indulge in the same bitter long-term wars that people like BoB and the Goons do. Because of this I think WH PI will give awesome yields while seeing little console conflict - certainly the best place to extract.

Monday 9 August 2010

Eve: an exchange of views with CCP

Short version: I persuaded CCP to give me some element of compensation for the rather exploitative but also very careless loss of my Caldari Navy Raven I blogged about recently. I thought they handled it very well and that the final resolution was fair - I'm a little out of pocket but I was dumb and they've replaced the ship.

I think what makes this story particularly remarkable is the speed of response. The whole exchange happened in less than a week. One message I received about 3 minutes after I'd sent mine - now that's efficient.

I think this story also shows what you can get if you ask nicely.

Here's the story in messages:

My first message in a petition to CCP Customer Support:

A player named Van Orth entered my mission and salvaged a wreck. He was in a Vigil. I aggressed him but he warped away.

I docked up and went afk for 30 minutes. When I came back the agression timer was still live. I waited a while but it stayed between 7 and 9 minutes. Whenever it got to 7 minutes it would jump back to 9 minutes.

I was doing nothing except sitting in the station. Van Orth was using an exploit to keep resetting the agression timer.

Eventually I undocked and got killed by Van Orth. Just before he killed me he offered me a ransom opportunity. For 150m he said he'd let me live.

I would like Van Orth to be banned from Eve for cheating. I would like reimbursement for the Caldari Navy Raven, it's fit and the 150m ransom, all of which were lost because of this exploit.

CCP's response:


EVE is a PvP game and all game mechanics are designed around that concept to include agent missions and the items therein. Nothing is secure in Eve, players are expected to either defend or lose anything they have to other players.

It is part of the normal game mechanics for other players to enter that agent mission and take the items within and salvage the wrecks if they so desire. Players have the ability to defend their ship, the items they feel is important to them, are willing to risk their ship and possibly have concord intervention.

If player steals from a wreck you can shoot the player without CONCORD intervention, however this does not apply to the salvaging as the player will not be criminally flagged, as salvage is not considered to be your property until you have actually salvaged it. At this time, it is not harassment or griefing for other players to take those items but normal game mechanics.
Please read the following link found on the EVE wiki:

If you have any further issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us again.

Best regards,
GM *******
EVE Online Customer Support

My follow up:

Thanks for getting back to me.

I have no issues with Eve being a pvp game or with players entering my missions. My issue is specifically about being killed while flagged under a FIFTEEN MINUTE aggression counter over an hour after I aggressed. The player kept the counter live using an exploit.

Please escalate this issue to a Senior GM as this is something broken in the game that needs to be fixed. A fifteen minute timer is (obviously) intended to last fifteen minutes, not over an hour.

Their response:


As you were running a mission site, you may have left wrecks and perhaps drones behind.

After having gained aggression from your attack on the player in defence of your wrecks this player was able to then shoot anything you left behind in order to extend the aggression. I can only suggest that when docking up you unclaim ownership of your wrecks, cans and drones in the area before retreating to avoid people using them against you.

In this instance the player in question appears to be making use of normal game mechanics and as such we will be unable to intervene.

If you still wish to request escalation after this explanation then let me know.

GM *****
EVE Online Customer Support Team

My next line of debate:

Thanks again for getting back to me so quickly..

I would like to escalate this please because there seems to be a very clear gap between intended functionality and actual functionality.

The player extending the timer by shooting the wrecks doesn't make any sense. How is this me aggressing him?

It's clearly supposed to last 15 minutes, it's clearly exploitable and I would like reimbursement for my losses. I no longer wish action to be taken against the other player as the situation is rather muddled but I do think it's unfair that I'm so deeply out of pocket due to being killed over an hour after I started a FIFTEEN MINUTE timer.


Their response:


At your request I will escalate this petition where it will be handled by a Senior GM in due time. Thankyou for your patience.

GM *****
EVE Online Customer Support Team

My reply:

Thank you very much.

The Senior GM's verdict:

Hi, senior GM ****** here.

After a review of this case, discussion with the GMs investigating it and considerable deliberation we have come to the conclusion to grant reimbursement here in this petition. You will have received an EVE mail notification with full details of the actual reimbursement.

This certainly looks odd although we can not implicate Van Orth in anything directly. Please do not consider this resolution as anything against this character.

If you encounter this gain I strongly encourage you not to undock and rather contact us through a petition, such as Agent Mission In Progress or Exploits, whichever is applicable to you. This permits us to limit or eliminate penalties against you and investigate this in more detail.

If you have any further questions or concerns then please do not hesitate to ask.

Best regards,
Senior GM ******
EVE Online Customer Support Team

This was accompanied by a brand new Caldari Navy Raven in my ships hangar and a rather nice role playing Eve Mail (which I seem to have reflexively deleted already, sorry!.

My reply

Woot! Many thanks for the CNR!

I'm still out of pocket but that's fair enough as my loss was partly my fault.

I really appreciate your prompt helpful responses and professionalism.

Thanks again and best wishes!

My P.S.

PS. I'm happy for this to now be closed.

Their reply:

Glad to hear the issue has been resolved. If you have any further questions regarding this issue or if you require any help in the future then please do not hesitate to contact us again. This petition is now closed.

Best regards,
Senior GM ******
EVE Online Customer Support Team

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Eve: Stupid, stupid, stupid

I guess I was tired last night. Or my brain had melted in the London heat. Or something.

A ninja pops up in my mission. Piddly little mission called Duo of Death.

I usually just wait out ninjas. Stop shooting, keep an eye on my ship to make sure it doesn't die, and read a book. One battleship left. So I wait.

Having salvaged the wreck (which does not agress me) he then stole from the wreck and for some stupid, stupid reason I reflexively opened fire on that blinky red target. From eye to finger without passing brain along the way.

OK, I reacted well. I didn't pause to finish off my last ship I legged it home and docked. 15 minutes timer. OK, no big deal, I read my book for a while.

About 40 minutes later I came back. Strange, still 8 minutes on the timer. OK, I know better than to rush out with a timer on, I stayed in dock and read forums. It kept jumping back to 9 minutes whenever it hit 7 minutes. Odd.

After about 20 minutes of this I decided to risk a quick sortie to the mission. In my lovely Caldari Navy Raven with faction shield booster.

You know what happened, right? I mean I know what happened and I would have known what happened next even if I didn't know what happened next.

A Tengu. Waiting. At my acceleration gate.

I gave it a shot once I realised I was warp scrambled and discovered the awesome might of the low signature radius, one of the best pvp stats in the game. With 7 cruise missiles, close to maxxed missile skills and 5 Warrior IIs on him I wasn't more than scratching him. I think at best I got him down to 97% shield left.

He opened a chat window and offered a ransom for 150 million. I paid. I didn't trust him but I paid because it would have been a bargain to escape at that price. Naturally he didn't honour the ransom. I managed to get my pod clear with my expensive internal jewelry collection.

I petitioned it. I accept that Eve is a pvp game I accept that I played into his hands etc. I petioned it because I do not accept that a 15 minute aggression timer can last over an hour with me "re-aggressing" by being afk, docked, doing nothing.

It was a couple of hours after this that I realised how deeply Eve has got its hooks into me. The thought of quitting had crossed my mind then I realised I'm simply not going to care about what happens in a different game. Warsong Gulch? Grind to 80 and run some raids on some jack-in-the-box boss who pops up again a week after you kill him for you to have another go?

I liquidated an investment and replaced the CNR. Did I mention I was fairly rich? I also discovered that Dread Guristas XL Shield Boosters have the same stats as Caldari Navy XL Shield Boosters except price - they're 20 mill cheaper. I saved some money putting the ship together getting most of the fittings on overnight Buy Orders and the ship itself on a Want to Buy contract.

The guy who ganked me had finished my mission for me and left the mission completion item on a contract to me for 1 isk (this time I checked for traps very carefully).

When I got home tonight I had a message from a GM. Standard cut n paste "Eve is a pvp game" blah blah blah. Told him I love pvp but a FIFTEEN MINUTE timer lasting over an hour is a bug. Because, fifteen minute timers should last, you know, fifteen minutes. Otherwise they'd be called something else.

It doesn't matter whether they throw me a bone on the petition. I'm in. I'm hooked. CNR 2 ready to go. And once I get my Curse some high sec ganker is going to find life in Eve deeply unpleasant.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Eve: My little lizard

I picked up another new toy, something of the opposite extreme to my last fit.

The Gila is a pirate ship which I purchased for 130 million isk in Jita. It's basically a drone version of the Drake.

I bought it partly because I couldn't take my Drake into a complex I wanted to run (cruisers and below). Partly because I love passive shield tanking and wanted to try out another passive shield tank ship. And partly because I'm playing two versions of Eve and want to be able to do virtually nothing on my second screen while still obliterating my mission.

I've just flown it down to where my friend who has just started Eve is running missions. We tried a couple of level 3s earlier and the second was really scary with his tank.

I'm in a level 3 as I type and it's hilarious to watch. My drones are obliterating everything, my passive shield tank is at 89% with the Invulnerability Field switched off.

This is my fit for laid back missioning/looting. If I wanted a more intense play style I could put missile launchers in the high slots.

Gila (Guristas Cruiser)

2 Small Tractor Beam Is
2 Salvager Is
Drone Link Augmentor I

Drone Navigation Computer I
10 MN Afterburner II
Invulnerability Field II
3 Large Shield Extender IIs

4 Shield Power Relays

3 Medium Core Defence Field Purger Is

The mighty passive shield recharges 215 hit points per second, starts at 13838 hit points total and takes 160 seconds to fully recharge from empty. Resists are 23/38/54/62 with the invulnerability field off or 44/56/67/72 . Effective hit points are 23 913 or 30786 with the invulnerability field.

I've discovered I need one missile launcher. I'll drop the drone range thingy for it. Otherwise the only way I can wake packs is by bumping them. My tactic for level 3s so far has been bump into one mob from every pack not yet woken up then tank the entire room while typing a blog post. My drones finished killing everything 2 paragraphs ago.

To my immense amusement I even attracted a tourist. Some guy in an Ishtar flew into my mission to watch me for a bit.