Friday 30 December 2011

SWTOR: There's a lot to love

After being negative about SWTOR I thought it about time I concentrated on some of the positives in what is in many ways a beautifully made game

First of all I have to say I love the look. Many people don't so I've read, I do. Possibly it's because my first in-depth MMO was SWG and that's the standard by which I judge MMOs. And SWTOR does look very like SWG.

Star Wars is arguably the best game IP out there. It's immensely popular. It comprises both fantasy and sci fi so it covers all bases. If you want to be a sword-wielding Wizard you can, if you want to be a starfighter pilot you can. Droids and some of the animals and races are very charming. Or at least interesting even if technically I have to admit that Gungans aren't actually charming. It's more streetwise than Star Trek, more idealist than Battlestar Galactica.

Clothes and customisation are nicely done and I like the fact that your appearance gear isn't different from what you're actually wearing. It's a bit unimmersive if the plate-wearing tank is actually wearing 15 lbs of mithril-alloyed titanium on his head but appears to be wearing a top hat. So I'm glad they avoided going the route of appearance slots.

The music is very good. It's Star Wars style and occasionally directly from Star Wars as distinct from Galaxies which simply used film music for everything. I couldn't help but wonder about the economics. If you have access to the Star Wars IP why pay someone to compose new music? They're not going to do it better than John Williams. But if EA don't mind throwing some spare cash towards starving musicians who am I to quibble? And the new stuff is Star Wars style and nicely composed and played.

Combat is quite nicely done. On my Sniper I take cover, line up my shot and open up, with some snazzy area effect strafing, grenade tossing and pot shots to taste. My companion, when she can tear herself away from slicing missions, provides very decent support. She's Kaliyo, a somewhat paper tank of unpleasant temperament who, although she hits the deck a lot, tends to keep opponents busy long enough for me to win and then ress her. Plus she cheers enthusiastically when I do anything Evil.

The main storyline is excellent a twisty labyrinth of intrigue and double-dealing which I am scything through with the Direct Approach (tm). Conniving double agents seem to have issues when it comes to outwitting a bullet in the kneecap. The other stories are very nicely done too although sometimes when I'm tired it all gets a bit samey. Another long explanation of why I should Kill Ten Rebs? I think I'll spacebar through. I do feel that I should avoid doing too much of that though as I'm loathe to rush through too fast.

I love alting. The other classes feel very different and I enjoy picking a personality for a new alt. I have a Rude Sith Warrior who simply picks whatever conversation option seems rudest. He's very entertaining and it turns out you can be pretty cheeky to Sith Lords without getting your head stuck on a Force-pike. Who knew?

There's a space mission minigame which I really like. Now let me confess, I suck at space fighting games and flight sims. But this is really easy. Hold left mouse button down and try to keep the mouse pointer over the baddies. That's basically it. A space flight game that even I can play! (For reference SWG's Jump To Lightspeed was too hard for me).

Crafting is fun and I'm a big fan of time-based crafting. My main is primarily a Slicer, although I also have enough Armstech to load my Sniper Rifle with the latest Barrel. I have a Biochemist alt and I love that profession. I do suggest Slicing as first pick because even after they nerfed it it's still a constant stream of free money.

There's a nice account security feature. It collects data for 5 different security questions then sometimes asks you a random one when you log in. So even if you get key-logged the key-logger might well lack the answer needed to get into your account.

It's a good game and I'd thoroughly recommend it to any readers. I think sometimes there's a feeling that buying a MMO should be tantamount to getting married, that it should be an exclusive commitment involving dumping all previous games and avoiding at least 6 months worth of new releases. That's silly. It's worth a look and at £35 or so it's reasonably affordable. It's certainly a lot of content for your money even if one accepts Tobold's opinion that it's a game with lots of content but not much gameplay.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you have a pleasant day over-eating, getting sleepy, spending time with the family, getting drunk and possibly a little video game playing if it fits into the packed schedule!

Thursday 22 December 2011

SWTOR: the great subscription scam

From the official site:

You have 29 days of play time remaining. You must sign up for a recurring subscription plan or redeem a Game Time Code before you can play. If you sign up for a recurring subscription, you will be billed automatically at the end of your current remaining play time.

Let's check that again. I have 29 days of play time remaining. I can't actually play however. I can't play because even though it's in my free month I have to subscribe using a credit card or add game time using a game card.

It's a scam. I have a free month but I don't have a free month.

I don't quite frankly mind giving them my debit card number but sadly their site isn't working at the moment and I can't even get to the page where I would enter its details.

And of course anyone who pays by game cards must buy two months worth of game time even if you had only wanted to play your free month then decide later.

I'm sure whichever accountant thought this particular swindle up is chortling his way home with a fat Christmas bonus but these things always bite back in the long run. Blizzard leads the way in MMOs because people respect the name. EA is not adapting to its competitor's success.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

SWTOR: First impressions

I've started playing SWTOR and it has to be said it's a beautifully crafted game. I have Stabs, an Imperial Agent on the Red Eclipse EU server. Level 17 now, the highest level we know of on the server is 50 (the maximum) and someone in our guild is 41.

So in terms of leveling speed it's probably too fast. Arguably the game's great strength is its beautifully and expensively made quest content. For one player that seems to have lasted him about 4 days. Is the end-game going to be enough to retain hardcore players? We'll see in a month.

As someone who loves to alt and who isn't hardcore it will certainly retain me. I'm planning to level several alts and it will probably take me at least a month to level the first one. So perhaps what we have here is a game that isn't interested in the hardcore vocal minority that gobbles up content so fast?

And that brings the question, will it attract an alternative audience of more casual people, maybe players who've never even tried WoW? I think it could. It is rather like a movie with interactive prompts at times and the pacing between running around shooting stuff and stopping to watch another excellent cutscene is good.

The economy is mildly broken with the overpowered skill Slicing. It's a gathering skill that gathers money. It levels independently of your character and my henchperson is just about never not on a Slicing mission. She's doing level 40 content while I'm level 17. I've bought my first bag slot for 5k credits and have about 17k left. If I didn't have slicing I'd be broke.

The auction house assigns a default price which I rather like and which allows for a certain amount of predatory opportunism. You see, it seems to give price more or less on item type and level. A level 15 blue item will be about the same price as a level 15 green item. This means you can search by quality and pick up some bargains very easily.

I started with Slicing, Scavenging and Investigation but I've realised I'd never get a chance to use Investigation due to permanently running slicing missions so I've changed that one to Archaeology where there's at least a chance to find nodes you can gather from in the wild. All three of those allow you to hit nodes and as a result my minimap, which I keep zoomed out, is often festooned with stars like a little round Christmas tree.

The Imperial Agent is very cool, a gadget-based action spy with a suave British accent. James Bond in space, what's not to like? I went down the Sniper tree partly as a consequence of the game's early structure. Most classes it seems build you up well in one of the areas of speciality from 1-10 then ask you to choose an advanced class. At level 10 I was a superb shot, sometimes killing mobs in one hit but I also had a fairly weak dagger attack and no stealth nor healing. So when the game asked me if I wanted to shoot things for a living or be a rogue/healer it felt like a duh! question. Yes I want to easily one-shot and two-shot my way through the game. I expected though that I'd be respeccing later but the choice is permanent. Not a disaster but certainly a surprise.

Overall it's immensely fun and very charming. There's a very strong Star Wars feel and I'm getting flashbacks to Galaxies in 2003. While it lacks some of the features of Galaxies I'd say it's every bit as good, as fun. Whether I'll be quite so hooked in the longer term depends on how the game feels after I've consumed the content. There's a danger of an extended Tortage effect. Everyone who played Age of Conan loved Tortage then felt very let down by the bland game that came after you'd finished Tortage (the starting city). There's clearly a lot more than just a city but it's still consumable content and in some cases it's being consumed at astonishing speed. So will the game hold people who hit level 50 before Christmas and don't want to make an alt? It will be interesting to see.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Eve Online: a new home

A new home for my armada of PI alts. I'm sending a scanning ship and 5 cloaky haulers off to a new wormhole. This one has lots of lovely planets and is very quiet. According to DOTLAN there have only been 2 players ships and no pods killed in the last month. No jumps at all in the last couple of weeks and combat against NPC seems very occasional.

I check everyone has an up-to-date clone and an insured ship. In one case I repair the armour and half the structure of an exceptionally fortunate Badger. And launch 3 clients and have them all autopilot while I type this. I also send them 200 million isk each to cover set up costs and export taxes for the next several months.

Once I've placed my ships inside I'll scout their POS with my cov ops and get the corp ticker. I'll use that to work out their timezone with the idea of only exporting PI goods when they're all asleep. For good measure I'll add any name I can deduce to my watchlist for extra hauling safety.

At some point they may decide to put up POCOs at which point it will be time to move again. Until then I'll pay 17% tax and like it!

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Eve Online: Poco wars, part 9 (this time it really is final)

I moved a fleet into the wormhole yesterday morning during a gap in their coverage. A Talos Tier 3 Battlecruiser, an Oracle Tier 3 Battlecruiser and a Rifter tackling Frigate. The ships were fitted to be able to pvp and to deliver sustained dps.

Late last night I noticed only one of my opponents was on. I decided to start killing pocos as I felt confident against a single opponent.

I spotted a Hound stealth bomber on D-scan, then a bit later spotted some core scan probes (he was scanning for the way out) and orbited the office shooting it, with orbits set to optimal range so if he tried bombing he'd be unlikely to catch all 3 ships.

He dropped in with a Drake battlecruiser at 60 km and started shooting the Talos.

I flubbed my response a little, not being used to coordinating alts in pvp. I sent the Talos towards him, alt tabbed sent the rifter in, back to the Talos, locked, scrammed and webbed him and started shooting, over to the Rifter, locked scrammed and webbed him and started shooting, alt tabbed to the Oracle, sent it towards him slowly (it wasn't fitted with a propulsion module). A ship started screaming, alt tabbed saw it was the Rifter, ok no worries it's a noob character in a cheapo frigate, he can have that one, went back to the oracle to see if I could lock him yet, another ship started screaming. My Talos was in trouble - doh! I'd left the microwarp drive on. By doing so I'd massively increased my signature radius which meant his missiles were hitting me super-hard. I watched for a few seconds to see if the armour repairer would cope with the incoming damage, it couldn't. OK, time to leave. I turned the MWD back on and burned toward a random point in space to get out of his warp disruption range and hit Warp. Unfortunately I hit warp too early and was still pointed, so nothing happened. I rather panicked and aligned to the Sun and left the MWD on. Unfortunately the sun was back past the Drake so my ship turned around, its MWD making it bulk up huge, and headed back into the enemy fire. Argghhh! I turned back around and tried to run off but the ship blew up. I warped off in my pod, alt tabbed to the Oracle, still 38km from the enemy and warped off in him.

I lost:
a T1 fit Rifter (about 40k isk value after insurance)
a pod (no implants no re-cloning costs)
a Talos Tier 3 Battlecruiser (about 60m isk value after insurance)

Big kudos to him. I might have misplayed my fleet but he took on 3 ships with one and played really well. It took both balls and skill to do what he did.

So I had a rethink. My pressure on their pocos was based on the idea that they'd need a few people to stop me because I have multiple accounts. If one person can beat me 1 vs 3 then I'm probably wasting my time. Also it means that I'd only be able to operate when none of them were on if I wished to continue my campaign of asymmetrical warfare. (I had anticipated being able to kill a poco one day when not enough of them were around). That now escalated to having to spend time reinforcing a poco then needing none of them to be on in order to kill it without getting my butt kicked.

Better to cut my losses, pull out, find another wormhole with its Interbus customs offices still up and farm that paying 17% tax. So I've decided to throw in the towel and pull out.

I'm not unhappy, it was enormous fun and the pvp fight was really exciting. I also learned important lessons about pvp, including my first ever attempt to coordinate 3 accounts in a fight at once. I'll evac late tonight or tomorrow night once all good Russians are tucked up in bed and then start scouting. I'm tempted to try to find a corp but with Star Wars starting and having just been rejected from one I wanted to join for "being a spy" it's probably best to aim for a low maintenance low profile Eve gaming style.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

SWTOR: my guild,

I recently applied to join a SWTOR guild which my friend Faylon has joined. I filled out the template then they asked me to tell them more. I rather liked what I ended up writing, it turned out to be a nostalgic review of a life in gaming. The guild is Rising Darkness, we're European (if Brits are still allowed to say that) and the server we're on is Red Eclipse. Recruitment is closed but will open up again when the game goes Live.

OK, let me expand.

I started gaming with Chess when I was about 4 and graduated, in those pre-home computer days, to crawling over the carpet with a tape measure moving lead armies about.

When I was about 15 video games were starting to become popular. We were supposed to volunteer to garden for old ladies on Wednesday afternoon but often they cancelled or we managed to bunk off and head up to Victoria for the amusement arcade and the magic of Space Invaders. Swarming mob-handed into the arcade, our pockets bulging with 10p pieces, in our school uniforms with our shirts hanging out and our ties loosened and flipped over our shoulders we saved this planet from countless swarms of implacable alien invaders.

In due time much more sophisticated games came out such as Asteroids where you could spin your shooty thing and Galaxian which had more than one colour!

Later in the 80s I worked professionally for a play by mail game company where you could send your panzers into France and patiently wait 3 days to find out how they got on. I got an Atari ST which had sophisticated Dungeons & Dragons style games like Bard's Tale and Dungeon Master. I even logged on to my first MMO, a text mud. All I remember about that game is I met someone who was in frikkin New Zealand. How awesome was that?

In the 90s I stayed with someone who actually owned a proper computer and I fell in love with a game called Master of Magic. I had to have my own computer, life would not be complete without access to Civilisation, Populous, and UFO: Enemy Unknown.

I went on to play online games being quite a mean Homm3 player and a very sociable Diablo 2 player. By this time I'd picked up Faylon at some dingy roleplaying club and he became my partner in crime in D2, achieving the impossible and amazing the people we played with. He once had a character with every possible speed buff that was so fast no one else could control it. Only him. (Until he drove him into a wall and splatted).

After Diablo 2 Faylon, a Star Wars nut, persuaded me to follow him into the new Star Wars game coming out in 2003. I played every class I think, as did any SWG vet who remembers the godawful hologrind. I also ran a fashion armour line that was in high demand, ran a guild, and destroyed the top pvp guild on the server after one of them spat at me (with a little help from my friends).

We tried EQ2 for a few months then WoW which we really liked. We played twin Rogues and were pretty hardcore levelers - there were 6 of us who were ahead of everyone else until about 55 when we slightly burned out (ie reduced our playing times to about 12 hours a day). We managed this despite rushing off to Stranglethorn Vale once every 3 hours for a chest that spawned in the arena there. You needed to win it 12 times in free for all pvp which was enormous fun and utter carnage. Eventually the top Alliance guild focused full time on stopping us at which point we called in a few favours, stomped them and Faylon (Waz as he was known then) became the first Arena Grand Master on the server. I was the second.

We co-founded the top Horde guild and did some raiding in Molten Core. Then we had to stop for RL reasons, came back a bit later and joined another guild which we helped get at far as Broodlord Lashslayer in BWL. Raided on and off after that with several guilds seeing most raid content up to 5/6 Sunwell in TBC and 3/12 Ulduar in WotlLK.

I began playing Eve about 3 years ago too which I like for its crazy stunts and incremental gameplay. I've also dabbled in loads of other MMOs.

At the moment I'm mainly playing Eve but the nice thing about Eve is if you dont have time to play much it doesn't really matter. Skills go up, planets grow cows, datacores accumulate and orders sell. Best of all by not playing you manage to avoid getting blown up.

What I'm looking for in SWTOR is to experience the game to the full. I'll probably level reasonably fast although I'm no longer up for the 16 hour a day playstyle we did in 2005. I love crafting. I like posting on forums and theorycrafting. I'm a pretty good rogue and think I'll get a good handle on the Imperial Agent. I'll probably try alts out at some point. I'm quite prepared to be flexible and help out if the guild needs me to take a different spec, I'm a very experienced healer and a competent tank.

Eve Online: CCP Christmas gift, a tip

[Edited after CCP diddled about with how remaps work]

The best thing to pick is probably the bonus remap. Bonus Remaps now work separately from the standard ones so it can just sit there for years if you like. If at some stage you sell the character it will add value. It could also be valuable for an area of study like Drones (MEM/PER) which don't really match any other skill groups.

If you don't need a neural remap, and are pretty sure you will never ever need one, pick the Aurum so long as you already have the 5500 free AU they've handed out over the last 6 months.

Aurums are quite a cunning choice. Analysis of the clothing market suggests that price tanks for anything that falls under the free AU threshhold (currently 5500). If you take your AU to 7500 and they introduce new stuff or give us more AU you will have access to things only a tiny handful of players can buy. That increases the value of your Aurum, not just the 2k you get as a Christmas present but all the other aurum too.

In other words it's very significant being 2k in front of the pack.

Suppose CCP give everyone 2000 AU at some future point. Going by the figures from this analysis, it would mean everyone else is able to cash in their AU for around 20 000 isk but you can cash in 9000 AU for 66k isk each by selling a Field Marshall Coat for 600k isk.

So you could pick random Christmas gift worth 60m + sell 7k aurum at 20k isk each for a total of 200m

Or you could sell a coat for 600m (slightly less perhaps as a few other will also pick AU as their gift diluting the market).

Still as CCP add more stuff to the store and particularly when DUST launches giving us a new market of players and a load of new stuff anything in the cash shop that is out of reach of the people who just accumulate the free points will sell at premium prices.

Monday 12 December 2011

Eve Online: poco wars, part 8

It's 11.24 in London. Which means my targets are tucked up in bed, 3.24 their time if they're around Moscow. Probably too cold to sit up in the small hours at least if their homes are as draughty as mine.

I go to work.

Step 1 is checking if they're on using my contacts list. One is. Not one of the industrial corp that live in the wormhole but one of their military friends. Talking to a Locator agent using my cheapskate tip reveals he's in w-space.

An internet search of killboards doesn't show him as having killed or lost in a different wormhole recently so he could be in mine. (Well, technically his mate's but I've decided now I own a stake in it).

I could be brave and scan down the exit and fly out to high sec to pass around bookmarks but there's no need to. My gameplan is to maximise their risk and minimise mine. If he's really good he'll be sitting by the exit with a drag bubble up and cans scattered around to decloak his opponents.

There's just no need to risk it.

So back to watching TV, as often in Eve the best move is not to move. I'll check again tomorrow night.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Eve Online: poco wars, part 7

Ah well, they didn't buy the negotiating in bad faith and destroyed my pocos. Which is a shame. They have, however, put up their own. Which is great.

You see, if the opponent is determined enough, these things aren't really defensible by small groups. I have these guys on contacts on watch list. If they all log off I'll put their pocos into reinforced. When the pocos come out of reinforced what will probably happen is about 10 of them wait for 2 hours to defend while I do something else (play SWTOR probably). Then the pocos will be ok. Until they all log off again and I put them back into reinforced.

So you see the only defence is having enough players that you always have someone online. They could possibly get me if they have characters I don't know about but my assault force is enough that they'll probably need at least 3 to win a fight and once they do that I add them to watch list. In other words they have to burn character names to beat me, once burned I'll never attack when that character is online while I only have to update my pods and get new ships if killed then I'll go back in with the same characters.

Eventually they'll stop defending them. At which point if they're online I'll still wait but someone else, passing through the system might think "hay I can kill this thing" and then do so. If the pocos are coming out of reinforced and these guys are offline then I'll blow them up.

This is the core of asymmetrical warfare. What I have to do is occasionally log on and if I can see my targets are undefended blow them up. What they have to do is always be online all the time forever. Asymmetrical.

Because my target is an industrial corporation who call in favours from friends when they need military power there's a definite limit on how long they can sustain a defensive campaign. Every time I put the pocos into reinforced they have to call in a favour and get their mates to drop what they're doing and come help, help consisting of 2 hours doing nothing.

On the other hand it means I may need to adjust my Eve play. What I've been doing is semi-afk missioning in high sec. However once I antagonise these guys I need to leave them no target. Possibly missioning will be ok, I don't know if it will be possible to suicide gank a battleship if I fit it to run missions while being hard to gank. It's probably best simply to avoid giving any target at all. I might focus on station trading in Eve and other games out of Eve.

Alternatively I could just walk away. But I think you have to do something in a game like Eve other than just farm money. And if I achieve the diplomatic result I want I'll be able to do PI in their wormhole in peace forever. And I can't see how they can stop me harassing them unless they get very lucky and I lose both of the cloaked ships I have in the wormhole as scanners.

Eve Online: locator agent tip for cheapskates

One thing I've picked up in the recent poco wars is a way to get intel on someone's whereabouts without paying.

Normally Locator agents charge 25k isk. However if the target is in a wormhole the agent tells you he won't be able to trace him before you pay the money.

So if you're in conflict with players and you want to know which of them are in W-space you can do so for free using a Locator agent. Just cancel if he offers to find them for you in return for payment - because that means they're not in a wormhole.

Eve Online: poco wars, part 6

3 hours to go until my pocos come out of reinforced and I'm scouting the wormhole. The static to high sec has a tengu and a tornado sitting on it with a medium warp bubble. The bubble is just to hold people coming through the hole, it's not a trap for cov ops like the last guys laid. So not as professional a bunch. (If they had caught my cov ops there would have been a realistic chance that I wouldn't be able to find the hole again.)

Still it's a problem. The names of these two pilots are different from the pilots who attacked my pocos the day before last. So there are now at least 6 players involved. It's too many to fight alone.

So I adjust my strategy. It's diplomacy time.

I got talking to them and eventually the guy I convoed managed to communicate I should use Google translate. I did and fired off random Russian. They dont want to put up their own pocos. I offered them 50m for the chance to take my pocos down.

While waiting for their responses (they were very slow) I did some research. The corp that lives there is almost completely pacifist, they have not killed anyone in the last 3 months despite some actions in their own wormhole. Their friends do their combat for them. The friends (the guy I was talking to was ex-Stain, a fairly strong nullsec pvp corp) have taken down 2 poses in the last 3 months and killed a few people. They're certainly out of my league.

However they only defend. Which means that potentially I could just close my PI facilities on the 2 planets I put pocos up at, open new ones at planets that still have the Interbus offices available and continue to ninja PI. I'd have to pay 17% tax but that's still 83% profit assuming average prices for my product. Also these guys won't allow anyone else to move in, effectively protecting me. Tourists are always a danger in a class 1 with a high sec static but no one will live there except some pure pacifists. Also I have all of them as contacts on watch list. So I can fly my PI stuff out when they're not on.

15 minutes to shut down and the conversation has stalled again. Did I mention they've VERY slow at responding. However that may work in my favour. After downtime they'll have to decide whether to kill my pocos or continue the negotiations.

Ah - they've offered 50m for each office. I've agreed. However I expect they'll want paying first which I won't agree to. (Because they'll just keep the money and nuke them anyway, well at least that's what I would do). And if they let the offices go out of reinforced I'll take them down and not pay.

9 minutes to shut down. I've agreed a deal with them and they haven't said anything about wanting the money now. If nothing else is said I think there's a good chance they won't demolish them after downtime. Well 50/50. Which is better than what it was an hour ago. If they demand money now I might try the "wait I need to sell something at jita first" stall.

I'm due to go out anyway in about an hour so no need to log on. They'll have a decision to make - do they kill the pocos or do they trust me to send 100m when I take them down if they leave them?

Ah, trust, there's not enough of it about.....

3 minutes to downtime and he just typed "waiting for the money". I told him "I need to sell something at Jita, on my way."

49 secs to downtime, he just told me "Hurry up". I replied "I don't think I'll get there before downtime".


Server down!

Now I'll head on out for some lunch and to watch a game of football and come back later to see if the pocos survived. If the timers are bugged like last time there'll probably only be 30 minutes for them to be attacked, they may not manage to get it done even if they decide they want to kill them.

Friday 9 December 2011

Eve Online: poco wars, part 5

These things were introduced into the game to promote conflict and they certainly seem to be doing that!

My pocos, after surviving the attentions of the high sec griefers, have now been attacked by the Russians who live in the wormhole. It took them more than 3 hours so they have about half the firepower of the other guys (who had 4 oracles). These lot do have a XL ship assembly array in the wormhole so they could potentially have very big ships available.

They wouldn't talk to me unfortunately. Requests for convos were ignored. Still the nice thing about the mails you get is that you get the first person to shoot each time and you get a lot of mails. So I got 4 names. Added to contact and watch list, allowing me to terrorise them when they're not online should they blow up my POCOs and put up their own.

Eve Online: poco wars, part 4 (final - I hope)

I logged on quickly after downtime and checked out the wormhole. I got the error message that the solar system is not loaded yet which I always love to see because it means you're first.

My POCOs were in reinforced but the timers were messed up. They should, according to the settings have been in reinforced from 11-1. Instead at 11.29 one was showing 30 minutes left and one was showing 6 minutes left.

I had a couple of ships by the way in with microwarp drives so I thought I'd have a go at collapsing the hole. I jumped in with MWD turned on for that fat signature rating boost. Found a mobile warp bubble deployed by the Russians who live there. I didn't like it being there so I nuked it, huzzah for T3 Battlecruiser dps! Jumped out. Jumped back in again.

One of the enemy logged on (I've added them as contacts on watch list) so I decided I didn't really fancy jumping in and out with an enemy fleet incoming. I'd not done much damage to the wormhole anyway, it was still registering above 45%. You get a timer if you jump through too much, in fact I had 2m 50s to kill before I could jump out again. I warped from safe to safe then left.

I then checked my enemy's killboard. They killed a couple of people in a different wormhole yesterday. That seems promising as you really need to commit at least one character to take down w-space pocos. Could they have got distracted? Even if they weren't were they too late because of the buggy timers? One poco was already out of reinforced by now, the other had 20 minutes left.

In the end all was pretty quiet as I watched the clock run down from a cov ops. (I'd made better bookmarks this time so I was able to move it much more safely, first to a spot 1000km below the poco then zooming in to 200 km below so as to be safer from drag bubbles).

And the clock ticked down, my pocos are safe and it's all a tad anti-climactic.

......... for now!

Eve Online: poco wars, part 3

With just over 3 hours to go on my 2 pocos I have just been emptying the planets they export to - well in advance of enemy preparations I hoped.

The high sec griefers weren't around but on my last hauler I bumped into an Iteron V leaving the wormhole as I re-entered. Oops. Fortunately he hadn't spotted me as I was still cloaked from the jump. I really like the new session timer as it gives you a ten second window where your cloak hasn't dropped yet but you can jump out if you get into trouble.

However, as so often with surprise pvp instinct takes the place of wit. As the Itty jumped out I warped to my safe. 2 ships landed and I quickly started taking damage. What I should have done is cancel warp and hit Jump. What I actually did was Warp to the Sun, assuming the ship was dead and I might as well save my pod. In fact they took me into structure on the first volley but I got away before their guns cycled. Must have been artillery or something. Never let people tell you tank on Tech 1 Haulers is wasted! Also always put something that stops people warping off if you think you may pvp.

Learning from a previous fiasco I didn't log him off once I'd got him safe. If I log off after being shot I think I can be found for a while now. That's what happened last time. He's sitting in a safe, cloaked, and he'll be quite happy there till downtime.

I identified one of them as from the Russian corp who are the real owners of this wormhole. They have a massive POS there with XL ship assembly plant - that potentially means they have carriers in a system where anyone else has at best battlecruisers or HACs. Unfortunately the person immediately logged off and I got no response when I talked to them in Local. Pity I don't speak Russian really.

Still I can't help but wonder if they'll turn up to contest the POCOs. If they get someone to talk to me I'll cheerfully blue them and set +10 tax rate to zero giving them free PI in return for their help.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Eve Online: poco wars, part 2

After a couple of hours busily blowing up my 2 pocos the enemy leader got back to me.

[19:09:23] E > hi
[19:09:47] E > larst charns or call in the fleet
[19:09:54] E > 6%
[19:10:01] E > thats not bad u have a lot mor to loos
[19:17:58] Me > sorry mate was afk
[19:18:03] E > np
[19:18:19] Me > yup, you go ahead I'll just move hole
[19:18:22] Me > good luck
[19:18:45] E > wow but u have a hell of a tol in there ...
[19:18:53] Me > tol?
[19:18:54] E > sham to blow it up
[19:19:00] E > lot
[19:19:05] Me > what's a tol?
[19:19:08] Me > oh
[19:19:16] Me > no, i just had the 2 pocos
[19:19:16] E > carnt speel for shit =/
[19:19:27] Me > the tower is some russian dude's
[19:19:34] Me > i've never seen him
[19:22:19] E > k i see
[19:22:57] Me > so what exactly do you guys do in game?
[19:23:09] Me > i thought TEARS were basically ninja salvagers
[19:23:45] E > they r
[19:24:15] Me > you're collecting tears blowing up pocos?
[he left]

I wonder how much money they make doing this. I guess a lot of people must fold at the first threat of violence.

Eve Online: poco wars

Ah well, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. A force of 4 oracle tier 3 battlecruisers and a purifier stealth bomber has paid a visit to one of my shiny new Customs Offices. It's from a high sec griefing guild and they started out with an extortion attempt.

[17:54:06] Me > hi
[17:54:06] E > hi
[17:54:49] Me > you convoed me :)
[17:54:58] E > your going to los your CO or hand them to us
[17:55:23] Me > ah
[17:55:39] Me > i'd prefer to negotiate a deal, want to be blue to us?
[17:55:48] E > is u do it b4 the ferst 1 gos into RF then ill do the tax at 4%
[17:56:18] Me > handing them over isnt an option
[17:56:38] Me > and if you nuke them I'll keep the wormhole clear of customs offices permanently
[17:56:53] E > if u do it arfter then they will b 6%
[17:57:06] Me > you're not listening :)
[17:57:21] E > and if u dont hand them over we bern ur system
[17:57:31] Me > that's fine, bring it
[17:59:08] E > if u transfer the u will blue to us
[17:59:16] Me > is there anything else I can help you with today? :)
[17:59:34] Me > no sorry, you can't have them
[17:59:51] E > you cood give us a fight if u whont

Proof you don't have to be a quick typer or a decent speller to do well in Eve.

My friend checked them out in a cov ops and got caught by a very professional drag bubble trap. I don't think I've got much chance of stopping them so it's just a matter of moving my extraction efforts.

Fair play to them. Blowing up people's customs offices could make them a lot of isk since I'm sure some people will prefer to hand over the customs office rather than lose it.

It might be a good time to look for a pack to join again.

Eve Online: Adventures in Crucible

Eve's had a dramatic year culminating in a Save The Game expansion which intends to put right a year of tepid development.

And it's really good.

Unlike some of the other good expansions there's no particular theme to this one - it's a collection of things they thought would be cool. We have a new Tier of battlecruisers specialised in damage, we have player-owned customs offices (part of the infrastructure development for upcoming partner game DUST514) and loads of little things and artistic improvements.

The game looks really pretty now. This patch is full of little artistic touches. My Amarr Impairor (noobship) mounts a cannon on top of its hull - it now retracts the cannon when going into warp. A little touch but very cool and very nice looking.

I have built some of the Customs Offices and placed them on sale for a rather expensive price. No one has bought one yet but I think they will. I don't think we've really seen the player run planetary materials economy supporting a time of major nullsec war. Nullsec war is largely about killing opponent structures and setting up your own. If the war that everyone is expecting occurs then we will see a lot of structures blown up. I don't think the player economy will cope which means that prices will spike. In the long run that encourages more people to enter planetary production but in the short term it means large profits for yours truly.

As well as gouging off other players I've also deployed two of them for my own planetary production efforts. I produce planet goo in a class 1 wormhole which is occupied by a Russian corporation with a large and impressive Player-Owned Station. However they never seem to be about and I've been happily farming their planets for several months.

I've gone a step further now and placed something that is both visible and attackable. I think what will happen is they will just use my Offices and pay me tax (a modest 7.5% as compared to the NPC default of 17%). Possibly they may contact me and talk to me in which case I'll try to negotiate blue standings. They may kill my offices in which case I'll simply nuke every Customs Office in the wormhole for weeks until they come back to the negotiating table. Essentially no one will be able to extract anything which will make it rather hard for them to run their POS. Hopefully we can work something out.

It's a class 1 wormhole which means it's difficult to bring force to bear. The low class means you can only enter with quite small ships, frigates cruisers and battlecruisers. Which brings me to my new toys: an Oracle Amarr Tier 3 battlecruiser and a Talos Galente Tier 3 Battlecruiser. In a class 1 wormhole, unless someone has actually constructed a powerful ship inside the wormhole from scratch these Tier 3 ships are effectively the Top Predators. A Tech 3 strategic cruiser is equally powerful but costs about half a billion isk, it doesn't make financial sense to risk them against Tier 3 battlecruisers. Hull plus fittings was about 90 million isk which for me is a very small amount - they are throwaway ships, I'm quite happy to risk them. Which is what I had to do because I had them shooting the NPC Customs offices for several hours yesterday.

Theoretically a Tier 3 battlecruiser can do over a thousand dps. However with my rather indifferent gun skills I was no where near that. My Oracle does about 500 dps with large pulse lasers, I'm training up for Tech 2 ones which will be a significant upgrade. However it can shoot for 8 hours without burning out a single crystal which is very useful in W-space. My Talos does about 550 with large neutron blasters plus can hold a flight of small drones which add another 100. However I used about 1400 cubic meters of ammo. It has a cargo hold of 600 cubic meters so I had to use its cargohold, the oracle's cargo hold and fly some extra in to supply it.

I really enjoyed using these ships and am looking forward to the skills for Tech 2 weapons. It's good to be eager about skill training again. Once I can handle some decent guns, who knows, I might even seek out some human opponents again.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

The fascination of passive gaming

I've realised that what I missed most about not being able to get online for a month in gaming terms are passive gameplay features. The skill queue in Eve, PI in Eve, spell research in EQ2.

That's partly because I'm in an unsociable phase. In a couple of weeks I'll be playing SWTOR with a close real life friend and a promising looking guild so I've avoided the commitment of other MMO guilds for the last several months. I like gaming with other people but I'm perfectly happy playing alone too and this happened to be a period when I was soloing (it would be very annoying to be cut off for a long period when a fresh game launches and everyone is in leveling frenzy).

But it has got me thinking about why I play and what I like. I really like the set something off and come back in a day gameplay. I loved it in Star Wars: Galaxies when running my harvesters. I suppose blogging is kinda similar, one reads or comments then comes back in a day to see if there's been a reaction. I think I'll enjoy SWTOR's companion resource collecting and crafting much more than I ever liked mining in WOW.

And of course other people like it too - it's the essence of most social Facebook games although they're gradually changing.

Yet I can't help but feel that it's not esteemed the same way by many players as active gameplay. Running about shooting someone, that's real gaming, setting a harvester running then coming back with a hauler a few days later is rarely championed.

I never played Farmville and don't think I'd like it because it's only passive gaming and seems a bit meaningless when isolated like that. But as part of a complex and sophisticated MMO? Yeah, give me passive gaming!

(In the time it took to write this my Eve character gained 1000 skill points and my planet farms churned out 30 Transmitters).

Friday 2 December 2011

I'm back!

Finally I have internet operational again. Operation Harangue Customer Support is over, now it's time for Operation Argue about the Bill. Anyway that's probably as tedious to everyone else as it was for me to spend a month without internet.

I'll post something more relevant to MMOs soon.