Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dark Fate

Since some of the other EVE bloggers have been dabbling in fiction of late, I figured I'd try my hand. I apologize in advance for the result.

Space, in all its vastness, assaulted Crovan's senses, and the stargate's simulated whine faded away in his mind. He forced his visual senses into focus through the cameras and sensors of his Taranis class interceptor, Dark Fate. The immediate area scanned as clear, but local transponder signals showed about a dozen other capsuleers in system. He shunted his visual inputs aside in favor of the ship's more powerful directional scanning array. While not as detailed as the local sensors, the device could allow him to detect ships at a far greater distance. The sensor sweep initiated, and Crovan's ears were filled with a satisfying ping. Contact. Typhoon class battleship, sensor arc thirty degrees to starboard, directly on system plane.

With a mental flick, Dark Fate accelerated slightly and swung nimbly in the direction of the planetary cluster indicated by the sensor sweep. The warp engine activated, and the tiny ship shot away from the stargate at several times the speed of light. A deafening simulated roar overwhelmed Crovan's auditory receptors, and he silenced it with a thought while recalibrating the sensor array for a wider sweep. The ship decelerated at the seventh planet of this un-named star, and the process began again. Within seconds, Crovan's years of practice paid off, and Dark Fate had a reliable fix on the Typhoon's location within an asteroid belt. A warning sigin appeared in Crovan's mind's eye, informing him that Serpentis pirates were also likely to be active in the asteroid belt where his unsuspecting prey awaited. Ignoring the warning rune, he again willed the warp drive into action, and rocketed toward his target.

This time, as the asteroids changed from blurs to real, solid objects, Crovan dismissed the scanner readouts and reverted to close-range sensors. A smile crossed his face as the sensor readout showed him what he already knew would be there, a Typhoon battleship. The smile disappeared a fraction of a second later, however, as the information continued to filter in. The battleship was over forty kilometers away, and his warp disruption module was only effective to twenty-four kilometers. In the same thought that processed the information, Crovan forced the Taranis' microwarpdrive to live, and set a vector on a near collision course with the kilometer-long Typhoon. The distance closed rapidly as Dark Fate quickly reached a speed in excess of three kilometers per second.

Crovan's brain opened an encrypted subspace radio channel that had lain dormant in the background, until now. Got you! His sensors began locking onto the Typhoon, whose pilot must have known what was happening, but the huge battleship was not nearly agile enough to escape before the interceptor's advanced sensors had a firm lock, and the warp disruption module crippled the massive ship.

Not too close. Despite being unable to run, this was still a battleship, and Crovan was going to have to proceed with extreme caution. No Serpentis scum had shown their face, yet, but it could only be a matter of time until they attempted to deprive him of his catch...and his ship. He calmy transmitted his coordinates over the subspace channel, and with seconds, friendly transponders appeared in system. At the same time, the Typhoon's clumsier sensors finally achieved a lock on Dark Fate. Almost immediately, missile bay doors opened and expelled their payloads into space. Not good. He could still run, but that would mean losing the kill, which was not an option. As the missiles closed on his location, Crovan reactivated his microwarpdrive. Its enormous signature would make him a bigger target for the missiles, but would hopefully also let him outrun them.

The first wave exploded a few kilometers to the aft of the interceptor. The shockwave rocked the small ship slightly, but the deflector shields held firm. The friendly transponders were getting closer, and subspace chatter told him his friends were coming, but it was a long trip for their slower vessels. All the same, he could make it so long as he could outrun--

Blackness. All of the ship's primary systems simultaneously shut down for an infinite millisecond before auxiliary power brought basic functions online. The last pulse from the warp disruptor still held the Typhoon hostage, but it would not las much longer. Frantically, Crovan mentally pounded on the ship's controls to re-establish a lock and reactivate the disruptor. A separate part of his mind read the output of his reactor unit. Dammit! He was running on 5% capacity, which might maintain the disruptor, but that was all. To punctuate his thoughts, a second volley of missiles exploded to the aft of Dark Fate, this time much closer. The deflector shields immediately failed, but it was enough to stay the blow, barely. The Taranis might survive one more volley before becoming another statistic in Crovan's long line of interceptors.

Still, he pressed on. His friends were very close now, and it would me moments before his visual sensors picked them up. In the mean time, he willed his drones, which his subconscious had launched and directed long ago to maintain their target. The ship AI's feminine voice chimed in, "Shield integrity, 0%. Armor integrity, 97%." Thank you, Crovan growled, mentally. "You're welcome, captain." As the drones pounded futily at the huge ship, the third volley of missiles left the bays of the Typhoon. At the same moment, friendly ships began to appear in space mere kilometers away. Crovan winced, despite the fact that he knew the fluid of his capsule would dampen the impact. Dark Fate bucked violently as the warheads impacted directly onto it's aft plating. "Armor integrity, 15%. Advise disengagement." I'm flying here, not you! "I am aware of that, captain."

The Typhoon was as good as dead now, but would he go with it. His fate was out of his hands, as the friendly ships had not locked down the behemoth, and he would let go until they had. A friendly Falcon electronic warfare cruiser decloaked off his port bow. Finally! Still, it would mean one more volley. Dark Fate might prove a prophetic name. Agonizing seconds passed as the Typhoon continued to drain nearly all the capacitor from the interceptor. The pilot of the Falcon reported had achieved lock...I may make it, after all...but had failed to jam the battleship's sensors. Or not. The fourth volley left the bays of the Typhoon, and Crovan willed his Damage Control system into function for a single cycle. Hopefully it would not shut down the warp disruptor. A barely visible forcefield surrounded critical areas of Dark Fate's structure as the missiles sought out their target. The final seconds of the disruptor's cycle ticked away, and the ship AI spoke up again, "Insufficient capacitor." NO!

Just then, an incandescent blue bubble surrounded all of the ships. The friendly interdictor was in position, and the Typhoon was going nowhere. Unfortunately, neither was the Taranis, as the interdiction bubble was incapable of determining friend and foe. Crovan leaned back in his pod fluid, and waited for the jarring separation of capsule and ship. The Typhoon's missiles found their mark, and he felt sections of the ship tearing away as if they were his own flesh. The sound of explosions were muffled by the insulation of the capsule, but were very real, and not simulations for his sensory benefit. The information input from damage reports was blinding. Crovan longed to the release from the deluge of data and the blackness of space.

"Jammed!" came the cry over the radio, followed by "Armor integrity, 0%. Structural integrity...16%. Strongly advise disengagement." Crovan regained his senses and realized that Dark Fate had not been destroyed, and the Typhoon was nearly in its death throes. After the experience of his own ship's near destruction, he almost pitied the target capsuleer...almost

A minute later, and the Typhoon was dust. Dark Fate limped toward the wreck and scooped the pilot's frozen body into his cargo hold. Crovan opened the radio frequency, " much you guys figure I need to bribe the station manager to let me repair this heap of bolts?"

Go go Gadget ego boost!

So, the experts for the Sixth Alliance Tournament have been announced, and I'm one of them! Naturally, this makes me deliriously happy and smugly superior to all of you. That is all.

I keed! We're hoping to do some special stuff in preparation and during the tourney for the pleasure of all EVE fans out there.

Also, new Drone Bay Soon(tm). Current plan has us recording before Christmas...2009.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Warpath Episode 5: We've Found a Witching Night. May we Burn it?

Phillip and Stephen return for Episode 5 after a shorter interval than usual. Bonus Warpath, this week!

First off, the guys discuss some news, including Warhammer's first Live Event, Witching Night, as well as the freshly released Patch 1.04.

After that, it's time to get knee-deep with the Old Gods as The Warpath gives an introduction to Chaos. Grab your eight-pointed stars and summon your demons!

Listener mail is a bit shorter for this episode, since Episode 4 had only been up for about 36 hours at the time of recording. In the future, the recording schedule should be more consistent, allowing for more consistent editing turnaround. Thanks to our listeners for bearing with us as we get this thing rolling.

As always, if you wish to contact the hosts, you may do so at warpathpodcast|at|gmail|dot|com. Also you can always drop by The Official Warpath Forums and say hello to other listeners there, as well as find out how to get involved in the official Warpath guild, The Dogs of War, on the Phoenix Throne server.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Warpath Episode 3: Your Sweet Sweet XP

After a slight delay, the Warpath is back for Episode 3!

This week, Stephen and Phillip tackle the Greenskins, from their tabletop lore to their place within WAR and a brief breakdown of the career paths, it's all about da green.

The guys read some listener mail this week, and threaten horrible, WoW-related content if the mailflow dries up. If you have something to say to us, you can send it to warpathpodcast|at| We're looking for e-mail questions and comments, as well as pre-recorded mp3s. If you want your voice heard, then send it on!

In community discussion, The Warpath takes a look at Da Warmaker, a sharp-looking site with a nice blog, and some video mini-casts.

Finally, your hosts officially debut the official forums and guild for the show. The guild is called The Dogs of War, and plays on the Phoenix Throne server. You can search for the guild by name and talk to any member about joining, or you can visit our forums and move down to the Recruitment section. Be advised that Phoenix Throne is an RP server, and while we don't enforce roleplay, there are rules for naming of characters for the server itself.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Warpath Episode 3 and Drone Bay Episode 16 Recorded

This weekend, I got together with my co-collaborators, and we managed to hammer out an episode of The Warpath as well as the long-awaited continuation of The Drone Bay. Both are currently in the editing process, and should be ready for the listeners by week's end. Sorry for the massive delay on TDB, and the slight delay on Warpath.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Warpath Episode 1 is Live!

The Warpath: A new WAR podcast.
Episode 1 (iTunes link coming Soon (tm))

From the people who brought you The Drone Bay, we present The Warpath, a Warhammer Online podcast.

Phillip (Crovan) and Stephen (Alsedrech) plan to come to you each week with news, opinions, and discussions on the hit new title, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

Please check out our new forums and discuss the show and WAR in general, or to join our guild, The Dogs of War.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

More Drone Bay Delays...

...but we haven't forgotten you, our beloved listeners!

Alsedrech is unavailable for now to do the next episode of the show, as he presumably has no power due to Hurricane Ike. We'll get back to you with a new schedule Soon (tm).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Warpath and The Drone Bay

Tonight, the plan is to record an episode of The Drone Bay. It's been a long time since the last show, and I would be lying if I said I am not at a bit of a loss for discussion fodder. It has been awhile since I logged into EVE to do more than change skills, thanks in part to a busy work schedule.

I want to take this opportunity to announce a new podcast project, as well. Stephen (Alsedrech) and I have embarked into the world of Warhammer Online, and will soon be bringing you The Warpath, a WAR themed podcast. This one, like The Drone Bay, will be hosted at Virgin Worlds, courtesy of our lord and master, Brent. The first episode is edited and ready to go out the door, we just need to get the site setup for it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Episode 14: It's live! It's liiiiive!

The Drone Bay #14 (Click to Download/Play)

Episode 14 is here, and was recorded in front of a live audience!

Bring on the Drones:

In the weekly update, Al and Crovan have both joined The Dead Parrot Shoppe Inc. [FOOM], and are knee-deep in FW goodness. CK has been hauling his afterburners off.

In DON'T PANIC, the crew discusses how to come back after a hiatus, much in the way that Crovan is doing.

This week's listener feedback section features mp3s submitted from our viewers.

Also, some big news from Al and Crovan...and how they have let their WoW accounts lapse.

Make sure to check out the in-game channel "The Drone Bay" (no quotes) to talk to other listeners, as well as the hosts! News on the latest show, the plans for the next show, and info on how to listen live is available, there.

Contact Info:

In-Game Channel:
The Drone Bay

GAX Online Group:
The Drone Bay

dronebay|at| (comments/questions for everyone)


Bitter Old Noob (Crovan)
CrazyKinux’s Musing
The Littlest Drone (Alsedrech)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Noob's Lamentations on AoC

So, after the accolades that got poured on it at launch, Age of Conan is being hit from all directions by a lot of criticism. Gaming news sites are taking notice, and for good reason.

I canceled my AoC account this week. The reasons why read like a list of the major criticisms of the game. The first warning sign for me was the lack of quest voice-overs after Tortage. It was a minor thing, but I couldn't help but feel that it was a sign of things to come. The technical graphical issues I was experiencing also didn't help, but were eventually resolved.

Basically, there is nothing compelling for me in the game, even in the 30s, let alone the grind to 80 and the bemoaned lack of end-game content. I was hoping that the lauded PvP system would give me more of the feel I have come to love from EVE in a fantasy setting, but it looks like I'll be waiting for WAR, since AoC's siege system is plagued with technical issues, and has been stepped back a number of times, already.

Speaking of EVE, I've gotten more involved in Faction Warfare, including running around with some more organized groups than you tend to get in the militia channel. It's been a great deal of fun and has really rejuvenated my desire to play the game, despite some of the issues that FW has.

The Drone Bay 13 has been edited and uploaded and will be out as soon as the notes are done and Brent has time to publish it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Drone Bay 13 Recorded!

That's right! After a hiatus of a couple of weeks due to a number of things, not the least of which being my jet lag causing me to sleep through two recording sessions, and a number of technical difficulties, we are now back in business! Episode 13 has been recorded, and should be out Soon (tm).

Until then, go check out Massively Speaking #10 to hear Al and CK talk Empyrean Age with Zonk and Shawn over at Massively!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Noob Goes Gallente and Dings 70!

The last week has been a big MMO week for me. First off, my Orc Warrior dinged 70! Now it's dailies, heroics, and PvP for me. This actually happened sooner than I expected, since my desktop went down, and my laptop will not handle Conan or EVE. Thus, it was WoW-o-Rama for awhile, there.

Now, however, my desktop is fully operational again. In personal EVE news, I have stepped down from my director position in Eternity Inc. to join the Gallente militia for Factional Warfare. At the moment, I'm looking for a FW corp to join up with for awhile. I am hesitant to start my own at the minute, but it might come to that, if I don't get any hits on my recruitment thread.

If you have a Gallente FW corp and are looking for a 32M SP PvP specced pilot, look me up.

Also, Drone Bay will record tonight, come Hell or high water. I also managed to get another Rogue Signal up over at Massively, so please check that out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

More updates on the noob's plight

Following the woes described in my last post, I have made a couple of new purchases. They've just arrived, yesterday, and I've just about got my machine back up and running. As of now, the only issue is getting the new setup to read my SATA devices properly, including the HDD with my EVE installation directory.

Jet lag caused me to sleep through the scheduled Drone Bay recording, but we are planning to get back on course, Soon (tm). Also, stay tuned for some guest appearances by your favorite Drone Bay stars in the near future.

With the lack of an EVE-capable computer, I've gotten hooked on the browser-based game, Goal Line Blitz. It's a free-to-play game with microtransactions based on American football. If you are a fan of football, give it a look. It has a lot of EVE-like elements, in that everything is player owned and controlled, including the teams. If you decide to sign up (via my shameless referral link above, or through other means), drop me a PM. My user name should be easy enough to guess. If there's enough interest, we might be able to get a Drone Bay team. I'm already on a team from the Scrapheap Challenge forums that won its league last year.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Docking Request Accepted: The Noob Comes Home

I once again find myself in the land of apple pie and the Dallas Cowboys. It's good to be back, but the jet lag has been a bit rough. The USPS once again succeeded in destroying some of the more delicate bits of my PC, despite careful packing on my part, so EVE is still on hold.

I do plan to return to The Drone Bay this week, however, as well as to

Thanks to everyone who got in touch to wish me safe travels!

Monday, May 26, 2008

EVE Shenanigans and Project Alice

So, as most of you will already know, MC disbanded. I even had my own personal troll take the time to come to BoN and razz me about it. So cute...

Anyway, ETNY is still going strong, and has moved on to found Project Alice. We've been active up North (well, those of us with working PCs have...), and have merged with Vidar Fierd, another former MC corp with whom we have always felt a strong sense of camaraderie (thanks, spellchecker!).

With faction warfare coming, there's no telling where we'll end up. I'd really like to get waist-deep into the faction stuff, but may end up doing it on an alt.

Also, Episode 11 of The Drone Bay is recorded and edited. It'll go up as soon as the notes are done. Thanks to all our listeners!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Attention All Personnel...

I knew this was coming, since I had to sign the legal paperwork awhile ago, but I participated in the Tabula Rasa Base Announcement Contest. I have barely had time to play EVE the last couple of weeks, so the fact that the results have been posted escaped me. I look to get some sweet swag off this gig.

I am so witty!

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Drone Bay Podcast: Episode - I Smell BACON!

The Drone Bay #8 (Click to Download/Play)

Episode 8: I smell BACON!

Episode 8 is here, and it's time to fry up some eggs, because BACON's on the plate!

Bring on the Drones:

In the weekly recap, the big news is the Re-Release of BACON.

The DON'T PANIC topic for this week is the interface. Learn to set up your overview, and also don't miss Crovan and CK's number one interface tip for surviving in 0.0/lowsec!

Mail gets answered, as usual. Keep sending us questions/comments! Also, please review us on iTunes. We're in the "New and Notable" section under Games and Hobbies already. Thanks for the support so far! Also, if you have an idea for a mini-segment (2 minutes or under), then record it as an MP3 and send it to one of the e-mail addresses below. We'd love to get some good listener content!

No bloopers, but a fitting outro track.

Contact Info:

GAX Online Group:
The Drone Bay

dronebay|at| (comments/questions for everyone)


Bitter Old Noob (Crovan)
CrazyKinux’s Musing
The Littlest Drone (Alsedrech)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Blog Is Not A Lie!

Approximately one whole month after my last entry, I return to tell you that I still live, breath, and plan to write about EVE.

For those who have not heard via The Drone Bay Podcast, I am now in the employ of Massively as a weekly columnist. My first column should appear just a few hours after this post. Also, the podcast is coming along well, and thanks to all my readers who helped give us the moral support we needed early on. It's really made a big difference.

I plan to get the blog going in a regular fashion again now that I have a handle on my internet and RL obligations, so watch this space!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Drone Bay: Episode 4 - Bacardi Related Shenanigans in Space

The Drone Bay #4 (Click to Download/Play)

The Drones have gone rogue in Episode 4! This week the team is back together, and Al puts his sobriety in danger by drinking every time Crovan screws up a segment intro. Will his liver survive? Find out in this week's Drone Bay Podcast!

Bring on the Drones:

In the weekly recap, the team discusses the forum threads on the CSM, the fake RA titan deathmail, the state of the Great War, and more.

In DON’T PANIC, Al gets walked through missions and mission rewards by the grizzled old vets. Crovan recommends The Kill Mission Survival Guide (works in game) for all budding (or experienced) mission runners out there.

In the listener feedback section, Crovan answers a couple of ship setup questions, and each of the guys chooses one listener mail to discuss on air. Did yours make it? Listen to find out!

This week’s out of game discussion is replaced with a community focus, where the guys promote Morphisat's Blog, Shut Up, We're Talking, and Massively".

Please, please keep giving us feedback. We can’t get to everything every week, but we do appreciate the input and questions. If you’re interested in voice mailing us, please try the mp3 or wav file in an e-mail method for now while I try to get Skype sorted again.

Contact Info:

GAX Online Group:
The Drone Bay

dronebay|at| (comments/questions for everyone)


Bitter Old Noob (Crovan)
CrazyKinux’s Musing
The Littlest Drone (Alsedrech)

Friday, March 21, 2008

EVE's Council of Stellar Management: Making E-Democracy Work

Recently, the EVE Online official forums have been awash with thread after thread about the CSM, and how this or that single detail needs serious review. Some of those concerns are valid, in my view, but many are based on faulty premises when translating the real world ideas of representation to the online community. CCP's undertaking means they are now charged with the unique challenge of predicting the outcome of something nobody has seen before. The following entry will be cross-posted onto the EVE Forums, but I put it here in order to have it all in one place (character limits on the forums and whatnot. Be warned, this is not a short entry, but the big bullet points will be bolded, so you can dodge parts of the incoming wall-o-text. My current concerns and suggestions are as follows:

1. Give Non-Forum, Non-EVE-Mail Means to Contact Representatives: This is a practical point for the preservation of the sanity of those elected. Be it a separate Councilman (or woman) character, or a dedicated out of game e-mail, something as an alternative to in-game conversation and EVE-Mail spam will be critical to allow the CSM members to actually continue to enjoy playing the game.

2. Support and Facilitation of Pre-Election Discussion Make the candidate's chosen character names public. There are many player media outlets out there that would love to have a chance at setting up some interviews/discussions/debates, but we need the info in order to set it up. Also, since I understand that CCP may want to stay out of the campaigning and interviews with their own volunteers, make some other means on the official website to publish articles, link podcasts, and schedule debates. A sub-forum would be ideal.

3. Campaign Rules, or Lack Thereof: It really matters little to me whether CCP does or does not regulate campaign tactics and financing, but what rules are present need to be firmly laid down and strictly followed. Any leeway in the first election will mean an ever-increasing number in the future. Two months is not long to campaign, as-is, and candidates should have their rules (or statement that there are no rules) ASAP.

4. Constituency: While there are advantages to the universal representation scheme currently offered, constituency is something worth discussing. Constituencies are sub-divisions of the whole that would choose their own representatives. Most elected legislative bodies work this way. I generally like the idea of making sure that voices from various areas and walks of EVE life are heard, but I think this idea runs into a few problems. The biggest issue I see is the division of the constituencies themselves. There is no single way to divide EVE players into neat groups. Do you divide industrialists, miners, and pvpers? Many players are some combination of the above, and even those who are reasonably dedicated will often branch out into other fields. These are not hard and fast distinctions, as they depend solely on self-identity. Territorial and Empire vs. Alliance space distinctions bring up similar concerns. In short, this might be something to consider in the future, but I think CCP is wise to keep clear of it for now.

5. Improved Referendum: While the system in the CSM for suggestions from the outside is not a true referendum, I think the term still works for what we have here. Basically, if five percent of the accounts in EVE vote that Issue X should be brought forth to the CSM and CCP, it simply happens. No approval of a CSM member is required. In an ideal situation, the CSM will be diverse enough that most worthy topics will make it through without recourse to referendum, but the best course is usually to expect the best and prepare for the worst. In this case, I am not sure a percentage is the right answer. It may work in the real world for this sort of thing, but EVE's populace is so small and ever-changing that five percent could vary by hundreds of votes from month to month. For the sake of the sanity of those monitoring the referendums at CCP, as well as simplicity's sake, I recommend a flat number that is reasonably achievable, say 7,500 as a ballpark.

6. Term Limits: Incumbency, combined with a lack of term limits, leads to stagnation of political innovation in the real world, as well as a significant boost to the grip that lobbyists have over representatives. With CCP being so keen on progress and new ideas, I believe a hard term limit of somewhere between two and four terms is ideal.

7. Realistic Expectations: The Virgin Worlds interview with PĂ©tur Ă“skarsson demonstrated to me that CCP has a realistic outlook, namely that the CSM will be an immense undertaking to organize and implement, and may well not be considered a "success" by the community within the first year. This is a good thing. I tend to agree that it is unlikely we'll see anything earth-shattering (at least in a good way) from the CSM for a year or so. Patience is key here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Making Factional Warfare Work In EVE: Realistic Politics

Factional warfare is, without a doubt, my most anticipated feature for EVE. Ambulation looks great, and I'm sure it will be a great addition to the game, but at the end of the day it is going to be a cosmetic change, at least initially. The premise for factional warfare, as far as I can tell at this stage, is to have a resurgence and creation of various wars and skirmishes between the major NPC empires of EVE that allow for player involvement. Whether this means traditional EVE PvP, or PvE content, or even an introduction of RvR is yet to be seen. No matter the final form, the concept of factional conflict grants CCP the opportunity to really open up the universe to give it a more interactive feel. This is a real challenge to build into the game as it stands now, since a mis-step could really break things and send us down the SWG path. I have more faith in CCP than that, though.

As it stands now, the universe, while interesting and well-designed, is really little more than a backdrop for the interactions of players. While this model has proven sufficient for the enjoyment of their subscriber base thus far, the fact that they are developing a factional warfare system speaks to the fact that CCP is interested in making the NPC world more approachable.

I know I've mentioned factional warfare in the past, but what I'd like to do here is to describe some of what I think would be critical features for a successful implementation of the system. Mechanics and whatnot aside, the first thing I would like to cover is the handling of different political structures and interactions within EVE. I choose politics first for two reasons. First, it is where my educational background is. Second, in order for this project to be a success, CCP needs to create a system of complex interactions that are at least competitive with the look and feel of the interactions between player groups.

The first step to realistic interactions between the NPC factions is the proper establishment of what each of those factions is, politically and structurally. We have the broad strokes: Amarrians are a monarchical theocracy somewhat reminiscent of medieval Europe, the Gallente are absolute freedom classical liberals and laissez-faire advocates of 18th and 19th century France, the Caldari are a supercapitalist state bordering on fascism, and the Minmatar are the burgeoning republic of freed slaves. That's enough background for player to player roleplay interaction, but incorporating the NPCs means that they will need backstories as detailed and diverse as those of the players. That isn't to say that each NPC needs pages of personal history, but the major ones certainly do, and each faction and sub-faction should have some detail put into their own philosophies, governmental systems, and relationships with other factions/sub-factions. This leads to the opportunity for a new depth of intra-faction roleplay as well. For example, the Gallente and Intaki bloodlines of the Gallente Federation have vast differences in their general disposition, so expanding that and allowing players to align themselves more closely with their own chosen ideology will give a richer roleplay experience.

On the subject of ideologies, I think factional warfare gives CCP and the EVE player base the chance to break away from the racially-defined philosophical paradigms. Right now, the major RP groups out there, with the exception of Star Fraction (anarchists of the Heinlein vein), are all tied to one faction or another. With the way the game is now, that means they are tied to one race. Factional warfare gives the chance for groups to rise and flourish with any consideration of player or NPC base being extrinsic to the cause of the organization.

It is a lot of work to put in, and maybe this is exactly what CCP is doing, but the radio silence and continued delays make me wonder if my most anticipated feature is coming any time in the near future.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Drone Bay Podcast: Episode 2 - Now With More Seismic Events!

The Drone Bay #2 (Click to Download/Play)

The Drone Bay returns for Episode 2! Yes, it’s the third episode, and I definitely had to re-record the intro 2 or 3 times to stop saying “Episode Three,” but meh. This week brings you more of the discussion, guides, and listener mail that you’ve been asking for. As always, please contact us with any suggestions or feedback.

Bring on the Drones:

First off is the weekly recap, where the guys discuss the end of the tourney (congrats Ev0ke!), the stalling out of the Delve offensive (for now), and the Council of Stellar Management. Also, the guys got a bit more media attention this week, which is good, because our egos need inflating. Check out Crovan’s CSM blog entry which got a bit of press from Massively and Ten Ton Hammer this week. CK’s economic segment notes also made Massively’s front page, so we are all feeling smugly superior for a bit.

In DON’T PANIC, thanks to popular demand, the crew discusses corporations and how to look for employment in EVE. One site we are plugging this week is EVE-Careers, a very slick looking database and classifieds site for both employers and prospective employees.

In the listener feedback section, the guys tackle a few questions about starting out in PvP, as well as explaining just what on earth skill hardwirings are for.

The discussion this week centers on suicide ganking, particularly the recent all out war on high sec miners on behalf of Goons and their alts. Tune in for their sage and wise suggestions, all in a continuing theme of telling CCP how to run their game.

Please, please keep giving us feedback. We can’t get to everything every week, but we do appreciate the input and questions. Also, please drop us a Skype voicemail or e-mail us an mp3 if you want to hear your own voice on the show (provided you sound decent and don’t talk nonsense).

Contact Info:

GAX Online Group:
The Drone Bay

dronebay|at| (comments/questions for everyone)


Bitter Old Noob (Crovan)
CrazyKinux’s Musing
The Littlest Drone (Alsedrech)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Non-EVE MMO Experiment Part 2: Tabula Rasa

Well, I've given WoW just under a month, and it's still WoW. It didn't magically turn into God's gift to MMOs in my absence, despite what hordes of fanboys will tell you. It is still a solid game, with massive improvements over when I played originally (back when subscribers were counted with six digits), but it's still just...meh. I paid for 3 months, and will play them out, but I don't see it captivating me.

That said, Alsedrech and I looked at alternatives for our secondary MMO, given that we're both pretty committed to EVE. As you might have heard on the podcast, we downloaded and played the trial for Dungeons and Dragons online. After ten minutes, we both decided we would rather set fire to all our polyhedronal dice than spend another second in that game. It's not a bad game, it's just....ok, it's a bad game. In fact, I blame Gary Gygax's death on the crappiness of that game's UI and gameplay.

Al then gave the LotRO trial a spin, perhaps after feeling guilty for the thrashing we gave Turbine's other MMO over Skype. According to him, it's a great deal better than DDO, but just feels a bit slow. He and I often share game opinions, so I'm willing to let this stand instead of downloading the 7GB client over my very bad broadband pipe.

That brings us to Tabula Rasa. I played this game in open beta and found it to be resoundingly "meh." It was cool, but the innovations still didn't get rid of the feel that I was playing WoW in space with guns. Now that they've added considerable content, and after a few recommendations, I decided to reactivate my account. Al activated an account at the same time.
Thus far our views are...surprisingly good. The game is a lot of fun, and the pacing of the random dropship baddies has made the tempo of the game feel more urgent. I've always been a big fan of the instance cut scenes, and any PUG members who begrudge me watching them every time are taking Lord British in space as a bit more serious business than it really is. Additionally some good game balancing has been done, and they are finally going to give proper re-specs (first one to mention cloning gets a polarity gun to the fifth vertebra). There are still some glaring issues, specifically that having their pinky toe behind a passing ladybug grants a nine foot tall Thrax Officer total cover, whilst standing behind a boulder the size of a small post office seems to do nothing for my situation...and there are dance emotes.

Thus concludes one of the first entries that befits the name of the blog. More to come on our adventures on the Cassiopeia server. If you play on Cass, shoot me an e-mail and we'll go run instances or something.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

EVE's Player-Elected Council, and What it Means to You

EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management (video link) has been a long time coming. The first official mentions of it came after the infamous T20 incident, where a CCP dev was found to have illicitly aided the alliance he played the game with through spawned equipment and ship blueprints. CCP took a sound PR beating on every venue imaginable, partially due to the incident itself, and partially due to the banning of the French hacker who uncovered the secret, who happens to be wanted in at least two major western countries.

Motivation aside, the Council represents the chance for a game company to do something truly revolutionary. Many MMO players claim to have devs who listen to their input, but, to the best of my knowledge, none have established a player council chosen by the players themselves to represent the concerns of the customers to the company. It shouldn't be terribly surprising that CCP is leading the way with EVE Online. CCP does not merely think outside the box. Instead, thinking inside the box causes some sort of cognitive dissonance in Iceland, it seems, so CCP has set up a small village outside the box for their devs to live in.

According to a fresh announcement, voting for the CSM will begin in May. While I am excited about the prospects that this council holds for the future of EVE and the MMO genre as a whole, I can't help but be a bit nervous about the process. Like any person sufficiently educated in politics and history, I am very apprehensive about democracy, even in its more representative forms, and when you combine the unique issues of the internet into the mix, we could see a council elected that is largely useless to the community, unless CCP can drive voter turnout and voter education.

Unlike real elections where any buffoon can be elected, so long as they have enough sense to choose a good staff, in this case it is those elected who are expected to dispense the expertise. Nobody is under any illusions that most elections are anything but a popularity contest, especially in the age of mass media. Anyone wishing to dispute that point should read up on the 1960 race between Kennedy and Nixon. Perhaps it is my own inherent cynicism toward government, but I don't think nine players elected for having the best forum campaign will necessarily represent us the best. That said, with nine seats, the chances of getting at least one or two players on who talk sense is rather high. When I find the candidates who do, count on seeing them promoted in this blog.

Cynicism aside, CCP clearly sees the limitations of an elected body in this instance as well, especially an elected body made up of amateurs who just happen to be really into internet spaceships, but know little about the realities of running an MMO. Thus, the council will be limited to a largely advisory and liason role, which is probably the best choice for now. That said, I also fear that what we may end up with is CCP tuning in on the views of the CSM to the exclusion of the concerns of the rest of their players who might disagree. Only time will tell on that score. CCP does generally well with listening to the requests of their players (even the bad ones, unfortunately), so I am hopeful, but my gamer cynicism only allows me to approach this council with extreme caution.

Also, I may sell campaign ads on the podcast for the nominal fee of 1 billion ISK...or maybe a Moros.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Drone Bay Podcast - Episode 1: All Official and Stuff

EVE Official Forums Link
Virgin Worlds Link

This week's episode is released. The show notes can be found at either of the links above. Please continue to give feedback via whatever means is most convenient for you, and we'll continue to listen. I haven't answered many e-mails yet, but I plan to get on that here in the near future.

Also, I'd consider it a great kindness if we could keep that thread bumped to the top. A lot of people helped us out with that last week, and they have my sincere thanks. Getting exposure is one of the hardest things for a new show.

Of EVE, RL, and Tabula Rasa

This week saw me explode in spectacular fashion in the alliance tourney match against Pandemic Legion (I was the second Dominix to go down for MC on Day 3), and not too much else for me in EVE. BoB's attempt to re-take QY6 is going only marginally worse than their propaganda campaign, and Tyrrax Thorrk is making a general moron of himself on the forums. Me dying, check. BoB losing, check. TT being an attention-seeking drama queen, check. Yup, looks like EVE is much the same as it was four months ago.

In other news, The Drone Bay, Episode 1 (yes, it is the second show, but the first was technically Episode 0 or 0.1 or something as it was the pilot) is edited, converted, and the link is sent to Brent. Hopefully it will be up in the next day or so. As always, give us loads of feedback. Feel free to flame us, too, but know that if you do, we'll mock you on air. Also, The Drone Bay has a new GAX Group, so be sure to check that out. If you're not on GAX, you should be. Think MySpace with more gamers and fewer emo high schoolers and crappy bands.

I've been playing a bit of Tabula Rasa again,lately, and it is dangerously close to supplanting WoW as my non-EVE MMO of choice. They've done a lot to the game since the weeks after release when I played, most of it good.

On a semi-related note, I'll be likely moving back to the States from Japan in the next couple months, so there will be a stint where there may be no podcast or blog updates for a few weeks. I'll give warning when this is getting closer. On a note related to the semi-related note, I'm looking for a job stateside, so if you want to throw buckets of cash at me to prognosticate and give opinions born of an inflated ego, please send me an e-mail, or simply make out checks to cash and send them to me.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Stop Whining About Suicide Ganking!

High security space suicide ganks have been a part of the game since its inception. Why is it suddenly such a game breaking problem now in the eyes of the forum rabblers? Barely a day goes by where there's not another page of posts complaining about suicide gankers. This week it's the Goons' targetting of exhumers mining in high sec. Six months ago, it was Outbreak ganking freighters, something now considered a common threat. Since when did EVE become about anything but surviving in an extremely hostile universe?

CONCORD has never provided protection, only consequences, kindof know...real police.

More to come.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

An EVE Veteran Takes on WoW, Part 1

Many moons ago, back in the dark ages of the internet where downstreams were measured in double digits of kbps, I was hooked on MUDs. Thus, when Ultima Online was announce and later released (while I was in middle school), I simply had to have it. Since then, I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with MMOs. After leaving UO, I pledged never to pay a monthly fee for a game again. I then returned to MUDs. I was happy for awhile. Then came WoW.

My senior year of college, I gave WoW a spin, despite my better judgement, and found I really enjoyed it. My girlfriend even got into it (I love women who game!), so it was a lot of fun. Then the fun just...stopped. I was a level 34 Tauren Druid at the time. For those who remember the older days of WoW, you probably can guess why I stopped. The 30-40 grind used to be just an absolute nightmare. I am a bit of an alt-aholic, so the thought of grinding 3-4 characters through the immense gulf from 30-40 was not high on my priority list. Still, I kept playing for a bit longer with lower level characters, hoping against hope that it'd somehow be easier for other classes or races. I was getting ready to swear off MMOs again when someone showed me EVE. The rest is wreck and frozen corpse laden history.

Recently, however, my timezone (since moving to Japan) has been sub-optimal for participating with my alliance-mates in EVE. Desperate for some kind of real MMO interaction that was a more approachable solo experience, I have decided to give WoW another shot. As was mentioned on the pilot of The Drone Bay Podcast, the very day I got in touch with Al about doing the show for EVE was the same day he was downloading Trinity. What I did not mention on the show was that I was downloading WoW at the same time.

Thus, dear readers, the hard core, pvp-loving, Bitter Old Noob journeys back to the World of Warcraft. Stay tuned for my (mis)adventures back in the land of fairies and elves. Not to worry, though, EVE is my true MMO love, and is not going anywhere.

Due to the lengthy intro, Part 1 will be brief. I have currently rolled 4 characters (remember the alt-aholic thing?), 3 Alliance, 1 Horde. I was hard core Horde back in the day, and even now my highest level is a level 21 Blood Elf Fire Mage on Nordrassil. The Alliance characters I have are a lvl 14 Night Elf Priest (Shadow), a lvl 16 Dwarf Hunter (Beast), and a lvl 12 Dranei Paladin (Ret), all on Ghostlands. Thus far, I must say that the game has come a very long way from what I remember. Al has promised that the grinds have become much fewer and further between, and much shorter when they do happen. The game has the same cartoony style, but I think that they have demonstrated that this style ages much more gracefully than the more realistic approach of DDO or EQ.

Thus far, I'm still in pretty easy level country, and have yet to take my mage to Wailing Caverns, so I'll update more when I have actually been in an instance again.

I am enjoying WoW for now, but the real test will come when Conan and Warhammer Online finally come riding over the horizon. Until then, LFG.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Drone Bay Podcast is Up and Running!

Well, I warned that this might happen. No more than an hour or two after my last post, everything got sorted, and we are officially the newest member-cast of Virgin Worlds.

You can find our show at this link.

Also, with the whining threads in full force this week, we'll need a lot of bumpage on this thread to keep us on the front page.

Please give us any feedback or suggestions that come to you. If you have criticism, I'd appreciate it if it were kept constructive.

Drone Bay Goes (semi) Officially Online

Well, I was going to wait to throw this out there, but I can't contain my excitement, so if it goes up in the next 24 hours, you'll get bonus postage from me, sorry.

As CrazyKinux mentioned in his most recent post, the Drone Bay's first episode is edited and sent off to Brent of Virgin Worlds. I already told you that much, but the most recent news is that Lord Brent was pleased with our offering of wise, learned opinions and discussion and has deemed us worthy! Woohoo! Right now we're just waiting for the website to be set up for us so we can start pimping that link out like nobody's business. Thanks for the suggestions, offers of support, and offers of help that you guys have already given.

I'll give a preliminary plug and say that if you really enjoy EVE podcasting, and especially if you enjoy our show, you should become a member of Virgin Worlds and show your support for Brent, who puts a huge amount of personal time and money into the endeavor of giving the Bitter Old Noobs out there a place to call home. One of the neat options is the ability to sponsor a podcast. If you want to become The Drone Bay's sponsor, I will shower you with love and praise

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Aliiiiiiive! The Drone Bay Podcast Pilot Episode Ready for Launch.

After a long time fumbling around in Audacity today, the podcast is finally edited and ready for submission to master Brent of the land of Virgin Worlds. Hopefully his grace will find our humble submission pleasing.

We hope to have it out to you all very Soon (tm).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Podcast Update: Drone Bay Launching Soon (tm)

Well, the time is nearly upon us. The fellas and I plan to do the recording of our first episode at the end of this weekend, and I hope to fumble through the editing sometime early next week. Once we have hosting and whatnot confirmed, I'll be passing the info along.

If you have something to contribute, be it suggestions, flames, etc, please send them to either myself at crovan|at| or to the group as a whole at dronebay|at| I'll be out for the next 48 hours or so, so don't expect a reply until the end of the weekend.

As you may have noticed, we have decided on the name The Drone Bay. Sometimes your first ideas really are the best ones, it seems.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

EVE Online Economic Newsletter for Q4 2007: A Bitter Old Perspective

First things first, EVE's Quarterly Economic Newsletter for has been released. If you are at all interested in the EVE economy (or if you are interested in seeing some numbers from what I see as the best game economic microcosm in the world), then please have a read. It is approachable to the relative economics novice, but to really get the full meaning, at least some training is necessary (even just remembering those bits about aggregates from your high school macroecon class).

Some of this quarter's highlights include: a travel audit for characters within EVE (who is going where), a look at the market fluctuations surrounding the Trinity release, the effect of game changes on the market, and some other tasty tidbits for those who know what they're looking for. One thing I am looking forward to with some anticipation is the production of the Gross User Product (GUP), which is effectively a Gross Domestic Product for EVE's community. The QEN is not for everyone, but for those with an interest in high end market play, or merely a healthy curiosity about a virtual economy that can justify the employ of a PhD in Economics, then please give it a read.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New EVE Podcast Enters Pre-Pilot Mode

Late post today, but it's been a busy morning talking with my co-conspirators.

That's right, just a few days after my pre-pre-Alpha announcement, I have two very strong co-hosts on board to undertake this adventure with me. CrazyKinux and Alsedrech will be collaborating on EVE's newest, yet to be named, podcast. CK is someone who I have only met via the EVE community, and I have admired his blog work from afar for awhile now. We decided that things are firm enough to go ahead and make it public and semi-official. You can check out his thoughts at his blog, linked above. Alsedrech is an old friend of mine with loads of gaming experience. He is an unknown to the EVE community, but will be a great asset to the show both in terms of speaking ability and acting as the new player who keeps the vets in check.

We're working on a lot of ideas for segments, and not much is solid as far as final format. What is confirmed is that we will be laying down the initial format this week, and hope to have a pilot Soon (tm), probably in the next couple of weeks. I'm very excited about getting this going, and I know the other guys are as well.

What we still need is suggestions and thoughts on segments. If you have something that you'd like to see that isn't on the list, please share it.

We also lack a name. If you have any good suggestions, please pass them on. At some point, I may even institute a naming contest with a prize for the winner.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008: Why You Should Care

For non-Americans out there, this is slightly less relevant, but not entirely unremarkable, as your country may soon implement something like this as well. It's called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, and it is important to you, whether you know it or not. While, on the whole, I am incredibly skeptical about any regulation of the internet, this is something that I feel is increasingly necessary.

Lake gives a nice summary of the bill, which follows:

The full text is actually very short so I encourage you to read its entirety.

It has three main points:

First to amend the 1934 Communications Act to include some policies which state that "to maintain the freedom to use for lawful purposes broadband telecommunications networks, including the Internet, without unreasonable interference from or discrimination by network operators" is a good thing. And similar statements.

Second to require the FCC to assess various things such as how harmful the restrictions providers apply to a user's network connection are. F'ex Comcast forging 'reset' packets to break BitTorrent.

Third to require the FCC to hold multiple summits on the topic, include a wide range of input (including on the internet as well as live events), and report the results to congress.

This has impact on us, the gamers and downloaders, in a couple of key ways. First, it will presumably preclude ISPs from shutting down torrent transfers. I know that many game clients (WoW, for one) and other legal software use torrent downloads to get their product to their market. As Lake mentions, there are ISPs out there who will force these downloads to stop using forged reset packets. In my personal opinion, even if the claim is to stop illegal software and media transfer, the blocking of this by the ISP itself represents a stripping of privileges that they frankly should not be allowed to undertake. Additionally, if you've tried to mail me at my address and I haven't gotten back to you, I apologize, but I think my ISP is blocking port 25, preventing me from accessing my SMTP server. Finally, I have heard many cases from friends in the UK of ISPs throttling connections to game servers, including EVE.

While this bill would not help my immediate e-mail issue (since I am in Japan at the moment) or those gamers in the UK, it will have an impact on preventing these things from happening to American internet users in the future. Please, read the full text, and, should you feel so inclined, write your congressional representative and sign up on OpenCongress to vote the bill up.

New EVE Podcast Entering pre-pre-Alpha. Input requested.

To my friends and readers out there, I know I promised to try to keep it to a post a day, but sometimes you'll just have to indulge me. Today is one of those days. I've been talking with some of the MMO podcasting personalities out there and gathering input and advice. I feel comfortable saying that I am willing to start putting a podcast in the works with the estimated pilot release date of *mumble mumble*.

I replaced my (frankly silly) placeholder poll with one that I want to use to get some input on what you are looking for in an EVE podcast. I'm definitely willing to take additional suggestions for segments, so if you have an idea, don't be shy. Also, if you think you have what it takes to be a co-host or contributor, drop me a line. I know there are people out there who are qualified, and a few read this blog. There aren't any guarantees for how many contributors I am looking for, but listener-submitted content is definitely something I want to explore.

Since this is the second post today, I'll keep it short. Also, I'm open to suggestions for naming. An EVE-centric name is fine, but I plan on having at least a bit of general gaming/non-EVE discussion from time to time as well.

As an aside on the polls, I'm not looking for people to check each one. What I am really after is peoples' thoughts on what the community needs right now. I have my own thoughts, of course, but since the blog has been getting some promotion from some very nice and prominent people, I figured I'd use the additional traffic to my advantage.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

KoS Disbands, NOL Booked Through February

In this thread, She Storm announced that Knights of the Southerncross is officially disbanded. This is something that many saw coming, as Goonswarm openly announced that KOS would be first against the wall after BoB was done. Apaarently AAA wanted in on the action as well, and beat them to the punch. KOS formerly occupied most of Tenerifis and parts of the other regions that were taken from LV a year ago. With YouWhat dead as well, and BoB on the ropes (I've got a private table reserved in NOL), eyes will start turning to the next potential hegemonic force. The time that I discussed in an early post where I predicted (not hard, really) the Northern and Southern Coalitions turning against each other is likely close at hand. There are other options, of course. The south could well enter Pax Goonia, and the North could all board the NAP train for the next six months, but where's the fun in that? My prediction is that BoB will lose Delve, and with it a huge chunk of members. They'll conduct guerilla warfare from the NPC stations in Delve, and may even be able to take space off of someone, but it will be a long time, if ever, before they are making too many headlines again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Real World Political Theory and EVE

More than any other MMO I have played in recent memory, EVE Online lends itself to the application of real world political and economic theory. CCP clearly shares this belief, as they recently hired on a real life economist to handle Quarterly Economic Newsletters for the EVE economy. With factional warfare coming up in the near future (I hope...), I would like to see CCP put a similar amount of effort into the development and analysis of the political landscape of New Eden.

NPC politics are one of the little utilized gameplay elements that CCP have total control over, and I think developing the nature of those relationships between the various NPC factions, even so far as to dictate how they will interact with various player factions, would make the game feel more like an RP rich environment (sans robes), and less like a wax museum that we are all playing around in. This has always been a sticking point for me in EVE. Players are usually forced to choose between NPC and RP politics, and the power play politics of territorial conflict. Even famed roleplayers like CVA have had to compromise their hard-line RP stance for the sake of 0.0 politics. There may not be much, if anything, for CCP to do about that dilemma, but I seem to remember a time when player factions and NPC factions had a more interactive relationship (MC's long standing rivalry with Mordu's Legion over non-payment for a contract comes to mind). More richly developed NPC politics would make PC and NPC interaction much more attractive to those alliances and groups out there who would like to RP more, but don't want to be saddled with the stigma and the fact that it means excluding play with a large chunk of the EVE populace.

My solution would be for CCP to utilize existing staff, or potentially hire new outsiders, to beef up the application of real world political philosophy and theory to the New Eden cluster. In my view, the best theory to apply to EVE politics at the moment is Neo-Realism. This is the theory that argues that states will pursue their own interests and gauge success in the ability to pursue those interests primarily through military power, but that there is also a sort of governing structure that states act through. At the moment, we have large mega-alliances amongst the players, and the NPC factions have established CONCORD to serve a presumably similar function to our UN. I think that we are prevented from moving on to a more contemporary theory such as Complex Interdependence by some of the mechanics of the game, i.e. a lack of fear of death and the relative ease of replacing and amassing military assets. To a group thinking in a realist paradigm, interdependence after a certain point shows weakness and is a potential security risk (see BoB and the MC).

NPC factions, however, cannot reasonably behave the same was as capsuleers. For normal NPCs, there is a legitimate fear of death, and my understanding of the game background is that individual capsuleers are far more wealthy than most non-capsuleers. This means that acquisition of the means of making war is a long and costly process for the five (including the Jove) empires. What I would like to see is the representation of a more realistic type of politics governing the interaction between these NPC factions. Having some of the pirate states declare additional empires and demand CONCORD recognition could be a very interesting twist on the game, and could change some of the political landscape for everyone. Also, it is unlikely that the major empires will willingly engage in total war with one another. Economic means of fighting one's enemy have always been part of the fabric of conflict, and are, I feel, under-represented in the game background. This isn't to say that I don't think there should be some nice epic battles when Factional Warfare does eventually roll out, but CCP is looking at a chance to dramatically increase the depth and realism that their world presents.

CCP, please make me a prettier sandbox.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

EON Awards Voting Opens

The voting for the second EON Magazine Awards for EVE Online is now open. This year's categories are similar to last year's. I've noticed some oddities, though. Veto is listed as a nominee for best newcomer. Call me crazy, but I thought Veto showed up in '06. If I'm wrong, though, it wouldn't be the first time. This year, two different player meets are on the schedule, one in the U.S. and one in the UK. Hopefully these will actually come to pass, as last year's unfortunately got canceled. Winterblink and Warp Drive Active (both the comic and podcast) are up for some awards, so grats to Blinky and Urban. Rest assured that you guys have my vote (my alts, however, are still on the fence).

This year's winners get a nice paperweight, and bragging rights for the next year, but, then again, what award show offers more than that?

Monday, February 11, 2008

MMOs as Real Life Practice and Networking Tools

With the amount of time that many gamers spend playing online games, along with the combination of various demographics and professions that we gamers constitute, it is hardly surprising that our online communities are beginning to not only resemble our real life social structures and networks, but can actually provide a means to test various management styles and interaction techniques in an environment with very little real world consequence.

When I was in high school and pumping hours and hours of my time into Ultima Online and various MUDs, my parents would always ask me what purpose all of that orc killing and dragon taming was going to serve later in life. I didn't have a good answer back then. It was just fun. Now, however, I have discovered that some good really has come from countless hours in fantasy worlds. Back then, I saw people who took the game very seriously doing rather well, for the most part. I was part of different guilds, and eventually rose to different managerial tasks in those guilds. This was literally my first experience in a leadership position over real people. Better yet, even if I screwed up, all that was lost were 1's and 0's and a bit of time.

While I am by no means advocating that MMOs are a replacement for healthy real-world interpersonal interaction (they aren't, sorry), there are some potential real life XP points by leading raids, coordinating PvP activities and handling equipment and logistics in virtual worlds. My most poignant example of this comes from my two-years-plus in EVE. In that time, I have gone from a peon to the CEO of one of the largest mercenary corps in the game, before retiring back to the "CEO Emeritus" (read: lazy director) position. I did not realize the impact that leading fleets into combat and organizing and delegating corporate activites would have on my real world ability to lead. Since college, I've had a few opportunities to be put in charge of other people in real life. After the initial urge to have everyone align to the door so we could all enter the meetings together, I realized that the coordination, leadership and delegation in EVE bear a striking resemblance to what my subordinates were seeking from me in real life.

I may be a bit late coming to this epiphany, as I'm sure others have considered (and probably blogged) it before, but it really is striking the difference that those risk-free chances to lead have made in my real world leadership confidence. Perhaps MMOs represent that leap in gaming that my parents always heckled me about. Gaming is no longer a solitary time-sink. It is still a time-sink, but it also now represents a cross-cultural and cross-demographic societal experience that is actually hard to replicate in most real life scenarios. Growing up in small town Texas, I would not have met nearly as many non-Americans without MMOs. Additionally, the contacts I have made over the years have provided me with a network of friends and potential business contacts that easily rival those that I made in college. I feel that EVE has given me a much broader base of potential career contacts than college itself ever did, given that most of the people I met in college were also seeking out that entry-level.

Again, I'm going to reiterate that MMOs are NOT a replacement for real world interaction. If you still live at home, don't tell your parents that you don't have to go outside or talk to real people because some Bitter Old Noob told you that MMOs will make your dreams come true. The point I am making is that we might be at a point as a society where online gaming can really be accepted as an inextricable part of social interaction. Brave new world, indeed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"But my zombie lady made pretty dresses!": Why My Girlfriend Does Not Play EVE

Women in EVE, and MMOs in general, has been a topic of discussion for a very long time. We young to middle aged men sit around and wonder (well, some of us do) why more of our girlfriends and spouses are not banging down the server door to come sit in asteroid fields and mine with us all day, or to camp a stargate for 4 hours with no kills, or wade through 5 hours of lag to conduct a POS siege, or deal with can flippers when running missions in empire. All that said, I’m not sure I’ll be logging into EVE today. All the same, there are nearly a quarter of a million of us who play EVE like it is a religion, but a very small number of those players are female. When I asked my girlfriend why, in my view, games like WoW have a higher proportion of female players, her honest response was, “Well, I don’t play EVE because I liked making dresses with my zombie priest lady in Warcraft.”

This got me to thinking. My girlfriend played WoW with me for a few months until I got sick of it and went to EVE, and before that we played Ragnarok Online together for a couple of months before I got tired of grinding for cute bunny ears and went to WoW. In both cases, it was not the hardcore gameplay that attracted her. She liked running the quests and killing the monsters, but enjoyed playing dress-up more than smash-up, and she also got more into the social and role play aspect of the guild we were part of than the raiding and grinding. This is not to say that she was playing virtual Barbies. There was a great deal of focus for her on character-driven story and a personal experience driven by tangible character development, something that EVE often lacks. This is obviously not true of all, or perhaps even most, female gamers. I know a few women in EVE’s Mercenary Coalition who are as rough and tumble as they come. It can’t be ignored, however, that this desire for a more social and character (and pretty dress) oriented style of gameplay is an attraction to at least some female gamers.

Also, for her at least, the aesthetic model of the game just isn’t appealing. While talking to her for the material of this entry, I asked whether Ambulation, the ability for EVE players to exit their stuffy (and probably smelly, after 4 years) capsules and walk around in space stations, scheduled for release some time around the Second Coming. She said that it would only be interesting if it was the norm for gameplay, but that she suspects (rightly so, I think) that the main thrust will still be watching “your gray blob float in the big black blob.” In WoW and RO, she enjoyed watching her character change as it progressed, and the ability to customize equipment. For me, this concept is rather alien, as it has always been the game impact of the customization that I am concerned with rather than if these blasters go with that microwarp drive, or if my armor plating is so last season.

So, why don’t more women play EVE? I honestly have no idea. All I know is why my girlfriend doesn’t play. If you have a girlfriend or spouse who is a gamer (all five of us), but does not care for EVE, please ask her why. I would be very interested in building a stronger discussion on this. Also, if you are a woman who plays EVE, or if you know one, please ask her what keeps her logging in. My theory is that there are a significant number of female gamers out there who feel that playing a character that is essentially yourself in a big phallic spaceship is not as interesting as playing a character of a fantasy race with its own story, appearance, etc. Obviously CCP shares some of these beliefs, as I have heard it mentioned that Ambulation is partially going to target the elusive female gamer. If these presumptions are wrong, they need to be corrected. Speak up, ladies! Show us dense males what it is you want in the game. It’s not like we men have the best track record knowing what women want in any situation, so it’s hardly surprising that game development is any different. The ways of females are mysterious, and trying to explain why they make certain decisions often leaves me feeling like the chimps in 2001, just banging away at the obelisk with no real results until I eventually forget why I tried in the first place.

EVE Online As the MMO PvP Paradigm

I have to admit that, other then a couple of open betas and a brief affair with Tabula Rasa, I have spent the last two years in relative isolation from MMOs not named EVE: Online. Recently, however, the various Virgin Worlds Podcast Collective shows have me taking a broader look at the MMO community in general. What I quickly noticed is that, at least for this particular group of podcasters and bloggers, EVE seems to have set the paradigm for the “hardcore PvP” game to contrast to the WoW model of PvE, raiding, etc.

My first reaction was to try to respond to what I saw as an attack on EVE, but further thought made me realize that any attempt to refute the point, namely EVE’s actual player-driven economy, actually reinforces the claim that EVE is all about the PvP. As was mentioned on Shut Up, We’re Talking #19, even EVE’s carebear activities (mining, trading, missioning, etc) are only really viable due to market demand and risk created by the pervasive PvP atmosphere. Also, the near total player control of the market makes market orders a form of conflict that gets every bit as heated as, and sometimes results in, ship to ship combat.

This, along with the skill-based, gradual progression system for EVE makes it, not the antithesis to WoW, but rather the other end of the spectrum, really creating another paradigm for MMOs. To say that EVE created the PvP-centric MMO does injustice to games like Ultima Online, where PvP was a constant motivator and factor on the gameplay of everyone, not just the hardcore PKers. All the same, that PVP focus, combined with a non-grinding skill progression makes it the polar opposite to games like WoW and LOTRO in many ways.

Finally, EVE’s single server nature makes it unique amongst the “major” MMOs. The consequence of this is a much more contentious, but simultaneously more tightly-knit community of players. In many blogs and the only current EVE podcast, in-game news takes up more coverage than dev blogs the majority of the time. I won’t say that EVE is a more immersive roleplaying environment than WoW, because it frankly isn’t, but it is a much more immersive community experience as opposed to a game based around the smaller group of friends/guildmates who gamers play multi-sharded games with.

The significance of this distinction in MMO “archetypes” became very clear in the SUWT discussion of the prospects of Warhammer Online. The debate very quickly became about who would be happier with WAR, EVE players or WoW players? The result of the debate is unimportant, in my view. What is important is that we seem to have two real mindsets that govern the thinking of a lot of MMO players out there. In his 101st show, Brent also describes aspects of The Agency as being EVE-like, particularly in the time-based character progression. Given that we have these two very distinct paradigms to work with, I think it really adds another dynamic to the discussions about the future of MMOs that is at least as important as the concept of free play, micro-payments, or a monthly subscription.

We already think in terms of whether a game will be EVE-like or WoW-like, but to what level are developers aware of this distinction. To what level are we aware of it, for that matter? I have noticed a personal tendency to prefer sci-fi games, despite their relative lack of success. I was more willing to give Tabula Rasa a try than I am EQ2. The reason is that TR is sci-fi, and so is EVE. I love EVE, not necessarily due to sub-genre, but because it is EVE, and the hardcore PvP aspect appeals to me. Thus, these two games not only represent the opposites of one another in terms of character development, but also in the sense of PvE vs. PvP. This PvE vs. PvP link is the one that seems more readily apparent to most, but I don’t think too many people realize the true pervasiveness of EVE’s PvP nature, and how

So what is the significance of all this for the future? After considering the existence of the difference in why people prefer, EVE and WoW are likely to be the two benchmarking points for MMO methodological extremes. As such, I think it is really worth people who are interested in the future of the MMO genre being familiar with both games. WoW has a head start of a few million, which EVE will never reach, due to its steep learning curve and low instant gratification factor, but in my totally biased opinion, it is all but required playing for the serious MMO journalist, at least for long enough to get a feel for what the game is in relation to WoW. Also of interest to me is when a new game will step in and deliver a third paradigm. Guild Wars offers it to a certain extent, but I always considered Guild Wars to handle more like a game of Halo than like WoW or EVE. Perhaps a twitch MMO will emerge in the near future to set up another group that appeals to the CounterStrikers of the world who find both EVE and WoW distasteful. Then again, I am still largely blind to the true nature of many other MMOs due to two long years in my EVE cave. Shared thoughts from people with other games is very welcome, due to my ignorance of a lot of the MMO offerings out there aside from the two I see as paradigm-markers.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The 5th EVE Online Alliance PvP Tournament: Preliminary Thoughts

For starters, I'd like to take a minute to break down what the Tournament is, for those who have yet to experience this unique event. I have yet to see another game that is able to showcase its PvP the way CCP has already done multiple times through the webcasting of their biannual PvP tourney. Alliances, essentially a guild made up of guilds for non-EVE players, pay an entry fee to enter the tournament bracket. Then, for two specified weekends, they face off against one another in small gang combat. The rules have changed over time so that now, you can have up to a 10 on 10 fight, with different ship classes and sizes being slotted using a points system. To top it all off, CCP flies a handful of their players to Iceland for each of these tournaments to provide expert commentary and play by play for the matches. They then broadcast the matches live via webcast for their players to watch. It is a unique spectacle in the MMO community.

As a few of you know, I applied to be an expert on this year's Alliance PvP Tournament, but for reasons beyond my, and CCP's, control (namely the fact that I am in Japan right now) prevented me from making the final selection pool. I have no idea if I would have made it or not, honestly, but the only way to find out is to apply next time once I am stateside again, I suppose.

There has been a bit of controversy about some of the alliances in the tournament brackets this time around, or rather there has been a lot of rabbling about who is not in the brackets. Missing are heavy hitters such as Band of Brothers, HUN Reloaded (would-be defending champs), Red Alliance, and Terra Incognita. In their place are some relative unknowns, some of whom are almost assuredly alliances made solely for this purpose. Many people are understandably a bit put off by this, especially since the tournament bracket only allows for 40 entries as of the time of writing. The reason that many of this big names are missing is not due to a reluctance to compete, but rather the fact that registration is first come, first served.

In the past, this system has not failed CCP, and there have in fact been cases where reminders had to be put up in order to fill all 40 slots. With the expansion of the rules in the last tournament to allow more tactical flexibility and give less advantage to the insanely wealthy, however, more and more groups are willing to give it a chance. This means that some of the big dogs who thought they could rest on their laurels are instead going to be out in the cold. This is unfortunate, as it means that we will miss out on some good action, no doubt.

Now, many are clamoring for reserved spots to be set aside for those alliances in the PVP "elite." While I do agree that a reserved spot for the defending champion is a good idea, and possibly for the returning semi-finalists, I also think that it goes against what the tournament is all about. Last time, for example, a relatively unknown team (HUN Reloaded) took home the prize, with the heavy favorite (Band of Brothers) being knocked out by 10 Star Fraction Thoraxes. The playing field has been leveled a great deal recently, so I am all for letting the little guys have their shot at the PvP giants.

I think a better solution is to simply expand the brackets for next time. It's clearly a bit late to re-structure and re-schedule the plans of people who are already taking vacation from work to jaunt to Reykjavik for two weeks to do the commentary for this thing. My suggestion is that, instead of doing a 64 team bracket live on the air, that they do what television broadcasters do with sporting events, and simply don't show every one live. With most of the alliances, you have known quanitites, so you know who is likely to perform, and who is likely to fold. In the past, we've been kept waiting on the live broadcasts for teams to show, things to be fixed, etc. If there were more matches being recorded but not broadcast live, it gives the option of expanding the scheduling slots of the tournament without putting extra strain on the commentators, especially if some of the matches were recorded during the week days between the two weekends of the tournament.

My final answer to some of the big players not being in is, "Too bad." Of course, since my alliance is in, it's easy for me to say that. All the same, I think that this just demonstrates that EVE does have something for every group, and you don't have to be Goonswarm or BoB to participate on the epic stage in EVE.

The Fifth Alliance Tournament is scheduled to begin on February 29th, and run for two weekends.

For further discussion on the issue, check out Warp Drive Active Podcast #27 with Winterblink and Urban Mongral. I know they are also wanting to do a tournament preview show, so keep an eye out for that.

A Confession

First off, sorry to my subscribers (both of you) for the deluge of posts tonight, but the writing urge tends to hit me in bursts.

This week's poll was a way to initially test the waters for the reception of the community who cares enough about blogs to click a link on the official forums to a new EVE blog. So far, the comedy answers are winning, with "No" in a distant third, and "Yes" dwelling in the cellar with 0 votes.

This more regular method of community news and interaction has a second, secret (well, not any more), purpose. I have tossed around the idea in my head of beginning my own EVE podcast. Blinky and Urban at Warp Drive Active have been inspirations to me, demonstrating that an EVE podcast can last longer than 10 episodes. Also, through the Podcast Collective at Virgin Worlds, I've been introduced to a much wider MMO podcasting community than I was previously aware existed, let alone at the consistently good quality that the Collective shows demonstrate.

My roadblock is this: I am still trying to make sure that I have the time and desire to regularly commit to a podcast on a weekly basis. Also, as of yet, I would lack a co-host. As Brent demonstrates in Virgin Worlds, the one man show can be very successful, but I am not sure I have his breadth and depth of capability that is no doubt required to go it alone.

I am not sure what kind of feedback I am really seeking, here, but please comment with your thoughts on another EVE Podcast joining beside (not against) Warp Drive Active. I was thinking "The Drone Bay." Free EVE E-mail Addresses!

My good friend, and old CEO, Lake, is setting forth on a project to provide a more interactive basis for EVE community members to talk outside of the official forums and in-game chat. His plan is to use Jabber protocol to set up a community where EVE players can meet, greet, flame, troll, and generally do what EVE players do.

Along with this, and as part of the effort, he has registered the domain, and is currently offering e-mail addresses to EVE players. The instructions are very simple, and for a pittance (literally a fraction of an ISK to create the wallet transaction).

The project as a whole is still in beta, but if you've ever wanted an e-mail address to use for EVE-related communication, this is the chance to get that wish, as well as have a means of live, out of game interaction with other EVE players.

I have signed up, and use the address as the address for this blog (crovan|at| I have also downloaded Pidgin (a universal IM program that supports the Jabber protocol), and plan to be online as much as possible, so you know there will be at least one other person to talk to.

Snubbing of Fan-Created Podcasts and Blogs by "Professionals"

In episode 100 of his fantastic podcast, Virgin Worlds, Brent discussed (amongst many other things in the mammoth milestone episode) the fact that many fan-created outlets for game news, specifically podcasts, get little to no recognition by the industry's "professionals," in the form of groups like 1up, and GameSpot, as well as in podcasts by the game companies themselves, with the exception of SOE. Honestly, it's the sort of thing that I had never noticed, given that I am much more inclined to listen to honest fan creations that corporate schlock, but it is a bit vexing, particularly since I believe it is carried out for reasons guided by outmoded thinking.

I believe that these corporate podcasts might see an illusory conflict for market share from the grassroots material. It may be that they view referencing the merit of another podcast on the same level as referencing a competing company/game. This is ludicrous, of course, since most podcast listeners can and will listen to multiple casts per week.

It's not terribly surprising to me that this is occurring, given that I feel like the natural tendency of many corporations is to resist grassroots change. Institutional arrogance combined with this false sense of a market share is what I believe causes this artificial barrier and the radio silence on the corporate end. I'm glad to hear that SOE has their head on straighter than the rest. Maybe I can call off the blood feud I initiated when a certain patch hit a certain game based on a certain LucasArts IP...nah.

As an aside, if you haven't listened to Virgin so. The Podcast Collective hosted there has a lot of good material to choose from, including the EVE-centric Warp Drive Active.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Intro and Thank Yous

Well, the blog has now passed 24 hours of age, and has not died a horrible death. I have yet to receive any real flames (other than a half-hearted troll from Avon of BoB), and I've already gotten some advice and link love from some of the other bloggers and players out there, so I'd like to take a moment to thank them before heading to work today.

First, thanks to Exekias, CEO of Eternity Inc and creator of the images I've used on the site thus far. Exe has been making sigs and banners for the MC for over a year now, and always does quality work.

Next thanks to Winterblink, fellow MC pilot and long-time community celebrity for linking me on his blog. If you havent checked out the Warp Drive Active projects (both the comic and the podcast), then you are missing out on some of the best fan-created content in EVE.

Also, thanks to Crazykinux for the link on his blog, as well as his endorsement in his comments to my first post. I was a bit worried the other bloggers might come at me with knives.

Finally, thanks to all of you (about 400 so far) who have read the blog so far. If you enjoyed it, please bump my EVE-O thread. The goal is to get some good discussion going, either through comments to my blog, or through entries on other blogs, so please feel free to participate and promote the discussions to other people.

Since we're more than a full day in, now, I reckon I should give you a bit of background as to who the Bitter Old Noob is. This involves a confession. I am actually not terribly bitter, nor am I old (23 years old at the time of the blog's inception), and while I may be a noob at heart, I am hardly one by calendar age in game (over two years, now). I just really liked the name.

In game, I play Crovan, a Gallente sub-capital specialist (read: too cheap/poor for cap books) of about 28 million skill points. I've been a member of the MC for over 18 months now, and before that was a member of ISS through my first member corp, The Praxis Initiative. Since then I have been in Sharks With Frickin' Laser Beams for about 6 months, and the remainder of the time has been spent with Eternity Inc (ETNY). I've been a director in ETNY since the beginning, and served as CEO for about 6 months, before taking a break from the MC, joining 0utbreak for two weeks, then running back when Marko wanted me to mine more than Seleene (teehee).

In real life, I play a 23 year old American male specced in politics and economics (and lengthy pontification), currently living in Japan and working as a private English teacher (hence work on Saturday morning).

Thanks for reading!

Edit: As a quick aside, if there is something about the blog you don't like (aesthetically as well as my opinions), please let me know. The last thing I want is people to tune out because of my poor choice of color combinations.