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.

2008 Predictions

Because every self-respecting blog should have one, here is my list of predictions for this year, in no particular order other than that in which they entered my brain:

  • BoB will be dug out of Delve, albeit perhaps slowly. Following this, there will be cries of "We planned it all at the barbecue of 33 AD. We got kicked out of the banquet room for some other schmucks."Following this, there will be a brief period of the homeless BoB that people have come to fear, but unless they find some territory to take root in rather quickly, they will go the way of D2, ASCN, LV, and so many others. There is no significant evidence, other than the self-righteous ramblings of the high level BoB members to convince me otherwise at this time.
  • BoB' Departure from 0.0 will not create a power vacuum. Instead, it will create a war vacuum. Many alliances have thrown their entire operation into the effort of preparing for the massive struggle that we are now witnessing. These sides are still self-interested, and are not terribly likely to just peacefully go on their way once BoB is toppled. Expect boat violence between the Morsus Mihi lead North, and the Pax Goonia of the South.
  • The North itself will continue its current path to stabilization, provided Triumvirate don't decide that they want another go.
  • The drone regions are prime to see a big power emerge. Smashkill has been on the road to that, but has hit some stumbling blocks, recently, namely RA. My prediction is that 2008 will see a major power rise up in this region, potentially enough to form a coherent coalition to take on the rest.
  • Tortuga will face at least one serious attempt to remove them from their new home. This may come from the displaced BoB, or bored Goons, but it will happen, and there should be a good show when it does.
  • CAOD will continue to be a cesspit, just like it always has been.
"But, Crovan!" I hear you say, "What about your prediction and hope for small-scale warfare returning to the game at large this year? Isn't a lot of this mutually exclusive to that?"

The short answer is no. The long answer is that this amalgamation of power blocs around the game, and their coming together and beating the piss out of each other is a long and time-honored tradition in the game, but in between, there are periods of relative stasis while the powers all set up their pieces, annex new territories, and bully their neighbors. In these times, the mercenary thrives. Given that I am, at my core, and internet spaceship mercenary, I can't help but hope we'll see it again before returning to BLOB: Online.

Credit to Exekias for the "Sign of the Apocalypse" image.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The End of BoB and the Last Superstate.

Forgive the shameless ripping off of Francis Fukuyama, but I find the title rather appropriate given the struggle between the mega-alliances seems to be coming to a close. Churchill rip-offs by SirMolle aside, BoB is really on the ropes, and they may have their Thermopylae or their Alamo, but sadly the Spartans and the Texans lost those battles, and unlike those battles, there is no main bulk of the forces lying somewhere over the horizon to rush in and finish the war after the heroic sacrifice. When BoB is done, that's it. Granted, they will most likely live on, at least for awhile, but, despite the claims of undying brotherhood and whatnot, no alliance of that size that was bereft of space has long survived.

So, once BoB has been removed as a territorial entity, which, barring some miracle, must now be taken as an eventuality, the south will be rather firmly in the hands of what is now known as the Southern Coalition. My prediction is that, once things settle down, this coalition will show a few cracks, and trim some fat, but we are unlikely to see the major players go at each other. With the spoils of this war, both RA and Goons simply have too much to lose by fighting each other.

What will happen, then. Is this the "end of history" that Fukuyama predicted, on the EVE scale? My prediction is that, just like the real world, we have not reached the end of history. Pax Goonia is not the end state of EVE politics. In my opinion, the most likely course of action is the setting up of a new North vs. South sort of arrangement. The Northern Coalition and RSF are not terribly likely to stay friendly for too long, and we may well kick off another Cold War style conflict for the next year or so.

My hope is that the result will be a number of single-region entities, or regions divided among entities, which will lead to a lot more small-scale conflict and more work for filthy space mercenaries like myself. This, however, is rather unlikely to come to pass within the next 6 months, or even the next year, still, a guy can hope.

E-War Notifications and Removal of "Brackets"

In the latest dev blog from Tuxford, he lays out the plan for the new system of electronic warfare notification, as well as the ability to remove the icons that you see in space, as well as your overview. The example given involves making all the wrecks disappear after a mission to make it easier to target the single NPC remaining.

Both changes have merit, and the e-war change is definitely a case of, "About freaking time!" Along with the messages for jamming, target disrupting, target painting, and sensor dampening, the sample screen shot shows icons that indicate who is scrambling and webbing you, as well. Given that people were asking for these around the time I joined the game, I think it's nice that CCP has finally gotten around to it, but hey, better late than never, I suppose.

What I don't really like so much is that these e-war notifiers are, in their current form, included as an overview column. Personally, my overview settings are usually pretty crowded, as is, and I'm not terribly keen on adding another column. The icons seem pretty small, so as long as they align to the very left of the column, you should be able to make them small enough to not be too obtrusive. Still, I think some of the ideas put out by players in the past hold quite a lot of merit as well. I know I have seen ideas from Haffrage in the past that involved icons fixed at the bottom of the screen, to the right of the module slots. That has its drawbacks as well (namely having to mouse-over to see the name of the offending e-war party), but it would leave my overview alone.

All in all, I think these changes represent the positive, trend I mentioned in the last post about CCP waking up and listening to its players more intently since the massive rabblage over the carrier nerf discussion a few months ago. Then again, They have been serving me some rather delicious kool-aid, lately...

Don't Lynch Zulupark...

I'm sure Zulupark is ready for CCP to hire a new content dev to make the dev blog posts that get the community running for their pitchforks and torches.

The proposed changes, while far from perfect, I think still represent a step in the right direction as far as CCP's mindset goes. Yes, the Amarr lack some punch, currently. The reduction of base armor resistances will help that, full stop. Yes, the shield explosive nerf does represent a sort of stealth boost to Minmatar, but it's hardly earth-shattering. I think it's a fairly safe bet that we'll see these changes on TQ in the next major update, with perhaps only minor tweaking of the percentages (10% down to 7.5%, for example).

The ship slot changes have drawn slightly less bile and pitchfork-waving from the community, but still have some major flaws. Yes, the Deimos change is silly. It would be much better to lose that high slot than one of the lows, especially with the pretense of making it a tanking boat with the new rep bonus. No, it's not really feasible to fit that fifth turret on the Moa and Omen hulls without a corresponding change in grid. All the same, though, after following the early part of the thread, it seems that CCP is actually paying attention to what is being said, and I have this funny feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me they may do something about it, either that or I had some bad sushi.

I promise not to rant...much.

If this post is the only one present on the blog when you are reading it, chances are you are a friend, a friend of a friend, have powerful Google-fu, or are somehow affiliated with me in-game.

Other EVE blogs exist, I know, but I always feel (quite conceitedly) that I have something more to add to the conversation. This space exists for me to indulge that desire to render my opinion on various matters related to EVE, as well as to provide news and analysis of said news. I plan on having a healthy mix of current events and op-ed posts in here. For guides to the game, I encourage you to visit my other contributions to fan publications, namely the Warp Drive Active Podcast and EVE-Tribune.

One of the functions this blog will also serve is to provide links to my contributions to the above fan publications, both of which are definitely to be applauded for their quality and contribution to the community.

If you know someone who would benefit from, or be interested in participating in, intelligent discussion about EVE, ranging from pure in-game analysis to commentary based on real-world political and economic practices and theory, please pass me along to them.