Opening the 2014 Time Capsule

So, according to my notes, this is my second year doing this. Instead of predictions at the end of the year, at the beginning of the year I try to capture my hopes, dreams, and thoughts for the year in one space, and then go back and look at them the next year. This change was inspired by SWTOR after I realized how I went from gung-ho-on-fire for it to hating it in the course of a year. How quickly things change in the world of online gaming, right? So here is where I was 12 months ago, and my reflections now.

I Was Looking Forward To Four Things:

    World of Warplanes: Vought F7U Cutless

The Cutless was my favorite tier 10 at launch, and was supposed to be my first end game plane. Its defensive handling and speed made it a great choice. But I ran into two problems. One is that the Corsair line has been perpetually underpowered in the game. It is unrealistically nerfed in its speed and handling, and tends to be one of the worst choices to fly at tiers 7-8 (where the grind kicks in). So while I unlocked the tier 7, I never went beyond that. It sits in the hanger, gathering dust. The more serious problem though, was Warplanes population struggles. While things are better now, its still hard to find any sort of decent size match above tier 7, and anytime they do a special (like the one that has been going on the last month) its impossible to play anything other than the tiers directed (in this case, tier 4) because that is where everyone congregates. Its good for the overall health of the game to get people together, and there is no real need for a tier 10 yet, but still, it is frustrating. I have used free XP to unlock and upgrade the FJ-1 Fury, at tier 9, and one that is probably better suited for my play style than the Corsairs were.

    Elder Scrolls Mania

I think I spent just about half the year on subscription for Elder Scrolls Online. I continue to believe it to be a great MMO. But it is almost exclusively used by me for playtime with my brother, and the last two months have been nuts for both of us. We talked this week and are anxious to make a return to the game in the coming weeks. Part of my joy is the flexibility in playstyles. Its not unusual for me to have a different weapon and skill set equipped each night. Oh and the crafting…my word the crafting. I collect crafting styles like some people collect stamps. Or pets. Or achievements. Yeah, lets go with those.

    Playing Old RPG Franchises

I tried Wizardry 7. Oi. Character creation alone was crazy frustrating to me. So I figured maybe I went toooo far back in time, ya know? So I picked up Might and Magic 10 on sale, and it was a bust too. So I tried M&M7 again. Also a bust. The magic just wasn’t there. And that’s when I realized the problem wasn’t that I had gone too far back, but that I hadn’t gone far enough. So, I busted out some Might and Magic 2. Its still hard as hell, but at least my expectations are in line with reality. And I don’t have to deal with an inventory system from hell – Might and Magic 2 restricts every character to 12 items – six equipped and six in the backpack.

MM2

And character creation evokes the feeling of classic tabletop dice rolling for some reason.

...can't quite put my finger on why.
…can’t quite put my finger on why.

So, nostalgia enjoyed, thanks again NWC and Van Canegham for making a timeless classic!

    The Return of WoW

Yeah, not so much. Not sure why, but by the time release rolled around, any enthusiasm I felt was completely nonexistent. I couldn’t tell you why, as I’ve said before, I think WoW today is much improved from when I last played regularly (2007-2008), but apparently, for me, that ship has sailed.

I Had Three Burning Questions:

    What Will Come of Wildstar?

It came, it saw, it had some success. But I wondered if it would have some impact on the MMO landscape. And quite frankly, I don’t think it did. It certainly did not aim to be groundbreaking in style, graphics, or gameplay, but I think they did want to bring back some of that old subscription magic. And for me at least, they did not (though I would argue that, again *for me*, ESO did manage to do just that)

    Will ArchAge Be Arriving in 2014

This was bizarre. After months and months of dragging feet, Trion finally put their full wait behind this thing and shoved it right out the door, along with a hefty preorder price tag. The long wait time, sudden ramp up, and ridiculous pricing levels muted my enthusiasm. I had hoped that this would be the next big thing, but the mindless development enslavement to PvP and propensity for people to be jackasses (ie, gank helpless players), doomed this game to a dark corner. Oh, sorry, “niche market”, that’s the spin we want to put on it. Sad.

    How Will WarThunder’s Ground Game Hold Up Against World of Tanks?

Boy is this one the opposite of my other questions. Ground Forces is, for me, an unqualified success. I have all but abandoned World of Tanks in favor of what I see as superior graphics, superior gameplay, and superior dedication to historical sensibility. I had no idea this was coming but I’m the happier for it. And while the game still has its struggles at times, the plane/tank crossover in one client has actually siphoned flying time away from WoWp as well. This is a case in point for why I do these articles. I had no idea 12 months ago I would be this deep in WT.

I Had Two Places I Wanted To Return To:

    EVE Online

I played again, I loved the visuals all over again. And once again, I quit after a month, because…well, I was bored again. There has never been a prettier game with less to do for those who came looking for an MMORPG. I think EVE is probably best classified as an MMOPBG – massively multiplayer online persistent battle ground. Because for all its wonderful variety, at its heart its a one trick pony. Still – what is it that GMC says? Do one thing and do it well? Well that is EVE – they do one thing, and they do it so well that a decade later, nobody else has even come close.

    SWTOR

I’m glad I went back, because I learned something. I learned that the problem I had with TOR was not all the random side quests. It was the story quests themselves. The terrible face choices and the arbitrary light side/ dark side assignation drove me away more than the slow gameplay and group advancement did. So when the 12x XP event happened last December, I literally laughed. I can’t think of anything less enticing to me than to say “just come and play for the story.” I probably have a stash of cash now, and who knows, maybe one day I will go back and putz around again, but right now, I have lost any latent desire or nostalgia that was present.

***

So there ya go. I’m in a different place on War Thunder, Eve Online, ArchAge, and SWTOR than I was a year ago. Stay tuned for the 2015 time capsule coming in the next couple of days to a blog near you (ie, this one!)

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Exit Stage Left

Kirith Kodachi has a post up about the stagnation of Null Sec (for those who haven’t climbed EVE’s learning cliff, that is basically the wilderness area for large scale pvp). Its not the first time he has written about it, and it is something that is of interest to the rest of the MMO community as a sort of object lesson.

Basically, the game has been around long enough that the wars and mergers have created a survival of the fittest, and so there are only a few large stable alliances left that control all the area. This means there are some few spectacular large battles (which occasionally make the news), and some skirmishes here and there, but more often that not, its business as usual and something akin to a cold war. I say this is an object lesson because this is the kind of thing that pure PvP games (like Camelot Unchained) need to be paying close attention to and devise mechanics to battle against in the future.

At least that is my two cents. The grand large scale pvp of EVE is fascinating to watch, but its about as hard core as it gets for a game, and so while I follow the news with interest, I know its outside the scope of my participation, and I suspect that is true for a great number of gamers. EVE has succeeded in creating a core of deeply invested players (which is good) and also managed to segregate its playground in a fairly significant fashion (not sure if that is good or not, but my gut reaction is that I don’t like it).

CFC/Goonswarm is usually the most well known of these groups in Null Sec, but they are certainly not the only long term alliance around. They are though, the most successful and control a very sizable chunk of the territory. And I have had a theory for some time that I thought I was not the only one to hold. But nobody else that I have seen has mentioned it thus far, so I wanted to toss it out there. But first, some background information.

I know that the Goons have a great interest in Star Citizen – this was made abundantly clear as a threat when the World of Tanks campaigns started and some of the mechanics caused an uproar in the forums, along with the threat to leave WoT and go do something else. Along the way a huge thread opened about this very topic, and before a few pages had gone by, Star Citizen was brought up, and then lifetime insurance sales started (only existing long term backers can provide this to new backers…or could for a while, the whole thing may be done now). Interestingly enough, all the heavily invested Star Citizen players were also Goons. And by heavily invested I mean pledges to the game along the lines of $250 to $1000 and sometimes more.

I tell you this because it just gave some anecdotal evidence to my theory, which was simply this: I have always believed that at some unspecified point, when the EVE metagame got boring to the Mittani and the rest of the crew, they would simply pack up and leave. And I figured this would probably happen while they were on top. And I figured it would happen in typical Goon fashion: by causing the most chaos and tears possible in the process.

One day most of null sec is locked down and alliances are rolling and renters are renting, and then the next day, everyone wakes up and…its all gone. Towers are down, claims are open, alliances and corps are disbanded, trillions and trillions of ISK worth of minerals, items, and ships are locked in stations forever…

And then there are the secondary repercussions. Sure at first the other alliances will scramble for space, but the implications for what this mass withdrawal might do the economy of the game are interesting to ponder. What happens to mineral and ship prices? Are there enough pilots and alliances left to take all that territory? Will we still see fights involving thousands of unique accounts? Or will the vacuum cause an implosion and some fundamental changes in the way the game works, feels, and plays?

And what might be the impact to the out of game economy – what does CCP stand to lose in such a move? What if what started years ago in a move to bring down a player corp would end in a metagame that brought down a real life corp, or at least rocked its world financially?

Anyway, the final pondering here is that the EVE playerbase should be careful what it wishes for. Yes, Null Sec is stagnant. But now that it is there, be careful what you wish for. Because if you wish it gone, it may just happen in spectacular fashion, and in a way that might just impact the entirety of the playerbase.

Of course, you can tell me to take off my tin foil hat, and go back to the games I play and leave EVE alone. And there would be merit in that. But you can’t tell me the Goons wouldn’t absolutely love every minute of it if things went down this way. And I dare you to write a final act for that alliance that is in any way more fitting than this one.

And if it does happen this way? Christ Roberts, beware!

Time Capsule 2014

I really liked the format last year and enjoyed coming back to it. So the concept will go on for another year, but with a new name to better reflect what I’m looking to do.

The truth is, this post is a time capsule. I mark this place to show where I was at in my thoughts, hopes, dreams, desires, and questions at the beginning of the year. That is what is fun for me. So there are basically three sections below. The first deals with my hopes and desires for the coming year – what I want to accomplish or would like to see come to pass. The second is staking out, in the grand blogging tradition, what games I will return to to try again or just to enjoy again. And the third is my list of burning questions – my musings and ponderings about what 2014 might hold.

The Crypt of Civilization, the world’s most ambitious time capsule, and one of the inspirations of this post.

What I Am Looking Forward To

The Vought F7U Cutless. I’ve played around on the WoWp test server with enough of the high tier aircraft to know that I was made for this plane. Originally the fastest of the tier 10 jets, that has been eclipsed by the new British line. But, unlike its real world counterpart, this plane handles like a dream. I have led a two plane chase column from one end of a high tier map to the other without getting shot down, because of its incredible pitch and roll rates. It also has decent firepower and a great climb rate, making it the perfect ending to a line that already has those traits going for it. I’m finishing up the F4F Wildcat right now, and then its on to the Corsair for a couple of tiers, before transitiong to the F6U Pirate, the only hiccup in the line. It follows a bit too closely to its real world counterpart. And quite frankly, its an odd choice – the line would more logically go through the F2H Banshee, a production aircraft, rather than the Pirate.

In any case, this is probably my first planned foray up the tech tree in WoWp, along with the Messerschmitt line culminating in the severely OP Me 262 mark 3. Because you can’t ignore the OP stuff in the world of PvP. You could also include in this that I am overall looking forward to a growing player base for WoWp.

Elder Scrolls Mania. I got Skyrim for Christmas and have been enjoying it – except for the random murders of important townsfolk that I have no power to stop, which apparently happens at random. And I got to try my hand at the ESO Beta, and while its under NDA, I think it would be okay for me to tell you that I went from being “meh” on it to being very excited for it. I am not excited about a subscription fee, but I honestly don’t see that lasting more than about six months time. How about you?

Playing Old RPG Franchises. I picked up Wizardry 6-8 from Steam over the holidays. I was a Might and Magic fan growing up and just didn’t have the money to follow both series. So I’ve always wanted to go back and try it out, and that is exactly what I intend to do – at the bargain basement price of $2.75, which I could have afforded even back then, had they been on sale that low! Speaking of Might and Magic, UBI continues to develop MMX: Legacy, and I will continue to watch and wait eagerly, thought I have not been ready yet to drop the $30 they want for early access and testing on Steam. I may not be able to contain myself much longer though. Speaking of which, my other holiday Steam purchase was Conquest of Elysium 3, by the same people that created Dominions 3 and most recently just released Dominions 4. It takes more of an RPG flavor than the grand strategic scale of Dominions, but there is no denying the connections between the two. Speaking of which, you can now also get Dom 3 for a mere $20 on Steam. I absolutely guarantee that this game is worth its original asking price of 3x that amount. I can also include the Agarest series on here, as hopefully Ghostlight makes more of them available on Steam. The game got a terrible rap for confusing combat and its supposedly heavy fan service. So far I’ve seen less fan service than your typical Bong movie, and the combat is quite excellent – thought if you jumped the tutorial because the game looked a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics, I can imagine you got your butt handed to you more than once. The game looks the same but the system is very, very different.

I could have included this in my “Return To” section below, but I tend to think of that as more in the realm of MMO’s.

The Return of WoW. I am excited about the possibilities of the new expansion (especially the base/home), and the inclusion of a max level character. I have actually been playing around on my free WoW account some over the holidays. It seems strange to say it in some ways, but I firmly believe that WoW is a better game now than it was when I left it 5 years ago. At this point, unless ESO just absolutely grabs me by the head and won’t let go, I intend to spend a few months in Azeroth towards the end of the year (assuming that is inded when it drops).

Burning Questions for 2014

What Will Come of Wildstar? I’m not sure it can be said loudly or clearly enough, but Wildstar wants to be the WoW killer. From the art style to the considered goals, to the planning of races and classes, the goal can’t be seen as anything other than an attempt to invade the fertile subscription lands that WoW occupies. Maybe its just me, but when I hear ESO talk subs, I think its just a placeholder to recoup costs. When I hear Wildstar say it (perhaps because of the announcement of its version of Plex/Kronos), I think they intend to stick with it. I can’t help but think they will fail. I have no ill will to the game really, though I do think its a major step backwards to limit your race/class combos, so I’m not looking to be right here in the vindictive sense, but I just can’t imagine what it is about this game that will make it a lasting presence on the MMO landscape. On the other hand, I felt the same way about Guild Wars 2…

Will ArcheAge Be Arriving in 2014? Its been out for a year over in Korea. Its in testing with players over in RU as we speak. Yet we have nothing more than a basic placeholder site and zero information about release dates or just about anything else with regards to a timeline here. I submitted a question for the Game On Podcast (about the PR machine) and Victor Barreiro seems to think that Hartman was encouraging, but I was disappointed with the overall lack of response, not just on my question but on the game overall. One the one hand, the game is ready – just translation issues remain. On the other hand, we can’t give any further information or dates or even a range of dates. If we can’t give a range of dates even on a PR buildup, I have to think the game is really far off. Any yet I can’t imagine that if all that is remaining is the final stage of localization, that it would be on hold for another full year. The bottom line here is that this is my next big game that I have great hopes for, and the sooner it gets here, whether that be to fulfill my expectations or dash them, the better I will be.

How Will WarThunder’s Gound Game Hold Up Against World of Tanks? WarThunder’s vision is ambitious. Put planes and tanks together on the same battlefield. I can’t think that this will be easy to implement or balance, let along do those two things while making it fun to play. So I’m curious to see how it plays out. WarThunder and WoWp are different enough that they draw their own individual crowds, but there is something about the ground game that will be interesting to watch play out. Maybe just because Wargaming has more to lose than Gaijin does. Then again, WoT is the WoW of the military battleground world. Their position is going to be tough enough to assail without the added design complications that Gaijin is imposing on itself.

Return To…

I’ve pondered this one a lot over the past few weeks. Initial thoughts included Age of Conan, Dark Age of Camelot, or Neverwinter Nights. But NWN still doesn’t have a class that really drives me to want to play the game. Conan I got as far as downloaded and taking my old character out for a test drive, but an hour later I was done. So done. Dark Age is an old title, but with the coming of Camelot Unchained, I thought it might be fun to play for a bit and do a compare contrast as the year brings more information. Still, it is dated and we may still be a ways from Camelot Unchained. Plus, as a divided market now intends – it is still a subscription game, and that means there is a barrier to entry there that other options don’t have.

In the end, I thought about what I wanted out of the experience. I said to myself that these will be long term, but part time efforts. I have main, “every night” kind of games, but I want games I can “marathon” in – play one or two nights a week, draw the experience out for a year and really enjoy it and not feel like I have to log in every night to keep the world turning. With that in mind, I settled in on two:

EVE Online. On a whim, because I loved the idea and what was inside, and boosted by Wilhelm‘s glowing review of it, I placed the EVE Second Decade Collector’s Edition on my Christmas Wish List. I honestly didn’t think I would get it, but…what the hell, it was Christmas, right? Well my parents spoiled me, and I absolutely love it. The Rifter looks great on my desk, and I’m super excited about the board game, which looks like fun. And the soundtrack and history book are absolutely worth the price alone. And the game itself is perfect for the drop in/drop out mentality now that I think about it. I’ve always been desperate to fill time in EVE – but the long time EVE players like Kirith Kodachi and even Wilhelm, don’t seem to be people who play it every day. Maybe my pacing has just been off. If nothing else, I always enjoy just flying in space. While there is a subscription barrier here as well, but I think its worth it given my past experience with the game.

SWTOR. I have decided after long consideration to hit the reset button on SWTOR. I never did get past the starter planets on the side of the Republic. I would love to see the other half of the galaxy. And the idea of just following the storyline, and filling in the blanks with the minigame, ducking the sometimes irritating side missions – which also cuts down on the overly long leveling cycle, particularly towards the end. And, free to play, very good if I’m burning my two sub limit on ESO and EVE.

I don’t like that SWTOR under-reached for their Galactic Starfighter expansion, I think it was dumb and yet another let down, on top of being blatant plagiarism. But while I think that, I’m more interested in blogging about my experience in the game, than spending more time shredding them for the move. In other words, it sucks for the MMO world but it benefits me, so I’m gonna roll with it.

Does Winning Matter?

Warning: this is a long post. If you want the TL;DR version, skipped to the bolded text at the end.

So this isn’t one of my originally scheduled posts, but I have been pondering this for awhile, and something came up today that kind of tied it all together.

A player in the “ask a developer” thread for World of Tanks, asked it was really necessary in keeping count of statistics, to track player’s winrates. SerB, aka the head honcho/big cheese of WoT, had a response for him in his typical trolling fashion (h/t FTR):

A: “I will meditate on that… no, I don’t even know what to say, I have no words. Young man, understand that winrate is just the amount of your victories, divided by the amount of your battles in general and multiplied by 100. To remove this indicator is possible only if we reset the battle count to zero (and in your case, use the free time to train your mental abilities).”

This is not a shocking answer, given that SerB and WG staff in general have always been clear that they feel that overall win rate is the only real indicator of a player’s skill. The argument is that though you may encounter a bad team (ie, be surrounded by assholes), if you are good, your contributions will occasionally tip the scales in your team’s favor, and that over the course of thousands of battles, this means a better winrate.

Of course, there are problems with this, but still, its generally accepted to be one of the big indicators of skill. As I posted a few days ago, my winrate in Warplanes hovers around 63-64%, which is considered great, but not elite (its easier to “carry” a bad team in warplanes, and grouped players can have significant impact on an outcome). In tanks, my win rate is closing in on 53%, which is above good but not great.

But the funny thing is, in the PvP games I do play, win rate is really only a big deal in the WG titles. In Battlefield, its more about your Kill/Death ratio. While Win/Loss is tracked, its not talked about a lot. Meanwhile, whether through the fact that they are a floundering title that appears to have no idea what they are doing, or because they are just on some anti-stat crusade, Mechwarrior Online doesn’t bother charting any of your stats. (The really skill-intensive clans have to play some matches with applicants and observe them in combat – which probably isn’t a bad thing). EVE Online seems to be about how many kill mails you get on, though there is some secondary thought to how many ships/pods you lose (and how you lose them).

So I wonder about getting hung up on win rate. I certainly do. I have been very careful about how and when I play and who I play with and what planes I play with. I want to maintain that win rate (and in the case of tanks, grow it). I get grumpy if I log off at night and I’ve lost more than I’ve won.

As with all things in life, I think balance is the key. So I’ve been spending some nights away from my PvP endeavors, enjoying some other ventures. TERA is still fun, and I’ve been working through a couple of nostalgia titles in my Steam library. There has to be a place in there some where that winning feels good but losing doesn’t feel bad. Where you can play a game for the fun of the game and not be constantly setting goals and achievements for yourself.

And here comes the TL;DR of it all: I really don’t think I’ve found that in an online game yet. Everything is about leveling up, or winning, or gathering, or achieving. In other words – its all about progress. And in some ways, I kinda find that sad.

The closest I can come to finding this has, I think, been in Star Trek Online. I got on last week to play the Season 8 Featured Episode, originally for the cool ship that came with it. But I got sucked in by the storytelling and really had a good time. I could only do that though, because I was at level cap. In fact, I made a point of capping both my KDF and STF characters and only now am I going back and doing the storyline missions. I’m not worried about if my gear is good enough, or if I have the right ship, and the difficulty that scales to your level is just enough to make it interesting.

What if there were an MMO that was not about progress or gear. Just about making the character you wanted and taking them on adventures. Maybe one day, we can hope, winning won’t matter in some games, some of the time. That would be enough for me. Because the rest of the time, in planes and tanks and on battlefields…you’re going down.

Quote of the Day: Cracked Explains EVE Online

Actually playing [EVE] is like being one of the attackers in the Battle of Helm’s Deep: Something awesome is happening, but most of your life has been boring drudgery and now you’re going to be killed by characters who’ve been here longer.

That pretty much sums it up for the majority of people who have played, are playing, or will play the game. That’s not to say its not a great game, it is. But its also a bit of a meat grinder with a siren’s call.

The rest of the article details ways that videogames are going through great lengths to screw us. Wilhelm will be both impressed that STO’s lockboxes made the cut, and disappointed that it only came in fourth on the list.

Can Players Create Lore?

So there have been a few posts recently about Lore, since that was the topic in the latest EVE blogpack.   Now I’m not currently subbed to EVE online, but I still read along.   I have long since discovered that EVE is a game that I have more fun with when I am not subbed up.    I was a little surprised to see, that the topic of in game lore seemed to turn immediately to a glowing praise of what players had done in the sandbox and how little actual lore was in the game itself.

 

Mostly, I had severe cognitive dissonance when official company lore was only said to be effective when it impacts “in game realities,” according to Kirith Kodachi, the new headmaster of the Blog Banter (which is a very good thing!).   Wilhelm seems to, consciously or not, echo the sentiment when he pokes fun at the oft forgotten idea of crews in EVE Online.

 

(One a side note – Jester’s crew size chart is egregiously bad.  Kodachi’s Project Athena is better, but still off the mark.  Official game lore sets the crew size for an Apocalypse class battleship at a minimum of 6,314, with capsuleer.)

 

And yet…when we turn our bright shining spotlight on player created lore, this primary metric – impacting in game realities – almost seems to get tossed to the wayside.  So long as it is player generated, it must be lore!  Even if it has absolutely no impact on a significant portion of the playerbase.

 

And that is my bone to pick.   I agree that lore is not really lore in any meaningful sense, unless it impacts the game itself.    And player generated stories never will in anything more than a secondary fashion, if that.  In this primary metric, they can’t hold a candle to even the most basic (or troped) lore that is written for the game itself.  You can poo-poo or denigrate in game lore all you want to, but you are just cursing the chair that is currently bearing your weight.  Its doing its job, whether you appreciate it or not.

 

That is not to say that I don’t enjoy those stories.   I have followed the Goon-TEST war with great interest, curious about who would win (while also asking in the back of my head the silent question we all ask:   when and how (and if) Goonswarm will one day fall?  But for all that enjoyment I got from reading, hearing updates, seeing screenshots – none of it impacted my in game reality as much as when CCP decided to reinforce the lore of Amarr being secondary drone users by turning the Prophecy and Armageddon into drone boats.

 

You can, absolutely, most assuredly,  impact some of the playerbase, some of the time, with player actions.   Particularly in a game as sandbox as EVE is, where it is easiest (and one could argue, for a successful sandbox, most imperative) to do so.  And yet what drove those stories in the first place was the in game lore of wealth that comes from moons and sovereignty of who controls them.   I would be willing to go so far as to say that player generated lore is not possible without the foundation of game/developer generated lore.

 

Though he never came out and said it directly, I believe that was the underlying thrust of what Tobold was getting at when he was trying to dismantle the common euphemisms of “sandbox” and “theme-park”.   There is no pure sandbox because you need the lore of the theme-park to provide the “game” of the “world” that players are happily playing in.

 

Again, this is not to cut down what players do.   It has great value and enjoyment.   It can be voluntarily adopted by individual or even groups of players – an action commonly known as roleplaying, thought I’m sure some of the hardcore null-sec players would be amused at the thought.   And there is a sense in which player generated ideas that don’t have an impact on the game – can still have an impact on ones gameplay experience.  Kodachi’s Project Athena, mentioned before, has no affect on the game of EVE Online – and yet, reading the backgrounds he put together (using gamer/developer generated lore as a starting point!) enriches my experience every time I log into EVE Online and see some of those ships in action.  It fires my imagination and makes opening fire in the game that much more exciting for me.

 

So, I guess in the end I’m willing to broaden the definition of lore a bit, personally.   But if I do, I will be allowing the developers  the same standard that I am letting players hold to.   For example, my character in EVE Online is an Intaki Reborn.   If I am going to consider player initiatives like Project Athena as lore, I am also going to lift up the same consideration to the vestigial race system in the game.

 

But I will not be saying that developer lore has to impact the game, while at the same time allowing player lore to be exempt from that standard.  Either both will have it or neither.  Your mileage may vary.

Wandering in Metropolis

So I’ve had a few days to catch my bearings in EVE.  There are so many improvements in the game its making me spoiled.  First up, the new turrets…well, after taking a day or so to get used to them, and seeing the wide variety of graphics, including the “ZOMG I can see my missile launchers!” moment, I give it two thumbs up.

 

Looking deadly as ever.
Looking deadly as ever.

 

Mostly I’m impressed with the wide variety of improvements to mission running though.  The in game agent finder, coupled with the removal of the “agent quality” system, made life much easier on me.   Before I had a single corp that I could run some level 3 missions with that was 20 or so jumps from my home base.  Now I can do level 4’s with them, and 3’s with everyone else in that faction (Minmatar), and at least 2’s with everyone else – though I am within one storyline mission (or career tutorial, now that I think about it…hmmm) from hitting 3’s with Gallente as well.   In fact, I’m so likeable, the list of people who I’m on the bad side of is surprisingly slim:

 

bad standings

 

All the graphical updates are welcome as well.   But the trick in EVE, as always, is learning to set your own agenda.   And I think I am having a desire to play the game and success in that because I’ve learned to ask the question in a new way:

 

What would you have fun doing right now?

 

I’ve learned long ago, that being in large fleets and watching thousands of missiles fly just isn’t me.  A strong argument could be made for that being the meat and potatoes of what makes the EVE world go ’round (yeah, I just mixed some metaphors there, deal).    But I think what I have discovered is something I said, long, long about about Shadowbane – PvP games make the best sandbox spaces for non-PvP players.   Its a weird side effect but it is true.  In developers giving players the space they need to hit each other in a variety of ways, they inadvertently create wonderful sandboxes from non-PvP people to come along for the ride.

 

That’s not to say I’m anti-PvP.  I play World of Tanks for goodness sake.  And I’ve enjoyed my PvP experiences in EVE, limited as they have been.   But there is something to be said for living in the shadow of a richly detailed world.   And so when I ask that question above, the answer may not be the one that is fun for anyone but me.  And that is okay.

 

Right now I’m having fun training and fitting my interceptor with an eye towards doing some low sec roams for giggles.  And in trying my hand at farming microorganisms in planetary interaction.   And in trying to decide what to do with the almost 200 datacores I amassed (apparently Research Points accumulate even when you are offline).   And I found a few old friends to fly with, so I’m having fun doing whatever they have fun doing as well.

 

Not a bad start to what looks to be another lengthy stay in the world of New Eden.