Five For Friday: ArcheAges, Hexes, and Planes, Oh My!

So, now that Easter and Holy Week are over, I can breathe again and resume some posting. So this is a bit of a catchup post.

1) ArcheAge is Finally Starting to Appear On the Radar Screen

Some of the fun has gone out of this for me, since I have had an account on the RU server for about a month now. But its hard to play when you don’t know what anyone is saying, so I’m happy to had this game in English finally. I’m not keen on the Founder’s Packs, but I guess that’s how business is handled these days.

The packs themselves are pretty fairly priced, though I am surprised there is not a $20 version (perhaps that will come later?). The $150 version gets you plenty of “credits” ($75), 3 months of subscriber status ($45), a pretty sweet looking glider/flying mount (~$15?), a full armor/cloak wardrobe with options to let you put your own design on them (~$10?), and some random consumables and lockboxes (apparently you don’t need keys to open the boxes?). So there is still no real cost to the testing process (which is good) and if you are willing to plop down the equivalent of a collector’s edition, you get Alpha time as well. If that is too rich for your blood, the cheapest $50 pack is not bad either, though a bit misleading. It says $20 in credit, but the exchange rate on that is lower than the other packs. So really the breakdown is “credits” ($16.67), a month of sub status ($15), and a dumb looking glider/flying mount (~$10). So…yeah, not as good a deal. You are paying a little extra for Beta access in that one I guess.

Which is odd to me – are you trying to push people up the ladder? For a game that has not gotten the reception or hype of other AAA games and has, in addition, the skepticism of being an “eastern mmo” transplant? Wouldn’t you instead want, like $150, $75, and $20 options? For heavy hitters who want to go up, and skeptics who want to taste without getting burned? How is having a $50 minimum package helpful?

In any case, with Zenimax/Bethesda now 11 days into ignoring my support ticket, I am without a staple fantasy MMO. I’m not sure I can swallow another $150 package after TOR, but since I know and enjoy the basic game from the RU server, I could see putting down $100.

2) Hex Digital TCG Enters “Closed Beta”

As of yesterday, Hex is live and rolling. Despite the Closed Beta status, there will be no wipes, and I have 155 regular booster packs and 7 primal packs (all rare/legendary cards) waiting for me. I’m debating how many to open and how many to hold on to for the future. VIP status is not active yet, and none of the PVE game is running, but casual and tournament PvP is live! The game looks and plays great, and even in Alpha was a pretty stable game. Since I am mostly fascinated with the PvE side of the game, I’m still in waiting mode, but its nice to have my for real cards and deck builder rolling, and a chance to play around. I spent $120 on the King status, and unlike TOR, so far I am in the opposite direction – had I the capacity, I would have spent $500 on the Grand King status instead. CZE has really outdone itself with this thing.

3) World of Warplanes Gets Pancakes

Its finally here, along with the P-38 Lightning!

4) Elder Scrolls Was Awesome…for the Five Days I Got To Play It

fern teso

Now its hiding…like a fern I suppose. Anyway, the story behind the story – I ordered the Imperial Edition from Amazon, got my headstart, and then apparently Amazon failed to charge my card and cancelled by order. Without telling me. So now I don’t have the game. And if I buy it now, I don’t have any of the preorder bonuses either. Amazon, which is usually good with these things, has categorically refused to reopen the order, and will not give me any information about which of my credit cards they attempted to charge (or proof that they did so, since I get notified of failed transactions as account protection). Zenimax/Bethesda was originally good, saying they could handle it. I sent them the information they said they needed…and eleven days later, I still stand waiting. I could go ahead and buy it, but its the only real leverage I have to get the preorder bonuses that I wanted. So we are in a standoff to see who is more stubborn. In the interim, they are losing the ~$200 or so from the Imperial Edition and the planned six month sub, and I am without the fantasy MMO that was to be my flagship game this year. So, its a lose lose every day. And yes, I am continuing to contact them, every day. I could call…but its the principle of the thing.

5) EVE Is Apparently Dismantling Hi Sec?

EVE, always good for drama. The key touchstone here for me is that I wanted to start up a small hi-sec industry line (and maybe POS) for income. So now I have to go back to finding something new to do in EVE…or just quit again like I always do.

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!

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.

Returning to New Eden

So I cleared the VK3002DB and the Pershing off my schedule, and shelved the Su-100 for the time being.  So I barged back into EVE.  And I spent the first night in the game doing…nothing.  Just trying to get my bearings.  At a distance, EVE seems simple enough, but once you get in, there are a lot of moving parts.  And I often get distracted jumping from one thing to another.  “Oooh shiny!” is not a bad reference in this case.

 

There were a few things that I hadn’t quite remembered right – I seem to have sold off my Purifier and my Anathema.  The former I can deal with, I can’t for the life of me figure out why I sold off the latter though.  I do still have my Prophecy, mission fitted and ready to rock.   I am not ready for blockade runners, I still need another three weeks to get into one.  I’ve never done the “Incarna” or “sculpting” thing before, so that took awhile.

 

Didn’t turn out too bad.

 

After that it was a matter of remembering how to fly.  I took out the shuttle and surveyed the planets in my current solar system, did a jump or two in my recon ship trying to remember what does and does not drop cloak and all that jazz.  Then I pulled out some guns and tried to find some hi-sec rats to practice on – but the only place I found one some guy with far less skill points than me was beating up on them, so I decided not to butt in.

 

If all that sounds stupid, maybe it is.  But I’ve always approached with something akin to awe.  It continues to be the only MMO that seems like its larger than life – larger even than a game.  Part of me would love to get over that and the shackles that come with it.  But part of me would not be entirely unhappy if that sense of wonder stayed with me forever.

 

So for the time being, I stuck with some familiar faces.

 

Did you miss me?
Did you miss me?

 

But one thing I do know is that, sense of wonder or not, EVE is certainly a game that is more fun when played with others.  So it wasn’t long before I popped open my contacts list.   But as it turned out, nobody was home.  My old corp did a purge of the roster just over a year ago, and so I was in an NPC corp.  And while the member count is still listed as 13 there, I haven’t seen any of them online the last two nights.  Not just them, but all the other contacts and friends I made over the years…nobody was blinking.

 

Nobody home...
Nobody home…

 

So for the time being, I am contenting myself with exploring planetary command and getting some R&D going.   And trying to figure out what to do with my skill list.  I’m sitting at 21.5 million skill points, and I have around 850k still undistributed from the Great Skill Book Recall of 2010.   So I made a list of all the skills I still wanted.  It clocks in at about 14 million.  So I guess I have some paring down to do.

 

And I have to decide if I’m moving or not.  Really the only reason I am where I am is because that is where the old corp was.  If I find a new corp home, of course I will be wherever they are, but until then, I have to decide of I’m okay where I’m at or if I want to back everything up and find a place to settle in at.  Gallente space is just fine with me, but most of my currently accumulated LP and standings are Minmatar based, and most of my ship skills are Amarr based, so it might be worth it too look around and see what options there might be.

I See a Prophecy in my Future

So I have a rare day off at home today, and I was catching up on some blog reading.  I dipped over to Kirith’s blog since I hadn’t been there in a while, since I left EVE by the wayside.  But he occasionally does World of Tanks updates, and beyond that KK is just good at what he does – one of those bloggers where you will read even about games and topics you might not otherwise have interest in.

 

And scrolling through a couple of articles, I find this one about updates to armor tanking and changes to battlecruisers (sorry, now called “combat battlecruisers”).  Some of the changes are minor tweaks – but some are pretty radical.  The Drake is getting the nerf-bat (finally…that only took like 3 years), and the Cyclone is getting re-purposed to join it as a missile boat.

 

Meanwhile, my favorite ship, my every-day mission running, gang roving, “I just wanna fly” battlecruiser, the Prophecy, is no longer a laser boat.  No, now it is a drone boat.  That can fit launchers or turrets.  And it got a buff to its already excellent armor tank.

 

2010.11.19.02.30.03

 

Prophecy:

Battlecruiser skill bonuses:
5% bonus to all Armor Resistances
10% bonus to drone damage and hitpoints

Fixed Bonus:
Can fit Warfare Link modules

Slot layout: 5 H (-2), 4 M (+1), 7 L (+1), 4 turrets (-2), 4 Launchers (+3)
Fittings: 1100 PWG (-200), 415 CPU (+75)
Defense (shields / armor / hull) : 3000(-419) / 5500(+617) / 4000(-395)
Capacitor (amount / recharge rate / average cap per second): 2850(+37.5) / 750s / 3.8 (+0.05)
Mobility (max velocity / agility / mass / align time): 150 / 0.704 / 12900000 (-600,000) / 8.5s (-0.4)
Drones (bandwidth / bay): 75 (+50) / 225 (+200)
Targeting (max targeting range / Scan Resolution / Max Locked targets): 50km / 210 / 6
Sensor strength: 17 Radar (+1)
Signature radius: 270 (+5)
Cargo capacity: 400 (+50)

 

In other words, its now the battlecruiser equivalent of my favorite cruiser, the Arbitrator.  I had long since traded my Arby in for a Pilgrim, as you’ll recall, for us in exploration.  And with that, since there were no gun and missile bonuses, I did something utterly illogical, but super fun – I put heavy artillery on it.  Though I didn’t highlight it above, the ship now also has more mid and low slots, for good flexibility.

 

But wait, like Ginsu knives…there’s more.  There are also new armor repair mechanics in place, the funnest of which now offer a powered repper that uses nanite repair paste as ammunition.  Which gives me a reason to get involved in planetary mechanics.  That’s pretty awesome as well.  Exploring in the Pilgrim, doing missions/faction warfare in the Prophecy, doing a little planetary governship in my downtime.   Sounds about right.

 

And just to put the final nail in the coffin…EVE has since integrated with Amazon – you can buy all sorts of things using your Amazon credit.  For example, 3 PLEX is just $12 more than a three month sub straight off the EVE site.  So, for $12 more, I can get 4 months of game time, and a nice cash bonus…which I will need since I quit the game with pretty much nothing left in the bank account.  :-p  Or for a few bucks more than a regular sub, you can get a nifty little custom Catalyst.  And I am always a sucker for a new ship.  And I have a little stockpile of Amazon credit.

 

Now then…which of the EVE fitting tools is king of the hill these days?   And are any of your corps hiring?