Friday, August 31, 2007

Life and Death

Friends are one of the most important parts of being part of a group. You would have friends from school, from work, and even friends online. Friendship is one idea that cannot be ignored in a game that is basically a world on it's own.

But friends go beyond just gaming at times. When someone's is in trouble, real trouble, and that someone is a good friend of yours, what would you do?

You'd go out of your way to help him, right? Its not only the right thing to do, its also the only thing to do. He's a buddy, he's a pal, he's a friend. There's no if's, no but's, no huh's.

I've made many friends in my time online in EVE Online, mostly just good combat buddies I can trust to keep an eye on my ass when the shooting starts. Even if we end up on opposing fronts, once off the battlefield, I'd still take him to the bar for a good drink and talk about the battle, and other sorts.

But sometimes you meet someone who you end up being part of for the rest of your life. Best friends are what I'm talking about. They're the kind who are always there when you need em, and the kind that you'd help out even if they really didnt need it, just because you can.
They're one in a million, and are irreplaceable. They mean a lot more than that shiny new battleship or that new blueprint original you need for manufacturing, because they're a friend you can truly trust.

A fellow capsuleer has lost a good friend, and I wish him condolences on his great loss, and condolences to the family of the lost friend. I know how he feels, how earth-shattering it can be when someone close to you ends up with the worst hand on the table and is forced out of the game. Nothing truly bring that person back, except the good memories of that person when they were still around.

I guess the greatest gift a true friend can give is the memories and the good times, because once they're gone, thats all you'll ever have of them. And it is true, what they leave behind lives on in you, and everyone else they've touched.

Even though I personally never met this capsuleer or his friend, it still sends out shockwaves of sorrow through the entire community. Whilst true that many may not care, there are many who do, because losing a friend is something that nobody wishes upon someone else, because its too painful to bear. It overshadows my own loss of family member and friends due to health reasons as well, something I wish not happen to anyone, at all. *sigh* What can I say...

Rest in peace, Azuran. May you find the peace that many of the living forever seek, but never find. Rest in peace, friend, you will be missed.

We are Legion

So, lets say you've found the corporation for you, and want to help your corpmates out as they help you along in your chosen career path. Well, there are also some basic steps you can take that are true for nearly all professions involved.

Some tips are:

1. Listen to your CEO. Most of the time your CEO has way more experience in handling matters you may just be learning to understand. Also, besides from assigned "diplomats" who speak on the CEO's behalf in out-of-corp matters, your CEO is also the spokesperson for the corp. What he says, goes most of the time. CEO's are most often good team leaders, who actually do it for a living, or just have the natural talent to lead. It's rare to bump into a corporation that is succeeding with a horrible CEO as its head.

2. Be helpful to your corpmates. Sure you're just a new guy in the corporation, and may not get some of the group mechanics that the older guys have made standard in their gaming. Thats normal. Just be understanding and as helpful as possible. Offer help when you think you can do so, and even if you're turned down, the gesture is nearly never ignored down the line.

3. When one of your superiors asks you to do something within reason for the corp, dont hesitate to do it, and if possible, go above and beyond the call of duty. Good help is very hard to find nowadays, and the more resourceful people helping the corporation succeed, the better it is for everyone, including you.

4. Make friends. Whilst true that trusting someone enough to consider them as a friend is a risky venture in a harsh game like EVE, it has also proven to be the deciding factor in may of the great history-making player actions that has made EVE what it is. For example: when I accidentally deleted my old Amarr main (with all the stuff on it), I was basically starting from scratch. An old friend of mine (still is, though he doesnt come on as much anymore) spotted me up some major isk to get me going pronto. If he didnt, I'd probably be still in a cruiser stuck doing lvl2 missions.

(Okay fine, it isnt one of those big historial events of EVE, but I had to think of something, and if you consider it, putting yourselves in my shoes, that single action of helping me out to restart is a big thing, right?)

5. Be open-minded to better opportunities. Sometimes being stuck in a certain profession can become stagnant. For example, in an old corp I joined, one of our industrial characters was considering retiring from EVE, as manufacturing was already, to him, easy to do, even for advanced tech 2 items. We suggested he give combat a shot, and he did. He now is one of the better pilots of the corporation before I left. This may contradict the advice to specialize a bit but also consider, once you're good at something, good enough that you can consider yourself "done" on that aspect of the game, try something else. Variety is the spice of life, and your corporation will benefit from people like you who can do many different things when the designated person to do this one job isnt around, but you just happen to finish the skill training for that job.

Friendships and good connections are a path to success in life, and in multiplayer games as well. Your reputation is also another factor to consider, as this is just one persistent world, your actions affect all the others who play EVE. True success in EVE is not measured by one person, but by the actions of an entire group of people. Sure you may be overshadowed by the group's name and leader speaking for you all, but all in all, being part of something, no matter how big or small, is basically what we humans want. We are a social race of beings, after all.

Trust is a weakness

Due to the "adapt or die" mentality that prevails in EVE, trust is often seen as a weakness. It is a point in itself. You dont just easily trust the stranger you just met down the alleyway to help you in carrying a heavy load. Who knows, he could easily just brandish a knife and stick you. All deities above (and below), I hope that never happens to you, dear readers, but it stresses a point that you should be careful in day-to-day dealings with people in real life, and also in EVE because of the fact that they can easily take you down to the point of insignificance as well as help you reach great heights.

So, to help aspirant capsuleers in their future careers, simple tips of safety in EVE:

1. Never accept gang invites unless you are absolutely sure the other person/s in the gang are friendly/trustworthy. There's currently a nasty loophole in where if a gang has members of two opposing corporations currently in a CONCORD-sanctioned war, anyone added into the gang is free-game for all, and thus can be killed without CONCORD provocation.

(CONCORD btw, is the NPC "police" of EVE. They only provide consequences, not safety, in higher-security space)

2. Get into a corporation that you are sure you can trust to take care of you. Many make it their game-life's work to train aspirant capsuleers in the ways of EVE. Others may trick you into coming into their corp so they can just shoot you (which is legal for player corporations), in which case you can leave (and if they do use tricks to keep you in the corp, you can petition for game harassment).

3. Once in low-security space, always expect trouble. If traveling through untrusted space, have a corpmate scout ahead of you, and if possible, have combat ship escorts from your corp as well. Its fun too, especially if everyone in the corp benefits from your travel.

4. Use the map and its many filters. The map can tell you of combat activity well before you arrive. The show ship kills in the last hour and show pod kills in the last hour are two of the most powerful filter settings you can use to plot ahead when in unsafe space.

5. Learn how to use the directional scanner. The scanner is a vital tool in checking whats up ahead and whats around you. You can scan as far as 14.5 Au with the directional scanner. A common trick is to warp close enough to your intended destination (but not at), and, if close enough, scan your destination for possible ships. If there are, assume they're hostile, even if it's a shuttle or a industrial ship. They can still give intel to other capsuleers who do have combat ship to hunt you down.

6. Play smart. Use your head in planning and doing what you want to do in EVE. Trusting people in EVE is a risk, which can either lead to great success, or great failure. Corporation spying is everywhere, and so is corp theft. Think ahead on your next course of action and see if its safe enough for all parties involved. The less risk, the better.

Now, what about being part of a good corporation? What can you do to help everyone's success and your own? Thats for the next post.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

EVE Is Harsh

EVE is harsh. I will not lie to you about it. In fact, because of its harsh gameplay and darwinistic evolution, many have left the game because of it. Many more have joined because it is so harsh.

Being smart in playing EVE is very rewarding. In fact, playing smart can actually earn you ISK indirectly. For example. I once spotted a huge debris field empty of loot, but full of wrecks from a leftover war from neighbors. Most of my corpmates were around the area, so I knew it was safe enough to go take out my salvager ship and salvage the wrecks for components for rigs.

I earned 100 million that day :D

EVE will reward you if you play smart, thats just one example. Play it without thinking ahead can be fatal to your gaming experience.

EVE is not a HappyLand Online game, as this thread says. It is harsh, brutal, unforgiving, and will kill you even if you look at it bad.

It doesnt mean its unplayable. Look at me and the many other filipino gamers in EVE (around 65 in the Filipino corporation). They made it, so why cant you too? :D

Retort and Counter-Retort!

Everything in EVE has a counter, barring really cheaty activities like hacking, spying on an enemy corporation's communique out-of-game (also known as Meta-Gaming, which is frowned upon, but is unfortunately done daily due to the win-at-all-costs mentality that now thrives on EVE), so on and so forth.

This applies true to the different racial ships available to players (aka capsuleers). Below I've given a personal review of each of the races, not counting their more advanced (Tech 2) ship counterparts, as I have little-no experience in how they fly, they fight, and work. Also, such ships are meant for very specialized work, and for general combat are not effective enough for all sorts of vastly changing battlefield conditions.

The Amarr
Lets start off with the Amarr. The Amarr have the advantage of being one of the more damaging races due to the higher damage-per-second total of laser weaponry, having the toughest ships, able to tank damage (similar to being a tank, but instead of only one person handling the damage, its uniform for everyone to have tanking skills, as it is vital for combat survivability) through their armor, and the fact that their ships are basically laser-gunboats. Simple central idea, which helps in piloting them.

But, because of their reliance upon laser weaponry, they suffer greatly from energy capacitor (or cap, in EVE) shortages, since lasers use no ammo, but use cap instead. Couple this with the fact that lasers are bound to the two easiest-to-tank damage types (EM and Thermal, which are strong against shields but weak against armor, which most ships can easily adjust to), and that they are turrets, easily jammed by turret destabilizers, Amarrian ships are easily countered. Unless in numbers, Amarrian ships are frustrating to fly, especially if your skills in them, and the support skills required, are low.

The Caldari
The Caldari are a powerhouse of a racial ship family. Missile weaponry delivers damage values that would easily make any unprepared ship cry for mommy easily, their ECM jamming capability being unsurpassed, and near-limit ranges of the Rokh-Class Battleship with its railguns place them well in any group combat operations. The Raven-Class Battleship is also a crowd favorite in terms of anti-NPC work, due to the flexibility of missile weaponry in switching to the most-damaging damage type depending upon the NPC in question, and is the most-common ship to use in mission work, especially at lvl4.

Unfortunately, due to the ECM nerf, only 3 ships in the Caldari family are the only ones effective enough with ECM to be even considered for group combat, and since they stick out from the group, are often called the primary target by opposing forces (in EVE, primaried). Missile weaponry, whilst flexible and damaging, suffers from major flight-time issues due to the missiles needing to make contact with the target before delivering damage. This is a major problem especially when the target is far away, or is fast enough to avoid the missiles in the first place. Lastly, most of Caldari's railgun-based ships suffer from lack of damage output, and only the Rokh-Class uses the extreme range possible from railguns as it's calling card. This places it well in fleet operations where long-range combat is very common, as it clearly out-ranges all the other battleships when they're set for long-range combat by as much as 50-100km. Even then, the Rokh suffers low damage outputs.

The Gallente
The Gallente ship family is home to the easiest-to-PvP-with ships, and if skilled properly, are flexible and damaging enough for all situations. Blaster weaponry combined with advanced drone warfare deliver maximum damage-per-second values that would shatter even Amarrian armor. They are the easiest race to do combat solo, and does it very well. Combined with fast bursts of speed using microwarpdrives and/or afterburner technology, you have one racial ship family that basically comes up, sprinting, to your face and punches you with a very spiky glove.

Blasters are very short-ranged weapons. So much so that Gallentean combat ships have to be right beside their target to deliver their maximum damage, or else they have to use drones. This forces them to rely upon speed modules that basically light them up to targetting and weapon lock scanners, making them an easy target to deliver damage to when they're on the ingress. Coupled with problematic drone AI especially during laggy combat, and the normal 45km range limit of drone commands leaves Gallente as a close-up in-your-face only race. Setting them up as long-range fleet combatants however, is possible, but suffers from low damage outputs as they have to use railguns (falls under the same weapon family as blasters), without the range bonii that the Rokh enjoys. This is countered by slightly higher damage outputs due to ship bonii.

And the Mimmatar
The Mimmatar ship family enjoys its one trait very well: speed. They are the premiere hit-and-run ships, with projectile weaponry that deliver first-strike damage that is unsurpassed. They are very flexible, able to use missiles as well as drones to complement their projectile weapons, and can allocate for both shield- and armor-tanking for their damage reduction. Their projectile weapons dont use cap at all, along with the missiles, and so they do not suffer from anti-capacitor warfare as much as the other three races in terms of damage output.

Projectile weapons suffer from bringing out as much DPS (damage-per-second) as possible. Whilst they are not as inflexible as railguns, and do deliver near-insane first-strike damage figures, their cycle times are longer than the other turret weapons. Mimmatar ships also suffer from being too versatile, a sign that they lack a central design philisophy, unlike the Amarr with its pure lasers+armor take. This forces capsuleers to be profient in many more skill families to make Mimmatar ships shine on the battlefield.This requires a lot of skill training time, time that could be better used in other endeavors, or other skill families like a secondary profession.

I may be wrong in certain parts here, because its been a while since I've played all the races through the many trials I've had (the latest I have is of course, Caldari), but more or less, with the research I've done, this is mostly the gist of how each racial ship family is. Do note that you are not bound to any one racial ship family. You can train for another, or even all of them if you wanted to, or had the time. There is no "best" racial ship family here, as they are good at certain things, bad at others. For example, the Amarr are great in mid-range gang combat, but suffer from close-range fights, or anything that damages their cap or laser targetting. Caldari are perfect in gang warfare due to ECM and missile use, but solo, they suffer the most. Gallente are mostly stuck in either extremely short-range combat, or long range fleet combat, leaving a big gap. And Mimmatar are the most flexible racial ship family to go for, but suffer from being the hardest racial ship family to train for to be effective because of so many skills to be good at.

As I've said before, take the time to try out all of the races, and their ships and how they fight with multiple trials if you want. Ask questions, be curious, take time to learn the game at your own pace, and you'll succeed, even unconsciously, if you pay attention to what you're doing :D

My Pet Project

You're probably wondering what "pet project" I have going on. Well worry not, I'm about to tell what it really is, but first, a bit of backstory...

When I lost my old Amarr main due to my drunken stupidity, I was distraught. It was 6 hard months of dedicated skill training, down the tubes. But I decided to give it another go, as a Caldari. Thinking that Caldari technology and advances in ECM and shielding would work better than my energy-guzzling lasers and heavy-to-move-around armor, I went for it.

Boy was I in for a shock.

So I was 3 months into my new Caldari main, and decided to use one of the great tools that the EVE community has: Quickfit.

So I was setting up ships I was planning to own, seeing how well they performed on paper in PvP situations, against other ships from other racial families, and discovered something that basically was a slap to my combat-scarred face.

Caldari shielding requires too many slots used by needed PvP-related modules to work solo.

Caldari ECM, their ace-in-the-hole, had just then suffered a nerf to effectiveness, leaving only 3 ships in it's family to actually be effective enough to be considered as "ECM boats". Coupled with the fact that the same slots for shielding technology occupy the same slots for ECM modules and the fact that these ships would soon become priority-one targets in combat... well...

Caldari weaponry (missile weaponry), whilst easy to use and very deadly on impact, suffers from flight time issues at range. Whilst turret weapons deliver their damage instantaneously, missiles need to fly to their target to score a hit, leading to a delay to damage application. Sure at short-to-medium ranges, this is not too much an issue, but in large-scale fleet warfare where combat occurs at extreme 150+km, flight time is a major factor.

So I then decided to return to my Amarrian roots, but how?

I then spent the next month or so researching on the fastest way to return to Amarr ships, and, not counting a 3-month break from EVE that I took due to personal issues with certain players in an old corporation I was in (and other reasons I will not speak of publicly), I decided that I needed a solid base to create this new character from.

I then endeavored to recreate my current character to run NPC missions for funding. Soon I had access to lvl4 missions, the hardest-to-do alone missions, with the greatest pay. (Note CCP has just released lvl5 missions, meant for gang work, so I did not bother considering them due to difficulty).

I then spotted the character creation info I have mentioned in my previous entry, and thus became the start of my return to Amarrian combat.

Using another tool from the EVE community, namely EVEmon, I planned my skill training to encompass another step I wish I have taken in EVE: Mining. Mining, when done right earns millions of isk per hour, and would definately help in setting up a new base to work off on once I retire my old missioning character.

The total time as of this post is 524 days, 12 hours to return to Amarrian combat ships.

Yes, it is indeed a dedication of nearly two years of play- and training-time in EVE. Even then, the current plan I have can change, and it may add, or subtract, the number of days of skill training I have planned.

Now, you may be wondering why I chose to plan to train for Amarr ships? Dont they have disadvantages like the Caldari? Why yes they do. In fact, thats enough for another entry in itself, so...

The "Perfect" Starting Character

Okay, fine, you may be wondering at this point, after trying the trial and learning the basics, what character setup is best to start off with. Ideally, I would start saying that there is no "best" character setup in character creation that will help you train faster or give you more skills in what you like, etc.

Realistically, however, some people actually have found ways to get the most time-efficient-training characters from the character creation process. I myself happen to be using one of the "builds" in my pet project.

The Skills section of the forum has many guides to help you along in maximizing your character creation, and thus, faster training in certain fields of skills. For example, Tripoli (character name) has taken the liberty to create two guides to help you along in creating the perfect character attributes by explaining how they work, here, and here.

Secondly, Akita T has created a rudimentary attribute start comparison guide, and Juwi Kotch has extended that into the starter skills available depending upon the choices of careers you can choose during character creation.

Long-story short, a Caldari Achura Inventor, with Industry-Engineer training is the best start off for balanced-training characters, and is the race and ancestry of my pet project, due to the speed of training. Most skills are Intelligence/Memory based, or use either in most of their training attribute scores. Having them both high is a great asset. For combat, a high Preception and Willpower helps as well in training weapon and ship skills. Charisma suffers in this "build" so no trade, corporation, and social skills will train as fast.

This is just an idea of what you should plan for when you have decided upon a profession you want to take for real. Trials are, of course, without obligation, so you can have as many as you'd like to learn as much as you can on your own. I would recommend taking that chance. Besides, its 14 days of fun, for free :D

GTC = Isk. >:(

As I've mentioned in my previous blog, you can buy GTC's for Isk. They're usually in the format of 30day, and 90day GTC's and usually go for 200mil isk per 30days.

200mil isk is a huge amount for anyone pre-6 months into the game. Even I only earn 20-30 mil isk per day, and thats when I'm seriously pushing myself.

I myself do not condone this quick RLcash-to-GTC-to-isk transfer, but it has its merits. First off, many long-time players of EVE sometimes have to use this option to keep their accounts active long enough through a rough financial spot, and others use it as a secondary market to create, and then sell, purpose-built characters.

Yes, you can buy and sell characters as well. At least that I can understand, since as it stands, you must specialize in a certain field to be good at it, and thus earn your isk. Trying to be a jack-of-all-trades will take far too long, and would cost you far more in terms of isk and time to do so than buying a character created just for that purpose.

I'm even leaning towards getting myself an industrial alt, actually. But first things first, my pet project...

In any case, the Character and Timecode Bazaar is where you should go in case you are interested.

Talk About a Quick Start...

One of the possible career paths to get your footing in EVE is to become a salvager. You basically salvage ship wrecks and remains for any parts useable into creating ship rigs, which are basically "implants" for ships, modifying certain portions of it's performance, at certain drawbacks. Ship riggings, when installed, cannot be removed from the ship, and must be destroyed when the ship is put up for sale, or repackaged into it's market form.

Lately, some people have figured out how to quickly gain isk fast enough that they can actually play EVE for free.

Note: Yes, you can technically play EVE for free, as there are many GTC sellers in the forums, but I myself look down upon this as it is a quick RLcash-to-Isk transfer, and more or less cheating, but if you want to do so...

This thread apparently reveals that some people have actually tried it out, and more or less rumors of success through this plan are coming through.

So in case you're interested in earning a quick buck, there's a market for you to exploit and succeed in...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Newbie status

Now, you've just made a character, and wish to learn more besides the tutorial that you just gone through. Well there are a lot of sources of information to help you along.

First, there is the Rookie Help channel that you are automatically part of. Lots of people are in there willing to help (especially the ones with blue/light blue text for chat. They're volunteers assigned to helping new players).

Unfortunately, "gold sellers" have infiltrated the channels. Dont even think about buying isk from them. CCP can, and will, find out, and you'll suffer.

A second source of information is the newbie section of the EVE Online forums. Once you have an account and character, you can post there (using the character you have of course as the "identity"). Your character is who you are in the game, and so you have a reputation, no matter how insignificant, to consider.

Lastly, if you're a filipino gamer and wish to meet like-minded filipinoes, you may want to head to the ingame channel "PINOY" and greet us in there. We'll help you along in a moreso "pinoy-friendly" way hehehe :D

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Big Q: What to do?

Okay, you've decided to give EVE a shot. You're about to go through the 14 day trial to see if EVE is for you. Well all's well and good then.

What? Dont know what to do? Well its simple, that...

What do you want to do?

No, seriously, really. EVE lets you become whatever you want to be in it's world. Be it become the most feared combat capsuleer, or the most ruthless trade mogul of EVE. Maybe be on the good side of the law hunting pirates, or become the yarr-shouting pirate. Be a peaceful miner, mining the good resources of EVE, or become the manufacturer, using the resources to fuel the largest war machine known to EVE. Become the sneakiest intelligence agent with your covert-ops ship, cloaked and giving intel to your corporation as to enemy movements, or become the corageous fleet commander, leading your fleet to victory and glory.

The choices are limitless.

One good thing about EVE is that the character creation process helps you along your path in deciding what to be. Listen to Aura, the ship computer, as she guides you in your decisions. There's always a need for anyone skilled in whatever field there is in EVE, so you'll never be left out if you look.

Also, its best to do some research beforehand before deciding on what to do. The EVE Forums, especially the Skills section are where you should go. Dont take the advice of going all-learning right off the bat. Do that when you've decided on a profession path you want to take, and train for it.

Heck, I've gone through a total of 13 trials before I decided I wanted to be a combat capsuleer. Yes, you heard me right, thirteen different trial accounts with thirteen different characters I tested out and enjoyed.

Did I learn from my thirteen trials? Yes I did. Did I find stuff that dissapointed me? Yes I have. EVE has a place for everyone, but does not have a place for immaturity and stupidity. You will be punished by this game if you dont use your brains. Even I mess up at times and it costed me months of work, but I cant blame the guy who shot me. I have to blame myself for not checking on the map for recent combat activity, or asked/hired a scout to scout for me, or created an alt specifically to scout (an alt is another character you can have, but isnt trained, somewhat disposable in use, some use trial account characters as alt scouts, disposable.).

You see, there are options to play smart in EVE, and it rewards you greatly if you do. This is why I've kept on EVE, even after all the dissapointments, the lag, the lost ships from combat and the smacktalk (though of which i enjoy some of it). EVE will reward you, if you put in the effort.

So, you up to it?

The Cost of Happiness

This is where EVE starts to show that its not for everyone. It's costly for us Filipinoes. Considering that it is a international MMO, this is to be expected. But still, even P500 is a lot per month, right?

Which is why the 14 day trial is there. 2 weeks of trying EVE out and seeing if it's for you. 14 day trials can be upgraded to a full account with a "top-up" of either a 10, 30, or 100 day game-time-code, or GTC.

Both trial and GTC availability are locally available thanks to the people over at Mobius Games. They even have their own EVE-related website, though its much sparser than I'd like.

Here's the kicker: The cost of a 10day GTC is P300.

Yes, ouch.

30day GTC is P750, and the 100day GTC is P2250. So you see the advantage of going for monthly in this case.

But wait, its very expensive! Why? Well, EVE in US$ is $14.95, which is roughly the same amount. But, to activate a trial account to an active one is $20. Thats P1000. Do the math and you'll see that you save cash already on the first installment (especially if you use the 10day GTC and set a long skill to train right before the 10day runs out, yes it'll still train, but I would not recommend doing this, and suggest only doing so for month-long skills, and using the 30day GTC).

For a game like EVE Online, and for the convenience that I dont have to use credit cards online due to security reasons, I'd gladly pay the price. Consider the fact that releasing your credit card details online always carries a risk of being found out, and thus, your credit card being used against your will. Whilst no self-respecting company like CCP will allow such (as their account system is secure, trust me, I've tried it before), would you rather pay via credit card details, or by using Mobius Games' system and top up? I know what I'd chose out of convenience.

EVE's daily downtime

Because of EVE's unique server structure, it requires a daily 1hr downtime to keep things in order. Understandable when it handles over 30k players at once.

For GMT+8 (Hong Kong, Philippines, part of Australia, etc), this would be 7pm to 8pm. Dinnertime :D

Its also one hour of required reminder that you still got a life beyond EVE :D hehe

Okay enough leading on, pics nao!

Maybe by this point you're interested in knowing how EVE online looks. Well suffice to say, whilst EVE is 4 years old (most MMO's fold by year 2-3, so CCP knows what they're doing), it still looks as stunning as it did back then.

Here's one of the favorite trailers made by CCP, and yes, all scenes are taken from gameplay.

EVE Never Fades (youtube link)

And I have to agree, the title rings true.

A higher-quality version can be downloaded from EVE Online's main website itself along with their other trailers, here.

Do note that all of these current trailers are on the old "EVE Classic" client. There is work being done to create a new, more graphically enticing client, scheduled for the end of 2007. There have been screenshots of the newly remodeled ships and effects, and suffice to say, if you think Doom 3 looked good... well... >:)

Monday, August 27, 2007

More SP?

(thanks to Yukamo Kido on the forums for this :D)

Now, a bit deeper into the skill system and you may start to notice that "hey, what about those who trained before us? They'll be uber! I cant beat them!".


Flat out wrong.

Why? Well its simple.

In EVE, there's a counter to nearly everything (except stupidity, which of course, I wont go into), and so is with higher-trained (and thus more skill points, or SP) characters. Just because they have more SP's doesnt mean they can do something better than you. It just means they can do more than you can at the start at least...

All skills have a lvl5 limit to train to so that means you can be as good as they are if you train as well. Most people leave it at lvl4 unless its a prerequisite and is required to be lvl5. Reason being is that the time gap between levels increases exponentially. So sure from lvl1 to 2 is just an hour or two, but lvl2-3 may take 6, or even 12 hours. Lvl4-5 is days, usually.

Take solace in the fact that older SP characters have to contend with skills that take literal months to train, so you're never going to be left behind.

But wait, that involves time right? True, which is why the practical EVE advice is to specialize. Specializing means that you only focus your training on one segment of something, at a time. When you do you'll be just as good as the older guy in that department.

For example: I want to train interceptors (more advanced frigates, really fast little buggers, deadly in packs). Simple, I just go train the relevant frigate skill, then the evasive maneuvering skill, and then support skills to speed up my little interceptor into a deadly quick bee. For sting, you train weapons of course. You can easily do this in 2 weeks if you train fast, and not detract yourself by training something else.

The older SP character would have access to interceptors, but it doesnt mean he'll forever be better at handling it skillwise than you (though interceptors require a bit of actual player control to pilot effectively, this can only be learnt through practice), since the limit is lvl5.

Another thing is that even small easy-to-train-for frigates are a nightmare to bigger ships. Reason being is that they're small, fast, hard to hit, and if in numbers, can really put on the hurt. If you cant beat him alone, get friends. No, seriously, get friends.

Trust me, its more fun doing stuff with buddies than alone. You dont want to be playing with yourself now, do you?

On Races and Skills...

For those who dont know the basics of the races and character improvement through skills, a post for you:

Basically EVE has 4 main racial factions. They are the Amarr, Mimmatar, Gallente, and Caldari, each with their own traits and advantages.

The Amarr are religious, and value tradition over innovation, with a social caste system that is friendly to the top, harsh on the bottom. For combat, they rely upon laser weaponry (requires no ammo, except for focusing crystals to change output), and strong armor plating. Disadvantages include the lack of battlefield endurance due to the large power drain of lasers, the lasers being of two easily resistable damage types, and the fact that they rely upon turret weaponry, easily jammed by electronic warfare.

The Mimmatar are a loose tribal society, rich in culture and pride, especially after the seperation from Amarr slavery. Whilst not openly at odds now against the Amarr, the experience has made them hardy and quite dislike them (to the point that two roleplaying alliances have taken this to actual blows in combat). Mimmatar rely upon hit-and-run speed and powerful first-strike projectile weaponry, missiles, and a variety of either shield or armor damage reduction. Of course, because of so many proficiencies they should master, they suffer from being the hardest to train for in terms of time it takes, and also that since their ships have no central design philosophy like the Amarr (lasers, armor), they are very versatile, but not strong in any one specialized field.

The Gallente are the free people under the only true democracy in EVE, relying upon drone warfare (think MMO pets, and you're somewhat close) and short-range-but-insanely-powerful blasters in combat. They rely upon armor plating and speed to do their dirty work, since they have to get in close to use their blasters. Hence the term "knife-fighting" or "in-your-face PvP".

The Caldari are a strict, no-nonsense people, always striving for economic and military might. They rely upon advanced shield and electronic countermeasure technology, as well as long-range railguns and even longer-ranged missile firepower. Unfortunately due to certain game changes in the past, ECM has weakened, and only two ships in the racial family are still powerful with them. This leads them to be immediately taken out asap by opponents since they stick out too much. Secondly, missiles take time to travel to their target to apply damage, and thus at range, are not suited for fast-paced PvP combat. Railguns, however, are. They are the most powerful in terms of anti-NPC work, due to their capability of switching damage types via their missile banks, to deal the maximum amount of damage against a certain NPC target.

So the basic run-down between the races is Amarr vs Mimmatar, Caldari vs Gallente. You can read up more about it in the Prime Fiction of EVE.

And about skills.
Skills are how you advance in EVE. You dont "grind" for them except for the isk to buy the skillbook and the prerequisite skills. Training time is dependent upon your attributes, and only affects how fast or slow they train.

Of course, to maximise training, you would like to maximize your attributes, and/or train skills which have favorable attributes according to your character.

More info can be found in the skills section of the forum.

And so, thats a post to give background information about the races, and skill training.

On Roleplaying and madness...

Talking about the community in general from my last entry made me think about the roleplaying aspect of EVE. Unlike many MMO's, EVE is actively roleplayed by hundreds, if not thousands, of it's playerbase, because of it's rich, yet easy to get into background story, and continual combat over such. Not only that, CCP themselves support the roleplayers by "sprinkling" some more backstory dependant upon player actions. A good example of this would be the "Speakers of Truth" arc that Amarr roleplayers participated in, in escorting a Speaker of Truth to a designated planet, and defending him.

I've been meaning to get into the roleplay aspect of EVE myself. I've long had an Amarr main roughly a year ago (which I deleted out of drunken stupidiness, last time I ever drank too) that I wanted to take onto the very active Amarr vs Mimmatar roleplay scene.

But of course, my she-devil of a sister invites me to a friend's party, got drunk, and basically my brain deep-fried itself on the alcohol that I dont have tolerance to.

Oh yes, CCP says they cannot restore characters after deletion (yes, I was drunk for the 10 hours it required to "time out" a character for deletion. Even longer story for that)...

Funny note: I'm hearing now that they do restore characters now if "mistakenly" deleted. Big WTF right there...

And so, this has started a pet project of mine that will span a solid year and then some of training, playing, and roleplaying: the creation of a new main for myself.

Now you may be going "woah woah what have you been doing since my last deleted main?". Well I've got another character trained basically to do missions (lvl4, aka battleship-level missions), for funding, and to keep my interest going and knowing the ins and outs of any updates whilst this new main trains.

Yes, I must be mad. One year of solid training. Indeed I am mad.

Then again, only the mad are truly free, so might as well :D

The Community

EVE Online has the most mature community I've ever seen in the past 7 years of me playing MMO's. Bottom line. No doubt about that.

I know I'm going to be flamed to high hell for this, but its the truth as far as I can see it. Sure there are more proper and mature gaming communities out there but be honest: Where was the last MMO you've ever played that had people actively helping you as a newbie out? When was the last time you had someone give you advice out of nowhere when you looked to be in trouble?

Even better, when have you seen MMO company employees mingle and properly inform the community of changes and participate in the community? CCP are close to the community unlike SOE or others out there, who keep a "standoffish" stance to their community and sometimes, dont even act like they know something is wrong when 99% of the community just upp up and leave.

Yes, I'm looking at you $OE, and the bastard-child of an MMO you have there...

Of course, nothing's all perfect especially when dealing with other people, and you'll always find the everyday internet jackarse waiting to spoil up a thread. Thankfully, however, thats very rare on the newbie section of the EVE online forums, and mostly is contained, especially in the alliance talk sections, where emotions run high and hatreds run deep.

The PvP in EVE Online is brutal, and forces players to adopt an "adapt or die" attitude when the shooting starts. This both adds and detracts from the feel of EVE. For some, its the holy grail (some even claim they cant "get off" unless they've had their "fix"), for others, its what they left Counterstrike/Battlefield 2 for. Yes, when its PvP, talk its brutal, explenatives and emotions run left and right, so on and so forth, but this is to be expected from a PvP-based game. Someone will hate someone else because they either took their turf, or want their turf to begin with. For others, a matter of pride just sets it off. Combine this with the real sense of loss of ship and months, or even years of work if you lose, brings the ante up a lot higher than normal MMO's like World of Warcraft, wherein death is just a delay and an annoying "corpse run".

This is just one facet that attracts me to EVE. The fact that you and your friends have to really fight over stuff, or become weak and lose it all. Its sort of like a virtual "Darwinism" wherein the strong triumph over the weak. Note that even the weak are strong in numbers, or if they are skilled in another battlefield, like, say the market, or in politics, etc. They can still "fight" the strong in another way. Its just not brawn that wins here, but brains.

Nothing's Perfect.

Nothing's truly perfect, and even the most forgiving of players will find fault in EVE Online. Dont get me wrong, its a great game, just that as I've said, its the players who demand godlike perfection, or bias, or something that CCP simply can not deliver on time/not at all.

First off, EVE runs off one single server-cluster, aka one persistent world. Unlike many other MMO's out there that rely upon "sharding" or splitting the playerbase into different server worlds to maintain control of latency and the limits of current technology, EVE breaks the mold by creating one persistent virtual world for everyone to play in. This is a double-edged sword for CCP. On one hand, everything you do in this game affects everyone in some way, unlike for example, you're the most elite gamer on Server 1 in this other MMO, yet are unknown in Server 2. Personally, I find that completely aggravating.

The downside to this is server maintenance, operating costs, and latency issues.

CCP are on the cutting-edge in server technology because of the huge strain the playerbase places upon the server-cluster. In fact, the server in question is not one single machine, but multiple machines set up as a "cluster", wherein they share the load. Currently, CCP still needs work in their load-balancing server programming, since on heavy gaming days, its not uncommon to suffer a "node crash" wherein the "node" in charge of the solar system you're in cant take the load of so many people and just fails.

This, thankfully, is rare enough for the majority of the playerbase that it's more or less a once-a-month thing, and only when really pushing the numbers.

You can probably deduce the cost of maintaining so many nodes for the amount of players that play everyday (as of now, average maximum number is 30,000, yes, thats thirty thousand players in a single persistent game-world).

And we come up to the lag. In heavily-trafficked areas in EVE, lag can, and will, aggravate players. I've have had more than my fair share in Jita (the vernerable "trade hub aka laghouse" of EVE) to the point I've been forced to login 3-4 times just to get out.

Of course, this is an extreme example, and most other areas of EVE (around 80%) are practically bare, mostly because either nobody wants that slice of space due to lack of obtainable resources, or is just too far off the beaten path to even consider occupation. Such places are silky-smooth in terms of gameplay latency (not accounting for natural "distance lag" since the server is in London, so half-a-second waiting for me, 500ms, is normal).

The good thing is that CCP is actively taking care of EVE Online, constantly upgrading, improving, and, if they do make a mistake, they make it up to the playerbase. In fact, the last update introduced a nasty "desync" bug (desyncronization from the server, leading to odd behavior like being hit by something you've already escaped from, unable to use modules/attack, etc) that's being hunted down and squashed as of the moment, and continual updates of old, and addition of new features, etc.

This leaves another topic open: the playerbase aka the community. Thats quite a entry in itself so that's for another post.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What is EVE Online?

So, a bit of background as to what EVE Online is. EVE Online is a sci-fi, space-based, sandbox MMORPG. You can, literally, given time, do whatever you wish in the game (within game mechanics of course, so no hacking or whatever).

The game is the property of Crowd Control Productions, or CCP for short. EVE is basically their baby, and has been for the past 7 years (3 of which are in development, 4 as a live MMO). More info can be garnered at a glance from the Wikipedia article on EVE Online.

Before going there, however, I have to warn you that CCP has had a "turbulent" past in regards to PR and "damage control" that results from such. This is still a hotly-debated topic in regards to playerbase trust to CCP, and doesnt mean that CCP is worse than any other MMO company out there. It just so happens someone leaked it out and thus, the public outcry (Info on this is on the aformentioned wiki article, under "Criticism"). As with everything nowadays, take it with a grain of salt. If it were really that bad, I wouldnt be playing EVE.

Other MMO companies would silence such before it even begins, and fire/sack/remove whom/whatever could cause trouble under the radar so none of the playerbase is the wiser, which is a good thing. CCP just had a case of pure bad luck.

Back to the game:
EVE Online is harsh. I will not tell it any other way. EVE's pure premise is the open-ended world in which you can play in, and the inevitable clashes with other people who are at odds with you. Other people from around the world play this game, in different ways, styles, whathaveyou. There is no "end-game" to EVE, as is there are no "levels" or "phat lewts" to obtain to be all-powerful. All you can do in EVE has a counter, and everything that you do that involves player interaction is "PvP" in a sense.

Confused? Let me explain:
-EVE works upon a time-based skill-training system. There's no need to "grind" to get better at something. Just set a skill to train and let it run. It even trains while you're offline, so you never lose any skill training time, except when you dont train at all.

-While there is direct ship-to-ship PvP in this game (which is a huge portion of the game itself), there is also the completely-player-driven market, where you compete against other rivals in the market to earnings of ISK (InterStellar Kredit), the ingame currency. This is why its called "PvP" in a sense that you still compete against other players.

-Whilst combat is an exciting (some say inevitable) game path, others have taken upon themselves to supply the combatants with whatever items, modules, ammunition, etc that they may need. Others even earn a living by mining the vast asteroid belts in space for their earnings. Others even hunt down pirates (both NPC and players) for their bounties. Some even command the market regions with an iron fist, earning by simply buying low and selling high. You can literally play without even firing a single shot.

-Because the playerbase controls many of the facets of gameplay (market, regional warfare, alliance politics), it means that there's no single dull moment involved. There's always going to be something going on, and if you play your cards right, you can benefit greatly, even if indirectly affected, by such events. In fact, such extremes of player interaction have made it out-of-game in gaming publications, as seen by this link of a now-infamous heist of a player-corporation (the "guild system" of EVE) and the subsequent shockwaves both in EVE, and out of it.

Note: the aformentioned amount of RL cash is only a measure. You cannot directly profit out of EVE Online's market with RL cash, unless you wish to do so illegally and thus, face permanent banning from the game.

These are some of the many points EVE has over other MMO's I've played in the past (and trust me, I've played a lot). EVE isnt perfect, however, and the faults are more disturbing to behold, but thats for another day, another blog...

Greetings to the world

Good day to one and all. Welcome to Odd Pod Out. Unusual title, yes, but there's a meaning behind it. More on that later.

First off, this is my first ever blog, and its about the first ever MMOG that I actually learnt to love: EVE Online. I have been playing this MMO for the better part of the past year, and I've seen many things that both keep me coming back, and throw me away.

The reason why I made this blog is that as time went on in my gaming in EVE, I've realized that I am an odd one out of the majority in EVE: I'm asian player playing a Western-market-targetted MMO, with a largely US/Euro playerbase. Sure not counting the "gold farmers" aka isk sellers as we call them ingame (and the racial bias of them being Chinese or something).

My idea and goal in this blog is basically to introduce more from this slice of the world into a great game, EVE Online. Also, I'm a bit of a thinker, so I may go off on major tangents about my gaming experience, so if you plan to read, please be considerate :)

First off, yes I'm a legitimate player, have been for the past year, and yes I may not know everything about MMO culture, EVE ingame mechanics nor the other intricacies of the playerbase. I am, of course, just one podpilot amongst many, and yet the odd one out.

As you can see on my profile, I'm a Filipino. Rare to see a "pinoy" player (often found in "free" MMO's talking to other pinoys in their native tongue or an algamation of English and Tagalog, Tag-lish.) in a P2P MMO. For me, this is both a non-issue and the critical issue in my intended blogging as time goes on. As another gamer, nationality doesnt matter much, cept for language barriers (which, default to English for obvious reasons), but as a Filipino, it is a big thing. Why do I, a pinoy gamer, find myself in an MMO that many would consider the harshest "game world" to exist in the MMO market?

Simple: I like it rough (and no, no innuendo's out of you!).

No, seriously, I do. Games are meant to be fun, and it just so happens I find fun to include the harsh realities of playing EVE and the chance that I may lose months, if not my entire year's worth, of work if I'm not careful. It keeps me on my toes, and gives excitement that is only rivaled by real-life activities like, say, skydiving or something.

This doesnt make me a "griefer" though (griefers are basically people who derive pleasure by ruining the fun factor of others in a game). I quite actually despise em, and yet they are part and parcel of real life, let alone EVE, which is meant to be a game world, with the same ups and downs you'd see in real life. Its just that real life "griefers" are often caught and imprisoned/killed/ousted by society because
it is real life, with real consequences. EVE, however, gets very close to that analogy.

Well, thats a very extensive first post from me. I wish you well and thank you for reading this first post from this odd podpilot out of many. Good day.