Monday, February 28, 2011

Why The Decline in Hulkageddon?

John at The Ancient Gaming Noob gave a detailed account of the destruction that occurred across New Eden by the participants of Hulkageddon 4.  Overall, the numbers are down from Hulkageddon 3.  Why?  Here are my top reasons why?

Full API handover required to participate
- This is possibly the biggest reason.  For Hulkageddon 4, Helicity ran an API verified killboard which required participants to give him their full api key.  Not only did the cut down on the fraudulent kill mails that were submitted, but reduced a lot of manual work and resulted in more accurate counts. Also, many people are wary about handing over something as sensitive as their full api key to anyone they cannot punch in the face.  Less participants = less kill mails.

Incursions - The latest big thing in EVE is fighting incursions.  Not only are carebears fighting Sansha nation, but those who might gank miners are having fun fighting the local defense forces and ninja looting the battles instead.  Combined with changes in insurance payouts, Sansha incursions give a bigger chance of big isk payouts than ganking miners and possibly winning a prize.  The fact that the incursions have the beneficial side effect of taking out mining bots, thus reducing the killing fields for Hulkageddon participants, also helps drive down the numbers.

Carebears changing the way they play - If I recall correctly from when the first Hulkageddon was launched, changing the way that carebears play is one of the goals of Hulkageddon.  That definitely occurred this time as the anti-Hulkageddon forces became more organized.  But in doing so, they fall for Helicity's sinister plan to turn them into PvPers.

RIFT - Related to changing the way carebears play is just not playing at all.  And Helicity just had the bad luck in December of setting the dates for Hulkageddon 4 during RIFT's open beta weekend and the head start weekend.  I thought that the concurrency numbers were down a bit when I would log into Eve, but I can't really tell by looking on Eve-Offline.  I know that I spent a lot of time in RIFT instead of playing Eve and I'm guessing a lot of others did as well.

Time of year - This is a reason that I've read Helicity give on the forums, so I will list it here.  However, I am not buying into this theory, as I heard SOE & SOE fanbois give this reason for the slow decline in the population of EQ2.  Just based on my personal experience, more players have been logging into EVE this winter than during the summer of 2010.  I think that number went down during Hulkageddon, but the reason wasn't the time of year.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

RIFT Patch - February 26, 2011

While I haven't experienced issues in the first two days of the RIFT head start, problems exist and a patch came out this morning.  Here are the details for the patch, taken straight from the login client.

* Freemarch: The Wayward Package quest is no longer offered daily.
* Silverwood: When Rudy Tanlop’s  wagon is under attack during a zone events, he should yell his notification correctly.

* Dungeon zone quests fixed so that repeat completions do not reward the full first-completion value.
* Fixed a bug causing mobs significantly higher than a player's level to reward far more experience than they should be.

* Raid frames now expand down from the top left corner.
* Zone events that are failed will be removed from quest tracking once again.


* The login queue message box can now only be cancelled by clicking on the Cancel button.  You should now be safe to browse the web while queued!
* Improved accuracy of AFK timeout checks in game and at character select to combat queues.
* Server performance improvements.

UPDATE:  When I logged on for an evening session, I had an additional 22 MB patch download, but the launcher didn't have any notes on what the additional content contained.  The above notes are only for the 8am PST patch.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I Survived The Rift Head Start Launch...

... and all I got was this turtle.
Ancient Tartagon Turtle Mount

Okay, so it is a very nice turtle.  I don't have a better picture because I didn't find a mailbox to claim my Digital Collector's Edition mount until I was just about to log out for the night.  But yes, I finally played an MMORPG on day 1.  Or maybe even day -5, depending on how you count a head start period.

I found just a few things to comment on.  The first is that Trion doubled the number of U.S. servers, from 17 to 35 (as of 7am Chicago time today).  When I attempted to log in around 9pm Chicago time, all but 5 servers were listed as full.  Any thought of trying to hook up with any of the bloggers I read when completely out of my head as I just wanted to play.  The advantage I may have is that I'm pretty sure I am on a server with no pre-existing community or guilds.  The disadvantage I may have is that I'm pretty sure I am on a server with no pre-existing community or guilds.  I'll have to see how that plays out.

My second thought is that for now, I have to believe the RIFT dev team would really like to limit the number of characters per account to 6.  I still don't have an answer to the number of characters I can have, but I was too busy playing the game to search last night.  But limiting the number of charaters would probably reduce the number of servers that would need to be opened, and with the flood of people just coming into the pre-launch I have to believe the RIFT team is doing everything in their power to limit the number of servers.  Why?  Because after the initial surge and people stop playing after the first month, having a huge number of shards with low populations would be, to use a technical term, a "bad thing".

The third impression I had was that the game, at least on the Alsbeth shard I played on, performed as well if not better for me compared to my experience in beta.  I ran into no bugs and was able to play on the default image settings, which in my opinion are pretty good.  Of course, I only reached level 7 and haven't done a rift yet, but I was impressed.

Another thought is that I just don't like the look of the male characters in RIFT.  I don't think I'm the only one.  Darren on the Common Sense Gamer is actually going to roll up a female rogue.  About the only male character I would roll is a dwarf, which may be my next character.  Hey, I've never played a dwarven cleric before.  Now that's shocking.

My final thought is I still need to do some research.  My first character is a Bard/Riftwalker/Nightblade.  I know I want to specialize in my bard soul, but I'm just not sure what to do with the other two classes.  And as a rogue, I know I want my crafting professions to be apothecary, butchering and foraging because I figure that somewhere down the road I'll be using a lot of poison and in every game I play, I prefer to craft my dps instead of buying it from someone else.  But what about macros?  Emotes?  Is runecrafting worth dropping a gathering profession?  How many characters can I have anyway?  And most importantly of all, how do I take a screen shot of my turtle?  I have a lot to learn about this game, but since I took advantage of the founders pricing, I have at least 6 months to search for the answers.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thoughts Before The RIFT Head Start

Having taken a look at EQ2 yesterday, I'll look toward a more hopeful game today.  That's right, the RIFT head start period begins in a few hours.  I've downloaded the game so when I get home tonight I can jump right in.  Well, after doing my planetary interaction in Eve I'll jump right in.

The first thing of interest is what server to play on.  To tell the truth, I'll probably pick something in the middle of the list.  However, Trion came out with the server list and at launch we have 17 U.S. servers and 12 E.U. servers.  In the U.S., we have 7 PvE, 7 PvP, 2 RP-PvE and 1 RP-PvP servers.  Europe will have 7 English, 3 German, and 2 French servers.  What I will watch is how the server list grows.  Will Trion do a Warhammer Online and push too many servers live, or follow Blizzard's lead and suffer through login queues in the beginning?

One question I have that I couldn't find an answer to is: how many characters can I have?  Is it 6 per server or 6 per account.  I've read the forums and a lot of people refuse to believe the limit is per account.  I, however, started playing EQ2 when Scott Hartsman was the executive producer of that game and the limit was ... 6 characters per account.  Believe it or not, crafting gives me the reason that 6 is the magic number.

The RIFT crafting system is composed of 6 manufacturing professions and 3 gathering professions.  Each character can know 3 of the professions at any one time.  So in theory, if an account can only have 6 characters total, then 3 of those characters can be Guardians and 3 on the Defiant side and a player would have all the crafting professions for each group.  Of course, if the limit is 6 characters per server, then each character can have 1 manufacturing profession and the one or two gathering professions needed to keep the manufacturing profession in crafting materials.

Having figured out the basics of the crafting system, I have to decide which faction to play.  In Eve Online, both my main characters are Minmatar and the Guardians really remind me of the Amar.  Ick!  But I think the Defiant will be the popular choice, and I like playing the underdog.  What to do?  I'll probably make up my mind when I'm in the character creator.

Finally, what calling will I play?  Right now I can't decide between the Rogue in order to play a bard or a Cleric in order to heal.  But the bard soul really appeals to me right now.

That's it before I enter the game for real.  I never made it to one of the capital cities, so I'm looking forward to learning and seeing a lot of new things.  And who knows?  I might not even care about the end of Hulkageddon 4.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm Glad I Don't Play THAT Game Anymore

In Eve Online whenever an expansion comes out smart players always put a long training skill in the skills queue in case something goes wrong with the deployment.  In EverQuest 2, that advice is "don't take the day off because you might not get to play the game."  And judging from reading Feldon over at EQ2 Wire and a quick peak at the EQ2 forums, SOE had a lot of problems with the launch of the Destiny of Velious expansion yesterday.  Freeport, the EQ2 Extended server, looks like it is still experiencing severe log in queuing problems.  Another server, Everfrost, experienced login problems until late into the night San Diego time and the team may have given up and gone to bed.  I really can't tell.

In the meantime, SOE continues to show Eve players that concerns about a cash shop are justified as one of the "12 days of Velious" promotions is a sale in the SOE cash shop.  That's right, on Friday SOE will hold a sale on some of the new Velious-themed items in the Station Marketplace.  (They still call it that, right?)  And on Thursday SOE will offer free transfers for up to 5 characters to another server, but the offer is for one day only.

I want to conclude this post with something that Smokejumper, the Senior Producer for EQ2 posted while all the deployment debacle was occurring.

Well, I've only been with the team since last April, so you should really only blame me for things in that time window.

Attack away though! It doesn't really do anything useful, but if that's the only way you feel that change can be affected, then go for it. (Although I would suggest that the attack tactic might not be working for you particularly well since you still seem to be angry after 2 years of posting.)

You may perceive that we "like money more than we care about the game". It's probably unlikely that I'm going to convince you otherwise, but I'll try again because it can't hurt anything. Here goes:

The challenge of running an MMO is twofold. The first, obvious priority is to keep it relevant and entertaining for the players. But the second, just as important element (that's not *nearly* as sexy and which most Producers are scared to do anything about), is to also keep it economically strong so that it's a smart business decision to continue funding and developing the project.

Without pointing fingers, it's safe for me to say that the last couple of years of this game were lackluster from creativity and business points of view. This resulted in some players getting the feeling that the game was backsliding, it didn't inspire morale on the dev team, and SOE had to start considering whether or not EQII was getting old in the tooth.

I didn't (and don't) believe that EQII has to fade away. Ever. MMOs can go on perpetually if they're kept healthy. So the first thing we had to do was the stuff you all have chose to hate me for, which was to focus on the business aspects that everyone else had ignored previously and which was horribly overdue.

So most of the team focused on completing the DoV expansion that was already on the books when I came on board, and I kept a small strike team on improving the business side of things while that happened. That "business" work is largely complete now, although it will certain get tweaks here and there so that improvements are small and constant instead of being a big shock to the system with major changes like we've done in the last six months or so.

Velious is the changeover point for us. This expansion was the last of the legacy features already planned when I came aboard. From here, the team gets to make non-legacy decisions and be as creative as possible about making the game fun...and they get to do it on a strong foundation of smart business, as well.

I realize that it's usually more fun to post about how I'm hell-bent on destroying your game, but that's laughably untrue. This game is stronger since I took the helm, the team is better, and our potential for quality entertainment is now much greater also. EQII is a great game, and this team intends to make it much, much better in the next year.

No smoke here. This is straight-shooting.
Umm ... so yesterday's problems weren't entirely your fault?  Working on the business end of things is okay, but you have to make sure people can play your game, Smokejumper, for any of that "business end" stuff to matter.  Oh, and if the game is stronger, could you please post some figures?  Maybe I'm just too used to the transparency of Eve Online, but until SOE opens up again about how its games are doing, based on what I read at EQ2 Wire and other places, I'm not buying it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SOE vs Trion: The Battle Begins

Today marks the launch of Sony Online Entertainment's Destiny of Velious expansion for EverQuest 2.  I've pretty much given up on the game, but the blogging shall continue as the SOE vs. Trion battle officially begins.  Will RIFT pull enough of EQ2's core player base away that EQ2 truly begins to resemble Dungeons and Dragons Online?  Or will Rift succeed and become a major AAA western MMO title?

Now, I don't know how much shifting of timelines has gone on with the two games.  Well, on further review, on SOE's part.  On January 4th, Trion announced that RIFT would launch on March 1st with a head start launch of February 24th for those who pre-order the game.  That was followed on January 13th with EQ2's senior producer announcing a two-week delay in launching the expansion, from February 8 to today.  And EQ2 will debut flying mounts in a special event held on ... wait for it ... March 1st!  Coincidence?  I think not.

Now, if I was still playing EQ2, after 5 years I would probably stick around to experience and maybe even get a flying mount.  Instead, I will start playing RIFT in a couple of days.  But with some GvG (game vs. game) action occurring, I'll be watching with a bucket to collect all the tears.  The question I have though is not "will RIFT be the WoW killer?".  My question is: will RIFT be the EQ2 killer?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Initial Thoughts On Captain's Quarters

CCP Chiliad's dev blog on Captain's Quarters, the first part of Eve Online's Incarna expansion, is already fueling controversy.  Council of Stellar Management 5 member TeaDaze has announced he is quitting Eve over the implementation of Incarna.  Seleene, the famous commander of Mercenary Coalition during its heyday and former Eve developer CCP Abathur, had this passage on his campaign blog for CSM6.
"Personally, I have reluctantly accepted that Incarna will be a part of EVE because the powers that be have deemed it essential to both their marketing strategy and necessary technological milestones. That said, I am at odds with this design paradigm for the simple reason that, to me, EVE Online has always been a game about spaceships. Unfortunately, CCP is more focused on some grandiose vision of  'ultimate sci fi simulator' instead of effort to improve the GAME PLAY of the best spaceship PVP game on the market. They continue to push in all directions at once, which might be worth buying into if there was some evidence of a cohesive plan that connects it all and gives each element a reason to exist in a game play context."
Both TeaDaze and Seleene are avid PvPers.  However, the mass majority of players never leave high-sec.  For them, the vision of Eve Online as a is more attractive (at least until the mercs in DUST 514 start taking out everyone's planetary interaction colonies).  Goonswarm Federation leader (and Ten Ton Hammer columnist) The Mittani wrote this in the official Captain Quarter's feedback thread.
"the cool-kid reply you're going to see is that space dollies etc aren't awesome and that this feature sucks, but in reality if this is properly implemented in stages it's going to be amazing from an immersion perspective, and eve desperately needs some immersion (as it has basically zilch)"
The debate is largely about Incarna and the introduction of avatars to New Eden.  But how about Captain's Quarters itself?  CCP Chiliad wrote this in describing the new feature:
"Captain’s Quarters will offer interactions in the 3D space like slouching on your sofa and clicking an interface on the wall to bring up the planetary interaction (PI) interface, customizing your appearance through a vanity mirror and adjusting your fittings through a holo-model of your ship. There are a couple of very slick, completely new features we’re also bringing in but we’ll talk about those in greater detail in future dev blogs. These first Captain’s Quarters are designed mainly as an entry level capsuleer environment with basic functionality. We are also reworking the new player crash course into an epic arc that works with the Captain’s Quarters while also improving on some existing features and content tools beyond Incarna. To fans of Aura we’ve got some good news. She will make a come-back after losing her voice in the Apocrypha expansion. We can rebuild her."
This description of the feature really got me thinking.  First, when I heard of Captain's Quarters, I thought introducing player housing first was a good business decision.  My experience in EverQuest 2 is that a lot of players really enjoy housing and will spend hours fixing their homes up just right.  And listening to RIFT Podcast #31, players continually ask the developers at Trion about player housing in RIFT.  But player housing doesn't just attract players.  At GDC 2010 in San Franciso last year, Gordon Walton of BioWare (oops, now Playdom) pointed out during a panel on player retention in MMOs that in Ultima Online the data showed that players who had houses stayed subscribed longer than people who didn’t.  So getting Captain's Quarters up and running first makes sense.

The mention of the first Captain's Quarters designed for entry level functionality gives me hope that we will see different levels of housing in Eve Online.  I would love to see different levels of housing, ranging from basic free transient housing that players cannot modify up to expensive deluxe housing in the major trade hubs.  I not only want the choice to rearrange the furniture, but the UI elements embedded inside the quarters as well.  I also hope to see prices for housing not only based on the unit itself but also its location.  Eve Online already does this for corporation offices and games like EverQuest 2 also factor in location for housing prices and rent. 

While I'm wishing, I'd also like a capsuleer's standings to affect access to housing.  After all, should someone with -4.0 standing with Minmatar be able to own a home in Rens?  Maybe the Republic can let them dock and conduct business.  But live?  No way! And if you have a nice fancy apartment in a station and you decide to go to war against that faction by doing kill missions and lose your nice fancy digs you spent a lot of money on?  Well, this is the sandbox, and actions have consequences.

Perhaps the part of the dev blog that brought the biggest smile to my face is that Aura is back!  And not only in your ship, but hopefully in the new housing as well.  A talking computer in your quarters?  Now that is a component of science-fiction I have read about my whole life I look forward to.

Of course, I do have some concerns based on this passage of the dev blog:
"Another big change is that the current station hangar will be replaced with an enhanced balcony view where your character can gaze upwards at the majesty of your vessel as it looms above you inside the station. When you dock you will appear on the balcony by default. One important requirement in our approach to Captain’s Quarters is that none of it will get in the way of a veteran player. You can dock, repair and refit your ship, dump your cargo into your hangar inventory and talk to agents with the same ease as you currently have. Throughout our discussions, the Council of Stellar Management (CSM) has been adamant about this as well as about the load times when docking. Our UI guys are working on some pretty amazing things, and they will keep the current usability very much in mind, aiming to further improve it."
I hope that "you will appear on the balcony by default" really means that players will have the option, and not the requirement, to automatically appear on the balcony.  While standing on the balcony looking up is a cool concept, sometimes I want the option to look at the top and sides of my ship when I'm docked.  Also, I want the ability to just have the station's crew load or unload my cargo while I sit in my ship.  I don't want to have to get out of my pod, get all dressed up so I look pretty on the balcony, then have to get back in my pod.  Okay, maybe that is a bit too much role-play, but part of the rationale behind Incarna is to bring immersion into the game.  I hope someone is thinking how automatically appearing on a balcony, in some situations, is immersion breaking.

Also, I don't see how showing up on the balcony and then running to your quarters to use the UI located there is more convenient than the current system.  Let's take my style of play as an example.  I am a bit unusual since I like to haul things and fulfill courier contracts.  So let's say I have a cargo hold full of crates I'm delivering to Rens 6-8.  Currently, I just get into the station, open up my cargo hold, open up station storage, move the crate, click deliver, and then I'm on my way.  Forget about the role-play aspects for a bit.  Am I going to have the UI available on the balcony to do these things, or do I have to run to my quarters to use the controls there?  If I have to go to my room, the question is, why?

Yes, CCP Chiliad says we will have the ability to perform all our current tasks with the "same ease of use."  Please define "ease of use."

I really like the idea of Incarna.  I love player housing in MMORPGs.  I just hope that CCP, in an effort to get players to play with the new shiny toy, don't manage to actually take away some of the immersion I currently enjoy.  I am going to guess no, just because this is such a big step for the company that not only affects Eve Online, but for the other two games the company has in development, DUST 514 and World of Darkness.  Because you know those games will need player housing as well

I guess that is the other problem players have.  Eve players are the guinea pigs, and some people don't like to be the objects of an experiment.  Me?  Well, I like the promise of what CCP is attempting to accomplish too much.  I'm one of those people who love the idea of "the ultimate sci fi simulator" more than the PvP, even though the PvP does drive the economy all the carebears love.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Operation Smile: Someone Like Me

I've been waiting for when players start using avatars in Eve Online videos appearing on YouTube!, and I didn't have to wait for Incarna to see one.  The Dreddit community that makes up the core of Test Alliance Please Ignore has come up with a music video celebrating their victory over IT Alliance in Fountain.  The video comes complete with lip syncing avatars.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Player Housing Coming To Eve Online

Mr. Smith: You have a sofa on the bridge of a ship?  That’s very… eccentric.
John Rourke: This ship is pretty much my home, and I’m not one for holing up in cabins.  I like to sit out here and look at the stars.

Clear Skies, Act 1, Scene 3
In any other game but Eve Online, CCP Chiliad's dev blog on the initial plans to implement Incarna would spark the headline "CCP To Introduce Player Housing to Eve Online."  But since this is Eve, CCP first had to create the avatars needed to take advantage of the player housing.  Fortunately for the Icelandic game company, most of the current player base likes to sit on their ships and look at the stars.

I've read a few pages of reactions to CCP Chiliad's dev post on the Eve Online forums and some players were disappointed that initially "Walking in Stations" would not interact with other players.  Other players wondered at the whole purpose of Incarna.  I think the post by The Mittani sums it up best.
"the cool-kid reply you're going to see is that space dollies etc aren't awesome and that this feature sucks, but in reality if this is properly implemented in stages it's going to be amazing from an immersion perspective, and eve desperately needs some immersion (as it has basically zilch)"
Going back to my initial point about the dev blog, the existence of player housing in a game is a major draw for many MMO players.  From a role play perspective player housing is a huge step.  And, reading a lot of blogs covering EQ2, player housing actually helps player retention because a lot of players spend a lot of time and effort on their homes and don't want to give them up.  The fact that Aura is returning and will most likely be a part of your station home is a huge bonus.

One of the things about player housing is that players have to have the ability to show off their homes.  I know in EQ2 players actually offered decorating services.  If that type of emergent game play can evolve in a theme park game like EQ2, the same would definitely happen in Eve.  CCP just needs to make sure they don't let the feature stagnate.  From reading CCP Chiliad's dev post, that will not happen.

I'm really excited about Captain's Quarters and the feature may finally get me to visit the Singularity test server to check it out for myself.  I've got more thoughts on player housing in Eve Online, but since I've run out of time for writing this post, I'll continue this on Monday.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Orca

As I wrote a couple of days ago, I bought an Orca on Saturday.  I was so excited I actually wound up mining in a mission deadspace just so I could watch how fast a Covetor could mine.  Yes, for the first time this year I actually called primary on some vicious asteroids and saved the system from a horrible fate.

The Circus Queen

Of course, I do have to buy some Large Cargo Optimization Is, but everything else is installed and, of course, tech 2.  I can't wait to fly around and see how much more interesting hauling can be.  Of course, I'll have both my pilots out so I can use the Leadership agility bonus fleet members receive to make the trips just that much faster.  And a little bit of scouting, even in high-sec, never hurts.

I've even taken a couple of screen shots that I'm going to use as my new wallpaper.  I especially like the one where the ship is smiling. 

Orcas are naturally happy

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two Years of The Nosy Gamer

"These are the interesting times I spoke of."
Mr. Smith, Clear Skies 2

Today marks the second anniversary of The Nosy Gamer.  I've had quite a ride over the last year.  I almost shut the doors on the blog, but am now doing better than ever.  The interesting thing I've noticed is that after not playing EverQuest 2 for 18 months, some of my EQ2 posts still are the most popular ones I've written.  Quite frankly, EQ2 is in decline and as much as would like to go back to playing and writing about it, SOE just keeps doing things that drive me away.

So what's ahead?  More Eve Online.  I play MMOs for the journey, not the end game, and Eve just offers so much to explore.  RIFT will be the second game I play.  I've always wanted to play a game from the beginning and RIFT offers that.  Plus the opportunity to only pay $10/month fits my budget.  Star Wars: The Old Republic?  Only if RIFT doesn't live up to the promise I saw in the beta.

And how about the media surrounding MMOs?  I'm not referring to game sites like EuroGamer.  No, I'm referring to podcasts, YouTube videos and machinima.  For example, Shut Up, We're Talking is now silent, Randy is no longer on The Instance and Eve podcasts are on the rise.  What's going to happen on YouTube when Incarna comes out and all those Eve Online film makers start producing videos with avatars in them?  And coming up soon is Clear Skies 3.  Yes!

These are the interesting times that Mr. Smith spoke of in Clear Skies 2.  And I plan on sticking around to watch and comment.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What RIFT Has Taken From Eve Online

Whether playing RIFT during beta 6 or surfing the Interwebs, I keep reading about how RIFT is like so many other games.  I keep hearing how the game is like World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Aion and/or EverQuest 2, just to site a few examples.  But RIFT isn't just attempting to attract your everyday fantasy MMORPG player.  Oh no.  RIFT is trying to attract players from one of the largest western MMOs, Eve Online.

Now, I know you may find that claim hard to believe.  After all, Eve Online is a hardcore sandbox science-fiction MMORPG while RIFT appears to be a more laid back theme park fantasy game.  But I actually have some evidence on my side.  I'll report, you decide.

The name - Mention to a player from Eve Online a game called RIFT and he will at least have the image of the classic Minmatar frigate Rifter flash before his eyes.  An obvious attempt to draw players from Eve.  I'm not falling for that story that RIFT refers to the invasions that appear from other dimensions.  Here is a dirty little secret.  The original title of the game was Heroes of Telara, then RIFT: Planes of Telara before the title was shortened to the Eve-friendly RIFT.

The lore - The main conflict in RIFT between the Guardians and the Defiant reminds me a lot of the conflict between the Amarr and the Minmatar.  Both the Guardians and Amarr are very religious folks who somehow manage to use the will of the gods to justify their oppression of the Defiant and the Minmatar, although in the current history of both worlds the Guardians and Amarr aren't doing too good of a job oppressing their opposing factions.  And just to make the link to Eve more obvious, notice how Trion named their faction after the tech 2 Amarr logistics ship of the same name?

Game play - Okay, how in the world is the game play in RIFT anything like the game play in Eve Online?  Actually, I found two important similarities in the two games.  The first is the ease of switching between roles.  In Eve, if you want to play a different role, all you have to do is jump in a different ship.  For example, I can go from a PvE mission runner to a PvP hauler dodging pirates in low-sec just as fast as Scotty the docking manager will let me.  From what I understand of RIFT, a player can change roles even faster.  I saw that a player can have up to four roles, which look like talent builds, at will.  So depending on my mood and the needs of the group, as a rogue I can go from an avoidance tank to a support bard to a stealth ranger.  Sort of like going from a bait ship to a logistics ship to a sniper in Eve.  One character, many styles of play.

The second is the concept that healers can tank.  One of the things I love about Eve is the ingenuity of the community in coming up with bait ships.  For those that don't play Eve, a bait ship is a ship that is so enticing to attack that the enemy will attack it and disregard all other ships.  Or in other words, the ship's mere existence is a permanent taunt to the enemy.  One of the classes of ships that can fill that role is the logistics ship, which is Eve's version of a healer.  I've watched during the Alliance tournaments as logistics ships served that role quite well.

Listening to The RIFT Podcast I've heard how clerics can heal an incredible amount of damage and actually tank a rift invasion.  I didn't really believe it until I was attacked by an invasion and managed to heal my way though all the damage 3-4 mobs could do until those around me could bring them down.  I guess the Eve concept of how much dps you can absorb might become a popular measure of how good of a tank you are in RIFT.

Scotty - Finally, the last piece of evidence that Trion is trying to attract players from Eve Online.  While playing in the lower levels of the game I found Scotty's Gaming Dice, Scotty's Pencil and Scotty's Homework.  On The RIFT Podcast #29 the crew talked about who Scotty could be.  Cindy Bowens, the community manager for RIFT, denied that Scotty was RIFT's Executive Producer Scott Hartsman.  That means Scotty has to be Scotty the docking manager from Eve Online.  What better way to entice Eve players into RIFT than with the promise of finally meeting Scotty?  If CCP wants to keep their players, they need to show less of Sansha in their videos and more of Scotty!

Reality Check - Okay everyone, RIFT is not an Eve clone in a fantasy setting.  If anything, that honor goes to Darkfall.  But neither is it a WoW, WAR, Aion or EQ2 clone.  I realize that people have a natural tendency to compare new things with things they have experienced before and that is driving a lot of the RIFT discussion.  But try to judge and enjoy the game on its own merits.  Remember, once you log in, you're not in Azeroth anymore.  Now to find Scotty and get him back to New Eden.  His replacement is taking way too long to undock my Orca!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Six Month Check

I wrote six months ago on the one year anniversary of my playing Eve Online how New Eden is a lot more fun when a player has goals.  I set some goals to accomplish by the end of my second year in the game, and now is a good time to see how I'm doing.

Cool ships - On Saturday I accomplished the first part of my ship goal: buying an Orca.  The only capital ship that can use the jump gate system in high-sec, to me the Orca is the ship that represents the carebear in Eve the best.  And I have one.  Now I just have to wait until after Hulkageddon to see exactly how I can use it in my hauling operations.

The second part of the goal was to acquire every sub-capital Minmatar ship.  I left myself an out if I found out I could not train for every ship.  That sadly will be the case.  But I am going to try to get as many ships that I can fly well as possible.  At this point I'm shooting to get all tech 1 ships, except freighters, and the tech 2 frigates and cruisers.  I'm hoping to squeeze in some more, but I'll be happy if I can fly all of them with all tech 2 fittings by August.

Making money
- To accomplish my goals of buying all the ships and the skills to fly them requires money.  Lots and lots of isk.  I also have a rule: no buying isk with real life money.  What follows are my ideas from six months ago on how to make money.

  • Develop perfect refining - Mission accomplished.  Wandering Rose now has perfect refining at the more advanced stations for both Core Complexion and Eifyr and Co.  No more wasted minerals for me.
  • Establish a datacore mining operation - Six months ago I only had one research agent from who I could get datacores.  I currently have six and have plans to recruit four more.  Of course, six months ago I was looking at selling the datacores.  No longer.  I am looking at using those for invention purposes now.
  • Begin doing courier contracts - I made 30 million isk in January carrying out public courier contracts.  Doing the contracts is still hit and miss depending on the time real life allows me to do these.  I'll probably pick up the pace again during Hulkageddon as I see if I can dodge all the gankers that promise to roam high-sec from February 19-28.
  • Planetary Interaction - Six months ago I hadn't touched PI and was wondering if making colonies was worth the time.  Last month, I made 350 million isk in profit from my 10 colonies.  PI is allowing me to use datacores for more fun things than just selling on the market to fund my activities.

Wormhole Operations - I still have not ventured into a wormhole since August.  In fact, I've done very little exploration at all.  The little that I did do resulted in the single worst day I've had in losses while playing Eve.  But venturing into a wormhole is still on my list of things to do before August.

Ramping Up Production - I am still at the point where I only manufacture tech 1 ammo and drones, but that is about to change.  I have successfully created 3 blueprint copies of Warrior II drones and have made copies of the Probe and Wreathe blueprints to try to make Cheetah and Prowler BPCs.  I'm also currently making copies of Mammoth blueprints in order to make Mastodon BPCs.  I think getting into tech 2 construction could definitely be considered ramping up my production activities.  The fact that planetary interaction pays the bills is really helping my efforts with this goal.

Looking back over the past six months I think I'm making progress toward accomplishing my goals.  Which is good because when I started this exercise I didn't really know how I was doing.  Sometimes I get too caught up in the detail to recall exactly where I am headed.  Of course, Eve Online is just a game so as long as I'm having fun who really cares what happens.  But it is nice when it looks like a plan is coming together.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Moving Around Hulkageddon IV - Cruisers

With Hulkageddon IV placing haulers on the kill list, a lot of people will look for alternatives to industrials to move their goods around.  For those who need to move more than a cargo frigate can transport, a cruiser is the next solution that is both relatively cheap and quick to train for.

For cruiser-class ships, two vessels really shine at hauling freight, the Gallente Exequror (2459) and the Amarr Augoror (2383).  The Augoror has the advantage over the Exequror because the ship's maximum cargo capacity of 2383 m3 with 5 Expanded Cargo II and 3 Medium Cargo Optimization I is reached once Amarr Cruiser I is trained.  The Exequror, with a 10% bonus to cargo space for each level of Gallente Cruiser trained, pulls ahead of the Augoror when Gallente Cruiser is trained to III, at which point fitting 3 Expanded Cargo II and 3 Medium Cargo Optimization I gains the ship 2459 m3 in cargo capacity.  But don't forget the added capacity for carrying loose goods brought by using cargo containers.  The Augoror can carry 3 large cargo containers,  1 medium cargo container and 1 small cargo container for an additional 475 m3 of cargo space while by training to Gallente Cruiser III, the Exequror can hold and additional small cargo container for 495 m3 of added cargo space.

These ships have extra utility besides carrying cargo.  Both are tech 1 logistics ships.  The Augoror specialized in cap transfer while the Exequror is a remote armor repair ship.  So while better rigs may exist to fit on these two ships, the extra cargo space will allow more cap booster charges to be carried to accomplish a logistics mission.  Also, if flying a remote repair ship makes sense after Hulkageddon is over, training Gallente Cruiser up to IV to get the additional 10% bonus to cargo space makes sense.

One final note about these two ships.  Training to fly these two ships is actually faster than training to maximize your cargo capacity flying the cargo frigates I wrote about yesterday.  However, the cargo frigates, both the hulls and the rigs, are cheaper.  The frigates are also more agile, so are faster making longer trips.

I also need to make an observation about both posts.  I have fitted tech 1 rigs instead of tech 2 rigs because I assume that once Hulkageddon is over pilots will want to move back to actual haulers.  Tech 2 rigs cost a whole lot more.  However, if you want to pimp out your ships with the very best, be my guest.  After all, unless Helicity gets tired of organizing, I'm pretty sure Hulkageddon V will come to New Eden sometime this fall.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Moving Around Hulkageddon IV - Cargo Frigates

With Hulkageddon IV due to hit Eve Online next week, a lot of people are looking for ways to move their products in ships other than the traditional hauler.  This is especially true for those looking to move their planetary interaction products between their colonies and for whom getting their hauler full of P1 or P2 goods ganked would be a serious financial loss.

One class of ship to use is the cargo frigate.  A class of ship more often used for exploration due to its probing bonuses, the cargo frigate may just be useful to those who need to move limited amounts of cargo around.  The frigate with the most cargo capacity is the Amarr Magnate, followed by the Matari Probe and Gallente Imicus.  With 3 low slots, when rigged with Small Cargohold Optimization I, 3 Extended Cargohold II and the racial frigate skill trained to V, the Magnate can hold 1009 m3 (see note below) of cargo while the Probe and Imicus, with only 2 low slots, can hold 989 m3 of cargo.  This is important because with that cargo capacity, all three ships can hold one Large Standard Container and one Medium Standard Container, increasing the cargo capacity for small items by 195 m3. 

This leaves the Heron, the Caldari cargo frigate with only one low slot, such a poor fourth choice for moving cargo around I didn't bother

Please note that flying a cargo frigate will make you safe from those killing ships in high-sec during Hulkageddon IV.  If pirate gangs start using smart bombs around a gate, your ship most likely will die.  But at least you will not be a target.

Note:  The Magnate cargo amounts are not EFT verified for including the frigate skill bonus.  However, without a bonus, the cargo capacity with 3 Small Cargohold Optimization I and 3 Extended Cargohold II is 1009 m3, greater than the Probe and Imicus with a max skill pilot.  I'll update the post with confirmed numbers when I get home. 

Note to self - Don't correct yourself.  The Magnate doesn't get a cargo bonus.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Upcoming Events

Now that I'm playing two games, I have more things to write about.  Of course, when each game has an event happening over a holiday I get off from work (in this case 21 February for President's Day) I have to decide what to do.

First, Rift is holding an open beta from 10am PST on 15 February through 7am PST on 21 February.  On the 21st, all characters get deleted, but for those of us who pre-ordered, the head-start period begins on 24 February.

The Rift news is good news for us carebears who wish to avoid Hulkageddon IV, the player-sponsored event in Eve Online that targets miners and, for the first time this month, haulers like me.  Hulkageddon IV runs 19-28 February from midnight to midnight GMT.  So if I want, I could just hang out in Rift most of that time on the weekends, except on Monday when I have most of the day Rift-free.  But really, what is the fun of that when Helicity is bringing low-sec to high-sec?  Seems like the perfect time to try to refine my blockade-running skills.  Now I just need to purchase that interceptor so I can make the bookmarks.  After all, Vigils are just so slow.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Impressions from Rift Beta 6

I took my first plunge into a Rift beta this weekend and I have to say I had a pretty good time.  I had a couple of times I was disconnected back to the character select page and once I wound up in a strange place when I died and was trying to resurrect myself, but other than that the game is pretty polished.  I leveled two characters up to level 10, a bard/nightblade/riftstalker and a warden/purifier/sentinel.  I also leveled a reaver/riftblade/champion up to level 7 and a ranger-based rogue up to level 8 before deleting the character.  So anything I tell you is just based on low-level experiences and not the level 35 game play that was available during the weekend beta.  So hear are a few notes I took.

Graphics drivers:  First, if you don't keep your graphics drivers up-to-date, you will get a message stating you are using out-of-date drivers.  Both NVIDIA and AMD have come out with new drivers with Rift-specific code, so if you plan on purchasing the game, go ahead and update your drivers now.

Character creation:  I was pretty happy with the way my characters looked.  The character creator is more cartoony than in Eve Online or EverQuest 2, but less cartoony than World of Warcraft.  If I had to put it on a scale of games I've played, I would say the options are like EQ2 but the end result is better than anything I've seen except the new Eve character creator.

The UI:  The UI has a lot of the look and feel of WoW's UI.  However, if you go into the settings > interface section you can add action bars to your screen and you actually get more bars than in the WoW default UI.  And if you wish to do some radical rearranging of the UI, you can do that in the edit layout button in the options.

The beginning areas:  I played both Guardian and Defiant characters and the starting areas are basically standard MMO fare, if not a little tedious when played through for the second or third time.  I can see a problem with replayability.  However, between the opening cinematics and the story you're led through, some of the lore of Telara should sink in.  Basically, think the reverse of Age of Conan, which was great for the first 20 levels.  The game gets more interesting (and feels more like Warhammer Online) once you leave the starter areas.

The soul system:  The soul system will challenge a lot of players.  The soul system is much more complicated than WoW's three trees for each class, which many WoW players found too complex.  With the soul system, you get the three branches, but you get to select from 8 total.  That's right, you have to make the decisions, and the first quest makes you pick your first one.  The soul system makes Rift one of those games that you better do some homework on before you start playing.  It isn't as bad as Eve, but take some time; you will save yourself some frustration.

Rifts:  Rifts are what set the game apart.  I've taken part in them as a support-class (bard) and as a healer.  Healing is pretty easy, as all members of the raid taking part in fighting the invasion are visable in the display.  All I had to do is just watch the bars and heal those whose health was getting low.  However, I don't know how the fighters and direct damage do it, because of all the bodies in the way.  Tabbing through the enemies to get a target is a must.

Scotty:  I keep finding a lot of things belonging to someone named Scotty.  A pencil, dice, homework, etc.  Now, some think that Scotty refers to Scott Hartsman, the Executive Producer of Rift, but that was denied on The Rift Podcast #29.  So I know who Scotty is.  He is the docking manager for all of the stations in Eve Online.  Obvious, wasn't it?

Those are just some quick impressions I got from playing Rift for two days.  And with the game still in beta, things are still subject to change.  I read a lot of complaining about changes made between Beta #5 and this weekend's beta event.  Hopefully I've kept my comments general enough that they will remain true on launch day on March 1st.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Split Infinity Radio Now Holds Sov In Eve Null Sec Space

I was going through all the sovereignty changes in Eve last night and saw that SI Radio's alliance now holds sovereignty over the outpost system KW-OAM in Tenerifis.  Wow!  That's what I love about Eve.  Anything can happen.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Playing In A Beta

I received an invitation to the sixth Rift beta weekend.  I've resisted entering the earlier ones I've had access to.  Why?  At this point, having already pre-ordered the game and signed up for the 6-month sub ($9.99/month) I'm a bit afraid of ruining my actual game experience when the game comes out on March 1st.  Also, from everything I've heard about the development team, they are very proactive in fixing bugs/issues so the game I jump into this weekend will probably differ in a lot of ways from the game released in 3 weeks time.  So I should probably play this weekend just so I can understand the tears of those beta players who start crying on day 1 about their classes being nerfed.  Beta tester tears best tears?

This weekend's test is a load test to see at what point the servers break.  Hmmm ... lag.  I can pretend I'm just going to Jita.  Also, I just can't resist any longer seeing all the things that I've heard and read about.  Of course, I can't just hop in the beta tonight.  I have important internet spaceship stuff to do.  I have to do my weekly hauling of planetary interaction products to market and purchase the remaining skill books Rosewalker will need to fly Orcas.  And of course once I start hauling stuff I usually can't resist doing courier contracts, so who knows where I'll end up.  Hey, some people mine, I fly slow and admire the view.  And of course I have to write Saturday's sov report for Clone Pundit.  Null sec warfare and politics is fascinating and I'll keep writing the daily report even if no one reads it.

Something tells me that playing in the beta might be a surreal experience.  I've been playing Eve so long that I don't really remember what it feels like to have virtually no penalty for dying.  With that said, I don't know if I would want to roll a character on a PvP server or not.  I guess the beta is the place to find out.

I'll let you know Monday how it goes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Groundhog's Day Snowstorm

I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and we are still experiencing one of the biggest storms in the history of the area.  The really bad winds have ended and the snowfall has slacked off a lot.  We are still under a blizzard watch, but it doesn't look that bad, except for huge snowdrifts.  The plows, at least in the area I can see as I ride into work on the train, haven't quite caught up with the snow yet.  As of an hour ago, Chicago's famous weatherman Tom Skilling tweeted that O'Hare Airport had received 17.1 inches of snow so far, with another 1-5 inches expected.

Did I mention I'm on the train going into work?  That's right, I braved the weather and am heading into the office even as I post this.  I would be expected to log into the network at work (if the company has enough available connections) even if I stayed home, so what's the point of staying home?  I can do my job better from the office and having two computers with Eve Online loaded up would not help my mood any.

Oh yes, Eve Online.  With the blizzard, my house kept experiencing brief power interruptions.  Not enough to knock out my good computer that holds the database I use to produce the sovereignty reports on Clone Pundit, but enough to reboot not only my DirectTV receiver by my second computer as well.  So I can honestly say that my planetary interaction activities were interrupted by a snowstorm.  And I was setting up the extractor program on a storm planet at the time, so it even makes sense.

Well, not alot about gaming in this post, but if you hear any podcasters talking about the storm in Chicago, you've got another voice chiming in on that score.  From where I sit, the snow really wasn't that bad.  But the temperatures tonight?  They are expected to plunge below zero.  That is going to be brutal!

UPDATE: I believe that Erin from the Notalotofnews Newshour lives in Arlington Heights.  I just saw a report that as of 8am his town had received 22 inches of snow.  And for those who listen to Sisters Julie and Fran, they live in the next town over.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Isk Faucet Or Isk Sink?

A lot of discussion over the last few months in Eve Online has centered on the money supply.  EveNews24 ran a series in December that focused on RMT that caused an uproar.  Why is the money supply important?  Brendan Drain on wrote an article explaining the concept of isk faucets, isk sinks and the money supply.  Brendan did a good job explaining the concept:
"To the average player, the rate at which ISK flows in and out of the game seems to have little consequence on everyday play. In EVE's closed economy, however, the balance between ISK sinks and faucets sets the rate of inflation for the game, which in turn alters the buying power of ISK. If the faucets pour a lot more ISK into the game than the sinks can remove, the buying power of a fixed amount of ISK may start to drop."
Sort of what's happening in real life now.  But instead of looking into the similarities between real life and Eve Online (just thinking about QE2 makes my brain hurt), I started an experiment to find out if I am an isk faucet or an isk sink.  So starting on January 1st I started tracking all of my income and outgoes to see what my play is like.

First, the isk faucets.  I didn't lose any ships in January, so I didn't receive any insurance payouts.  But I did manage to run 15 missions last month and gained 12.9 million isk in bounties and 7.3 million isk in mission rewards.  Now remember, I'm only looking at isk faucets, so any sales of modules or salvage materials does not count as being part of an isk faucet.  In fact, those sales, since they are between players, are actually isk sinks in the form of sales taxes.  So the total amount of money I brought into the game was 20.2 million isk.

Next the isk sinks.  For the way I play, planetary interaction is a big isk sink.  How is PI an isk sink?  Just think about all the construction involved, the planetary import/export taxes and the sales taxes when selling products.  So even though I made a 350 million isk profit doing PI in January, I also paid 12.3 million isk in planetary command centers, extractors and processors, 4 million isk in import/export taxes and 2.2 million isk in sales tax selling my products.  I'm bad at PI and just sell my product on the market.  If I put up sell orders, I would have to include the broker fees as well.

Other isk sinks that I spent money on was the Marketing skill book for 3.1 million isk and a clone upgrade for Wandering Rose that cost 2 million isk.  I didn't really spend much money on the manufacturing, research and invention isk sinks, although now that I have 3 BPCs for Warrior IIs and am looking to make Prowlers and Cheetahs, that amount will actually be significant next month.

The one other economic activity I engaged in, carrying out courier contracts, is a neutral activity, although those who create the contracts have to pay a fee, which is an isk sink.  And while I'm on the subject of courier contracts, I made 30 million isk flying around New Eden last month.  Yep, more money from doing courier contracts than from missioning.

So, am I an isk faucet or isk sink?  According to my math, I'm an isk sink, taking 3.5 million isk out of the economy.  And I think I will continue to act as an isk sink, since I have to purchase the Industrial Command Ships skill book this month for Rosewalker, and that costs 45 million isk.  As much as I don't like doing missions, I don't think I'm going to make enough to counter that one isk sink item.