Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Ahead to 2013 And Back On 2012

The end of the year means that bloggers are tempted to look back at the past year and try to predict the future.  I did in 2011 and did rather badly.  So how did I do in 2012 and how out of touch are my musings for 2013?

Looking back at 2012 I didn't really make serious predictions.  Instead I made some rather general observations which make me look good now. 

Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I pointed out that the game would be the major story of 2012 and even with the emergence of Guild Wars 2 I think that SW:TOR was the most important MMORPG story of 2012.  The big question was whether the game could keep player interest throughout the course of the year.  The answer to that was "NO!", with EA/Bioware eventually turning to the free-to-play model late in the year to try to reverse the game's sagging financial fortunes.

DUST 514.  I stated that DUST 514 would be a major story in 2012.  The game did not turn out as important as I thought mainly because the release date was pushed into 2013.

New Game Announcements.  I expected to hear news about three upcoming rumored games, Blizzard's Titan, SOE's EverQuest Next and 38 Studios' Project Copernicus.   The news was a little shocking.  Well, not hearing any real news about Titan wasn't shocking with World of Warcraft doing so well, but the other two games?  At SOE's fan gathering John Smedley announced they were scrapping all previous work done on EverQuest Next and starting over.  One hope that the the game is not vaporware is that the third installment of the EverQuest series will use the same game engine as Planetside 2.  Project Copernicus, on the other hand, is vaporware as 38 Studios filed for bankruptcy protection in June.

Real Life Politics.  I really expected politics to rear its ugly head as more and more countries face financial difficulties.  Gamers almost saw the passage of SOPA, a measure that would have damaged efforts to implement DNSSEC, thus making our account transactions with gaming companies less secure.  Fortunately Republicans realized, after getting hit in the head by Reddit with a ClueBat, that opposing these types of measures wasn't the Tea Party just being crazy and the measure died, at least for 2012.

In news from South Korea legislators chose to outlaw gold farming and the use of bots.  I don't think that measure was meant to improve gamers' lives but in response to Diablo 3.  Violators of the law face penalties of up to $43,000 and five years in prison.  In a land where StarCraft is the national sport the effects of gold farming and botting is serious business.

So what's in store for 2013?

Year of the Sandbox.   We started hearing talk of this in 2012 but will 2013 become the year of the sandbox game?  With games like Age of Wushu launching in February and The Repopulation probably launching in 2013, the answer may be yes.  If Eve Online can maintain or improve upon its current 450,000 subscriptions, the sandbox idea will remain strong with EverQuest Next on the horizon to possibly launch in 2014.

Year of the MMOFPS?  I don't think so but CCP's DUST 514 and Trion's Defiance will try to prove me wrong.  Not only are the two games first person shooters but they are linked to items outside the game; DUST 514 to Eve Online and Defiance to the SyFy network show of the same name.  I expect both games to put up solid but not spectacular performances in 2013.

SWTOR Redux?  The Elder Scrolls Online is in a predicament.  Set in a beloved universe one thousand years before Skyrim, can ZeniMax not only reproduce an acceptable version of Tamriel but an acceptable combat system as well?  Does this sound like what Bioware faced when creating Star Wars: The Old Republic?  Not only did the developers need to fit into the Star Wars universe but the ghost of Star Wars: Galaxies, killed to give SWTOR a clear playing field, gave players something with which to compare game play.

Having never played any of the Elder Scrolls games, I'll just put my trust in the director of The Elder Scrolls Online, Matt Firor, and state that by the end of the year no one will call ESO a failure.  Mr. Firor was the producer of Dark Age of Camelot and its first two expansions.  With ZeniMax/Bethesda not releasing any information about the business model until much closer to the launch date I'm not going to make a prediction except to say things may go poorly if a buy-to-play/cash shop similar to Guild Wars 2 is not used.

Other Games.  I have two other games I've heard of that sound interesting.  The first is Blade & Soul.  NCSoft is adapting the game for release in North America and Europe and should release the game sometime in 2013.  While most Korean imports don't play well in the West NCSoft did a good job with Aion.  The second game is Wild Star.  I've heard that a lot of developers from World of Warcraft are working on the game and from the videos I've seen on YouTube it shows.  How will a sci-fi game with WoW's art style do?  We'll find out.

Blame Video Games.  While U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may believe that no study has shown a link between violence and video games, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings that claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adults at an elementary school in Connecticut the subject has come up again.  Vice-President Joe Biden, who has presidential aspirations in 2016, is heading a commission on violence looking at, among other things, video games.  Expect more news coming from the U.S. Congress once the newly elected members take office in January.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

CCP's War On Bots: 2012 In Review

"Security issues from our perspective extend beyond things like infrastructure, hardening the firewalls and all those fancy security things but I believe they also extend to the RMT and botting situation.  I think that is a security problem.  I see catching bad guys as catching bad guys.  I don't see it as a customer service thing."

CCP Sreegs, Fanfest 2012

The year 2012 started off with one big question for those concerned about botting and illicit RMT: could CCP afford to continue the war it began in 2011?  Following the Summer of Rage caused by the Incarna expansion and related events the number of subscriptions had fallen 8% down to 340,000 in December 2012.  Many players had dug into CCP's finances in June 2011 and discovered a loan that was due on 28 October that probably contributed heavily to CCP announcing a 20% reduction in its workforce on 19 October.  With all of this bad news could CCP really afford to ban any accounts no matter how shady?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 25 December 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 23 December 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 37.5 28,926-9.7
22Guild Wars 219.515,072-17.3
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.98,389-0.3
44Planetside 25.44,201-3.7
65Eve Online4.33,282-14.3
77The War Z 4.13,127+14.1
88Lord of the Rings Online3.82,913+21.2
99Maple Story2.82,158-2.2
1010Metin 22.72,069+11.0
1211APB: Reloaded2.31,773+1.1
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 100,787
After a large increase the week before, Sunday saw the Xfire community spend 4.6% less time playing MMORPGs than the week before.   The games leading the decline were Guild Wars 2 (-17.3%), Eve Online (-14.3%) and World of Warcraft (-9.7%) while the leading games fighting the trend were Vindictus (+29%) and Lord of the Rings Online (+21.2%).

The Reason For A Score - One of the reasons for creating a score for each game is to keep track of the percentage of time spent playing the most popular MMORPGs in the Xfire community.  I've always felt that just looking at the raw numbers is to evaluate how a game is faring was inadequate, especially if the size of the Xfire community significantly increases or decreases.  I think that at the very least the MMORPG portion of the Xfire community has shrunk drastically over the course of the year.  Since mid-February when I first started tracking the total time spent playing MMORPGs the number of hours played has decreased by 52.9%.

Most of that decrease can be attributed to two games: World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Those two games have seen a decrease of 72.4% in the number of hours played compared to a decrease of 19.6% in all other MMORPGs listed on Xfire combined.  So can the decrease in MMORPG play the result of the bleeding away of the community or due to players of WoW and SW:TOR not being fans of the genre, just those games?
I'm not going to claim that the Digital Dozen score is more accurate in determining actual numbers because it isn't.  For example, take Eve Online.  The actual increase in the number of average concurrent users from the first week in February until the period from 14-20 December was 2.7%.  The change in the number of hours played decreased 647 hours or 14.3%.  The DD score increased from 2.7 to 4.3, or an increase of 59.2%.  Neither one is accurate for determining actual numbers.  But I do think the DD score is a good, or at least better, way to compare games with each other over periods of time.

No Press Is Bad Press?  Hammerpoint Interactive is pressing the point over the past week.  First the game was offered on Steam and then taken down within a day.  Now the game may need to change titles as its trademark was suspended for the name being too similar to an upcoming Brad Pitt film, World War Z.  In other news War Z experienced 14% more play from the Xfire community on Sunday.

Merry Christmas!  I wish everyone a merry, joyous holiday season.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas In My Virtual Worlds

I'm not a big fan of Christmas appearing in my video games.  Unless I absolutely stumble across the events in-game I don't take part.  Okay, that's not quite true.  If the event drops crafting items and I can make special items then I'm interested.  But if a game doesn't have holiday events I'm not upset.

In 2012 I played four MMORPGs and purchased three of them this year.  So this being the Christmas season I thought I'd just take a quick tour of the games I've played, Eve Online, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World.

Going slightly out of order, I think that fantasy games have the easiest time of incorporating Christmas into their lore.  Humans have instituted celebrations around the winter solstice since pre-historic times so having some sort of celebration in-game makes sense.  Also, unless the game uses an established IP like Lord of the Rings Online, the developers have the freedom to establish their own lore.  In this tradition Guild Wars 2's Wintersday fits right in.

I'm not sure how immersion breaking Wintersday is hardcore GW2 players but it does seem an out of the way bit of fun as Lion's Arch is transformed into a winter wonderland.  Okay, maybe not that idyllic, but I think the place looks prettier.

Entering Lion's Arch

GW2 does have a substantial cash shop and ArenaNet has populated the store with holiday product for those interested.  I actually don't plan on buying anything although the ear-muffs are pretty cute.  The interface does allow players to preview what their purchases look like on their characters which is nice.  While I'm not interested in the weapons skins available for sale I am intrigued by the crafted skins I can make.  Turn my short bow into a sling shot?  Who could resist.

I should also add that even though ArenaNet has a cash shop the company has also given out gifts this Wintersday.  The one I really like is the 15-slot gift box.  Even though I'm level 52 and am a leatherworker I still had an 8-slot bag.  Seven extra slots means I can use the materials I gather for leveling instead of for adding more carrying capacity.

Moving away from fantasy, next on my list is Funcom's The Secret World.  If any game is going to portray Christmas as a holiday in-game, The Secret World is the mostly likely candidate.  Set in an alternative universe where all conspiracies are real, I saw no sign of the holiday even in the cash shop.  That doesn't mean that Funcom didn't put anything in players' Christmas stockings.  Given that TSW also falls into the horror genre, what better gift could Funcom give players that a portrayal of the Mayan prediction of the end of the world?  And since the Mayans were not too specific, Funcom took the liberty to make it a zombie apocalypse.  A zombie apocalypse?  What better gift could players receive for Christmas than that?

Next I jump 22,000 years into the future into my main game, Eve Online.  Icelandic developer CCP sticks to the lore and since Earth is just a vaguely remembered myth no official Christmas, or any holiday celebration for players.  Of course, Eve being Eve the players usually organize events here and there, holding Secret Santas and such.  But CCP also gives out presents during the season.  This year the developers have incorporated an Icelandic tradition, the "Yule Lads", to get players into the holiday spirit.

So far on my two main accounts I've received 2 Inner Zone Shipping Imicus faction exploration frigates, a set of Genolution Core Augmentation implants, 7 New Eden Open trading cards and perhaps most importantly, 2 Festival Launchers and 1200 snowballs.  CCP actually provided players a second set of snowballs due to all the fun everyone had launching snowballs at each other.  We still are due to receive a set of fireworks on the 30th to use to kick-off the new year.  They should add some sparkle to the light shows players usually organize around New Year's Eve.

The last MMORPG I played this year also takes place in a galaxy far, far away.  I have to give credit to EA/Bioware for not putting an in-game holiday event into the game.  The developers promised not to violate the IP like that and they kept their word.  Well, for free anyway.  But look in the cash shop and one finds this mount.

Czerka LD-1 Celebrator - From

That's right, a snowblower with Christmas lights on it.  Did I mention the price is $18?  The other items for the Wookie holiday Life Day had what I thought was a Star Wars feel.  But this mount?  Ugh.

When the subject is what is in the cash shop, EA/Bioware is doing the same thing as ArenaNet is doing.  Both GW2 and SW:TOR have a lot of holiday items for sale.  The difference is what the two companies are giving their players.  GW2 players do get a bunch of gifts to go along with all the items in the cash shop.  SW:TOR players, even subscribers, receive nothing.  EA/Bioware should have either followed GW2's lead or should have followed Funcom's practice in The Secret World of just ignoring the holiday season altogether.

I never thought that holiday events, and especially Christmas, would influence what games I play.  I've played MMORPGs for seven years and this is the first time I've felt differently.  I still want to play SW:TOR and this little money grab won't deter me from eventually returning.  The one thing holding me back was eliminated with the raising of the character slot limit for F2P players from two to six.  But I probably will wait until I've completed The Secret World now since that game is not only engaging but the Funcom actually seems to like their player base.  EA/Bioware?  I'm not so sure.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Sub-Optimal Mining Choice

I have to admit something.  I'm not good at mining in Eve Online.  Sure I have all the skills but mining involves more than just making a training plan and sneaking up on a vicious asteroid.  A player needs practice and quite frankly I hate mining in high sec.  A player needs to have good standings in trade hubs to sell products and I really don't like the idea of going back to high sec to run missions for the Brutor Tribe.  I don't know how to properly fit my ships since my Procurer doesn't have a Mining Laser Upgrade II (even though I can use one) but is fitted with a point.

But perhaps my greatest weakness is not knowing which rocks to shoot.  I'm always told to mine the asteroids that produce the most money.  But that isn't intuitive as to which ones are the most valuable.  When CCP created ores they made them so that the rarest (and presumably most valuable) ores had names at the beginning of the alphabet and the most common at the end.  Hey, that's how FCs call targets, right?

But that is not the way New Eden works and mining gneiss like I did Wednesday is bad.  Bad because I had a lot of choices that were a lot better from an economical point of view.  After doing a little research to make the table above I realized, "mining gneiss is kind of dumb."  Well, from a conservative, industrialist point of view.  But I tend to think outside the box.  Or, as others might put it, I'm a bit crazy.

So what led me to make the sub-optimal choice of gneiss instead of a more profitable ore?  I was caught up in the situation.  Here were the conditions in space at the time:
  • I had hit the two hour mark and should have logged off, but I was on a roll and didn't want to stop.  But since I couldn't play much longer I wanted to stay in-system.  Oh, and I had already scanned down all the signatures in-system so I had no better gravimetric site available.
  • I saw gneiss, looked it up on the Evelopedia, saw it contained a high amount of zydrine which is always a good thing to have.  The fact that gneiss also contains mexallon, a mineral I don't usually mine for, was a bonus.
  • The gneiss was sitting in a gravimetric site which anyone wishing to attack me would need to scan down.  All of the better ore was sitting in belts.  And flying in a faction warfare low sec system usually draws people into the system.  At the time a couple of pilots from the Amarr militia were flying around in Rifters (at least that's what d-scan showed).  They seemed happy in their PLEX but why tempt them, especially if some of their friends showed up.  Which they did when I was filling up my ore bay for the second time.
  • This was the first large gneiss deposit I had ever scanned down.  More importantly, I was the first one to find it.  I'll be damned if I wasn't going to get at least one ore bay full of the stuff, especially since every other time I had ever found a grav site containing gneiss all of the prismatic gneiss had already been mined out.  I know Eve Online doesn't have achievement unlocks but I wanted to tick off one more thing from my list of things to do in Eve.
The hardcore miner might look at my reasons and label them as rather silly.  Then again I think a lot of hardcore miners look at mining in low sec as a pretty silly thing to do anyway.  Heck, I think most people think mining in low sec is pretty silly.  But really I only do it because I'm too lazy to fly out to Hek to get more ammunition, although with the recent changes to the Probe I may wind up making a couple copies of the Minmatar exploration frigate for my personal use.  I actually have researched copied of all the tech 1 Minmatar frigates and cruisers so if I really wanted to I could build ships in low sec.  But I probably won't because I'm not very good at mining.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Exploring Success

Normally when I head out exploring in low sec systems I don't have much success. I might get a radar site and sometimes the occasional gravimetric site. But last night was wonderful. With 30 minutes of probing I found two radar sites, a magnetometric site and a large gneiss deposit. I'm not sure if that is because probing is harder since Retribution or whether I just got lucky.

So with no one else in system I began running the radar and mag sites.  Over the next 90 minutes the price estimator built into the inventory told me I had raked in over 73 million ISK.  Perhaps for a lot of you that is chump change but that is the most I've ever made in Eve doing two hours worth of work.

I should say something about the Bellicose.  I chose to use it to provide DPS while I hacked and salvaged using a Jaguar.  Oh.  My.  God!  With heavy missiles that ship is a beast, at least going up against NPCs.  I even ran into a pirate battleship escorted by two elite cruisers.  They managed to knock my shields down by 25% before I was able to kill all three ships.  The only reason that happened is that I wanted to test my tank.  The scary part is I had forgotten to check my drone bay before going out.  With the AI's penchant for shooting drones I only had two in the drone bay.  That's okay.  I didn't need them.

I do have to admit I did do some mining in the gravimetric site.  I filled up two ore bays full of prismatic gneiss but then felt a bit uncomfortable sticking around as the Amarr militia started showing up to do some offensive plexing.  Those new jump gates are apparently working as intended and I'm seeing control slowing slipping away from the Minmatar.  Maybe everyone will overlook the site and I can go back tomorrow.  Probably not, but it is gneiss so I can hope.

So for those who wonder, yes I do play Eve during the week when I can get home at a decent time.  I probably should not have played for 3 hours but I was on a roll and needed to take advantage while I had the chance.  If my luck reverts back to normal tomorrow maybe I can finally start playing with snowballs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Misplaced Article

"One guy listens to one podcast which isn't an active Eve 'cast and it's a review about sexism in the community?  Really?"

- Arydanika, host, Voices From The Void

Back in March The Mittani was embroiled in controversy due to his drunken remarks following the Alliance Panel at Fanfest 2012.  As the mainstream gaming media spun out of control getting their facts wrong, The Mittani and his supporters grew irate with Massively columnist Brendan Drain, who called The Mittani's actions "cyber-bullying".  Drain and The Mittani met on Eve Radio's The Funky Bacon Show where Drain apologized and removed references to the term from his stories.  Massively's Editor-In-Chief Shawn Schuester acknowledged that the use of the term violated Massively's code of conduct.  Following such a firestorm I expected that any web site associated with The Mittani would take care about carelessly tarring people with inaccurate labels.

Fast forward to this Monday.  Following a couple of days after Corelin began his campaign against the phrase "Rape Train" (which was picked up on Eve News 24 Monday), The Mittani DOT Com published a story titled "On EVE Podcasts: The Blatant Sexism."  In the original version of the story Hoots writes about listening to an Eve podcast that used language that left the author shocked at the casual sexism so callously displayed and accepted.  Here is the original ending to the article:
"Even now, I still tell this very story to my non-EVE playing friends when they prompt me about this game’s player culture, and it makes such a good story because it is believable to have come out of EVE Online. That is the tragedy for the rest of us who aren’t raving mad lunatics, and I hope we all keep that in mind the next time we deign to tolerate someone who is downright abusive and nasty."
After re-reading this story a few times I don't think that Hoots is trying to blanket the entire Eve podcast community as sexist, but I honestly am not sure.  The title of the article definitely gives that impression even though Hoots states in the article to having never listened to an entire podcast devoted to Eve.  Eve Radio's DJ Funky Bacon had no doubts and started raising Cain about an article that tarred all Eve podcasters as sexist without getting into specifics or even naming the offending podcast.  DJ Funky Bacon posted this in the comments that seemed to sum up his argument:
"I'm not saying it doesn't happen. I'm not saying it should happen. I'm saying that to write an article (or a blog post) on 'Eve Podcasts' after listening to a part of 1 podcast (that he switched off the moment it harmed his senses), and not even being able to cite the source is utter garbage.

"Want to make a post on sexism in the eve podcasting community? Do some actual research. Show me more than 1 example... a pattern if you will. It's like saying 'This one time A pirate ransomed me and then killed me anyway, so pirates must not honor ransoms!' I just have no patience for generalization born of laziness."
In response on Tuesday Hoots responded:
"After this article was published, I went back and found the podcast in question. I have decided to name the actual podcast, as I feel the words were unacceptable and made in a public forum. Ultimately the EVE community may judge them for themselves."
He went on to list Notalotofnews Newshour 103, a podcast that stopped being Eve-centric in June, as the offending podcast.  I've taken the liberty of transcribing the offending segment.  It runs from 20:29 to 21:30 of the podcast.
Jason:  "But there is another complete leg of the game, a political leg.  Didn't you always wonder if they would have some political science people being able to play Eve and try to write an essay on that?"

FrFrmPukin:  "They have.  There was people trying to study the markets in the game, the economy..."

Jason:  "You've heard markets all the time but I was talking about not markets as much as political science."

FrFrmPukin:  "Coming through the Multiplex Gaming Network there's been plenty of guys who have gone through college and have written papers on Eve.  The game play; the communities that are in there.  In fact I know there's this one chick that was in our corp years ago that I swear to God it was nothing but a big social experiment for her.  You know, which came to the 'no boobies' clause, 'no single boobies' clause for MPX.  There are no single chicks in MPX because of her."

Jason: (chuckles)

FrFrmPukin:  "Seriously."
To begin, to a new player the fact that a corporation might put up a "No Girls Allowed" sign might appear sexist.  At least until one has played a few months and realize that the rule is put up for the protection of a corporation because a lot of guys just are not mature enough to interact with a real live female in an internet spaceship game.  Don't believe me?  For an example listen to Voices from the Void #62 and Arydanika's interview with the spy master T3mp3s7 to find out just how easy a time a female pilot has causing mischief in Eve.

Also, I was a bit surprised at the word that Hoots seemed to find so shocking.  I figured if the word began with the letter "b" it would be a different word.  And the word that began with the letter "c" would be a lot stronger than "chicks".  I also expected words beginning with "s" or "w".  But "boobies"?  I personally wouldn't use the word but I've heard a lot worse.

Stepping out into the wider world of Eve podcasting any insinuation that the podcast community is filled with misogynistic neanderthals just doesn't ring true.  Kirith Kodachi on Broadcasts from the Ninveah?  Alekseyev Karrde on Declarations of War?  Jade on Lost in Eve?  I really have a problem thinking of someone who fits the description.  Heck, one of the hosts on Fly Reckless is an ordained minister if I recall correctly.

Of course I haven't mentioned the keeper of the Eve Pod Pack and the matching Skype channel, Arydanika.  She isn't really known for putting up with too much stupidity without throwing out some barbs of her own.

Dani Can Use Photoshop Too
When the gaming media came after The Mittani over PanelGate, Arydanika went after the MGM for their hypocrisy in not covering the week-long sexual harassment of a female gamer on a televised
Street Fighter X Tekken tournament called Cross Assault.  When the time came to list out the Eve community's pajamahadeen who were not afraid to duke it out with the MGM, Dani was one of the first people to come to mind.

Now I am not about to try to tell everyone that Eve Online is filled with virtuous people and that all is sweetness and light because it's not.  One of the benefits in my solo low-sec play style is that I don't have to put up with all of the idiots spouting offensive stuff.  But with all the examples available, why would someone try to pick on the Eve podcast community?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 18 December 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 16 December 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 38.9 32,029+11.3
22Guild Wars 222.118,221+34.6
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.28,411+4.2
44Planetside 25.34,364-23.2
55Eve Online4.63,828+0.3
77The War Z (Alpha)3.32,741+9.9
88Lord of the Rings Online2.92,404+13.6
99Maple Story2.72,207+22.5
1010Metin 22.31,864+8.6
1111APB: Reloaded2.11,754+3.2
12--The Secret World1.91,534+316.8
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 105,706

The beginning of the Christmas season apparently means playing video games as the members of the Xfire community spent 11.3% more time playing MMORPGs on Sunday than they did the week before.  Ten of the twelve games saw increases, led by The Secret World (316.8%), Guild Wars 2 (34.6%) and Maple Story (+13.6%).  The two games experiencing losses were Planetside 2 (-23.2%) and Aion (-6.1%).

'Tis The Season - Christmas is coming and various holidays are springing up throughout the virtual worlds.  Perhaps the most successful of these so far is Wintersday in Guild Wars 2, with the Xfire community spending an extra 34.6% more hours in the game Sunday during the first weekend of the event.  Even games without an in-game holiday like Eve Online are offering gifts to players.  Did the return of snowballs to New Eden help keep the numbers up this weekend?

One game looking to buck the trend is Star Wars: The Old Republic.  EA/Bioware have no plans for an in-game event and will give out no gifts.  However, new items are being added to the cash shop.  How will players react to Scrooge?

Buy To Play - The Secret World edged back into The Digital Dozen this week on the strength of changing its business model.  Many people thought Funcom should have released the game without a subscription and players responded when the game became buy-to-play.  The question is how many players will stick with the horror/conspiracy niche game.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Secret World Is Not SW:TOR

Except for running a couple of radar complexes in low-sec this weekend I spent all of my gaming time in The Secret World.  I was a bit quick buying the game on Steam for $30 because Amazon sold it the next day for $15.  Oh well.

I'm often amazed at the reactions to the game and wonder what would have happened if the game launched with the same buy-to-play model as Guild Wars 2.  I work with a DUST bunny who's never played a subscription MMO but now that TSW has dropped the sub he's ready to go.  Even the prospect of buying monthly DLCs doesn't phase him.  That's because the game harkens back to the days of puzzle solving.

When I first heard of the game I thought the intellectual challenges might appeal to Eve players.  I found out on Twitter that Seismic Stan loves the game and Sugar Kyle was persuaded to try it out.  Yes, Sugar started a second blog for her non-Eve writings.  So I do have some other opinions about the game to let me know I'm not completely crazy.

First is that I really think that The Secret World was really influenced by the design philosophy at EA, especially Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The two biggest similarities between SW:TOR and TSW is the single-player feel of playing the game, at least so far, and the vast use of cut scenes.  I would say that the developers in Norway looked at SW:TOR, figured story, the famed "fourth pillar" of game design, was the next big thing and decided they needed to make the game similar in order to ride the wave.  Instead the wave is a tide going out to sea.

Next, I think that The Secret World is in a better position to recover from a rough start than SW:TOR.  The EA/Bioware free-to-play formula more resembles a trial pushing people to subscribe while Funcom is emulating ArenaNet's business model with Guild Wars 2.  I also wonder if EA and Funcom had any conflicts over the business model.  I only think that because when The Secret World launched Xfire listed EA as the game's publisher and now Xfire lists Funcom as the publisher.  Did something occur I don't know about?

Apart from the payment model, I also think that The Secret World is a higher quality game.  On the graphics scale, TSW is closer to Eve Online while SW:TOR is closer to World of Warcraft.  The Secret World is just pretty.  At this point I also have to mention the cut scenes.  In SW:TOR the voice acting for some gender/class combinations just led me not to play them.  In TSW Funcom created "Hello Kitty" cut scenes; your avatar's lips don't move.  While cut scenes can break immersion, at least I don't have an annoying voice representing me.  That's a plus!

I also prefer the combat in TSW to SW:TOR.  The 7 active and 7 passive attacks and abilities based on the two weapons equipped is similar to that found in Guild Wars 2.  I should add that I'm equipping blade/assault rifle in TSW and I was playing smuggler/imperial agent in SW:TOR so perhaps the different combat styles account for part of this.  But I've never had a mob stay standing for 2-3 seconds after I killed it in TSW like I did in SW:TOR.

The biggest draw for me is the puzzles.  Star Wars: The Old Republic has jumping puzzles to get datacrons but that's really about all I saw.  I'm only on Solomon Island in TSW but in addition to all the jumping puzzles to get to the honeycomb lore icons I've negotiated a booby-trapped laser maze, cracked a password on a smart phone and hacked into a computer.  I currently have a mission to investigate a series of murders that requires using the Internet.  Now I just need to avoid all the spoiler sites.

Amazing what you find when you hack a computer

I should add one additional difference that is rather important.  While Star Wars: The Old Republic is pretty family friendly The Secret World has an ESRB rating of M due to "Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence." 

With the puzzles, rating and genre (modern day horror) The Secret World has all the characteristics of a niche game that will never pose a threat to the likes of World of Warcraft.  But I've played Eve Online for over three years so I know that niche does not mean bad.  The question now is what is Funcom's expectations for the game.  Before launch I thought they expected a niche game to put up Guild Wars 2 numbers.  Hopefully the change to the business model will allow TSW to last a long, long time.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Shooting Star Of The Mittani Dot Com

The end of the year for a blogger, at least in my experience, leads to a lot of introspection over the year past, prognostication for the year ahead and site clean-up.  Site clean-up?  Hey, a blogger needs to synergize his site with his subject, right?

Okay, now that I have met my contractually obligated buzzword quota with Blogspot for 2012 let's get on to an important subject,  The new site emerged from the Eve null sec community in the wake of the media circus surrounding the fiasco surrounding The Mittani's drunken behavior at the Alliance Panel at Fanfest 2012.  I wrote back in March about the miserable coverage provided by the mainstream gaming media (MGM) and whether the Eve blogosphere was about to see the emergence of its own pajamahadeen.  While the conflict between the MGM and the Eve blogosphere has subsided (indeed, PC Gamer even embedded reporters with the CFC during the war in the south this summer), The Mittani continued down the path of the pajamahadeen with the launch of The Mittani Dot Com.  Just like his counterparts in the political blogosphere who created Pajamas Media (now PJMedia), The Mittani and his merry band of writers, editors and system administrators are competing with mainstream journalists attempting they can produce better quality articles than the more highly regarded trained professionals.

While I applaud the effort I now have to remove The Mittani Dot Com from my feeds as the site has shot past my interests.  When first launched, the site was a direct competitor with Eve News 24 and as such brought a lot of Eve news to light.  I still visit every day, but with the move to add coverage of games like League of Legends, StarCraft 2 and World of Tanks the site is no longer MMORPG-specific.  The Nosy Gamer is, when all is said and done, a blog about MMORPGs and related issues.  So in my end of year cleaning the feed had to go.  Hopefully some day will do what Massively did and have a feed set up specifically for Eve Online but until then I'll just have to remember to visit every so often.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Day The MMO Subscription Model Died

With the news yesterday that The Secret World had abandoned (kind of) the subscription model and gone with buy-to-play (with freemium plans added) I purchased and downloaded the game last night.  The Secret World is one of those games I was interested in purchasing but wanted to wait until the game dropped the subscription fee.

I think that was Funcom's problem with TSW.  Everyone expected the subscription model to go many people just waited.  They only had to wait five months.  I am calling this development the day the MMO subscription model died.

Some, well maybe most, will disagree.  Wasn't the free-to-play model on the rise for the past few years?  True, but I think Guild Wars 2's buy-to-play model will become the industry's standard for the next few years. 

How about Star Wars: The Old Republic?  EA/Bioware turned that game into a free-to-pay/freemium model within a year after launch.  Doesn't that game show the subscription model was already dead?  Not in my eyes.  If Bioware had developed a truly well developed MMORPG with engaging gameplay without spending at least $200 million the Star Wars universe would have carried the game to success and we would see an avalanche of stories stating the subscription model is not dead yet.  The subscription model did not harm SW:TOR, SW:TOR seriously, if not fatally, wounded the subscription model.

The reason that 12/12/12 should go down in MMORPG history as the day the subscription model died is that yesterday was the day that MMO fans forced a game company into acknowledging that they could not charge a subscription.  The pre-launch buzz I received was that Funcom had developed a nice little game that a lot of people were interested in playing.  But the game wasn't engaging enough to purchase as launch.  How many decided that they would wait until the game dropped subscription fees?  We will see over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Return of the Bellicose CL-A

"The initial design purpose of the Bellicose was to act as a long range missile platform similar to the Caldari Caracal.  The standard model was armed with four heavy missile systems and a Republic Fleet Dual 180mm Gallium Caseless Machine Gun for point defense against drones and light frigates.  In addition, the dorsal auxiliary plasma afterburners were not present in this early design.

"The design presented several problems early on.  For one thing, heavy missile production lagged in the new Republic's manufacturing centres and chronic shortages of the ammunition cut short many sorties.  Secondly, the Minmatar engineers lacked the extensive experience of the Caldari corporations with missile systems and the performance of the Bellicose's armaments never came close to matching the Caracal cruiser that it was inspired by.

"Two of the missile systems were ripped out and replaced by the autocannon turret hardpoints and the point defense machine gun was upgraded to a full autocannon pairing as well, all coupled with an upgrade in fire control systems designed for projectile weaponry.  The extra propulsion units were added to increase speed and agility and the new design was designated the CL-B."

- Kirith Kodachi, Project Athena
When I first read CCP Ytterbium's dev blog on the cruiser ship balancing in September I wondered if the changes to the Bellicose would bring back memories of the original version of the Bellicose as described in Kirith's Fighting Spacecraft series in the Eve Tribune.  The Bellicose is the first ship I ever got on a kill mail with and I always wondered why a ship with the target painter bonuses the Bellicose has a bonus for projectile turrets and not missiles.  When I was in Eve University I didn't care and fit missiles anyway because the Bellicose's main purpose for existence was to paint the enemy and any DPS was just icing on the cake.

Just a quick review of the changes.  The Bellicose lost one high slot but gained both a mid and a low slot.  To justify the high slot change according to Kirith's lore, modern tactical doctrine now advocates using drones and not machine guns to combat frigates and other drones.  And, let's face it, the Bellicose is a pretty old ship and electronics that used to fit in one slot can now fit in two.  This is YC114, not the beginning of the Republic.

I am happy with the Bellicose, especially flying around low-sec with Ripard Teg's Bellicose fit.  I didn't run into anyone but when I engaged NPCs the heavy assault missiles tore the Angel frigates and elite cruisers to shreds.  Angel Cartel ship wrecks just brighten my day.  I then modified the fit, replacing the HAM launchers with heavy missile launchers and the point with a shield booster and ran a Dirty Site, merrily blowing away ships from range.  I'm beginning to wonder if I should even fit a shield booster since I was barely scratched even when webbed.  That would be a surprise, flying a PvP fit complete with point when someone thinks I'm fit for PvE.  Regular readers will know I love surprises, especially when I'm the one springing them.

The funny thing is that my PvE rampage ended early for the same reason that Bellicose sorties ended early in Kirith's history: a shortage of heavy missiles.  I stocked up on heavy assault missiles and just brought a few heavy missiles with me.  That new missile rate of fire bonus really burns through missiles.  The nice thing is now that I have set up in low sec getting a new supply of missiles is as easy as undocking a mining ship, mining for less than an hour and then putting the ingredients in the oven.  So what if making 20,000 missiles takes 13 hours.  This is Eve, I'm supposed to plan ahead, right?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 11 December 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 9 December 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 38.7 28,770-14.4
22Guild Wars 218.213,540-11.5
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.98,070-15.7
44Planetside 27.65,684-6.6
56Eve Online5.13,815+25.8
79The War Z (Alpha)3.42,494+25.9
87Lord of the Rings Online2.82,116-13.2
911Maple Story2.41,802+57.2
108Metin 22.31,716-15.9
1110APB: Reloaded2.31,700+8.7
12--Star Trek Online1.91,375+29.2
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 94,950
In a week that saw wild swings in game popularity the Xfire community spent 8.2% fewer hours playing MMORPGs than the previous Sunday.  The games experiencing the largest gains percentage-wise were Maple Story (57.2%), Star Trek Online (29.2%) and The War Z (25.9%).  The games experiencing the largest declines were Need For Speed World (-21.4%), Metin 2 (-15.9%) and Star Wars: The Old Republic (-15.7%).

Software Upgrade - Often we see players rush into a game because of an expansion or an in-game event.  Maple Story went one better as the game launched a Windows 8 compatible version on 5 December.  The version is compatible with both the 32 and 64 bit versions.

Culture In Space - Eve Online's 25.8% gain in play last week was not just due to the Retribution expansion that launched on 4 December.  The Museum of Modern Art of New York has chosen Eve Online as one of 14 titles to display in a video game exhibit.  As part of that effort CCP put out a call for players to record video of interesting game play on Sunday.  Eve players responded with PCU on Sunday exceeding 54,000 players.  Expect lower numbers next weekend.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Look At Amarr Low Security Space

Back in September I took a look at the Minmatar Republic's low security space.  While most may view that space as an arena of combat between capsuleers, I looked at the geography(1) of the region looking for non-military sources of wealth.  But with CONCORD openly siding with the Amarr by opening new stargates designed to make Metropolis harder to defend, some pilots may prefer more peaceful areas of operation.  Since CONCORD clearly favors the Amarr Empire(2), I now turn to Amarr low security space.  Crumbling empires often provide wealth and opportunity for those bold enough to seize them and the Amarr Empire certainly falls in this category.

Friday, December 7, 2012

First Look At Eve Botting Post-Retribution Launch

Retribution launched on Tuesday, which means that Eve Online's bot developers are working overtime getting their bots in working order.  For example, the developer of the Eve Pilot family of bots stated on Tuesday that his bots become broken with every patch and he requires 1-3 days to make them fully functional again.  Some of the obvious challenges facing the bot devs in Retribution include the images for targets ships changing from squares to circles, changes in Crimewatch that will prevent bots from immediately logging off when neutral or hostile pilots enter a system and NPCs developing a fondness for destroying drones.  Bots are also affected by bugs, such as the local chat issue, initially deployed by CCP until said issues are fixed.  Of course, expansion releases are also a time when complaints seem to increase about botters getting banned.  I'm not sure if the reason is botters using software not fully optimized for the new expansion, CCP's Team Security deploying new tools a couple of days early or a combination of the two.

So what are botters writing on their forums?  First, some are worried about what the changes mean for mission bots:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Death Penalty

I spent the second day after the launch of Retribution dealing with the consequences of losing my Hurricane on Tuesday.  Eve Online's death penalty has a reputation as harsh since seeing your ship explode means actually losing the ship in-game.  Add in the fact that anyone can loot whatever remains of your ship and some players run away screaming and rage-quit.  Me, I just try to hold the field and loot the wreck first.

While players on the outside usually look at the material loss or even the ISK loss, the biggest loss for me is time.  Time spent looking on the markets for the best deals to get me up and running again cheaply.  Time flying out gathering the purchased goods.  And time spent making rigs when they are outrageously priced on the market.  Really, do you think I'm going to spend 8-10 million ISK on rigs when I can just spend two hours making them from the scraps I have lying around the station?  Some would say I should pay the ISK because the two hours spent manufacturing the rigs is better spent missioning.  Those people also probably sell rigs.

That two-hour timeout imposed by manufacturing items did have an upside.  I actually looked the Hurricane's ship fitting for the first time since the expansion launched in the wake of actual combat (well, PvE) activity.  Because of the reduction of the Hurricane's power grid by 225 PG I had just unfit the Medium Nosferatu II instead of downgrading the guns down to 220mm Vulcan Autocannon IIs.  Experience shows that was a big mistake because while running my gang link the ship is not cap stable and running the nosferatu against NPC battleships lets me refill my capacitor (as NPCs always have 100% capacitor) and speed tank at the same time.  A great way to mitigate damage.  But I put the fit together so long ago I forgot why it worked.  So when I did my shopping I included 220mm autocannons on my list or I could put the module back on.

I did have some time left so I also installed the Buckingham test client on my desktop.  The instructions were easy and I was up and running in no time.  Since CCP has done such a nice job of duplicating the capabilities of EveMon in-game and EveMon isn't updated yet I just logged onto Buckingham and played around.  Logging onto Buckingham has the advantage of everything costing only 100 ISK, including ships.  A great place to theorycraft and I will probably take advantage of the test server in the future.

I'd tell you how the mission went last night but I ran out of time and went to bed.  I am going to do another mission or two just to prove to myself I can still run them, but then I'm heading back to low sec.  The other death penalty is that dying to an NPC is well, embarrassing.  That's probably the biggest penalty of all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First Day Of Retribution

Yesterday I actually got to log into Eve Online and check out Retribution for a couple of hours.  Eve's expansions usually don't affect me too much but I just had to check out some of the changes while I had the chance.

First on my list was the safety.  I've heard a lot of complaining about the feature and how onerous setting the safety every time a player logs in is.  So the first thing I did after I undocked and warped away from the station was set my safety.  The process is so easy even I could do it.  The safety is attached to the UI's health/capacitor wheel and shows the level of activity allowed.  Green means no aggression, amber for suspect-level activities and red for kill'em all and let Hilmar sort it out actions.  Changing the settings on the safety involves 3 mouse-clicks.  First, click on the safety.  Next, look at the nice, easy-to-read menu to select the safety level.  Finally, click confirm.  I found that when raising my safety level that I didn't have to click on confirm.  I tested undocking, changing ships, etc, and the setting is persistent during a play session.  For those who wonder why a carebear like me would ever need to change my settings off of green, I do believe in shooting others in self-defense so I'll be changing the settings every time I log in.

I then had to fly to high sec to check out the changes to two of my ships, the Orca and the Hurricane.  My Hurricane was sitting in my Orca and I don't fly my most expensive ship in low sec.  First, the Orca.  I don't mind not having the corporate divisions for sorting purposes.  But can people in NPC corporations use the fleet cargohold?  I hope not because that would be a boost for botters.  They could keep their Orca fleet boosting bot in NPC corporations and get an increase in ore capacity.

The Hurricane change just made me sad.  I like flying with shield harmonizing gang link, but in order to do so I had to leave one of my high slots empty if I wanted to fly with tech 2 425mm autocannons.  Usually I would use a nos for quick capacitor fill-ups when fighting battleships since my standard fit is not cap stable when running my afterburner.

I hadn't run a security mission in months but ran one last night in order to check out the UI changes.  I probably should have stuck to a level 3 mission but I need standings with the Brutor Tribe and would up with The Blockade.  So Rosewalker got in the Maelstrom and Wandering Rose in her Hurricane and off they flew to battle the evil Angel Cartel.

The combat was the same but the icons were different.  The nice part looking real close is that I could actually see the shields either regenerating or being repped.  Wait a minute, did that happen before?  I'm not sure since I run security missions so infrequently but I thought the shield repairs were a lot more effective on the NPC ships than before.

The second surprise occurred after I warped my Hurricane out after reaching one-third shields.  Remember when I wrote the combat was the same?  Not really, but I was too slow on the uptake to notice until later.  When I warped back in, only one battleship was close with the rest chasing after Rosewalker's Maelstrom.  So I engaged the battleship in the Hurricane.  Before yesterday the ships would have continued chasing Rosewalker because he was closer and doing a lot more damage.  Last night?  The NPCs decided to ignore the Maelstrom and concentrate on Wandering Rose.  I would not have minded that except wave 4 showed up and I was tackled by 4 Angel Cartel interceptors.  I managed to kill 3 of them before the Hurricane went pop.

So what did I learn?  First, buying insurance is good since having purchased it means I still made a profit last night instead of breaking even or losing ISK.  Second, Eve has sound.  With 425mm autocannons blaring from one computer and 1400mm artillery booming from the other I really got into the mood while fighting.  Finally, the NPCs are a lot smarter.  That means I need to get smarter.  If the NPCs really want to concentrate on Wandering Rose I can use her as a decoy orbiting Rosewalker until I make sure all the tacklers are off the field.  I can replace a gyrostabilizer with a Damage Control II to really beef up the tank.  That could make life easy.

Not the greatest start to an expansion but I can afford the loss.  I still have a lot to look at and a lot to learn.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 4 December 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 2 December 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 41.4 33,626+3.1
22Guild Wars 218.915,301-14.3
33Star Wars: The Old Republic11.89,570-9.1
44Planetside 27.56,089+8.6
66Eve Online3.73,032-3.4
77Lord of the Rings Online3.02,437-6.7
88Metin 22.52,040-14.5
99The War Z (Alpha)2.41,981-1.2
1010APB: Reloaded1.91,564+5.7
11--Maple Story1.41,146+10.6
1211Need For Speed World1.41,104-13.6
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 103,465
The recent decline in the Xfire community's interest in MMORPGs slowed on Sunday with players only spending 2.9% less time playing games set in the genre than the week before.  The games with the largest gains in playtime percentage-wise were Maple Story (10.6%) and Planetside 2 (8.6%).  The games losing the most time investment were Metin 2 (-14.5%), Guild Wars 2 (-14.3%) and Need For Speed World (-13.6%).

Timing Is Everything? - Planetside 2 experienced an 8.6% increase from the first full weekend to the second.  Can the SOE game defy recent experience and actually build its player base over the first month?  Possibly since it is the only MMOFPS on the PC and the only sci-fi competition in December is today's launch of Eve Online's Retribution expansion.

Into The Storm - Maple Story has gone from a game with a solid presence in The Digital Dozen to only making appearances when Nexon runs in-game events.  One of those event occurred this weekend as players raced to complete the requirements to receive two Premium Surprise Style Boxes.
Retribution Renaissance? - As mentioned above today is the launch of Eve Online's Retribution expansion.  With a vast revamp of tech 1 frigates and cruisers and upgrades of game systems, CCP is not offering any Jesus features that could lure in new players.  Eve Online traditionally sees an increase of players in December.  Will Retribution help maintain the trend.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Plan B

I have spent the last few months flying around low sec and I'm undoubtedly doing it wrong.  I'm pretty sure I'm flying my Cheetah correctly and I've managed not to lose my Hound.  I might need to tweak my Prowler but I've blown through gate camps without getting caught once.  My other ships?  I think I need to hit the market and Retribution is not the reason why.

If I'm not doing distribution missions I'm usually doing some other carebear activity like running an exploration site or mining in a belt.  Yes, I really do mine in belts.  And that is a problem as rude people tend to show up and want to show off their weapons skills.  I'm usually able to warp away but I did get tackled back in September and a spaceship exploded.

I was talking with a pirate this weekend while flying around and apparently I was missing something.  Weapons (or at least drones)?  Check.  Propulsion module?  Check.  Tackle?  Nope, I had a survey scanner on my Procurer.  I figured having a survey scanner would help me fill up my ore hold faster. 

So why do I need a point or a scram?  Plan A, which in my case involves running away, doesn't always work.  If I get caught, Plan B involves putting as much pressure on the opponent as possible and hope for a mistake.  Can it happen?  Sure.  Just look at some of the piloting mistakes made in the recent New Eden Open.  If a pilot gets distracted or surprised anything is possible.  A mining barge tackling a frigate or destroyer might do the trick.

Since I'm not very experienced at PvP and start fumbling when the pew pew begins I've made Plan B as simple as possible.  Once tackled, I just go down the checklist.

1.  Align to a celestial.
2.  Target the ship who has me tackled.
3.  Launch drones and attack the tackler.
4.  Tackle the tackler!

At this point hopefully the aggressor starts thinking WTF?  Is a gang about to warp in?  Is he in a log-in trap?  Should he start running?

Also, while I don't do the whole off-grid boosting, I do believe in giving bonuses to my mining so I'll have a pilot in a Hound giving bonuses.  Cloaked of course, with  So the next steps are...

5.  Start my stealth bomber into motion.  I keep my Hound pointed at a celestial within torpedo range of my Procurer.
6.  Uncloak my stealth bomber.
7.  Lock up the tackler.
8.  Begin applying e-war, which includes target painting.
9.  Commence firing.

If done properly this will put the attacking pilot in a bind.   The attacker is probably not aligned because he is orbiting the mining ship trying to run away from the drones.  So what does he do?  Chase after the Hound and the Procurer will become untackled and can escape.  Once that happens the Hound is free to warp away, mission accomplished.  Align and warp away?  Again, mission accomplished.  Stay and hope to finish off the Procurer before the drones and torpedoes destroy his ship?  I tank my Procurers so that may not end well.

But what happens if I am attacked by a gang and not just an individual pilot.  So far keeping an eye on local and immediately warping away when local spikes has worked wonderfully.  But if I get attacked by a couple of ships or tackled by a battlecruiser Plan B may not work.  So then I go to Plan C and die in a fire (in game, of course).

I should add that with Retribution launching on Tuesday that I'll look into a three ship solution with the intent to kill a ship instead of just running away.  That might be fun and Procurers are pretty cheap.  I could even use a 6 million skill point pilot sitting in the mining ship acting as bait.  Even if I get podded, the clone cost isn't that much.

I do need to ask one question.  What do I put in my mining ship, a point or a scram?  I think a point just because of the range factor.  A Warp Disruptor II has a range of 24 km while a Warp Scrambler II only has a range of 9 km.  The other factor, at least in the current Plan B, is that a scram shuts down a microwarpdrive.  Do I really want to do that if I am going to fire torpedoes at the ship?

Friday, November 30, 2012

2013: A Year For Living Dangerously?

Yesterday I thought about how I can make ISK in Eve while playing Guild Wars 2.  Today I'll go to the other extreme and think about actually shooting ships piloted by other players.  I started thinking about that when reading Andski's article on, "The Perpetually Unprepared".  I don't think I totally fit Andski's stereotype as I do fly around low sec and actually killed a Thrasher that attempted to gank Wandering Rose while she was mining in a .2 system.  But normally my PvP consists of see player, run from player.

That may change in 2013.  I have the learned skills to succeed in PvP on Rosewalker and with the diversion in my skill plan to ensure I can fly all the battlecruisers I can not only fly all of the Minmatar well but also all of the Caldari missile boats up to the Drake.  Once I finish getting all my scan probe skills up to 5 I can work on the other races weapons and electronic warfare skills.

I do have another option mentioned by Andski in the article and use an alt.  I have a third account in which I'm training industrial alts.  Currently I have two characters, an Amarr miner and a Gallente transport pilot who will finish the current skill plan on 1 January.  Both characters either have or will have the Core Competency certificate trained up to Standard by the end of the year.  Training the gunnery and ship command skills shouldn't take too long.

Or I could just create another Minmatar pilot to begin the year and go out to low sec with guns blazing.  Why not?  My alt could fly the Minmatar ships Rosewalker can fly, just with minimal skills instead of all the support skills at 5.  If I do that when I take Rosewalker out on a roam combat will seem much easier.  Maybe even join RvB and stay nice and safe in The Forge.  Oh, that's part of the reason I don't take Rosewalker to RvB; he isn't well liked by the Caldari police.

One other event makes getting into PvP more attractive: Retribution.  With CCP revamping so many ships the whole metagame is changing.  This is probably the time to jump in, get my feet wet and learn with everyone else.

I'm not saying I will absolutely, positive jump into PvP and become the terror of New Eden.  Rawr!  The picture in my mind of that makes me laugh in real life.  But changing the way I play is always a possibility and and if I have learned one thing about Eve is that change is the only constant.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back To The Future?

Back when I first started playing Eve Online I also played EverQuest 2.  I found I could make some money in Eve while playing EQ2 by parking a Mammoth in a belt fit with a Mining Laser II and letting the cargo hold fill up.  I wasn't AFK because I use one keyboard to control two computers so I could just glace up and check on my mining industrial from time to time.  Of course as I started playing more and made Eve my main game I got out of the habit of doing so because I was too busy playing on my main accounts.

When I read Sugar Kyle's post about her new Orca I thought "why aren't I doing that?".  Sugar Kyle has an alt account that she uses for just mining.  Now, I just can't do that while playing Eve because I can't multi-task that well, but I could put the industrial alt I created on a third account in an old Retriever in a belt while I play Guild Wars 2.  Or maybe even a Mackinaw.  With the new improved ore bays those ships actually can carry more ore than my old Mammoth.  I just need to make sure my strip miners don't go silent, but I should be able to do that easily.

Perhaps I'll start tonight, if I get home at a decent time.  The only problem I have is that Wandering Rose is the only pilot I have with both the skills and the standings with various NPC corporations to have perfect refining anywhere.  Time to outfit a new clone with suitable implants so I don't lose training time when I clone jump?  Oh good, another project to keep me busy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holding Pattern

I have to admit I am in a bit of a holding pattern where Eve Online is concerned.  With the Retribution expansion less than a week away I don't feel like doing much in the game.  My favorite combat ship the Hurricane.  Getting nerfed.  I can finally fly the Drake.  Heavy missiles getting nerfed.  Courier missions in low-sec?  With the changes to Crimewatch that's about to become more dangerous as well.  If carebears were afraid of traveling in low-sec before, I think they'll really have a reason to fear now.  I don't want to develop bad habits.  I want to get into the proper mindset before the changes come along.

I guess I could log onto the Buckingham test server and do some theory crafting, but I'm doing a lot of that in real life right now and I just want some mindless fun.  Since Retribution will involve changing the way I think inside Eve I'm spending a lot of time in Guild Wars 2.  I always find that when I play another MMO and then switch back to Eve I need to make mental adjustments.  Since Retribution involves making mental adjustments anyway I might as well get GW2 out of my system before the expansion hits.

I do have to admit that once I hit the part of the personal story where I joined the Order of Whispers I started liking the game more.  A couple of days ago I bemoaned the voice acting in GW2 that led me to choose to play a female human.  But the combination of my red-headed ranger and the char engineer Lightbringer Tybalt Leftpaw is just so, well, cute, that I'm changing my mind and deciding that everything is turning out for the best after all.

As for Star Wars: The Old Republic?  I don't think I'm going to continue that game.  One, I really can't imagine playing three MMOs at once and two, the combat in GW2 is just better.  I was using a long bow with the axe/war horn combination and switched out the long bow for the short bow.  Combat became a lot more fun as I'm moving around trying to get flanking positions.  The short bow is good for single targets, the axe is good for multiple targets and the war horn has a skill, Hunter's Call, that reminds me of the EverQuest 2 ranger ability Hawk Attack, except better.

Hopefully I'll snap out of the funk this weekend and become motivated after watching the last weekend of the New Eden Open.  With fewer matches I expect to see CCP to use the opportunity to showcase the changes to Retribution.  Of course, watching the stream means I won't be logged onto Tranquility, but I can't have everything.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Digital Dozen: 27 November 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 25 November 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 38.9 32,617-5.8
22Guild Wars 221.317,855-32.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic12.510,526-11.3
4--Planetside 26.75,608N/A
65Eve Online3.73,137+0.5
7T6Lord of the Rings Online3.12,613+1.1
8T6Metin 22.82,387-7.6
98The War Z (Alpha)2.42,004-12.4
109APB: Reloaded1.81,480-2.4
11--Need For Speed World1.51,278-0.8
1212Star Trek Online1.41,158-11.1
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 106,592
The Thanksgiving weekend in the United States took its toll on the gaming time of the Xfire community with 7.1% less time spent playing MMORPGs than the previous Sunday.  The games facing the biggest declines were Guild Wars 2 (-32.8%) and the two games that fell off the list, Maple Story (-21.5%) and Rift (-20.5%).  The three games that barely managed to defy the trend were Aion (+1.5%), Lord of the Rings Online (+1.1%) and Eve Online (+0.5%).

Planetside 2 debuts.  While the beta version of SOE's Planetside 2 made appearances on The Digital Dozen, the game made its release debut on the list at #4 Sunday.  Here are how some other games fared on their first full release weekend this year.
  • Guild Wars 2: Rank #1 - 92,946 hours played
  • Tera: Rank #3 - 9,039 hours played
  • The Secret World:  Rank #3 - 6,002 hours played.

Dog Bites Man.  Once again the Xfire community showed its fondness for shiny new objects is short-lived.  As expected GW2's The Lost Shores patch failed to maintain interest as playtime in the ArenaNet offering dropped 32.8%.  Trion didn't fare much better as Rift saw a 20.5% decrease in playtime less than two weeks after the launch of The Storm Legion expansion.  In comparison Bioware did rather well with the introduction of the free-to-play model to Star Wars: The Old Republic as the game only experienced an 11.3% decline in play.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bad Voice Acting Made Me Do It

This weekend I didn't spend much time in Eve.  Most of my Eve time was spent watching the New Eden Open, listening to Arydanika's interview of CCP Fozzie on Voices from the Void #60 or doing a research project.  So when I logged into games this weekend, I chose Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Guild Wars 2 isn't a stretch because I've been playing the ArenaNet game for a few hours a week but I logged into SW:TOR to see if the free-to-play implementation is as bad as I've heard.  One thing they both have in common is some bad voice acting.

Why is the voice acting important?  Because I wound up playing female characters in both.  Now, I do have a history of playing female characters.  In EverQuest 2 I played a female wood elf because I really wanted to play a wood elf ranger.  But when I rolled a male wood elf, the character looked so much like a female that I decided to just go ahead and roll a female character.  When I went back to take a look at World of Warcraft, I rolled blood elf females because they looked like they could easily beat up their metrosexual male counterparts.  At least in Eve Online I didn't create a female pilot because of the way the men looked.  I was creating a CEO for my personal corporation and since the lore states that Vherokior women are very good at business I decided to go that route.

I really wanted to play a male Imperial Agent in SW:TOR.  The thought of the whole cold blooded secret agent with a British accent concept is really appealing.  Too bad that when I played a male Imperial Agent before the game became free-to-play that the actor's voice just drove me crazy.  He sounds like a giant prick.  So I currently have a level 3 female Imperial Agent with a voice that sounds the way I think a secret agent should sound.  The actress who does the voice, Jo Wyatt, also does the voice for the female Hawke in Dragon Age 2.  Maybe I should pick up that game instead of continuing with SW:TOR.

Speaking of bad voice acting, I just have to say that Guild Wars 2, while a game I'm enjoying, does have some really bad voice acting.  I deleted the first character I rolled, a male Asura Engineer, because I just couldn't stand the sound of my character's voice after 5 minutes.  I wound up playing a female human ranger because while her voice is sometimes annoying, at least I don't relate the voice as coming from me.

I really like the concept of story and voice acting in video games.  I am, however, beginning to despise voice acting in MMOs.  When the voice acting drives me away from content, that's when I start getting irritated with a game.