Turkey shoot

Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans and spectators of recent events in this country, may your turkeys be tasty and political dinner conversation mostly non-violent.  And for the EVE players, may your beer be cold and your evenings be mostly violent.

My corp mate Storm and I had our turkey shoot already last night.  As usual, I log in just about when our EU team started drooling into their keyboards and generally is no use to anyone.  I double check the connections to our home – C4 wormhole, and decide to poke around in the neighborhood while chatting to Storm.  He is wrestling with his EVE clients which randomly drop him to a totally black screen.  I have my two characters out in our neighbor C3, there is a Fortizar (!) and nothing else but I have a hunch that someone is around.  Hard to describe but I do sometimes get this “feeling” after jumping into a Wormhole that not all is as quiet as it looks.  Irrational, weird, I know but more often than not, I am right so take that for what its worth.

Anyway, I see that a few new signatures have spawned since the last time my EU friends scanned down the system and I decide to throw out some probes and check this out.  Its a big system and I am distracted so things take me a little longer.  I am nearly done when all of a sudden a new signature pops up, immediately followed by  set of Sister’s Core probes, not mine.

Oh.  Generally that means someone opened into the hole I am in and I park my probes way out of D-scan range, just hanging loose whats going on.  To use the waiting time, I make tactical bookmarks at the two hacking sites and warp-in bookmarks for each site as well.  Storm has beaten his clients into submission and logs in, I advise him to just sit in our hole next door in a Flycatcher or something, not much point being more specific without any real intel.

And so I wait. And wait.  I am bored.  My bladder is full.  My glass is empty.  Yawn

I lose patience, solve my liquids problems and drop my probes on the new signature.  To nobody’s surprise, its a Wormhole but weirdly enough its a “outgoing” hole, i.e. one with a a real number.  Not a K162 that spawns as an exit.  This is very odd.

I jump in to see, its a C2 and immediately hear a hole activation behind me.  I have no idea what jumped but I break the hole timer and bring my Proteus into orbit.  A Buzzard appears briefly before warping off toward a Citadel.  Ok, so we now know who scanned?  But how did then hole spawn in then first place?

Quick round of intel, yes, someone is in the Citadel and I park myself at a comfortable spot to see what will be happening.  This guy knows I am here of course but he may still do something stupid.

Talking about stupid.  My other character is still in the C3, keeping an eye on Dscan.  Remember my irrational feeling that someone is active in this hole?  Never really got over it.  D-scan all of a sudden shows me an Orca.  Holy crap, where did he come from?

D-scan then shows me an Astero with the same naming structure and before I can react, the little ship jumps into the newly found C2.  My Proteus is not at the hole but I can now see a set of core probes, evidently the Astero is scanning down his new connection. In the meantime, the Orca disappears and changes into a Prowler, the cloaky transport boat much liked by Wormholers.  This sounds suspiciously like a supply run is about to start with the Astero scouting / scanning ahead and I inform Storm that there may well be action for his Flycatcher.  He just about gets himself sorted just when the Prowler changes back into an Orca.   Aha, something is about to happen and I get my Proteus back to the hole, tight orbit and wait cloaked.  On the other side is my Alt in a Stratios and while I am really crap at multiboxing I need both sides covered.  Orcas have recently been buffed significantly and engaging them is no joke.

We wait.  I have both sides of the hole covered, Storm is still holding in our hole with a Flycatcher. Ideally we want him as close as possible but I am paranoid about warning people off, no idea where the scouts are.  I use the D-scan slider to see if the Orca is getting closer since we had not identified the POS he would sit on.  If I leave my post by the hole, I may lose my chance to tackle him.

Finally, the Orca clearly is moving toward me, lands with a fat splat on the hole, orients itself a little and jumps.  Nothing else on scan but again, its a big system.  For all I know, there could be more now in their Fortiza, or a dozen cloaked guys hanging around the hole.  On the exit side, I decloak my Proteus, overheat the tackle and get Hammerheads out.

Nothing happens.  The Orca is holding cloak. Either he is soiling his pants or he is calling in friends.  I hope for the first and plan for the second, D-scan spamming.  The Orca decloaks, I tackle and my Hammerheads are on him like flies on a turd.  Moment of truth.  To get into scram range (and yes, btw, the Proteus has a Faction Scram with 3 points), I need to be close, really close.  If the Orca is indeed bait, it will have tackle, neuts / NOS and nasty drones.  But no surprises. My shots hit hard and well and the Hammers are doing their job also.  We are both slowboating back to the hole, realistically, his only chance is to jump back (and hence polarizing himself) hoping I can’t tackle before he warps his big ass off.  Unlikely but if he sits on this side, I’ll just plink him down slowly.

During all this, Storm undocked and raced his Flycatcher to my alt on the other side of the hole.  He lands just as the Orca jumps back, Storm blows bubbles and the Orca (none of us) are going anywhere.  My Stratios decloaks and adds to the damage with a set of Hammerheads but mostly with tackle just in case the bubble goes down.  I also have neuts on the Stratios and I suck him dry not just on principle (because I can) but also because I still fear a trap.  Its getting less likely but as the German Saying goes “Teufel ist ein Eichhoernchen“, i.e. bad things can happen at any time to the unprepared.

The three of us now hammer on this damn industrial ship and the shields are slowly, slowly evaporating.  I run out of cap on both of my boats a few times and have to use the injectors to bring myself up. This distracts me and too late I realize that our friend has launched combat drones and is engaging Storm’s Flycatcher.  We now have firm tackle with my two ships and technically we don’t need the bubble anymore, so Storm tries to run away but Warriors are fast beasts and in the end just win.  Neither Storm nor I really care, a Flycatcher is an awesome trade for an Orca, Storm’s capsule swims free from his wreck and warps off to our hole to reship.  In the meantime, the Orca directs his Warrior drones on my Proteus, futile probably but I don’t want to take the chance and so I pull in my Hammerheads, launch Hobgoblins and kill the Warriors.  I forgot how big an Orca’s drone bay is but when he launches a second set of Warrior Is, I know he doesn’t have anything better and I hold my damage, waiting for Storm to return.

orca-tackle

Storm comes back in his Stratios, we open up and kill the Industrial.  I knew there would be a new explosion animation but I wasn’t quite ready for the massive flash that happened next.  Zoomed in, my screen turned “white” and featureless.  Cool in a way and likely what an explosion like this would really look like but it did startle me quite a bit.

orca-explosion

 

“Good fights” are exchanged in local and for once I don’t feel so bad about it, the Orca pilot is not a new character and likely rich from his WH life.  Given the recent buffs that Orcas received and the ever-present danger of traps, tackling him was not exactly free of risk, only hindsight showed us that he was basically defenseless.  If this had been a trap, this could have gone very, very differently and both Storm and I were ready to deal with that (and possibly lose our ships).  But this Turkey didn’t have any claws.

And with this, a Happy Thanksgiving Capsuleers!

 

New player experience – Our job starts now

EVE Online is going “free to trial” with the introduction of Alpha clones that can in principle do the same things for free that we pay monthly for but with less powerful tools. This allows players to experience all that EVE has to offer but with no real monetary risk involved.  The EVE community is strongly behind this for the simple reason that more players = more content = more fun.  EVE online is one of the very few MMOS where human interaction actually matters and bringing new players into the game has always been a heated topic.  Other than the monthly subscription and EVE’s (unjustified) reputation of “Excel in Space for supernerds and sociopaths”, what really stands in the way of new players experiencing our Universe is the sheer complexity of the EVE game.  The choices that a relatively young pilot can make are staggering.  You can create your new character and immediately embark on a trip into the deepest, darkest depth of Sovereignty Null Security or Wormhole space.  Nothing other than players will stop you.  And we will, of course, which is what this is all about.  New players get easily confused by this freedom and log off, blaming the game for its steep learning curve and that “you can’t catch up”.  We know that this is nonsense but it has been a very hard reputation to kill.

I wondered, though, how do other games do this?  While we EVE players think we are special, other games have the exact same issues.

Progression-based games like World of Warcraft or Elder Scrolls Online make it simple, you roll a new character in an entirely protected starter area (“petting zoo”) and gently plink away at a few sheep or rabbits until you get the hang of the one weapon and the one move you have.  Then you level and progress. Incrementally, you get more skills, tougher foes, broader choices where to go.  The world opens up, increasing freedom is created by increasing the decision space and the player is gently let loose into the greater world.  This caring, nurturing approach is a combination of protection (starter zones don’t allow PvP) and motivation (specific tasks that a new player can accomplish and where failure is reversible).  EVE Online has a rocky history with security for new players in general and the concept of entirely safe starter zones has been discussed ad nauseam.  But in the end, “safety” doesn’t fit the narrative of the game and philosophically, EVE does not need to be Warcraft, we are allowed to be different.  And while there is nowhere safe in New Eden, brand new players are now guided along a much more specific path with clearer goals, engaging missions before they are gently set down on their own feet.  This is laudable, hugely needed and in effect the only realistic way that CCP can act.

How about free-to-play games?  I recently picked up War Thunder, a game where you pilot a tank or a plane, get dropped into an arena with your team and shoot at people that are on the other team.  The arcade style game promises quick 15 minute increases in heart rate, little adrenaline rush between grinding work conference calls.  And to be sure, the new player is given a tank that works as expected, a 5 minute tutorial on a shooting range and is dropped into battles where the goal is clear, the risks are zero and the sight of burning tanks is oddly satisfying.  I loved zooming around in my starter tank, sneak around a corner and wallop a shell into the unprotected rear end of an evil foe.  If detected, I could take a hits and generally run away.  Fun game!  And then I leveled and everything stopped.  Somehow, I was advanced into a new tier (not my doing) and found myself entirely under-armored and under-gunned.  Now, if I sneaked into a position and land a hit on an enemy, my strongest shell will generate “no damage” on my enemy.  More often though, I don’t even get into position but am one-shotted by an unseen tank literally across the entire map.  The game experience is excruciatingly bad and I simply serve as a feeder for those who are willing to pay some form of real life currency to advance their tanks.  Obviously, as soon as I find another game that scratches this it, WarThunder is deleted from my PC.

New players in EVE online will face a similar issue with they Alpha characters, if they ramp up the risk a little (i.e. venture into lowsec), they will be clay pigeons to the shotguns of established PvP outfits. Heck, even I may go hunting for foolish newbs who take their Ventures out of highsec in search of riches.  But here also comes the difference to WarThunder.  Once a new player is shot dead, generally the killer engages him with real advice, money and maybe recruits him to his team. For doubters, this scenario is far more common that one thinks.  Old EVE players are nearly compulsory teachers, we want new players be better, stronger and on our side.  This is the fundamental difference between WarThunder and EVE – the game, the mechanics and player base is geared toward engagement and interaction, without it, we’d have no New Eden.

Ok, lets head back to other games.  A while ago, I did purchase Elite:Dangerous and attempted the tutorials. Space, vehicle shooters, WASD, all seemed familiar.  However, then the tutorial was so bad that I could not for the life of me figure out how to undock and had watch YouTube for the most basic guides.  My friend Oreamnos flew many lightyears to watch me fail to dock, apparently a common occurrence when one tries to fly without a joystick.  I don’t have a joystick, sorry.  Nowhere did it say that I must have one and I was willing purchase one to improve the game, not to enable it.  I tried the game again last week and while the tutorials are much improved, some bug prevented me from docking and frustration ran high.  As a new player, I am frustrated not by the social interaction but but the sheer opaqueness of the game control trying to achieve my minimalist goals.

Now, this is something that EVE is at risk of also.  Aside from the New Player Experience, EVE is full of weird menus and occult wisdom how to operate it. Look at the Overview and how its set up, to be honest I still don’t understand half of its option. And yes, for some situations, the player must interact with these archaic systems and without the community, the new player will soon be driven off.

So, I do feel bullish about bringing in Alpha players into our game and hobby and I do believe CCP has done their part to facilitate a gently entry and a reasonably soft landing.  But it is our job to take Alphas by the hand, point them into the right direction and give them a mighty kick in rear to get them out of missions, mining and into exploration and explosions.

 

Attention span deficit

EVE Vegas is in full swing and watching #evevegas  and CCP’s stream makes me reminiscent of last year when I was actually in the audience, sitting next to the mercenaries and squealing with delight about announced capital changes.  Good times were had and I am sure my space friends are right now engaged in epic benders, smoked-filled rooms diplomacy and generally giving EVE nerds a good name.  Its even more of them this year than last and I am getting the feeling that EVE Vegas 2017 will be a thing for me especially since it looks like that an IOS (Illusion of Solitude, our Alliance) meetup could be a thing.

ios-vegas-2017

So, watching EVE Vegas makes me both nostalgic and highly excited about the game and the community.  So, why haven’t I logged in in nearly 2 weeks? Continue reading

Open Letter to nempxa 2z82

Dear nempxa 2z82,

I am sorry that I upset you.  You were harmlessly scanning a C3 Wormhole, surely looking for some hacking site when my Proteus decloaked next to you and exploded your ship.  I scrammed your pod but then let you go – catch and release was good enough for me.

I tried to convo you to explain that being stationary and decloaked near a wormhole is a bad idea but you declined my request, I sent you 2 mil ISK (twice the value of your boat) and  in return, you put a 1 mil Bounty on me.

 

Donation

Bounty

 

You are a 2 day old character with a decently fit T1 exploration frigate.  If you are really brand new to the game, someone explained to you the fit – that someone neglected to tell you that EVE is at its core a PvP game in general and in Wormholes specifically.  If you are an alt of someone more experienced you should know that bounties don’t do anything at all in this game.

So, with much love and respect, please take care in Anoikis, cloak up, talk to people who shoot you so that you can learn and for the Love of Bob, find a player corp who can teach you.

 

Alphas and Wormholes

The introduction of alpha clones has seriously shaken up New Eden and many corporations in Faction War and Nullsec are preparing for the onslaught of new players who want to try out this much-talked about game.  Wormholes however are still a separate world, the skill points required for e.g. cloaking and scanning are beyond what an Alpha clone can acquire.  New players may day-trip into our space but I don’t believe that brand new players with Alpha clones will travel deep into our chains.

But is that a bad thing? Continue reading

Three Huzzahs for the Underdog

If I stuck with my cunning plan, I should write about No Man’s Sky today – alternating with EVE online.  If I did this, I would have to rely on other player’s accounts since I have not opened the game once for the last 2 weeks.  Well, that’s not entirely correct, I tried the other day but my PC blue-screen-of-deathed, likely fault of dodgy RAM or something but I choose to blame the game.  Also the interwebs may have infected me but I could not really bring up a good reason for logging in,  I had lost the storyline without being able to get back, you can not re-start the game at all (!) and basically, my experience would be flying from planet to planet, cursing the puny inventory and find an upgrade that marginally better than the last upgrade.

Looks like I am also not alone in this:

Continue reading

EVE Online – What are beta clones?

So, the EVE Universe exploded this week with the announcement that EVE will become “free to play” with the introduction of “Alpha Clones” that offer new players the option to enjoy a single racial tree of ships up to a certain skill level.  Even the real world press picked up on it.

I won’t comment too much on this, better people than I have already done in depth analyses.  And universally, this change has been greeted with quite some enthusiasm: Continue reading