Posts by Doyce
Last week was a big one in EVE Online. Let’s see if we can sum it up and provide some commentary, shall we?
WARNING: this article – like all of my EVE articles – is going to look at the situation by comparing EVE to all other MMOs (and CCP to other companies). This method yeilds different conclusions than if you look at EVE all by itself, floating in a vacuum, like the frozen corpse of your enemy.
First up came the release of Incarna. A massive undertaking, this update to the game involved – essentially – building an entirely new MMO engine and inserting it inside an existing MMO, like some kind of digital turducken designed to lure hungry new players off the street. The main features of this release (both good and bad) include:
- The Captain’s Quarters: a new environment that loads when you dock in station, allowing you to walk around your cabin, go out to a balcony/catwalk to examine and fit your ship, watch some local news, and generally interact with the game in a way that’s a little bit more like your character lives in New Eden and a little bit less like clicking a series of menubar options from Microsoft Office 2007.
- Hair lag: Although EVE introduced new character customization with last year’s Incursion (which updated the art to the point where your pilots started to look more like people and less like drawings of the characters from your eighth-grade DnD campaign), Incarna marks the first time that said character is actually walking around and – you know – doing stuff; this in turn meant that the players’ machines had to cope with rendering every single one of the hairs on the character’s head, every second. For some players, this resulted in significant lag while in-station, an increased heat load on their video cards, and some other issues. Even those players who had no issues with a single instance of the game running (like myself), experienced performance issues with multiple EVE accounts running at the same time (only one miner-alt in station at the same time, please). This development has resulted in a marked uptick of bald characters in New Eden.
- If you Don’t like the CQ, here’s the Door. Literally: An extremely vocal minority of the EVE playerbase had no interest in the CQ, and wanted a way to ignore it when docked. CCP, never known for its command of the finer points of diplomacy, gave them that option — if you opt to shut off the CQ environment, you are instead shown a screenshot of the door of your captain’s cabin. In closeup. Now, this response — a snark-shot from the CCP developers (who have worked on the CQ for [*mumble*] years) across the bow of the bittervets who were rejecting all their hard work — is… understandable.It’s a terribly undiplomatic joke between vet developers aimed at vet players, and should have never made it off the test server, but it’s understandable. However, for the player’s who are legitimately suffering from significant performance issues, who need to shut off the CQ simply to play the game, it came as an unwelcome insult added to the injury.
- The NEx Store: basically a vanity-item store in which players use a new form of currency (made available for purchase directly from the website for cash, or in-game with ISK via a suitably EVE-like series of convuluted steps). More on this later.
- New guns!: Unheralded and unlooked for, the EVE art department reworked the appearance, sound, and in-combat vizualization for every non-missile-launcher weapon in the game, as well as mining lasers and several other non-combat modules. On the whole, a sterling implementation that injected a lot of life back into combat.
EVE Online is a game with which many new players struggle. First, the game itself is complex — a depth of content and function that intimidates players — and honestly the developers (and the resident players) seem to pride themselves on that fact.
But funny images to the contrary, the learning curve isn’t that bad. It’s not insurmountable. The tutorials in the game are solid, and most activities are, once you understand them, pretty straightforward. (It’s the complications that EVE’s meta-game brings to the table that make things as rich and robust as they are.)
For example, combat in EVE can be brutal, but it is not a twitch-gamers domain — if you find yourself thinking “that happened so fast I couldn’t even do anything before my ship was gone”, chances are pretty good you missed (several) warning signs, and chose to ignore them. To be honest, the actual combat sequence is almost simplistic: target enemy, orbit them at an appropriate distance, turn on guns, watch guns fire, profit — even the most simplistic kiting technique in your fantasy MMO of choice requires more complicated keyboard gymnastics. Veterans have found dozens of nuances to this that raise their game to another level, but I can tell you from personal experience that the basic breakdown I listed above will get you through almost any PvE encounter in the game.
So: EVE has a pretty rough learning curve, but not an insurmountable one (at least, not anymore).
And yet player retention amongst new players remains low, compared to any other similarly-popular MMO.
I find myself asking why. More >
Wyl glanced over his shoulder at his corpmate, who sat across the room, flipping through screen after screen of Sinq Laison public market reports. “Troubles?”
“I’d rather be shot at,” muttered Ty. He tapped one screen closed and pulled up local private contracts available for the same products, but judging from his reaction, Wyl guessed the results weren’t any better. “At least with pirates, you know what’s going on: you want to kill them, they want to kill you. Simple. With this…” He flipped the screen to the side and spun in his chair, watching the ceiling. “I can’t tell if the prices on some of these modules are that high because people are stupid, or greedy, or if there’s actually a good reason.”
I’ll confess that, as a new and fairly enthusiastic player of EVE Online, I don’t spend a lot of time on the forum — this is simply because I do like the game, and I’ve found that the easiest way to start hating an(y) MMO you like is to visit their official forums. The experience ranges from “OMG MY EYES” to “Now I need to take a shower” to “Show me on the doll where it touched you”; no exceptions to this rule come to mind.
The release of EVE’s new forums, timed to coincide with the release of Incursion 1.4.1, might (might, I say) get me to change my mind… or at least check it out.
The new forums are now fully integrated into EVE Gate (which (unlike a forum) is a very cool website that lets you send and receive in-game mail from the site on behalf of your characters, as well as chat with corpmates and contacts in a format similar to twitter or facebook). Continuing that social networking emulation-trend, the new forums have added the ability to “Like” posts, add threads to personal favorites lists, and create RSS feeds for threads or even search criteria you’re interested in keeping tabs on.
Interestingly, CCP chose not to move the old forum’s posts to the new location. (The old forum “will be ejected into space where it will remain frozen in time and fully viewable, but in a read-only state”.) Maybe there were technical problems with a move, or maybe they figured it would be a good time to clean out the stables — who can say?
One thing’s certain — you can clean the stables all you want, but they’re always going to smell like that, CCP. Sorry.
But maybe I’m being pessimistic; are there any MMO forums you can name that don’t make you want to kick puppies and deny your membership in the human race? DO TELL.
burda:ic,(which markets and distributes MMOs like LOCO – Land of Chaos Online and Florensia) announced that its newest MMORPG, ARGO Online, has completed the final phase of Closed Beta Testing. During this closing phase, a variety of data and feedback was gathered in preparation for the game’s upcoming Open Beta (coming on April 7), and the company decided to share some of the numbers from the Closed Beta, which include amusing tidbits like:
- Number of Monsters killed: Nearly 5,000,000
- Number of quests finished: Nearly 55,000
- Player Distribution Between Noblian – Floresslah Factions: 51:49
- Most popular classes: Explorer (1st Place), Warrior (2nd Place), Druid (3rd Place)
“It’s fascinating gathering all this information from our Closed Beta,” said Achim Kaspers, Managing Director of burda:ic. “What we enjoyed the most, however, was the feedback from our players. We received a ton of valuable information, suggestions and tips from our community, and we are excited to implement what we can from their comments to make ARGO Online the best experience possible.”
ARGO Online has attracted quite a bit of attention from sections of the playerbase most easily labeled “me”, since it’s a futuristic, steampunk-themed MMO specifically designed to my DNA vibrate at a higher plane. Once the Open Beta begins, any interested players out there (another set of players including me) will be able to join and play ARGO Online, exploring both the content of the closed beta, as well as new material; burda:ic will release new classes (16 in total) and dungeons (10), as well as raising the the level cap to 40.
Mail.Ru, a leading internet-portal in Russia, announced a completely localized version of Allods Online for the Turkish language — a release currently in Open Beta (with registration via www.allodstr.com).
The popular (if sometimes controversially news-making) free to play title is a real powerhouse in the European MMO market, but even its broad appeal has been limited somewhat by language barriers. Mail.ru’s effort in this respect is somewhat remarkable, “emphasizing the extremely high quality of the game and making it measure up to our Turkish speaking players, offering a perfect gaming experience throughout the world of Allods Online.”
This may sound like marketing hype (probably because it is), but the hype has some inarguable basis in fact.
The economy of EVE Online is a strange one — possibly unique, in that the value of the game’s currency (ISK) has a verifiable, equivalent real-world value. This is due to the fact that CCP allows players to buy gametime codes outside the game (perfectly normal), and then use those codes to create in-game items: PLEX, or Pilot License EXtensions, which can be used by the original player or sold on the in-game market for ISK (something not seen in any other game of which we are aware).
This setup creates a couple of interesting effects. For instance, a player with a sufficiently profitable character can basically turn EVE into a free-to-play game, simply buying PLEX off the in-game market with their character’s wealth, rather than paying a subscription fee. It also allows people to report fairly accurately on the real-world monetary equivalent of the damages incurred by the latest hulkaggedon.
Most importantly, with the help of CCP, it provides EVE players with a unique opportunity to help those in need in disaster-stricken areas of the world by donating their character’s wealth to the cause.
It seems as though there’s always some kind of platform war in computing and gaming that borders on religious zealotry, and as one fades from view, another rises up to take its place. PC vs. Mac. Nintendo vs. Playstation I. Playstation III vs. Xbox.Console vs. PC. One of the most recent clashes has come in the mobile platform market between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, with comparisions drawn between the OSes themselves, the hardware, the networks, and the markets that either OS uses to deliver apps to users.
To be sure, Apple remains the leader in this arena, but Android is narrowing the gap. The official Adroid Market has tripled its app offering in the last nine months, showing steady and rapid growth with no signs of slowing, and developers are starting to take note.
I experienced a bit of serendipity last night on the EVE Online website. I had reset my settings for Aura (a fantastic app for the Droid that helps me monitor my skill queue and look up gear and ships while offline) and needed reenter my character’s API key into the App to get things synced back up. I knew I could retrieve the key from the main EVE website but, as with most things on the internet, I wasn’t sure exactly where the page was located, so I did what I usually do: poke around and explore.
At one point, I was asked for my login and password and without really thinking about it I tapped out a familiar userid, hit submit, and was met with the following message.
This was an odd enough error to pull my attention fully back to the screen, and I realized that good old muscle memory had taken over — I’d entered in a different userid than the one I actually used in EVE, but one which I had used quite often in the past.
Like, for instance, four years ago.
My curiosity piqued, I told the site I’d forgotten my password, gave it a likely old-school email address, and a few minutes later I had a reset password for the defunct account sitting in my inbox. A few more clicks, a quick chin nod toward Paypal, and I had reactivated the long-abandoned account.
My mild curiosity had gone rabid — updating Aura was a distant memory — I logged into EVE with the new/old account information and was greeted by a dust-covered slightly resentful-looking capsuleer (who still had an insurance company’s condolence EVEmail in her inbox for her training ship getting blown up). More importantly, I was greeted by a character who predated the fairly recent changes to EVE’s skill system, and who had, as a result, accrued a double-handful of maxed-out starting skills and a significant pile of instantly-redeemable skill points to do with as I saw fit! I could…
I… didn’t know what to do with them.
I had found that strangest of all EVE-creatures: an Alt.