Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FYI: Frigates aren't Fun

A common answer to my bitter vet mumblings and grumblings is that I should "just go get in a tech 1 frigate and have some fun."

I really hate it when people tell me this. You might as well tell me to go get some warp core stabs and find a button to orbit in order to gain feelings of enjoyment and happiness.

Now, tell it to a null-sec pilot who has been restrained to dealing with politics and capital warfare for the past few years, and you might be recommending something worthwhile. But, telling a girl who's been in Faction War for the past four years, to go 'take a break and fly a frigate' is a laughable proposition.

Furthermore, I'm not one of that crowd that buys into the whole 'solo frigate pvp' deal. My hands don't shake when I kill you with my elite Tristan of doom. And I do not get some sort of weird, egotistical rush by engaging in something that is essentially a super sneaky way of being extremely risk adverse.

I'm not saying that the cost of my ship is some sort of direct indication of the fun I will have. However, I have always had a problem being content with 'for the hell of it' pvp. I like fighting over something --protecting something, conquering something, or etc. Roaming around to randomly shoot someone who is also randomly roaming around can be tiresome.

Also, I don't understand the fascination with 'explosions.' Loving explosions. Making explosions. Gonna go make people explode. According to eve-kill I'm well past 7,500 explosions  and I have to be honest --most of them have looked pretty much the same, and not all that exciting to boot. In fact, much of the time you don't see any sort of explosion of any kind. Nowadays, it's more of a gentle blinking on one's overview that indicates a target that has been turned into scrap. (Or cold flesh, depending.)

Now imagine you're shooting someone, and he's entering structure. Just a little more to go....a little more to go. And he explodes. Your ship rocks back slightly from the force of the nearby impact and your screen lights up with a beautifully grim flash of burning fuels and flying shards of metal. You listen in awe as the sirens that were once blaring in warning and confusion are snuffed out prematurely and you cringe as you see bodies --their faces still etched with frozen horror --pouring from melting, metal edifices.

You turn your ship away as flaming scraps rain down on you, and steer carefully through the smoking chaos.

Maybe then I would be excited about explosions. Maybe, the morbidness that lies within would agree that jumping into a frigate to 'go have some fun' *insert evil laugh* is a very good suggestion indeed.

But explosions (and frigates), like many other things in EVE, are more fun in people's minds then in reality, I think.

All this being said, I'm one to talk. Frigates aren't fun, so what have I been doing instead? Well, enjoying the exciting thrill of market trading of course.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Logs Show Nothing

You've probably noticed that things have been a bit quiet around here. Admittedly, not because I haven't started about a half dozen blog posts each week, only to throw them out in frustration. I definitely have things to say, but have been having a terrible time putting those things into words.

Over the last few months I've been wrestling with the decision of whether or not to quit EVE permanently. I'm not telling you this because I'm about to declare some sort of ultimatum to CCP. I'm not going rage quit, or stand on some sort of soap box and declare that some game mechanic is broken and this is why I'm wanting to leave and that CCP better 'fix it or else.'

I'm telling you so that you can better understand my current state of mind. Bitter Vet lvl V has been officially attained, so to speak.

Lately, a lot of EVE feels like discussion about game mechanics. I have a hard time finding the stories that used to make me love the game. Not role playing stories, mind you, but the stories of things happening in-game --grand corp thefts, massive wars with differing sides chucking propaganda at each other --politics, and etc. Instead, everywhere I turn there is analysis about 'the mechanics' and rage over mechanics or the lack of mechanics and etc. And, I have found that this has often crept into my own writing.

When was the last time I told you a story about an awesome fight or campaign or interesting thing that happened in militia? It has been a while.

This is problematic for me, mostly because of 'real life.' In the real world, I am a software engineer/analyst. In particular, I fix issues and develop what could be called our version of 'little things.' My day job comprises of analyzing the code and design of various things and making our customers' lives a whole lot better.

Some of the blog posts I've started over the last few months (and promptly ditched when I realized what I was doing) had titles like EVE's Top Five Worst GUI's that CCP needs to Fix, 30 Little Things I Wish CCP would Improve, and 15 Ways they Could make the Contract System Better,  along with an analysis or two of the pros and cons of CCP's release cycle/agile development being used in a game development context among other things. Truth be told, I've occasionally caught myself logging in for the express purpose of analyzing a game mechanic and how it could be made better.

For me, EVE has started to feel almost like the extension of my day job. I spend all day trying to improve business software, then come home to 'play a game' wherein I spend time trying to helpfully come up with constructive analysis on how to fix that too. Mainly, because I have nothing else to write about it seems.

So, I'm not entirely sure what to do with this revelation at this point in time. Quitting EVE is on the table, as is completely shutting down this blog entirely.

I've already explained that not a lot is going on in EVE. I've considered 'doing something else,' finding a new corporation, or etc. And, this might happen eventually. However, looking at recruitment posts, and forum posts, and killboards, I get this sneaking suspicion that this apathetic feeling I get from militia and my alliance is actually much more widespread. I get the feeling that 'going somewhere else' would just be trading one semi-AFK group for another.

And then the little 'sandbox voice' pipes up. This is a sandbox. We're meant to create our own content. CCP should not be responsible for giving you content that you're just going to get bored with again as time goes on.

I'm beginning to really hate that little voice.

So, I think "I should not just be the whiny moany person that constantly complains that there is nothing to do. Waaa, I'm bored." So I roll up my sleeves, ready to do...something. Perhaps help wake up my alliance, get some fleets going, and be a good EVE citizen.

And then I draw a blank. Campaign...for what? Fleet....for what?

Maybe we could kill someone's POS. But why? Let's shoot this random structure for no reason or benefit...

Maybe we could take the entire warzone!...for...the....112th....time....

Maybe we could all go to nullsec going to happen.

The reality is that this is a game and I expect it to be entertaining. I know what the 'sandbox voice' says. I know that this might go against what people think about tools and yadda yadda yadda. But I seriously believe that CCP has a responsibility to some extent of providing entertainment. Making EVE fun NEEDS to enter into their equation somewhere along the line, doesn't it? It's not just about providing tools. They have a product, that they sell for money. It seems naive of them to think that their customers are going to be the only factor that makes their product 'work.'

And the fact that people are having a hard time finding things to fight over in a primarily pvp game seems problematic to me.

Now is when the 'EVE is dead' police should start to chime in about how people always complain about this 'I am bored' stuff and that "the statistics prove me wrong about everything I'm saying" and etc.

Honestly, some of what I need to say is not easy to say. I like being 'positive.' As a developer in a close-knit, agile development environment, I have a certain respect for EVE's developers. I like some of the things that I see coming from them as an organization, and etc.

But then, I want to ask questions like "is a new cloaking graphic really one of the main selling points and features for the upcoming release?" Seriously? Are you kidding me?

Then I'm abashed and think that maybe asking such a question would insult CCP's art team. Sometimes, I'm scared of criticizing EVE, or CCP. Mainly because I don't want to come across as one of those people who makes these wild and shocking criticisms for the sole purpose of getting
attention. I despise other EVE bloggers who are like that --those who seem to base their opinions on how many page views they'll get from expressing said opinions.

But I can't shake the bad taste that EVE has been leaving in my mouth lately.

Tonight, I read this article on TM, all about the recent bannings and etc. I rarely read such things, but this time I read the entire 14 page post from start to finish.

I'm not an idiot. I know not to believe everything I read, and especially not to 'take in' the tone of everything I read--especially coming from an EVE player. And I'm not sure I really have an opinion about the bannings, or could really tell you the author's main premise regarding them for that matter.

What stood out was the historical summary of a lot of things that have 'happened' in EVE over the last year or two. And honestly, especially in the last year, it has felt like one drama bomb after another. SOMER Blink. Erotica1. People are getting tarred and feathered, the wormhole community is raging, people getting accused of harassment, or RMT. And then there's some sort of wave of bannings, and etc.

And you know what? I'm sick of it. I'm sick. to. death. of. it. I want to hear about wars and players fighting each other. I want to know about new campaigns and in-game backstabbing and thievery. I don't want to hear anymore about this crap.

I don't want to be wondering about whether I should be 'trusting' CCP or not, questioning my own safety, or pondering whether it's really good for me to even be associated with this game or not. It seems like overkill, for a game.

I don't know about harassment or in-game vs out of game harassment or the fact of some precedent that CCP may or may not be setting by 'governing' Teamspeak. What bothers me is this seems to have become the norm as far as 'main EVE topics' go. This is 'what's going on.'

This evening I logged on to Twitter to see The Mittani posting about some sort of null-sec 'Deal.' I had the passing thought that the game has reached some sort of strange, bleak crescendo of boredom --a place where the only interesting or 'shocking' thing left for some people to do is to band together against CCP. The ultimate meta game. The politics, not of space--but of the game's design itself.

And yes, I fully realize that at this point I'm helplessly rambling. And it's probably time for me to stop. Hopefully, you have a least a little understanding of what's been going through the mind of 'Susan Black' lately. I know I haven't been particularly forthcoming the last few months.

I guess the question, after all of the above, is what's stopping me? After all, it IS just a game. If it's as frustrating as it sounds, why is whether or not to quit playing even a decision worth pondering over?

And when I know the answer to that, I suppose the debate will be over.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Consequences of 'Balance'

Over the last...well...long time, CCP has been 'rebalancing' many things in-game. Up until now we've seen this rebalancing most heavily done amongst the various ships. And starting with Oceanus, they will be starting to rebalance modules as well.

I have mixed feelings about the work that has been done so far, as well as the module announcement that was made recently. There are things that I absolutely love about what they're doing, and things that make me cringe and feel a little sad.

While I love the fact that more kinds of ships are used more regularly now, I'll be honest and say that I really hate the entire concept of 'roles' that CCP has been pushing on us. I hate that everything feels so defined, and predictable. While I have choices, I feel like certain elements of creativity have been eliminated completely. A lot of ships have a 'standard fit' where it feels like the ship was rebalanced specifically with that specific kind of fit in mind.

While I see more types of ships in combat, it is much more predictable to know what I'm facing based on the ship the enemy is using.

Some people seem to try to break out of this and find 'creative' or unexpected fits for things, but I think they are fighting an uphill, losing battle. And, they (and I) eventually give up when they realize that another ship would simply be better suited to what they're trying to do.

Personally, I think that things need to be more generic, and that 'roles' and what a thing is used for should be left more up to the players. It kind of feels like they've taken away our garden, and thrown out our tools and seeds, and now expect us to pick from a pre-determined bushel of vegetables that they have grown themselves, and determined we need.

Not to compare spaceships with vegetables, or anything.

Regarding the module balancing they are doing, it doesn't feel like we are getting more choices. Just, that we are getting the type and kind of choices that CCP wants us to be making choices over. Certain aspects of 'choice' seem to be getting removed entirely --such as choices based on the cost of an item, due to it's rarity.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Should High Sec be Safer?

Here we go again, you say. Another dialog on the safety of high sec, where pvpers adamantly proclaim their entitlements, and/or carebears make thin arguments about vaguely expressed ideas.

Would it benefit the game to allow people to travel nearly unscathed through high security space? Should we equip CONCORD with super death rays that blast anyone who so much as looks criminally inclined? Or, should we lighten up the security to encourage more pvp? It is, after all, a pvp game. Right?   


In my opinion, to ask the question of whether 'high sec should be safer' is to think inside of a box--the box that says you must think of EVE's geography in neat little sections that have neat little rules that have been almost entirely unchanged for the past ten years.

High Sec is for safety, industry, mining. Low Sec is for piracy, faction war. Null Sec is for large, blobbing alliances who fight over space. And, we're only allowed to think in these terms, apparently. We're only expected to talk about how to make low-sec more interesting for pirates, and how to fix 'sovereignty' in null-sec, or whether to make high sec safer.

I think it would be fun if EVE wasn't so staged --and didn't have such predictable, set dimensions. I'd like to see some kind of piracy abound in null-sec, and Faction War spill over to high/null, and bigger wars happening in high sec, and Jita-like systems in null-sec with player-run security and commerce.

Imagine 0.1 systems that are 'almost' null-sec --no bubbles, but no station or gates guns.

Imagine systems 'between' high-sec and low-sec where CONCORD 'sort of' responds but are stretched thin so they will only monitor certain places. (Such as gates, or etc.)

Imagine something 'in-between' null-sec sovereignty and Faction War in NPC null-sec --perhaps incorporating the pirate factions in EVE. Moderate sized groups who find Faction War too small, and null-sec too great a leap would have engaging and interesting gameplay.

Imagine if there were more 'pocket's' of different kinds of space, rather then the current geography of high-sec, surrounded by low-sec, surrounded by null-sec. Imagine if every major high-sec trade hub didn't necessarily have a high-sec route between them?

Imagine if 'security' impacted other things, such as cyno placement restrictions or the ability to anchor system-wide cyno jammers. What if system security impacted how hard/easy it was to take a system in Faction War?

Instead of black and white and red, I want fifty shades of every color. I think we need to stop thinking in terms of just 'high-sec' or 'low-sec' or 'null-sec' and start thinking about more in-betweens and acrosses--opening the door to new strategies, new decisions, and a myriad of new gameplay options.

Monday, September 8, 2014

FW for High Sec - Improving EVE's New Player Experience

Faction War has often been pointed to as a game mechanic in EVE that opens the door to newer players becoming more involved in PVP. The popularity of plexing with frigates, destroyers, and other cheap ships means that younger players can become involved quickly, without needing lots of skillpoints or large and expensive ships.

However, having seen new players struggle first hand, and having run a few 'noob' alts in Faction War myself, militia can be difficult and confusing for new players. There are aspects of the FW game mechanics that are 'clunky' and unintuitive. And, making the jump from high-sec missions and/or the tutorial, to low-sec combat is a fairly large and intimidating leap for young pilots to make.

So, how about introducing a sort of 'Faction War Lite' into highsec?

-A new set of 'Rookie' plexes would spawn in these systems. (For example a Rookie Small Compound, or a Rookie Medium Stronghold) These plexes would give substantially smaller payouts then 'regular' plexes and the NPCs would be somewhat easier to deal with for a solo pilot.

-The old system of 'Occupancy' could be introduced for these systems. There would be no station lockout, thought players could still contribute toward 'taking' a system.

-Faction Police that normally shoot hostile militia in high sec would be a little 'lighter' in these systems and would still shoot hostile militia on stargates and stations, but wouldn't 'follow' them. So, combat inside plexes or off the stargates would go unhindered, but hostile militia would have a hard time camping high-sec gates, or etc.

Once this was setup, I think it would be interesting to introduce a sort of new, advanced military tutorial, or set of 'new player' missions that utilizes high sec FW game mechanics. Players opting to do this 'advanced military training' could be pseudo 'drafted' into militia. They would then follow a increasingly challenging storyline related to the war, which would culminate in a final task of running one or more high sec plexes, and possibly put them into the situation of potentially having to fight another real player.