EON Magazine Issue #001

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EON Magazine / Issue #001 / Autumn 2005

I’ve wanted to do little capsule reviews of EVE’s magazine for a long time now.  I figured hey, no time like the present, and what better place to start than the beginning.

EON is EVE Online’s official magazine, and as such has a considerable uphill battle ahead.  Lets face it, EVE as a game is pretty niche, but that niche game gets its own print magazine?  Right from the start this is a serious limitation to the mag, and one which I’m sure everyone involved in the production was aware of right from the start.  The solution to the problem ended up being a simple one: make the magazine special.

The table of contents of the premiere edition contain the following featured articles, crammed into its inaugural 66 pages:

  • Cover Story: Super Size EVE
  • In Crowds: Kjartan Pierre Emilsson (CCP LeKjart), B. Borkur Eiriksson
  • Chronicles: “Exchange Rate”, “Legionnaire”, “Are You Clonesome Tonight”, “Bedtime Story”
  • In Characters: Freewheeling, Cyvok, Trigger
  • Online: The EVE-I Story
  • Testflight: Heavy Assault Cruisers
  • Insider’s Guides: Navigation, Trading

eon1Gracing the cover of this issue is an introduction to the then-upcoming Kali expansion, bringing the promise of the large-scale ship classes to the game.  There’s some great stuff here, with Nathan Richardsson (CCP Oveur) describing the intended vision of how the behemoths will integrate into various aspects of EVE.  A lot of this is amusing to read in hindsight, knowing now players use capital ships currently in EVE and how they’ve been adjusted by the developers from carriers on up to Titans since their implementation; however, there’s also the inherent promise in an article like this, whereby you can see what they wanted to do with them.  You really get the sense that they don’t just throw these things in just because they’re cool looking.

“In Crowd” articles focus on the people behind the game, and this edition brings us two of them. In the first, showcasing then-lead designer LeKjart, EON poses the question of what we can expect in EVE circa 2010.  The answer: a mix of genres, including but not limited to RTS and … FPS?  Battlefield-style gameplay in ambulation, yes please.  We’re then treated to insight from Borkur Eiriksson, who pretty much anyone who pays attention will know as the man behind those fantastic illustrations which accompany some of EVE’s online marketing and Chronicles efforts.  The man’s list of movie favorites reads like my own almost verbatim, and the article gives some great answers to great questions, such as (paraphrasing) “what single piece of art would you run to save if CCP was under attack by pirates?”.

The Chronicles in EON are a departure from the ones found on the website, in that they are written by members of the community, garnished with artwork from CCP’s art department which is inspired by the submitted story.  Issue #001 does not skimp on this content, handing you four short stories to read.

Exchange Rate by Tom Czerniawski tells the tale of a pilot’s first foray into space as part of the State War Academy.  It’s an interesting take on a moment all new players to EVE go through, though the delivery is slightly overdone at points.

Legionnaire by Jacob Lounsbury takes you to a place we’ve all wanted to go in EVE: tactical squad based shootouts.  I love the style of this one, with the visual writing style really punctuated by one of the coolest bits of artwork to come out of EVE’s art group.  Action oriented, and probably the most serious of the stories in this issue.

Are You Clonesome Tonight? by Richard James gets the award for the cleverest title.  Experience cloning from the standpoint of those keeping the vats running.

Bedtime Story by Tom Czerniawski is a second offering by this author this issue, by far the most creative of the four.  A long lost group of early EVE cluster citizens return for a homecoming you’ll never expect.

DigitalCommunist takes on the first Testflight article, a series which gives commentary on a particular class of ship and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each other.  He starts with the Heavy Assault Cruiser, a ship which was relatively new at the time of printing.  It’s not as much of a specific technical comparison, but the discussion dealt mostly with the broad details of their intended roles and how successful they are at them.  It’s a good taste of information for pilots considering flying that class of ships.

Insider Guides in this issue cover the topics of Navigation and Trading.  Both of these things have change drastically since this issue has come out, but the overall logic being presented by the authors has core elements which are still meaningful.

I mentioned earlier something about the magazine being special and there’s a lot of reasons this first issue of EON shows off how it’s trying to be unique.  The overall presentation of the magazine itself is in high gloss, well produced and well edited, with a very new media layout style similar to magazines such as Wired.

The biggest draw here is that the content is one hundred percent about EVE Online, right down to the advertisements of corporations and services which are created by players and submitted for the magazine.   Players can contribute to this magazine easily, and that content is integrated into the magazine for all the readers to take in.  If you’re good at writing, submit some fiction or guides and there’s an excellent chance it’ll get added.  Took an awesome screenshot?  Send it in for the Postcards from the Edge gallery.

As I continue doing these little hindsight reviews of EON, slowly but surely leading up to the most current editions, I hope you’ll stick around with me and see what you might have missed, and maybe see if there is value in getting some copies for yourself.

Lepidopterology

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Today, CCP released a brand new trailer for EVE Online along with a new marketing campaign centered around the concept of “the butterfly effect”.  The theory goes that even the smallest actions will lead to larger effects — travel back in time to see some dinosaurs and inadvertently step on a butterfly and the effects on the present day would be profound (see A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury).  The trailer itself is impressive, as are most visual marketing efforts for EVE, but how close is the trailer to the true gaming experience?

Continue reading “Lepidopterology”

Writer of the Year

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It usually takes forever for an EON magazine to get to me here. I think it’s shipped from Europe via message bottle in the ocean, or something. Eventually the last edition happened upon my mailbox, and I leafed through it and put it down, meaning to take a more thorough look at the contents later.

Then someone IMs me a couple of days later about some sort of writeup about me in there. Puzzled, I pick that EON back up and stumble on the EON Awards pages — with my name listed in the Writer of the Year category as the recipient of the award. My jaw dropped.

Now, I don’t write, make fun of, or podcast about EVE for any other reason than it’s something I enjoy doing. I’m not chasing down recognition, reward, or such for my efforts, but I’m totally blown away and humbled by the community selecting me to win this one.

So wow, everyone out there, thank you very much!

But wait.. there’s more. Just yesterday I go to grab the papers from my mailbox and nearly trip over a package just outside my door. I bring it in, and slice open the bag. Inside it is .. another bag.

I open that bag, and find another bag (I’m not kidding here).  I open that up and there’s a paper-wrapped something, taped securely.  I cut the tape and tear the paper away and find a protective paper sleeve.  Inside this I find a decorative box, and inside that box, nestled snugly in the soft interior I find this:

Again my jaw dropped…  totally cool.

If anything this serves as more motivation to keep doing what I’ve been doing, and even to kick things into a slightly higher gear.  ENV continues to be written (though I’ve been entirely lax at getting stuff put online!), I’ve been blogging here and on warpdriveactive.com, writing for sites like Massive Gamer (which has stalled but other opportunities are presenting themselves), and have two story ideas I’m going to try to get into EON magazine.

So stay tuned, there’s more to come, and I hope I can honor the awarding of this to me by providing even more useful and entertaining material to the community in the years to come.

Thanks again!

Exploration Evolved

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By now most anyone who’s into EVE has been playing around with some of the new features in Apocrypha.  One of the coolest new features is the new scanning system. It’s integral to finding wormholes, arguably the largest part of the new expansion

The scanning system’s been in EVE since the beginning, but not like this.  Prior to this expansion, you deployed your probe where your ship was and the player employed a measure of personal skill in order to lock down the location of the target.  I’ve never been good at it, but I wanted to give the new system a try to locate my first wormhole.

I started in my Helios, dropping a single probe set out at maximum range and located a spot that could be a hit.  Dropping three more probes I arranged them in a quadrilateral arrangement (triangulation, but in three dimensions).  Shrinking the probes and moving them back into a clustered formation, I whittled down (or up, as it were) the signature strength of the hit until it reached 100%.  I’d found my first wormhole.

I put down a bookmark for the location, did a Show Info on the thing.  Looked like it hadn’t been jumped through by anyone yet, so I decided to take the plunge.  The wormhole blew outward into a giant reflective sphere which encompassed my ship (very cool effect, by the way), and I was through.  For the first time in a long time, doing something in EVE had an air of the unknown, and it was a good feeling.

On the other side, first thing’s first: bookmark the wormhole.  It’s amusing how during those first few days how many people got stuck inside w-space because they didn’t bookmark their only known way out.  Before doing anything else, I bookmarked the wormhole and cloaked.

The wormhole I found contained a pulsar of some kind.  On first entry my shields took a 30% hit, but then after that, nothing.  Strange.  I dropped some probes and proceeded to scan down a spot to find some unfriendlies.

It didn’t take long, and I warped to a scanned complex, and found myself staring at a peculiar disc-like structure surrounded with glittering effects.  Suddenly a small group of Sleepers appeared, patrolling for my ship.  Thankfully, I was cloaked.  Without friends, there was no way I was going to be dealing with the Sleepers myself.  I did a bit more exploring and then went back to the wormhole I’d used as my entrance.

It was an interesting experience doing this just a day or so after the expansion went live.  The feeling of seeing the truly unknown and unexplored hasn’t been a part of EVE in a long long time, and it was good to see it back.  Doing a wormhole with an uncloaked ship has to be a very interesting experience, since you truly don’t know what kind of challenge you’re going to expect when going in.  Bringing friends helps but is never a guarantee.

The new scanning system is much more approachable than the old one, and while the wormhole experience isn’t something that brand new players will be able to experience right away, it doesn’t take a large amount of training time to be able to use the gear you need.  More importantly, the addition of huge amounts of  content which is incredibly lethal really fits with the EVE style.    In order to properly take advantage of all w-space offers (loot, gas, and salvage for making tech 3 ships) you’ll have to coordinate well with others.  That’s not to say there isn’t content for solo folks in the “lesser” wormholes, in fact the act of scanning for a wormhole itself can be pretty interesting.

All and all, even just the addition of w-space makes Apocrypha one of the most important and entertaining expansions in a long time.  Sure it doesn’t do much with regards to alliance warfare, but even alliances can easily get in on the fun.

Now go out there and explore.

What’s Real, and What is Not

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So the new trailer for Apocrypha is out now, and you can go and download hit here.  It certainly is a pretty trailer, but it’s been a recent trend in EVE trailers to deliberately avoid what they used to do: showcase the fact that 100% of the footage is from in game.

Planets don’t explode in EVE.  Fleets don’t fly in formation doing 50 m/s during combat, NPCs don’t do slow methodical turns.  Most importantly, when I turn on the EVE client it’s not showing me a lavish production of CG, it’s a game.  And a damn impressive one at that, one which doesn’t actually need a ton of fakery to show the epic scale of itself.

Apocrypha is a huge expansion in EVE, and the trailer does not convey that.  There’s no dialogue, nothing to explain to the audience of people who aren’t playing EVE what the big deal is.  It doesn’t explain a single solitary thing about the game at all actually, much less about the expansion.  How is this marketing anything?

If CCP is trying to show us it can produce gorgeous trailers, they’ve been doing that since day one.  We get that, the world gets that.  But the impressive nature of those trailers was due, in large part, to the fact that they were showing things happening in the actual game client.  Remember the Empyrean Age trailer showing Jamyl Sarum’s fleet decimating a Minmatar capital fleet with a single shot?  It looked great, but you can’t ever do that in the game, and knowing that it takes a lot out of the trailer.

The most impressive trailers to date, CCP or player created, have been with cunning use of the in game camera to capture incredible moments in gameplay.  There are dozens of such efforts which far surpass anything done recently by CCP’s marketing department.

Things need to be brought back to a time when we can be proud to show a trailer that starts with “The Footage You Are About to See is 100% In Game”, because that is *real* marketing.  It’s something that no other game can do as impressively as EVE, and CCP is really selling itself short by not taking advantage of their best assets.

Where the Magic Happens

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So yeah, it took us a bit longer than usual but we managed to kick out a new podcast this week.  The different thing about this one was that I got to take the reigns of the editing of the podcast subsequent to recording.  It’s a lot different than I expected.

One of the things that probably helps one out while doing this is a good initial recording.  Obviously when first doing a podcast there’s going to be a lot of stuff that gets edited out, but Urbo and I have been doing this for a long time now so our uncut originals are pretty clean overall.  Well, for the most part.  That makes the job easier, so my first experience with cutting together a whole cast went pretty smooth from my end of things.

For those who don’t know, Warp Drive Active is done as a recorded Skype conversation using a handy piece of software called Pamela, which lets us actually save the audio stream of a Skype call.   We record both ends of the conversation since the local voice quality’s always going to be better than the remote’s, but for the most part we use a single side to do an edit and cut in bits from the other if the quality requires it.

The only downside to doing it is the fact that you actually have to listen to the whole podast raw file from beginning to end, to make sure you’re cutting out bits that should be cut, and that process alone can be a pain in the butt.  When the finished product is over two hours, you can imagine how long it takes to listen through a huge raw file from beginning to end.  I figure I should start taking notes on time indexes that I should revisit to work on instead.

At any rate, I watched a couple of Indiana Jones movies while doing this, so Urban’s QA on the final cut found a cut that I forgot to make.  As an aside, that new Indy movie was a huge pile of crap.

I use Audacity for my editing while Urban prefers the more commercial Soundforge, and while Audacity is a bit more rough around the edges it’s an extremely capable piece of open source sound editing software.  I’d have no issues recommending it to anyone with the caveat that you should make sure you’ve got enough free space on your drive (the project files are quite large) and that you save often.  That’s not so much of an issue for Audacity users I find, Urban sometimes kills a whole podcast when Soundforge crashes and nukes the original files.

It’s a learning experience.

F.E.A.R. 2 Project Origin

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The problem with EVE is that it can sometimes take a lot of time to accomplish something when you log in.  So lately given the fact I’ve been so swamped with work I’ve only been able to mess around with games that give a shorter term payoff.  I’m a pretty big fan of the original F.E.A.R., so getting the new one was a no brainer.

In terms of genre, this one’s a sci-fi anime-inspired j-horror first person shooter.  It’s something any nerd would love to play really.  It even has a very well done version of bullet-time, which makes the ultra-violent shooter action all the more sweet when you have the edge of slow motion.

It’s been oh… since Bioshock I think, when I’ve played a shooter this atmospheric.  The city got blown to hell at the end of the first game, and making your way through it in this one is extremely well presented.  The streets are totally screwed, with debris and dust everywhere.  And as typical of the series it’s scary as all hell with all the horrific madness happening because of Alma.

Multiplayer’s nothing too out of the ordinary which is probably not a good thing, but if you’re looking for a solid single player scarefest in a sci-fi shooter form you should check this one out.