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


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


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


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


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


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.

The Dark Wheel


For those who don’t know, the third EON Awards are on right now, with voting in progress.   There’s been some discussion on the EVE forums here about how some of the nominees were chosen for the various categories, so I figure I’d shed some light on the subject.  Hopefully it will clear up some questions folks have been having.

First off you’ll ask yourself: what does he know about it?  Lets just get this bit out of the way now: I was a member of the group involved in choosing the nominees.  I realize some of the things I do for the community have ended up on the list, and I can tell you right now that I did not nominate myself or anything I was involved in, for any of the categories, with one exception: Player of the Year.  Now, I did this as a joke and even made note of it in my submission.  The reason was I personally didn’t think I could single out a single person who really stood out as a player of the year.  Anyway, apparently someone else tossed my name in too so it got in on the ballot.  For the record, there were 17 other candidates in that category alone.

I know you only have my word on this right now, but you’ll have to accept it unless someone else involved in the group comes forward to corroborate.  Anyway, that’s all the ass-covering I’m interested in getting into right now, and it’s not why you’re here anyway.  On to the process.

Things started with a list of ten judges, of which you now know one of them.  No, I’m not about to expose the identities of the others so don’t even ask (publicly or privately).  You’ll have to take it from me that each of them is a member of the EVE community, and don’t have any particular bias as a group.  By that I mean that it’s not like half of us are in Band of Brothers, or something.  Hopefully you understand what I’m getting at there.

Each of us were asked to provide six candidates for each category.  For myself, decided on coming up with one or two that really excelled in each category (the aforementioned Me for Player of the Year thing notwithstanding) instead of coming up with one and picking five more based on some sort of arbitrary means.

Once the nominee list was submitted, it was compiled into a master list of everyone’s selections per category.  Each of the people involved then voted on what six in each category they preferred.  For the record, no, I didn’t vote for anything my name was attached to.  The top six in each by votes ended up as the ones which you see on the voting site now.

So to summarize the process:

  1. We each came up with six nominees per category
  2. A full list of all selections was presented
  3. We each picked six from each category in the full list
  4. The top six picked ended up as final nominees

That’s all.

As to why it was done this way, I’m not 100% sure because I wasn’t involved in coming up with the concept.  I do know however that it sounded a lot better than player-submitted choices, because those inevitably are more biased, easier for a large enough corp/alliance to skew nominations, and generally speaking a much larger target for whining from the community.

Anyway I hope that answers some of the questions on this.  Whether this affects the way you vote is entirely up to each individual, I just figured it was good to have a bit of transparency.  The reason why I don’t give up the names of the others involved is not because it’s some super secret conspiracy, but it’s just not my place to do so.