Worth a Thousand Words

Boy, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged on my own site. Warp Drive Active’s kept me pretty busy these days, but I’m back here and hope to continue the various article series’ that I have happening here. On to better topics, though!

The EVE Online Alliance Tournament 8 has been going on throughout the month of June, to great success thus far. The video streams have been silky smooth with no major interruptions of note, the commentary has been excellent, and the matches have been exciting to watch. A lot of the latter has to do with the rules this year, which streamline the combat nicely — no more ten minute long matches containing nothing but circle-jerk logistics setups. Instead we’ve been seeing some excellent fleet commanding, very capable commentary, and expensive ships melting before our very eyes.

In the past I’ve been allowed to attend the matches in order to do some visual documentation of the matches. For Alliance Tournament 8, the pictures I’ve taken can be found at my EVE Online – Alliance Tournament 8 picture set on Flickr. Players have enjoyed this in the past since full resolution images aren’t provided by CCP from the matches. Some have even been inspired enough to create their own content with the images, either just wallpapers for their own  use or, in the case of Umega, an entire music video.

This all came to a screeching halt last Sunday, and I figured I might as well explain to folks out there what transpired. First, let me give some background.

Back during Alliance Tournament 5, I sent a note off to the organizer at the time and inquired if there was a way I could get screenshots from the matches. I was invited to attend the events in person so I could do this myself. I graciously accepted, and proceeded to do my work back then. Players definitely seemed to enjoy the results.

After the recent Alliance Tournament 8 podcast I worked with CCP to produce, I asked if I could once again attend the matches to document them with screenshots. They got back to me and indicated it was possible. Let me explain how this has worked for me in the past.

Obviously I can’t show up there in a battleship and mash my screenshot button. I’m restricted to a covert ops frigate with no mounted modules save for a cloaking device. I am to remain cloaked throughout the matches. Occasionally while jockeying for position with the EVE TV camera ships I’ll get bumped by one of them and summarily decloaked, but that’s only ever happened during the setup phase and never during an actual match.

During the first tournament I did this for, it became very evident that staying outside the arena was going to be a problem for the effort, since if the players impulse to or have initial warp-ins over on the other side, I cannot do a Look At to get my camera close. I had asked the organizer if it was possible to breach the arena during the matches slightly in order to get within the 100km Look At distance, and it was agreed to be alright as long as I kept as large a distance as possible.

My UI is always on until I’m actually about to take a screenshot. My overview shows me where everyone is, and I have my Keep At button set to 150km on standby in case I notice someone coming my way. I immediately hit it, and I’m usually out of the arena in seconds. The closest anyone’s ever come to me is around 20km, but in that instance I was 10km outside of the arena. GMs would nuke them the second they breach the border anyway.

There are two arenas in the tournament system for AT8, and between matches I’m warping to the next one along with other EVE TV camera ships at 100km, then moving off to a random position to cloak. Players aren’t on the field at this point at all. Last Sunday, the match organizer noticed me decloak at this point — again, no players on the field at all — because an EVE TV camera ship bumped mine and decloaked my Helios. After a short chat, I was relocated out of the tournament system because I noted how unreasonable it is to stipulate a 135km minimum distance from the arena beacon.

Think about this. 135km diameter sphere has a circumference of approximately 425kms. Lets say the teams all warp in at their spots on the other side of the sphere. At around 300m/s, by the time I circumnavigated the entire arena to get close the match would be over. The probability of a player heading straight for my cloaked ship and getting within decloaking distance is profoundly small, and that’s assuming I’m not constantly expecting that to happen.

So, a decision was made. That’s fine of course, again as I said before I don’t have any special access or rights for this kind of access. From my perspective it was more upsetting of how quickly a distrustful opinion was formed of me, after more than seven years of building up a relationship with CCP through my interactions with the community of EVE and the developers themselves though such efforts as the podcast and comic.

As much as I do these things for you, the community of EVE, they are in a way also homage to the creators of the game we all enjoy. The result is a kind of tip of the hat to say “this is how much I like what you’ve created”.

Am I upset? A bit. I’m disappointed that after the things that I’ve done I can’t be afforded the opportunity to take time out of my own weekends to provide another perspective to the community on an event that’s supposed to be all about the players. Twenty thousand people viewed the set on the first day of the tournament alone, with many more thousands to follow in the days since, and a fair portion of those (if referrer stats are any indication) are the alliances who were competing.

This isn’t a rant, and my intent is not to bash all of CCP here. There are some fantastic individuals working for them who are smart, creative, and passionate about the game. You won’t see me slamming the door in the face of future opportunities to work with them, such as providing the current set of AT8 pictures for their own use in marketing or dev blogs, or doing future podcast work with them to highlight upcoming EVE events or expansions. It’s just so you as players can know what transpired in case you were wondering why the screenshots end a week before the finals.

All that will really come of this is a firm knowledge of the widening distance between those of us trying to do work for the community, and the creators of the game that it has built up around. Currently, that distance has grown to around 35km. Who knows where it will be in the future.

Planet Play

If you’ve listen to the recent podcast I did on Planetary Interaction, you’ll know you that I’ve been playing with this on the test server more and more in recent days. I figured this would be a good venue to give some more detailed information on what I’ve found about the concept so far.

The idea here is simple: there are a lot of planets in EVE, and pre-Tyrannis they have almost zero value in the game, short of a warp-to target without infrastructure around it to blow you to pieces. Tyrannis hopes to change that — and more — by letting players create an industrial surface infrastructure. I’ll get to the “why” of things later, for now lets look at the “how”.

There are a specific number of planetary types, including the usual suspects like ice, temperate, gas, etc., as well as plasma, the most rare. Each type of planet has a specific number of materials available to work with, some unique for that type. You start your endeavor by purchasing a command center on the market, one suited for the particular type of planet you want to play with. The command center has stats like power and CPU amounts similar to a ship or POS control tower, with higher level centers having more of those stats. Once bought, put it in your hold, fly to your target planet, right click on it and select View in Planet Mode. Select the location of your new infrastructure and you’re good to go.

You have two categories of tasks on the Planet View, build and scan. Build is obvious, but to determine what to build — and more importantly, where — you’ll have to scan. Scanning lets you select a resource the planet holds, showing you specifically where deposits are located that you can extract. You can play with the settings to get a nifty heat map view of the world, and almost immediately you’re going to wish you did this step first before planting your command center (hint hint!). You’ll see why that is soon.

On a particular gas planet I was playing with, I decided I wanted to extract aqueous solutions and ionic solutions. After scanning for both, you’ll see they will usually be a distance away from each other. Fair enough, so you head to the Build section of Planet View and select the appropriate extractor from the groups presented there, and being planting a few of each type into the locations you found the materials. This is somewhat like a market tab in a way, since you’ll be charged for each item you plant , although only after you click the submit button so you have time to play around a bit. I put down a storage silo to hold my extracted goods as well.

Now you must link your infrastructure together. This is like establishing roads between your buildings, the creation of which will eat up a specific amount of your command center’s stats depending on the distance of the links. Luckily you can optimize this at any time you wish. For instance if you have a cluster of three extractors in one area, linking each to the storage silo 50km away individually would be inefficient. It’s better to link them all together as a cluster and one to the silo, since links are shared.

We’re not done yet. Each extractor must be selected, so you can survey the area it’s set down in for deposits. Each deposit in the list has a a total amount and amount per extract cycle indicated, which is calculated to show you the time it will take to deplete the deposit. Select something reasonable. Now you have to route the product, by selecting where you want it to go when extracted. Doing this to your silo will show how the product moves along the links you’ve established.

Once this has all been done, and presuming you haven’t exceeded your control center’s power and CPU attributes, click submit and your set will become permanent. You’ll see your extractors will begin their work with a 15 minute cycle time. Lets get ready to take care of these raw materials.

Processor facilities let you convert your raw materials to more interesting products. Each planet type has two or more of these, each one is basically a processing tier. For my setup, I chose to put down two basic processors, linked to my storage facility. Each one converts one of the extracted materials into a product. Selecting each one, I chose the schematic for converting aqueous liquids to water for the first one, and ionic solutions to electrolytes for the second. Similar to the extractors you can set up the routing for the incoming and outgoing items. I also set down an advanced processor to take the water and electrolytes and convert it to coolant.

Just to give an idea of the amounts we’re dealing with here, to get 5 units of coolant you need 40 units each of water and electrolytes. That means 12000 units of aqueous liquids and ionic solutions.

So once you get a product and you want to do something with it, then what? You have two options. First, shuffle the stuff to your command center and launch it into orbit, in a special can with a decaying orbit that you must scoop before it self destructs. Second, you can build a launch facility on the surface which lets you interface with the customs depot in orbit of every planet.

The customs facility is a new thing orbiting each planet in EVE, allowing you to import and export goods from the surface. By exporting via this method, the can doesn’t hang out in space. This might seem less risky, however since the customs facility location is known to everyone it will probably end up being camped by those wanting to scan someone’s cargo and suicide gank them for the goods inside.

So, now the why of things. In its current state there’s not much purpose to most of this. So far I’ve seen that nanite paste can be constructed with some of the products from all of this, and I’m not sure what else out there can be constructed from the output of planet goo processing. The intent told to us is that this will eventually replace the remaining elements of the NPC market in EVE, and that is a good thing in my opinion. Additionally, this will all tie (somehow) into DUST 514, although the how of that is still a great unknown at this point.

There’s an immense time and ISK sink at work here as well. Deposits must be re-surveyed when they deplete, so every few hours you’ll be coming back to make sure stuff is still coming out of the ground. Infrastructure cannot be sold, only decommissioned, meaning you will lose the money invested. It seems to be only a matter of a few hundred thousand ISK on average for the different facilities, but that can add up especially when the ROI here is relatively low.

In a way it’s a balanced stream of passive income, as all the elements along the way can be sold off on the market to other people who don’t wish to mine/process their own. For the EVE gamer more concerned with PVP, this is a worthless addition for them directly. Industrialists and tinkerers may find a lot to reward them, but it remains to be seen if the commitment to develop this persists past a year. Think back to the Cosmos constellations and Faction Warfare for examples of promising new features that are current gathering dust…

Hardware Upgrade Complete

Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged to the masses. No I haven’t died, I’ve just been really busy. Stuff on my to-do list includes getting out a new podcast and comic, enjoying a much-needed vacation, and writing up more articles like the EON review series.

To kick all of that off, essentially a pre-req for all of that, my PC was in dire need of an upgrade.

Cooler Closeup

First off, specs time:

  • Power supply: Corsair HX 850W Power Supply w/ 140mm Fan
  • Motherboard: Asus P7H55D-M EVO w/ DualDDR3 1333, 7.1 Audio, Gigabit Lan, USB3.0. 1394, PCI-E x16, HDMI
  • CPU: Intel Core™ i5 Processor 750 2.66GHz w/ 8MB Cache
  • Memory: Corsair 4GB XMS3-1333 TWIN3X Dual Channel DDR3 Kit (2 x 2GB)
  • Video: Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 1GB GDDR5
  • Boot drive: Intel X25-M Mainstream 34nm 2.5in SATA II Solid State Drive, 80GB (OEM)
  • Secondary drive: Western Digital 1.5TB Caviar Green 5400rpm SATA II w/ 64MB Cache
  • Disc: Samsung SH-B083L 8x BD-ROM / DVD Writer Combo Drive
  • OS: Windows 7

There’s some additional drives in there from my previous PC adding another two terabytes of storage to this.

ASUS Heatsink

Going with Windows 7 and a SSD for a boot (and EVE) drive ends up being a fantastic thing to do, and I can’t recommend it enough. The OS’s speed is insane, and everything’s whisper quiet. So much so that when I touch any of the data drives (where I’m installing pretty much everything else)  it’s immediately noticeable how quiet everything is.

Desktop View

It’s nice having a rig where I don’t have to run Battlefield: Bad Company 2 multiplayer on the lowest settings in order to not have the game lag like crazy. It’s also awesome to have EVE run like it’s built on an Astroglide-based architecture.

Check out the rest of the build pics in the Hardware set at my Flickr.  Enjoy, and if anyone’s considering an upgrade feel free to give me a shout and I might be able to provide some tips.

And He Has a Plan

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It’s no secret that lately things have been pretty busy for me, so much so that I’ve barely had time to keep up with any major EVE-related activities.  That’s changing now though.

Warp Drive Active has unfortunately been one of the things that has had to be prioritized lower than usual, and now that’s no longer the case.  Sporting a newly redesigned look and feel, and even now a new podcast, I think you’ll find it more and more actively updated than ever before.

Starting to play more frequently is interesting with a game like EVE, one practically has to take it easy for a while and get your spacelegs back.  I’m spending a lot more time back in that icky place known as Empire space rather than out in 0.0 with my compatriots, running the odd mission here and there and getting used to the feeling of blowing something away.

The thing with EVE is that a lot of things change over time, and not just game mechanics.  The change in player politics and actions affects a lot in the game, and it’s easier to see those changes if you step back for some weeks.

No better time to take  a break from playing Killzone 2 and Uncharted 2 though, than the release of a new expansion.  Dominion’s been amazing so far, with a laundry list of changes primarily dealing with alliance warfare.  The changes are huge, and in theory at least are incredibly positive.  It’s still too early to tell yet how actual warfare will change since the grace period for alliances to set up their infrastructures is due to end soon.  Then the siege toys go on the market, and we can see how system wars will end up.

By then, hopefully, I’ll be back in 0.0 where I normally hang. 🙂

Anyway, with a new WDA site came a new podcast as well, with a different format than before.  It’ll evolve over time, into who knows what, but fresh stuff is better than old stuff, or no stuff.

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!