EON Magazine Issue #001


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.

Review: Mass Effect

Mass Effect CoverIt took me long enough, but I finally managed to finish off Mass Effect on the Xbox 360. The start of a proposed series of games, but a self-contained story in and of itself, Mass Effect tells the story of Commander Shepherd as he tries to stop a rogue Spectre named Saren from carrying out his evil plans.

Lets get the bad out of the way right now. This game isn’t perfect, there’s some seriously gimped inventory management and a godawful lot of texture popping happening. Sometimes it’ll switch to a scene with a character and they’ll look like they’re made of clay, then *zing* they’re back to normal. It shows up more often than I’d like, and really shows how technologically stretched thin the 360 is as a platform.

All of that aside, Mass Effect is a brilliant cinematic experience. The presentation is top notch, essentially like a 20 hour long movie where you play the protagonist. Combat is relatively simple and accessible. There’s very little tutorials in this game, but things aren’t too tough to figure out. And once you do, combat will probably get pretty easy for you depending on the role you’ve chosen for your character.

RPGs can get pretty tiresome, what with a lot of dialog reading and such, but with Mass Effect this is made more interesting by the fact that the game’s cast speaks to each other instead of forcing you to read a book. And it’s all done in a very cinematic style, again making it feel more like a big movie rather than a game.

The story is at first glance fairly standard fare for a sci-fi, but there’s enough political and military intrigue to separate it from other games of its kind. There’s a lot of depth, especially with all the interpersonal relationships the characters have with one another.

You can blow through the game in around 15 hours or so, I’m guessing, if you focus on the main thrust of the storyline and don’t steamroll through it. There’s a ton of side quests, which I haven’t finished.

I’m definitely going to give this game another run through, maybe trying a different class and completing more of the side quests themselves. All in all, even with the glitches, I highly recommend this.

Review: The Orphanage

The OrphanageProduced by Guillermo del Toro of Pan’s Labyrinth fame, The Orphanage is a story of a couple living in an old orphanage-turned-house, with their adopted son Simon. Simon’s got issues, having all sorts of friends of the imaginary variety. When he goes missing, his mother Laura (a former resident of the same orphanage she now lives in as a house) begins to suspect these imaginary friends could be more.. supernatural in origin.

The story is not the standard-fare ghost story you might be expecting, and the slow story buildup at the start is so worth it in payoff later. It’s very well written, the characters are excellent, and the performances are all believable.

It’s a foreign film (spanish), so expect to read subtitles.

There’s some genuinely amazing bits in this film, and your heart rate will increase rapidly on many occasions. Best part is the film doesn’t suffer the hollywood scary movie failing of doing so by making loud noises and using psychotic editing. There’s some seriously scary crap happening on the screen to freak you out, and it’s damn effective.

It’s also used to service the story, not for pure adrenaline value.

I love writers strikes. They should happen more often, because the focus shifts more to foreign films, where the real talent is lying these days. If you were a fan of Pan’s Labyrinth, definitely do not miss this.

Review: Cloverfield

Cloverfield PosterCloverfield’s been getting a ridiculous amount of hype, and a lot of that is really cunning secretiveness on the part of the film’s producers. It’s finally out, and I got a chance to see it on opening night.

The theater was full to capacity. We ended up seeing it in maybe the third or fourth row from the front, which was probably a bad idea. The shakey-cam aspect of this film cannot be overstated, if you even have the slightest possibility of getting motion sickness from stuff, this cam will have you feeling ill fast. That aside..

The story centers around a group of friends who are busily throwing a party for one of their friends who’s leaving the country for a job in Japan when the crap hits the fan. Something’s tearing New York a new one, and these friends are at ground zero trying to get out of the city. The audience is right along for the ride because the story is told from the perspective of one of the characters holding a digital video camera, hence why the footage is chaotic.

The integration of the effects into the footage is shockingly good. With the city coming apart around everyone it’s amazing to watch because normally that kind of thing is a pain to put together with the filmed stuff, due to the motion. Here it’s spot on, and totally engaging because you have to pay attention to spot details and catch what’s going on.

The film’s incredibly immersive audio helps to sell the experience as well. There’s no music, just whatever audio’s able to be picked up by the video camera.

All in all the experience is very engaging and the presentation is quite original, despite people making comparisons with Blair Witch Project. It can be a stomach twister at times, but there hasn’t been anything out like this in theaters that I can remember. Check it out, but if you can take a back row or wait until it comes out on video.

(Note: I’m being deliberately vague on a lot of plot points which I feel are best experienced than to be told outright)

Review: Sunshine

Sunshine coverSet in the near future, the Earth’s sun is dying out. A crew of a ship called the Icarus II is sent out with a mission to reignite it.

Sunshine’s directed by Danny Boyle of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later fame, and it’s amazing how diverse this guy is as a director. This isn’t a slow, plodding sci-fi, it picks up right when things get interesting. The story here has a few predictable bits of course, but it’s handled well.

It’s not an action movie per se, so don’t expect space battle stuff here. 🙂 But it’s not the insomnia-curing Solaris either, not by far.

The dude from 28 Days in in this one as the crew’s physicist, and you’ll notice a lot of the actors are from other films. The acting’s pretty believable in terms of how the characters respond to their respective situations. No oscar worthy performances here, but that’s a good thing — those are usually so overblown it gives me space sickness.

Effects-wise, this movie’s gorgeous. I picked up the Blu-ray, and the picture practically jumps off the screen. The effects are gorgeous, and a fair part of that is the way Boyle styles his movie. If you’ve seen 28 Days Later you’ll know what i mean, he loves filming in high def and enjoys unconventional filming techniques.

Sci fi is a niche genre, and this doesn’t try to be any kind of maintream attempt. The story’s very approachable, there’s not a ton of technobabble, and the director’s approach to this kind of movie makes it very unique. Overall, me likey.

Half-life 2: Episode 1

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Half-life 2 was a strange beast for me. I loved the first game, but the second was just… strange. The entire movement through the game seemed pointless, even thought the overall design was top notch. Just when things get awesome, story wise, it ends with a cliffhanger. Thus I wasn’t looking forward to Episode 1 with much interest.

Then the Orange Box set came and I preordered it for Team Fortress 2. It came with Episode 1 so I gave it a whirl. Wow. In a word, this is what the Half-life 2 should have been like from the start. It has a lot of really awesome gameplay concepts the first game didn’t, and there’s more exposition in the first 10 minutes of play than the HL2 had.

The story of Half-life 2 is pretty cool, it’s just a pity the first game focused more on getting you from point A to point B, rather than explaining what the hell was going on. Episode 1 doesn’t fill in all the blanks of course, but the narrative is a lot less derivative and is much more expertly delivered.

Graphically, Episode 1 includes an incredible implementation of HDR lighting, used to awesome effect throughout the game. Lighting itself plays a huge part here since you’re now paired with Alix, who’s your primary “weapon” to start off. She can only shoot what she sees, so if the lights go off you’d better be pointing your flashlight in the right direction.

The additional commentary icons you can turn on provide some impressive insight into the design process, and I can only imagine the rest of the game’s fans agree since Valve will no doubt provide this feature going forward. It’s not something you turn on during your first outing through the game since it entirely breaks the immersion, but it’s a really great thing to try with your second run through.

The whole package impressed me enough that the Orange Box preorder for me is entirely justified, especially with the inclusion of Team Fortress 2 and Half-life 2 Episode 2. If you’re on the fence about this set because you may have already picked up Half-life 2 already, don’t fret. Episodic content normally turns my stomach, but if Valve can continue to put them out with this level of quality I’ll continue to support them.

I realize of course this isn’t an intensive review, but I’d rather not spoil the experience of this and/or any ending details of Half-life 2 for folks who may not have played it yet.

Review: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

Title: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
Platform: Xbox 360

Trying really hard to break the record for the longest game title, GRAW2 came out this week to a relatively decent amount of fanfare. Sort of. Well there IS a TV trailer which doesn’t even show in-game footage, but lets not go there.

If you’ve played GRAW1, you’ve played GRAW2. The gameplay is nearly identical, with some generally good improvements. Graphically, it’s a pretty large leap above GRAW1, which was pretty interesting in that GRAW1 looked pretty fracking good. Here the shadows and lighting effects are unbelievably good, with a very cinematic quality which immediately sets the mood for you. Things are almost too realistic here, it’s even more of a challenge to spot the enemy which makes the gameplay move at a more strategic pace.

The Cross-Com interface has been improved with some neat enhancements, such as the ability to hold down the RB button to see a full-screen view of the team member or support unit you’ve got selected. You can manually control drones this way, and with squad member in single player it lets you swivel the camera around and issue orders. You could almost stay back away from the action and just coordinate efforts from that view. It’s pretty slick.

Multiplayer has a new co-op campaign to play though, and has a couple of new game types such as Helicopter Hunt, where it’s your squad vs. an onslaught of helicopters. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the later choppers are gunships with missiles. Ow.

Overall though, the multiplayer area of the game is obviously where the development focus was, so if you’re buying this for the single player campaign you’re going to be slightly disappointed. The SP campaign is good, don’t get me wrong, it’s just ridiculously short. GRAW1’s was longer than this, but that being said GRAW2’s is far more cinematic and intense, as well as being easier to manage with all the Cross-Com enhancements. Still, multiplayer is where it’s at here, so if you didn’t enjoy that with the first game then give this one a pass.

You can even change the time of day in the non-co-op matches, so you can play during the day or at night. This means you probably won’t see too much in the way of $20 downloadable content consisting of relit maps, something which is universally considered to be a great big pile of crap.

Otherwise if you even liked GRAW1 in the slightest, this is definitely a great evolution of the game. Well worth trading in the old game for this, since I doubt anyone is going to be playing that anymore.

Rating: 8/10

Chromehounds review up

So I’ve posted my impressions of Chromehounds, finally. This game is like crack, and I have to tell you I’ve barely played anything else lately. I say it in my impressions and I’ll say it here: this is a mech pilot’s wet dream come true. Should have named it Crackhounds.

Also finally passed 2000 points on my Live gamerscore. Took me a while, but then again I don’t play for points. Still, kind of neat.