Saturday, 30 April 2011

BB26: The Beauty Between the Lines

Welcome to the twenty-sixth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week or so to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to Check for other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month's topic was proposed by @KatiaSae of the much praised "To Boldly Go" blog. Katia asks: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As an astrophotographer, I've found it in the stars and planets of New Eden. Where have you found it? Perhaps you've found beauty in the ships we fly? Maybe it's the sight of profits being added to your bottom line? Or maybe it's the pilot portraits you see in the comm channels? Where ever you've found it, write about it and post an image." Don't be afraid go beyond the simple visual aspects of EVE as well. Is the EVE Community in itself a thing of beauty? What makes EVE the game, the world, the Community, so appealing to you?

Beauty Between the Lines

Unlike most MMOs which attempt to explicitly represent every aspect of their worlds, EVE Online knowingly leaves much out, allowing the player's imagination to fill in what might be.

Like a novel that paints it's world but respects the reader enough to know that his imagination is capable of far more powerful imagery than can be conjured by it's words, EVE Online leaves our minds to wonder at the unseen details. I often find myself pondering what goes on behind those glowing rows of windows on ships and stations, or who is living on that planet below.

The People
Who knows what dramas are playing out amongst the ships crews as they scramble to their duties, or how the stargate crews feel about the passing traffic. Perhaps the industrial teams toiling on the planetary extraction facilities are battling against life-threatening environmental conditions, or unseen search-and-rescue teams scour the stars for survivors trapped in floating wrecks. How do ordinary folk go about their lives on stations and planets?

The Politics
There's an intricate web of inter-Empire politics that continually plays out beyond closed doors. Whilst capsuleers are traditionally distant from such petty rivalries (unless it suits), what diplomatic maneouverings might be taking place between the governments led by the Caldari Executor Tibus Heth, the Amarr Empress Jamyl Sarum, Gallente president Jacus Roden, and Minmatar Sanmatar Maleatu Shakor. Are there envoys aboard the station in which you are currently docked? What machinations are playing out within their constituencies on the populous planets below?

The Mysteries
The Jovians – a race of people whose advanced technology brought about the Capsuleer era have been silent for years - what has happened to them? Has the genetic malaise against which they fought finally brought an end to their existence? Have they joined the other lost races that are cryptically mentioned in throughout the lore of EVE? And just who were the Talocan, the Yan Jung, the Takmahl and which, if any, are related to the sinister Sleepers? What happened to the original Terran mother race? Has a civilisation on the other side of the EVE gate continued to evolve?

The Menaces
Sanshas Nation have risen to a frightening level of military power and who knows from where this ascendancy came? But what of the other hostile organisations, some of which hold sway in large areas of non-Empire controlled space. There's Equilibrium of Mankind - a religious cult hell-bent on the destruction of any society that doesn't follow their beliefs. Serpentis - an organisation of interstellar druglords, the Guristas - a vast outfit of criminals and pirates, the Blood Raider Covenant – a society of cultists based on some gruesome practices, and many more.

Weaving the Tapestry
It is in this intricately woven world that I find inspiration. The rich storylines and suggested themes are there to be explored and can be very rewarding for those who take the time. I have read that ancient Persian rug weavers - masters of their art - would deliberately weave a flaw into their masterpieces as they believed that only God should be perfect (sounds like they had a ridiculously high opinion of their own work to me, but hey). So with this in mind, I hope to continue to throw in a few dodgy stitches of my own as I attempt to contribute to the wonder that is the expansive, captivating and darkly enticing lore of EVE.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Voices From the Void: The Start of Something Wonderful

Arydanika and Hallen Turrek, fresh from their experience with the sadly discontinued 'Lost in EVE' podcast, have just launched their own EVE Online podcast, 'Voices From the Void'. They released the first episode yesterday and it's a podcast I would highly recommend for anyone with an interest in broadening their knowledge of EVE.

The combination of Arydanika's silken, seductive tones and Hallen's knowledge and dry humour weaves together an entertaining and informative show with a great format. Don't let the fact that the first episode also includes an interview with some blogger called Seismic Stan put you off. It was a privilege to be invited to take part in their debut episode and I wish them all the best for future. I predict that 'Voices From the Void' will go from strength to strength and I look forward to seeing the show evolve.

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Dani (the extended version of which can be found here), we had a very involving discussion about the storyline and roleplaying side of EVE which certainly encouraged me to give some more thought to some ideas that I've been considering. In the interview, we talked about my 'blogcast' readings which I do for the 'EVE Commune' podcast (so far I've done an editorial piece, a fiction dramatisation, a 'mockumentary' and a TV show parody). We also discussed exploring storyline themes and the unexplored mysteries of New Eden. It's these two elements that I would like to analyse further and get some feedback on.

I have thoroughly enjoyed creating the 'EVE Commune' skits and aim to continue doing so, however I believe that I have just scratched the tip of the iceberg with the concept. The popularity of podcasts and radio shows within the EVE community proves that it is a medium that connects with people. Additionally, the EVE community is impossible to over-estimate in terms of talent and creativity. I am interested in looking into expanding the concept of my 'blogcasts' to make something entertaining, but more epic and professional.

My first few attempts at these audio skits, whilst hopefully entertaining, are probably a little amateurish to the professional ear. I'm still learning my craft and having a great time doing it and I intend to keep improving. However, I am but one man with a laptop, a microphone and a love of writing. Imagine if we had a pool of talent to draw from; writers, composers, voice actors, audio editors and so on, all of whom could work together on creative projects to make high quality audio material for the enjoyment of the masses. An audio production studio if you like.

I'd be interested to know if there is any talent out there interested in taking part in a collaborative project like this. Please comment, contact me in-game or email me at if you are.

And don't forget to go give Voices From the Void some love.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Fanfest Flashback: An Interview With Mr. Fanfest

A month has passed, the dust has settled and Iceland's national beer stocks have finally been replenished. I would imagine the city of Rekyjavik has probably just about recovered from the multinational invasion that is EVE Online's Fanfest. Part technology expo, part festival, all spaceships - Fanfest 2011 was an experience like no other. Three days (and nights) of entertainment from the informative to the outright bonkers; with presentations, discussions, tournaments and chessboxing (!), it was a veritable feast for those interested in sci-fi, game-design or Icelandic eccentricity.

However, none of this year's event would have come to pass were in not for the organisational talents of one man; CCP's Events and Conventions Director, Mike Read (a.k.a. CCP Daishi). Undoubtedly a busy man, Mike was kind enough to step away from his usual duties of chomping cigars, sampling single malt scotches and barking at his minions to answer a few questions.

Seismic Stan: As the Events and Conventions Director for CCP, you're the 'man-with-the-plan' when it comes to Fanfest. How did it go this year? What were the high points for you and were there any comical bloopers you could share?

Mike Read: I have been working Fanfest in one capacity or another since 2006. This was my first time overseeing everything from the top down and it was just an amazing experience. The staff I had to work with and the fans were top notch. Just wish I had some more time to engage the fans themselves. Something I never get to do enough of in working Fanfest.

I could be a little biased here, but I have say that this was definitely my favorite one to date. That’s not to say it didn’t have its share of challenges we had to deal with!

The high points were pretty much EVERYTHING! No lie. It all went pretty smoothly (and for those if you reading this and have reservations about the party – We have listened to what you had to say and will rectify that for next year). As for comical blooper – Not really any off the top of my head other than the guy throwing up his dinner the night before in a garbage can on the second floor. He cleared the floor in 2.5 seconds flat!

SS: As a first-time attendee, I have to say I thought Fanfest was a unique and brilliant experience. I would have said it was 'awesome', but I think CCP employees have worn that word out. I got quoted on describing it as a cross between a Star Trek Convention and Woodstock. Was this what you were going for and what can we look forward to next year?

MR: That’s an interesting take, but I am not sure I would explain it that way personally. Having never been to a Star Trek Convention and only knowing that Woodstock was a gathering of hippies. I’ve been involved in a lot of gaming groups over the years from many genres and I have to say that the EVE player base is really one of the most eclectic and highly engaging groups I’ve been a part of. The core of the EVE Fanfest really hasn’t changed all that much over the years other that I feel it’s getting more player-centric. That is something Hilmar has always talked about in regards to Fanfest and it’s partially my responsibility to help see that through.

If I had to give a crossover mix of what Fanfest is I would say it’s like a cross between Pitbull and a Golden Labrador Retriever! (Don’t ask me to clarify this!)

For next year the theme is going to be Minmatar as dictated by the winning race in the live agent missions. We are also looking to move to a new venue for 2012 to the new Harpa music hall which is located closer to downtown. None of this has been confirmed yet, but it will definitely pose some new challenges for us logistically. As for what we can look forwards to ….. You’ll just have to come next year and find out!

SS: Beyond the yearly Fanfest convention, are there any other EVE-themed events on the calender that fans can get involved in?

MR: This is being worked on right now. You may have heard my podcast with Crazykinux last month about Fanfest and player events where I have started reaching out to some of these folks in the community who are working on putting together some of the local events. I don’t feel that CCP has done enough outreach and support on this front in the past and I am out to change that.

We’re starting the year off with a Russian fan event that will be held in Moscow on May 14th. The idea started between Russian Community Manager - Alexey Rybak and I at Fanfest. This grew from a small 200 person pub meet has now turned into a 400 person player gathering! It’s to the point that we had so many people that wanted to come to the we had to put a cap on it for logistics and timing reasons.

There is also a few other larger ones this year that we are looking to support as well. My email address is out there [] and I encourage people to contact me about their event idea. I’d be more than happy to give some guidance to those who are looking to start something up in their area.

SS: One thing that struck me at this year's Fanfest was the sheer diversity of players. It is possible for players, whilst sharing a passion for EVE Online, to have little in common in terms of play-style. Given the diversity that grows from the 'sandbox', how do you ensure that there's something for all players at events?

MR: You hit the nail on the head here. Diversity is really one of the intriguing factors in this game and this has a large part to do with the single shard that we run. You really aren’t going to please everyone here, but I truly believe the core interests in the game are the same to the majority and that comes with the advanced social infrastructures that this game naturally allows. We focus on the core ideas at Fanfest. The players do a great job of filling in the blanks with the interactions that occur between themselves.

What I would like to see more of is more player-centric activities and discussions. This year we tried something different with a little idea that I had called “Open Mic Night” which started off slow and ended with a whole load of people that wanted to get up on stage and tell their stories.

Bottom line is that Fanfest is about the fans (I know! Quite the concept!). I have an enormous amount of respect for those that take the time out of their lives to come to Iceland for a week to meet others who share the same interests and to meet with the people that make the game (and in some cases get really drunk). I believe it helps the developers put it all into perspective as to why they love what they do as well. I know it does for me.

SS: EVE Online's combat is an engaging, elegant and popular activity as reflected by the inclusion of PvP tournaments at Fanfest and by the yearly Alliance Tournament, both of which I am sure are an incredible experience for the participants. However, as a spectator I found it difficult to make sense what was displayed on the screen beyond some coloured boxes, some whizzy crosses and the odd flash of light. Are there any plans to make tournaments visually more spectator-friendly?

MR: I was involved in the very first EVETV broadcast that happened back in the summer of 2006. I’ll spare you the details of how I got involved, but that one was a challenge and a half. Try commentating and controlling the broadcast camera at the same time!

Anyway – There are really no plans on the development side to improve things as far as I know. The system that is in there now was adapted from an old combat HUD that was buried in the code. There were some alterations done on the backend organizational tools, but nothing groundbreaking on the frontend that I am aware of.

We do, however, have some flashy new broadcast tools that we utilized for the Fanfest EVETV broadcast. This should help to give us a lot more flexibility on that end. I do agree with you thought that less time needs to be spent in those overview red/blue boxes. I’ll definitely poke the man about that one to see what we can do to bump that up.

SS: If 'EVE is Real', the events and conventions that you organise are EVE Online's reality beach-heads. How do you see your role in evangelising EVE? Do you think there are any limits to how 'real' EVE can be for players?

MR: I feel that EVE players are some of the most laid back people I have ever met in the gaming space. You can give them a bar, some devs, and a roomful of people that play EVE and they’ll make their own fun. I don’t really feel the need to “evangelize” anything when the players just do it so well themselves. What I do push is the need for people to get in the same room and experience firsthand what it’s like on the other side of the fence. For many that come out, it’s their first time in a space where they are meeting random people from a game for the very first time. I’ve always found that EVE players are some of the easiest to mix with whether you are alone or in a group.

As for how “real” EVE can be for players? I get the impression that most know the line between reality and the game and where to draw that line. Of course you have some that live and breathe it 24/7. At the end of the day the connection is with the game itself. We’ve always found that players who may have been at war for years with each other and involved in the nastiest most virulent mudslinging you could imagine can always leave that behind. So, EVE will never BECOME reality, but it is nonetheless real.

SS: EVE Online's player-driven politics and non-consensual combat mechanics are an emotive subject. I have heard of aggrieved players threatening to carry out acts of revenge in the real world. Have grudges or conflicts from the game-world ever spilt over at a real-world event? What is CCP's policy on dealing with such incidents?

MR: Tensions run high in this game for sure in the combat arena. Losing that billion+ ISK fitted ship or getting ripped off is always a disheartening (if not a ragequit) experience at times.

I am not aware of any real acts that have occurred, but like anything in this space, things can quickly evolve into a heated moment of exchanges between two people. What I can say as a former GM is that there are occurrences of this happening and at times we’ve had to contact law enforcement agencies to report incidents against us and others. Past that, there isn’t a whole lot we can do directly except put people in a cool down. Nonetheless, we do take it seriously when it gets out of hand.

SS: Given that the sandbox gameworld of EVE allows for amoral behaviour and the practice of meta-gaming is an accepted part of EVE's 'emergent gameplay', it could be argued that there are potential pitfalls ahead as those two concepts converge. How would you convince the Jack Thompsons and the Daily Mails of the world that there is nothing to worry about?

MR: It definitely scares the hell out of some people! The fact that you can lose everything you spent days, weeks, months, and even years building up. There are plenty of games out there that offer this level of protection to their players and will suit their style quite well.

I really don’t feel that we should be convincing anyone that there is anything to worry about and present EVE for what it is. Some people are just fascinated watching what happens in the EVE world like a type of voyeur looking to get his/her fix. EVE tends to walk the line on a lot of things and the two you pointed out here are big ones, but are really what set us apart from the rest.

SS: I suggested in a previous blogpost that for some players EVE is practically their religion and is an all-consuming lifestyle choice. Do you think MMO publishers have any responsibility to their customers with regard to video game addiction and how can this problem be addressed?

MR: Yes and no. There are so many types of personalities out there. It’s really the addictive ones that will have trouble discerning whether they have a problem or not.

EVE is a form of entertainment. Like anything in this field, we want people to engage and have fun with it. There will always be those who can’t see how far they are taking things. I think you will find this in any game genre these days with a multiplayer capacity.

Fact of the matter is that almost anything can become an addiction these days. Video games are no exception to that rule and we as a company have no real way to discern how someone would be taking it too far without us simply closing down our business.

Like I always say … “Everything in moderation … including moderation”. I go overboard myself sometimes, but am able to look at it and bounce back. Not everyone has that luxury and I feel fortunate.

SS: In the UK, there have been a number of famous Mike Reads (well two, and one of them is spelt Reid), and they were distinctive spectacle wearers. Have you considered following in their footsteps and what kind of spectacles would you go for?

MR: Having come from the record industry, I know of the radio DJ Mike Read. None really past that, other than the guy who decided to add as many Mike Read’s as possible to his Facebook. It looks like I have already attempted to follow that route and gave it up for the truly awesome video game industry. If was to go for a specific type of spectacle, it would probably be…..wait for it……AVIATORS!!!

I would like the thank Mike for taking the time to give some great answers and I look forward to what he's got in store for the next Fanfest and any other events that may appear on the calendar. Here's to Fanfest 2012.


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Welsh Tony and the Incarna 'Khumaak' Thief

Welsh Tony is an odd fellow; although he's been affiliated with the Freebooters for years, he rarely undocks and all he ever does is hang around on station taking 'private walks' with any livestock we leave laying around in the hangar.
With the publication of this devblog, it seemed Welsh Tony's life was about to get a lot more interesting. These exclusive shots show Welsh Tony publicly stepping out of his pod for the first time.

Unfortunately, on arrival in his chamber, his wardrobe was strangely missing. Either this was one of Long Jack's pranks or the place had been turned over. It's not bloody surprising, given that there doesn't seem to be a way to close the balcony door. Anyone with a grappling hook, rope ladder or jet-pack could've got in.

 "By all that is Holy, the bastards have stolen my 'Khumaak'! Must've been a problem with the cloning vats, honest. My life is over, even the hotel porn has blown me out - I'll give you 'No relevant Sov data', ya picky bitch."

"That's it, I'm outta here. I don't need clothes or genitals, it'll just be me and my spaceship. I hope it's got a toilet on board - I've been busting for days but for some reason, nothing's moving."

"Unbelievable, they found the keys to my Reaper and made off with that too, the bastards. I wonder if I can convince the insurance company it was actually a Ragnarok?"

"Still, since I've got nothing better to do, this balcony ramp could do with a coat of paint... and maybe some nice hanging baskets. I could have a little chicken coop over there and a nice little sheep pen here..."

Epilogue: Sadly, due to his inability to deal with the isolation, the claustrophobia and the generally draughtiness of wandering around in his birthday suit, Welsh Tony went on to biomass himself. Hopefully he will be replaced by an individual more capable of providing sensible feedback (ie. a 'proper' looking at CQ will be forthcoming).

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Creature From the Null-Sec Lagoon

The Council of Stellar Management, an elected player body that serves as a liaison between the player population of EVE Online and it's creators CCP, has just begun its sixth term. The man that has taken up the reigns from the previous chair(wo)man is The Mittani, a polarising figure if ever there was one.

On the back of an aggressive “no bullshit” campaign and some vote-manipulating skullduggery (he openly admits that the smear campaign he masterminded against fellow candidate Trebor Daehdoow was designed to draw votes away from other candidates that may not have danced to his tune), The Mittani comfortably secured his desired position of chair and ensured that the majority of the remaining eight seats were occupied by individuals sympathetic to his cause.

Although a big name in the depths of the null-sec alliance-driven end-game of EVE, The Mittani isn't necessarily that widely celebrated (or villainised) in the more pastoral high-sec regions. On the commencement of his term, The Mittani wasted no time raising his profile amongst the wider EVE community in his own inimitable style. attending several interviews, engaging the EVE Online Twitter community (the #Tweetfleet) and allowing his new constituents to get a better idea of the man who is their new champion.

In doing so, he has revealed himself to be a capable and eloquent communicator, but also abrasive, unapologetic and narcissistic. That he knows EVE and it's idiosyncrasies is not in doubt, he seems well-informed and prepared to accept the limitations of his knowledge in that regard (he is, after all, a null-sec specialist) and understands when to refer to the resources of alternative knowledge that are his CSM cohorts and the alternates.

However, as he is clearly a man of education and intelligence, we can only assume his habit of being abusive and dismissive on such a frequent basis to be deliberate and calculated. You would not have to try hard to find a sound-bite or a quote wherein he is belittling someone. A self-described “pretentious douchebag”, he even has a trite explanation for such behaviour, in that “This is EVE, for fuck's sake.” and “My job isn't to kiss babies or say nice things about foolish people; it's to get shit done.”

This brings me to the curious concept of meta-gaming, something that I understand is a staple of the EVE Online null-sec culture; wherein much of the diplomacy, intelligence gathering and even attempts to cripple opposition communications take place outside the confines of the game engine itself. This is something that The Mittani, along with his alliance - the Goonswarm Federation - claims to be proficient in and is proud of. Furthermore he explains his brusque and offensive manner as something of a tool, after all EVE is a game about war and wars are not started by nice people.

The Mittani seems to represent a collision of the culture of internet anonymity that gives the excuse to treat others poorly without fear of repercussion and the harsh socio-political game design of EVE Online. What he calls EVE, others might prefer to call a 'conversation', a 'forum' or 'Twitter'. Being obnoxious may be a career choice within EVE, but how far that is carried beyond the game engine is a personal choice. For The Mittani, it seems to be an all-encompassing lifestyle. He is perhaps the product of his environment; a true child of EVE.

This may sound like a criticism, and I suppose in part it is, but it cannot be refuted what The Mittani represents in organisational terms. He has risen to the top of a community of thousands of players and seized control of the CSM when he so chose. Perhaps his manner might not be to everybody's taste, but he is certainly not a man to underestimate. Already his stamp is apparent in the initial days of the current CSM term; he was critical of the open letter published by the previous CSM and has begun his tenure with an open letter of his own that is far more positive and unifying. Using resources presumably at the daily disposal of the Goonswarm Federation, he gave a 'fireside chat' presentation on a Mumble server capable of hosting several thousand connections. There, he and the other CSM members informed the listeners (who numbered in their hundreds), fielded questions and gave assurances that The Mittani was not the sole decision-maker. These community meetings are intended to be a regular occurrence and are a great way of widening the communication conduit.

The Mittani himself impressed with his clarity of thought and his candour – it is apparent that he has a clear vision of what the CSM wants and what they can reasonably achieve. They presented as a unified force with an even-handed approach to all aspects of the game. That there is strong null-sec representation on the CSM is no bad thing; large fleet fights are an aspect of EVE Online that CCP repeatedly base their marketing on and it attracts many to try the game for the first time. If it is an unfulfilling experience then it will be a source of disappointment. This would certainly need addressing as a high priority. Furthermore, the presence of such a strong null-sec representation on the CSM may serve to close the divide between high- and null-sec play styles. It's certainly raised my awareness of that aspect of the game and I intend to take the plunge.

So with regard to the Mittani, his credentials speak for themselves and I feel assured that he will be a positive force for the CSM and for EVE Online. His frequent name-dropping of CCP developers, whilst slightly distasteful, suggests he has their ear and is well-connected (at least in his mind) and he seems to have a genuine desire to effect improvements for the good of all. Good luck to him and the other CSM members.

In terms of his acerbic manner, I believe this is also good for EVE. Every show needs a pantomime villain and I think The Mittani understands this role well, fulfilling it with aplomb. We don't have to like him and this is something he is quick to point out. It may well be that the very characteristics that cause offence are somehow integral to his success. He is our very own Emperor Palpatine and brings his own brand of villainy to New Eden - he can only add to the dark, rich tapestry of EVE history.

And he can get “shit” done.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Ships Crew Debate: The Official Line

Last September I went to some length to discover if the ships that are flown throughout New Eden could be flown by a lone capsuleer or if a crew was required. The information was available in the dark depths of EVE lore but it was far from conclusive. My archeology led me to discover there was a wide range of viewpoints, some suggestive fiction and a few outdated ship schematics that some figures could be gleaned from. I thought I left no stone unturned and fruits of my research can be read in this blogpost.

But that doesn't really matter now. It seems that CCP t0nyG, CCP Abraxus and the content team have revisited the canon themselves and finally put the debate to rest. The following image was apparently taken from CCP t0nyG's Fanfest presentation, 'Words Words Words', which I sadly missed.

It's interesting to note that there appears to be some disparity between the figures my research suggested and these new ones. For example, the Evelopedia states battleships are "...crewed by many as 10,000-15,000 lives", whereas the new table suggests the maximum is now 8,000, with Minmatar crews having up to 9,600. With a capsuleer instead of a regular command crew "...the combat efficiency increases greatly with the use of the pod reducing minimal crew needed to the hundreds." Many of the other new crew ranges seem to more-or-less agree with those detailed in Evelopedia with minor variations. The figures found on the ancient schematics are vastly different, but they should probably be discounted as apocryphal.

So whilst the Immersion Project team have stayed true to the general concept, they have tweaked the figures slightly. I'm glad that they have looked over this issue and are tightening the bolts on the official lore. The above table certainly seems to provide a definitive answer as to whether a crew is still required in a pod-controlled ship; it seems frigates can be completely controlled by a capsuleer, but anything larger still requires the vessel to be crewed.

One thing that struck me as an interesting statistic was the 'Statistical Average Survivor Rate'. If this is as it sounds and represents the average number of people who survive the destruction of their ship, it might be quite interesting (at least to a pedant like me) to revisit the galactic attrition rate calculations I made in The End of New Eden is Nigh. Given the number of ships destroyed on a daily basis, if these official figures are indeed canon, it could be argued that cluster-wide spaceship combat will result in the rapid annihilation of the human race.

Go read that blogpost now if you don't believe me, then never undock again.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Fanfest Flashback: The Spectacle of Combat

EVE has many strengths, and two of the things it does particularly well are delivering spectacular visuals and providing adrenaline-inducing PvP combat. However, after watching the PvP Tournament Final at this year's Fanfest, it strikes me that these two elements are not happy bedfellows.

EVE is visually beautiful. With it's myriad of detailed ships and stations, eye-catching weapons effects, it's spectacular nebula-filled starscapes and detailed planets that sweep elegantly by beyond the shimmering warp tunnels, simply travelling around New Eden is a glorious feast for the eyes that evokes the highest of science-fiction ideals.

The promotional videos and trailers that CCP so excel at capitalise on this sci-fi pedigree, with sweeping shots of agile frigate squadrons scything through lumbering fleets of capital ships. Battleship armadas blast thundering salvos across space whilst dreadnaughts reign fire and hell down on planet surfaces. To any viewer, those breathtaking cinematics tease them with suggestions that EVE will provide them with the opportunity to actually participate in exhilarating space combat as seen in the greatest of sci-fi canon such as Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek.

Combat in New Eden can be a heart-pounding visceral experience; from the slow build-up of ship selection and fitting, through flying past the aforementioned serene beauty, to hearing the tell-tale sound of a weapons lock and the sudden explosion of light and sound. When combat is joined the heart thunders because, like no other game, this sudden change of pace triggers the primordial 'fight-or-flight' mechanism in all of us. Our primitive hind-brains don't realise there are no longer any sabre-tooth tigers to outrun and so pump us full of adrenaline, increasing our cardiac output and heightening our senses, readying us for a fight to the death.

Whilst sitting at a desk, the muscles aren't utilising this sudden influx of resources, so unless well-drilled, the usual reaction to this physiological surge is panic – the over-oxygenated brain does odd things - but what a rush! Proficient pilots ride this buzz, harnessing it and using it to their advantage. It's little wonder that many of New Eden's veteran combat pilots are prepared to roam for hours in search of this rush, they're armchair adrenaline junkies.

Combining these two elements is surely the recipe for an epic spectacle of orgasmic spaceship carnage, right? Well from what I saw of the Tournaments at Fanfest, sadly not. I'm sure it is a fantastic experience for the competitors, but for the spectator all you can see is a number of small squares representing ships (it is not even possible to discern which team they belong to), some fast-moving 'x's for the drones and the occasional flash of light when something explodes. It was all very turgid and underwhelming.

It seemed clear to me that for the less well-informed spectator to have any understanding of proceedings, the onus was on the commentators to explain what was going on. However, either they weren't entirely sure themselves or they assumed that everyone else already had a grasp on events, because they often meandered off into general discussions about rules, tactics or loadouts in the middle of the 'action'. In my opinion, without any clear visual indicators, they need to be delivering a style of commentary more akin to radio coverage, working from the basis that the listener cannot see anything. Because with the current tournament display tools, essentially we can't.

Even with professional and consistent blow-by-blow commentary, EVE Tournaments as an entertainment spectacle are doomed to remain an underwhelming and dull experience for the viewer without a rethink on the presentation. The problem comes back to the user interface; prior to (and sometimes during) the tournament combat rounds, frantic drop-down menu access could be seen being performed by unseen technicians as they attempted to arrange icons in the right place and centre the camera on the correct object. It was clear that they were essentially using the same tools that players have access to, albeit with some extra options.

Surely the technology and manpower exists for a team of 'camera-men' to set up various camera angles from which to view the action, whilst a director ensures that the main feed that the viewer sees stays focused on the action and is relevant to the commentary. 

The existing 'advanced camera' options provided by the UI are anything but advanced, but it is at least something to build on. If the camera was instructed to keep a number of ships on-screen (essentially defining the outer extremes of a single 'object'), key combat focal points could be observed much more dynamically. The designers have in essence already achieved the same process in the character creator by ensuring all poses keep the eyes in view. Can this not be done for highlighted ships? Add to this a 'tailplane' view, a turret-cam and a free-roaming camera and suddenly you a suite of camera controls to bring the viewer a stunning visual experience that fully utilises the Trinity engine and brings the Tournament to life.

Lights, Camera, Faction
If CCP truly want to 'evangelise' EVE and convince the wider gaming audience that New Eden is the place to be, this would be a great way to move the current game experience a little closer to the pre-rendered visions that we so regularly get teased with. 

Initially, this would enable official Tournaments to become a much more enjoyable experience for the viewer, even those not well-versed in PvP or even in basic EVE mechanics and would therefore appeal to a far wider audience. Furthermore, if released to the user, more sophisticated camera tools would mean a far more cinematic experience for all players, giving rise to more immersive personal experiences, more creative machinima projects and lots of positive free publicity for EVE. Everybody wins.

To summarise; I don't want to watch crosses and brackets any more, I want The Battle of Endor and so does Joe Public.

Monday, 4 April 2011

EVE Commune Podcast ft. Freebooted

Here at Fort Freebooted, we've always considered ourselves an equal opportunities blog and champions of the underdog. However, one demographic that was always hard to reach is people without eyes. Until now.
Through the magic of technology, last week's blog post, 'Fanfest Flashback: The Cult of EVE' has been injected into the digital ether to be reborn as sound and has been featured on the latest EVE Commune podcast episode. Amazing, eh? It's just a shame that the guy reading it sounds like an extra from 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' trying desperately to sound like a BBC Newsreader. Oh wait, that was me. Muppet.
EVE Commune Episode 21 (also available on iTunes)
I would warm the cockles of my heart if you could take the time to have a listen, even if only to point and laugh. EVE Commune main man Garheade has fielded the idea of having a regular Freebooted slot on the EVE Commune podcast, so any feedback on the idea of a Freebooted 'blogcast' feature would be gratefully received either by commenting on this post or by heading over to the EVE Commune forums.
During the show, Garheade mentions that the Fanfest Flashback: The Cult of EVE article had generated lots of discussion. however I haven't been aware of any of this, so if anyone has any thoughts on the subject, or even a link to somewhere else that is discussing it, please let me know on the Cult of EVE blogpost. I'd love to know what some of you cultists think.