Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Dr Stan's Capsuleer Clinic

New Eden is a stressful environment and health problems amongst EVE Online players are becoming increasingly common. This is the first in a series of guides designed to enable sufferers of EVE-related maladies to be able to diagnose and treat developing conditions before permanent damage is done.

A healthy EVE player is a happy EVE player.

(Status Muppetus Enragicus)

The primary cause of emo-rage is a disproportionate emotional commitment to a video game combined with a perceived injustice.

The nature of the EVE Online environment is that it attracts individuals who thrive on schadenfreude and set out to 'grief' others in the hope of providing a negative experience for their victims. Their aim is to trigger an episode of emo-rage and 'capture the tears' of it's sufferers.

Additionally the developers, CCP, can inadvertantly trigger widespread emo-rage epidemics. Enthusiastic players of EVE Online develop passionate opinions about the many aspects of their chosen game environment and when game design changes affect this, emo-rage can result.

Signs and Symptoms
  • Acute emotional outbursts
  • Regrettable forum or blog posts
  • Hypertension
  • Self-harm, commonly violent and repeated 'face-palming' or 'head-desking'
  • The compulsion to cease EVE Online activity (Emoragequit)
In the event of any of the above symptoms acutely manifesting as a result of an EVE Online related incident, the following six-step programme is advised:
  1. Breathe deeply and slowly.
  2. Move away from solid or expensive objects.
  3. Find a secluded area.
  4. Scream.
  5. Move to a well ventilated area, ideally with sunlight.
  6. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
Repeated episodes may require consultation with your physician or participation in an RTFM programme.

(Obsessivus Collapsicus)

Often caused by the invasive nature of EVE Online, the player buckles under the pressure of their perceived responsibilities and enters a depressed state.

The mismanagement of time or a sense of social responsibility to fellow players leads to feeling pressured and compelled.

Signs and Symptoms
  • Lethargy
  • Apathy
  • Loss of motivation
A change of game-play style or responsibility levels can effect positive results. Burn-out is the sufferer's natural response to over-exposure to or under-enjoyment of EVE Online and is often a self-treating condition. The tendency is for the sufferer to avoid the EVE Online environment for a period of time, returning only when enthusiasm levels rise.

In some cases, the sufferer may override the compulsion to leave the EVE Online environment. This can greatly increase the risk of contracting Bitter Old Veteran Syndrome.

Bitter Old Veteran Syndrome
(Bovwhine Whingyforum Encephalapathy)

Long-term players of EVE Online who have developed a passionate interest often lapse into this state after a series of disappointments. Often the individual's passion gives rise to unreasonable expectations which are inevitably not met.

BOVS is a social disease and long-term interaction with the EVE online meta-gaming experience greatly increases the likelihood of developing BOVS through exposure to other sufferers.

Signs and Symptoms
  • Obsessive behaviour surrounding key gameplay issues
  • The compulsion to criticise in all available social media
  • An arbitrary aversion to change
  • Inflated sense of entitlement
  • Hairy palms
Although the more aggressive aspects of BOVS can be appeased by the introduction of desired gameplay changes, this tends to be a short-term solution which only amplifies the BOVS sufferers condition in the medium- to long-term.

Mild or acute sufferers gain much benefit from fresh air or participating in a non-digital activity. Alcoholic beverages can have beneficial effects.

Moderate sufferers have had some success by interacting in a non-digital environment with real human beings. This enables them to develop a more objective view of their interests. A key technique that aids recovery is the the shrug. Development of a good shrug technique promotes the release of relaxing neurotransmitters, enabling the BOVS suffer to give less of a shit.

Severe sufferers of BOVS suffer from a debilitating mental condition. There has been some successful treatment with the repeated application of a bi-phasic current through the pre-frontal cortex. In other cases it has proven to be untreatable. Terminal sufferers should be aware that they may infect others and should probably consider other hobbies.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Micro-Transactions, Why All the Fuss?

"I knew there was more to you than money."
- Princess Leia, Star Wars: A New Hope

Over the last few days, I've watched the EVE community contort and writhe with incandescent rage. The EVE forums are a cacophony of indignant doom-mongers, enraged naysayers and contrary smart-arses, but as I understand it that's pretty much business as usual on the forums. However there are some voices that stand out amongst the babbling with some incisive and well-reasoned arguments regarding money matters. I've been trying to step back and gain some overall perspective on the issues.

Two fires burn at the heart of the current eruption, one is the micro-transaction controversy, the other the 'contributor tax' third-party commercial licence charge proposals. I'm pretty sure that CCP realise they dropped a major clanger with the commercial licencing and I'm hopeful that it will eventually evolve into a concept that will be beneficial to and supportive of the community. But it's the fervour surrounding the micro-transaction [MT] proposals that puzzles me.

The general player consensus on MT has always been that it should only involve vanity items (ie. of cosmetic value only) and not allow a player to purchase any kind of in-game advantage.

But doesn't PLEX already do that?

Is PLEX Evil?

Pilot License EXtensions have been neatly sewn into New Eden's economy for some time, providing a system that allows a player can purchase an item with real money that can then be sold for in-game ISK. This creates a mutually beneficial process whereby the player with lots of time can use the fruits of his in-game labour to pay for his subscription by purchasing PLEX. Whilst this PLEX may well be being sold by a player who might not have the time (or the inclination) to perform the in-game tasks required to make ISK, but does have disposable income to spend on his hobbies. Both parties get what they want (and CCP profits).

On the flip-side of this argument, it could be argued that the PLEX system gives a player who is affluent in real-life [RL] a big advantage over the less wealthy player. Whilst this is true, isn't it also the case that a player with more available game time also has an advantage over one who has only one night per week?  It does strike me as odd that the EVE community would cry foul at this particular issue when their beloved world is celebrated for it's unfair aspects; non-consensual combat, asymmetrical warfare, scams, thieves, infiltrators et al.

Devil's Advocate

Before the recent controversy I assumed, without having given it much thought, that I opposed micro-transactions along with the majority of the community. But now I'm not so sure. Part of me considers it cheating, but on the other hand the nature of EVE is that it can easily start to feel like an obligation, with endless administrative tasks and responsibilities eating into limited gameplay time. If a system exists that allows me to bypass that and simply take part in the aspects of EVE that I enjoy, where's the harm?

It was pointed out to me by my corpmates that a PLEX costs less than a round of drinks which would all have been inbibed within an hour. So an exciting evening of spaceship carnage resulting in a personal loss of one-billion ISKs-worth of ships would still cheaper than an evening out.

The Noble Exchange

With Incarna comes a new market for vanity items to enable customisation of the human avatars and their environment. Items on this market are to be purchased with a new currency called Aurum. Aurum is only obtainable by trading in a PLEX. Items purchased with Aurum in the Noble Exchange can subsequently be resold for ISK. For some this is may be an attractive new feature, for others it is irrelevant.

The crux of the recent anti-MT outcry was due to CCP's plans to make a custom-skinned Scorpion battleship available on the Noble Exchange. The issue was that a standard Scorpion was not be required as part of the exchange, meaning that a battleship would be introduced to the world without having been built with in-game materials. Quite what impact this would have on the market I couldn't say, but it does seem to fly in the face of the player-driven economy of which CCP is so proud.

However, I wonder if making ships available via another means could have a place in EVE. Consider the time/convenience factor mentioned earlier, in high-sec space it's taken for granted that everything is available just a few jumps away, but in null-sec the markets often seem to be very limited. There is already a Sovereignty system that enables the development of Strategic, Military and Industry indices. Why not a Trade one, too linked to the Noble Exchange? I'd certainly consider paying RL money to avoid the headache of having to regularly organise the bulk purchase and shipping of hundreds of different items from high-sec. That way I could enjoy the PvP experience that I came to null-sec for without having to spend umpteen man-hours arsing about with spreadsheets and mind-numbing administration.

Fresh Blood

Before the Bitter Old Vets slaughter me for selling my soul, consider how daunting EVE is for the new player. Although Incarna provides a beach-head for new players attracted to the more user-friendly interface, beyond the new and revamped features EVE Online remains bewilderingly complex and impenetrable. Like it or not, the demographic of EVE players is widening and given the possible influx of curious new players from different gaming backgrounds, EVE could stand to benefit from making it's various gameplay aspects more accessible than many parts currently are.

If EVE Online is truly a sandbox with limitless choice, then players should be able to buy things with real money if they so choose, providing it can be achieved without breaking the economy.

I can't help but wonder if some of the protests are less about the principles or the money and more about the fear of losing an advantage.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Charge of the BOV Brigade

Here at Freebooted, we're normally too distracted by something irrelevant or whimsical to be concerned with Important Events, preferring to leave the commentary and outrage to others.

However, these past few days have been so deliciously exciting, with the meta-gaming and community EVEosphere never looking so war-torn, it's worth documenting simply for posterity.

Like some kind of bulk delivery from the karmic postman, all manner of challenging packages have piled up on CCP's doorstep and some of them are definitely ticking. However calm their public face is, I can only imagine the wringing of hands and raising of blood pressures that must be taking place within CCP Towers.

Lighting the Fuse

Allow me to set the scene:

The CCP Controversy Cannons fired their first salvo last week at the E3 convention. There it was announced that DUST514, the stand-alone persistent first-person shooter title innovatively designed to link into the world of EVE, was to be released exclusively on the PlayStation 3 console platform.

There was much gnashing of teeth from the EVE player community (especially those with Xbox 360s). Concerns were raised regarding technology limitations and the fickle nature of the console market. Also on many minds were the risks of getting into bed with the recently beleaguered Sony Corporation, who were still licking their wounds from repeated hacking attacks. The intrusions were perpetrated by an organisation called Lulzsec and the result was a three-week shutdown of Sony's online gaming network and the details of millions of customers falling into unknown hands.

Nonetheless, CCP weathered the slings and arrows of criticism and soldiered on, picking up an Innovation award as it did so.

Digging In

The following fortnight must be proving to be a resource-intensive route-march for CCP, with their flagship yearly e-sports event, the Alliance Tournament, continuing alongside the imminent release of the much anticipated Incarna expansion.

Incarna is not without it's controversial aspects, having existed in concept form (or as vapourware if you want to be unkind) for a number of years. Incarna represents another bold strategy from CCP, heralding the expansion of EVE Online into more than just a spaceship game and taking another step toward CCP's vision of "the ultimate Sci-Fi simulator".

However the initial release, whilst graphically stunning, risks leaving many players underwhelmed. As frequently vocal EVE player and leading 'Bitter Old Vet.' Helicity Boson succinctly stated on Twitter; "Four years; one room, one guy, twelve frames-per-second."

So the veteran player-base wait, some of them clutching pitchforks and torches, for deployment day when they will undoubtedly rise up to pass judgement.

Artillery Incoming, Open Fire

With staff stretched running the Alliance tournament (some on a voluntary basis) and scrambling to meet Incarna release date deadlines, CCP could have done without the attentions of the aforementioned Lulzsec 'hacktivist' organisation who, in the last few days, launched two Distributed Denial of Service attacks on EVE Online's login servers. Whether this was due to CCPs association with Sony, as a result of an anonymous request or just a random target choice is subject to much speculation. In any case it was the player-base that suffered, with the first attack resulting in the offlining of the main Tranquility server for seven hours. Further attacks are a possibility.

It was during this same period that CCP unleashed a another barrage from their Controversy Cannon onto the EVE Online community. With imminent release of Incarna comes the introduction of Aurum, a second in-game currency that will exist alongside ISK. Obtainable in exchange for PLEX, this system facilitates a real-money micro-transaction model for vanity items.

Always a controversial hot potato, micro-transaction proposals have repeatedly met with resistance from the EVE community in the past, with the consensus being that it would only be considered acceptable for vanity items and not for anything that would threaten the balance of EVE's divergent gameplay.

So when a recent forum post by CCP Zinfandel suggested that a reskinned Ishukone Watch Scorpion battleship would be made available on the Aurum-driven 'Noble Store', the community responded vociferously and subsequent CCP statements have likely been issued from the fallback position of the drawing board.

No Mercy

Despite mounting pressure on all fronts, the CCP Cannons of Controversy belched fire once more, this time smashing straight into the civilian heart of the community.

A devblog by CCP Atlas revealed plans to allow the 'monetization' of third-party applications and services. Whilst this potentially sounded like a good thing and was seemingly well-intended, the proposed execution has led many leading community contributors to believe otherwise. Under the draft proposals published, a $99 commercial fee would be required by most application and website developers, podcasters and bloggers irrespective of whether they intended to make a profit.

Rather than empowering their award-winning community, it seemed that CCP were in danger of strangling it by putting a tax on goodwill. More back-pedalling is presumably in progress.

So now, not only do CCP have to contend with the possibility of further DDoS attacks that may hamper their ability to see the Alliance Tournament to it's natural conclusion whilst having to plate-spin to usher in the Incarna era smoothly, they now they now have to face a slavering, militant community up in arms about a host of emotive issues.

It seems amusingly ironic that at such a key moment in EVE's history, there is an ever-present threat of Tranquility being taken out in non-consensual internet PvP by a griefer organisation harvesting tears, whilst the nearby community blob is considering resetting their standings with CCP.

It is said to always be the darkest before dawn. So if ever there was a time for CCP to show us how to 'harden the fuck up', it's now.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Battle of the Frigates: Qualifying Round

Several months ago we at Freebooted decided to undertake a rigorous research programme to determine which was the best frigate amongst the T1 and Faction ships. This was painstakingly done by Googling the name of each frigate and seeing what came up. The entry that caught our eye or we found to be the most amusing became the champion for that frigate.

Finally, after much discussion and procrastination, the final thirty-two were decided on and can be found here: The Contenders. It's probably a good idea to go read that first or the rest of this post might not make an awful lot of sense (if there's any sense to be made).

The draw occurred sometime in March several thousand feet above Iceland and was a complex system of Long Jack picking numbers that Seismic Stan had assigned randomly to the contenders. There might have been a better method, but it passed the time en-route to Fanfest.

But now, amidst the Alliance Tournament, the time seems right to unleash these brave champions to engage each other in mortal combat to determine once and for all who is Champion in the the Battle of the Frigates.

Without further ado, here is the first round. May the best 'Frigate' win.

Probe vs Tormenter

The School Bully Tormentor is distracted from his daily administration of chinese burns to the nerdy by a fiery streak falling from the sky and landing at the top of the school field. Rushing to investigate, he spies the Viper Class Probe droid rising from the crater. School Bully fires off a conker from his catapult, but this only serves to draw the Probe's attention, who quickly opens up with a salvo of laser fire, incinerating the School Bully.

Winner: Probe

Vigil vs Worm

Once again maintaining his vigil on patrol, Captain Vimes' favourite boots are so worn from patrolling the streets of Ankh-Morpork that he can feel every cobble beneath his feet. The worm sees this as a potential weakness in Vimes' defences and attempts a full-on assault of the underside of of his feet. It fails and the worm is unsurprisingly crushed.

Winner: Vigil

Executioner vs Rifter

The Grim Reaper is the ultimate executioner, being an anthropormorphic personification of the concept of death, he is invisible to the living. He simply arrives at the appropriate time to harvest an individual's soul at the end of their life only then becoming perceivable by the reaped soul. Poor Mrs. Jones the Seamstress didn't really have a chance. Fed up with having to rift 'er materials apart, she was looking for her lost scissors when her feet became tangled on a discarded ball of yarn, causing her to fall hard. Only then did she find her scissors. With her face. Reaped.

Winner: Executioner

Comet vs Crucifier

Pontius 'Crucifier' Pilate watches the sky for his prey, his Pilum at the ready. He is a hunter and has studied his quarry, learned to understand how he thinks and now he waits patiently for his opportunity to strike. But Comet the flying reindeer is no mug and has also done his homework. Using Santa's magic to warp in cloaked, he manages to get close enough to flick some dung into Pilate's eyes before goring the floundering Roman on his horns.

Winner: Comet

Merlin vs Imicus

There the Imicus lads were, having a few beers at the end of a gig when some mad old fella throws a pint over the drummer. Giving the old coot the benefit of the doubt, they suggest it might be time for him to go home. In response the wrinkly chap bottles the bass player. This was the final straw and Imicus grabs hold of the old-timer, marching him outside and throwing him into the street before returning to their beers. As Merlin dusts himself off, he smiles as he mutters the words that send the entire Pub collapsing into a bottomless abyss.

Winner: Merlin

Punisher vs Firetail

Your Mum (Punisher) isn't happy that you've been up all night playing World of Warcraft and frowns as you tell her you just need to kill one more Firetail Scorpid. She walks away, seemingly defeated by the fearsome sight of a low-polygon cartoon scorpion, but moments later everything suddenly shuts down. She cut the power! How can she cut the power, man? She's your Mum. Her victorious taunt comes from downstairs; “Play a proper MMO you loser and harden the fuck up!”

Winner: Punisher

Slicer vs Tristan

Tristan is such a nice lad, he sees the innocent Meat Slicer sitting on the counter in his local Butcher's Shop and fails to comprehend that it is possessed by a dark power that has already claimed the life of Bill the Butcher. Oh dear, he notices it seems a little soiled with bits of blood and meat,and decides he'll just clean that up for Bill whilst he waits for him to get....bllaarZZZZZZZaaaargh -splat-crunch...drip....drip....drip.

Winner: Slicer

Bantam vs Inquisitor

The Inquisitor wonders idly if animals have souls as watches the small bird pecking away at the ground. He suspects they must as they are all created by The Almighty, but perhaps they a lesser souls. The Bantam pecks the ground a little closer. The Inquisitor speculates about whether lesser souls are capable of sin and decides they must be, for all souls are sinners. The Bantam pecks enthusiastically at the soil beside the Inquisitor's boot. The Inquisitor suspects that the Bantam covets the soil under his boot and decides to cleanse it's soul with his bolt-gun. There is a brief flash and a cloud of feathers settles as the Inquisitor mutters a prayer for departing sinners.

Winner: Inquisitor

Cruor vs Maulus

“Stormtroopers? Here?” exclaimed Threepio (Maulus) as he minced into a concealed annex in Cloud City. He barely had time to realise the amassed stormtroopers were ignoring him – after all he was just another protocol droid – when he slipped on a puddle of Ugnaught vomit (Cruor) and hit the ground with a crash. A startled Stormtrooper with a trigger-finger opened fire at the noise, ruining C-3P0's day.

Winner: Cruor

Kestrel vs Magnate

Jim Morrison laid back in the bath, allowing the coloured threads of his magnificent trip wash over him. There was a fluttering at the window and he idly noticed a bird appear there. Woah. Wouldn't it be mad if he and the bird were like, spaceships in some big fight amongst the stars. That would be the ultimate trip, man. This is the end. My friend, the end. The Merlin merely watches as Jim 'Magnate' Morrison slips away into the afterlife, dreaming of internet spaceships.

Winner: Kestrel

Condor vs Navitas

Due to being a high profile figure who has a burning desire for the world to hate him less, Bill 'Navitas' Gates gets some legal advice about his match and discovers that the Condor is a protected species. Doing the gallant thing, he steps aside, allowing the Condor the progress to the next round.

Winner: Condor

Succubus vs Heron

The Heron does it's thing, standing stock-still in the water, which is a lot like being asleep. Not being much of an ornithologist, the Succubus is unsure whether the Heron is conscious or not so she decides to make her move. The Heron is startled by the sudden appearance of a naked winged lady and has a quick peck. The ethereal nature of the Succubus renders the Heron's attacks futile. The Succubus crushes the thrashing Heron quickly between her thighs.

Winner: Succubus

Atron vs Incursus

Russell 'Incursus' Crowe charges into the laboratory and hurls his cellphone at the humming machine. The phone shatters on impact, causing no real harm. The Excessive Machine (aka the Orgasmatron) sits idle and Crowe realises after a few speculative kicks that the machine poses no real threat. Crowe wonders if there's any beer around and finds something that smells alcoholic in some test tubes. A few slugs later Crowe decides to take a nap. Where does he lay? You guessed it. At least he died happy.

Winner: Atron

Griffin vs Slasher

The hot match of the round, with the fight starting in earnest with repeated dive-bombs from the Griffin causing several serious wounds to Freddy Krueger with it's claw and beak attacks. Kreuger stood firm though and managed to cause a couple of bloody gashes of his own. After repeated jousts, both combatants begin to tire. Kreuger, having taken the worse battering, drops to his knees. The Griffin lands nearby, sensing his prey weaken. The Griffin approaches then lunges forward to finish the Slasher, but Freddy springs up and decapitates the Griffin. He licks his blades triumphantly.

Winner: Slasher

Breacher vs Daredevil

An apparent mismatch, with the 72-ton tank surely outmatching a blind martial-artist, however the Breacher is hardly a quiet machine and Daredevil is able to use his super hearing to spring a trap. Catching the Breacher by surprise, Daredevil leaps out from the shadows and lands on top of the turret and begins to open the access hatch. Panicking, the tank crew fire the high-grade mine-clearing rockets causing an almighty explosion which effectively 'blinds' the Daredevil, who falls off the tank and is comically crushed under the caterpillar tracks.

Winner: Breacher

Hookbill vs Dramiel

Dr. Amiel is a good man and does good work, but at the end of a hard day's brain surgery, he likes nothing more than to take potshots at local wildlife. The day the Hookbill came a-calling, the poor little bird didn't know what hit him and was pink mist before the round really began.

Winner: Dramiel

Tune in soon to find out what happens in the remaining rounds and which frigate will ultimately be crowned Champion in the Battle of the Frigates.

Next: Round of Sixteen

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Alliance Tournament IX: The Ultimate Spaceship Showdown

If the crowning glory of EVE Online's game design is the elegant yet visceral player-versus-player spaceship combat mechanics, then the yearly Alliance Tournament is surely the brightest jewel set within it. It is the ultimate showcase of multiplayer spaceship combat.

AT:IX in a Nutshell

In a few hours, teams representing thirty-two of New Eden's huge player organisations will begin the group stages of Alliance Tournament IX, vying to be one of the final sixteen in next weekend's knockout stage.

The matches themselves will involve teams of up to ten ships and will be fought over fifteen minutes, with the winners decided by a points system. Each team in the groups of four will play each other once, with the top two progressing to the knockout stage.

The competing teams vary from relative unknowns and newcomers to tournament regulars and hot favourites. Many eyes may well be on Group 'D'; truly a group of death with Pandemic Legion (legendary strategists and winners of the last three tournaments) and last year's losing finalists Hydra Reloaded (who famously 'played the system' last year by decimating all but one of their opponent's ships then self-destructing all of their own ships to deliberately avoid facing a top-seeded team in the following round).

Every match will be broadcast live on EVE TV with commentary from PvP experts hand-picked from the player community. In addition there will be post-match analysis and discussion from a studio team.

This really could be EVE's e-sport equivalent of the World Cup or the Superbowl and CCP have a dedicated team of volunteers working hard to make it a memorable event.

A Spectator's View

EVE TV gives viewers the opportunity to see live the heart-pounding combat that thousands of capsuleers go roaming the star-systems in search of every day in New Eden.

However, unlike the traditional combat scenarios in the EVE universe which have a tendency to be 'asymmetrical' (read: won by the side with the most money/players) this competition provides a level playing field, allowing the spectator to see the result of balanced and fair fights whose outcomes will be determined by pilot skill, ship choice and loadouts, tactics and strategy.

I just hope that that excitement is successfully conveyed in the viewing experience. Having watched much of last year's tournament and more recent competitive matches at Fanfest, I found the viewing experience to be a tad underwhelming, with the action generally comprising a screen full of unrecognisable squares and crosses punctuated by the occasional bright light.

This means that there is an awful lot of pressure on the commentary team to describe what is being shown and how events are playing out. I hope they understand that their role is to flesh out a picture of the engagements as they occur and they resist the temptation to discuss rules and loadout possibilities in the middle of the action. This was something that happened frequently last year despite analysis being the job of the post-match studio team. In defence of the commentators, I suspect that they fell back on reflective discussion because even they had trouble deciphering what was going on.

However, I have high hopes that this will have improved this time around. After my FanFest experience, I wrote an article (Fanfest Flashback: The Spectacle of Combat) discussing EVE PvP tournaments' failings as a spectator event and some aspirations on how it could be improved.

Encouragingly, in an interview earlier this week on the NotalotofNews NewsHour podcast, tournament organiser CCP Loxy said that they now have a team of three 'camera operators' tasked with getting the most exciting shots, in addition to some other "new tricks". I hope this will include some more informative visual overlays to aid in clarification of ships and allegiance.

Given all the resources arrayed for our viewing pleasure, it is just possible that we are about to witness a real highlight of e-sports entertainment involving our favourite internet spaceships.

I really hope that CCP can put the 'show' into the showdown and succeed in giving us more Battle of Endor and less Tic-Tac-Toe.


Official Alliance Tournament IX Site
ISD-IC Portal Site (stats and analysis)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Null-Sec: Chasing Goalposts and Dodging Burnout

It's been a little over a month since our modest gang of Freebooters struck out into the great unknown to become part of Split Infinity alliance. It has been a month that has presented challenges and demands as we toiled to establish ourselves in deep null-sec.

The Casual Approach

It was always my intention to establish a base of operations that would allow our members the freedom to enjoy the null-sec content as they please; as casually or intensively as they liked. I had no desire for any of the Freebooters to feel compelled to participate in alarm-clock ops or be judged poorly by alliance colleagues if they failed to respond to a call-to-arms.

This isn't to say we weren't committed to pulling our weight in the alliance, but as a tiny corp of relatively casual players used to high- and low-sec, we knew we were never going to be the driving force at the beating heart of the organisation. Fortunately, Split Infinity's leadership were willing to take us onboard despite our underwhelming resume.

Indeed Split Infinity seemed well-suited for us; they were a small alliance holding sovereignty in a single solar system and their modest ambitions made few demands on it's members. We would have ample support and opportunity to establish ourselves and become familiar with our new way of life. We were grateful for this as we had no idea how arduous getting all required ships, modules and other resources to our new home system was going to be. We began to ease ourselves tentatively into the deep null-sec waters.

Then everything changed!

Feel the Burn

Mere days into our membership and it was announced the alliance was going to war under the Against All Authorities flag alongside a number of other junior alliances. It was to be a competitive arrangement with rewards for the alliances making the greatest contribution to the war effort. Requests to attend operations started to appear in our inboxes and calendars. Fortunately no pressure was applied directly to the Freebooters - we were nowhere near ready - but there was a change of atmosphere on comms.

This was when I began to struggle a little. These first few weeks were becoming beset with challenges. The not insignificant amount of work required largely fell to me and I found myself planning, buying and contracting ships and POSs, then orchestrating their distribution and construction at the other end. I was also aware that we needed to contribute to alliance affairs, all the while attempting to break the more devout Freebooter carebears of their habit of jump-cloning back to high-sec whenever my back was turned. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that my spirit was further deflated by the critical loss of a number of blueprints that would have significantly eased our start-up woes.

My EVE Online experience was becoming an exercise in frustration. It was feeling less like entertainment and more like work. Having established the basic corp infrastructure, I found myself logging in less for a couple of weeks. I felt a little guilty for leaving my corpmates to it, but lacked the motivation to do much in-game, instead finding more satisfaction writing and recording EVE-related podcast material.

Power to the People

However, during my mini-sabbatical something wonderful happened: The Freebooters stepped up.

I'd left Teh Smit as the only active Freebooter entrenched in our null-sec home, but a friendly alliance Teamspeak environment and a starving POS finally lured Lozyjoe and Caveat into making more frequent null-sec appearances. Additionally, Long Jack suddenly started being more active and we even acquired some new recruits in the shape of some of Teh Smit's old low-sec crowd.

Now I'm pleased to say that my fugue seems to be over, the Freebooters have successfully put down roots and are breaking even if not turning a profit. Our POS (Greenbeard's Tomb) is up and running and we've got enough Planetary Interaction going to sustain it.

Recently we've even managed to get in on some action; I took part in some Infrastructure Hub bashing (dull but important and a good opportunity to socialise with fleetmates) and an amusing Benny Hill chase of a hostile Cynabal faction cruiser around our home system (the slippery bugger was toying with us methinks). Teh Smit has been out on some roams, we've all been on a number of alliance PvE operations and Lozyjoe even had her PvP baptism when she lost a Harbinger battlecruiser to a Wolf assault frigate and a Machariel faction battleship. The hilariously panicked voicemail Loz subsequently left me led me to believe that our home system had been hot-dropped by a marauding super-capital fleet that was laying waste to our station. I learned the truth when I scrambled onto Teamspeak, much to my wife's bemusement (it was meant to be a non-EVE night). In Loz's defence, I had forgotten how intense that first PvP experience feels. Lozyjoe's adrenaline-fuelled gibberish voicemail will be available on iTunes soon. ;)

One thing our null-sec experience has made me realise is that EVE really is all about the people you play alongside, both in corporation and alliance. They are the reason you log in and the motivation to get something done. I'm grateful that the Split Infinity community is so friendly, knowledgeable and easy-going and because of that, things are looking up. After a bumpy start and some hard work, it's looking like the Freebooters can actually start to relax into our new lifestyle and have some fun.

Oh wait, what do you mean we've been awarded sovereignty for our sterling war efforts and are now responsible for a gazillion systems that'll all need Sov gizmos set up?

Yikes, if moving a ten-man corp nearly burnt me out, I'd best hide now.

Damn these moving goalposts.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

(Interview) Technology Revolutions

This is an exclusive audio interview with CCP's leading technology expert, discussing EVE Online's server farm in London and the reasons behind recent service outages. There are some shock revelations that may surprise many.

No animals were harmed whilst recording this piece.


Friday, 3 June 2011

Clear Skies Sets a New Standard

Whilst the EVEcast initiative slowly gains momentum over on the EVE Commune forums with a couple of audio projects in the works (Max Torps' "The ISK Bucket" and an adaption of my "Docking Games" short fiction), the master of EVE machinima has released his latest opus and sent the creative bar into orbit.  Ian Chisholm (a.k.a. John Rourke) has finally completed the third installment of his Clear Skies machinima series and it is absolutely superb.
As I write this, I am struggling to find the words to adequately convey to you how impressive Clear Skies 3 is, both technically and as a piece of sci-fi entertainment. What Ian and his team have created is not just a niche bit of internet cleverness; it is a superbly-scripted story which is both amusing and heartfelt and has been executed with style and skill. The first Clear Skies won the Best Long Format Film award at the Machinima Filmfest 2008, but this one deserves a BAFTA.
For maximum enjoyment, I would recommend that you watch the first two episodes if you haven't yet, both of which are excellent in their own right. Clear Skies 3 is full of clever visual gags and references to the characters' previous adventures, so along with having a basic grasp of the EVE universe, taking the time to invest in the characters and backstory will only enhance your viewing pleasure.
Ian Chisholm and friends have created something inspirational and they have pushed the boundaries of desktop-created entertainment. This is evidenced by the fact that they drew the attention of top-class voice talent in the shape of Francis Capra, an established actor who has appeared in many popular TV shows, including Veronica Mars, Heroes, Castle and NCIS.
Ian stated in his recent interview on Massively that he has no plans to produce a fourth installment, so I would just like to offer my thanks to him for taking so much of his time to produce something of such high quality for the enjoyment of the community and wish him the best of luck in whatever he does next.
Since it's difficult to do standing ovations in written form, is lobbying CCP to get an Ian Chisholm statue erected outside the CCP offices taking things too far?