Eve on a Mac, Part 2

My post about playing Eve on my MacBook Pro, via Boot Camp, is the post that gets the most hits on the site. Some combination of Eve, Mac and OSX is among the Google search hits that bring people here as well.

In case that trend continues, I figured I should write a short update. Last night, I started to experience crashes playing both Titan Quest and Eve. Eve actually corrupted and I got an error message suggesting I reinstall the client.

Before I did that, I figured I should check to see if there were any new drivers at the ATI site (the MacBook Pro has a Radeon X1600 video card). The first time I installed the drivers, they all came from a disk that’s created during the Boot Camp install. On the ATI site, you might A) think you should install Windows XP drivers, and B) miss the scroll bar that hides drivers for Apple Boot Camp/Windows XP.

I’ve installed them and reinstalled the Eve client. I’m not sure if it’s really fixed, but I can launch the game without crashing, at least. Hopefully this is a one-time thing, I’m really enjoying playing on the MacBook.

Moment of silence for ISD

Crazykinux  posted a link to an article about CCP re-organizing their Eve support, announced in their Dev Blog on the 21st of this month.

 The Inquirer article makes it sound fairly dramatic and perhaps detrimental to Eve’s players. The Dev Blog post makes it sound like a normal re-organization for a growing corporation. The truth is probably between those two points somewhere.

Whatever the reason for the change and whatever the long-term effect, I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who volunteered for the ISD project. When I started playing Eve last fall, I was amazed by the ISD volunteers who staffed the Rookie channel. They patiently answered everyone’s questions, never seeming to get tired of hearing the same questions, treating every player with respect and dignity. Without the Rookie channel, and without the ISD volunteers, I have no idea if Eve would have caught my attention. To see people that dedicated to both the game and the community caught my attention, and I realized there must be something unique about Eve to create that sort of atmosphere.

The ISD volunteers also pointed me and a host of other new gamers toward Eve University, which is another unique and marvelous organization. I have to believe that part of Eve’s growth and success is due to people like ISD and the E-Uni faculty. Without that sort of assistance, I think the subtle beauty of Eve might be lost on people more used to in-your-face gaming.

I hope the STAR group, who CCP said is taking over the Rookie channel and new player help roles, will be up to the challenge. They have big shoes to fill. I hope the folks from ISD find other places where their passion and knowledge can continue to add to the Eve community. Good luck, folks. I really appreciated your contributions to the game.

It really is rocket science.

To casual observers, mmorpg’s might seem very similar. You inhabit some sort of avatar, you generally fight your way through a virtual world, you gain skills and loot along the way, and you get to have all this fun in the company of friends (or at least while listening to crazy people in General chat channels while you solo your way along). Watching someone running through and playing in WoW’s Tanaris or DAOC’s Stygian desert or Everquest’s Oasis probably doesn’t seem all that different.

The more we play these games, though, the more they reveal their subtle differences. There’s a pace and a pulse in mmorpg’s, kind of like different cities have different rhythms. It takes a few hours of walking through your world, or virtual world, to adjust your pace to the flow of life and living around you. For example, Everquest’s early “One mob equals one bar of mana and then you sit for 3 minutes” style of play was far different from WoW’s decision to let you fight seemingly endless mobs in a row if you could pull them one at a time. Travel was also very different in Everquest’s early days, tense and fraught with danger, compared to the relative ease of Azeroth if you stuck to the roads.

Eve Online is coy. Vast reaches of empty space, no humanoid avatars around you, little direction or suggestion from NPC’s about possible paths for you to take…not much about the pace of space matches a human tempo. It’s up to the people playing to find their own rhythm, with few cues from your environment.

Fly around long enough, though, run enough missions, get in enough fights, mine enough rocks, visit enough systems and chat with other people, and Eve’s pulse emerges. It’s a subtle pulse, and quite deliberate, hours of planning to fit out a ship interspersed with minutes of frantic action.

Last night’s mission really underscored the research needed in Eve, the effort to conduct a successful operation. I’m new to flying level 3 missions, and new to my Minmatar battlecruiser, the Imperial-looking Hurricane. I looked over ship fittings online, but a lot of what’s suggested requires skills far beyond what I currently possess. I’m not able to fit or afford Tech 2 weapons or modules yet, at least not on the battlecruiser. So, I fitted it as best I could with looted modules from my hangar, kind of modifying the cruiser setup I used on my Rupture, and I ran a couple missions, making sure I was aligned for warp-out if my yard-sale fitting wasn’t working out very well.

A couple missions passed fairly uneventfully, until I was on the third part of Technological Secrets. Three warp-outs later, I knew I had reached the limits of my fitting. I also knew that level 3 missions were going to require me to pay more attention to the types of ships I was fighting.

I double-checked my notes on the ammo the Minmatar Navy was firing at me (I had it exactly backwards and had to switch my hardeners. Thank you, Google). I didn’t have a good armor plate in my loot pile when I first fitted the Hurricane, and I realized I really could lose one of the yard-sale modules and get a lot of help from 800mm, 2100 hp armor plating. The new modules meant a shopping trip, so I hopped a couple system picking up the hardeners and plating. While I was traveling, I thought about the ships that had been attacking me, and I realized most of the damage was being done by Ruptures, Minmatar cruisers, the same ship I flew on my level 2 missions. I loved the damage my Rupture could do. I realized they needed to die early, and I’d sic my drones on the annoying frigates that had been swarming me and distracting me on my earlier attemps.

All this took maybe 30 minutes, maybe an hour, thinking and shopping and fitting and getting back to the mission. This time, when I warped in, my armor tank held, the cruisers died first, the drones did a decent job on the frigates (helped by heavy missiles) and I completed the mission.

It reminded me of watching stories about NASA and early space flight on the History Channel. Years of planning, testing, thinking, researching…and they got one shot at success up in space. Obviously, the stakes are much higher there, but the analogy felt right. I put more time into devising a strategy for a mission than it actually took to complete the mission. That won’t happen every time, each lesson learned in a new ship shortens the necessary prep time, but this time, I felt like the pace was right. I didn’t rush back in time after time with a bad strategy. I wasn’t more interested in action than I was in success. I didn’t lose a ship, which made me really happy. A little patience and a little rocket science goes a long way in Eve.

Back from the beach

It’s good to be home. We had a blast all week long and god knows, I needed the break, but it’s nice to be back in our own place again.

And it’s nice to have internet access again! There was a cafe with internet access, but we always seemed to be busy during the day and I didn’t make time for an internet fix. I guess that means I was having fun 🙂 Plus, the weather was perfect and I really didn’t need to kill any time.

 That doesn’t mean I didn’t game, though. I picked up Titan Quest before leaving last weekend, and it was a perfect vacation choice. After the kids passed out after a long day at the beach, I could have a couple beers and disappear into a near-perfect Diablo clone. Titan Quest is a non-stop loot-fest. Lots of killing…ok, pretty much all killing…and lots of loot. The story is fairly linear, but the plot elements move pretty quickly, so there’s a thinly-veiled reason for all the killing and looting. The skill trees all look like fun, and there’s a way to respec your skill points if you want to try another branch of the tree. I’m a Nature specced character with two wolf pets, supported by some skills in the Storm skill tree. I can Death is a minor inconvenience, so you can experiment quite a bit with strategies.

 This is another PC game I’m playing on my MacBook Pro without a hitch. I see some occassional graphic glitches, like tree shadows displaying incorrectly, and I had one lockup that made me reboot, but overall it’s been solid and performs really well. I get slight slowdowns in larger fights, but I think that has as much to do with the areas as it does the MacBook. Some areas with just as many monsters don’t lag, so it seems to be coding, rather than the system. I’d have to try it on a PC to know for sure, but it was pretty darn good performance for a vacation gaming system.

I’m looking forward to finding out what’s been going on in Eve, and to log in to see my Weapons Upgrades V ready to complete. Damn, it’s nice to go away for 8 days and still have a major milestone in the game completing when I return. Hopefully I’ll get some time this week to finally take my battlecruiser out for some level 3 missions…unless we’ve been wardecced again.

Making friends – PvP vs. PvE

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” Ulysses S. Grant

Tobold wrote a thoughtful post a couple weeks ago about what he called massively singleplayer online roleplaying games. If you missed it, you can read the post here.

The quote in his post that got me writing here was this:

“The player interaction was exciting, but not always in a pleasurable way, like when I was ganked by another player and podded (killed). But most of the time you don’t interact with players, you interact only with the game itself, like in any singleplayer game.”

This was briefly true for me in Eve, and my DAOC experience started out similarly as well. Something happened in both Eve and DAOC that changed the way I played the game, though, something that never happened in WoW or EQ for me. I was invited to join and encouraged to play with a group of people, and I managed to avoid the “you interact only with the game itself, like in any singleplayer game” part of Tobold’s assessment.

In DAOC, it was a guild that was pretty active in RvR. In Eve, it was Eve University, a corporation dedicated to helping new players learn how to survive and thrive in the Eve universe. Games that have a PvP element seem much more likely to encourage interaction with other players. Most nights, there ended up being some sort of event that brought out folks from the guild or corporation. In DAOC, it was many, many nights on the frontier fighting against Midgard and Albion…and then always seemed to be invading Hibernia. There was no shortage of bonding experiences. In Eve, it’s been quite a few wars against our corporation that have brought people together.

Tobold presented two options for a game like Eve. Either you run the risk of severe gankage, or you play it as a single player game. The option he didn’t include, which is fast becoming the option that preserves the excitment of mmorpg’s for me, is finding a group of friends to depend on and fight with, carving out a safe space in a dangerous world. He ended his post with this: “But experience shows that there are always many more victims than player killers, and in the end such a feature only harms a game.” I’m not sure that has to be true, although it may depend a lot on personal play style. If you can’t find a group of like-minded people to play with, or if you prefer to play solo, I think Tobold’s assessment has merit.

From the time I started playing MUD’s, I was largely a solitary player. I liked to solo. I soloed my druid to high levels in EQ. I have two characters at 60+ in WoW, and a multitude of alts in the 40’s and 50’s. I avoided UO because I felt then like Tobold seems to feel now, that you’re most likely going to be a victim if you choose to play a UO/Eve/DAOC type game as a soloer.

What I didn’t realize until I played DAOC was that it’s much, much easier to make friends in a world where you have to band together with friends to survive. My solo tendencies used to get annoyed with the need to be social in EQ, but DAOC changed my perspective. It wasn’t until I found E-Uni in Eve that I’m realizing my DAOC experience wasn’t unique. I have a sense of freedom in a dangerous world, knowing that help is always available. I have a purpose, defending my friends and my territory, that makes me want to log in each night. That shared sense of purpose doesn’t exist for me in non-PvP games. It’s one of the big reasons I didn’t buy LOTRO after playing the beta. I knew that it would fall into the EQ/WOW category for me…a ton of time leveling, just to have little to do at the end of the game other than some sort of raid grind.

If anyone reading this is thinking about playing Eve, or has tried Eve and has come to the same conclusion as Tobold, I’d encourage you to check out Eve University. Being a part of E-Uni has given me a sense of purpose and belonging in what might have an empty and unfriendly world if I had stayed solo. It’s also teaching me the skills I’ll need out in 0.0 space. But one thing I don’t think I’ll have trouble doing in Eve is making friends. As much as you need enemies in PvP games, what you really need is friends.

/Afk, beach

I’ll be heading for the beach on Sunday for a week. I have one more draft in the works that I hope to get posted before I leave, but things should be quiet here until the week of the 20th, unless I find a coffee shop with wireless access 🙂

For everyone that’s stopped by in the past couple months, thanks for the comments. For the bloggers out there that have stumbled on my stuff and linked back to me, I’ve appreciated it. I’m looking forward to getting back to writing when I return.

Weapons Upgrades V queued up: Check. Looking forward to a couple quick levels of Advanced Weapons upgrades when I return. Yay Eve for letting me skill up while I’m having margaritas on the porch at the beach 🙂

Eve Online is a casual mmorpg

I know what you’re thinking. Eve, one of the more technical and complex mmorpg’s, a universe of pirates, spies, intrigue and PvP, a casual game? Well, yeah, in some ways, Eve is one of the more casual mmorpg’s that I’ve played. Stick with me for a bit, and consider the following ideas.

Richard Bartle talks about four types of mmorpg gamers. The Achiever, the Explorer, the Socializer and the Killer. Games like EQ and WoW are heavily weighted toward Achievement, to the point where it’s difficult to participate in the endgame if you don’t play regularly with a dedicated group. The challenges in those games,  and a large majority of development, revolve around dungeons and raids. If you, like me, have commitments outside of your game world that prevent regular playtime and keeping up with the Jones’s of the raiding world, you’re left out of the loop. Playing with a guild at endgame is a serious investment of time.

I’ve been too busy the last few weeks to get in a lot of Eve playtime, but when I do log in, I can hop into my frigate, join a fleet with other people in my corporation and go hunting. It doesn’t matter if I have the best ships, the best modules or a year’s worth of skill points trained. In fact, my corporation, a haven for players new to the game, champions the ability of even the newest pilots to make valuable contributions to fleet operations. It’s the equivalent of a level 5 player in WoW coming along on a raid…except the new Eve player can actually contribute something useful to their fleet.

Eve content isn’t solely gated by the amount of time you’ve put into the game. Even if you only play a couple times a week, it’s absolutely possible to train skills that will always make you a welcome addition to a fleet, whether it’s fighting other players or running deadspace missions or helping out on mining operations. Despite the fact that I’ve been busy with work and real life for the past month, I feel like I can log in and play alongside pilots who are online a lot more than me and make a solid contribution. If it had been WoW, and I missed a month while my guild was working on getting keyed for the next set of instances, I’d have a more difficult time catching up.

Eve still has Achievers like WoW or EQ. Eve’s a deadly serious game in a lot of ways, and I wouldn’t argue with someone who wanted to characterize it as a lot more hardcore than WoW in some respects. It’s unforgiving in certain situations, and there’s certainly a steep learning curve if you want to know everything about the game. However, I can’t think of another mmo that lets people who are a week or two into the game play alongside veterans of a couple years and allows them to make valuable contributions. It’s tough to imagine another mmo that lets players log in sporadically but still be useful in raids, at least not before said player has invested a lot of time in leveling and equipping their character.

So, yeah, I know you can nail me a million different ways about how serious Eve can get. I won’t argue with that. But Eve still offers a way to integrate newbies and veterans that I haven’t seen another mmorpg successfully accomplish, and I think it’s pretty cool.