Winning by dying

Nate Combs has a series about Eve on Terra Nova, and his latest post got me thinking again about Eve, Dark Age of Camelot, and why I enjoy their PvP mechanics so much. It was a link to an earlier post on his blog that prompted this response. I started this post as a comment to that post, but once I go beyond a certain word count, I feel guilty clogging up someone else’s blog and figured I should just post it here.

Nate references a Dave Rickey comment from one of Nate’s earlier Terra Nova articles about Eve, and he posted a quote from within Dave’s comment on his blog.

“So each player puts themselves, or at least their alliance, at the center of events and interprets them in that light…Even if they *lost*, the experience was far superior to anything CCP could direct, because they felt involved, engaged, *important*. Even if they were just one cog in a PvP machine, they get a derived sense of meaning that a developer event, no matter how well scripted, could never provide.”

This was the brilliance of DAoC for me. I can’t tell you how many nights I stood side-by-side with realmmates on the Albion milegate in Emain Macha, watching forward for incoming Albs and listening to intel about Midgard forces who might be surging down from the north. Hibernia was under siege for months on Percival, and it forged a wonderful community. Mythic gave us the sandbox, but the players made the stories. It was an exciting period of gaming, even though we getting our asses kicked and didn’t hold relics for a very long time. Eve is the first game for me since DAoC that carries that same sense of possibility, of urgency, and excitement.

In a PvE game, death is almost always a penalty. Eve and DAoC provide the opportunity to die with honor, and to give and gain respect to your foes. Even though you couldn’t speak with other realms in DAoC (and maybe *because* you couldn’t speak to each other), a simple emoted salute or bow by a victorious combatant, over the slain body of his opponent, was more valuable than any loot gained in PvE. I suppose the same is possible in a big PvE raid; someone saves the raid with a timely heal, crowd control, etc., but PvP is so fluid and dynamic that each night feels different. I guess PvE is a little too scripted for me.

Not that there’s anything wrong with scripting! I don’t want to sound like I’m saying WoW or EQ suck because of their PvE raids. I think there’s some fantastic gameplay there for people who enjoy that sort of challenge. I’ve been lucky to fall into a couple good PvP communities in my gaming career, though, and the excitement of PvE rarely lives up to the adrenaline rush of PvP. For me. YMMV, bla bla bla.

Even when I lose in PvP, I feel like I’ve gained something, or experienced something unique and dynamic. I don’t get that same sense when I die in PvE. I love playing WoW, but I miss that sense of everyone coming together in a huge PvP fight, and miss feeling like the results matter.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve actually played more WoW than anything else since Thanksgiving. It’s easiest to fit into a busy family/holiday schedule. I kinda don’t want to log into Eve until Trinity is launched, because I’m excited about the new shiny graphics. Plus, the semester is coming to a close and I’m supposed to be doing A) a presentation for my paper, B) my final take-home exam, and C) actually writing my paper. WoW fits in nicely for study breaks. Class ends right around when Trinity launches, so I’ll be fullspeed back into Eve until at least the holidays.

If you enjoyed Nate’s “Fly Safe” article, check out the rest of his series on Terra Nova too. They’re all linked in “Fly Safe” in the last paragraph. Props to CrazyKinux’s speedlinks for the link, I would have missed it Thanksgiving holiday if I didn’t see his speedlink to Nate’s latest article.

Going dark for a couple days

It’s holiday time, and we’ll be doing some traveling over the next couple days. I’ll be bringing the laptop, but I’ll most likely be playing single-player games, maybe some Titan Quest. It’s a good “staying at the relatives” game, I can take out my dysfunctional family frustrations on virtual monsters instead of starting trouble with the in-laws.

For those celebrating Thanksgiving, be safe and have fun. For those of you playing Eve in Europe, Thursday is probably an excellent time to launch huge PvP raids on your American enemies. “But Mom, they’re sieging the POS!” “I don’t care, Tommy, get your ass down to the dinner table!”

Robbery at Eve University

My corporation was robbed last Friday, November 16th. I didn’t know about it until I saw a mail from our diplomat, Kelduum Revaan, which was a link to an internal forum post. There’s an external link on the Eve-O forums that covers the details, or at least everything the directors wanted to release.

I don’t know how this ranks in the annals of Eve corporate theft. I suspect there have been bigger heists (Kelduum called it a relatively high level corp theft), but three billion isk in assets is still a significant haul. It’ll take a while for the university to earn that back.

This is exactly the kind of event you can expect in Eve. If you let your guard down or make a mistake, you’re most likely going to pay for it. There’s little mercy in Eve. That said, the perpetrator will also be hunted by E-Uni, if he’s stupid enough to ever show his face again. I’d suspect this is either an alt of a long-time player who’s just looking for weakness, or an enterprising new player who saw an opportunity and took it. I’d be surprised if that character is long for this world…the money is most likely laundered and the character deleted.

While I hold a grudge against the person who committed the crime, it’s a game and I don’t take it any more personally than I take getting killed in battle. The person I really feel bad for, though, is the director who accidentally granted too much access to someone who hadn’t earned it. The directors in E-Uni do a ton of work for new players in Eve, and they’re some of the nicest and most giving people I’ve met playing mmorpg’s. They’re not paid, and they’re probably overworked. With over 1000 people in the corporation, it can’t be easy keeping track of who should have access to what. They must feel terrible over what was an honest mistake, but if I know one thing about Eve, there will be plenty of people who have benefited from the efforts of the teachers and directors in Eve University who will want to chip in and pay back some of the lost 3 billion isk. Not to mention the corp members themselves; I’d bet there will be some mining ops in the future to refill the corp coffers.

Jumping the shark

Looks like Blizzard took some dubious marketing advice and created WoW ads starring William Shatner and Mr. T. The commercials are well-produced, and Mr. T. looks damn good for being like 100 years old, but wtf Blizzard, Chuck Norris was busy? Can “CSI: Dalaran” be far behind?

Want!

Damn it CCP, stop spending so much time on movies and interviews and screenshots and wallpaper and just release Trinity! Yes, I love how my Minmatar battleship will look in Trinity. Yes, I saw how cool the Rifter (or was that Jaguar? Or a Wolf?) looked in the trailer, and I want one now. Yes, I’m trying to decide which wallpaper will grace my widescreen monitor as I sit and pine for THE ACTUAL EXPANSION. Bastards. Stop teasing me!

On a somewhat related note, I think it would be funny if CCP released little trailer videos showing what each new ship looks like when it explodes. I mean, really, I spend quite a bit of time watching my ships blow up. I’d like some reassurance that excellent new explosions will somehow ease the pain of re-purchasing, refitting and re-insuring.

No date on the release, but it’s supposed to be soon, as in before the end of the year. I think? These shiny graphics make me confused, sort of like when an attractive woman actually speaks to me and any information I previously remembered flees my mind like a shuttle flees a gate camp. I really don’t know how I managed to marry. I suppose it had something to do with tequila, to be honest. There’s a brief window that opens when I drink tequila, somewhere between stuttering shyness and stumbling incoherence, where I’m apparently witty and charming. I point to the wedding ring on my finger as proof it happened once. I’m not sure it’d work so well again, and my wife probably wouldn’t appreciate me trying to prove my hypothesis.

I’ll just stick to gin and flying spaceships, thank you very much. At least when the fireworks start after a couple too many Sapphire and tonics, they’re virtual fireworks. Friends, don’t let friends mine drunk.

Chess and checkers

I’ve been splitting my limited game time this week between Eve and World of Warcraft. I hardly ever talk about WoW here, but I’ve been playing since the beta, and I still continue to monkey around with it. WoW is my Diablo of mmorpg gaming. I don’t raid, I rarely run instances…in fact, I hardly group at all in WoW. My play sessions are usually filled entirely with solo activity from the time I log in until I log out. And when I say filled, I mean that nary a minute is wasted in idleness. Blizzard keeps you busy, and that’s one of the strengths of WoW. There are a lot of little mini-games for gamers beyond getting to max level, raiding, or running Battlegrounds. It’s a little like checkers for me. None of it is complicated, but it’s fun and engrossing and fast and I can pass a couple of hours with my mind mostly blank beyond what’s happening on-screen.

For example, last week my daughter decided she wanted a new character. She’s seven and a half (almost eight, Dad!), and there’s nothing she enjoys more in WoW than making a new character, getting that character up to about level 5, and turning it over to me for enough leveling/money-making so she can hit the Auction House and go shopping. My daughter is the reason I know there’s a 50-character limit per account. Yes, we’ve hit it quite a few times, and had to go on an alt-deleting spree so we could make more new characters.

I’ve made a mini-game out of making new characters. This time around, my daughter wanted to play a rogue. We already had a couple characters on the server where she wanted to play, a level 20 druid and a level 17 hunter. They were both parked in Darnassus. The druid became my market alt, selling every decent drop (holy cow, people will pay crazy prices to twink an alt for a couple levels), and the hunter became an alchemist. I had the rogue skinning and gathering herbs, so my runs through Elwynn Forest were all about profit. I tried to level as fast as possible, within a certain set of rules. I wouldn’t pay more than 25 silver or so for items on the AH (you can level naked in WoW, fer cryin’ out loud, why pay 5 gold for a dagger with a little extra agility that you’re going to use for 2 or 3 levels?), but that meant I still had fun searching for deals at the AH while my druid was marking up my early green drops.

The rogue hit 19 the other night, without too much time played. I had about 20g in the druid’s bank account, and I also had a level 10 paladin that I encouraged my daughter to create because I had so many green mail armor items drop. My daughter did not need much encouragement to create another character, obviously 🙂

Contrasting that experience with Eve, it’s remarkable how different the two games are, despite the fact they’re both in the mmorpg genre. Eve is much more like chess than WoW, at least at the level I enjoy WoW. I’m sure WoW’s more chess-like when it comes to raiding. I know many of the raid encounters are complicated and require a lot of interaction from all the participants, but honestly, I don’t have the patience (or time) to raid. So, my checkers/chess comparison is solely based on my play styles.

That said, it’s tough to say “WoW is a great mmorpg, and Eve sucks”, or vice versa. They really have very little in common. Part of the reason I love Eve is because the gameplay gives me ample reason to interact with other people in the game, to carry on conversations, to feel like I have the time to talk. When I’m in Checkers mode in WoW, I don’t have time to chat. I have to LEVEL. I have buttons to hit all the time. Chatting just delays LEVELING. Yes, I’m a bit of a freak about it, but hey, it’s how I enjoy playing WoW. Much like Diablo, my job is to kill and kill again and keep killing until I hear my Pavlovian bell, and then I train and sell quickly so I can kill kill kill some more. *pant*

With Eve, there’s no shortage of action if I want it, but if I want to spend a night goofing off, fitting out a ship, mining instead of missions, ratting instead of missions, screwing around in a Rifter instead of a battleship, I haven’t missed a minute of advancement. My skill training still ticks along nicely, bringing me my reward at the same time, regardless of what playstyle I chose that evening. Eve’s difficulty scales pretty nicely to my desired level for the evening, without having to log in an alt to experience an different level of gameplay.

I find that A) I really love both games, and B) they both serve very different purposes. First, I think they both help me avoid Game Burnout, which is all too common when we’ve spent ungodly hours fixated on just one mmorpg. Yeah, I know, that sounds a little like saying smoking crack wouldn’t be so bad if we’d mix in a little heroin now and then, but I think y’all know what I’m saying. But my real point is that I don’t think we need to be arguing about which game is superior. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. Syncaine had his post about how Eve had “fixed” issues in the mmorpg world, and while I happen to agree with a lot of his points, I don’t necessarily think all games need to be “fixed” in the same way. I like that there’s no open PvP in WoW, I appreciate the world they created without it. I love that there’s open PvP in much of the Eve universe. But you can’t take “PvP or no PvP” argument and drop it on WoW or Eve without considering a hundred different design decisions about both world. Open PvP in WoW might suck. Eve’s designed for it. A solely PvE environment in Eve might be boring as hell, and it definitely wouldn’t create such excellent stories about politics, intrigue, and espionage.

Chess and checkers. Both great games. No one’s trying to say checkers should be more like chess, are they?

Eve’s first Quarterly Economic Newsletter (QEN)

Before I start talking about how cool it is that CCP has employed a full-time economist, I find it wildly humorous (and perhaps a little sad) that I’m far more interested in the economy of a virtual world than I am in the economy in the real world. Maybe it’s the subject matter or presentation; if Econ 101 in college had been presented as a game, maybe it would have caught my interest a little more. (Note to self: You work for a university. Sounds like a damn cool class to propose to a Dean some day).

That said, Eve’s quarterly economic report was released a couple days ago. You can get the PDF file here and dig into 15 pages of geeky Eve economic goodness. If that’s not enough dorkiness for you, all the dev blogs about the economy in Eve can be found here.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think Dr. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson has a pretty cool job. I was going to write about why Eve is a good environment for experimental research, but I think CCP’s press release when they hired Dr. Guðmundsson says it best:

 “EVE Online may be set in the future, but the skills needed to play are rooted in the real world of today. Players operate vast corporations whose shares are traded in-game among players so economic strength and agility is key to their success. Just as entrepreneurs and executives rely on real-world economic indicators, EVE Online players need timely information and analysis of the in-game economy,” said Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP Games. “That’s why we created this important position and we’re delighted to have someone of Eyjólfur’s caliber and expertise fill the role.”

There are three major areas covered in this first QEN.  First is demographics (population, skill points and security status), second is macroeconomics (the monetary supply) and the third is price levels and inflation/deflation.

I’m not going to dig into any of them in this post. I think it’s too long for one entry. I might take things an issue at a time over the next few days and write up some thoughts on  Dr. Guðmundsson’s findings.  And actually, while I’m mentioning Dr. Guðmundsson a few times, I should probably mention the researcher on this project as well, Kjartan Þ. Halldórsson. I’m not accusing Dr. Guðmundsson of riding on the research of a good graduate researcher, but I’ve seen enough of that at the university level to know that Kjartan probably put in long hours compiling this data for the good doctor’s review and deserves recognition as well. Kjartan’s name is right on the front page of the report, where it should be.