Posted in EVE Online on December 19, 2012 by cailais

BB41: Director’s Cut

The universe of EVE is not without its drama and epic stories, both in and out of game. Imagine a publisher, movie studio or television network asked you to prepare a pitch for a new brand of EVE-flavoured entertainment. This could be your big break, what would be your synopsis to bring New Eden to the wider audience?

A synopsis*? Of EVE? There we have the equivalent of trying to get a giant recalcitrant drunken octopus dressed in a diving suit.    First off EVE is big, REALLY BIG not just in terms of its intergalactic scale but also in terms of its depth of complexity, its myriad agents and forces from the machinations of the players themselves to the often obscure NPC races, factions and history.

That might be a start of course and it practically screams ‘big summer block buster movie!!’ replete with 3D CGI star ships flinging obscene amounts of ordnance at each other.    Would that attract a ‘wider audience’ however? I’m pretty sure it would attract EVEs current demographic of 27 year old men with a penchant for (well you guessed it)  – star ships flinging obscene amounts of ordnance at each other.  Good luck dragging your wife to the premier though.

The other alternative (shudder) is to reprise our summer block buster with an angst torn teen female lead with an unrequited longing for the ‘bad guy’ who ideally is a ‘bit vampire like’.  A sure fire hit.

What about that staple medium of television? Naturally New Edens universe would need to compete with the usual crop of reality tv shows featuring b list celebrities demonstrating their peculiar lack of talent in some form of dancing, singing skate off with the selection being narrowed down by you the audience! So that’s recordings of drunken FCs singing on ventrilo/team speak then. Naturally we’d call the show “The PLEX Factor”.

All in all then our proposed pitch to dour men in suits is not entirely going according to plan which, to be fair, is hardly surprising.  Most publishers don’t want something new – what they want is the old successful stuff repackaged in a modern 3D format and multiple ‘likes’ on BookFace.

So is there an alternative?

Well for my money (not that I have any) there is.  EVE Online exists on the interwebs and that most embryonic of formats holds the key – not multi billion pound budget films or a Star Trek series rehashed with an Abaddon reprising the role of the USS Enterprise (to boldly gank where no man has ganked before…).   EVE has already spawned the rather successful and witty Clear Skies and popular sci fi TV dramas are actually being converted towards the web (Battlestar Galactica – Blood and Chrome) rather than away from it.  EVEs graphical impact, alongside its much maligned Incarna era avatars holds at least the potential for a machinima styled mini series.  Some of the more recent expansion trailers hint at this capability to produce ‘bite size chunks’ of EVEs treacherous nature, and as we’ve already seen EVE really does need to be consumed in bite sized morsels. Which of course is what a synopsis is.

*A synopsis is a brief summary of the major points of a written work, either as prose or as a table; an abridgment or condensation of a work.


The Mittani killed the EVE community – community buys new clone.

Posted in EVE Online on November 23, 2012 by cailais

Of late there seems to be a degree of faltering doubt within the EVE blogging community – talk from the likes of Kirith Kodachi, or Rixx Jarvis and Marc Scaurus sounding the death bell of “z blog pack”.  Apparently the Mittani is involved as well.

Standard operating procedure (of course) is to immediately don a full suit of tin foil, flame retardant under garments and gather up ones pitch fork and wade on in.

To my mind however that’s premature – EVE’s community has a tendency, a habit even, of creating drama in a vacuum.  Does the Mittani news site spell out the end of community blogs? Should we pack up our collective keyboards and retreat to the comfort of touch screens far from the risks of repetitive strain injury? Er….no.

EVEs community – like the game itself – is in constant flux and change.  For a time podcasts were all the rage, FOTM stuff; you couldn’t move for the things.  Then came a sudden burst of video media (EVE TV anyone?) and the humble blog alongside tweetfleets and Bookface(tm).  Now with EVE 24 and The Mittani sites we have more “structured” news portals but that assuredly doesn’t forecast either the end of blogging or necessarily the end of the blog pack.  For as long as their are EVE players there will be blogs written by them; some good, some frequent and – occasionally – some good & frequent bloggers.

Rather than chisel away and prepare the headstone for the blogging community I think we should expect quite the reverse.  DUST 514 will introduce a entirely new collective of players engaged in EVE.  Many of these will blog about the game its dramas, faults and stand out successes.  Sites like The Mittani shouldn’t be seen as some crushing force of mass media, bulldozing its way through the ranks of independent blog writers moreover it can be seen as a clarion call for more bloggers, and a source of inspiration.  I have, from time to time, read a few of the opinion pieces written on EVE 24, or on The Mittani or even on wider ‘news sites like Massively and found myself reaching for the keyboard to counter the claims I’ve read there.

This does of course bring about the question of numbers – who and how many read your blog? Or mine for that matter? My personal feeling is it actually doesn’t matter.  Blogging isn’t purely a popularity contest and provided you (or I) am happy to write upon the subject of EVE and have even a handful of readers surely that is sufficient?  The EVE Blog Pack (and I was in the distant past a ‘member’) shouldn’t really be seen as a collection of master blog writers, but rather a useful portal into the writings of many other players.  More than once I have stumbled from a ‘blog pack’ writers page to a less well known writers blog and enjoyed the content or have been inspired to see EVE from another players perspective.

And it is really all about perspective – the community of commentators be they on established websites, blogs, forums or twitter all combine to form “crystal like” a many faceted view of EVE.  Some of those perspective you will be entranced by, confused or even repulsed by: what we can’t do is deny they exist.  Whether the ‘Blog Pack’ remains as an organised published entity remains to be seen but I would draw the analogy that the Blog Pack is rather like Alliances holding Sov over null sec: if CCP removed the Sov system would those entities influence over those areas simply disappear?  Of course not, and in the same fashion removing a label doesn’t imply that a thing no longer exists.

I blog, therefore I am 😉


“EVE” Sport

Posted in EVE Online on October 25, 2012 by cailais
“There is no finer spectacle in the universe of EVE Online than the explosive dance of weapon-laden spaceships in combat. The yearly Alliance Tournament is the jewel in EVE Online’s eSports crown and the upcoming New Eden Open should deliver the same gladiatorial entertainment showcase.
Given the scope of the sandbox, what part should eSports play in EVE Online and what other formats could provide internet spaceship entertainment for spectators and participants alike? “

Blood. Sand.  From time immemorial mankind has been transfixed by the gladiatorial nature of combat for no other reason than the fight itself.  In our modern age our fascination with ‘versus’ (the etymology of which is the Latin for ‘turned towards or against’) is shifting into the digital spectrum: eSports.

EVE Online is frequently described as a ‘sandbox’ MMO and the correlation between a sandbox and the gladiatorial arena is immediately recognisable.   Out in the depths of Null Sec great Alliances and Coalitions strive against one another for virtual domination of New Eden.  In theory we already have the greatest of eSport spectacles playing out before our very eyes but with one small issue:  That interstellar battle proceeds with the pace of glacial crawl.

Sports (accepting the wider picture of leagues, ladders and championships) are more normally delivered in bite sized chunks of (hopefully) exciting and frenetic action.  More often than not they usually also deliver a clear and unambiguous result: a winner and a loser.  Which pretty much precludes Null Sec territorial warfare from the Monday Night Big Game slot on prime time.

The Alliance Tournament already defines what can be achieved through the current EVE Online client: CCP could tweak numbers participating, restrict ship classes and so forth but the generic format of ‘fleet A versus fleet B’ is the logical ‘bite sized chunk’.  But EVE is no longer constrained to just spaceship pew pew – DUST is also an additional arena.  The sensible step then is DUST team vs DUST team?

But lets not stop there, because DUST and EVE are linked.  How is that even remotely important? Well from a eSports perspective its possible to broaden the playing pitch.  Could we see a contest waged simultaneously across both DUST and EVE with the in space war impacting upon the land war and vice versa?

Until now EVEs eSport has been a separate event to Tranquillity – its plausible though that through some ‘arena style’ mechanism the concept of eSports could be embedded in New Eden itself.  There are pros and cons to this of course – embedded arenas may detract from the overall immersion of EVE as a wider universe in conflict, but an equal argument could be made that the lack of ‘gladitorial’ match ups in EVE is immersion breaking. After all what precisely would immortal capsuleers do if not pit their skills against one another?

eSports from League of Legends to Starcraft are growing in popularity but CCP has an unfortunate tendency to jump onto the latest band wagon (PI = farmville anyone?).  It’s hard to blame CCP directly for this – games influence developers as much as developers influence game design.  That said we should be cautious about throwing every effort behind the latest craze. Let’s not forget the bigger picture: that EVE Online is already one of the largest “eSports” – one writ across the entire universe and entrancing an audience well beyond its current populace.



Posted in EVE Online on October 24, 2012 by cailais


It has been a long, long time since my last post.  I now need to metaphorically wipe the dust from the keyboard whilst reflecting on my extended break from EVE Online.  No longer a member of EVEs ‘blog pack’ no doubt many of these key strokes will fall unheard but no one ever said returning from the wilderness is an easy path….

So why now?

Things appear to be changing in EVE, developments in terms of the UI, Faction Warfare and,most importantly, rusted old mechanics like Bounty Hunting are at long last being rejuvenated.  Way back in ’06 when I started playing EVE players were then asking CCP to look again at bounty hunting as a ‘profession’ and its lack lustre mechanics.  You didn’t need to look far on the official forums to find some proposal or other suggesting a fix or a solution and (occasionally) a developer post would kindle hope in players hearts that this forgotten feature of EVE was going to be looked at.

It never was.  Months turned into years and bounty hunting (like other facets of EVE) remained on the “to do” list.

That is about to change.  The next iteration of EVE, Retribution, brings with it a revised bounty mechanism – it may not be ideal, or even a great system but to my mind that is less important than the fact that CCP is – at the very least – attempting to remedy a empty feature.  Features like the bounty hunting system are important not least because they have the potential to directly (or indirectly) effect every player in EVE: from the industrialist to the miner, the trader to the null sec fleet commander.

The revision to the bounty mechanism is also important for another reason: it suggests that CCP are actively engaging in revamping the core mechanisms of conflict in New Eden.  The placement of bounties and the player interaction that results in is of course a relatively minor thing, but if as I hope, CCP go on to apply the same philosophy to Null Sec Sov game play and Low Sec then 2013 has the potential to be extremely interesting for EVE and its players.

Right now my ship is drifting dark and lifeless in the deepest reaches of space but within a capsuleers mind is stirring to wakefulness and the thought that a new era for EVE awaits is a tantalising possibility.


Risky Business

Posted in EVE Online on May 31, 2012 by cailais

Brendan Drain (Nyphur to his friends) over at Massively recently covered the dire news of 38 studios collapse. It’s an interesting read, but dont disappear just yet because I also want to contrast that article with the recent hullabaloo over the ‘infinite’ Hulkageddon sponsored by GoonSwarm Alliance and The Mittani.


Many players (well ok – SOME -players) are up in arms over the apparent wanton destruction being wreaked across high security space.  Apparently this is ‘bad for the game’, but is it?

Traditional MMO design says you keep your new players safe and warm, to be slowly nurtured into the game and heavily protected from what ever player inspired ganks might lurk out in the darkness.  In fact traditional MMO design fences in PVP into specific zones of play: its not an opt out, its an opt in.  Which brings us to the next observation: traditional MMOs aren’t doing so well.

Contrary to what common sense might suggest (don’t hurt noobs & carebears or they’ll leave the game) EVE defies the excepted wisdom and continues to grow.  In fact the only point where EVE has wobbled on its axis was when CCP catered to a more ‘fluffy’ experience with Incarna.  EVE, it seems, is truly different.

Blockbuster titles like SWTOR have showed initial spurts of growth but this (according to any observation of its recent server mergers) has fallen off the perennial cliff.  Why?  The answer, I believe, is that ‘carebearing’ in EVE is anything but: in fact it might be better to describe such players as survivors. Normally such a term would seem degrading or denigrating but in this instance the miners and mission runners of EVE aught to be applauded because they choose to exist in a game universe with consequences and risk.  Things – ships, modules, minerals, stations, etc – have value in EVE.  That value is created, on a personal level, because those things can be lost.

The inevitable realisation that players of those ‘other’ MMOs come to is that, no matter how pretty the graphics or how deep the npc story line none of it truly matters.  Exist in the game or leave it: in those MMOs the universe simply doesn’t care, your arrival and passing goes largely unnoticed.  Within EVE however your efforts are not inconsequential no matter how small or how trivial.

EVEs mechanics are not without fault, and some (probably rightly) argue that the dice are heavily loaded in favour of those conducting the suicide ganks in Empire space, but the dice aren’t loaded to such an extent that players cannot find opportunities to prosper or to beat their erstwhile attacks.  Take the humble Skiff. The what? Well yes you can be forgiven for not bringing that particular vessel to mind instantly but the Skiff has some rather useful attributes. Its a small mining vessel, limited to an extent compared to the rock crunching power of the Hulk but the little Skiff has (amongst other attributes) the handy bonus of +2 warp strength.

With two low slots a miner could quite easily achieve a warp strength value of 4: requiring no less than 5 warp disruption points to be applied.  And its small signature radius means an attacker needs not only to be loaded up with scrams but also needs to lock pretty darn fast.  In fact so versatile and agile is this forgotten mining ship that you can (with a modicum of risk) use it to mine in more hazardous regions of space like low sec.

But no matter what clever ruse players use to avoid the predatory attentions of the gankers its worth remembering the first law of EVE.  Im constantly surprised by players who decry the loss of this ship or the other and it is clear they have forgotten that foremost law (or perhaps have never heard it expounded daily as it was in my early capsuleer career.  Its a law that applies not least to EVE, but perhaps also to those in charge of the purse strings.

Never risk what you cant afford to lose.


Heat Seeker

Posted in EVE Online on May 13, 2012 by cailais


I’ve spent the last few days ‘mucking about’ on EVE’s test server SISI; just trying to get some impressions of the forthcoming INFERNO update.  So far its all looking pretty darn good.  Sure the new UI windows for organising your hangar equipment and ships takes some adjustment but like all changes after a while these become second nature.  By far and away the most impressive feature are missiles – the effects are jaw drop good, and once combined with ‘near misses’ from more traditional weapon turrets, even routine shoot outs with NPCs are a thing to behold. (screen shots simply doesn’t do the effects justice).


The faction warfare UI has also been cleaned up and now looks, and functions, in a far clearer manner – it just feels more accessible and less some obscure tacked on element to EVE as a whole.  I’ve yet to have a look at the mercenary market system (got to leave a few things as ‘new’ on release haven’t you?) but if its been crafted in the same way as FW and missile effects its bound to be good for the game.  The only minor let down is with the new modules, they’re a nice addition sure but why aren’t there MOAR? From where Im sitting additional module types could go a long long way to shaking up the world of PVP in EVE (at least from an individual players perspective).

All told INFERNO is looking to be a solid successor to CRUCIBLE.  There’s a way to go yet and DUST remains a hasty mist on the horizon – but if CCP keep to this path things are looking brighter across New Eden.



PS – Amarr V3, om nom nom nom!

Footprints in the dust.

Posted in EVE Online on March 19, 2012 by cailais

DUST514 goes into beta testing next month and, in a few days, EVE Online’s capsuleer community – freshly decanted from their pods in Iceland will be getting their hands on the console game for the first time.  Whilst there will be a few ardent dustmites at FF2012 the overwhelming number of players are surely coming at DUST from the perspective of being PC players of EVE Online.

Quite how those players will react to DUST514 is yet to be seen – gamers are gamers after all and a goodly number are going to like it and a few might even purchase a PS3 in order to play it, but for the rest a fair few are more likely to walk away a bit bemused: a nice game but what has it got to do with EVE Online?

We’ve all heard the CCP line to date, that DUST514 will open the “EVE Universe” to a wider player base but what does that really mean? Do CCP expect players to migrate from DUST to EVE because they like the IP? Does EVE somehow become a more popular MMO because it has an associated FPS console sibling?

The other question, which CCP are seemingly refusing to be drawn into discussing is quite what the interaction between DUST514 and EVE Online will consist of.  A recent chat with the devs revealed this…

“ISD AeolusWind > Multiple Players ask: How will DUST affect current EVE soverignity mechanics.
CCP Wolfman > The exact mechanics behind planetary conquest will be revealed at a later date once we’re totally satisfied with them”.

“ISD AeolusWind > Akelica asks: will there be a market between eve players and dust players? I.e. eve players manufacturing vehicles and dust players buying them?
CCP Nothin > To put it shortly, that’s definitely a direction we’d want to eventually take it, but we’re still discussing the exact details of this interaction and how much of it we want in the beginning.”

So precisely nothing then.

What gives? Are CCP saving their powder for a spectacular reveal at FF2012? Well yes that’s probably quite likely but experience of prior FanFests has proven time and time again that CCP reveals “awesome” at FanFest but no actual detail.

Planetary Interaction, Walking in Station all got massive hype at prior FanFests, whilst their delivery was less than stellar. My suspicion grows by the day that for EVE players at least DUST will appear as a rather dull contracts process. We wont be manufacturing battle tanks or launching drop ships from orbit, or pouring over strategic maps with our dustmite brethren.  What seems imminently more likely is will be putting up contracts in much the same way as we might with courier jobs.

Exciting stuff.

“Your next shot will topple Empires!”

The other side of this proverbial coin is what the DUST players perspective is.  Will DUST players care, or even notice, who they are laying down their immortal lives for? Presumably a contract created by a player in EVE will appear to a DUST player in some fashion – which that player (or team) accepts.  What’s the interaction between these two player groups? Is either party reliant upon the other in any respect? A big concern must surely be that the DUST players simply pick who ever is splashing out the most cash to them and they carry on regardless meaning that – to all intents and purposes the EVE player has just paid out of his pocket for a glorified random number generator.

The answer to many of these questions lies of course within the EVE player base – they currently do care about who has sovereignty of this or that system: without those long standing feuds EVE is nothing but a series of interconnected dots.  Which means those players are really needed to be embedded, heart and soul, into DUST.

Embedded. Heart and soul. Playing it even?  Except they’re probably not: its on a console, not on a PC. And that will almost certainly be what emerges from the hangovers in Iceland – good game, but what does it have to do with us?


Burn baby, burn!

Posted in EVE Online on February 23, 2012 by cailais

Its official. EVE Online’s forthcoming expansion is going back to the era of platform shoes, afros and wide flares with Disco Inferno!

Oh ok, it’s just “Inferno” but I couldn’t help myself.

Not only will this no doubt resurrect (phoenix like) the well worn meme of ‘die in a fire -in game’ it will also apparently rekindle (I imagine you’re loving the incendiary puns I’m dropping here)  warfare across EVE.

To be honest CCP Unifex’s dev blog doesnt actually say anything of any detail: its very much the usual “in the next few months…as we continue to develop…I’m keeping details light..we will be revealing” etc etc without actually saying what CCP are planning.  That’s always frustrated me about CCPs dev blogs – lots of hype not so much substance; and when the substance does arrive it often falls short of well, pretty much everyone’s expectations.  Not only that but if CCP reveal a absolute stinker of an idea its usually too late to avert the forum rage that follows.

So the question in my mind right now is if we will see a departure from CCP throwing themselves from the proverbial frying pan and deliver more than forum flames.  Crucible was good, not spectacular but warming – but will Inferno be too hot to handle?

Flame on.



Posted in EVE Online on February 15, 2012 by cailais

D&D, Dungeons & Dragons, that historic pen and paper RPG has got a lot to answer for.  Whilst it set the standard for RPGs it also forged a template – a template predicated on linear advancement: go kill ‘stuff’ and by doing so got more powerful allowing you to kill bigger ‘stuff’ and so on and so forth for all eternity.

And thus the grind was born.

EVE Online, however broke the mould of this template when CCP introduced its unique skill system, one based upon training over time – not through the unfortunate death of rats and kobolds.   The reason why the skill training system is so important to EVE is that, in theory, it allows players to quickly reach equivalent levels of skill.  It is (given the same amount of training time) possible that a new player can be as proficient in flying a Frigate as say a veteran player. In short there are skill ceilings.

Where CCP diverged from this concept we can readily see some problems.  Powerful vessels such as capital and super capital class vessels really do require a large investment in time spent with EVE.  We can readily see this as a valid reward for those veterans who have remained with EVE for so long – a clear degree of superiority over newer players.  But even these leviathans of space have theoretical ceilings and (increasingly as EVEs population ages) more and more players are coming into the stage where the capital/super capital is well within their capability to use.

The next ‘speed bump’ for player progression (in the traditional sense) is ISK, or rather the availability of it.  In theory I can pilot a dreadnought – I cannot however afford one. Herein lies the grind for ISK, and the source of whatever angst exists about whether game play X gets more ISK than gameplay Y. The implication being of course that if you want to progress in EVE you need to be rich.

This situation is not, however, unrecoverable. What is needed is a broadening of EVEs skills – essentially more areas of specialisation that the typical pilot can sink their teeth into.  Critically these specialisations need to feel as rewarding and on a par with the traditional reward of ‘bigger ship = more powerful’.  Planetary Interaction I had hoped would offer such a system – the capacity to sink skill training time and investment into the management of whole world economies and societies; a symbol of status ‘you may own a Titan but I rule over these planets’.  Even the much maligned WiS proffered the chance that again the veteran of EVE could turn their machinations towards the conquest of inner space – the station environment; corporate barons who managed the stores, bars and facilities of an entire star base.  Again it looks as if this opportunity has been squandered.

Perhaps DUST, and its intended links through EVEs wider economy will provide an outlet for the veteran players – a bauble to distract those from the currently inevitable march towards the mundaneness of capital vessels – it is theoretically possible that EVEs players will sink ISK into the prosecution of war on land whilst remaining removed themselves from the squalid business of ‘running and shooting’.  Whilst I will watch the forthcoming FanFest preview of DUST and no doubt be interested in the FPS aspects for me it is the wider question of what DUST means to the New Eden cluster, its politics and economics that will really draw my attention.


Enders Game

Posted in EVE Online on February 1, 2012 by cailais

In another universe and in another forum a discussion has been quietly bubbling away like a stew left on the heat too long about the “End Game”. The discussion, if one can call it that, is predictable enough – arguments resolving around if this particular “MMO has enough content” and what players can expect (or not) to be doing ‘at the end’.

It is, interestingly, not a subject that occurs with EVE Online – an MMO that curiously (considering its relative age) has no definable ‘end game’.  EVE after all is a game without proscribed goals.  There is no deus ex machina of Developers pulling strings and lining up content for players to knock down like so many bowling balls.  EVE just goes on.

I often struggle with the idea of ‘what’ content EVE can be described to have – and this isn’t a trivial question, with CCP updating the old EVE Online website to produce something both more appealing and more relevant to todays modern MMO gamer.  Pitching a MMO like EVE to the uninitiated has perculia challenges foremost of which is that it has no defined objectives, no proscribed goals.  Simply put: no one is there to hold your hand, and the universe is what you make of it.

Obviously to those already playing EVE Online this is a ‘good thing’, an open world of opportunities where you can be anything from a pirate to a scammer, an alliance leader to a lone wolf and everything in between.  That’s a harder idea to get across to a prospective player, especially those that have become accustomed to the high degree of sign posting given in other MMO titles.

Something which I would like to see exploited a bit more by CCP through the website are those classic archetypes (pirates, mercenaries, traders, industrialist and so forth) – ideally using descriptions from EVEs players themselves who are, after all, the experts in those particular fields.  That’s not to ‘dumb down’ EVE into some weird profession or class based MMO – which clearly it isn’t – but examples of the paths that can be followed might help to provide that all important compass to help orientate the new comer to EVE online.  Support this with an NPC/agent orientated New Player Experience full of the requisite flavour could help grow and expand the universe, and all its myriad potential, of EVE.