Archive for April, 2010

A Heads Up for U and I

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2010 by cailais

In a recent article on IGNGonzales hinted that EVE’s overly complicated user-interface (UI) may get an overhaul, but that it was down the track and would require a lot of work“.

EVE’s User Interface is both a boon and a curse for many EVE Online players.  For some it is remarkably complex and daunting, especially when you start to delve into the complexities of Corporation Management or Overview settings.  For others it is this very deep and intricate design that embodies the ‘style’ of EVE and which is what makes it such a compelling MMO.

Of course many other MMOs allow for a considerable degree of user control over the UI allowing legal and some ‘illegal’ EULA breaking additions and customizable options.  For EVE Online however there is comparatively little room for manoeuvre.  Indeed its only been quite recently that players could move the ships HUD display or adjust the location of targeted ships about their screen.

For new players the UI is just one of those areas that’s really not especially well documented and this can be a cause of frustration.  It is not just hapless noobs though –  even today (having played since 2006) I occasionally come across some button or sub menu I didn’t realise was there.

My biggest complaint against the UI for EVE though is predominantly a stylistic one.  While CCP have gone to tremendous efforts to spruce up the environs of EVE (new ship models, planets and effects) with astounding results it is becoming all to apparent that our new 21st Century EVE has a 20th Century dashboard.

Nothing can be as much of an immersion breaker as firing up the power systems of your Tech II Force Recon replete with sophisticated E-War and weapons systems only to have to pilot it through a clunky excel speadsheet of drop down menus and a smorgasbord of windows.

Assuming our trusty capsuleer is just up for a spot of small gang roaming  he or she will be faced with a face full of windowed information: Local Chat, Corp Chat, Fleet Chat, Alliance Chat, Intel Chat, Fleet Notifications/broadcasts, watchlist, Overview and quite possibly a drone bay.  Squeezed somewhere into all of that may be the ship our capsuleer is flying.

The end result is that all the efforts of CCPs art department is largely wasted as you cannot see the vastness of space for the even vaster clutter of windows that obscure it.  At the same time of course a capsuleer needs to be able to interact with the universe around him in a huge variety of ways – from checking market orders, scanning asteroid belts for potential targets to planetary interaction.

So where does CCP proceed?  Well judging by the ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahhs’ coming as a result of the more recent trailers CCP could do worse than follow the futuristic look or ‘skins’ shown there.  Just on a purely aesthetic basis something along these lines might indeed be quite welcome.  I think though most would agree CCP need to go a bit further than just a splash of cosmetic make up.  One line of progress might be to deliver ‘context based’ GUI – a UI that adapts to and is based upon the nature of the activity you are undertaking.  The Universe Map, PI and the System scanning interface are the closest I can get too here. So if under attack or engaged in combat you UI morphs into a combat UI, minimising or removing entirely non essential functions or information.

Alternatively we could imagine combining certain elements of the UI – for example being melded and colour coded (for example you would see various ‘chat’ in one singular window, with hot buttons to select which channel you are ‘chatting too’.  The Holy Grail of course is to see something along the line of an integrated intelligence suite – predominantly icon based (rather than text based) which could be interpreted at a glance to provide information such as the number of hostile targets in local, deployment and status of probes and wider constellation data like high gate traffic.

Impossible? Maybe, it would certainly require a concerted effort on CCPs part and might even be termed as an expansion in its own right. The benefits however could be enormous – making EVE more accessible to new players and more immersion for older players.

C.

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Burn Out!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 by cailais

No today’s post is not about getting your ship out of a bubbled gate camp – well not directly.  I was recently struck by some comments made by Zapatero in his editors piece in E-ON Magazine.  Zap wrote about how EVE Online was more often than not running away in the background whilst he wasn’t actually actively playing EVE.

I think the point Zap was trying to make was that EVE Online had become a extension of his online activity in a broader sense allowing him to socialise with friends, contact people through EVE Mail and browse the interwebs without actually logging off.  The reason why this post rather struck a cord with me was that initially I thought he was talking about losing enthusiasm for EVE and “burning out” and how similar the two states (using EVE as a powerful online interface and burning out) actually are to each other.

Everyone I think has, or will at some stage, suffered from a degree of ‘burn out’ with EVE.  It’s that point where you log on only to be struck with an almost crushing sense of boredom and complete lack of direction or focus.  For some this results in a fairly turgid period of logging on very infrequently or just un-subbing completely leaving corporations across New Eden with a pool of dead accounts and inflated membership numbers.

To an extent of course part of EVE’s very nature can strike a mortal blow to a players interest in the game.  Having to wait 35+ days for a particular skill to train up so you can ‘progress’ is a radically different concept to most other MMOs where at least by grinding like a lunatic you can achieve a specific goal.  Equally EVE’s draw is very often based upon watching / participating in the great wheels of political intrigue and drama that turn across the cosmos – but those wheels can turn so very slowly.  Goonswarms and BOBs don’t disband every day after all.

So how do you combat against burn out?

Im sure most players will suggest you try something different – after all there are a huge range of player activities you could try if you haven’t dipped into them before – manufacture, invention, missions, pvp, exploration, running corps, podcasting – the list goes on.  Finding a ‘new play style’ or even just moving to a new region of space can help to break that ‘been there, done that’ spell.

However  my recommendation to you is you don’t! Let me put it this way, if you met someone who explained they played scrabble, or monopoly every night and had done so for the past 2 or 3 years you’d probably understand pretty fast why they were getting a bit bored of that game?  It’s equally important to remember that EVE is a GAME.  Admittedly it is a very complex and deep universe but our imaginations can depth of involvement can only go so far.

One of the great strengths of EVE Online is that you can set a long skill training and just go off and do something else – without having to fear that you will somehow fall behind your fellow players.  Ok, so you might miss the odd short term opportunity and you wont be accruing to much ISK in the process but in terms of your basic progression you’ll be fine.

Taking a short break from EVE has a number of obvious benefits – you’ll almost certainly come back to the game with a renewed sense of vigour and quite probably some new ideas about where to head next.  Whenever I have taken a breather I have come back to experience that sense of awe at the scale of EVE and marvelled at how great it looks time and again.  Of course your relationships outside of EVE are equally likely to benefit as a result which can only be a good thing.

One word of warning is that you should try and avoid the obvious temptation to inspect the forums at every opportunity.  In many ways forums act as a magnate for the malcontent for any MMO and EVE is no different.  Reading thread after thread on why ship X is overpowered / underpowered or how the game lags as soon as someone sneezes is unlikely to endear you to a return.

So if you are burning out and running low on cap how should you go about surfacing for air?

Well if you are in a corp just let them know.  A short mail explaining your absence can go a long way to ensuring you don’t find yourself in an NPC corp when you get back.  Also try and organize your equipment as conveniently as possible as this will reduce at least some of the pain of wondering where all your kit is when you do log on. For Null Sec players logging off with your carrier in station “Super Secure” is not a great idea – because you can be sure that ‘sods law’ will immediately apply and you will return to find it renamed “Conquered by your arch Enemies”.

How long you should take as an extended down time is up to you of course, 1 to 2 weeks is normally sufficient in my experience but then I often have enforced absences from EVE due to work so suffer slightly less from this malady.  It’s also a period that is nicely covered by both longer skill training times.

As for the uncontrollable shakes, cold sweats and overwhelming feelings of terror that sweep over you on patch days … sorry, cant be of much help there 😉

C.

tech 2 stilettos

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 by cailais

A new dawn rises over ‘the hydrostatic capsule’ as we enter the mythic halls of CKs ‘Blog Pack’.  It’s all gravy from here on in and no doubt CKs lined up a nice easy Blog Banter for us so I can demonstrate my creative wit and insightful comment with devilish skill and a plomb – lets have a look…

“What could CCP Games do to attract and maintain a higher percentage of women to the game. Will Incarna do the trick? Can anything else be done in the mean time? Can we the players do our part to share the game we love with our counterparts, with our sisters or daughters, with the Ladies in our lives? What could be added to the game to make it more attractive to them? Should anything be changed? Is the game at fault, or its player base to blame”?

Wut?!


Not so easy after all then.  First off I have a confession to make, you see right at this point in time I already have a nice long rambling post about ‘the women of eve’. It’s a carefully scripted piece of work that essentially offers no real ideas and lays its somewhat shaky foundations on the premise that EVE is a sci fi game, girls dont like sci fi and really dont bother to change anything and there’s a chance more women will play anyway.

And truth be told – it’s a cop out. The reason being is that, well I’m not a woman and like most men trying to ‘think like a woman’ is really pretty hard to be honest.  Equally difficult is trying to write up some new ideas that don’t pander to the stereotypical image of ‘woman gamers’ who like nothing more than playing tennis on the Wii or anything that involves ‘dressing up’.  However I stubbornly refuse to be shackled to the belief that woman kind are indeed from Venus and therefore utterly unintelligible – I shall strive on regardless.

Which really got me thinking about what EVE already offers to the female gamer that other games don’t offer and how CCP could, potentially capitalise upon that?

Foremost in my thoughts is that EVE is a universe, a separate microcosm replete with its own market forces and political conflicts and intrigues. It operates quite unlike our ‘real world’ however and the preconceptions we have applied here do not necessarily apply in New Eden.  In RL women are, rightly or wrongly, most often faced with certain barriers to progression and like men are trammelled into certain careers or lifestyle choices.  You can call it the infamous ‘glass ceiling’ or what you will – they key is that these ‘rules’ do not apply in EVE.

Within New Eden anyone, male or female, is free to pursue their ambitions unrestrained by societies typical judgements.  Want to run your own multi billion ISK corporation? Go right ahead.  Fancy tyrannising some hapless miners in High Sec? Feel free.  Spend some time with a glass of wine chatting and exploring a star system? It’s all yours.

EVE offers that unconstrained world environment where you are judged not by your gender but by how swiftly you can adapt to change and face adversity. So the question should be how does CCP maximise on these elements and subsequently market them in such a fashion to appeal to women gamers?

Straight off we can be sure of one thing; any woman coming to EVE is going to be a new player, so our game features most be both relatively straight forward and accessible to new players.  Secondly we can be reasonably sure that the latest additions and features have, so far, not been particularly appealing – perhaps because they don’t offer sufficient freedom to ‘build your own success story’ or to define yourself within EVE.

Much of EVE requires, even demands, a significant amount of co-operative play.  Again our new female player is going to be at an initial disadvantage.  Predominantly male corps and activities (faction warfare for example) are likely to be intimidating to any player.   Our we then looking for a non-risk carebear’s paradise of fluffy bunnies and rainbows then?

Almost certainly not.  Recall that EVE offers the chance to ‘win’ and succeed in environments that otherwise women may find themselves at a disadvantage in.  The answer in my view lies in a perhaps unlikely area:

Trade and Business.

Although not overtly “pvp” the cut throat world of marketing, trading and management of a business enterprise offers both freedom of action and the potential for progression while maintaining the ‘game’ element of competing with others. The trouble is its extremely difficult to differentiate yourself from the crowd in what is a relatively 2 dimensional game element.  While pvp pilots can spend hours customising their ship, selecting modules and fittings there is no such analogy for the ‘business manager’ – it’s almost purely “buy low sell high”: at least for the new player.

If CCP re engineered the trading system to allow for players to quite literally “set up shop” I think more women could be attracted to EVE.  Whilst bespoke manufactured items may be beyond the database I see no reason why collective groups of products couldnt be packaged together.  For example a trade bazaar that sold certain minerals,  pre built and fitted ships or POS Fuel Packs.  Couple this with a means to market these products (say through EVE Gate) and sufficient tools to do so (purchasable graphics packages, emblems, logos and the like – remembering we’re talking about new players here).

“oooh we’re half way there!”

Indeed we are.  PI and Incarna at least sow the seeds of possibility for women players to manage their own retail markets, something which could be done even as a comparative new comer.  The activity itself could lead towards other professions (exploration, missions, manufacturing) which in turn would lead to greater amounts of social interaction.

I should think that around about now you are probably asking why such an idea would make sense or how I can justify it.  Well the premise of my thoughts stem from a fellow blogger and a female Capsuleer Mynxee.  While some might see Mynxee as unusual in that she has flown the flag for women pirates & pvp’ers what is far more interesting is how she so carefully and brilliantly ran and managed HellCats and subsequently marketed it as a ‘corporate business’ – in many respects the fact that it was a rather heavily armed and aggressive corp is incidental.

Of course all of this can only achieve so much, and it will largely fall to CCPs marketing department to throw some illumination on the gears that churn under the myriad of conflicts that span EVE.  Rather than videos focusing on Russians in Titans of hapless miners being rescued by brave Rifter pilots perhaps we need to see more of those women who already direct, manage and lead the corporations of EVE.  Therein lies the key.

C.

Editors note: any presumption that my comments on women being able to rise to the top of corporate or alliance affairs in EVE is due to my current alliance commander being a woman is entirely baseless. 😉

Additional posts in the Blog Banter:

Ombeve

Garhead

I am Keith Neilson

The Ghost Report – great new blogger

Evoganda – hilarious 🙂

Astral’s Eve’s Trial By Fire

The Cataclysmic Variable

EVE Sob

Starfleet Comms

*Edit for CK confirming Cailais will be receiving the ISKies!!

They’re coming outta the goddamn walls!

Posted in EVE Online on April 18, 2010 by cailais

Hudson: [reading a motion detector] I got signals. I got readings, in front and behind.
Frost: Where, man? I don’t see shit.
Hicks: He’s right. There’s nothin’ back here.
Hudson: Look, I’m telling ya, there’s somethin’ movin’ and it ain’t us! Tracker’s off scale, man. They’re all around us, man. Jesus!”

Most people will tell you that warfare in EVE is a numbers game.  With a large enough fleet you can be reasonably certain that you can melt to slag any ships that happen to fall into your path.  Well apart from a bigger fleet of course.  And therein lies a problem, because what we eventually end up with is an ‘arms race’ whereby the biggest fleet probably ‘wins’.

I say probably because there are some skilled small gang and even solo pilots out there who are able to operate reasonably effectively even under the shadow of large fleet warfare, but I think its safe to say these are in the minority.  Ultimately the experience of warfare in EVE becomes something of a 2 dimensional one; with sufficient allies online you can fleet up and go and play the game, if not (and we have surely all experienced this) we end up sitting in a station spinning our ships.

Now I know you’re probably already mouthing ‘use a scout Cail!’ and you’d be right there, scouting is and should be, a key aspect of EVE Online.  Even if you personally aren’t scouting forward with a alt EVE is an MMO and the more successful corporations and alliances will have a network of scouts,  spies and lookouts reporting back through a coordinated intel channel.

However when we look at large fleets we still have to ask what’s the disadvantage is of using one?  Or rather what is the advantage of using a 5 man gang over say a 500 man gang? I’d like to say that a 5 man gang is less likely to be noticed, that – by using a small team you could sneak in and get that guerilla war under way.  That’s true at least to an extent, and certainly more so by using Black Ops ships, but it isn’t the whole solution and with the threat of the ever present ‘hot drop’ you’re just as likely to get reported in an intel channel as you are if there where 500 of you.

Each time I see a large 100+ fleet enter the local channel, or appear looming in front of me as I emerge from a gate I’m always left with a slight disconnect.  Here I am, apparently flying the most sophisticated starship ISK can buy, able to communicate across countless light years or trade throughout an entire region without so much as lighting an afterburner – and yet I didn’t, couldn’t, see that fleet of 100+ Battleships thunder towards me?

In terms of the history of warfare small specialist teams have always had a role to play because, unlike massed armies, they didn’t give the game away by the inescapable noise of their approach.  In pretty much every other respect they’re a poor choice to a commander but they have always been deemed a critical element of any force structure because they were mobile  – and mobile in terms of not being easily noticed.

One of the “Principles of Warfare” is the element of surprise.   Now, if I amassed 200 heavy battle tanks 5 miles from your trench the chances of me surprising you are pretty limited.  You’d hear the engine noise, you’d see the plumes of smoke and dust even if you couldn’t see the tanks themselves.  Not so in EVE.

Of course real life analogies with EVE rarely work well on all levels but lets allow our imaginations to drift a little hear and hypothesise how ‘noisy fleets’ might alter the tactical choices made by today’s fleet commander:

In this example our players UI has a ‘Long Range Radar’ which displays out to a range of 1 light year a players immediate surroundings (replete with system and system links).  Whenever a gate of a given system starts firing over a certain frequency (gate used per minute) it flares up on the long range radar.  Let’s set the frequency fairly high – say 20 jumps per minute.  Double and triple that value and the ‘intensity’ of that flare goes up.

Now it should be fairly easy to watch a large fleet pass through various systems as each star system on our long range radar ‘flares up’ in turn. Notice that by moving slowly or in small packets a large fleet could still conceivably move without triggering our Long Range Radar.  Smaller fleets and gangs of course would not be so similarly effected although they could potentially mimic a large fleet by warping through the same gate multiple times – a deception if you will.  In theory smaller fleets could evade large fleets, manoeuvring around them or just going to ground whilst large fleets would continue to be able to slug it out with each other.

Maybe 🙂

C.

The Inquisition

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2010 by cailais

“We interrupt this broadcast for a public service announcement…”

Well it’s exciting times for ‘the hydrostatic capsule’ with the welcome news (for my many debtors) that this blog was amongst the winners of Crazy Kinux’s contest over at ‘CrazyKinux’s Musing‘ on Planetary Interaction.  I could enter now into a long winded acceptance speech thanking various member of my family, friends, corporation and so forth but I wont – instead let me direct you straight away to my fellow bloggers sharing the podium:

keithneilson.co.uk – “Thus always to Tyrants”.  Quite why Mandrill isn’t in the “Blog Pack” I dont know, but what I do know is his post are always informative and so is his entry here.  That and he bagged the best title!

Eve Illectrocuted – “It’s not just about the planets you know”.  Illectro’s post has some great detail in as well as some useful insights into how PI will effect the denizens of EVE, but Illectro goes that yard further by looking at other changes Tyrannis will bring such as the fixes to insurance fraud.

.5 or higher – “Abyssus in Terra”.  David E Talvoces breaths life into the future of PI with his fictional work here, balancing the rabid enthusiasm of Dr Amiel the scientist with the despair of an unknown soldier who suffers the eventual war PI brings.  A great short story in the EVE tradition.

costolle-mac.com KailJoric also entered the fray with a short piece of fiction. Many pirates have leaped with glee at the thought of ganking industrials orbiting planets and KailJoric’s wry observation that pirates are also hunted to brought a smile to my face.

Those lucky few shared the PLEX prize pool, but don’t be fooled into thinking there weren’t other great posts – there are plenty more great blogs which can be found on Crazy Kinux’s site here, so get on over there and read just a few!

Galileo facing the ‘Roman Inquistion’

One such announcement would have been enough but ‘the hydrostatic capsule’ has also had the good fortune to get picked randomly from the pile to join CK and the crew on The Drone Bay Podcast and join them in interrogating *cough* sorry interviewing a CCP Dev.  That’s probably too much luck for one capsuleer, but don’t worry I’ll almost certainly get ganked on a gate in the near future which will redress the balance of the universe….

I would imagine that, given half the chance, most EVE Online players could pin a Dev to a bar for a good few hours with an exhaustive list of questions, so you might be wondering what’s on my list to ask?  Well first and foremost I think it’s worth acknowledging that no one single Dev works on ‘all of EVE’ so my questions will be based really on who the poor victim is.  Secondly it’s not my podcast, so if Crovan, CK, Al and Maeve have got the show themed around ‘Veldspar – is it good for your skin?’ I will have to go along with that…

All that said this blog is about the future of EVE so I can be pretty sure that’s where my line of thought will be going.  If you’re after someone to strap a Dev to a wrack and demand answers to the lacklustre performance of blasters, or why ship “X” should have 22 high slots  then sorry I may well disappoint you there.

If you have got a burning question that’s gnawing on your soul regarding EVE then by all means drop a comment in here and I will try and squeeze it in.

That’s all for this post (I’ll get back to editing the original post that was going here) – my thanks to CK for running a great comp 🙂

C.

jonathandelf@me.com

The Drone Bay…..its BACK!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2010 by cailais

Exciting news capsuleers – Crazy Kinux, Crovan and Alsedrech are coming back to the Pod casting scene with their ozom Drone Bay Pod Cast.  If you’ve never listened to the show you really should tune in as its always jam packed full of useful info, insightful comments and general banter.  Good times 🙂

“Recorded late last night, the 25th episode of  The Drone Bay marks our return to the EVE Online podcast scene. Better yet, not only are@Crovan@Alsedrech and I (@CrazyKinux) back together, but we’re now privileged to have a new co-host, none other than Blog Pack member@MaeveTrinity from a Wench with a Wrench blog.

Crovan will be working on editing the podcast over the next 2 days, and we’re hoping to have it out by mid-day Saturday! I’ll have the full show notes available by then, with the links to what we’ve discussed during the show!”

C.

Tyranny in Tyrannis

Posted in Uncategorized on April 7, 2010 by cailais

We have learned now that we cannot regard this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding place for Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space.” HG Wells, War of the Worlds

For some time I have been mulling over what the current incarnation of Planetary Interaction holds for us.  In some respects I must hold my hand up and say I am a little, well disappointed, in what I see.  Sure, there is plenty of fine level detail in terms of Industry to delve into.  Routing networks, extracting materials, processing and constructing, and hurling your finished product into space on the back of a booster rocket.

What is missing for me is the sense of conquest, a sense of building a society.  I cant think I am alone in this view, brought up as I have been on such games as Risk, Axis & Allies or Sid Meir’s Civilisation series.  Why have the Devs neglected this – it seems such a crucial consideration for anything ‘planety’ (that’s not a real word, I just made it up 🙂 ).  Whilst chewing this over in my head I was reminded of that other management game, Sim City.  You may recall carefully laying out your infrastructure, electricity, pipelines for water and so forth.  Often it made sense to do this first, before you even started dropping asphalt all over the place. And then that’s when it hit me.

PI, in its current format, is those ‘utilities’ – it’s the guts and veins of PI: in short its the bottom layer.  So what will go over this? What would be the second layer?

We have already seen perhaps a small glimpse of the possible in the hexagonal layer that lies across the surface of each planet (although not currently visible in the most recent build on SISI).  My feeling is, is that it is his hexagonal tiling that will determine ‘ownership’ over a planets surface.  I use the term ‘ownership’ with caution however – influence may be a better term.  I can certainly envisage a system where by you can build your network of industry well, pretty much anywhere, but the successive layer over that will determine how efficient it is.

If the hexagon your industry passes through, or exists within is your own, all well and good – however, if it does not then we could expect the efficiency of that network to suffer as a result. Perhaps links and routes will be taxed? Or will the workers in your extraction plant actually have their loyalty “politically” with whom ever controls the upper layer of PI? These influence zones I expect will be dictated by placing additional structures onto them – habitats, communication towers, governing buildings that sort of thing.  These in turn will require an upkeep (no doubt PI resources) to maintain, and may potentially be upgradeable.

Ultimately these ‘zones’ will contest with other zones held by other players and – voilà: we have the structure in place to enable DUST 514.

So, we are watching now the plumbing going in, and of course in the process seeing ourselves invest into that – become reliant upon it.  But before you rub your hands in glee at the thought of all that carefree AFK ISK……