Archive for the Uncategorized Category

nullsecworkings

Posted in EVE Online, Uncategorized on August 23, 2011 by cailais

CCPs expansive dev blog regarding null sec has more than enough topics that I could cover here from intelligence gathering to industry.  However I want to start ‘at the top’ so to speak with the mechanics of Sovereignty, the ideas of ‘small holdings’ and concept of ‘home’.

Sovereignty, as it currently exists, is a flag mechanic: you place a flag (claiming ownership) and defend it.  This is a concept that at its very core is not inclusive – it does not persuade or encourage others not directly part of your tribe (or alliance) to participate, support or interact with your area of space in anything other than an aggressive manner.  In short there is no space for the ‘neutral’ player – the trader or industrialist or explorer.

Sovereignty though implies a status of ‘ruling’ and by doing so enforcing your will.  This is most commonly recognised as applying the Rule of Law; a series of conditions that ‘neutrals’ must abide by to remain in your area of dominion.  Break those laws and the Sovereign power (the “Rulers”) can apply a series of punishments.  Do that currently in EVE is rather difficult.  How does say a small Empire corp, transparently and swiftly, get permission from an Alliance to enter their space perhaps for only a brief period of time? How does that Alliance then police said corps stay within their space, again transparently and swiftly?

My suggestion would be that CCP develops tools that better allow both ‘neutrals’ and Null Sec Alliances to more transparently and swiftly ‘communicate’ with one another.  Laws – or a system of conditions – might allow this. Allow me to provide an example:

SMALL Corp wants to establish a minor base of operations (a small holding) in Null Sec. It finds that its preferred location is controlled by HUGE Alliance, so SMALL Corps CEO opens a UI window through HUGE Alliances Description, through this UI SMALLs CEO can see the “conditions” (or Laws) that HUGE requires in order for SMALL to be granted ‘blue’ status by HUGE Alliance. An example of these conditions might be –

1. SmallHoldings cannot be established in the following systems X, Y Z

2. Expulsion / Excommunication from Vassal status is caused by: destruction of Alliance vessels

3. Vassals contribute 2% tax on NPC kills to HUGE Alliance

and so on and so forth.

SMALL Corps CEO agrees with the conditions (Laws), ticks a box and voila – his corp is now a vassal of HUGE Alliance.  This vassal status contributes to HUGE Alliances influence index in the systems they currently occupy. Now here comes the interesting bit: HUGE Alliances ‘sovereignty’ of a system is determined by the number of Vassal /Alliance Corps who have ‘small holdings’ in it.  Further more, as HUGE Alliance gains Vassal Corps they unlock more ‘conditions’ (Laws) which they can apply. For example gaining SMALL Corp means that HUGE Alliance unlocks access to a new condition tree:

4. Expulsion / Excommunication from Vassal status is caused by: destruction of Alliance vessels, moving Battleships into system DFG-12.

Such a system would allow Alliances to conveniently set the conditions for their own space – conditions could include docking rights, transit, trade, who can be engaged (only war targets, only neutrals etc) and allow current and potential ‘vassals’ to transparently see those conditions.  Such a series of mechanics open up powerful options, perhaps allowing Alliances to exclude certain corporations from certain conditions (i.e you could petition an Alliance for preferential treatment).

Through such a process Alliances could conceivably describe the type of Null Sec space they have dominion over – perhaps your alliance is content to see vasals fight each other? A pvp utopia? Or encourage traders? Or explorers?

What’s interesting about this approach is that Alliance who exert to restrictive controls over their vassal subjects could be subject to losing those vassals to competitor alliances, or suffer uprisings? By enabling a automated process removes the burden from Alliances of attempting to communicate with numerous known ‘pets’ and a multitude of unknown potential subjects.

Before we conclude here consider this: perhaps my corp is interested in exploring in your alliances space.  How do we contact you? How do we know you operate a NBSI policy? Or a NRDS policy? Do you welcome explorers? Who would we speak to? How long would it take to get a reply? How can you be sure that we will stay out of that critical system in your area? How will you monitor us to ensure we don’t pop those miners that moved in last week?

So how does all this relate to a sense of ‘home’? Well if ‘home’ is where we place ourselves, the environment around us describes that sense of place? Well to a degree its the ‘conditions’ applied.  Is your sector of null sec an area renowned as being a sector of free trade? Smuggling of contraband (restricted by an alliance)? A near lawless area where the sovereign alliance actively encourages conflict? To my mind ‘home’ is not simply your house and its furnishings but the locale in which it exists, your local bar, the shops, the neighbourhood and the people that live there.  It’s an ephemeral idea to grasp and define but if we start anywhere it should be with the community in which we call ‘home’ and the relationships within that community – ‘sovereignty’ can help to define that.

C.

Triumvirs

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2011 by cailais

I’m going to talk about Captains Quarters (CQ) and CSM6. Bear with me, the two are not unrelated.

CQ, the first iteration of Incarna has come under some criticism for straying from EVE’s well trodden path of ‘internet spaceships’.  Many wonder what purpose it can serve in the game – a seemingly pointless pile of eye candy.  For EVEs current players there’s some truth in that, but that’s not the rationale behind CQ or Incarna.  CQ are for the new player; it will be the gate, or decorated archway through which a player transitions from reality into the world of New Eden. Ever noticed that? How many games, notably MMOs, have you enter into a game through a transition? MMOs are much like stories, and as many writers will tend you, in order draw your reader through a story your lead characters must likewise move through ‘door ways’ from Act to Act. The characters of fiction are pushed through these doors – from their normal hum drum (and boring) lives into life changing and often life threatening events.

So it is with the Captains Quarters.

EVE, despite its moments of brilliance, is in player terms something of a leaky bucket.  New players join but, all to often, fall off its vertical learning curve.  You can view this quite nicely at the moment by reviewing the old topics from the EVE Online Forum and noticing how few avatars have updated pictures: those are the departed players of EVE.  Most new players quit within the first six months and its small wonder as they struggle through the complexities of this amazing but manual free game. CQ aims to smooth that process whilst still instilling that sense of amazement.  Perhaps, like me, you can recall undocking in EVE – thinking ‘hey space is pretty big…’, only to open the universe map with a ‘holy crap this game is massive.’ Consider that from the perspective of a new player who goes from their CQ, to their hangar view, to a system and then to the universe map.  The word ‘depth’ probably doesn’t do it justice.

Appreciating how a new player might view EVE is difficult for both developers and players – which brings me rather nicely to the CSM. The CSM is hailed as being a collective of experienced vets who know what’s best for EVEs future. Or do they? Despite vast experience, perhaps of Alliance Warfare,null sec politics, or market manipulation these veterans of EVE are quite possibly the least qualified to speak of a new players experience or aspirations. Much has been made of the usurpation of CSM6 by the power block of Goon Swarm, led by The Mittani….

Some have decried the methods used by this Null Sec power block, and fear the repercussions for EVE should the ‘bees’ choose to bring the whole edifice crashing down. Whilst there might be a risk that the legitimacy of CSM6 is spoilt by the Triumvirate of The Mittani, Seleene and Meissa Anunthiel (other observers discount the other candidates as little more than The Mittani’s hench men) its worth remembering that the CSM really only works as a sustained pressure over time on EVEs development – instead of a sudden shock; tidal forces rather than tidal waves.  Those who hope for instant results are likely to be disappointed.  What will be unfortunate is that if the Triumvirs don’t get a quick impact they will want to “expose” the CSM as an irrelevant sham – which is rather to miss the point entirely.

There’s little doubt that this CSM6 will produce not a small amount of drama and controversy (the nectar that all bees love) and some will get caught up in that but I would personally caution about getting that wrapped up in the detail.  Because, as the empty avatar pictures of EVE show time moves on and players move on.  This is just one CSM amongst many, just a handful of players amongst thousands.  In the not too distant future new players will be emerging into their Captains Quarters, blinking in the bright lights and marvelling at the universe beyond and by then the Triumvirate of CSM6 will be a short and largely forgotten footnote in EVEs history.

C.

At my signal….

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2010 by cailais

Cassius: On this day, we reach back to hallowed antiquity, to bring you a recreation of the second fall of the mighty Carthage!… On the barren plain of Zama, there stood the invincible armies of the barbarian Hannibal. Ferocious mercenaires and warriors from all brute nations, bent on merciless destruction, conquest. Your emperor is pleased to give you the barbarian horde!
[Crowd cheers] – Gladiator

CCPs latest dev blog announces the spectacle that is the next Alliance Tournament and I for one am looking forward to it.  The Alliance Tournament is a remarkable event in the EVE Online Calender,  and I cant help shake the impression of the gladiatorial arena of ancient Rome.  Then, as now, the drama of the event is as much about the personalities, the scandals and the ‘savagery’ as it is about the ultimate winner.

Many of us will be salivating over watching multi billion ISK ships go ‘boom’ in an environment where there’s no Hot Drop coming in to help you out, no running to a POS shield or docking in a station: in many ways the Alliance Tournament harks back to an older, more basic but more brutal EVE.

There will be the inevitable posts with the “new idea” of adding arenas to TQ, and for a brief moment CCP had actually gone partially down that path – but these will be drowned out because whilst the Tournament is an ‘Event’ it would be so much diminished if it was copied across TQ just as TQ would become little more than a glorified waiting room for “PVP Zones” .

Not all the matches will be great, or even mildly watch able. Some of the commentators will likely drive many of us to distraction and there will be the usual, slightly uncomfortable sensation  of watching a handful of players desperately trying to be “punters on TV” whilst at the same time trying not to appear total muppets.

For me, well the great thing is a chance to catch the matches during breaks at work or to  just sit down with  a coffee (or beer) in the evening and watch a few laser beams burn up the night sky.

Are you not entertained? 😉

C.

Designing Features

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 by cailais

Alongside my usual speculative ramblings I’ve decided to embark upon a little project:  Through the medium of this blog I will be designing a EVE Online game play feature.

Now I have always been fascinated by the idea at least of designing games, even as a youngster I would sit for hours scribbling down rules and concepts for board games that didn’t exist.  But just how difficult is it to come up with a new and unique feature for EVE?  I hope to find out.

First off I should point out there are some ‘minor’ limitations to this experiment.  To start with I’m no programmer, nor do I have any prior experience within the PC games development industry – so perhaps I should qualify this little venture to the realm of imagination rather than what is practically possible.

I have also chosen to apply a few fundamental ground rules for my proposed feature, to help channel it’s direction and prevent me from disappearing down too many rabbit holes.  I’ll list these here:

1. It should be a feature that is easily accessible regardless of how long a player has played EVE for, or where they are in the universe.

2. It should be scalable – so you can tinker with it on the surface, or delve into more complex elements.

3. It should be in keeping with the EVE Universe – dark, gritty and suitably “sci-fi”.

Where possible I will try and include relevant flow charts, data, diagrams and images – again I’m no artist so these may be way of what you would call ‘rather basic’.  I expect any data values (ISK cost, time, associated skill levels etc etc) to be rather rudimentary at least initially but I’ll try and make them as ‘balanced’ as possible.

Anyway, off to the notebook and lets see where my concept is going…a rough list of ideas:

Diplomacy Interface – Ability to establish formalised treaties, trade embargoes, sanctions and limited wars (or peace treaties). Pros – could be a nice addition for the otherwise vagueness of pacts and agreements between corps etc. Cons – really only practical at corp or alliance level, which conflicts with Rule # 1.

Population Management & Planetary Governance – set up your own governmental structures on a planet to control and coerce your NPC minions. Pros – something I think is missing from PI and would allow players to interact with Planets on a ‘non – industrial’ scale.  Cons – PI is pretty new and we dont know all of the ramifications of it yet, could be an expansion to soon.

Interbus – moving stuff by ‘magic’! Pros – likely to be of use to all. Cons – could disproportionally effect haulers and traders across eve? To high sec centric? Could be at odds with Rule # 1?

Smuggling & Bounty Hunting Ver 2.0 – Pros – a bit of a hobby horse for me, often lamented by players as a weak area of EVE. Cons – already ‘done to death’ by others on the forums??

Stores Fronts – run your own shop in EVE? Retail is something of a mixed bag in EVE, could we make it more personalised? Pros – almost existed at one point so definitely on CCPs radar. Cons – database issues abound, dropped by CCP for good reason?

Hmm.  A pretty wide ranging heap of stuff there.  I’m leaning towards either the ‘Store Fronts’ idea, or ‘Smuggling & Bounty Hunting Ver 2.0’.

Perhaps I’ll just toss a coin….

Death of a Thousand Cuts

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2010 by cailais

Over at Letrange’s Eve Blog Letrange has been giving a great commentary on some of the more detailed ‘nut and bolts’ of Planetary Interaction (PI) from an industrial perspective.  Quite rightly he has pointed out that all star base and sovereignty structures from POS’s to tower guns will be manufactured substantially from PI materials.

Letrange of course is coming at this subject predominantly as an industrialist, and whilst he recognises the implications of this facet of PI (i.e to build a POS you’ll need “Planet Goo”) I don’t think he has quite gone far enough.  You see if you just take a few more steps down this path there is the obvious conclusion:

“To build sov structures you will need ‘Planet Goo’, there fore to gain sov I need to control planets”

Which then leads on to the more subtle implication:

If you disrupt the supply of ‘Planet Goo’ you can starve an alliance of Sov structures and erase its physical presence on the battlefield.

Now Im sure many of you reading this will think that little will change –  isn’t Planet Goo not just the same as any other resource that will be farmed in High Sec and jumped out to Null Sec? Well not quite.  We know that the more players ‘sharing’ the resources of a planet the less they will be able to draw from it.  This means that High Sec planets, and to an extent Low Sec planets, will be fairly inefficient to operate and run.  Null Sec Alliances therefore will be best served by acquiring there own ‘Planet Goo’ locally from planets in their own areas of influence.

These operations of course have the potential to be interdicted and disrupted through small gang warfare.  Admittedly that will not be a straight forward affair – after all blockade runners are tricky ships to catch and will be the most common vessel used to collect Planet Goo and ship it to the requisite manufacturing centres (either Stations or POS’s).  But they can, and will be caught and destroyed.

This quite possibly could herald a significant shift in tactical choices available to an invading force.  Currently removing an opponents POS or destroying a sentry gun or two is of no real significance.  The materials to replace these are readily available from the stable high sec NPC market. But they wont be in future.  Wars across the surface of EVE will radically shift the base price of the materials  being used to manufacture sov structures as demand for them increases.  Wars will also hinder and hamper the efforts of Null Sec dwellers in those regions to harvest and collect Planet Goo, causing a slight be crucial slump in supply.

What are the strategic ramifications of this?  Well its entirely plausible that many Null Sec Alliances could die a ‘slow death of a thousand cuts’ if they are prevented from easily scooping up their own Planet Goo to replace structures lost after larger battles.

That’s a radical shift from the current style of warfare which predominantly relies upon smashing an defenders structures with overwhelming force for the ‘quick win’ and a battle of attrition.

Of course as Letrange points out most, if not all, of the major players will be stock piling vast reserves of sov infrastructure and material, so dont expect an overnight shift but in the longer term (perhaps and most enticingly around the time when DUST514 arrives)  we can expect these reserves to be under pressure if not entirely depleted.

The first wars of PI and DUST514 are a way of yet, but when they arrive we can expect them to be amongst the most savage and most brutal EVE has ever seen.

C.

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.

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.