Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Wonder How Many WOW Players Are Also Olympic Medal Winners?

Kjetil Jansrud won silver in the mens Giant Slalom at the winter Olympics, he's also an Eve player under the name Nthraller, a member of Morsus Mihi at least according to this thread congratulating the athlete on his achievment. If you see him in the game he's also got a 95million isk bounty on his pod, and no doubt likes flying very fast.

All Roads Lead To Jita

Jita Planet 4, Moon 4, Caldari Navy Assembly Plant to be precise. Jita has become the most important, populous and active system in the game, and it's not something that the developers created or designed it has emerged as a trade hub all due to players actions.

The Latest Economic report from Dr. Eyj├│lfur "Eyjo" Gu├░mundsson confirms that The Forge as a region now handles over 50% of all the trade in New Eden, all the other regions combined is less than in Jita. As a capsuleer in Eve you will most likely find yourself visiting there, or at the very least asking someone to go there for you if Concord or the Caldari State have taken a dislike to you.

Back in the early days of Eve the system of Yulai sat at the centre of the network of the network of 'superhighway' gates that could be used as shortcuts across the universe. As such for a time it was the most convenient place for trade and Yulai was the center of everything, so much that the system got too busy and CCP felt that the load on this one system was too much for their servers to handle. And so in the Cold War release the superhighway gates were removed and the regional trade hubs of Jita, Amarr, Dodixie and Rens began to take over.

Of course, the developers didn't solve the server load problem, they merely relocated it to a new hub, further developer work on the server load problem would concentrate on reducing the load and coping with it better rather than trying to break up these self organizing hubs. Gates have been added around Jita and the route plotting options gained the ability to avoid certain system, with Jita as a default. All the asteroid belts were removed, all the agents travelled to new homes and no agents will ever send you into Jita on some mission. The hardware people at CCP bought the biggest baddest server they could find, shoehorned as much RAM as they could into its case and then forced it to work 23/7 supporting the most vital system in New Eden. And on top of this there's been continual incremental improvements to make the game code more efficient.

So today, I hear that there's a hard limit of 1400 pilots allowed in Jita, after that people start having to wait at the gates for other people to leave. However we know from experience that it is possible to stuff more pilots into systems without the game crashing, but the results aren't exactly pretty. During the battle for D-GMTI over 1600 pilots were in the system fighting for control of the station, CCP developers were in the system too, observing the back end and no doubt massaging the code to keep things alive.

Jita is important to players as a trade hub, but it's also important to developers as it gives them a place to really examine how the system behaves under stress, even if you never go to Jita you're seeing the effects all through the Eve universe.

What's The Meaning of the System Info?

If you look in the top right of your screen you'll see information about the system you're currently in -
Nearest: Tells you what celestial body you're closest to in the system, planets are designated by roman numerals and moons are designated by plain old arabic numbers. So for example the trade hub of the galaxy is the Caldari Navy Assembly Plant in orbit around Jita IV - Moon 4. Similarly asteroid belts orbit planets so you might be mining in 'Altrinur X - Asteroid Belt 3'. A few planets in the game have names hand picked, these don't follow the regular naming convention. Some special celestial beacons will have names that appear here too.
Name: System names generally come from CCP's random system name generator with a few special cases that are added by hand - Jita, Rens, Hek are random names. Amarr, Luminaire, Old Man Star are from the game designers. Once you get into 0.0 space the names turn into random alphanumeric strings like 'HED-GP', 'D-GTMI' & '49-U6U'. All systems in wormhole space are named starting with the letter J, followed by 6 digits - e.g. J145452
Constellation: Constellation names refer to a small group of systems, the naming conventions are the same as systems with most appearing to be randomly generated. Constellations don't really matter too much right now, but in the pre-Dominion days it was important to player alliances to control whole constellations for better sovreignty claims.
Region: Regions on the most part have human readable names, even in the deepest drone regions where machine intelligence rules the names are poetic like 'Cobalt Edge' and 'Outer Passage'. Regions are hugely important to game mechanics, markets are split along regions and you can only see buy/sell offers in the region you're in. Each region generally has one NPC faction in control and one Pirate faction appearing in asteroid belts and exploration sites.
Security Level: Every system has a security level from -1.0 to 1.0, however this level is only displayed if it's >0.0, but if you look in the database dumps you can find the true security status. Higher security levels generally mean safer systems for law abiding citizens, and more threats for pirates, or enemies of the authorities who control the region.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You are not your ship

One thing I've noticed is that many new players come to eve with the perception that their entire game life is going to revolve around one ship, one ship which will be tweaked and honed until it's perfect, everything they have is embodied in that one vessel and therefore all their resources should go into it.

This misconception is a bad idea, you should have a small fleet of ships at your disposal each tuned towards one purpose. A pilot flying missions for corporations will have a primary combat ship for dealing with the missions, a dedicated salvage ship for clearing the loot from the battlefield, an industrial ship with a large cargo hold for moving the loot to a market hub for selling. Industrialists will have small, fast shuttles for moving blueprints about, and larger ships for moving materials and perhaps a dedicated mining vessel for harvesting the materials needed. PVP pilots will have a whole hangar full of ships for different purposes - tacklers, snipers, covert ops - and spares for when they lose them.

Being too focussed on one ship is a bad idea, because it's very likely that one day you might lose it, and if you've poured every penny into it then you'll have very little to fall back on. Every day there's players who profess that they're going to quit because they just lost their prized ship, and while it sucks it's a fact of life in the game. Myself I've lost over a billion isk in ships, and I keep coming back, frequently I come back in time to lose another ship to the same enemies.

There's a saying "Don't Fly What You Can't Afford To Lose" - ignore this advice at your own peril.

But, more insidious is the fact that pilots get so attached to their ships early on in the game that they become very risk averse, they carry with them the fear of the dangers in low-sec and 0.0 and choose to remain in hi-sec under the limited protection of Concord.

The new Advanced Combat tutorials introduced in Dominion have a couple of missions where you cannot complete the missions unless you lose your ship, best of all they give you some ships for these very tasks - be sure to insure them for some extra cash :)

What's in a pod?

The pod (AKA Capsule) is a technology created by the mysterious Jovians which is essentially a miniature spacecraft with just enough room for a single occupant who floats inside a bath of fluid and connects to the pod via direct neural interface. This pod can then plug itself into larger ships and enable the pod pilot to command the ship with vastly greater efficiency. The same neural interface also includes the ability to rapidly scan the pilot's brain and upload this to a new clone body in the event that they capsule is destroyed. By the time your corpse spills into the deadly vacuum of space your mind has been transferred to a new healthy body, possibly light years away. Only the best get a chance to become a 'pod pilot', 'capsuleer' or 'egger' and in Eve you are one of the lucky few.

Pods are awesome because
  • They're little Jovian ships, Jovian tech is centuries ahead of everyone else.
  • They're the most agile ship in Eve so they can get into warp faster than anything else.
  • They have a really small signature radius which makes them hard to lock and probe.
  • NPC's won't attack your pod, so you can loiter around near scary sleeper ships.
Pods suck because
  • They're weak and can be killed if an enemy sneezes in your general direction
  • They relatively slow (~200m/s)
  • They have no room for cargo, or places to fit modules.
  • There's no second chances with a pod, if you get killed then it's clone time again.
Things that a pod is good for:
a) GTFO when your ship blows up, if you're just been killed by a player they'll want to kill your pod next, when your ship goes out of control find any random moon/planet/gate/station and hit the warp button repeatedly so that you don't hang around long enough to become a frozen corpse. The only way to catch a pod is with warp disruption bubbles in 0.0 or with smartbombs.
b) Travelling to another station to pick up a new ship.

Beware The Yellow Cans (and Wrecks)

It's pretty common to launch from the starter stations to see cargo cans floating in space labelled 'Free Ammo' - take a look at their colour on the overview, if they're yellow then they're a trap. If you pick up anything from a can which is yellow then it's considered 'stealing' from the can's owner, as such Law Enforcement gives the owner, and possibly everyone in his corporation, the right to shoot the thief without interference. As such, PVP noobs will place these bait cannisters in space and hope that some clueless noob 'steals' from them, so that they can shoot the perpetrator and get a kill. Just in case you're unsure, eve will warn you when you're trying to take something that belongs to another player.

If the cans are Blue or White then it's ok to take things from them without being branded as a thief.

The Mythical Eve Learning Curve

This image has been posted all over the web, primarily as a joke among eve players, but it also discourages some would be players who don't even get as far as the game. If you tell people a game is complicated they believe it and when they run into problems they give up more easily because they think it's due to game complexity.

The truth is it's not so much complicated as deep, but the other side of this is that it's an 80:20 proposition - 20% of the learning gets you 80% of the benefit. In Eve you never really stop learning new tricks, and at any point on the learning curve you're able to function quite effectively in the universe. Furthermore, those people that are sitting up on the top of that cliff are usually quite happy to help you out, although they might blow up your ship first to prove a point.

My kids play the game, but they don't take in the entire vista of Eve mechanics, they mainly concern themselves with flying a spaceship and shooting things. Fitting the ship, buying the parts and training the skills are left to me, and if you look at eve discussion forums you'll find plenty of other players sharing this information and doing all the complicated number crunching for you.

Character Creation

Don't sweat character creation, it doesn't matter what you do, everyone in the game starts out in roughly the same way, there's no way to get an appreciable advantage over other noobs by carefully navigating the character creation system.

You get to pick
  1. Your Race - which determines what kind of ships and weapons you start out with.
  2. Your Bloodline - which determines what your character portrait looks like
  3. Your Background - which changes your starting system and corporation
  4. Your Name - Which might get respect / lols / changedbyGM depending what you use.
The only one that has any real difference is your race, your race will change what kind of 'rookie' ship you're given whenever you need one, and it will change the gunnery skill and spaceship skill you start out with. If you change your mind and want to fly another race's ships then it'll take a few hours to train to the same level.

So, character creation doesn't commit you to anything other than a name, a face and a certain kind of free ship every time you need one. So, pick your starting character based on the face and racial history, because you can't change that, and pick a good name, because you can't change that either.

Absolute Beginners - Trial Accounts

Eve has a trial account program which lets you play the game for free for a limited time, if you like it you can upgrade to a full account when your time is up. Standard trials are 14 days long, but if you know someone who already plays you can ask them for a referral through the buddy program and you'll get a 21 day trial instead (if you ask me nicely I might give you a referral).

During a trial your account has a few small limitations:
  • Can only train skills for Frigates, Destroyers and Cruisers.
  • Can't send money to other players
  • Trials can use the market, but they can't use contracts.
  • Will Not Be offered missions more difficult than level 2
Those are the main limitations that might affect new players, but if you hit those limits then it's time to consider getting a full account.

What Is Eve Online?

Eve Online is an MMO where you fly spaceships, it's been running since 2003 and has over 300,000 players who all play in the same universe - fighting, building, mining, trading, scamming and building empires. As a player there's no real limitations on how you play the game, there's no 'classes' that dictate your abilities, every ship in the game is available to a pilot who dedicates the training time to get the skills and the in game resources, usually in the form of cold hard cash, to acquiring the ship.

As of right now, your ships are your only avatar to the world, you can't get out and walk around just yet, even though this feature has been promised soon(tm).

However that's one of the few things you can't do. Eve is a big universe and it's full of things to waste your time on.

Eve Rookie -

So having played Eve Online for a couple of years I found my kids had got interested in flying internet spaceships, and I foolishly created an 'alt' account, partly so they could play, and partly because I was going to need a second account for some of my future plans. Now with a new account I got dropped back into the rookie channels and very quickly I realised that while it's nice to have 2 years of in game skills, it's equally refreshing to have 2 years of in game experience and share it with the rookies who're learning the game. And so, with that In mind I'm hoping to start writing about all the fun stuff you can do in Eve, and why you shouldn't be intimidated by the naysayers who say it's too hard, or that you can't compete because of the skill training system leaving you perpetually playing catchup. If I can teach a 4 year old kid to fly a ship then you can do it too.