Low Sec Update II


Please let me apologize in advance for not having much content to update with over the past couple days. For one thing, I don’t have any time to write on weekends, so there will never be Saturday or Sunday posts.

Regardless, lots of playing means less blogging naturally. On that front, I spent most of my weekend trying the PVP elements of the game. I did a pretty long roam on Saturday that ended up being incredibly instructive in terms of learning the fundamentals of traveling as a fleet, fleet combat, and intel.

Despite the fact that I enjoyed myself, keeping safe in low-sec as a fleet is serious business. I wish I could write more and be more specific, but frankly it is one of the first things in EVE that I have experienced where the only thing to really write is “you’ll just have to try it and see for yourself.” A big part of being successful in this game in recognizing that it is very much conflict driven, and the best way to tip conflicts in one’s favor is to travel in a flock.

Now all of that sounds nice, but it brings me to a point about why people who have genuinely bad gaming skills fail at EVE. Your average “casual social” gamer will parrot back to you cliche statements about how “community” is really the important part of MMORPGs. The statement itself may be true, to an extent. But I am convinced that the average person who says it is not right in saying it.

The truth is that I did well in my first low-sec roam. I did well enough that there will definitely be others. More importantly though, it gave me some exposure to fleets, which are really the backbone of that community I talked about. Most games with PVE eventually funnel players into the “community” content: the stuff you can only do in a coordinated team. In EVE, the game is designed so that every activity that occurs outside a spacestation can be improved upon in some way by joining up with others.

To that effect, every time you undock in EVE you are potentially participating in community content–which is kind of a scary thought for the player who is used to mostly soloing. The truth though is that even travelling from point A to point B can be pretty unsafe in hi-sec. Just being connected to other players through voice communication software is enough to drastically reduce those dangers.

The real point of this rather longwinded yarn was to bring up the subject of following directions. The truth about everything I said above is that it is the liberally sugar-coated version of what community participation really is, and why it really isn’t for everyone. The truth is that seasoned MMO players don’t want to play with players who don’t follow instructions well. Actually, the truth is not only that they don’t want to, but they’ll put up a stone wall to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Now there is this void between players who can take and give instructions, and then there is whatever is leftover after that. I am realizing for the first time that the people who are left over are these game companys’ literal wet dream. Ostracized for poor performance and listening skills, the latter really being the most basic skill required for success in anything, these players have little to know recourse within the gaming community itself.

I always thought that these “buy a gold key to unlock the chest of fortuity” games were marketed to people who wanted to save time or “skip to the end.” I’m afraid I can’t agree with that any longer. If anything, it really sounds like a little white lie these folks ginned up. You know why?

Because people who can follow directions, cooperate with others, and demonstrate skillful play are almost universally already in some niche that affords some level of satisfaction. Sure, the definition of that niche may morph from time to time as trends change, but for the most part, there is no need for them to buy something they have already earned. There is nothing in EVE you can buy that can’t somehow be earned. There are, however, many things you can earn that can never be bought.

So while it is tempting to think that all bad players are in a rush, the heart of the matter is really displacement. The bad player isn’t just bad at the game mechanically, he is in the bad niche. He has been castigated from fruitful play, and has available to him only the option to buy illusiory success. This “fake success” is the illusion that makes gold key games so profitable–the notion that currency can correct what is fundamentally a personality deficiency.

Having parsed this all out over the past few paragraphs, I suppose I would sum it all up by saying although nothing particularly exciting happened for me in EVE over the past few days, it was a nice feeling to participate in an activity where success could not be bought. Communication, mutual respect, patience for teaching the new, and a whole lot of careful listening were what won the day.

It’s no wonder so many of these gold key games are now defunct. Losers also lack tenacity.


EVE BB 52 – But Will it Tick?

Unsure of what would become of it, I decided to try my hand at the 52nd installment of EVE Blog Banter, and tackle the following graph of concurrent logins to the tranquility server from the perspective of a rather freshly minted capsuleer.

You can find the full collection of blog banters here.

I’m not sure I’m even on time to the party, but here’s the graph:


Other Publishers’ Problems

While I may not have the most experience as an EVE player or blogger, I am a true believer in the wisdom a fresh perspective can bring.

Having played a cornucopia of bad online games over the past few years has led me to a pretty firm understanding of what is wrong with the majority of these current games. If I had to tease out a single thread, the fundamental problem would be a seemingly unavoidable story line most of these games seem to follow.

That storyline is one where the game slowly travels further and further down the line from crowded servers on release to an eventual loss of interest among veteran players who ultimately quit, and sees the remaining veterans now focused on how to replace lost playerbase by leveraging the game’s existing–and often flawed–infrastructure to support and nurture the repopulation of the game servers.

The problem with this all too common quandary seems to be that once you’ve lost it, you can’t get it back easily—“it”  being people who actually want to play your game. Many new players have tried and failed to ingratiate themselves to the veteran players who are shouting from the rooftops about “low population woes,” and these same new players have failed to find anything more than a rocky perch they could not hold onto for very long. The majorities of both groups will soon get frustrated and quit. This “population death spiral” forms the basis for most of the economic problems major game producers have faced over the past decade.

EVE Is Different

CCP is different though, and so is EVE. Although it might be hard for some to believe, EVE is the exception to the above rule. The graph above shows us that that is the case, because it has plateaued rather than declining. That is to say that as EVE has seen its veteran player population remain stable or decline, it has conversely seen a sharp uptick in new player interest. This is evidenced in the graph I posted of active subscriptions in this post.

I will go so far as to argue that CCP’s design choices actually reflect intentions and willingness on their part to down-regulate the amount of time players spend within the game versus the meta-gaming that goes on outside of it. Skill queues are a good basic example. They demand of the player long term tenacity, which builds subscription base over time, but can also dissuade a player from spending more time within the universe than is necessary ( why play today at Gunnery III, when I could play in a week with Gunnery V? ). In short, skill queues are a simple explanation for how it is possible for EVE to be gaining subscribers, but not increasing total active logins: because mechanistically CCP has allowed the player to advance in absence of being logged in.

Clearly this is an intentional design decision, and one that appears to have been quite successful in maintaining a subscription model I might add. My point being, given the success of this mechanism, could we perhaps assume this is a design approach CCP has embraced elsewhere? For myself, I find this to be the case. Manufacturing, Station Trading, and Planetary Interaction are just three examples of highly rewarding activities that require little time spent logged in.

What Works for One

One thing that was blatantly obvious to me while writing the above two sections is how different the problems of other games were than EVE, and in conjunction with that, how different solutions needed to be in EVE. So I wanted to start at looking at what those other solutions were. As I mentioned, in other competitor titles a big part of a game’s successfulness is the “stickiness” factor for new and old players. It is frequently reasoned that old players leave due to a lack of end-game content, and new players leave due to a faulty new player experience. Producers and developers have responded in kind by making a large part of their focus and subsequent response center around these two issues.

The truth is that EVE is not immune to either of these factors, but it is much more sheltered from them simply because of a design focus that heavily reinforces “sandbox” style gameplay. As far as the new player is concerned, there has never been an easier time in New Eden to simply join the game and start shooting. The opening arc new players are fed through is overly generous. Organizations like Brave Newbies will give you a ship to pilot, a purpose to shoot someone or something, and ultimately encourage getting blown up as an organic part of learning the game.

I am going to file all of the above under the important question of why the simultaneous connections graph hasn’t gone down? Truly, I believe part of this analysis needs to look at the glass half full. CCP has actually done a good job keeping the fire stoked over all these years, considering the natural tendency of a game in this category is to lose players over time. The fact that the game has embraced new players, and added them in swaths really shows that CCP is aware of how vital these infusions are. It supports them with generous trials, retailer partnerships, and regular opportunities for discounts. Their referral program is part of the reason EVE has become one of the darlings of the reddit community.

So why hasn’t the graph ticked up?

I think the simplest answer I can give here is my theory that the “old EVE” is dying at the same rate the “new EVE” is growing. Veteran players don’t really seem to have much new content to show for themselves despite “new and exciting” changes being rolled out. The real end-game content in EVE is gaining and exercising political and monetary influence, and developers can’t due much once that game gets old.  They are logging in less because there is less to log in for, but they continue to pay their subscriptions.

I am however not the expert on veteran players, so I will leave it at a theory and move on. I am however a new player, and predictably one who aspires to all the same things. If there is potential for an uptick, I am that potential. I’ll advance to my next topic, which is to get back to EVE’s fundamental design, and how potentially it is influencing whether or not certain curves tick up or down. I’m framing all of the following in the context of adding new players, and new player contributions to “quality time played.”

I mentioned earlier those concretions we can see in game design choices and overarching philosophy. Other evidence of this intentional design can actually be found when you look at how certain “economic ratios” are employed in the game. These ratios are the mathematical variance in price a player observes when he jumps from one tier (ship or module) to the next. You can see that this is already an integral part of how CCP presents choices to risk averse players. Different tiers of ships and their economic discriminators allow the player to systemically modify their exposure to risk at any point in time.

The brilliant illusion of EVE is that anything you are willing to work for can be taken away. The same however is also true for your enemies. This can either be a fact that lures people to this game, or makes them run the opposite direction. To use faction warfare as an example though, while we would love to believe in the “anything goes” possibilities it presents, the reality is that faction warfare it is a battlefield full of savvy players who carefully balance their risk vs. reward by primarily flying in groups or using smaller inexpensive ships fit in such a way that they can proactively bail out of an engagement before a loss occurs. There are exceptions, but as far as majorities go, this is where the lines have been drawn.

To the uninitiated, EVE is a world where new players are ripe for the picking, and everything a player can earn can be taken. Truly though, New Eden is a world of ship replacement programs. Where “blowing up” is a brave accomplishment even the greenest of newbies can now afford. It’s more likely for a new player to have their dignity taken than to suffer unrecoverable financial destitution. How much dignity does a newbie really have? I don’t believe that the outside world however grasps this concept, and it is precisely the management of this conception in potential players that will determine what direction the line moves next.

Getting Over Our Fear of Fun

If it isn’t obvious yet, I think this line can go up—way up. The main challenges to that I see are all what one might call “PR problems.” For starters, I believe if EVE took the approach of merely “injecting new blood” into the existing PVP climate, that line would actually go down. Existing “elite” PVPers that are already playing other games are  the most fickle and hardest to attract. It is wrong to think that the most efficient means to expanding the EVE playerbase is to go after the people EVE would or could appeal to anyway.

The key is to figuring out how to draw new players into EVE on a superficial level, and get just enough traction there to keep them engaged while the more compelling facets of the universe can grab hold. In other games that “superficial” carrot is PVE, something that simply can’t work in EVE’s favor. For the most part what ultimately resides at the end of the stick for EVE is conflict, but this is where understanding the audience becomes especially important. EVE Online is a product that, to succeed, would need to appeal to a whole generation of gamers who have been indoctrinated into the MMO arena by a decade of ignorance—lackluster cookie-cutter clone games the MMO publishing industry has been shilling since before most young folks can remember. If you exclude EVE, that’s about the length of time since the world has seen a broadly successful full loot nonconsensual pvp title.

I mean it quite literally when I say that these folks have a fear of fun. Really it’s a fear of the unknown. If CCP as a company allows their potential customers to see the activity of hauling their goods out of lawless space as an insurmountable non-starter, then a quintessentially fun and novel challenge becomes bad game design in the mind of that customer.

But it’s not Bad Game Design

The issue is that a near perfect linear relationship between risk and reward IS good game design, and that is the most fundamental design tenet of EVE. It just depends on how you sell it. What this means in EVE terms is that as we travel through the different spheres of CONCORD influence, there are gradients of safety. “Don’t fly what you can’t afford to replace” is the mantra we so frequently repeat because it tugs at our most instinctual sensibility: that anything we have gained can be taken from us anywhere.

Sadly, that does not describe an intrepid journey the millions will clamor for. But it also betrays a truth I have come to know all to well. The foolish have the most to fear, certainly, but the shrewd will prosper. EVE is a game where preparation can equal protection. Safety is in and of itself a resource in this universe. It can be bought, sold, and rented. Fear can be obscured tactically with the likes of the aforementioned ship replacement plan. That mantra is our greatest fear, but to the smart player EVE is always a positive sum game. If you are willing to trade your time, you will find a way to make some proportionate ISK return, and do so in spades.

It is cultivating a new ideology of hope for fun rather than fear of loss that will drive that line north.

I mentioned before the poor player retention that plagues other titles. Perhaps what makes EVE truly unique is the effective two-pronged approach of in game mechanics that compliment the hard work new player organizations like EVE University have already been doing for a long time. If we the players continue to indoctrinate smart pilots into our game, the sky is the limit.

Tagged ,

Minor Planetary Update I


Allow me to apologize in advance for what may end up being a fairly mild update. It looks like I am set to bank another 50M or so ISK after taxes and fees. That means I have effectively sorted out a way to reliably make about 50 million every 3 days with no work besides resetting extractors and minor hauling which does not exceed 1 hour of work.

By no means is this great or even good in EVE terms, but as a new player with less than 3M SP, you have to take what you can get. Still, from my perspective, it is nice to see such a stable source of income rolling in. I plan on starting a short guide to P1 extractor planets in the near future.

One thing I couldn’t help but wondering about in regards to PI. Like many things in EVE, it doesn’t really pay to give your secrets away verbatim. That usually results in direct competition and a worsening of profits. Now that POCO ownership is nearly universally player controlled though, will we see PI guides that direct users to “Go here, Do this” in an effort to drum up additional tax income?

Probably not, because this is really the antithesis of the fronteirsmanship EVE promotes. Still, it was a funny thought.

Tagged ,

Training for the Long Haul


Surprisingly, this is not actually a post about hauling or industry. With EVE University no longer under wardec, I have finished up the last bit of training to get into my first T1 battleship. The basic components that had been holding me back were shortcomings in fitting a T2 tank, fitting large guns, and using the right drones. Despite losing some training time to PI, I shored up my weaknesses in each of these areas, and have advanced to ISIS mastery level 2 for both the Maelstrom and the Rokh.

Obviously I do not currently have the funds to fit either of these ships, but the past few days have been good to me, and I am actually getting very close. One of my earliest goals in the game has been to fly with one of the beginner friendly incursion communities. Since I don’t really know what to expect, it’s going to be a learning experience to say the least. I am happy to see though that the EVE University has a healthy incursion running community. With any luck, incursions will be a way to replace the ship and fitting costs I will encounter shortly, and then give me the opportunity to set longer term training goals.

Though I did not spend much time in the game yesterday aside from resetting my extractors, I hope this weekend will be an opportunity to get some time behind the yolk. I’ve learned enough about what I don’t really like about the game in the past two months, however I haven’t really found my niche when it comes to life outside of the captain’s quarters.

So what does this mean for the long haul? Well as I see it currently, I have built up a very broad albeit shallow set of skills. What this has allowed me to do is sample a bit of everything. Now I am getting to the point though where to expand any additional activities is going to require much longer training that ventures deeply into one specific path. It does not help that the two paths I have in mind are opposite polarities of each other. Anyway, I thought I’d expand a bit on what those are.


As odd as this may sound, cloaking is one of my favorite activities in space. Barring null-sec and its bubbles, which I know nothing about as a freshman Unista, cloaking is just as fun for me pretty much regardless of where I am. Whether I am hauling around goods, which could eventually lead me down the blockade runner path, or exploring low-sec in a frigate, it’s a nice feeling knowing I’m out there, but the things that go bump in the night can’t get me.

With all of that said, I am starting to look at some PVP avenues, and stealth bombing seems like it could be a niche that marries up nicely with my interests. I think I’m going to stick a bookmark here and hopefully come back to it later. For now, that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Incursion Fleets

So here is my problem. This would pretty much the polar opposite of the previous pathway. On the other hand a great source of income, and potentially a way to meet some new players and learn a lot about the game. I am really leaning towards this option as it offers me a lot of opportunity to afford things I’ve wanted to try in the game but haven’t had the ISK for.

The major downside to incursions is of course that it may be difficult to contribute properly to the fleets as a newer player, and the fact that it is basically more PVE blowing up red crosses. I am truthfully not a big fan of the PVE in this game. On the other hand, the cooperative element of it may more than make up for it. Have I mentioned the ISK?

So at least for the short term it sounds like I have a plan:

1)      Exceed basic fitting requirements to start flying incursions with E-UNI

2)      Learn the ropes without getting blown up, and decide whether to train for T2 guns

3)      Try to bank enough ISK to support a multitude of endeavors.

4)      Pay my subscription rather than trying to PLEX my account. It is a game after all.

5)      On a longer time line develop a plan to train into a cloaky frigate


Time in EVE: The Most Precious Resource


I came across this article by Paul Tassi this weekend and had plenty of time to think it over. Overall I agree with his conclusions, and believe he arrived at them justly. I do however think it is such a vast issue that can be attacked from so many angles that there is no single answer as to why a subscription based AAA MMO title can’t succeed in 2014. Actually, I can think of quite a few.

The first thing I hope the readers of this blog have already accepted is that the free-to-play model is dead in the water, at least where AAA titles are concerned. I interpret the following statement from Paul about Star Wars: The Old Republic going free-to-play to mean he agrees:  “instead of being the blockbuster EA needed it to be, it’s a cautionary tale of overestimating your brand.”

1998 was the first full year two members of our household subscribed to Ultima Online, so I will use it as an example. In the 6 months prior I had already spent $100 or more on the game. I now had my brother playing too though, and his box copy of the game plus both of our subscriptions for the year meant we had spent nearly $300 on MMO titles from a single distributor that year.

2013 is a year I spent a lot more on games than usual, but by no means atypical in terms of online games. When I thought about online games I paid for in 2013 I cobbled together a short list. I remembered all those stinkers I had paid for that still stung a bit…Diablo 3, Guild Wars 2, and the latest FFXI expansion–except the problem is that only the last of that batch came out in 2013.

You see as far as MMOs went, I had actually played some pretty terrible ones in both 2012 and 2013. Ragnarok 2 and Anarchy Online to name two of the more pitiful ones from last year. The important thing though was that some hard fought losses in 2012 caused me to be even more cautious with my wallet in 2013. I scoured my carefully organized mint.com account in researching this post, and unfortunately, I didn’t come up with much. This is largely because there wasn’t much there. 2013 wasn’t a compelling year to spend money on something you can literally get for free. Let me caveat that by saying that if the paid games were any better than the free games I might have to eat my hat. But they’re not!

Online games I spent money on in order of dollar contribution:

EVE Online                         — $35     ( Starter pack + 3 month subscription )

FFXI Seekers of Adoulin   — $20     ( total garbage,  did not even subscribe )

Anarchy Online                 — $15     ( badness of game totally unparalleled )

Path of Exile                       — $15    ( money well spent, but I played for over 4 months )


Online games I tried but did not spend money on, in order of badness:

Warframe, City of Steam ( both distributors ), Firefall, Neverwinter, The Secret World, Marvel Heroes, Ragnarok II

As embarrassing of a list of horrifyingly bad games as the above is, I think it does highlight one important factor: there are many people out there like me who are going out and trying to play these games, they are just that bad it’s impossible to even stick with them long enough to want to make a purchase.

Path of Exile is a notable game in the list above because it is 100% free-to-play and yet I actually spent money on it. I spent money on it because I wanted to patronize the development team. I only believe that further highlights a problem that has compounded onto itself many times over: if I really like a game I am willing to pay hundreds of dollars if demanded to, but very little if only suggested to.

Nearly half of the $85 I spent on online games last year ended up just being expensive mistakes. Only in the case of EVE Online and Path of Exile did I truly believe I had exchanged tender for services rendered. I can promise you that this not insignificant detail is responsible for feeling positive about the customer experience, regardless of what industry we are talking about.

The important thing to understand here is that all of the games I didn’t spend any money on have one thing in common. As soon as I realized that my time had been wasted, some knee-jerk mechanism intervened to make sure I didn’t waste my money too.

The harsh reality is that the bad games I played in 2013 by and large were anemic in entertainment value, however just as demanding of my time–which is why I gave every single one the axe.

15 years ago it was possible for MMORPGs to demand both a lot of money(relatively) and a lot of time from their players. 10 years ago it was thought to be prudent to demand only customers’ money, but shave down the investment required to “get to the good stuff.” 5 years ago the conventional wisdom was to demand neither, but offer “optional” shortcuts for a nominal price. The difference between the first(Everquest), the second(World of Warcraft), and the third(see my list above) is that the former two strategies are time tested monetization schemes that made the corresponding producers of each game a lot of money. The third has very little to show for itself.

I really question when these companies are going to get their act together. I recently participated in two “member’s of the press” weekends with the current version of Wildstar. Their monetization strategy is being called a “hybrid” model. What this means is that you ignore the past 5 years like I mentioned above, and instead you simply copy CCP’s monetization scheme.

This move is easily just as clueless as the TESO subscription model Paul Tassi bemoans. The reason is because EVE makes two considerations of the player’s time: 1) That it  is precious, yet also  finite and 2) That it has some intrinsic value that can collectively be harvested.

What I mean by that is that the brilliance of EVE’s monetization strategy is that it is custom tailored around the unique gameplay characteristics of the game itself. For one thing, it is very much a game where time is money, and the players are the content–the world is simply the arena they interact within. Time is what fuels all interactions within the universe, but it is also the only ingredient in this recipe that can’t be skipped. You can buy money in this game, but you can’t buy time.

When you pay your subscription to CCP, what you are actually buying is an allotment of time in which you are able to access the game. In that regard CCP is simply a service provider. You are front-loading the cost of a month’s worth of game time which you are not yet in receipt of. But one thing you can never buy directly from CCP is a shortcut to save you that time. Every company that has ever tried to sell both either regretted it, or was just too stupid not to have.

In many ways I see that Path of Exile has a similar outlook. Your achievements in the game are really a function of the time you put in–whether that be attending many of the smaller race events, or going in for the long haul. One thing is for certain, it’s not a game where you ever pay your way out of playing.

If you are looking for my prediction on what the next 5 years will be like, well I can’t be certain. If anyone with a brain were running the show though, we’d see a player’s time be put at a premium again, and with any luck game companies could go back to selling actual products and services again instead of snake oil.

 So it will be interesting to see if CCP can get $120 from me in 2014. They’d dwarf what I spent on all online games combined in 2013.


Resetting My Extractors

This weekend I hauled my biggest payload out of low-sec yet.


With the proceeds I trained Advanced Planetology on both of my alts (This skill costs 7.5M ISK per skillbook).

One difficulty I find that I am having is the poor accuracy of my alt’s scans. I actually make a lot more yield by moving the extractor heads a few times until I see that I have saturated the route between extractor and launchpad fully.

I have nothing but negative things to say about that process. I am going to make getting to 100% accurate scans a goal. It seems like a bad system to me that I can get better results by simply ignoring the info the game is sending me. I’d actually prefer the skills impacted your yield, and it was only possible to extract what you had skill for.

This haul marks the first moment in time where my ISK investment into PI has finally paid for itself. I finally have the liquid isk available to expand my operation. That means putting down 4 more planets total, 2 on each of my alts.

I did some preliminary scouting last night, but I ran into problems with the remaining planets I had to choose from. The planets were either too far away, the POCOs had tax rates that were not aligned with what I’m currently paying, or they met the previous two factors but lacked richness of resources.

Judging from what I’ve seen on the market, the information in the link I’m about to post, and the prevalance of gas planets, I am considering this P1.5 planet setup posted on Greedy Goblin:


It is well thought out on a variety of levels. Primarily though, it produces two valuable end products. One is an excess of a P1 material that is traded in high volume at a desirable price, and the second is a P2 that cannot be generated on a single planet.

Polyaramids are great because the average person involved with PI is lazy, and doesn’t want to bother carting in P1 every few days to keep an operation running. Additionally, such an operation also requires favorable POCO rates, a luxury not everyone can afford.

I believe I have the right mix of planets and tax rates to afford this setup, so I guess I will give it a try first hand and see how it goes.


On EVE Online & Ultima Online: Part Two

My EVE career started a lot like my UO career: principally out of boredom, and mining rocks. I am what you call a serial gamer, like most of /r/mmorpg except not nearly as annoying or unintelligent. I am desperately hoping to find that gaming nirvana, a groundswell of “the feels” that can captivate me—draw me in, hold me, and keep me. Being a serial gamer in the past 5 years was an exercise in being perennially disappointed. When you are always looking for the “next big thing,” the moments with nothing on the horizon end up being agonizing, and every “next big thing” is always a bigger disappointment.

By far the most frustrating thing about all of this is when big things actually do come along. Let’s review my report card. When WoW came out I was knee deep in Everquest II. When the iPhone came out I purchased a Palm device instead. I actually bought a windows tablet in lieu of an iPad, and this was AFTER the debacle with the iPhone. When I reflect, it is astonishing to see the shortsightedness of my consumer behavior. If I weren’t typing it honestly, I’m not sure I’d even believe it reading it.

The only silver lining to this is that a person who is “always waiting for the next big thing” can learn a lot about themselves by examining the actual big things that passed them by. Let me give you one example. In 2013 I bought a brand new 15” MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It cost over $2,500. I didn’t particularly like or want a Mac, but my last windows laptop had only lasted a year and cost $1,750, so I wasn’t willing to take another chance. Now fast-forward almost a year, and I don’t really have a single complaint about that machine. It is certainly one of those “big things” I’m talking about—the same ones that always seem to pass me by.

So what changed? Well first off, not much. I nearly purchased a bulky 15” Windows “gaming PC,” but at the last second I reasoned thusly: every time in the past 5 years I have bought anything other than an Apple product I have had buyer’s remorse. So it was time to pony up and try something new.

By now you may be wondering what this has to do with EVE other than the fact that I can play the game on both the Windows & Mac partitions. Well a lot as it turns out. I didn’t start playing EVE because it was the latest or greatest. I also didn’t start playing it because I had particularly high expectations or delusions of grandeur that I was some intrinsically gifted twitch PVP god.

I started playing EVE for the same reason I bought my MacBook: because the last 5 were nothing but buyer’s remorse, so how could this possibly be any worse?

If I had to make a true confession, it would be that this chart helped sway me quite a bit:


( Chart courtesy of Wikipedia.org )

You see, I didn’t hear about EVE Online recently. In this analogy, EVE Online was the iPhone and I was too busy with my Palm Centro to care.

The year was 2009, and the economy was in shambles in the United States and globally. I had taken a new position cleaning up toxic waste for a top 5 mortgage bank that doesn’t even exist today. I was 26, single, and hopelessly in a hate-to-love relationship with World of Warcraft—that’s where I hated the fact that I wasn’t in love with the game yet everyone else seemed to be. The only way I can even think to describe my boss is that he was the literal embodiment of a Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. If you took that game and made it into a person, you would have my former boss. True to form, he spent his nights playing EVE Online, and wasn’t afraid to share that fact with us when he happened to overhear us mentioning WoW.

The real reason I mention any of this is to reflect on just how lamentable it was that sitting 4 cubes away from me was a dude playing one of the most cutthroat games on the market, and then you had my best friend and I sitting there playing what would later become the fourth horseman unleashing a literal swath of fantasia happy funtime clones onto an unsuspecting market. And we still had the gall to thumb our noses at him. Both of us former Dreads, go figure…

World of Warcraft…the fucking Palm Centro of MMORPG PVP.

As I was proof-reading part one of this post I paused for a second at the infographic I had included. “The First 60 Minutes” it reads. It certainly gave me something to think about. I remember the first 60 seconds of Ultima Online with a startling amount of detail. In fact let me tell you about my FIRST SECOND spent in my first MMORPG.

“I have not eaten in days.” This was the beckoning call I saw in the bottom left hand corner of my screen. It turns out it was simply an NPC beggar off in the distance somewhere to the south. But it shapes probably everything I think and know about the meaning of a “new player experience.” The first thought I had in that second was that my character was hungry and it was probably going to be necessary to find some food. The second thing I remember was thinking that an NPC guard was a player and trying to talk to it. From an NPE perspective it left a lot to be desired. Within moments though I collided with my first ever actual player. It was BOSCO.

So this all got me to wondering, what did I recall about the first 60 seconds of any other game?

Well let’s start with Everquest. Some time in my sophomore year of high school, Verant Interactive mailed me a single compact disc in the mail. It was my invitation to the official closed beta of Everquest. Up until that point I had kept a pretty steady diet of reading lore and just about anything else I could get my hands on. I knew I wanted to play as a bard from the start. Again I all-too-imaginatively pictured myself, a valiant hero in armor, plucking away at the strings of my lute. By that time I had built a powerful gaming PC, and so all that was left was to tear open the packaging and start swinging.

I didn’t sleep that night, but I sure as hell made it to school the next day. I remember how miserable that was. So what were my first 60 seconds like? Well let me start by saying, they were like the first 60 seconds of EVERY SINGLE GAME I have played ever since. First things first, interact with this completely inane drone. I had a note in my backpack with instructions to turn it in to an NPC that was a literal stone’s throw away. Some completely insignificant chatter passed by, and I was on my merry way as a brand new bard. That lasted about 3 hours, at which point I actually did rage quit.

It was the worst class design I had ever experienced. It offered nothing like what my imagination had conjured. The instruments did not even make noise when you played them. The buttons were clunky, the interface was clumsy, and the portion of the screen actually rendered in 3D was absolutely tiny.

I wish I had rage quit the game. Sadly, I only rage quit the class. I will admit even more morosely that I played the game for at least 2 years.

So what about EVE Online? Well, within the first 60 seconds I did a lot of hitting the AWSD keys to try to move around. Graphically I admired the game, and even noticed some of the little touches. My favorite example of the little touches would be seeing how turrets actually track their targets in time. But mostly, I was just in awe of how bad the controls were. Also, I was terribly unimpressed with how overcomplicated and unnecessary the character creation process was.

I think it’s fair to say that EVE Online is the closest a game has come in my mind to the greatness that was UO. That doesn’t excuse the fact that the first 60 seconds play like garbage, but it’s a title that finds a way to make it up to you over the next 60 days.


On EVE Online & Ultima Online: Part One

It is the summer of 1997, and my parents are in Paris. I have just turned 14, and I will spend the next 6 months grounded, the longest consecutive punishment ever administered in the history of our family. But first, I will throw a massive house-destroying shindig the likes of which would make even Kevin Arnold blush.

Ok, now I’m grounded. I searched long and hard for you viewers, but unfortunately I will probably never find the magazine print advertisement that spurred my original purchase of Ultima Online. I did however find this fairly epic magazine inset which describes the unique customization feature the game offered:


I imagine there are only two ways to read and comprehend the above. The first is simple. You too had your life changed by a 4×6 pixel moustache, and understand how groundbreaking it was to not simply customize your character, but to customize it for the purposes of differentiating it from the swelling mass of pioneers traversing the land. The second are the people who for all intents and purposes the above is simply comedy. For the mighty Jelfezzi [sic] ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jalfrezi ) of the newly opened Sonoma shard, though, these fierce 24 pixels of jet black mayhem were nothing to laugh at.

All joking aside, this is as frank as I can be on my recollection of the matter—which is surprisingly vivid. I knew three things about UO when I purchased the title: 1) You could craft your character according to any image you saw fit; 2) The skill system was “so complex” it even allowed you to watch others and learn from them; 3) The immersion was so complete, a player had even had the freedom to assassinate the game’s creator! I was hooked.

In between the time I saw that advertisement and the first time I struck a toehold in the game, a long campaign of convincing my parents that I needed something to pass my time in solitary confinement began. During that time I remember thinking so vividly on the skill system, and particularly the flexibility to STEAL from other players. I remember this sequence playing out in my head over and over again. It was me (the total newbie) following an adept rogue around a crowded city street. We bumped into the huddled masses as he deftly picked their pockets, and in kind my skills rose! I was well on my way to becoming an adept thief on the cobblestone streets of Britain.

In recollection let me say three things about items 1, 2, and 3. It turns out that 3 was the result of a bug. 2, to my knowledge, was not a system that ever truly worked in any meaningful capacity. In fact the only time I saw it working later was when it was exploited by stacking an extreme number of players at high skill levels in a small space in hopes of eeking out a single .1 skillup on a nearly finished skill. The game did deliver its promise in regards to number 1. Albeit, in such a capacity that is considered laughable by all but the oldest gaming veterans.

So there I was, with game in hand. Yes, I could choose any virtual persona I wanted. I was a blank slate. I could be anything. Long hair, long beard? Goatee, ponytail? Anything you want sonny. Role-play a pirate, or a ranger, or a trader? Become the virtual incarnation of Sniffles Swigglebottom?

My first character was actually created on the Atlantic shard. Embarrassingly, even for a 14 year old, I named him “Daniel.” Bestowed graciously with the proverbial Tabula Rasa, I chose to enter the world of Brittania as… Daniel. Unfortunately my naming never really improved from that point on either.

Within moments of entering the world I encountered another player named BOSCO. This was the fortuitous moment I had been waiting for. I was going to shadow a great thief, learn vicariously from his epic deftness, and rise to the fabled perch of “great assassin” taking down Lord British himself. Instead, I wound up a few paces outside of the northern end of Minoc with a pickaxe. Such is the fate of our dreams.

I am uncertain what amount of time passed between that moment and the events I am going to describe, however my educated guess tells me it could have been several days. I eventually received an invite to train my combat skills by engaging in a friendly skirmish with some local players. Their leader, “Bright Knight” or some variation, insisted that I needed a “Practise” sword in order to join. This was either the earliest case of an itemization bug I can remember, or the earliest case of internet foppishness. Choose whichever you find funnier.

Although you might be hoping for a long and rich tale of dragon slaying proportions, Daniel’s was actually quite short-lived. Tired of the confinement innate to slaving in the northern Minoc mines just within the long arm of Lord British’s guards, Daniel packed up his satchel and headed for a harsh land to the far north. He was slain when a vicious giant spider injected him with its lethal venom, and after shortly wandering the dangerous peninsula in solitude, Daniel was no more.

By all accounts, part one of this story set us up for one of the most epic rage quits of all time. This however was not the case. Under many identities more inventive than “Daniel” I had a long and prosperous career in the universe of Ultima Online. I should also mention that I spent almost the entirety of it as a pillager, a nefarious plunderer, a fiend, a cheat, and a murderer. It was certainly a productive six months of being grounded.

For now though, that’s all I have to write on the matter.


Affording Your First Battleship

First things first, it seems I got some attention from a post I wrote yesterday that was a little more philosophical in nature. Due to this, I don’t want to risk chasing anyone away who is interested in those kinds of posts. I am going to make it a goal to keep my actual game update posts short, to the point, frequent, and broken up by longer philosophical posts.

So let me start by saying that this post will be an update on my in game comings and goings. However, I will offer a sneak preview of my next “think piece”—a compare and contrast of Ultima Online and EVE Online. Following that, I plan on writing a post called “Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees” about the metaphysical implications of items appearing out of thin air in games.

Today though, we pick up where we left off. Having just hit the 6 week mark playing EVE Online, I produced about 45 million ISK worth of goods in the past 3 days across 3 characters.

Keep in mind though I have colonized 8 planets currently. So I have quite a bit of bandwidth left to play with. When all is said and done I am planning for an income of 25 Million per day. That puts me squarely in “playing for free” territory.

Here is a screenshot of me turning over about half of that 40 million in goods hauled out of low-sec. All the sales happened over night, so when I swiped into my phone this morning to check Aura I had a pleasant surprise waiting:


My plan for this post was to summarize my current financial situation, and that’s what I have decided to commit to. Two weeks ago I had 160,000,000 ISK in my wallet. I felt that I was approaching the purchase of my first battleship. Four days ago I had 30,000,000. Let me tell you, it certainly felt like I had done something terribly wrong. So let me document those steps.

First, understand that as a gamer I do not believe in buying wealth in game with real life money. This has bit me in the ass 50 times in the past, and will probably bite me 50 more. Nevertheless, the one or two times I have done it have been hard enough lessons to never want to try again.

This means that by the time I hit 160M in my wallet, I had fought the hard way for every penny. Actually, around the 80M mark arbitrage and a little market luck took me the rest of the way. So what have I learned in the past two weeks? Luck in EVE is so very fickle. There is no substitute for a guaranteed bet.

So being so close to my goal of owning a battleship, you can imagine it was hard to invest heavily in a Level 3 mission running ship. But that is precisely what I chose to do. My reasoning was twofold. One, I was not ready to fly a battleship yet from a skills perspective, despite 100% of my training over the past two months going to fitting Large Turrets and a Tech II tank. Two, I figured I would make back the money invested in a level 3 runner within short order.

I invested 60,000,000 in a level 3 ship. As fate would have it, the next morning I was officially accepted into the E-UNI. The E-UNI that was currently at war. Doh!

Being terrified of losing over 1/3 of my wealth in a ball of fire, I decided I’d need a new strategy over the next week. I mothballed the mission running temporarily and stacked a bunch of exploration frigates up in Aldrat. The way I saw it at the time, it was dangerous enough travelling anywhere with the war-dec. So I might as well hop around in low-sec in a low cost frigate and try to make some cash.

I’ll be honest with you. Exploration is just not my cup of tea. I spent about 6 hours flying around low-sec. Although not fun, it was immensely helpful. I learned a lot about the mechanics of safe-ing, cloaking, and using the MWD trick. I also really enjoyed my time in less lawful space. The constant fear of aggression is not an entirely bad feeling for someone who is willing to prepare themselves with a steadfast defense.

So I had to figure out how I was going to make money in low-sec if it wasn’t going to be exploration. I got Remote Sensing and decided to start gauging the kind of yields low-sec planets would offer. Compared to high-sec, looking at individual resources, it was possible to find planets that were absolutely off the charts. Over the next 5 days I spent another 60M ISK on a pretty robust PI setup.

I also think it’s worth mentioning that I spent 2 PLEX as well. This was strictly for the multiple character training. There is only one thing all players HAVE to buy in this game, and that is skill training. It is simply unavoidable not to pay to train at least one character.

So my total outlay so far would be the time spent training thus far, plus the time spent gathering the initial capital for PI, plus two PLEX. I calculate that out to be 1.5 Billion ISK invested, essentially. I consider this important however because this investment was the magic number required in order for me to generate enough passive income to PLEX my account (theoretically). By theoretically I mean that you still have to log in every day to reset the extractors, and you still need to haul the goods.

Another way to look at it would be that I paid 2 PLEX for 2 characters that can each generate 150M of passive income each month. In other words, the investment pays for itself within 4 months. Every consecutive month beyond that is just pure profit.

The moral of this story is that my overall wealth in liquid ISK has finally returned to the 100M mark. It has been an exhausting 2 weeks of getting here, but it probably won’t be a tough week getting back to 160M by next Friday.

I’m  going to cross my fingers I don’t blow it again so badly next time.


EVE Online: A Non-Consensual Full Loot PVP Universe


EVE Online: A Non-Consensual Full Loot PVP Universe

The phrase above has been repeatedly bouncing about my cerebral cortex over the past few days. Mostly due to the realization of a simple fact about the universe of EVE Online: the phrase “Non-Consensual Full Loot PVP Universe” finds utility in explaining EVE to an outsider, but bears little semblance of meaning to the typical player who’s already in game.

The reason that meaning is so obscured is because it is so often and easily taken for granted. It is because this characterization of the world is so fundamental and intrinsic, that every activity you engage in within the confines of EVE the game is implicitly bounded by those aforementioned constraints.

In layman’s parlance, the number one rule of EVE is “never fly what you can’t afford to lose.” Again, several things are implied by that statement:

1) The player should assume at some point in the future they will aggress or be aggressed.
2) The player should assume that at some point the outcome of aggression will be a loss on their part.
3) The only factor that can considerably mitigate these circumstances is one’s accumulation of wealth to dampen the monetary consequences of such a loss.

It is the maxim of the masses, forgotten only to one’s detriment. In fact, I would go so far as to say most new player organizations in the game go to great lengths to impress this aphorism deeply into the hive-mind of their ranks before and above any other learning. And still of course, they fail in many cases.

I did not come to understand the meaning of the above phrase by reading it, nor by hearing it. Certainly there is no motto that could hope to emulate the weighty gravity of loss. The truth is that what I came to write about today is a sensibility one cannot gain vicariously. It is an instinctiveness forged deep within the crucible of our ancestry.

It is a state of being that our society punishes, that our social norms decry, and in modernity seems to only prevail within “fringe” political movements. It is embracing the ethos that in order to ensure our personal prosperity we must protect the few even to the detriment of the many.

It is to Kill or Be Killed.

It is EVE.

And it is a lesson with most impossible odds. For the EVE player it is either the first of many, or the last and only.
So what got me on this topic?

Well for starters I tried to explain the following news story and video to several people:


Not only did I really enjoy the video, but I thought it would be a simple and straightforward conversation about the depth of the EVE universe. At 120 billion in losses for the engagement, the battle cost roughly 200 PLEX. I try to then translate that into US Dollars, and I’m hoping one of these days someone will light up at the realization that $4,000 were destroyed. It never happens.

So back to the term “Non-Consensual Full Loot PVP Universe.” At first it sounds quite specific. But if anything I have come to find it is actually generic. EVE is not the first game, nor the only current game, nor probably the last game to embrace this mechanic; but it does still have one thing no other game on the market has. That gravity of loss I described before. The fact that people can and will blow up $4,000 to win a war, prove a point, or just otherwise do it.

The attachment we feel to this universe is the lifeblood that fuels conflict. I found the opposite reaction I was looking for when I described game events in real world dollars. Instead of people saying “wow, serious business!” more often I got a dull glazed over look and a “well that seems kind of stupid to throw 4 grand away in an internet spaceship fight.”

No one watches a fireworks show and counts up the dollars it cost the city with each consecutive mortar that explodes in a shimmer of light. Well maybe some accountant somewhere, so perhaps I should say no one ever enjoyed such a show under those pretenses. But this is entirely my point about EVE. It is a game for people who took their G.I. Joes out of the plastic wrap.

It turns out that 4 grand worth of internet spaceships aren’t much fun to look at.

But they are a hell of a lot of fun to blow up.

Tagged ,