Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Came Here To Be Podkilled: Pride Goeth Before A Fall Edition

I've been riding high lately, pleased with my evasion of a gatecamp. This happened perhaps a week ago. I was in my Iteron V, with a cargohold full of POS fuel. That happens a lot lately. I loaded up in a station, where we keep the fuel, checked local and undocked. On undock, I started a warp sequence to the gate to the next system over, where the POS I was going to refuel was.

Now the intel channels had been showing some red activity in our space, but it was a small number, and in the other direction from the system I was headed to. I'm feeling a bit impatient, though, to get my chores over with and get on to other things. In the time while I was undocking, though, a red entered the system. I didn't notice right away, I had just checked local before undocking. So just about the time I entered warp, I noticed.

I hit control space frantically in an effort to abort, but it was too late. So the 20 seconds or so I spent in warp had me on pins and needles. When I hit the gate grid, my fears were confirmed, the red was there, and in a Sabre. As I come out of warp, a bubble goes up.

I announce my issue on my corp Teamspeak, in what I'm sure is a bit of an anxious voice. I'm advised to "get out of the bubble". I look around and see that while the bubble is still up, the sabre is gone, not visible on the grid. This gives me a moment to collect my wits, and recall some advice that a friendly reader had eve mailed to me, based on my last encounter with a Sabre.

I burn to zero on the gate and sit, waiting. Another blue transport, a Badger shows up, and is caught by the bubble. My fingers aren't yet working well enough to type the bubble/camp into the intel channel, and he was likely in warp before I could have finished it in any case. The Sabre reappears, likely it was cloaked. My targeting alarm goes off, he's targeted me. I take a deep breath, thinking "focus!". I check the outline of the sabre, it's blinking, both in space and on the overview. My shields are down a little. I jump through, knowing he can't follow me.

Local loads before the new system grid does, and there are two reds. Was this a trap? Have I gone from bad to worse? But the grid loads and I'm alone. I align for the pos with all haste and get into warp, seeing no one. I'm safe. The other two had gone via a bypass route, and were too slow to get me. It didn't occur to me at the time that the Sabre pilot had made it possible by aggroing me before his backup was in position. He's dealing with a lot, too, and wants to limit his exposure at the gate. His bubble will time out at some point. For all he knows, there's a dozen blues warping to that gate.

It's exhilarating to outrun someone in an industrial. I'm feeling good.

Nuke LaLoosh: Can't you just let me enjoy the moment?
Crash Davis: The moment is over.

-from Bull Durham

Which is probably why, when I finished my chores on Monday night and jumped into my Megathron to join corpmates in a ratting rampage, I took another risk with reds about. Or maybe it's just that I like the color red. It does look fabulous on hair after all.

A red gang had gone through my station system, and on to the next one, where the jumpbridge I wanted to use was. Intel showed that their scout, at least had gone on to the next system past that. And then there were several minutes of silence about them on intel. So I undocked, warped to the gate, and jumped through.

I instantly knew that i was toast. All six ships were there, including Vagabonds and Cynabals. I had no chance, they blew through my considerable tank like tissue paper. And so it was back to the station, feeling like a fool. I loved that ship, it had nearly doubled my ratting output. We estimate the loss at about 120 million ISK. I've been saving my pennies, being a miserly old elf, but as Meclin says, "It burns". Meclin, or as we call him, "Skippy", after his alt Scipia Mortalis (Or is that his main? I'm never quite sure), provided me with some new implants from spares that he had. It was probably time for me to upgrade them anyway.

Last night I began collecting the minerals to make a new Megathron. Time heals all wounds, even burns.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How I Learned to Love Solusek's Eye

So what's a high elf with fabulous slightly-reddish tinted hair doing in a wretched hive a scum and villainy like Mos Eisley Freeport? I like the dungeons here, that's why. And I guess I just like slumming.

I leveled to about level 20 in Najena. The first real group I got was by the pool, surrounded by goblins and a few "skeletons" that were deep red to me. But my group, many of which were red to me, could handle them, and they liked the fact that I could breeze them. No mezzing was necessary to this group. That was around level 16 or so, though I had started lower than that. I had one group where there were two enchanters, the other had charmed a minotaur as a pet and was using it to dps. This worked surprisingly well in a group setting. I did buffing, dps, and the occasional mez when needed. This got me through level 20 or so, and stuff started turning mostly green and light blue. Time to move on.

So I moved over to Solusek's Eye, or Sol A, as it's known. Groups can be slow to get in to, but when I get them, I've zoomed. I've had a camp in the Foreman's room (#11 on the linked map), near the Efreeti and Kindle (South of #3), and in the Bar(#15). Each of these camps has netted me two dings, in the course of 3 or so hours of play.

Waits for groups can be long and frustrating, because the usual modus operandi of all groups in Sol A (and Najena, too) seems to be: be slightly overpowered, and pull widely. That cuts down the number of groups that the ecology can support. And apparently as I level up, it will be even more difficult, since the available camps/mobs becomes less when playing classic.

And so I spend the time trying to get better at fighting with a charmed pet. I'm still something of a noob at this, but I'm managing to actually make some progress now. The first time around in EQ, I never was able to master this, I usually ended up dying when the charm broke and now 2 mobs were trying to eat me.

That of course happens, but probably the crucial issue is management of my HP and mana. You must keep yourself set up to deal with, erm, contingencies, because they happen. Boy do they happen. I've decided that the best thing to do when you've just regained control of the situation with about 5% hit points left is to gate out, heal, and try again. Especially when you've run out of bandages.

But eventually I would get a group, which I strongly prefer. In these groups I got to engage in classic Everquest enchanter gameplay: Breeze, Haste, mez, mez, mez, and mez some more. All while managing text chat conversations with a group of people who were strangers an hour before. Four of my Efreeti group were returning players who said similar things, that they hungered for the old-school EQ gameplay. However, the level of play seems, in general, to be much better now than it was back then. Well, mostly.

Last nights camp, in the Bar, went really well at first. Our tank, a barbie warrior and I were on the same page, and he let me control extra spawns, focusing on burning down the targeted mob and controlling it. When the bar itself started to respawn, things could get hairy. But that's when I get busy. Since it's indoors, I can't use an overhead view to speed up targeting for mez, (A technique I learned from my heroine, Karaya). So I move around a lot, and I've been known to stand on tables. No dancing as yet though.

There were a couple moments when the pops happened right as I was rebuffing, and so, I my routine looked like this:

Mez. Sit for enough mana. Mez another. Sit for enough mana. Mez another. Resist! Sit for enough mana. Mez.

However, no one died. Well, the puller once got rooted and killed, very quickly, before we had a chance to help him. But not on the big respawns or pulls. I love this. No other game has this gameplay. Interestingly, many others in the group felt the same way. The more chaotic situations that the dungeon designs provide for mean that defensive skills matter. Rooting, snaring to prevent adds when the mob runs, etc.

Many of the other MMO's I've played reduce to DPS and healing. Maybe the stickiness of the tank matters, but often the mobs die so fast that it doesn't really. In EQ, everyone has to be thinking and aware of what the others are doing.

As an example, here's how my last group ended. The warrior left, having dinged. (And he was getting sleepy, I think.) So we had a ranger pulling, and another one dpsing. He wasn't as sticky as warrior was, and more squishy, but we had both a shammy and a druid, so it wasn't a big deal. What was a big deal was his inclination to run off and pull more stuff when there were still mezzed mobs standing around our camp. A second druid joined our camp, and he had the inclination to put dots on a mob that I had just mezzed. Both he and the other ranger, it seemed, had forgotten about the whole "make an assist button" thing.

But still we coped with that. Then the second (dpsing) druid started afk-ing for phone calls. This was at 11pm PDT, mind you. Who is calling him at that hour? And multiple times, too? The second (halfling) ranger then afk'ed. We picked up a second shammy, who wanted to melee, but our first shammy moved into a corner behind the bar, and seemed to not be doing anything, the pulling ranger went to pull while I had the bartender mezzed, and so there we were: I had no mana, the shammy was trying to melee down a goblin, one ranger was MIA and the other was staring at a wall, the other shammy was sitting in a corner. Oh yes, and the newcomer druid was on a phone call. When I read the words "Evac incoming" from druid, I nearly woke up the rest of my household with a cheer.

I sent her a tell: "good call" She replied, "Yeah, that was getting stupid." And she kindly ported me to Commonlands, where I went and sold stuff.

I think maybe everyone was getting tired. Or something. The good news: I'm now level 27, and Clarity-enabled. (And yes, I did bring that spell with me into the dungeon.) And my cash situation is pretty good. I didn't get any of the good sellable gear drops, but there was lots of reasonably nice trash drops, selling for multiple plats. But I can probably afford a few upgrades from the sellers in the Commonlands, scum and villains though they are. I'm probably going to stay in Sol A for at least another 5 levels. After that, I'm not sure what's next. Maybe Sol B, if it works, or maybe even Lower Guk.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Yes, It Really Is a Global Game Now

I got this Eve mail from someone in my alliance (TNT) this morning.

For those of you who know I live in Tokyo Japan I just though id send an e-mail letting you know i'm ok. Tokyo didn't get hit to bad. All the severe damage is in the northeastern part of Japan. It was one hell of a shake that lasted about 6 min and constant aftershocks lasted for 3 hours afterwards. I'm from Ohio so i have never realy experienced any earthwaukes till I moved to Japan. We have had many but nothing like this. It was crazy. All the rail systems and airports are shut down so Tokyo is at a stand still. There are mobs of people everywhere becuase they can't get home withough the trains running. Anywiay im good and thankfully still have power and internet.

Fly safe,

And here's some footage:

More on Jumpbridges in 0.0

Researching my previous piece I ran across this essay by Numtini, who is in Goonswarm.

Her narrative is this:

It seems that everyone is out to “fix” Eve. Rather odd since we all play it and presumably enjoy it. The last CSM started with the proposal that low sec space was broken and the chairwoman ran on a platform of fixing it. It ended with nulsec dwellers eyes bugging out at the CSM gleefully supporting a proposal to “fix” nulsec by removing jump bridges with the specific stated intention of making it more miserable and time consuming to get anything done there.

She goes on to say:

Here is the problem. There is no lowsec. There is no highsec. There is no nulsec. There are two kinds of space in Eve: Secure and Insecure. Secure Space consists of highsec empire and sovereign nulsec. You know where you stand and you can go out and play your game because if someone interferes with you, there will be consequences from a third party. It doesn’t have safety necessarily, what it has is predictability.

She goes on to say, and I think she says it well, that the state of Sovereign 0.0 is the product of intention:

I know it pecks at the livers of some folks that large parts of nulsec are this safe, but it’s the outcome of a series of very complex systems produced by the game designers and tens of thousands of players efforts over a period of years. Players were given the tools to build a civilization and they did what humanity has done for the last 10,000 years–they built a civilization. To expect human beings to do otherwise is ludicrous. We instinctively create order out of chaos. Nobody wants to live in Somalia. Get over it.

I find myself nodding to this. However, there's also some all-or-nothing thinking going on here. The issue, to my mind is that the power of a blob can be projected for 30 systems in within one's home territory. So, if you have the biggest blob, you can control all the systems within 30 jumps. What if that 30 was somehow changed to 10? You would still have sov space, which had a constructed civilization, even if it is feudal in nature, it's still a civilization. But there might be 10 civilizations in nullsec, instead of just 2. I think that would be a positive.


Sending Mittens to Iceland

The Mittani, sometimes known as Mittens, is running for Council of Stellar Management. How did I find out? I got an email from one of my alliance leadership. We aren't in Goonswarm, but we share space with them, and fought with them in the war that destroyed IT.

Okay, it looks like everyone and their brother has decided to vote this year.

This means we need EVERYONE to vote for their designated delegate.

Odd numbers in your character name = Vile rat, Even numbers in your character name = The Mittani

Click the names to get directly to the voting pages

(Ideally, you should log on the goon forum, vote, then post how many accounts you voted with in the exit poll, this makes it a lot easier for the campaign managers to keep track)

Voting this year is vital to keeping our way of life in nullsec as we know it, if we don't vote, a bunch of empire retards will shit all over our jumpbridges, and we dont want that to happen.

Vote today!

CSM is a group of players who get to have some meetings with the developers of Eve Online and bring to them the concerns of the playerbase at large. Many former CSM members are somewhat pessimistic about the influence of the CSM. But not The Mittani. In this interview with TenTonHammer, where he writes a regular column, he describes how he felt that the lobbying of players was important in getting rid of Titan Doomsday weapons. (By the way, there's some really cool video of a dozen or so old school titans setting off doomsdays around a station in the above interview.)

So he's kind of an ideal guy to put up there for CSM on the burning issue of the day, which is jump bridges. CCP devs recently floated the idea of limiting or getting rid of jump bridges altogether. Of course, jump bridges are a significant part of everyday life in 0.0, and nobody screeches harder than when someone is trying to take something away from them. The more psychological term for this is "loss-averse", and I think that a loss of X dollars garners the same attention and emotional weight as a gain of 5X dollars, to put some numbers on it.

And apparently X is very large when it comes to jump bridges. In the EVE Devblog today was this eye-opener:

CCP has just taken the newly-introduced Hours for PLEX feature offline. The Account Management option was added to provide a more convenient way for EVE Online players who need a few hours of game time added to an expired account, allowing them to log in, redeem PLEX, and keep their account active.

Subsequently, we discovered that the feature could potentially be abused in the CSM voting process, and have temporarily disabled the Hours for PLEX offer. In meantime, CCP is reverting to the older system that was previously in place for reverse-redeeming PLEX.

People have been using Hours for PLEX to reactivate inactive characters to vote for CSM, despite the knowledge that if they didn't buy a PLEX during this four hour period, they would lose the ability to do so, and have to do things the old way. I have to guess that it's the jumpbridge issue is fueling this. By the way, this is metagaming, and as such, I don't really think it's acceptable behavior.

But there's more at stake here than simple loss of "our way of life". In point of fact, I don't use the jump bridges all that much, and mostly it's a time saver. We have two jumpbridges that take us most of the way to highsec, through Torrinos. This turns the traversal of about 15 jumps into 2 jumps. This was a big win for me when I first came out here a year ago. I would go through fairly frequently, so that I could sell and buy stuff in highsec.

However, as the economy in our space has developed, I've used them less and less. At one point during last years war with IT, one of the POSs in the JB chain became damaged, and when the response to the CTA to rep it was unimpressive, our then masters in Tau Ceti Alliance decided to leave it offline. Which is how we learned to get along without it, making more use of jumpclones and alts to buy and sell, and jump freighters and carriers to take stuff in and out.

We also have some jumpbridges in our home space, that give us some tactical options for home defense and save me time whenever I have to go refuel certain poses. These are nice, but I don't think they are creating the problem that CCP sees.

The big problem affecting the game is the blob. In any navalesque war game I've ever played, ships are kept together in as big as blob as possible, since, when they are split up, they are much more vulnerable. Combat in 0.0 follows this rule. There might be more than one flleet, but they are reallly working together. So fleet fights keep getting bigger and bigger, which gives everyone the motivation to keep that big fleet together.

Jump bridges extend the reach of the blob. So do Titan bridges, but they require a fair bit more coordination to use. With a jump bridge network, ships can come rushing from virtually all parts of 0.0 to wherever they are needed in probably 15 minutes, with no coordination required.

So, is blob warfare fun? I don't think so. It's fun to win, certainly, and its fun to get a carrier or dreadnaught killmail. But I never found the basic activity of a blob CTA fun. Mostly it's sit, sit, sit, and then maybe fight with huge lag, and the nagging feeling that I'm not the slightest bit relevant to the outcome.

By contrast, I've had lots of fun in smaller fleets with 10-20 ships.

So, blobs aren't fun, and we all know by now that they produce huge lag. I'm of the opinion that CCP is doing all that it can, but there are some very difficult issues with lag. Things on the order of laws of nature. They are doing a whole lot, and there will be more, but the blob is growing faster than their ability to make it run smooth. But I don't think that's the only issue.

At this point 0.0 is down to two factions, the North and the South. If you want to have any life at all in 0.0, you will be beholden to one of these two, and you will be expected to field significant ships in significant numbers in the blob fights. Dominion did have the effect of getting more people into 0.0, but it had the unintended (in my opinion) effect of putting most of those new people into blobs.

The political organization of 0.0 is more or less feudal. In order to keep your space you must provide both rent and warriors, which are paid to your feudal overlord, who, as everyone knows, has the ability to come and beat you down if you don't pay. And the feudal overlords keep the very best stuff for themselves. In particular T2 construction has pretty much become completely cartelized. There are a handful of players in the game that control all the Technetium moons, and they don't sell that Technetium on the open market, they use it to make T2 ships in a virtual monopoly. At least, that's what the price signals are saying. It is not possible to do T2 manufacture profitably unless you have access to a rare moon. And most corps, even those in 0.0 do not.

Let's make one thing clear. I don't hold this against the people who have accomplished this. Eve is a game, not life. I am accustomed to playing wargames with my friends during which sessions we try to rip each other's faces off. Within the game, that is. What did you think I meant? Some friends and I started one play by email game with an alliance that took over most of the game world, prompting the game developer to tell us that we had "ruined his game". But it was definitely fun for us, and for those few other players that liked the challenge of trying to blow us up. See, there was this time when I snuck a spy character into an enemy castle and TOOK THE ENTIRE PLACE OVER!!! But I digress...

No, the lords of 0.0 are doing their thing. I don't really approve of abusing Hours for PLEX to rock the CSM election, but I think that it's overly optimistic about the CSM. They are responding to conditions in the game and using what works. They are highly creative. But if the game gets to the point where a few people having fun can spoil the fun of a whole bunch of playing customers, it's a problem that affects their bottom line. And if they are the ruthless bastards that would make them worthy of being called capsuleers, they won't mind offending the few in order to enhance, or at least preserve, their own bottom line.