Archive for the ‘MMO Concepts’ Category

Paying for half a game?

Posted: January 20, 2010 in MMO Concepts

This is not (very much of) a whine.

This is not (very much of) a complaint.

This post is the crystalisation of some thoughts that have been sloshing around my head in a saturated solution of ponder.

And I’m sure that Veterans of Eve have heard this a million times, so apologies for that… but I want to share, and this is my blog.

There’s a lot to love about Eve. There’s a lot that I actively love about Eve. And foremost amongst the things that I love is the skill system. You set a skill to train, and at the end of the allotted training time, it’s done. You can do a bunch of stuff, or nothing at all, during the training time… but it will still train. As long as you log in every so often to update your training queue, your toon will continue to develop. This is patently brilliant. Instead of needing to constantly grind for xp, you can leave your character development running and go and actually play the bits of the game that you enjoy. Sure, this wouldn’t cut it in other games. How can you waggle your e-peen sprint to level cap, if you can go no faster than others? How to wear the casual colours of “gamer with a life” if you are as well trained as the next man? For all of Eve’s much vaunted metagame, there are other games where the progression meta is as strong as our capatalistic politic meta. These games would lose something with our skill training system.

But there is a problem with the skill training paradigm in Eve. That problem is the matter of alts.

Eve is a big game. It is said that were you to train every skill in the game it would take decades to do. Even with the best implants to speed training and all the learning skills trained (and learning skills, there’s a rant for another day); you are still looking at a time investment longer than the servers will be around. Even for players who have been in the game from the moment that the servers came online 7 years ago, they’d have to have run multiple characters on multiple accounts to have trained all the skills available. To even reach a reasonable standard in combat takes all the training on a single character for a decent amount of time.

Now we have a lot of options in Eve, that’s the beauty of the game – combat, exploration, trading, mining, industry, invention, and so on and so forth. But the game is about specialisation, and so it’s important to find one thing that you’d like to do, and specialise. Want to do something else? Well, you can stop training your current speciality and train into a new one. But be prepared for a pretty long haul. By far the best plan to see the majority that the game has to offer, is to skill up an alt in the chosen profession. And here we hit the snag.

Alts can only train, if they are the only character on that account training.

So – despite having 3 character slots on my account. I can only train one of them at a time. The result? I have a main account and a secondary account. My main account has the character that I play day to day; Psia. My secondary account has a couple of characters who take turns learning stuff. One of them is designed for mission running and flogging the loot afterwards. The other is designed to haul. But I’m paying 2 monthly subscriptions for the privilege. I didn’t have to pay twice to have a hunter, a priest and druid on my WoW account, so why should I have to pay twice with Eve?

What possible reason is there for this? As long as you can only ever play one toon on any given account at any given time, what’s the problem with having all 3 character slots train at once? There are more than 3 things that I’d like to try in the game, but the long training times mean that it’s going to take me a very long time to try even half of them. Where’s the harm in letting me train more than one character at a time, so that I can at least try more than one or two things.

I’m sure that I’m not alone amongst Eve players in having multiple accounts. And that rationalising them would lose CCP $15 per month. But I’d probably not rationalise them. I’d probably keep the second account for the fleeting opportunities afforded by being able to run two clients at once. But I’d be able to see much more of the game. I’d be able to train an alt specifically to fly capital ships, and experience the massive battles in space. I’d be able to train an invention alt and have him try to invent from BPCs. I’d get to experience those bits of the game from which I am currently barred, because I don’t have enough time to skill my characters.

Other games have recognised the desire of players to chop and change for variety- dual spec in WoW being a perfect example. Almost every other game allows for alts of some shape or form, and none of them face the player with a choice between developing their main or their alt in the way that Eve does. And few games have as much to do as Eve does, or as much that requires specialism. Currently, it feels as if I’m paying a full subscription for half a game. So c’mon CCP – let me train my alts at the same time as my main!


Beta Bounder

Posted: November 12, 2009 in MMO Concepts, promotional, Secret World

Something about Ysharros’ post about The Secret World beta has been idling at the back of my mind since I read it. A little nagging irritant of a thought, that demands attention, only to dodge behind some other matter when I turn my mind’s eye towards it. This thought has lurked at the periphery for a few hours, until a few minutes ago, when, whilst making custard, I pinned the little sod down and forced it to give me the skinny.

Games that I beta test are less likely to get my subscription. Or even get bought, and be played for that first month. This is probably not news, but I find it interesting nonetheless.

I started playing MMOs in 2001 when I bought Anarchy Online (though I had been active in MUDs, MUSHes and MOOs prior to that). I bought it, a couple of months after release, without ever having played it. It looked interesting; I loved the idea of the politics, and a persistent world seemed kinda fun. It was, and it got me hooked. In 2003 I beta tested the Shadowlands expansion, and within a couple of months I had quit playing AO on an extended break. I would go back to it for a couple of months thereafter, but never again would it have the same hold over me. Certainly, that I’d seen much of the Shadowlands prior to release was a factor, but it was by no means the entire reason. After all, my main was at level cap, whilst my beta toon was a starting character.

I beta tested Neocron – and never played it after release (it was a horrid game). I beta’ed Asheron’s Call 2; A Tale in the Desert; The Saga of Ryzom; Earth and Beyond; and Star Wars: Galaxies. None of them saw a penny of my money. I played Lineage 2 in beta, and enjoyed it. When it was released, I subscribed, and within a month had cancelled my sub. A grindy game was made all the less appealing by having to repeat the same grind I’d already completed. I tested Guild Wars too, and actually bought the game box at release – played it for a week, and retired bored from it. Aion recently got beta’ed – but it wasn’t compelling enough (or at all) for me to spend any hard earned on it. The same with Champions. I downloaded the beta of Gatheryn, but bugs prevented me from actually doing anything with it – reported them, but then didn’t bother. I actually gave away my beta key for Wrath of the Lich King to avoid any such problems!

The games I have played for any length of time are interesting. Let’s discount WoW – its horrendously addictive; I joined a guild full of my mates; and it came on a massive recommendation. I didn’t beta test Pirates of the Burning Sea, yet invested about 8 months of play time into it. OK, so it was a game that interested me anyway – the age of sail is a fascinating time – but I wonder whether I’d have played as long had I tested the game. Eve is an  interesting case – I did beta test it back in 2003, but it didn’t grab me and i gave up on it. It would be this year, 6 years later, that I’d pick it up again and get hooked. 6 years to get over the beta test?

So, are these factors linked? After all, correlation is not cause. Is it the fact that a beta exposes me to the content ahead of time, and I’m just not interested in repeating that content again? Well, countless alliance WoW alts would suggest that repetition alone is not enough of a barrier for me. And I generally only play one race/class combo in beta – so it’s not as if there aren’t different areas and content open to me. So is it investment? If I pay for a game, am I more likely to persevere with it? Well possibly, but I have many offline games here that I’ve paid for and never played, and yet I continue to repeat play certain games. Are offline games subject to the same rules, even? Is my beta-block to do with seeing the game in an incomplete and bugged form? Well, let’s not forget that I played AO for years; a more incomplete and bugged release you’d be hard pressed to find – it earned the game a place in MMO infamy. Lastly, is it simply that the games that interest me are the ones that I buy, and I beta test the rest? I don’t think so.

I’m not sure that I have a conclusion for you. It’s probably a composite of all of these things and a few that I’ve not thought of yet. But in the light of these thoughts, I turn back to the pay-beta that Funcom are creating for the Secret World. And if there are many people like me out there, then they are probably wise. Because the chances are that if they don’t get their money pre-beta, they may not get it at all.

NB for Ragnar and/or any others from Funcom: I’m only kidding! I’ll buy your game, even after a beta… g’wan…. let me in… you know you wanna…

Get a Clone

Posted: November 6, 2009 in fun, MMO Concepts, promotional

I’m a sucker for a well done website, and when it includes a personality test, some neat video and is promoting Eve; what’s not to like. And so, I commend to you, dear readers. My career path should be in exploration, which is interesting, as that’s the way I’m going already.

Blog Banter 12: Glue

Posted: October 2, 2009 in Blog Banter, MMO Concepts

Welcome to the twelfth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month’s banter comes to us from CrazyKinux himself, who asks the following: First there was the MMO on the PC, and now with the recent announcement of DUST 514, EVE will soon be moving onto consoles. But what about mobile? Allow your imagination to run wild for a second and describe how you would see EVE being ported to mobile devices, whether the iPhone/iPod touch, Blackberrys or Android-based devices. Dream the impossible for us!

I’m late, i’m late, for a very important date… as a certain rabbit may once have said. Still – better late than never, as my mother certainly said – so here goes.

Dream the impossible, eh? Well, there goes the straightforward ideas – Eve Trader, Eve Fitter and the like. OK, so let’s think about what might work…

Mobiles aren’t very good at gaming. There, I said it. I have watched the evolution of mobile phones from my first one in the early nineties, through to my current one, and there’s something inherently disappointing about mobile games. Small screen, perhaps? Limited interface? Who knows, but I’m always left underwhelmed by mobile games.

So what does work, on a mobile?

Well, communication, for a start. these devices are (mostly) designed from the ground up to be a good comms device, and honestly, they’ve got it pretty much nailed. So why not use that to enhance Eve? Let players opt into, and configure, a communications network that includes both Eve and their mobile phone. The game could associate a phone number with a character, and allow character to character communications via the myriad different ways that mobiles can now communicate. So, you could text other characters, which – if they are in the game, arrives as an evemail, and if they are out of the game arrives as a text. Voice calls could be routed either to a phone or to Eve voice, depending on player preference. Whilst we’re at it, we’ll add voice modulation so that you can choose how you sound when making those calls. Video calls? Sure, why not, lets have video calls between animated avatars. So when Psia calls Crazykinux, he sees her and not me.

This is a tool for the Eve universe, so let’s include our Dust brothers. Want to engage a team of mercenaries? Call ’em. Text ’em. And then watch their battle report arrive on your mobile.

Martin Cooper of ArrayComm Inc makes the world's first mobile phone call

Martin Cooper of ArrayComm Inc makes the world's first mobile phone call

Of course, we don’t want to be anti-social about any of this – so the range of player tools to control when and how the app is active needs to be good. You’ll need to be able to set times when you are offline by default – I’m not sure my wife would be too chuffed with me taking diplomatic calls in the middle of the night. But you should also be able to activate the app with a single click or tap, when you wish to be available to your fellow capsuleers.

Mobile phones are hopeless gaming devices and brilliant communications devices, so let’s put them to use at what they are good at. And let them become the glue that binds the disparate sections of New Eden together.

List of Participants:

  • CrazyKinux’s Musing – Tying the dots and locking me in!
  • A Merry Life and a Short One – I Don’t Own a Working Phone
  • Yarrbear Tales – EVE on Mobile Devices? Eh.
  • Hands Off, My Loots! – EVE Mobile…Possibility?
  • Achernar – Trapped on Planet Horror
  • Rettic’s Log – The Cronofile – Blog Banter: EVE Mobile
  • A Mule in EVE – EVE Mobility
  • Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah – EVE Mobile
  • My Life in EVE – 12th Blog Banter
  • My God, it’s Full of Stars! – 12th EVE Blog Banter
  • The Wandering Druid of Tranquility – WOW, look at that ‘micro-Dust’
  • Adventures in Mission Running – 12th EVE Blog Banter
  • Ecliptic Rift – EVE Everywhere
  • Roc’s Ramblings – EVE Mobile
  • EVE Monkey – EVE on a Mobile Device?
  • Nashh Kadavr’s EVE Blog – I-pod Capsuleer
  • Escoce – EVE Trade – Dynamic System Security
  • Break Vol – EVE Blog Banter 12
  • Mikeazariah – EVE Mobility
  • Pods and Pills – The 12th EVE Blog Banter: EVE on the MOVE!
  • Lords of Space – EVE on my Iphone?
  • Cle Demaari – Is that EVE in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
  • Life in Low Sec – Wormholes On the Go
  • The Elitist – EVE On Mobile Devices
  • More to come…
  • So, it’s been quiet around here, hasn’t it? Well, that’s because real life continues to be busy, our little daughter takes up not only a lot of time, but also a lot of my headspace – leaving less time for reflecting on all things Eve. Still, she’s well worth it, and my life is so much better than it was before her arrival.

    The very lovely Curse (From Evelopedia)

    The very lovely Curse (From Evelopedia)

    Time constraints meant that I missed the opportunity to participate in the most recent blog banter; a shame as I had a few thoughts on the possibilities opened by the idea of extending the T3 range to more than just cruisers. In brief, I wanted to avoid the concept of “strategic BS” or “strategic frigs” and instead was looking at a set of ships to offer strategic options to those who would rather mine than fight, or industrialise over fight. Ships with R&D options, kinda solo mobile mini POS… but anyway – I missed the window of opportunity.

    Enough with things that I have not done… how about what I have done? Well, Psia has spent her past few concentrating on becoming a leader.  I know, I know… leaders aren’t made, they are born. But, Eve offers the opportunity to train for leadership, and soon P will be able to x up with L5 3/3/3/3. This has the added bonus of allowing her to proudly display the “SC” title on her character sheet. And speaking of titles, she’s graduated! As a graduate of Eve University she gets a neato medal to show everyone what a clever girl she is, and can make her way in New Eden with the acknowledgement that she’s no longer a n00b.

    She’s not going anywhere for the time being though. The university provides the ideal place to further develop her skills and my understanding. Frequent wars are giving her fleet, small gang and pvp experience; and the university’s support network is set up to offer all the expert opinion and knowledge base that she could wish for. There’s also an amount of recompense owed to the Uni for their help and generosity in offering her a home, and so she’ll stick around and try to give something back. At 6.5 mil SP, she’s starting to get to be a competant pilot – but some more experience is always welcome, and to be able to continue to learn whilst offering something back to the corp is win/win.

    After she’s done with leadership skills, it’ll be time to move on to those elusive T2 medium guns, and from there cruiser V (ye gods that feels like a long haul) and thereafter Recons. Curse and Pilgrim, here she comes!

    My alt taught me a valuable lesson the other evening. After a long night of trying to get my daughter to sleep, I figured that I’d log onto my alt and do a couple of quick missions. His L2 agent offered Recon to him, and I duly set out in my Moa. Being tired, and not having read the mission text, or paid any attention to the Eve-survival text, I proceeded to attack one of the three pirates – who spawned a ton of bad guys, who blew me to pieces. Boom went my Moa. Then boom went the speedy frig that I tried the mission with. And the shuttle. And the n00b frig. In the end, I quit. Abandoned the mission, and was several million isk out of pocket. Which is completely sucky, having wiped out a ton of profit. On the upside, this might be the impetus needed to buy and fit a Drake for missioning. He’s a few hours off the T2 shield skills, and so can probably offer decent dps and a good tank. It should enable him to blitz the L2s and get onto L3s as fast as possible.

    Outside Eve, I have been toying with some other games. I played a bit of the Champions Online open beta, and whilst I enjoyed it, it didn’t get me excited enough to actually spend actual real money. I have downloaded and installed the Gatheryn beta test client, but have thus far been unable to make it further than a very buggy character creation screen, so I’m waiting for another patch or two before going back to it (having submitted my bug report). As evidenced by the previous post, I am pretty excited by the potential of The Secret World, an MMO by my favourite developers, Funcom (Anarchy online was my first MMO love, for all its faults). It looks, from the little I’ve seen of it, like a cross between Call of Cthulhu, Anton Wilson-ism, and White Wolf’s Hunter. Incidentally, Hunter is a game for which I have a deep and abiding love, driven by my days playtesting it for my good friend Leafshine, who was one of it’s key authors. That WW are now owned by CCP is a neat synchronicity. I know that Funcom do not have the best reputation for quality product at release, but I shall be following this like a frothing fanboi. Do not expect unbiased coverage.

    I see that CCP have announced their next expansion, Dominion, whioch will focus on the sovereignty mechanics.  doubt that I’ll be hanging in 0.0 by then, but I look forward to seeing the changes nonetheless. I’m not so sure about their own social networking platform. Being Facebooked, Livejournaled, Tweeted and LinkedIn – I’m not sure that I can stomach yet another niche social network – but we’ll see.

    That’s all for now – I hope to have something a bit more substantive to talk about soon.

    Welcome to the tenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

    This month’s banter leans a little, OK a lot, on the academic side. It comes to us from xiphos83 of A Misguided Adventurer, who asks the following: ” Victor Davis Hanson argues that western culture, comprising of ideals such as freedom, debate, capitalism, and consensual government, are what make western society so successful at waging war. These ideologies create a warrior who’s direct participation in government, ability to think freely, and desire to remain free, fights harder and is willing to suffer more than his conscripted foe. Though a military must remain a structured oligarchy to fight a war effectively, why in a world where military conflict is as familiar as breathing are there so few alliances that embrace these ideologies when governing their members?”

    Well, well. What an intriguing notion we have here, and props to Xiphos83 for putting it forward. Let’s have a look.

    First off, the conceit that we are asked to accept, namely that “western” ideals make for better and more sucessful warriors. I find this idea to be complete and utter bunkum. Now, I’ve not read Professor Hanson’s books, but to write off the Mongols, Ottoman Empire, Salah ah-Din’s Sultanate, the Umayyad occupation of Spain, and many other sucessful military powers who confronted and defeated the “western” nations seems short sighted in the least. And that’s without considering the far Eastern powers. Furthermore, it is the nature of military training that ensures that the ideals that prof Hanson maintains play such a large part in the West’s dominance of war, are actually subjugated beneath the need to follow orders, and to forgo freedom in exchange for military efficiency. I would postulate that the success of the West in war owes more to the financial capabilities of those states, than to any desire to fight for freedom.

    It is probably also worth considering that participation in government, freedom of thought and desire to remain free are in no way the exclusive domain of “western” societies. All of these have equally applied to those nations and powers traditionally considered “Eastern”.

    This is an Eve blog, and an Eve blog banter; and so whilst I take issue with the assertions made by Professor Hanson, it is also important for me to address the question posed – so let’s try that.

    Why are there so few alliances that embrace the ideals of direct governmental participation and freedom of thought and action? Well, first off, it’s down to the participants in this society. Eve isn’t life. You aren’t immersed in Eve 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – if you are, then you should probably have a think about your priorities. Most Eve players play for a few hours a week, perhaps a few a day for the hardcore, and therefore do not wish to put energy into thinking about, or participating in, these ideals. Far easier to toe the line, when that line offers all that you require, than to rock the boat in search of notional freedom. Alliance A offers the opportunity to smite my enemies, mine during the day, and research at the POS. I like this, so why challenge the leaders? If a leader does something that I dislike, then far easier to leave Alliance A and join Alliance B than to try to change Alliance A’s governmental system. In common with most MMO organisational structures, when the leaders of an alliance step grossly out of line, they are deposed and replaced with new dictators rather than the whole alliancegovernance structure being overhauled. Thus default structures endure, and the evolution of government never happens.

    The momentum for change is never great, especially when it comes to governmental system. It took the best part of 700 years for England to achieve anything that might represent a consensual government, and that was with millions of people whose everyday lives were lived there. How much longer would it take for a couple of hundred people who are part time inhabitants to naturally generate that sort of momentum? Rapid governmental change in MMO organisations will tend to come from extreme action by the leaders of those organisations leading to extreme re-actions by the participants. In those extreme cases it is seen that populist uprisings can drive governmental change. The aforementioned apathy is pushed to one side, but a kick out against oppressive rulers. I suspect, that due to the more mature nature of the average Corp and Alliance leaders in Eve there are fewer moments of high internal drama.

    Lastly, there is a massive difference between war in Eve (and indeed any MMO) and war in the real world. So gaping is the rift between them that they don’t even qualify as the same thing. Whilst Eve is a game of consequences, war itself is of little consequence. It is, and is intended to be, recreational. It would be more apt to compare war in Eve to a competitive sport, and I see no suggestion that the “western” ideals do anything to improve the sporting prowess of those nations. In Eve one’s freedom is rarely impacted by war, being a game of free choice, thus leaving little room for Hanson’s theory in the game. And perhaps therein lies the greatest reason that Alliances are not as Hanson’s theory would suggest… the freedom and “western” ideals that he talks of, the commercialism and debate – these things are enshrined by the creators into the game. These freedoms, these philisophies, are at the core of New Eden and the player experience – so much so that they remain untouched no matter what might happen within the parameters of the world our characters live (part-time) in. Even consensual government is offered through the CSM.

    Were we to buy into Hanson’s theory, we would find that the reason that alliances resemble (benevolent) dictatorships, is that the freedoms and ideals that make for such accomplished warriors are already there – carved in stone by the universe in which we operate – and therefore our petty substructures may take any form that we choose, and in the absence of choice a default form. For even the western powers must have their oligarchial military structures in order to operate effectively.

    Well, that was a bit rambly, and I hope that it made a little sense. If not, I blame new-father induced sleep deprivation/distraction and hope that you will forgive me. I hope to have a chance to update again sometime soon, though family commitments are legion at the mo. In the meantime, please take a moment to read some of the other banter posts, as listed below:

    Cense and Censorbility

    Posted: June 26, 2009 in MMO Concepts

    …with grovelling apologies to the spirit of Jane Austen.

    I first came across this particular piece of luddite politics via Ysharros’ Stylish Corpse.

    Stropp of Stropp’s World has posted an article about the recent plans from the australian government, that could effectively end the ability of Australian consumers to play MMOs. Whilst I suspect that this is a state of affairs that is unlikely to come to pass, it still bears highlighting, for fear that inactivity leads to laws like this being passed. Stropp has further asked that bloggers take up the torch, and make mention of this, and so here I am, doing so. To add to the collection of links, the Inquirer (bastion of fine journalistic integrity that it is *coughs*) have a piece on the proposals here.