Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The price of everything and the value of nothing

Last week a special Awful Lost Of the Day entitled ALOD: CREDIT CARD WARLORD surfaced. As it happens the ALOD covers more than just the one loss and spans more than a single day.

Superficial reading suggests that Dagbog Fokin was remarkably persistent in losing expensive ships with questionable fittings.  As the losses mounted he seemed more and more determined to somehow bolster the fits with faction and officer modules.  At the time of writing his "kill" board included 27 losses in all to the tune of 14.35B isk.

I'm not writing this to  indulge in schadenfreude - on the contrary, this is the kind of verve and firmness of purpose that your author admires.

I do wish someone will assist this guy.  Looking at the kill board, the majority of his losses had no CONCORD involvement, indicating Dagbog actively engaged in fights - duels/shot at suspects, whatever.

He even managed to whore on one kill.  For such a new character he shows remarkable willingness to engage.  In that respect, kudos to you sir!

Normally I would take no heed of the apparent pay to win strategy of Dagbog or Jalrek (made famous by the bonus room saga) - the money was theirs to spend and the game theirs to play however they choose.

Except in this case it hits a little bit close to home.  You see your author is in the (space) poor house. In order to fully justify his pathetic excuses explain, a bit of background.

Due to RL circumstances your author is relegated  to little playtime and to playing on a 15' (work) laptop (going on eight months).  He can run the EVE client, but he can't scan (sucky graphics card).  He cannot multibox (PC gets really hot). So no scouting, no probing.  No exploration, no wormholes.

With limited options, he resigned himself to a bout of light highsec work and playing some skill-queue-online (learning clones!)

Which brings him full circle back to the credit card, the poorhouse and the problem.

In order for a EVE to remain a game I don't want to have to excessively grind ISK, so I fund my first two accounts with real money.

Any additional accounts has to be funded by PLEX (with in game ISK) and would lapse if no ISK is available.  This also holds for any additional multi character training certificates.

With the price of PLEX now at 1.2 billion ISK, am I tempted to fund multi character training with the credit card?  Certainly.  At that price I am tempted to buy a couple of PLEX to sell in the market.

But no.

In order for a game to matter, stuff has to mean something.  Losses should sting.  Officer mods should be fitted with care.  A shiny ship should be just that - a shiny ship for a special occasion.

To me the value of an in game item is tied directly to the in game effort I have to expend to acquire said item.  Any short cuts in any way only serves to erode that value and by extension my ultimate enjoyment of the game.

This more than anything else is my wish for messieurs Jalrek and Dagbog:  I hope that they will stay in the game long enough to eventually be able to appreciate the value of the ships that they fly and the modules that they fit.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The games people play

I grew up with PC games.

First the monochrome arcade style games.  These were not as nice on my rudimentary PC as they were in the arcade, nor was my keyboard as nice as the "real" controls. But at least once the initial game was paid for (you bought your games right?) playing was free.

Then adventure games.  I was an ace janitor in Space Quest, the knight of King Quest, Guybrush of Monkey Island.... you name it, we played it.

With the advent of Doom, soon followed by Quake and Unreal Tournament we all switched to first person shooters.  Sadly I sucked (too slow).  Champion at typing insults in the chat window though  ;-)

It was strategy games that finally made me a complete addict.  Starting with Sid Meier's Civilization and progressing through the Warcraft's and StarCraft.  Command and Conquer,   Notable exceptions here is World of Warcraft (phew!) and StarCraft II - SCII only came much later and I never really played it.

There was however always a kind of unsatisfied feeling with all these games.  They started, you gathered resources and built.  Then you did battle and either won or lost.  Fragged or got fragged. The next map you get to do it all over again.  You never got to keep any of that gold, or lumber or BFG's (my greatest regret!) or whatever.  There was never that continuity.

Enter EVE.  And a continuously growing character.  Hour after hour, day by day my skill points build.  I can do more and more.  As long as my subscription is running, I am making progress.  From flying a frigate to a destroyer, a cruiser, battle cruiser and ever the under achiever, much later a battleship.

Starting of as Caldari progressing to Minmatar (still Winmatar at the time), to Gallente (drone buff!) and finally Amarr - because, completeness and also nerf proof.  Besides lasers are cool and you get to scoff at non Amarr uni-racial corpies that have to go on humiliating ammo runs during POS shoots... Scrubs! ;-)

In reality EVE goals are much easier to achieve than those in real life.  Just go out and try to fit a spaceship in RL - come on - I dare you!  Ever enrol for a degree in Electronic Engineering?  EVE "me" graduated cum laude level V in a month.

Of course skill points is just part of that equation - player skill also comes into it, but as your author has reconciled himself with the fact that he is but a moron and a slacker, he will dance past that particular minefield and skip to the rich player experience instead.

EVE really does offer fabulous entertainment for the cost of 15$ per month. Yes I pay with real money - which part of moron and slacker did you fail to understand!?  I digress.  That brings me to the second thing I like about EVE.  The endless possibilities to amuse.  To entertain.  The sandpit.

In a sense you get to do it all over again.  The arcade game (have I mentioned lasers?). Ever been in a massive fleet decimating another fleet in what can only be described as a turkey shoot?  Yes! Ever come out ahead in a 1 vs 4?  Ok me neither...

Quests are now exploration.  Strategy games - the gathering of resources and loot, through missions (maybe) and mines (hell no!) - soooo much cooler than lumber or that barbarous relic gold!

EVE is the shooter game with a permanent killboard for all to see.  Just in case you are wondering, your author still suck at that... and he is still a master at insults in local chat private chat, as his clone station was 40 jumps off in highsec.  Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

At every twist at every turn your author is reminded that he is but a noob.  And he is OK with that.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

What you know for certain that just ain’t so

It ain't what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
     - Mark Twain

There are many, many things that the EVE players and opinion makers know for sure, that just ain't so. And there are many, many things that the EVE players and opinion makers know for sure, that are in fact just so.

The trouble is in reliably distinguishing the latter from the former.  In the absence of a proper metric, who's to say which is wrong and which is right?  Concerning matters of opinion right or wrong often depends on who the judge is.  Worse still there may be no right or wrong, but merely difference.

But what of the cases where there is a metric?

          Which is a long winded way
          for your author to say
          he takes issue with beliefs
          that he sincerely believes
          just isn't so.  ;-)

Naturally he comes armed with borrowed data (without permission), that he may be using out of context. Further more said data is only connected to the points he wishes to argue via weak arguments. Of course you dear reader are at liberty to say, but Absence... that just ain't so.  And that too is OK.

First up is the Blue Doughnut

Now this blog is not the first to contest the idea of the blue doughnut, but the distinct impression your author has is that it remained widely accepted.  Arguments of proponents of the blue doughnut largely hinged on the non invasion pacts and lack of daily wars as proof.

Opponents of course argued that EVE is a game, one can only war so much.  Pacts were needed to build.

In the end arguments of pacts and wars or the lack of did not sway. What did, in this instance, was the numbers from the very unlikely source of Greedy Goblin.  He did a series on the the kills of 2014.

Now your author is but a simple man and the data may not say what he thinks it does.  In addition Gevlon compiled it with a very different aim in mind.  Never the less, reading those numbers, there sure seemed to be an awful lot of killing and dying in null sec.  The blue doughnut was anything but.

Next is "EVE is a PVP game"

If you haven't heard this you probably haven't heard of EVE.  This is the often repeated mantra of what this guy refers to as "chest beating knuckle daggers".  Of course this also depends on the judge of the argument and who sets the parameters of what exactly PVP is.

I recall a discussion where self styled PVP'ers proclaimed that undocking in EVE is PVP and therefore all of EVE is PVP. Q.E.D.

I was ecstatic. I was a PVP'er!

Except, I was not. I had played EVE for years.  I was a slow starter (this was before null sec) . I had undocked thousands of times.  I had 3 kills and 8 deaths.

Forward a year or two and what do you know,  CCP comes out with this keynote.  Watch it if you want, but Blastrad does a nice job of breaking it down for us.  8% of players are true PVP'ers.

Damn, I was but a scrub again.

Now I know what you are thinking.  But Absence... why bring this up now?  With the collapse and withdrawal of many large alliances from null surely your first point is moot?  And even if you are correct on your second so what?

Ahhh... you see now, there is the rub.  The problem is not the statements themselves.  Or whether they are correct or not.  The problem is that they were widely held beliefs that may have been incorrect.  Beliefs that drives decisions that shapes the game.

I believe belief in the blue doughnut and the furore it caused pressured CCP into Aegis sov. Aegis sov feels rushed.  Incomplete.  Figure-it-out-as-we-go like.  Maybe I'm wrong.  But possibly if someone had debunked the blue doughnut myth in time, things could have been easier for all of us.

And you're right, that horse has bolted, BUT maybe there is hope for the future.  Maybe the PVP mantra can be dialled down as a driver to pressure CCP.  Maybe metrics can be used to manage expectations.  I have a feeling CCP is getting around to doing just this.

Of course it doesn't stop at doughnuts and PVP.  There are a number of looming questions.

What to do with capitals.  What to do with battleships and battlecruisers.  What to do with links and logi.

It's nice when someone comes up with the numbers.  Numbers debunk myths.

Instead of merely claiming a certain frigate is overpowered, crunch the numbers.  Ditto cruisers. If you disagree with that, bring your own.  Bring substance not rhetoric.

I know CCP is doing this.  I have seen graphs of ship types in use.  Graphs of gun types being used. Just not recently (drat - See Edit 1 below).

There is a lot of speculation about subscription numbers and alts.  Of course CCP is under no obligation to provide this, but it would be nice.  Even if it is bad news I think the EVE community will survive.  Not knowing however only drives frustration and speculation.

Edit 1:  This post was compiled on Friday 11 September and scheduled for publishing on Monday 14 September. In between the initial writing and the publishing, CCP brought the numbers. Thank you guys! With the edit I thought I might as well release it today.

Edit 2: There is also dev blog regarding sov, signed "Team Five 0".  In keeping with calls not to play the man but the ball so to speak, I have decided to drop the term Fozziesov in favour of Aegis sov. In a company like CCP one would expect that decisions like sov would not be left to one person.  

Sure, it may be that one person's idea's mainly drive it, but that is not necessarily so - we don't know how big a hand CCP Fozzie had in the Aegis sov system.  What I do know is connecting the PERSON to the sov system in a game produced by a COMPANY makes for an environment where said person may be unnecessarily maligned.  That does not mean that we have to like the Aegis sov system.  Or stop criticising contributing to it.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Discontinuity discontent: In defence of the Bitter Vet

A long long time ago when I was still a semi noob I joined my first serious corp.  A pvp oriented corp and as it happened shortly after I joined a decision was made to move to 0.0.

The main decision was between NPC null or joining one of the big alliances.  There was lots of discussion and naturally not everyone agreed.  There was the small gang/solo super heroes that was very pro NPC space and anti "pet" space.

On the other side was the core of our "veterans" that favoured joining an alliance.  High skill point players that had done it all.  From high sec war dec's and piracy, to faction warfare, low sec piracy. They have been to -10.00 security and back.

As far as they were concerned, they had reached the end game - except for capitals.  In the end this is what swayed us when it came time to vote.  What most peeps realised was that the game of capitals, dreads and super capitals was a game best played in an alliance.

On the flip side all the other solo/small gang activities were still possible for us less ambitious members.  Indeed one could argue that we had better solo/small gang/sub cap fights against the NPC residents as part of the null sec alliance, than we would have had as NPC residents against the null sec alliance.

In addition a whole new world opened up for us - having players with capitals was great.  We had to scout, we had to do sub cap support, we learned how to move a capital ship, we died in droves as cyno bunnies.  We got fighters assigned to your Naga's when we were poor and had to run havens...  We were ecstatic when we killed an enemy capital or dread, less so when one of the guys lost one.  Above all we were all richer for that experience.

In time even my humble self skilled into a suitcase Archon - never dreamt of taking it into battle - just for flying my sub cap ships around when we deployed.  Even so one had to have several months of training in navigation alone to fly even a suitcase carrier semi properly.

And then jump fatigue hit.

The primary stated aim of jump fatigue as nerfing power projection.  I have no idea whether nerfing power projection specifically intended nerfing the use of suitcase carriers or whether they were merely collateral damage.

I was not against jump fatigue per se, it did however add friction to my and others'  deployments.

Now don't get me wrong I could still get around.  We still sourced ships.  It was just more difficult. A difficulty that I think stifled content - surely not an aim?

Whether the demise of suitcase carriers was intentional or not - either way represents a discontinuity.

I had invested significant amounts of time, skill points and isk to acquire and fly one of these ships - within the rules and with a reasonable expectation of a return.

And just like that, there was none.

My disillusion however is nothing in comparison to the guys that skilled into carriers and dreads with the intention of actually doing battle with them.  Millions of skill points.  Months of training.

And with Fozziesov, that too was gone.

Capitals were worthless.  I  am not against Fozziesov itself nor am I condoning Bitter Vet Syndrome, but against this backdrop of wilful disregard , I can understand it.

I know there were cries for change, but what about the principle of Primum non nocere?

Maybe CCP felt pressured into "doing something".  Maybe they do have a road map for capitals. Somehow I think they would have shared it if they had.  Either way, that horse has bolted.  We live and we learn.

The reason I address this now is that there are pressure coming through for new sets of changes.  Changes that will again affect higher skill point/niche players.

The first deals with logi.  Also here.

The other deals with links.

At least other calls for taking it slow are starting to come in.  Above all I hope the Vet's keep hanging in there.

I serves well to stress here that I am not against change - without change there will never be improvements - all we can ask for is considered change.  I do think we are making progress.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A simple biased hypocrite

Hi my name is Absence and I am a simple biased hypocrite.

I did not intend to start out this blog in this fashion.  Life is not perfect and you use what you're given.

What prompted this incipience was a convergence of themes in media that I frequent.  Chief amongst these is the often vicious nature of comment and opinion on the internet.  Everyone can blog.  Heck even I can blog.  Everyone can comment.  Sometimes anonymously.  

The first writ that caught my eye was a real life a news site closed it's pages to comments and one of its authors argued that turning off comments protects writers from abuse.

Along similar lines and more pertinent to EVE FearlessLittleToaster featured in defence of CCP Fozzie.  Rixx Javix chipped in with the eloquent and  propitious post titled the great divide.

There is one golden thread connecting all these sources, and that seems to be that they all got sick of the negativity, hate and criticism.  To a varying degree all of them want "some" people to disappear, welcome contributions from "the right kind" of people.

It is a very melancholic moment for me.  Are they wrong or are they right?  I would argue yes.  And I would argue no.  Situations of this nature always makes me think of this skit of Steve Jobs answering a very antagonistic question from a gruff and denigrate person.  Steve Jobs had his faults, but I thought he handled that quite well.

There was every opportunity and justification to put the uncouth inquisitor down, but he chooses to rise above that.  There's a lesson there somewhere.

Along the lines he reiterated some important truths.

  • You can please some of the people some of the time.
  • Even the uncouth inquisitor was right in some respects 
  • You've got to start with the customer experience, figure out what they want and deliver that, NOT what the engineers want.
  • Mistakes will be made, but they will be fixed, and he will support his team.
  • Despite everything some people will still not like it.

If I was CCP I would circulate that skit internally everyday.  But heck, CCP does not need me to tell them that. They probably do it anyway.  As an aside, I would paste that skit in answer to every irrational critique I got if I were them...  Heck, I should paste that skit in answer to every irrational critique I get...

Which brings me full circle to comments, censure and contributions from "the right" people.

All the referenced sources at the top have a point.  Comments and criticism can be toxic and destructive.  I suspect that this is what broke Jester's tank in the end.  Hate and insult certainly cannot be condoned and should not be endured.

But there is a flip side.  You see fundamentally we all have our biases and if Jonathan Haidt is to believed, we are all self righteous hypocrites.  If this is indeed true, and nobody was allowed to point it out to us, how would we ever know?

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


The contents of this blog will primarily be about EVE-online, interspersed with some real life truths, delusions, lies and rants whenever the fancy strikes me.

Although my newly created character Absence of Substance serves as the public face of this blog, I am by no means new to EVE (although still a noob).  As such many of the stories and anecdotes will be borrowed from other characters.

This is my very first blog.  I am bound to make mistakes (please be patient and kind).  Let us hope that I can go the distance and not succumb to Effort Shock, the pesky urgencies of Real Life, Wife Agro, Bitter Vet Syndrome or any other real/imaginary ailments!