Stuff To Read

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

100 Rifters

If you've been involved in PvP much you were probably given a bit of advice when you first started.  Grab as many T1 frigs as you can afford and go out to low or null and lose them.  As you lose them, you'll gain lots of experience and improve your abilities more effectively than any other thing you can do.  We all suck when we start, and some of us still suck (cough-me-cough), so this is a great way to improve.  I never did it myself,  though I wasn't shy about trying to find fights when I first started, I was (and still am) a little too cautious when I'm out PvPing.  My ship and tactic knowledge is limited at best as well, though I have improved exponentially since I've joined Agony.

So that brings me to my Rifters.  I recently just bought 100 of them with the requisite fittings, and I'm going out to lose them.  I've been pretty isk poor for a while so buying anything more powerful just isn't feasible right now. I'm not going to use them for fleet action, this is all for my solo work.  I won't care about KB stats, I won't care about losing them (though I won't be stupid in my engagements), all I'll care about is getting myself into good fights that I can learn from.  If I have a chance at killing something I'll go for it, period.  All frigates, T1 Destroyers, and T1 cruisers will probably be the main ships I engage, though I might try killing other things as well if I'm feeling adventurous.

Like I said, this is a learning experience.  I will be trying to win every fight of course, but realistically I'll lose most of them.  When I'm fresh out of Rifters, I expect my knowledge and ability in solo PvP to be greatly improved.  This will probably take a couple months to finish completely because my playtime probably won't allow me to do it any sooner than that.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

WTFB: Ask For Intel

So you've spent some time in highsec and you need to come back to the fold.  You know the routes in are often camped.  This is when it behooves you do ask if there's anything in your path.  It will save you from a stupid loss.

A month or so ago I lost a Stiletto because I didn't do this exact thing.  I was in an interceptor, I'll be fine I thought.  I came through the gate into PVH, Bubble went up, ship went down.  Had I simply asked on coms if the way was clear, or if there was any activity in the area I would have been prepared and probably not lost my ship.  Not an expensive lesson thankfully, but a lesson non-the-less.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

New Player Experience Part 2

In part 1 I talked about how terrible the NPE in Eve is, and in part 2 I will be talking about my solution to the problem.

The first thing we need to ask ourselves when designing a new player experience is what is the game about?  What are the vitals that every player should know?  And, how can we best teach those new to the game this information?

So what is Eve?  Eve is a PvP game with deep social and technical complexity.  Everything in Eve is a form of PvP; even if you are just a miner you are competing against other miners to sell your minerals.  This truth, first and foremost, is what needs to be shown to new players.

The first thing I would do is create a new player region or constellation.  I personally don't know how large it would need to be (it would need to be large enough that new players are around each other, but not so small as to be cramped), but all new players should spawn here, regardless of race and noob-corp they are a part of.  For reasons I will explain later, there should be an age limit of some sort on who can enter this region, be that skill points, character/account age, or something else. 

The first and easiest thing for CCP to fix are the missions.  The noob missions need to explain how the game works in an easy to understand format.  They need to keep it simple, avoiding unnecessary complexity for the new player, while still providing the information needed to survive in the game.

The first of these new player missions should focus on game play basics such as:
  • Fitting your ship to it's bonuses.
  • Optimal, falloff, traversal/tracking.
  • Different tanking types (shield, armor, speed, signature, and distance).
  • Strengths and weaknesses of different ship classes (bigger is not always better).
  • The Overview.
  • Mining.
  • Buy and sell orders.
  • The UI.
  • Strengths and weaknesses of different weapon systems.
  • The skill queue.
  • Manufacturing.
These missions need to show the player, not tell them.  For example have the player orbit a large NPC battleship and show how even though the large guns of the battleship do lots of damage, they are unable to track the players fast moving frigate.  Overall these missions should take a couple of hours to go through.

After the player goes through the above missions their real education will begin.  Remember above when I said a new player region should be created, and that it should have an age limit?  The reason for that is this region will be null security space.  Yes, put noobs in 0.0 right from the start!  The age limit is simply to prevent griefing by older players.  While in this 0.0 environment new players will receive the above missions, and graduate onto more advanced missions such as:
  • Find and kill another player.
  • Pod another player.
  • How to use your D-scan.
  • Go fight until you lose a ship.
  • Go fight until you lose your pod with an implant in it.
  • Travel to highsec (outside of the noob area) and suicide gank a ship (show the sec status loss and being Concorded, refund the sec status loss on completion of the mission).
  • Join a fleet and kill another player (teach about Eve Voice).
  • Probe usage and scanning.
Many other missions could be created to demonstrate what the game is like.  This will start players off with a full understanding of what they are getting into.  At any point during the first set of missions these new players may come across slightly older players looking to kill them.  Explain before it all that at any moment after undocking any other player may try and attack them. Ideally these missions will take several more hours to complete.

By doing this you accomplish a few things.  First you give players a fair understanding of what the game is about before they make a decision on weather or not to continue playing.  Second, you have explained the mechanics in a logical and useful way so players are able to survive in the world.  Next, it takes its time to teach these things, and does so in a manner, so you can understand them and will be able to remember.

And that brings me to the "hook."  What should Eve's hook be?  What would make someone want to continue playing after these events they've been through?  Simple, the players.  At the end of the tutorial, CCP should highlight some of the great accomplishments Eve players have reached over the years, making special mention of recent events.

Talk about how The Guiding Hand Social Club stole a fortune.  Talk about how The Mittani runs a corporation of 8000+ players, an alliance and coalition even larger, and how half of Eve hates him as a villain.  Talk about how Morning Maniac created a University, and how Kelduum Revaan runs it now.  Talk about Burn Jita (or whatever the big news event of the day is).  Talk about the fall of an alliance.  Talk about the CSM.  Talk about Chribba.  Whatever it is, talk about the players and their great accomplishments and failures.  After all, that's what makes Eve great, the players.

Then challenge the player to go make their mark on the galaxy.

New Player Experience Part 1

It's pretty well documented that the NPE in Eve is terrible.  It does absolutely nothing to familiarize the new Eve player to what Eve actually is.  I have a somewhat radical idea on how to fix that, so bear with me here.

This first post will talk about NPEs in general, what makes a good one, and what makes a bad one.  It will talk about specific games and how they succeed in those first few vital minutes, and about how Eve does none of this.  The second part of this post, which I hope to deliver tomorrow, will detail my plan to fix this.

For a start let me go through a few games I have played recently (MMO or otherwise) that have a great NPE.  Then we will talk about what makes a good NPE, why these games have it, and why Eve does not

Call of Duty
Mass Effect
Angry Birds
Star Craft

What do they all have in common in regards to their NPE?  First, the first mission/level in each and every one of these games is simple, and they graduatly increase in difficulty to provide you with an interesting challenge.  They all have learning curves and you can't learn all there is to do in one sitting (granted not to the level of Eve, but it's there regardless).

Second, within 10 minutes of playing these games you know what it's about.  You can get an idea if you would enjoy it or not, because it shows enough of the basics to get the point across.

Next, they all have a "hook,"  something that draws you in and makes you want to continue playing beyond that 10 minutes.

Lastly, they all teach you, in simple and easy to understand terms, how to play the game within a reasonable time frame in comparison to the learning curve (Angry Birds takes less that a minute, Skyrim about a half hour).  Basically, they give you the tools to succeed in the world they have created. 

Now let's compare this to Eve.

Beginning missions are easy, and scale at a rate that will keep you challenged?  Nope, all the noob missions are notoriously easy, except for the scanning tutorial which throws you to the wolves with no idea with what you're doing. 

Within a short time frame you understand what the game is about, and can make a rational decision on weather or not you would enjoy it?  Nope.  The noob missions do very little to familiarize a new player with what Eve actually is.  It does teach you some basic mechanics, and a few things to do, but in reality you have no idea what this game is truly about.  Therefore, you can't make an educated decision about it.

Does Eve have a hook?  Nope!  You finish the tutorial missions and are dropped off at the nearest gas station with $20 in your pocket and told "good luck."  This in my opinion is the single greatest fault Eve has with retaining new players.  The learning curve isn't the reason, there are lots of smart gamers out there.  It's not the fear of loss, though that is a problem that needs to be addressed.  My first time playing Eve I quit because of the simple fact that I had no idea what to do next.  How many of you that have quit and come back can say the same thing?

Does Eve, in a proper time frame, teach you how to survive in the world?  NO!  In the space of a half hour to an hour you are expected to remember 50 missions (all teaching you something different), as they cram in down your throat.  They also cram this information down your throat without any context, and compound the problem with providing incredibly useless information right from the start.  Seriously, does a 1 hour old noob need to know what the difference between a Radar, Magnetometric, Gravimetric , and Ladar site is?  Save it for later.  They also miss out on important teaching opportunities with ship fitting, PvP, defense, and a host of other things.

Now that I have detailed the failures of the Eve NPE, in my next post I will outline my plan to fix this

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Miner's Paradise

The recent explosion of "Fight Us Maybe?"  has inspired me to create my own Eve parody.  I have no voice talent so I won't sing it for you though, deal with it. 

Miner's Paradise - Parody of Gangster's Paradise (closer to Weird Al's Amish Paradise truthfully)

As I fly through the belt where I harvest my ore
I take a look at my game and realize it's quite a bore.
But that's just perfect for a miner like me,
you know I shun dangerous things like that Artillery.

At 6 O'Clock in the morning I'm bottin' ore
Orca does the boostin' while I look for more, fool.
And I've been minin', refinin', so long that,
even Chribba thinks that my mind is gone.

I'm a man of the trit, I'm into building see
If I mine all my of ore, then I get it for free!
And if I refine all of my ore, and you refine thine
Then tonight we're gonna hotdrop like its 2000 and 9.

We've been spending most our lives livin' in a Miner's Paradise.
Mine Arknor once or twice, livin' in a Miner's Paradise.
Free minerals sure are nice, livin' in a Miner's Paradise.
We sell ore below cost price, livin' in a Miner's Paradise.

A local Goon ganked me in a belt last week
I just went to the forums and I gave him my critique
I really don't care, in fact it's really cool beans
'Cause I'll laughing my ass off, when CCP intervenes.

But I ain't ever ganked a man, even if he deserved it
Me PvP? You know that's unheard of
I never cause trouble, but I got a cool eye
$70 for this? Of course, I'll take five!

So if you come to mine you'll be bored to tears
Haven't even shot a rat in all these decade long years
But we not really weak, so please don't point and stare
We just want the game to be fair.

There's no tank, no speed, no artillery, not a single explosion
whenever local goes up, we just turn tail and run.

We've been spending most our lives livin' in a Miners Paradise.
Mine Bistot once or twice, livin' in a Miners Paradise.
No gankings sure are nice, livin' in a Miners Paradise.
Isk per hour is our vise, livin' in a Miners Paradise.

Fitting out the barge, haulin' lots of ore,
Bought a Hulk on Monday, soon I'll buy another!
Think you're really special?  Think you're really cool?
We'll I'm about a million times a wealthy as you!

I'm the richest miner all the miners want to be like,
On my comp day and night running bots 'till the afterlife!
So don't be ganky, and don't be whiney,
Or else, my brother, I might have to get some merc corps on your hiney!

We've been spending most our lives livin' in a Miners Paradise.
Mine Crokite once or twice, livin' in a Miners Paradise.
We sell ore below cost price, livin' in a Miners Paradise.
But you'd probably think it bites, livin' in a Miners Paradise.

Monday, June 18, 2012

WTFB: "Keep up to date with Eve events."

The people who should read this piece of advice probably won't.  Remember Burn Jita?  Remember how everyone knew it was happening a month or two in advance?  Remember the splash screen CCP put up warning people about it?  Remember how everyone was smart and no one brought freighters to Jita and the Goons didn't get any kills?  ...Oh wait, I guess that last part didn't happen.

If you keep up to date with events like Burn Jita you can save yourself a lot of frustration.  If you stay on top of what's going on you can make a lot of isk, or take advantage of someone else's misfortune.  Even if all you do is mine all by your self, it's good to know the basics of what's going on in the galaxy.  This is a social game after all.

Stepping Up In The Chain Of Command

There I was.  Terrified, sweating, a little shaky, a little sick to my stomach, with no idea on how to proceed.  I was surrounded by veteran members of a very good, and well renown, PvP corp, people who have been playing for two or three times as long as I have.  And these people, people who I respect and admire for their knowledge and experience, were going to follow me into battle.

As I promised in my last post I took my first fleet out on a roam yesterday.  I had never FC'd anything before in my life.  My knowledge of ship strengths and weaknesses are limited at best, yet there I was, about to embark on the most interesting and fun two hours of my Eve career.

I decided as this was my first attempt to keep it cheap and only fly T1 frigates.  This proved to be a wise decision.  The roam itself, by all measurable accounts, wasn't very successful; we lost 7 T1 frigates, and only killed a Thrasher and a Jaguar.  Having done the math on the isk war, we lost that slightly as well, though not by much.  I'm not going to be talking much about the specifics of the roam much as honestly that would just bore you; instead I'm going to be talking about my feelings and experiences as a first time FC.

Nerves can be a good thing as long as they don't get the best of you.  A little amount of nervousness keeps you on your toes, but too much can cripple you.  With this in mind, I asked my girlfriend to make me a drink to help calm myself down a bit.  She obliged with a Rockstar energy drink and vodka cocktail.  This helped me remember everyone knew it was my first time, that it was a video game, and to just go out and have fun.

I started moving the fleet around a few systems looking for targets while our skirmisher scouted for us.  Before the fleet started I decided two things that greatly helped me through the experience.  Know that your fleet is going to die, a lot; and keep the fleet moving; if you don't know what to do, just warp to the next gate.  The first helped me cope when people lost ships because of my mistakes, and the second helped to avoid stagnation.  In the end I think the most important of the two was to just keep moving.  Inactivity is the surest way to kill any enjoyment, and a great way to get yourself killed.  The other good thing that my decision to keep moving provided was a huge reduction in nerves.  FCing is like a lot of things, once you get into a groove you stop realizing that you're scared.

Our first kill came shortly after I got us caught by a -FA- gang who outnumbered and out shipped us by about 2 or 3 to 1.  On our way back to reship we found a Thrasher, but as we were trickling in he managed to take out a few of us basically solo (including me) before we were able to kill him.  Though not the most successful of attacks it was one of the most exciting moments I've had in Eve.  To actually be leading a fleet and order an attack and have something die was a feeling I couldn't explain.  I'm sure many of you would just laugh at that, but it was a major right of passage for me.  Sometimes the simple things are the most rewarding.

On our way back at the end of the roam we got our second kill.  We found a solo -FA- Jaguar who had friends on the other side of the system.  I decided we might as well go out in a blaze of glory.  We managed to kill the Jag just as his friends showed up.  Again, it was a great feeling to be in charge of something and have it work out.  This particular engagement was much more successful than the first kill.  We killed something worth more than what we lost, and that was my goal when deciding to engage.  Though we all lost our ships (I think we had 3 left at the time), and two pods, it was a fine way to end the evening.

Something I really enjoyed (and was actually surprised at) was being in charge.  I'm not one to second guess other FCs, Just about everyone is more experienced than me.  I don't sit there thinking, "what a stupid move," and I'd never say it out loud if I didn't think it.  That being said, I never new how much fun it would be to actually be the one making the decisions.  We lost ships, and killed ships, directly because of my decisions.  I wasn't just another DPS ship in a group of 20, 50, or 500.  I wasn't the quiet one in the background trying my best to do my job properly, only speaking up when it's needed.  My decisions didn't affect just myself and my target.  It was my call; something I truly enjoyed, even if my calls weren't usually very good.

My last post talked about getting out of your comfort zone, and nothing I've done in years has been more outside of mine.  For a long time I truly thought I wouldn't be able to do it, and as it was a requirement for me to make Core in Agony, something that genuinely worried me. I'd like to thank everyone who went on the roam for all your helpful advice as well as your understanding with my mistakes.  I will definitely be doing it again.  I still have a lot to learn, but over time I'm sure I'll learn them.

Mistakes were made, recon reports lost between ear and brain, potential targets passed up, lessons learned, then forgotten, then learned again, and a lot of fun was had.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reaching Greatness

Have you ever seen that guy at the gym with biceps as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger, but with the legs of a 10 year old girl?  Why does he look like this?  Why doesn't he work out his lower body?  What about that friend who is too scared to talk to a girl?  If he talks to her, he might get a date and he might not; but if he doesn't, he won't get anything.  How about that friend of yours who always dips into drugs when times are bad?

All of these people have something in common, they've reached a comfort zone that they don't want to break out of.  It's easier to work our your already strong and good looking arms than it is to go through the pain all over again on your legs.  It's easier to just wish you could get a date than it is to face the possible embarrassment of a rejection.  It's easier to get away from it all.

One of my coaches once said a phrase that has stuck with me, "Become comfortable with being uncomfortable."  It's a phrase that I'm sure many of you have heard in different forms before, but I'd like to expound on it a bit.

Every one of us have this nasty little habit where we don't like to change things away from their status quo.  I have friends who are in serious long term relationships but wish they could go play the field; I have friends who play the field and wish they were in a serious long term relationship.  Both sides of the position could change it if they would only get outside of their comfort zone.

Have you ever had a friend or family member who constantly complained about how life was so unfair?  "Why wasn't I blessed to be a trust fund baby?"  This attitude ties into our inability to get uncomfortable.  That same coach once said, "You are exactly where you are in life because of the decisions you have made.  It's not someone else's fault, they aren't more lucky than you, and no one is keeping you from reaching their level."  Now obviously, this isn't true 100% of the time (a lotto winner is pretty lucky), but if you think about, almost every successful person in the world (in any endeavor) are successful because of their choices; and every unsuccessful person is unsuccessful because of their choices as well.

 So how do we reach greatness?  It's simple, do things that make you uncomfortable.  Are you terrified to approach girls at the bar?  Go find the hottest girls you can find and go for it!  Do you hate to run?  Too bad, go run!  Can't stomach to lose ships?  Get 100 of them and lose every single one!  Terrified to look like an idiot FCing?  Take a fleet out this weekend!

Eve is very similar to real life in many ways.  We all get into our comfort zone and don't want to leave.  Maybe you're a miner and want to tr PvP, but you're nervous.  Maybe you want to try a big scam, but are afraid of being caught up.  Whatever if it, if you want to reach the levels you dream of within Eve, get comfortable being uncomfortable.

My challenge to you is this.  Find something that you are terrified or hate doing, and go do it at least once this upcoming week.  Myself?  I'll be FCing my first fleet, I'll tell you how it goes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Words To Fly By

So every week on Monday I will be giving you a piece of random advice that can help you in the game.  I know this is Wednesday, but from now on it'll be posted on Monday.  These aren't going to be the normal rules like "Don't fly what you can't afford to lose,"  what they will be are little things that you might not have thought about before.  Some will be serious, some tongue-in-cheek, some probably useless, but hopefully all with be entertaining.

WTFB: "If you have an excited pet, keep it out of the room while PvPing."


If you have an over aggressive dog, cat, Boa Constrictor, Gazelle, or Elephant, it is probably best if you don't let it in the room with you while you're trying to be "leet.

True Story:  About three weeks ago I was skirmishing with Agony and probably doing a pretty terrible job at it.  This wasn't my dogs fault.  I have a five month old Siberian Husky, and it is an amazing dog, but if you know anything about Huskys, you know that they are very very active and energetic.

I have my computer hooked up to my HDTV and I sit on the couch when I play, putting my keyboard in my lap and the mouse on the armrest while I play.  It doesn't sound like it would work, but it works perfectly for me.  Aurora (my dogs name) was pretty active and every now and then I would throw a toy for it to chase whenever it was too close to me.

I hooked back up with our fleet and another skirmisher found a fleet a little to big for us to take on in a straight up flight, so our FC ordered everyone to burn away from the gate so we could try and snipe one or two of them before we escaped, a fine plan.  This is when Aurora decided to go Kujo on me.

At about the exact time the order was given to burn away (and right before the other fleet came through the gate), Aurora jumped over the back of my couch and landed right on my head.  She slid down on top of my lap covering my keyboard and began licking and nipping at my face and hands as I desperately tried to align and get away from the gate.  The other fleet came through.  I was targeted, scrammed, destroyed, and podded before I was able to free myself from Auroras loving attack. 

Frustrated that I was just killed by my dog, I logged for the night and went about playing with her for a while.  Lesson to be learned?  I now keep my dog upstairs whenever I PvP.