Oct 252011

Though I haven’t played for quite some time, I still keep track of EVE news. The EVE Dev Blog is still in my RSS feed, as are Ten Ton Hammer’s EVE posts. The most interesting news source, though, is definitely Jester’s Trek. The eponymous Jester and I have been good friends1 for nearly 15 years. His enthusiasm for the game, and the way he follows the changing tides of EVE, are fascinating reading. Naturally, he urges me to resubscribe at every opportunity.

There are two reasons why I have resisted doing so and I wanted to discuss them in a little more than soundbite detail.

The first is entirely on me: EVE felt to me like a second job, rather than a game. That’s because, in part, I made it a second job: it was my objective each month, while playing, to earn enough in-game money to pay for two PLEXes, which kept me from paying real-world subscription money. I had a spreadsheet to track this, to ensure I was on-track. I had to make so much per day in order to hit my mark, and if I skipped a day, or fell short, I had to make it up by the end of the month. There was real-world money on the line, even though it wasn’t a great deal. I made this money through mission grinding — essentially, soloing in an MMO.

I freely acknowledge this is stupid on a number of levels. For one, why was I not playing with my friends? That’s the whole point of an MMO — playing with others. There were many times when I commented that I wanted a single-player EVE. But why? The whole point is the fact that there are thousands of other players in the same universe. And while mission running brought in a decent amount of money, I could have been making substantially more with a bit more effort. The aforementioned Jester mentioned an in-game purchase recently that dwarfed the most in-game money I ever had. Clearly, I was just doing it wrong.

This was my fault and is something that I could probably fix were I ever to return to the game.

The second is entirely on EVE, though, and I’m skeptical it would ever change. The thing about an MMO is that you’re essentially paying an ongoing lease on an virtual investment. To play on the lease idea, I’ll compare your character in EVE to an apartment. When you get the apartment, it’s empty. Maybe it has some key furnishings like a refrigerator or a stove, but more than likely you’ll need to supply the actual furniture. You need to acquire food for that refrigerator, populate that apartment with your own furniture, supply your own wardrobe, and pay for all of that while also paying for the lease on the apartment.

No matter where you live, there’s always the risk that some nefarious villain is going to break into your home and take your stuff, mess up your apartment, and generally make your life sad. We combat this with insurance against things like theft, fire, weather, and so on. While insurance companies have earned a rather poor reputation for fulfilling their end of this contract, the spirit is nevertheless clear: you pay them a regular fee, they replace your stuff as best they can if and when you lose it.

This brings us to EVE. If I am to spend paycheck dollars for this lease — my subscription fee — and hours of my week investing time into creating this character, acquiring bigger and better ships and modules, and so on, I’m not going to be too pleased if someone asshole out for a griefing joyride swings by to blow up my ship. EVE is an everyone vs. everyone game, with PvP available all the time, and that’s fine. But I fundamentally disagree with the idea that someone can take away a thing I’ve poured hours of my life into without being compensated for it in some way. EVE has insurance for ships. It works fine to fund the replacement cost of any “tech 1” ship. It does nothing to cover the costs of the modules equipped on that ship, nor the cargo it carries. And insurance on “tech 2” ships is laughably low compared to their actual costs.

In WoW, if you’re on a PvP server, you’re pretty much fair game at all times. If another player kills you, it’s obnoxious. But you don’t lose the gear you spent hours of your life grinding dungeons or wiping against raid bosses to acquire. You keep it. Maybe it gets a little damaged2, but you don’t outright lose it, or your stuff. Realistic though it may be to loot the corpse of a vanquished foe, it’s not fun to be the vanquished foe. I’m not playing a game to be confronted with the harsh realities of life, wherein any asshole with half a mind to do so could potentially waltz up and shoot me at any given time.

I don’t mind being inconvenienced a bit to simulate this, as WoW does it. Some griefer comes along to kill me while I’m out questing, fine. That’s annoying, but it’s a risk you take on a PvP server. He has his fun, gets his reward3, and we go our separate ways. EVE is a different world, but that doesn’t change the fact that I spent a lot of time, as a player, acquiring that stuff.

If EVE wants me back, it won’t be hard: overhaul insurance. I don’t mind keeping my insurance paid up, and if I forget, then it’s all on my head. In return, I expect that when I lose an insured ship, fair market value4 for the ship, all installed modules, and all cargo be reimbursed to my wallet upon its destruction. That way, I can go re-acquire all of those things. It’s inconvenient to do so, but at least I can do it with only a minor disruption in my own game.

There’s an EVE mantra: “don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.” I’m essentially advocating the nigh-abolition of this mantra. What you can “afford to lose” becomes “what you didn’t insure.” Getting your ship shot out from under you should be an annoyance, just as getting ganked in WoW is an annoyance. It should not represent the loss of hours and hours of labor on your part. That’s not fun.

If it’s not fun then why would I want to play it?

  1. To the point that he lived in my parents’ house for a while []
  2. The mechanics of PvP gear wear vs. PvE gear wear are unimportant to this particular discussion []
  3. Honor Points, with which he can buy PvP-specific gear []
  4. What’s fair market value? I would argue the median or mode cost for the item. Means are too subject to influence by outliers. This would, of course, require a continually updated database of these prices across the entirety of New Eden, tracking sales on both the open market and in contracts (or whatever they’re calling them these days). Naturally, such a system would be subject to manipulation all on its own, but I frankly don’t have a fool-proof answer. The key point is that I should get enough money from my insurance payout that I can go hop on the market and reasonably expect to buy a new ship and replace all modules and cargo for the amount I was reimbursed. []

Virtuosity and RPGs

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Dec 022009

Wait, what?

A friend of mine is restructuring the 3.5 edition Dungeons and Dragons rules to be more to his liking. He’s calling it D&D 3.75. Though he and I disagree on some fundamental RPG theory stuff, I wish him the best in doing so and look forward to seeing what he comes up with.

On Facebook, he mentioned having recently finished setting up the requisite mechanics for the first level. This reminded me of an issue I have, in general, with the concept of level. I sent him the following bit, mostly as fodder for him to pick through as he desired. However, it also prompted me to think about the issue a bit more, too.

Continue reading »

Aug 062009

Been a while since my last post.  Since then, a ton of stuff has happened.

  • We fully moved-in to our house (though we’re still only about 25% unpacked).
  • We set a date for the wedding (8/7) and have picked a location for the reception, which may double as the wedding site too.
  • We selected/customized Cody’s engagement ring and matching wedding band
  • My company laid off about 25% of its work force (a layoff I rather miraculously was not a part of).
  • The Vampire game has resumed.

I’m probably forgetting a few things, but those are the big highlights.

One of the reasons I haven’t posted often of late is that it seems a bit of a chore to go to the blog page, log in, write up a post, etc, etc. I’ve recently implemented an easier method of posting that I think should make posting a more frequent occurrence. I’ve also got to get over my internal reluctance to post a battery of short posts as I think of things to say. If Twitter has proven anything, it’s that people enjoy hearing about the exploits of others in short bites. I don’t think I’ll ever hop on the Twitter bandwagon, though (famous last words…).

I finally got LaTeX-style rendering working on my wikis. It’s not that this is particularly difficult to do, but rather I had never had a server setup that would allow me to make the necessary changes to support it before. The particular implementation I’m using right now is MimeTeX. I had to do some custom hackery to make it work (specifically, my server did not seem content to create image links with some of the formatting required by TeX, so I wrote a PHP “middleman” that stands between the MediaWiki math engine and the MimeTeX CGI to properly handle formatting), but it’s great fun.

The major motivating factor in getting the TeX support to work is that I wanted to explore the idea of “damage potential” in EVE Online. Because of the way damage works in EVE, specifically with turrets, a given ship using a given type of gun is going to do the most damage at close range, and then see that damage falloff gradually as the target gets farther and farther away. This isn’t accounting for aspects of the target, which also play a role. The formula for this falloff is known and can be calculated, but I wanted to see how different ships stacked up to one another when they were compared.

I decided that the best way to do this would be to integrate the falloff curve (i.e. find the area bound by the DPS graph for the ship). Of course, this led to about 15 hours of wrestling with a truly atrocious integral. After consulting with Wolfram’s online integrator, engineers at work, the think tank at SDN, my dad, Cody, and Dr. Math,it became clear that the only way to solve the integral was via approximation and a computer.  I wrote up a Python script to do the integral and started getting good results.  I’m not really sure how valid they are, though.  Mathematically, they’re sound, but I’m not sure about their practical application.

I think that’s about it for now.

Jan 292009

So, I totally caved last night in my resolve to not consider returning to EVE until I had finished Wec: The Sequel.  I realized how enjoyable chatting about EVE with my friends was and decided that it was time to go back.  Historically, I have gotten bored with EVE because I haven’t been doing things with a group for a cause that yielded measurable results.  As my weight loss post shows, I thrive on measurable results.  If I can see progress being made, it encourages me.  If I can see regress happening, it galvanizes me to action.  If I can’t see it, though, then I get bored and lose investment.  The first time I played EVE, as TX-223, I didn’t really know most of the people in the corp I had joined, so I didn’t feel particularly driven to help them.  The second time, as Kaito, I tried to found and run a corp of friends.  But we were all nascent and getting a corp off the ground is a tough prospect when you don’t have a clear ambition in mind.  Coupled with the fact that Cody wasn’t having any fun playing, this led me to stop again.  

This time, Chris — who was involved in our little mini-corp — found a corp that seems really cool.  I spent some time chatting with them (after re-activating my account) and they seem like good people.  They’re also committed to one another, they have a screening process for new recruits, and in general seem to have good heads about the whole thing.  They own a small chunk of null space and defend it fiercely, which is neat.  Finally, I’ll have a place to learn to PvP and feel like I’m contributing to something!

The major concern from all of this, though, is how it will impact my schedule.  I have a lot of stuff on my plate right now that I’m trying to juggle, and EVE is another large timesink.  I’m going to have to strive to be much more diligent about my use of time, and not sit around idling on things I can deal with later (like reading SDN…).  I’m going to give it my best shot, though.