Eve Blog Banter 73 – The Other Eve Game?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 73rd edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.

Blog Banter 73 – The Other Eve Game?

So soon(tm) we will have Eve Online, Valkyrie, Gunjack and the as yet untitled FPS to replace DUST514/Project Legion. Are we missing anything else? Are then any other games CCP should be looking into? Colony building simulators in the style of Sim City or Rimworld. Should it be on a grander scale link Civilisation or Stronghold Kingdoms. How about RTS games ala Command and Conquer. Survival games such as Rust? Planet based combat like World of Tanks? Would you like to see other game types expanding the Eve Universe or should CCP stick to what it knows?


As much as I want to engage in wish-fulfillment here, my business brain keeps getting in the way. Any of the above COULD be made, but should it? The question is less “what would be cool”, though that is a large part of it, but also what can CCP or an associate accomplish and what will people buy?

The New Eden IP is a rich and extensive milieu which has practically infinite flexibility. Possible settings include any kind of planet, planetoid or rock you can imagine, space stations, and space itself, both known spacelanes and unknown space, such as wormhole systems. There are multiple time periods in which a game could be set: “current” Eve day, far in the past while the Jove Empire thrived, or even farther back when the Eve Gate was still open and colonization was a going concern. So, there is plenty of story space in which to provide a prospective game’s setting.

And yet, as the World of Darkness fiasco shows, decisions about a new game should be approached with care. A “black hole” of a game development process can eat up lots of resources that would be better spent improving Eve or shoring up the company’s financial position. The opposite is also suboptimal: never putting that money to work leaves on the table both possible profits and exposure for CCP and Eve. A popular game set in New Eden might have the effect of funneling fresh players into the game which are already fans of the IP, meaning they are more likely to stay.

So, what kind of game would make best use that IP and cash capital? I think I would rule out another DUST-type client/server ongoing game. Running an online game is fraught with difficulties and all the companies currently running multiple online games are either much bigger than CCP (EA, NCSoft) or affiliated with larger companies for development (Daybreak). Even Blizzard, for all its success, decided to stay away from a second MMO.

To recap: my criteria for the next foray outside of Eve should be profitable, fun, get people’s interest up for Eve Online, and it should not be a huge administrative burden. I would propose an adventure game of some sort, set in New Eden. And I would propose that they go outside the company to get it developed.

It’s a well-worn practice in the games industry that an IP holder license someone to develop a game for them. This has the advantage of letting the parent company focus on their business (running/selling Eve and their other current stable) while another company takes the risk and manages the talent needed to develop the game. I would have CCP sit on the game design steering committee, and provide access to the IP and story materials, and possibly have an ownership stake in the developer. But otherwise they would not redirect resources from Eve, which lessens CCP’s exposure should it fail.  Ideally it would be a developer with a few games under its belt, with the ability to make an engaging adventure in the vein of Knights of the Old Republic or Skyrim. The player funnel would go both ways: the game would have a built-in audience of Eve players, and especially lore nerds. Meanwhile anyone playing the single-player game and then wanting to continue their own story in New Eden could simply sign up for Eve Online.

CCP could really use the diversification this kind of game would provide, but their track record so far is not the greatest, with World of Darkness and now DUST being written off. Therefore I would prefer they play more conservative with their next move, though going so conservative as to be wary of making any other games out of their IP is a mistake in the other direction. So, bring on Knights of the New Edenrim!

Blog Banter 72: The roadmap to…

Blog Banter 72 – This is the Road (map) to…..

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 72nd edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.

Blog Banter 72 – This is the Road (map) to…..
This month’s suggestion comes from Jakob Anedalle.
“What do you think about using Sugar’s recent blog post as a kickoff for a Blog Banter. I think it’s a great open-ended topic:
You know what? That’s all it needs. A great open ended topic!

I think an important part of this Blog Banter is the word “to”. It’s easy to think of all the coolest stuff we imagine in Eve and then make a blog post about it. But ideas are a dime a dozen, so I’m going to try and stay away from specific feature suggestions. Instead, I want to try and describe what New Eden looks like at the end of my own roadmap.

What’s over the next hill?

When I think Eve, I think: difficulty, mystery, exploration, depth, and emergent gameplay. These are the things that separate Eve from other games, especially theme park games.  Focusing on anything that other games offer is competing with them, but at a disadvantage. The focus in Eve should be on giving players open-ended tools and space to use them in. Sometimes that space can be safe(ish), but sometimes it needs to be overwhelmingly dangerous. There is a certain type of Eve player that thrives on having to be on full alert, all the time. W-space filled this niche for a long time, but to anyone who spends the time to learn, w-space is now a solved problem.

This will eventually happen with all the characteristics I mentioned. Difficulty becomes less difficult with practice. Mysteries are eventually solved (or they lead to frustration, which is worse). Explorers eventually explore everything. Depths are plumbed, and emergent gameplay eventually leads to the optimal path.

Therefore, what we need is more mysteries. We need more space to explore, and it needs to have different toolsets so that emergent gameplay can… emerge. With the options now on offer, players that don’t desire extreme difficulty can already do any of a number of already existing things. New areas of space need to be difficult, even maddeningly difficult. This should, of course, come with some kind of commensurate reward. (The implementation of w-space is a good model for this.)

Adapted from image by tigerears.org
Once, the proverbial road

Eve at present has only three kinds of space: highsec, lowsec, and nullsec. Wormholes count as nullsec, the difference being their geography isn’t fixed. This could be restated as many rules, few rules, and no rules (respectively). I would like to see a new kind of space, different from the above three. One possibility could be where players set the rules, within reason. Possibly a place where it’s very dangerous indeed to be an interloper who’s not in the owning or controlling alliance. That would present new challenges for both explorers and those looking for challenging space to live in. Another idea could be to give supers and titans a PvE role, in the same way that sleepers gave dreads and carriers a PvE role. This puts more isk on the field, for a commensurate reward given the risk of committing those kinds of ships to PvE.

At the same time, there are currently aspects to Eve that are out of whack with respect to risk and reward. The current wardec mechanics have been gamed to the point where there is practically no risk and plenty of reward. Factional warfare works in many ways, but it’s still possible to abuse to make a lot of isk with little risk. And I still think that nullsec’s reward structure could be beefed up to make it a more attractive option and create more of a threat to those living there from players looking for better isk-making potential, and an opportunity for those looking to do so.

Overall, I would like a future that steps beyond the challenges already painstakingly solved by the playerbase. We need an Eve that has more of what we came here for: difficulty, mystery, exploration, depth, and emergent gameplay, while rewarding commensurately those who do solve the challenges.

The Player of Games – Review

My Eve alliance (A Band Apart) has a Slack chat system, and within it a channel called #books. I look to the folks therein to help me choose what next to read, and overwhelmingly they had great things to say about Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels. I did my own research and found that it appears that each of these novels is set hundreds of years or more apart from each other, and without much in the way of connection.

Therefore, I reasoned, I should be able to pick the one that interests me most without worrying where it fell in the progression of novels. The reviews on both Audible and Goodreads often said their favorite was The Player of Games. In addition, this one occurs fairly early in the series, so any remaining worries I had about reading them out of order was reduced.

So what’s the verdict? Do I agree with my peers or not? The answer is mixed. But first, a short synopsis.

Jernau Gurgeh is a citizen of The Culture – a technologically advanced society populated with not only humans, but also sentient robots called drones, as well as ship and planet-sized AIs called Minds. The Culture is anarchist, tolerant, and without a strong emphasis on private property or money. Its highest value is individual freedom. Gurgeh is arguably The Culture’s best game player. He excels at any and all games, writes papers on game theory, and has never forgotten a single rule of any game, once he learned it. He is recruited by The Culture’s quasi-military arm that contacts other civilizations to play the eponymous game of the Empire of Azad, a game that the entire empire is based around, and which is taken so seriously that it’s used to determine fitness for government posts, up to and including Emperor.

The writing style is very good. Rarely was I left guessing as to some aspect of the scene or unable to visualize some aspect of it, despite the novelty of a society and technology far outside our experience. The atmosphere was very well described and worked great with the story. There is so much to The Culture as a setting that I had that exciting, curious feeling one gets when entering a new imaginative landscape with all the mystery and discovery waiting to be explored. The Culture feels alive, with new construction going on, but at the same time many things are ancient, such as Gurgeh’s old friend, a drone which is thousands of years old. And of course there are the famous ship names, every one of which is genuinely funny and usually fitting.

But… there were aspects to the book that I didn’t like. The biggest is probably The Culture itself. This kind of work has to create the setting from scratch, it being not in our everyday experience, so the setting takes on the attributes of a character in its own right. In this case, The Culture and the Empire of Azad are the two competing “main characters”, and unfortunately they both seemed two dimensional to me. The Culture can do no wrong, and the Empire can do no right. From the very beginning, we’re told that the Empire are barbarians, and the rest of the book makes that abundantly clear. Despite a few rays of light – always from oppressed or ostracized persons – the people of the Empire are mean-spirited, cruel, obsequious to superiors and ruthless to those below them. On the other hand, we never meet a Culture person who is not tolerant, friendly, polite, and loves parties. The drone Mawhrin-Skel, with its blunt and abrasive style, stands as a contrast to show both how tolerant the Culture is and how unfailingly polite, just, and right-thinking each person individually is.

The two societies would seem more realistic to me by some shading around the edges: an Imperial who shows some small amount of compassion, however cleverly hidden, or a Culture person or group that provides some sort of dissonant note in that utopia. But instead, the book treats the two societies as moustache-twirling villains and flawless heroes respectively.

The one possible exception is Gurgeh’s motivation for participating in the Empire’s games. The concept that Culture life is so safe and secure that it flirts with boredom is explored in a few places, notably in the event that leads to Gurgeh’s assigment to Azad. However, Banks doesn’t really seem to connect the dots for the reader, leaving whether this is a weakness in the Culture or not up to the reader. No character fully develops the idea that maybe something has been lost in a society where it’s practically impossible to do wrong or have something go wrong.

One thing that irked me at first was that the Culture’s values seemed almost ripped from the headlines. Culture citizens are almost universally transsexual, transitioning back and forth as regularly as we might transition between haircuts. (One obvious exception is Gurgeh himself, another conspicuous exception that is never fully explored.) Homosexuality and sexual libertinism are almost universally practiced, widespread tolerance of which has not really become mainstream in the West until post 2000, even post 2010 back here on Earth.

So, imagine my surprise when I found that the book was released in 1988. I have to give Banks credit, on that score, for being ahead of his time. I am not convinced that this will continue to age well, as societal mores change over time, and the book is quite smug in looking down on anyone who doesn’t share this worldview.

Similarly, the time frame of writing might explain the black and white morality of the two societies, coming as it was on the very cusp of the end of the Cold War. Our Earth had been on the brink of possible nuclear, at the very least very brutal conventional war for quite a long time with a society that was, in the view of the West, brutal and repressive (and may well have been in actuality, but not having direct experience, I hesitate to try to definitively speak for citizens of post-Soviet bloc countries).

Overall The Player of Games was an enjoyable read. The Culture is an intriguing backdrop, the characters are relatable, and the action is well-executed. This is my first Culture novel, but my reading commentaries seems to indicate this is one of the more light-hearted Culture novels, and I can agree that the tone is light and often quite funny.

If you are in full agreement with the Culture’s views, and can believe that they are unquestionably the best ones for human flourishing, you will find yourself on the right side of the smug wall and thoroughly enjoy the book. If you find yourself wanting to debate any of the books’ conclusions, you may have some dissonance with the worldview portrayed, but if you can suspend your disagreement on that point the book can still be greatly enjoyed for the well-executed yarn it is.

Eve Online Blog Banter #71: Too Many Ships Spoil the Sandpit?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 71st edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.

Too Many Ships Spoil the Sandpit?

We all like important internet spaceships right? The more spaceships the better right? Or are we getting too many to be easily to remember them all. A Mastodon on scan? That the hell is that and what does it do? Oh! Never mind!

Are we getting too many ships? Is it too complicated to remember them all and what their traits are? Do FC’s these days need an encyclopedic knowledge of ship types unless they want their fleet to DIAF? With more and more ships being released each year will we ever reach “too many” or do you think there can never be too many important internet spaceship types?


First, I want to take issue with the implicit assumption that fleets dying in a fire is a bad thing! Though, I can understand why FCs might want the other guy’s fleet to DIAF instead.

My short answer to the actual question is no. The longer answer is maybe.

I say no because, within reason, more ship types offer more to the game than they take away from it. They offer variety, they spark interest when they are designed and released, they prod the market as everyone tries them out for the first time, and they add complexity (of the good kind) to a game that enjoys a claim to fame based on that.

You knew this image would make an appearance
You knew this image would make an appearance

One of the major reasons that Eve is sticky for a certain type of person is the progression in player skill (as distinct from character skills). There are lots of directions to go with this learning curve, from industry knowledge, market tactics, solo or small gang activity, large fleet participation, large fleet FCing, capitals, capital FCing, solo capital gameplay, and the list goes on. One of the skill areas that several of these have in common is becoming familiar all the ship names, and there are sub-levels possible within that, such as combat versus non-combat, ship class/size, main weapon system, resistances, and others. The more ships added to this list, the more knowledge is required.

And that was the short answer.

The longer answer revolves around the qualification that the list be within reason. I don’t think we’re close to a place where the number of ship types gets so ridiculous that it becomes unreasonable to know all of them. And yet, other games have found themselves in this place. World of Warcraft has gone through a few rounds, over the years, of removing spells and talents because every hotbar was overflowing with abilities. Other games have either done so or would benefit by doing so. It’s an inescapable outcome of a game that is continually played and modified over the course of decades, as any successful MMOs is.

If that were to happen – and I think it ultimately has to if Eve keeps going – I can imagine a similar way to resolve the problem. Retire and consolidate certain ship classes, allowing exchange of their BPOs for a similarly valued one and, at some point, forcing the change (even for BPOs on inactive accounts). Leave BPCs and built ships alone. Over time they will become more and more rare and eventually become collectors’ items. That can add interest by making them a coveted kill if ever undocked, and eventually weed them out of the encyclopedia a player has to have in their head.

I can think of more drastic ways to handle the situation, and possible problems with each, but no matter what, I’d categorize this firmly in the “good problem to have” folder.


On a side note, I identified the need to learn ship names and what they do some time back. Since I personally learn memorization tasks by repeated quizzing, I created an online ship quiz. If you’re interested, take a look.


A Minecraft Project, part II

In my last installment, I described my idea for a villager bazaar with – ideally – at least one of each kind of villager, and enough of them to spawn an iron golem, which could then be harvested for the iron ingots it drops. I designed and built the building and captured my first villager. I was on my way. The two requisite items to convert a villager are a splash potion of weakness and golden apples. The potion is fairly easy to make, fermented spider eyes being the main ingredient, and spiders being plentiful. Potions require a bottle, but golden apples began to be a bottleneck.

To make a golden apple is fairly expensive in Minecraft terms: an apple surrounded by eight gold ingots. Apples drop from oak trees (for some reason) and gold is ordinarily mined. However, it doesn’t occur with nearly the regularity of coal and iron, and the idea of looking for it was daunting. Fortunately, there is another source of gold: Zombie Pigmen.

Farming zombie pigmen was clearly the way to go. They very frequently drop gold nuggets, and rarely (around 8%) drop gold ingots. If you kill one of them, all of them get angry with you, and the nether then becomes overwhelmingly dangerous to you, since they are a very common mob there. However they do forget they’re mad at you after a while, so as long as you don’t have a pressing need to travel in the nether (and you have a durable base camp), farming them has no drawbacks.

I initially farmed them the old-fashioned way: go among them, start attacking, and take all comers. This worked alright, except during the occasional times when things got out of hand and health grew low while my retreat was cut off. After a few deaths I was ready for a better way. At this point I realized that our nether keep was just the right height to hit them from above without the possibility of being attacked back. Score!

Angry piggies converging
Angry piggies converging

The one problem with this approach was the sometimes touchy nature of iron doors. These doors have to be activated, and in our case it was via a button mounted on the wall next to it. However, sometimes they slam before you can get in, and when you’re under attack, it’s almost impossible to press it and go inside. Therefore, when drawing z-pigs to into position, there exists the possibility of being killed trying to get inside. One more innovation was needed. What, thought I, can players do that mobs can’t?

Players can jump.

After a little thought, my improved z-pig farming design was ready:

Players can jump, z-pigs must fall
Players can jump, z-pigs must fall

Gathering an angry mob of z-pigs and jumping over the trench worked like a charm.

So close, yet so far
So close, yet so far
The point of this exercise
The point of this exercise

Now the farming of gold nuggets, to be turned into gold ingots, to be turned into golden apples was as safe as I could think to make it. Legions of z-pigs dropped into the trench, to be killed at leisure without risk. An iron door at the end of the trench that led inside which allowed us to pick up the drops after we were done completed the design.

Only one problem remained, and it wasn’t very bad, considering. After a while of wholesale slaughter of z-pigs, any sword you use will break. The pigmen themselves drop golden swords, but considering the breakage rate, one still occasionally has to use an iron sword, which wears it down. One final innovation perfected the design.

Play to CRUSH
Play to CRUSH

Each of those three levers activates a sticky piston which extends the cobblestone block into the trench, suffocating the zombie pigmen standing in front of it. It takes a little time but is completely hands-off. Returning the levers retracts the block to allow looting.

The upshot of all this farming was a lot of gold nuggets, which I combined into ingots to make golden apples. The apples themselves are a somewhat rare drop from trees, but as far as I know there is no shortcut for that process. I simply had to chop a ton of leaves and hope for the best, replanting trees as needed.

Thus supplied, I continued to capture zombie villagers (mostly) without further incident. Only once did I have to kill my would-be villager as he escaped my trap and menaced the existing villagers. Some villagers even began to breed since they had sufficient “houses” (actually doors). And then, at the end of a session after gathering enough villagers, the goal was achieved.

I turned around to see this fellow
I turned around to see this fellow

The stone apparatus in the middle is the beginnings of an underground flooded tunnel leading to a lava blade that the golem can (usually) be pushed into. There it bursts into flame and eventually dies, dropping its ingots. It respawns shortly thereafter and the process can be repeated.

Mission accomplished!

Minecraft: A project takes shape

A while back I ran out of Minecraft projects that I want to work on immediately, and sort of drifted away from it (in my nomadic fashion). But then one day my attention was drawn to this, for some reason that I don’t even remember: http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Tutorials/Iron_golem_farming#Tower_design. The article refers to a design intended to create an artificial village that spawns iron golems and dunks them into a farming chamber, utilizing a lava blade, to collect the iron ingots they drop.

Now, we are perennially short on iron ingots, since they are a relatively rare ore find in mines, and even though you can get a decent supply in thirty minutes or so, that is usually half a game session or thereabouts for us. We have a big demand for them since we typically use all-iron armor and implements, let alone incidentals like mine carts and buckets.

We also have traditionally had problems keeping villagers alive and thriving. Every time we find a village, over time the zombies cause attrition in their numbers and we have not been able to reliably breed villagers in the wild. So, having a full staff of villagers in a safe place would be a good asset for us.

And lastly, I enjoy “converting” zombie villagers. The process of isolating them, getting them into a containment area, and hitting them with the splash potion of weakness then golden apple, and making sure they stay safe from the sun and not a danger to others is always a little unpredictable and wild, with a nice reward at the end.

A potential new friend
A potential new friend

So, while my goals differed slightly from the linked article, the general idea was something I wanted to pursue. Therefore, the idea for the bazaar was born.

First I had to scout a spot. It needed to be 20×20 cobblestone and I wanted it ground level (unlike in the article) in order to facilitate zombie villager capture and make it easy to access. I found a spot near our original home (which we now call Origin Fort), cleared the ground and made the floor and walls. I placed wooden railing across two sides and “legal” doors across the other two sides. A door with one raised block on one side qualifies, so I placed a row of doors two blocks from the wall, then a single block against the wall.

I then set out to hunt zombie villagers. The first and second night I saw none, but my weapons wore out from fighting the various marauding mobs. So the next day I made a trip to my house on the hill to rearm and resupply. Dusk was falling as I headed back, and before I got far from my house, what did I find but a zombie villager!

Since my house is a fair walk from Origin Fort overland, I probably took half the night luring him down the road while fending off other mobs, and, oh yeah, not dying. Finally we made it and I tried to clear the area of other mobs before pulling him inside. Between my being a bit worse for the wear after traveling and a lot of nearby mobs, I took long enough that the sun started coming up as I narrowed the enemies down to just him. I didn’t want to lose this guy who I had fought so hard for, so I tossed the potion and fed him the apple. He started to emit the red vapor that shows they are converting, when he and another mob managed to push me into a nearby ravine. I fell… and died.

I ran back, hoping to beat the sun, not to mention recover the items I had gone to my house to get which were now strewn across the bottom of a ravine. I recovered the items, but by now the sun was coming up and I had no way to get the villager into their eventual home. He burned to death as the sun came up, still unconverted. Time to try, try again.

My second attempt was a little better. I found a villager fairly quickly, got him separated, and then realized I hadn’t considered the next necessary step: getting him into the walled-up bazaar. We had installed an iron door which often as not shuts in the face of anything trying to follow you through (this is usually a good thing). So out came the mining pick and I knocked down two of the three blocks to form an opening in the wall and hopped inside.

I had come in behind our row of doors, so I was able to get through one of them and close it, trapping him inside. Over the next few minutes I wedged him in with cobblestone blocks and re-filled the opening we came through, discouraging any other would-be guests. As the sun started to come up, I fed him the items and then created a sun-shade over his head with cobble. He shivered, emitted red particles, and looked furiously at me for a good while, then suddenly, became an ordinary cleric villager. Success!

I was able to shove him over into the fenced-in area I’d prepared inside to keep the vendors lined up in rows and do a few trades with him. This idea was going places. But since you need at least 10 villagers to spawn iron golems, I had a good bit more work to do.

To be continued…

BB 69: Because of Space-Magic!

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 69th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.


Because of Space-Magic

CCP sometimes get stuck between a veldspar ‘roid and a hard place when they try to blend realism with sensible game mechanics in our sci-fi simulator. Sometimes they create a scientific answer such as 4th dimensional drag to explain our ‘submarines in space’. Other times, not so much. When a null-sec Citadel is destroyed players ‘stuffz’ is to be magicked to another station. Why should a citadel be different to a titan? Should CCP ensure that ‘space magic’ always has a plausible explanation or do we need just to say “Well, its only a game!” and engage the willing suspension of disbelief? How should it work when a citadel goes boom, how do we balance risk with reward, and how should any “space-magic” be explained?


People play games for many different reasons. Some do it for the momentary thrill of competition, and everything else is secondary. Others use games as an excuse to hang out with their friends. Still others play for the narrative, to experience the story or the milieu of the game. This last kind of player gets satisfaction from measuring themselves against the world by playing the game by its own rules and succeeding. The more logical the rules – both the benefits and the drawbacks – the better it feels to succeed within them.

These categories are, of course, an oversimplification of people’s motivations for playing, and definitely not an exhaustive list. Most if not all people combine aspects from most if not all of the categories (and others). But I mention these categories specifically because they help highlight my point.

Any MMO that claims to be a persistent world has to be somewhere on the spectrum toward sandboxiness. Even the most accessible MMOs, like one I can think of that starts with a W, requires that the player do various tasks – leveling, gearing, earning money – to get to what many people consider the point of the game: raiding or high-end PvP. In this game, though, most “realistic” considerations are thrown out in favor of convenience: items remaining with the player at death, interdimensional bank space, rapid and numerous travel options, and others. No explanation is given or seemingly desired by the players. Convenience is supreme.

Identities obscured to protect the guilty
Identities obscured to protect the guilty

On the other side of the spectrum, Eve goes significantly out of its way to explain features in terms of science, or in some cases pseudo- or speculative science. Ship skins are SKINs (Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings), stargates and jump drives are explained as wormhole generators, and even the avoidance of permadeath that is a de facto requirement for any MMO is explained by capsule and clone technology. This slides it toward the other side of the scale, toward those that play to measure themselves against a “realistic” (or the perception of realistic) universe.

This can, of course, be taken too far. No one would play a space game that took a real life week to get anywhere interesting, though in real space this is more of a wildly optimistic hope we can one day achieve rather than a baseline. No one’s clone will ever malfunction, deleting all their skill training, though it might be a repeated plot device in stories and lore. Finding the line where reasonable gameplay meets verisimilitude is an important aspect of Eve’s charm.

Blood Raider Space Magik
Blood Raider Space Magik

For my own part, I’m a sandbox gamer to the core. Despite not having a ton of time to dedicate to gaming, I generally don’t like things being made easier or quicker. Therefore it might be biased when I say that I do think it’s important for Eve to provide a plausible explanation for game mechanics.

I recognize that certain elements might have to be “space magic”, such as evacuation of assets from citadels, in order to facilitate the formation of player trade hubs in a more expanded way than we are used to. But an explanation, such as a chronicle taking the reader through the NPC actions that occur when a citadel is destroyed, provides a lot to improve immersion and make the bye given by CCP a little easier to swallow, for those of us who value such things.

Judging from what’s been written on this topic thus far, there are a good number of people who do value it, and for whom no chronicle will sufficiently explain the space-magic in the case of citadels. But behavior always trumps words. The bottom line is that in a nullsec which is as dangerous as it “should” be, there are no sure things. In this idealized nullsec, the Imperium will not always be in Deklein, CVA will not always be in Providence, and there are no big blocs to hide inside of. Your stuff can be blown up at any time. Even now, deadzoned stations are the exception rather than the rule, but destroying a station-equivalent is the ultimate deadzoning and will be the eventual fate of every single citadel ever built.

With no asset safety in this vision, like it or not, players will be risk-averse. There will be no local nullsec markets to sell into or buy from, because people will think, Let the other idiot lose all his stuff after setting up a market hub. And the chore associated with space-trucking goods from space-Amazon.com (Jita) to wherever will continue. If only the people willing and happy to be a space trucker are required to, more people will be playing the game they want, which ultimately makes Eve even more dangerous.

Every game needs its niche, or it ends up competing with other games for a limited pool of like-minded players. Eve’s niche is clearly toward the (sometimes faux-) realistic side, and I think it would be well-advised to stay there. But sometimes there has to be some flexibility in order to break new ground into a hopefully even more dangerous New Eden.

The Best Sport: Pod and Planet entry

This is a story for the Pod and Planet fiction writing contest. I wanted to participate last year but didn’t get my story done in time. I’m excited to enter this year. Thanks to the judges and organizers for putting their time toward this contest.

Update: my entry won first prize in the “Day in the Life” category! http://podandplanet.wix.com/podandplanet#!winning-stories/aj0u3

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The Best Sport

I was about to call it a night when the Venture appeared on scan.

The night was less eventful than I liked. I only got into a few fights, and of those, only two had been any good. System after system showed me a few people signed into the local transponder, but they were mostly docked in stations and pursuing their own business. Once in a while a ship would appear on my directional scanner and my heart would start going a little faster, but then they would disappear off scan. Just come fight me, I wanted to tell them. You’re an immortal. It’ll be fun. But it takes all kinds to make a universe.

I very much expected the Venture to disappear from scan. That kind of mining frigate was rarely fit for battle. I mean, it could be fit with guns, and I would welcome that.  It probably wouldn’t be much of a challenge, but a kill’s a kill. I frantically worked d-scan to narrow down where he was, and it became clear to my practiced hands that he had found a small scattering of asteroids in deep space. He was almost certain to be mining.

The pounce was almost perfect. I dropped out of warp about ten kilometers from him, my warp scrambler already hot. He was orbiting a big chunk of hemorphite, mining lasers worrying at it. At first he didn’t seem to notice me, and my scrambler offlined his warp drive before he even reacted. He started to align out, mining lasers deactivating as my autocannons began to impact.

“Hey… “ he said over the local system channel.

He seemed to change his mind about what he wanted to align to, because the ship stopped and plunged off in another direction. By this point I was through his armor plating, though, and there was no more doubt whether he would escape. The ship’s integrity failed, the capsule ejecting as it exploded. I targeted his pod out of habit. Considering how long it took to lock on, there was little chance of catching him. But he showed no more decisiveness now than he did before, and my autocannons chewed that up too.

I’m not a corpse collector, so I let it float and warped away.

Later, I’m back in my home station, out of my own capsule and idly flipping channels in my Captain’s Quarters. I bring up the kill report. Reviewing the public record on the pilot, I see he’s fresh out of the academy. Less than a month a capsuleer and, I guess, mining to jump-start his wallet, like so many of them do. Hell, like I did for a few days, before I learned better. I don’t feel bad for my kills. They’re a time-honored sport in the capsuleer world. But I don’t want to bankrupt anyone either. Pilots with no money don’t fly, and if they don’t fly, I can’t shoot at them. I brought up the interface and sent him double his ship’s value with a short note to keep a closer eye on local.

When I woke up the next morning and checked my message log, there was a mail from him. This happens pretty often: sometimes it’s an enraged diatribe, sometimes confusion, sometimes an attempt to play along, like trying to be Mr. Cool. Which one would it be this time?


Thanks for the money. But now I’m double confused. I don’t know why you decided to destroy my ship. I was just mining. I thought you must be hard up for money if youre killing me for my rock pile. But now i don’t know because you sent me a pile of money, way more than the ship is worth.

I only just got started. I dont know how everything works. So, thanks for the isk, and if you could tell me what’s going on I would be thankful for that too.”


I responded:

“No problem about the money. Myself, I’m a pirate. I track people down and shoot at them for the sport of it. Sometimes it’s easy pickings, other times the other guy knows what he’s doing and I end up on the wrong side of the kill report. That’s a side benefit of immortality, you know – your body and mind react as if it’s life or death, because it is. But even if you lose, you get to come back for another run at it. Best sport ever invented.

My advice to you is to watch the local channel more closely. If someone enters system and you don’t know them your best bet is to dock up. Even better: grab a combat ship of your own and fight. You’ll learn to love it.

Oh, and don’t bother with mining. Do combat missions for a corporation or CONCORD if you must. They pay better and you might even learn something about flying your ship – not that the baseliner pirates you’ll be fighting are any real threat except maybe in large numbers. Good luck.”

I sent it and moved on to some other business. My broker in Jita needed his daily instructions. A few minutes later, an indicator flashed: incoming request for a personal conversation. It was him, of course. I accepted it.

“Hi”, he said.

“Hey”, I returned, neutral.

“Thanks again for the money, and for the advice. It, uh, it really helps.” He sounded nervous.

“Sure, any time. We pirates might have a bad reputation, but some of us like to help out when someone is just getting started. We were all there once.”

“Listen… I know you’re probably busy and all. But I could use a little help, if you don’t mind. You said to get a combat ship and try some security missions. Well, I did that, but now I’m not so sure about completing the mission. I don’t want to ruin my rep with this agent by failing.”

I thought about it. It’s true, I had planned out the day, more or less. But on the other hand, this was something new. It would be a change, for a few hours. And hey, it would be a chance to use some of my more expensive hardware that I wasn’t looking to risk on everyday operations.

“Sure. Where are you located?” I started to sift through my ship module inventory, finding the ones I wanted and keying the commands for the assemblers to begin fitting out my Tengu-class strategic cruiser.


“Whoa”, he said as we dropped out of warp in the deadspace pocket this group of Guristas had established themselves in. To a first-timer, the screenful of threat signatures found in these little baseliner pirate nests was daunting. This one was far from the largest I’d seen, though, and this group was no match for a single capsuleer, let alone two of us. The power differential was almost embarrassing, but that’s why capsuleers are so respected… and well-paid.

“Just stay with me. You can always warp off if things get too hot.” I locked onto his ship to monitor his ship’s defenses, just in case, while my first missiles streaked toward the defenders.

I fought the first wave of defenders. By the time the second wave arrived, he was starting to take part and doing fine. The armor on his ship took some damage, but he was able to self-repair with me soaking up some fire. In comparison, I hardly needed to run my shield booster, as my shields’ natural recharge was strong enough for the comparatively weak ships guarding this outpost.

As we fought, I gave him the benefit of my experience. “You know, you took a chance inviting me here. There are plenty of people who would consider you a quick and easy kill. Me, I keep my word. But you should really be very selective who you trust. Almost anyone can turn on you.” His armor self-repair was falling behind a little. “Send me your fit,” I told him. He sent me the schematic of how his ship was outfitted. “Oh yeah. This could be a little better. For starters, always fit a Damage Control module. That’s Rule #1. Rule #2: when in doubt, see Rule #1”.

After a while, I started to get bored and antsy. “Listen. You seem to have this under control. You just needed a little push in the right direction. Get some money saved up and then come out to low security space. That’s where the action is. Good luck and next time we meet, don’t be surprised if one of us explodes.” He thanked me and I left.


Later that evening, if you can believe it, the guy calls me again. I’m starting to get tired of him at this point. But I accepted the conversation.

“Hey… I hate to bother you again, but you’re really the only capsuleer I know. I’m in a little bit of trouble.” I didn’t respond, so he continued. “I was going from system to system here, and I don’t really know how, but I got a little lost. I’m trying to puzzle out the map but it’s not so easy. I don’t think I’m in known space any more.”

Wormhole space, I thought? Surely not. “What does the local transponder say?”

“Local? Oh… 9SBB-9.”

I looked it up. Querious region, but not very far from CONCORD-controlled, safe space. He’d only gone a few jumps out of his way.

I considered. The guy needed help. But I was about at my limit. He was turning out to be more of a beggar than a victim. I’d go out there, though, I decided. I’d go out there alright. Time to teach him his next lesson.

“Sure, I’ll head out that way and see if I can get you back to your home station”. By means of the clone express, I didn’t say. I quickly swapped a few subsystems on my Tengu for cloaked operations, climbed in my pod and undocked.

The flight there was uneventful. You have to be wary of fleets camping the stargates where CONCORD-patrolled space meets null security space, but with my cloaking and my piloting skills there wasn’t much danger. Anyway, there were none this time. I entered system through the stargate and saw him signed into the local transponder. “Where are you?” I asked.

“Planet 3. So glad to see you. Do you want me to warp to the gate?”

“No. I’ll come to you.”

I aligned to the third planet and entered warp. I grimly looked over my display, warming up missile launchers and warp scrambler.

I dropped out of warp only a few kilometers from him. He was flying a Maller-class cruiser this time. I took up a lazy orbit around him and locked on. His token shields disappeared after my first salvo of missiles. I checked local to see if he had anything to say about this, but there was nothing.

His ship’s armor was not dropping as fast as I expected. Maybe he’d taken my fitting advice to  heart and used a Damage Control module. Then I noticed a few more things. The first was that he had locked me in return and applied not one, but two warp scramblers to me. My racing brain put it down to his inexperience. Why would someone have two scrams? Then, I noticed he had activated another module.

The cynosural field is a beacon that jump drives and jump portals can lock onto and so travel multiple light years in a single jump, bypassing the stargate network that normally connects the cluster together. When done in combat, it’s called a hot drop.

The first ship to exit the jump portal was a Devoter-class heavy interdictor. That pilot activated his ship’s warp disruption sphere, making my warp drives useless, even if there weren’t already two warp scramblers on me. Then another ship jumped in. And another. A few more rounded out the ten or so ships that now surrounded me, locking on with guns ready to fire.

My friend was now waxing philosophical in local, letting me in on some advice that sounded very familiar. “You should really be very selective who you trust. Almost anyone can turn on you. You were right though. This is the best sport ever invented.”

Seveneves – A Book Review

Seveneves is only a fitting title for the second half of this book. And yet, the first half of the book, in my opinion, is the better half. That might be down to my tendency to enjoy disaster/castaway stories. But, I really think the second half, while still entertaining, is ultimately a little aimless.

— minor spoilers follow — major spoilers beyond the Read More link  —

Prelude and Setup

The book starts with the Moon exploding. It’s never explained, but the explanation for the lack of explanation works for me. There are some things that surely have an explanation, but we just don’t have the means to find it out. It’s a little bit of a foreshadowing: in today’s world, we’re used to everything being explained sooner or later by science. But in the world of the book, things start happening so fast that we’re lucky just to keep reacting, let alone having a full and detailed explanation.

After the moon explodes, it’s quickly projected that far from a scientific curiosity, this is going to precipitate an extinction level event. The fragments of the moon will exponentially break up until there are so many meteoroids falling to earth that the surface will be scorched clean.

Preparations commence for the saving of as much of humanity as possible. This was a fun section for me, as I played along with the thought experiment of how I would react. What do you do when the rest of your life is three years? Is it possible or reasonable to try and survive? What if I were the president or someone else with influence?

That said, this section of the book started to stretch out too long for me. I found I was (maybe disturbingly) wanting the end of the world to happen already, just so that we could move on to finding out what happens next. As it turned out, I think the book could have conserved some word count here and spent it at the end of the book.

Click “Read More” to keep reading, albeit with Major Spoilers!


Continue reading Seveneves – A Book Review

Blog Banter #67 – CCP X

I am CCP X

There has been a catastophic accident in the CCP Offices in the style of the Robbie Coltrane movie “The Pope Must Die”. A leftover open bottle of Brennivin hidden behind a filing cabinet from the last Christmas party has mutated and released fumes affecting several senior CCP staff. CCP Chair is now the CEO and CCP Cub is Executive Producer assisted by CCP Kitteh. In a freak accident your player account has just been upgraded to a senior CCP staffer leading a development team! With CCP now led by an inanimate object supported by a very young child and a fluffy cat, there is nothing to stop this from happening!

You are now CCP -Insert Your CCP Name Here- and have a team of developers eagerly awaiting your commands. So CCP X, what are you going to have your team work on?

I thought long and hard about what my CCP name would be. This is harder than thinking of improvements to the game!

Rejected options

CCP Bourbon. That way, I can always claim I was drunk if any of the ideas don’t work out.

CCP CloakyCamper

CCP NeedsToLogin

CCP AsleepAtKeyboard

CCP EasilyAmused

The winner is…


I am… CCP Curmudgeon. It’s not really consistent with some of the changes I’m proposing, but it still fits my attitude overall.

UI Improvements

The UI is weird and showing its age at best, ridiculously complicated and clunky at worst. I would start (or continue, to be fair) taking steps to modernize it.

  • The layout should be more configurable and shareable. Other games get away with allowing players to essentially redesign the UI. I am not sure if that would work for Eve, but at least make the layout easily exportable. Shareable overviews were a good step, but I would go further.
  • A better way of displaying incoming damage. This is always a little problematic, especially when it’s coming in fast, but the “full sentence” method is a little silly. No one reads that fast. It needs to be visually
  • Make new ship types automatically add to overview! As it is right now, if a new ship class is added (e.g. Tech 3 destroyers), you have to manually check a box for them to appear on your overview. There should at least be a checkbox for “player ships” and “NPC ships”.
  • Update the in-game map. Many people travel with dotlan in a browser or use Ombey’s Eve maps. Do something like this. I hate to be disparaging, but I find the new galaxy map more confusing than the old one without a lot of new or findable functionality.

Killmail additions

Update the all-important killmails to reflect the modern realities in space.

2015-10-02 14_49_47-Hawk _ Grixion _ Killmail _ zKillboard
One of the few killmails I’m on the right side of
  • Display logistics, drugs and links on killmails. Every player on a kill should have a data node showing what effects they were under.
  • Not directly killmail related, but offgrid boosting is becoming a cancer. Give us on-grid-only links!
  • Fix weirdness, like pods appearing as an attacking ship or shipnames as the weapon system. Display list of all weapon systems triggered and remember what ship(s) attacker was in even if they exploded before the victim ship did. This is probably complicated, but it could use an update.

I certainly have more thoughts, but that’s in my next five year plan. These are the items I would change ASAP.