Quick EVE update

It’s possible I may have been provided — very kindly too! — with a LOTRO F2P beta key* but aside from installing the client I’ve held off actually logging in. For one thing it can apparently take a few hours for your permissions to be correctly set and before that you won’t authenticate to log in. For another, I’m always like this. It’s like Christmas or birthdays or other anticipation-laden present days — what I really enjoy is knowing there’s a shiny something to unwrap and not touching it. Anticipation > fulfilment — hear that, you MMO-gobbling locust generation?

Also, it looks like I’ll only get to make one char, since I’ll be testing that whole lower-class non-paying pleb option — and it’s going to kill me just trying to decide what class to pick. I’d rather put off the agony. I’m a slow-puller not a sudden-ripper with band aids too, by the way.

But I digress.

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The month in games – July 2010

One month, three games — that’s probably some sort of record for me.

When June ended I was playing Fallen Earth, and then from one day to the next I went back to EVE and shortly thereafter started Guild Wars. If you’d told me that four months ago, when I was still perfectly happily playing EQ2, I’d have snorted at you in disbelief.

Fallen Earth

Thanks to the frenzy surrounding layoffs at Icarus and the subsequent issue of 1000 (more?) free game codes, I was able to come back to Fallen Earth for the first time since my stint in the beta back in late 2008.

Fallen Earth is a lovely game and quite a lot of fun, but a couple of things did put me off. The factions stuff… eh. I wasn’t looking forward to having to putz about with that faction wheel, and I would have had to in order to do and get the stuff I wanted to do and get. On the bright side the whole faction system is being rethought and hopefully revamped, so we’ll see what’s what when they’ve had a chance to develop and implement that.

But at the end of the day — and I’m a little annoyed with myself about this — it was the trekking that did me in. Travelling around sector 1 isn’t much of a problem. Travelling around sector 2 isn’t much of a problem. But travelling from one Sector to another — even with a biodiesel bike (the Willie Nelson I) — it got a bit yawnsome. Again though, this is something that has already been addressed with the bus stop system.

Still. Part of me wants travel to be meaningful and I certainly understand why devs and designers want it to be meaningful — but 10-30 minutes of uninterrupted going from A to B along an empty road is not meaningful and it’s not interesting.

The other straw for this camel’s back was that if you wanted to be able to make the really good stuff for char/skill/level X, you had to get books and harvestables from way higher up the skill/level/whatever chain. Some of the recipe books for items that would primarily be used in sector 1 could only be obtained from vendors in sector 2, and that only after you’d obtained the requisite amount of faction (which admittedly isn’t much).

Which means MyChar1 would be in crap gear and using crap stuff but MyChars2-4 could be twinked out the wazoo thanks to MyChar1 being able to get the stuff.

Of course that’s the case in pretty much every MMO out there these days, and I have nothing against twinking per se — not at all, in fact I rather enjoy doing it myself up to a point — but for some reason in Fallen Earth it was like a little bit of salt rubbed in daily.

All that being said I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with Fallen Earth — it’s a fun game, it’s come a hell of a long way from beta that’s for sure, and it’s definitely worth the price of admission if you don’t object to the setting. (Just don’t think you can turn it into YAFMMO in your head. It’s not fantasy, even if the “orcs” can set you on fire.) I definitely recommend it — it’s just not the game for me right now, and as it’s subscription-based I have to be picky and choosy.

EVE Online

This was another freebie, at least as far as reactivation for a few days went. I first played EVE for a month or two waaaay back in 2004, but ended up moving on to something else for reasons I now can’t recall — probably the lure of another new shiny game and the unlure of my ongoing issues with EVE itself. I played again in 2006, also for only a month or two, this time with the spousal unit, and the big problem I had back then was that space makes me RL sick. There’s nothing quite like wanting to yack up your dinner when you’re playing to make you reconsider a subscription!

Anyway, since then we’d got new machines and much larger new monitors, so we figured we’d give it another go just for shits’n’giggles. The good news is that I don’t get quite so sick in space anymore, though moving the camera around too fast in space can still make me feel like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo. Combat is still a bit of a problem, chunks-wise.

The bad news is that I’m just not cut out for full on world-PvP.

Back in 2006 you could stick to safe space and pretty much pretend there was no PvP, but these days it’s everywhere. People try to warp-scramble you just because they’re there and you’re there and what the hell, right? — And this in 0.9 space no less. I’m starting to think that finding a nice quiet corner of 0.0 is probably less of a pain in the ass than trying to navigate through the newbie systems.

Anyway, other than the PvP the game does have quite a few elements to recommend it to me. The market/trading game is fascinating, though as with all trading you’ll make more money if you have more money to invest up-front — but it’s still possible to make money and indeed I have been (albeit modestly) this last month. The manufacturing game isn’t much of one at the moment, at least not at my newbie levels: ore and mineral prices seem to have dropped considerably since I last played and right now the profit margin on manufactured items is tiny — you’re almost better off just mining and selling the raw materials. I’ve experienced this in pretty much every MMO that has crafting based on harvested raw materials: sooner or later, the raws will be as valuable if not moreso than the stuff you can make with them.

Then there’s Planetary Interaction, which has been fun but is limited in the amount of playtime it takes. I’m further limited in my unwillingness to leave safe space — the chancier the system, the more likely you are to strike gold, so to speak. But again, it’s not impossible and I’m managing; I’m making a profit, just not as much and not as fast as I might be.

In EVE, the risk-reward ratio is very obvious — but even with minimal risk there is still a chance of getting some reward.

Right now the only reason I’m still subscribed is because Mort is playing and enjoying the game, and I figure that whatever money I can make can help fuel his more active ambitions in the game. He’s running missions, hopping around in low-sec space, getting stuff done — generally he’s just not as much of a chicken as I am.

Again, EVE is not a bad game at all. There have been a slew of improvements and the basic game itself is fun, for the right player. Hardcore you need to be, grasshopper, and prepared to overlook the godawful interface with its godawful font — but at least everyone else has to use the same godawful UI so in that sense it’s even.

I’m just not the right player. I keep telling myself I can hide in the corner in PvP games and still have fun, but at the end of the day it’s just too stressful for me. I don’t like adrenaline, you see. So people can tell me I’ll get to like it if I just get killed enough times — till they’re blue in the face — but it’ll never be true. Much though I would like to be a cool kid and more Die Hard than Disney, the fact is I’m Disney and always will be. Hell, I used to get stressed out playing Tomb Raider for cripes’ sake.

So yeah… I don’t see EVE lasting so well for me. I’ll probably stay subbed up a few months to do some training and work on my PIs but if Mort decides he’s had enough it’ll be about 3 seconds before I hit the unsub button. I’m not cut out for the Wild West and lurking from one safe-space station to the next doesn’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.

Guild Wars

Oh look, another freebie — well, no sub to playbie anyway.

I’ve been intrigued by GW for some time now, mostly thanks to comments by and conversations with people like (the still blog-less) @longasc and Dusty. (There are many more and apologies for not crediting you all. You’ll have to bask in the warm glow of knowing who you are.) This is another game I played briefly in beta, though only in the open beta phase, and the only thing I remember about it from back then is that it was pretty and that it didn’t quite work the way I expected. Limited skills! Instances! No jumping!!11oneone!

Which just goes to show that first impressions aren’t always as reliable as people like to think. As a long-time believer in the uselessness of first impressions, I should have known better.

Of the three games I’ve played this month this one seems to fit my playing requirements best right now, and there are several reasons for that.

It’s light — I can pick it up, play 15 minutes or 5 hours, and put it down. No lengthy inventory and bank sorting sessions. No massive amounts of things to craft or sell or craft-then-sell. Just log in, go somewhere with my trusty heroes/henchmen/pets/spousal unit, kill some shit, log out. That is such a relief — and one I’d not expected.

It’s pretty. Sure, some of the graphical elements are a little dated (like the faces on Prophecies chars), but for the most part it’s a really good-looking game. Many of the environments are colourful without being over-saturated (thanks Tesh!), and the brown environments are… not too bad. Besides, I have characters in every campaign so if post-Searing Ascalon gets too much for me I can just play someone in the jungles of Nightfall for a while and get my fill of palm trees and giant ferns.

It’s easy. The initial learning curve is a little weird, partly because one has to unlearn a few MMO habits, but it doesn’t take very long at all to be comfortable with the way the controls work. Learning the intricacies of skills and choices can take a little longer, but that’s part of the fun of the game.

NO TREADMILLS. That deserved capitalisation. From what I’ve seen so far, armour is something you’ll upgrade maybe 3 or 4 times and that’s it — any other sets you obtain will  be mostly for the looks. Yippee-frickin-kay-yay! There’s a little more variation in weapons but so far I haven’t seen The One Weapon To Rule Them All that I’d have to strive for like a hamster on a wheel. Double yay.

Sure, there may be reputation or faction or something-else treadmills, but I can ignore those and not feel like I’m fighting sub-par. This is a joy beyond imagining for someone like me who isn’t particularly motivated by the chase for the next great gear-item.

Instant travel. This can be a double-edged sword but given how Guild Wars is built, anything else would have been idiotic in the extreme. You adventure in solo (or with friends) instances, and you do everything else in towns and outposts. Having you slog through multiple instances just to get back to a town/outpost would be truly irritating — this way you can jump into the action and jump back out of it just as fast when you’ve had enough or dinner’s ready or whatever. It works. I like it.

I’ve already got a slew of characters, not all of whom are likely to survive as I try out this profession and that one. My highest is currently a 14 Ranger/Paragon combo whose Paragon skills are sadly underused, but she’s fun all the same. The Necromancer/Ranger (see a theme here?) is stuck at 9 because I’m overdosing on post-Searing destro-Ascalon browniness.  I also just started a Mesmer/(currently)Necro combo to play with the spousal unit, and she’s a LOT of fun. There’s nothing like messing with mob minds from behind a sturdy meatshield.

I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but I’m glad there’s no crafting in Guild Wars. I’m tired of managing my inventories and having a million crafter alts. Maybe I’m just bloated from the bounteous crafting goodness that is EQ2 these days (largely thanks to its crafting dev, Domino) — there is, after all, such a thing as too much of a good thing.

And maybe in a month or three or six I’ll want to go back to that kind of crafting — and then I will. In the meantime, I’m (mostly) unshackled from monthly subscription fees and that, too, is quite a relief.

Long month, long post

And then there’s my self-challenge to post daily on this blog for the month of July, which I’ve mostly managed to do. I did give myself weekends off, partly for the sake of my sanity and partly because nobody reads weekend posts anyway — and while I do write mostly for myself, I guess I’m not entirely immune to what Rivs calls being an attention whore. Though I prefer to think of myself as an attention high-class-escort, thank you very much.

I shall make no promises for August, that’s for sure!

To Be Or Not To Be… an MMO

When is an MMO not an MMO? (Note that I’m going to leave the whole “RPG” suffix out of the present discussion as a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish. Note also that I’m not going to discuss this exhaustively or we’ll still be here in October.)

Guild Wars is an odd beast. It is an MMO, because it’s massive and has lots of players online all at once, and yet in many ways it doesn’t feel like the other MMOs I’ve been playing in the last, ahem, half-decade. Ironically though, it’s been reminding me more of the games I played in the half-decade before that  — Asheron’s Call in particular — than a lot of the other MMOs I’ve played more recently.

Asheron’s Call was, on the surface, utterly unlike Guild Wars. Nothing was instanced, for one, at least not in the way it’s done in GW; there were a lot of dungeons and other areas accessed through portals that were effectively instances, but none of them were private. Anyone who met the portal requirements could go in and would end up with everyone else who was also in there. Let’s call them public versus private instances. (It’s interesting that I never once thought of them as instances while I was playing AC — they were just a part of the greater world you had to use a whirly-purple portal to reach.)

And yet, in the last few days, I’ve been reminded of nothing so much as Asheron’s Call when I play Guild Wars. Part of it is the “town/outpost” system which, in Guild Wars, are the only public places where you can meet people who aren’t in your party; the only places, in effect, where you can interact freely with the rest of the player base. Asheron’s Call wasn’t like that at all but it did have several towns that served as player hubs; people would come out of the wilds or wherever they’d been and congregate in Glenden Woods, Eastham, Qala’bar and other places. The “in” town varied depending on fashion, player level and focus (PvP players tended to congregate elsewhere), but they were there and they were where you went to see other people.

I was no exception. I’d go off and do my thing, alone or with friends, and when I was laden down with stuff I wanted to sell or just wanted a dose of other people, I’d head off to whatever town was my base and hang for a while. In that sense, AC and GW aren’t that different at all. Even the landscapes are somehow reminding me of each other, though the Guild Wars graphics are a few light-years ahead of poor AC’s.

Post-Searing Ascalon

Compared with other big-name MMOs, Guild Wars stands out by being different in so many ways it’s understandable that many don’t think it’s an MMO at all. Let me count the ways…

There aren’t that many kill 10 rats quests. You’re not forever striving after some insanely powerful item that will only be useful until the next expansion comes out and you have to strive after the new insanely powerful item. It’s more instanced than many players — myself most certainly included — are comfortable with, and while the world certainly is huge, the instancing makes it feel somewhat disjointed (especially at first glance). And worst of all, when you go off adventuring you’re in your own little world — meaning you’re not competing with 27 other players for those foozle tails, and if you’re not competing over scarce drops for mediocre rewards, how can it be a real MMO?

Even more heretically, Guild Wars doesn’t lock you into skills or builds. The only thing you’re locked into is your primary profession choice — after that, you can moosh your stats, skills and even secondary profession around as much as you like, as often as you like.

Doesn’t that sound weird? It certainly sounded weird and a little suspicious to me a week ago.  But you know what? It works.

Guild Wars doesn’t try to appeal to the hardcore raider/achiever type. I’m not quite sure what their core player profile is, but I do know that it makes a nice change from the endless (if varied) standard-MMO treadmills; including, believe it or not, the crafting treadmills. I do love my crafting, but not having to harvest stuff and not wanting to make stuff I’ll have to figure out how to sell… it’s a nice change of pace.

Right now I have some fun classes (professions) to explore and try out, fancy-looking gear to obtain (note that it’s more for looks than uberness), and places to explore. Best of all, if I suddenly stop wanting to play next week I won’t have the nagging feeling that I’m paying for something I’m not using, since I’m not actually paying.

Baby necro -- too cool to be cold!

After a decade of worrying about getting the most bang for my subscription buck, that’s more of a relief than I had expected. So I’m going to stop worrying about whether GW is or isn’t an MMO and just get on with having fun. Strange concept, eh?

(In the meantime, I’m still playing EVE but on a much more casual level that doesn’t involve leaving the safety of my comfy station very much. I buy stuff, I resell stuff, and my planetary installation — just one for now, but a different one than the one I started with — is doing relatively well and has almost paid for itself in under a week. The whole all-PvP all the time deal in these world PvP games is just way too stressful for me, so this is working out very nicely. I’m not uber, but that’s never been what I was after, and EVE is one of those weird games where you can sometimes get more for your subscription buck by logging in less.)

Innocence abroad

Harbinger Zero asked me to post my humiliation for all to see, so here it is.

This is how I got scammed in Jita, in EVE Online, a couple of days ago.

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The Setting

Non-EVErs should know that Jita is the Ironforge of the EVE universe — it’s permanently packed (1300+ people when I was there) and it’s permanently full of sales spam, smack talk, and of course scammers.

It’s actually a pretty short story, and one I should have known better than to fall for, both as a reasonably smart individual and as a 10+ year (argh!) MMO player.

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The Scam

Some player, let’s call them LadyMolo to avoid giving them publicity but still remain relatively true to the name, was claiming to be leaving the game for RL reasons and therefore wanted to give her money away.  If you come from a more recent MMO generation you might instantly think “Ohh right, one of those scams. What a crock!” But back in the day of walking uphill barefoot both ways in the snow to get our levels, people who left games often did give away their virtual-worldly goods. I’ve done it myself a time or two.

Anyway, LadyMolo kept spamming chat with “I”m leaving blah blah blah, send me X amount and I’ll send you back three times as much!” And here’s the kicker to rope in suckers like me: “Send a small amount first to test me!”

I was only in Jita to pick up some goods I could sell back home in Verge Vendor for twice the price, and I wanted to get in, get my shit, and get out again as fast as possible. I don’t like crowds much in RL and I don’t like crowds in virtual space either. (People either get that or they don’t. It bugs the hell out of me when someone stands in my face in an MMO, and I’ve had long debates with friends and acquaintances who just don’t get the concept of personal space when it’s virtual space. Maybe it’s a female thing. /end digression) Text that scrolls so fast you can barely read it — though 99.99% of it isn’t worth reading anyway — is a pain in the backside. And, generally, swimming in a tiny pool full of carnivorous fish ready to blast you just because they don’t like the cut of your jib — so not my thing.

Even so, in the short time it took me from entering the system to docking at the station with the goods I wanted, I saw enough of the scam to be intrigued. I checked my personal wallet and thought, Hrm, I could make a few million extra profit here!

Dollar signs went cha-ching in my eyes. I sent the person 2 million ISK (which is barely enough to get a cup of coffee at EVE-Starbucks these days).

A few seconds later, I get 6 million back. And that of course is how the suckers are hooked and landed.

Fortunately, gullible though I may be, I’m not entirely idiotic. I just sent back the 6 mill I’d got. And waited. And waited. And waited — along with an increasingly vocal group of other marks. A few minutes later LadyMolo logged off, never to be seen again.

Surprise!

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The Mark

Being scammed isn’t humiliating — but standing up for the scammer certainly is. And I did. I bought not only the scam but the story, and defended the scammer to others. Aieee.

But while my MMO persona is humiliated and vowing never to fall for anything ever again, my RL persona doesn’t really mind. For one thing, I didn’t “invest” (positive spin, see?) anything I couldn’t afford to lose. Sure, Ysharros’ personal wallet is pretty flat now but you can pretty much spit and make a couple of mill in EVE even without combat, so it’s not such a big deal.

If anything — like with the almost-got-killed incident — I’m amused at my own perpetual gullibility and at the cleverness of the scam. It was just believable enough for some of us to get conned. It was the usual “put in a little, get out a lot, do it  again sucker!” con that anyone who’s been following financial news in the last couple of decades will be aware of — myself included. But reading about a scam and thinking how you’d never get taken in, and being the mark of a scam are two entirely different things.

At the end of the day, as I’ve said before, I don’t mind being gullible. Being cynical is only a veneer for me, and if I were a cynical old cow to the core I’d probably be unhappier. Miserable and rich isn’t something I particularly aspire to, in games or in life.

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Lessons learned

1. I still hate Jita. I’d only been there once in my previous EVE stints, and I don’t intend to go back if I can possibly help it. For the record, I loathed Ironforge too.

2. Never invest what you can’t afford to lose. EVE and other PvP games are pretty much all about those rules if you don’t want to get horribly burned and be scarred forever more. I didn’t hand over much, I didn’t get taken for more than I initially handed over, so it wasn’t too painful or costly a lesson. (A few marks sent over 100-200 million ISK — to me that’s a ginormous fortune, though I know people regularly deal with billions in EVE these days, probably including the not-nearly-so-gullible Stabs.)

3. Quit while you’re ahead. This is why I don’t gamble.

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Sountrack: It’s yer money I’m after baby — The Wonder Stuff. (NME will even let you see a video… provided you’re not in the US.)

* Yes, I know I’m misquoting my title. See what I did thar?

L2Search the internet, EVE noob!

This is how much of a noob I am. I’d never have found this amazing resource if a kind commenter, Latrodanes, hadn’t pointed it out to me. Speaking of which, thanks to everyone who’s stopped by with help, comments, advice, L2Pnub, and anything else on this game that I’ve supposedly already played twice but still don’t really know at all. It’s much appreciated. Just don’t taunt me a second time.

I’m proud of calling myself a perma-noob, because there’s always something new to be learned no matter how long you’ve played a game, but missing such a seminal info site is pretty noobish even for a noob. Especially one who prides herself on her Google-fu.

Shiny new site! With MAPS! I love, love, loooooooove maps. Stuff is clickable to show more targetted information and boy the amount of info! And realtime too (well mostly). Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!

Am going to explore.

I may be some time.*

Is this cool or what?

* See what I did there?

PS — this is my second post today. I reserve the right to have it count for tomorrow on the Great Post-A-Day Endeavour.