Monday, January 31, 2011

ISK 3.0 Comes Out Today

Today is the scheduled release for version 3.0 of the Industrial Sized Knowledge Base (or ISK) guide book. This book is free to download in .pdf form. You can get your copy here.

I've pored through version 2.01 many times. It's a great guide for many areas in EVE--lore & history, races, ships, missions, mining, industry, exploration, pos's, and much more. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the new edition has in store.

Not only is ISK informative, but it's beautiful as well. There's some great artwork in this book, and I'm really hoping there's something new in the new one.

Feel free to let us know what you all think of the new edition.

Fly smart.

Friday, January 21, 2011

CCP: the Dungeon Masters of EVE


I just finished listening to the fourth episode of the Lost in Conversation podcast. They were having an interesting discussion about Incursion. Jayne mentioned an interview he and Jade did with CCP Soundwave in an earlier podcast. They'd asked Soundwave what CCP had planned for the future with the Incursions and those game mechanics. Soundwave gave a response along the lines that they would wait to see how the players reacted and where they took the content. The discussion on Lost in Conversation turned to the organic nature of EVE and CCP's approach to the game. They mentioned how the positive view of this is that CCP does approach the game organically, and we, the players, have a real impact on how the game develops and where CCP takes it in the future. The negative view on this, by the "bitter vets," is that CCP doesn't know what they're doing or where they're going.

I've heard similar statements before, and every time I've had the same thought: CCP's approach to this game reminds me very much of my experiences as a Dungeon Master and Storyteller in tabletop roleplaying games. The bitter vets who think CCP don't know where they're going with EVE because they take this organic approach either don't understand this or choose to ignore it. Tabletop roleplaying games are becoming a thing of the past, unfortunately, and it's occurred to me that some of my readers may have little to no experience with them. Even if you have had experience with tabletop RPG's, it's really the experience as a Storyteller, or referee, of the game that enlightens one to this point.

I've run tabletop RPG's for many years. The games I've run include various iterations of Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D 2nd ed, D&D 3.0, D&D 3.5), two versions of the Star Wars RPG (Westend Games version and the D20 version), and White Wolf's Changeling: the Dreaming and Vampire: the Masquerade. Though these games are all different in content and genre, the experience of being a Dungeon Master/Game Master/Storyteller is the same in all of them.

Designing and running an RPG adventure is not an easy task--it's an art. I also write novels, and although there are a lot of similarities between writing a novel and writing an RPG story, there are some distinct differences. Actually running an RPG game is a combination of acting and directing and storytelling. When I write a novel, I am in a lot of ways what is called a "discovery writer." That is to say, I make a rough outline of where I think the plot will go, and then I create detailed characters that are as multidimensional and "real" as I can make them. Then I start telling the story. As the story unfolds, the characters come to life and develop even more.

There always comes a point where the story I'm writing diverges from the story I started out thinking I was going to write. This is because, as the characters become more developed and "come alive" in my imagination, they start to speak to me. I must be true to my characters, and inevitably I get to a point where the character just won't do what the original outline says he would. At that point, I forget the outline and follow the characters. This is what writers mean by discovery writing--I'm discovering the story as I write it, and I don't know how it will come out until I'm done writing it. Each character is reacting to the situations and one another organically, and the story is in a lot of ways "writing itself."

Anyone who has done anything creative, whether writing a story, creating a painting or drawing, sculpting, or composing a piece of music, will understand what I'm talking about here. It's what we call true inspiration--when the work just flows from you without any seeming conscious thought. Some people have believed or believe this is inspiration from a muse or god or some other outside force. I think it's just the creative mind operating at full capacity. Like writing or performing music, all creation is a blending of the left hemisphere analytical mind and the right hemisphere creative mind, working together as one.

Writing an RPG adventure is similar to discovery writing, but it takes it a step further. When I'm writing a novel, the actions and thoughts of my characters can sometimes surprise me, but ultimately, they're my characters--they come from my own mind. So I can usually predict at least broadly what they're going to do.

An RPG is very different. When I run a Changeling: the Dreaming game, for instance, I play a lot of the characters. But a few of the characters are played by the other players. Now, these other people are my friends, and I know them pretty well, so I may think, when I'm designing the next week's session, that I can predict what they're going to do. Experience has shown me, however, that 9 out of 10 times I'll be wrong. It's such a rule of storytelling that it's a cliche--if you come up with 5 possible ways the players could solve a problem you present them with, then they'll come up with a sixth way that you never thought of.

As I said, running an RPG is an art. You have to walk a fine line between not being prepared for the night's adventure, and over-preparing. On the one side, you have to prepare. You have to know the environment and the characters your players will likely encounter. You have to prepare for any contingencies that you can think of, so if the players do take that path, you have some idea how to react. However, you don't want to over prepare. For one thing, you don't want to go too in depth planning all those contingencies, because it could end up being a lot of wasted effort. I can't count how many buildings I've detailed, characters I've created, plans of action I've anticipated, only to have the players go a totally different way, and then all that material goes unused. (Of course, a good storyteller learns to recycle such material and find a use for it at some other point in the future.)

The second way you don't want to over prepare is in your plotting. Yes, a good RPG adventure has a plot, but that plot must be flexible to the players' actions and decisions. Many a storyteller has made the mistake of trying to force their players to follow the plot he's created. The result is always dissatisfied players. A big part of the fun of an RPG is the feeling that you can do anything. As soon as the storyteller starts steering you too obviously through his plot by limiting your choices and using the infamous words "you can't do that," this feeling of freedom evaporates. Players get very angry when you do this, and if they feel you're trying to control them, they'll start actively defying you. This isn't fun for anyone involved.

So the magic of storytelling an RPG is the art of walking this line. You're prepared enough that most contingencies are anticipated. You have enough material to creatively and spontaneoulsy react with what the players do. But, just like the players, you don't know how the story is going to end because you haven't written an ending. As a storyteller you present the setting and the surrounding characters. You give them with a scenario, a situation. But there is no ending written. Instead, the players and the storyteller discover the plot and ending together as the gaming session unfolds. When done masterfully, the players always feel the story is in their hands, and they could swear you're just making it all up as you go. Only the detail of your story will clue in the more perceptive players to the fact that somehow you were able to plan ahead, even though it's all spontaneous.

I believe this is exactly what CCP is doing with EVE. It's not that they don't know what they're doing. It's not that they have no vision for the game or where it's going. They have created a unique gaming environment by giving the players more control over the world than they would have in many other MMO's. Just like an RPG storyteller, they are leaving the outcome open-ended enough so that they can follow the game where the players take it. Why plan for years of encounters using the Incursion mechanics when they don't even know how the players are going to react to it? Maybe the Incursions will be a hit, and they will bring players together in a way that has never happened before. If so, then you can count on lots of similar content in the future. Maybe the Incursions will be a flop, seeing little real game play after the first weeks of newness wear off. If so, CCP can let them fall to the wayside, unremarked, as they focus on other areas.

Some players quite vocally worry about the upcoming Incarna expansion. Because CCP has given us so little to go on, such players assume (again) that CCP doesn't know what they're doing, that they don't know what they're going to do with Incarna. Again, I argue that CCP knows exactly what they're doing. They're going to give us Incarna, bit by bit, so they can constantly gauge player reaction and adapt their game to focus on what the players most enjoy and let fall to the wayside what the players don't grab on to.

It is a truism in all arts that mastery looks effortless. Watching a master trumpeter play, watching a master sculptor sculpt, watching a fighter pilot fly, we come away with the impression that "it looks so easy." But when we try to do those things ourselves, we find it's anything but easy. It just looks easy in the hands of a master because to him, it is.

The future isn't written in EVE, and because of that, the possibilities are endless.

Fly smart.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Better Way to Get Your Patch

Chrriba has created a torrent for the new Incursion patch. I'm getting 3x the download speed with the torrent as I was getting with the official download.


Fly smart.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

EVE Blog Banter #24 - EVE and Real Life

Welcome to the twenty-fourth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week or so to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check for other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month's Banter topic comes to us from the ever helpful Eelis Kiy, capsuleer behind the "Where the frack is my ship" blog. She asks: How does your real life personality compare to who you are as a character in EVE? Does a good leader of people in the real world make a good leader of pilots in game? Or vice-versa? Do your real-life skills help you with the roles you fulfill in your corporation or alliance? Or do you behave completely differently? Does the anonymity of the Internet allow you to thrive on the tears of others in New Eden whilst you work as a good Samaritan away from your keyboard? Or are you as mean outside of your pod as you are inside it? Have experiences in EVE Online affected your behavior, skills or attitudes outside of the game?


Those are some interesting questions. I don't think it's as much of an issue for me as it may be for some people because I don't get into RP with EVE. I know some people really get into it, and that's fine. I've played many tabletop roleplaying games, and it's a hobby I enjoy. I've just never felt the need to roleplay in a video game. To me, they're very different things, and after roleplaying with real flesh-and-blood people, I would find roleplaying in an MMO a poor substitute.

That said, I suppose I do have something of a persona in EVE. The matter is further complicated by the fact that I have multiple characters, and I play them all differently. For the purpose of this discussion, I'll talk about two of my characters--my "main" who lives in a wormhole, and my pvp character.

I'd say my main character is pretty much like me in real life in most respects. I'm helpful to people. I don't lie, don't cheat. I'm an "honorable guy." A big part of this is because it's my main character, the toon I'm known for (or someday will be), and so I want that character to be a good representation of who I am as a person. That doesn't mean I won't shoot you in a pvp situation. But I won't lie or be dishonorable. If I give you a ransom, I'll honor it (and I have).

My pvp character is different. I don't really care how people perceive that character. I still intend to honor ransoms, just because it defeats the purpose of having a ransom if you don't honor it. And I doubt I'd ever do any kind of hostile corp takeovers with that character. I personally believe stealing from a corp or anyone who trusts you is a cowardly and disgusting act, and says a lot about the person who does it, whether in a game or real life (and it doesn't say anything good in my book). But my pvp character will have a lot more latitude when it comes to pvp actions. He just won't be a total scumbag.

As to the topic of leadership, a leader is a leader--it doesn't matter the arena. What I mean by that is if you're a good leader, you'll be a good leader in anything you do, whether in real life or in EVE. Being a leader encompasses certain personality traits. Either you have them (or can learn them) or you don't. If you're not a good leader in life, you won't be in EVE and vice versa.

As to the supposed "anonymity" of the internet, I think that is a thing of the past. You're not anonymous on the internet. You're not anonymous on EVE. If you're a scumbag, word will get out. The only way you could completely avoid the consequences of your actions is to keep making new characters, and where's the fun in that? I suppose you could have one character you're "nice" with and one you're a scumbag with, sort of like my example only more extreme. However, if you're a scumbag for real, then you're eventually going to show others your true colors with your "nice" character whether you mean to or not. Now whether or not those around will be paying attention enough to notice is another matter.

Author's note: The word scumbag, as used in this post, could be replaced with the word douche-bag, or pretty much any other derogatory term you prefer which refers to someone with little to no moral character. I used the word scumbag because that's what that word means to me, whereas douche-bag has more the connotation (to me) of someone who's an ass at least partly because they're a dumbass. Scum-bags can be smart (in their own fucked up way), but douche-bags are oftentimes morons.

Fly smart, and shoot down scumbags and douche-bags with extreme prejudice.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Eden Poster

If you don't already have the EVE posters from EON, now would be a great time to get them. Here's a short message from EON:

As it's a new year things need refreshing. So continuing on that theme, we decided to give the New Eden poster a little facelift and an update. Individually they are $14.95 however the cheapest way is to purchase the whole poster bundle.

Fly smart.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

ISK the Guide 3.0 Coming February 1st!

As my long-time readers know, I'm a big fan of the ISK Guide. This book has a LOT of great info for the new player of EVE. Even people who are familiar in the game will likely find something new in this tome. I just received word that a new version is coming out--3.0. It will be released on February the 1st. I'm really looking forward to reading it and viewing the great artwork. Following is a press release by the publisher.

Fly smart.


ISK 3.0 - INDUSTRIAL-SIZED KNOWLEDGEBASE
The ultimate strategy guide for EVE players, from the makers of EON magazine

London, England - January 6, 2011 - MMM Publishing, a leading publisher of online gaming
magazines, has announced a new "EON Presents..." publication for players and fans of the
award-winning science fiction universe EVE Online. This February "EON presents... ISK 3.0"
will be released as a free pdf download, offering all EVE players the most exhaustive and
expansive strategy guide that's ever been compiled in the game's eight year history.

Like previous "EON Presents..." projects (EVE Strategic Maps, EVE Career Guide), the ISK 3.0
guide is a collaborative effort between EVE players, CCP Games and the design and editorial
teams of MMM Publishing. Previous versions of the "Industrial-Sized Knowledgebase" have
been downloaded by almost 40,000 EVE players and the vast compendium is considered by
many to be EVE's de facto player manual.

The new expanded ISK guide has been updated to include recent changes brought to EVE
Online as part of the Incursion expansion, including adaptions to character creation, skill training
and planetary interaction. It has also been completely redesigned to be easier to read and
reference important sections, with new images and tables within established chapters on getting
started, ship fitting, manufacturing, trading, exploration and combat.

"EVE players have been crying out for a comprehensive strategy guide since the game first
came out" says EON editor Richie Shoemaker. "With ISK 3.0 people are going to realise that
the wait has been worthwhile. Compiled over many, many months it's an incredible piece of
work that we're proud to help bring to EVE players."

Beyond the release of ISK 3.0 the team will begin work on a premium edition of the guide that
will be available to buy as a digital publication alongside EON Digital. The extended 500-page
guide will also be available to pre-order from the EVE Store as an exclusive and limited edition
print publication. Price and publication details will be announced at a later date.

"Creating ISK has been a labour of love for many months and we intend to keep updating and
releasing newer and better versions of the guide for as long as people want to read them"
said ISK’s creators Gábor Várkonyi and László Lipták. "Our dream is to eventually have a
professionally published edition in my hand and after having published EON magazine for six
years, MMM Publishing are the best people to make that dream come true."

ISK 3.0 Lite Edition will be freely available as a pdf file from February 1, 2011 from
www.isktheguide.com, www.eve-files.com and all good EVE fansites. The digital and print
Premium Edition will follow in the spring.

Contact: Ian Bond, MMM Publishing Director, info@mmmpublishing.com


About MMM Publishing
MMM Publishing is a London-based publishing company specialising in community-driven
games magazines aimed at the players of massively-multiplayer online games (MMOGs). Since
2005 MMM Publishing has worked alongside industry-leading developers like CCP Games,
Sony Online Entertainment and Codemasters to help enliven the experiences of players across
the world. MMM Publishing's leading publication is EON the official EVE Online magazine. Now
in its sixth year of successful operation, EON is published quarterly and sent out to more than
80 countries worldwide.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

EVE A to Z is now an EVE Online Community Fansite

What a great announcement to start of the new year! EVE A to Z is now an EVE Online Community Fansite. You can see EVE A to Z and a lot of other great Fansites here.

Thank you CCP, and thank you to all of you who read the blog.

I thought I would take this opportunity to give you all on update on EVE A to Z. Series one is almost over. I have a few more guides to post, and then we will be moving into series two. You may have already noticed a slight shifting in content.

Here's some of what to expect in series two:

- More about me and my adventures in EVE. I'm not going to bore you with play-by-plays of my hours in EVE, but I am going to give you a bit of a look at "the man behind the curtain." I'll be sharing a little bit more of my experiences in EVE and my own particular viewpoint.

- Hot topics in the EVE community. I will be addressing more of the popular and controversial topics circulating in the EVE community. I'm not going to post on every topic, but the ones I find especially interesting will get some attention.

- EVE A to Z is moving to the wormhole. Some time ago I moved into a wormhole, so series two guides will focus on wormhole life. There are already a lot of great wormhole blogs out there. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. But I'll try to find some things to post on that haven't been covered elsewhere, or at least look at something from a unique angle.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Fly smart.