Thursday, June 30, 2011

On the Look-Out for Some Good Sci-Fi

I finished my first (completed) novel a few weeks ago, and I'm brainstorming for the next one. The last one was urban fantasy. For the second novel I'm going to get back to my roots and write a science fiction story.

In addition to brainstorming, I'm doing market research and just getting a feel for what's out there. I'm trying to expose myself to as much good science fiction as possible.

If any of you have some good sci fi you'd be willing to recommend to me, please do so by leaving a comment. I'm looking for books, movies, television shows, etc. Please tell me why you like what you're recommending. Good story? Great characters? Cool ideas? Also, please tell me what sub-genre it is (if you know). Ie, space opera, hard sci-fi, military sci-fi, dystopian sci-fi, mundane sci-fi, etc.

I'm looking for not only books that are well-written, but also cool ideas--innovations you especially liked. For instance, I love the book Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder for his look at the future of the internet and virtual reality. 

Also, if there are any nonfiction books, etc. that you would recommend as a resource, lay it on me. For instance books by Stephen Hawking or Michio Kaku or Discovery Channel's How the Universe Works.

Thanks in advance. I know you guys have great taste!

Fly smart.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Podcasters' Community Shoutout

You may have noticed that EVE A to Z has been rather silent in regards to the shit-storm going on in the EVE community right now. There are reasons for that. After seeing what's been going on and witnessing my own revulsion at the attitudes of a vocal minority of EVE players, I have made some decisions regarding this blog.

Negativity is everywhere in the world today. I suppose it will always be that way in the foreseeable future. If you want to see the worst humanity has to offer, watch a talk show or visit an MMO forum community. It's impossible to change the world; one can only change one's self.

I will not be feeding the negativity. I will maintain a positive slant. There's always something positive to say.

EVE is in a period of growth. Growth is often (always) painful. But growth also leads to something better. None of what's been happening has changed my optimism for the future of this game we all love. Incarna is just the beginning. Dust 514 is just the beginning. Nobody knows where the players and CCP will take EVE Online, but it's going to be cool. EVE is going to be an even more unique gaming experience--the ultimate sci-fi gaming experience. 

Some of the more well-known podcasters in the EVE podosphere have put out a podcast where they discuss what's been going on in the community lately. I enjoyed hearing the points of view of intelligent people who were able to convey their thoughts in a rational, adult way. Give the podcast a listen, and see what you think.

And then let's get back to playing the game we love.

Fly smart.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hot Tub Active - A Review of Incarna

I've had a day now to play around with the new Captain's Quarters, and I'm very impressed with it overall. True, no real game play has been added (yet), but I think CQ is something that EVE has needed all along. Immediately upon loading CQ for the first time, I was impressed with the stunning visual style and look of my character's apartment. This is going to add a whole new level of immersion to the game, and not just for new players.

I like how you always have the option to use the new CQ interfaces or the old ones we're all familiar with. I enjoy walking down to my ship to undock, but I'm glad I don't have to do it every time if I don't want to. I can undock from anywhere, instantly, just like before.

First, I'll highlight some of the things that have been added to the game that I really like. I already mentioned the amazing graphics of CQ. I can't wait to see the rest of the station! I think the mirror is especially cool. 

The new agent finder in the CQ is awesome! Until now I've been forced to use out-of-game sites to find agents, or I sometimes got by with the in-game agent info. The new tool is much better than either of those methods. I can sort my agents by level, empire, corporation, etc., and, most importantly, I don't have to leave the game to do it. This is definitely a step in the right direction. If CCP is going to increase the immersion factor of EVE (which I think they are, and it's a great idea), then they've got to give us in-game tools to do everything we need to do on a regular basis. Every time you have to tab out of the game, immersion takes a hit.

I really like how Aura talks to you now when you open certain interfaces for the first time in your CQ. This will be great for new players. I'd much rather have someone tell me what I need to know than have to read a wall of text. I would like to see a more obvious way to turn the voice on or off for each menu, though. Some I don't want to hear, and others I'd like to hear again.

Outside of the CQ, I like that the tractor beams have an actual visible turret now. I'm assuming the salvagers do too, although I haven't seen those yet.

As great as Incarna is so far, there is some room for improvement. For one thing, the new icons for tractors and salvagers are horrible. They're hard to see (need to be brightened or something), and they look too much alike. I was salvaging with a noctis, and it got a little confusing. Before the icons for tractors and salvagers were distinct, even different colors. Now they're almost identical. This isn't a huge deal, but anytime you make little changes to a game like this, they should improve the game. If they don't, or they make it worse, the changes shouldn't be made. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I imagine CCP will enhance the visuals of the icons so they're easier to see, but I really hope they change one or both of them so they're easier to distinguish.

My only other real complaint is there's some bug in the game now where every time I try to load my in-game browser, it crashes the EVE client. This is really annoying because I use staticmapper and other sites in the browser. I hope CCP fixes this soon. The patch notes today seemed promising, but the bug is still there.

I would also really like to see some animations for docking and undocking in the stations. When I dock, I want to see my ship pulled into station and parked, and I want to see my pod extracted and my character dumped out. Obviously this would be an animation you could skip, but it would be really cool to see. 

If you haven't seen the CQ yet, you see your pod opened up near where your ship is docked. When we undock, I want to see an animation of my character getting in the pod, the pod being inserted in the ship, and the ship launching. Again, you could skip this if you didn't want to see it, but it really needs to be there.

This isn't a criticism of Incarna, really, because I imagine CCP will include these animations eventually. But right now, the experience of docking and undocking is rather lacking. Notice how "the way things have always been" now seems deficient in the face of the new interface? I think Incarna could keep CCP busy for a long time just addressing all these issues that will come up now.

Finally, I want to see some variety in the stations. All my CQ's look the same. They should vary, not only between the different races, but among the different stations of each race. I know it's a lot to ask, but each new expansion from here on out, I'd like to see new, unique station environments added.

In conclusion, I like what I'm seeing so far. There's a lot to be "iterated" yet, but what's there is solid. My first impression was, "Wow, this is awesome!" My second impression was, "Okay, cool, but this is it? Where's the rest?" After further reflection, I think CCP got it right. Better to give us a few new features that are solid than try to do too much and it doesn't work. That said, I'm really looking forward to future expansions and patches.

It's nice that my Captain's Quarters has a place for me to bunk down, but where's my hot tub? Seems after long hours stuck in a capsule, a long soak in a hot tub would be just the thing. 

Fly smart.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The New EVE: The Ultimate in Sci-Fi Immersion

I posted the E3 DUST 514 trailer on the blog a few days ago. I've been really impressed by everything I've seen about DUST so far, but this video blew me away. The game looks like a lot of fun. 

What I'm really excited about, though, is all the implications the trailer put on the table. My head is literally swimming with the possibilities. I really believe and hope that between DUST and Incarna, EVE is going to evolve into a gaming experience the likes of which we've never seen before. I wouldn't be surprised if within a couple years we won't be able to imagine that we played EVE as it is today and were satisfied. Once you've had whole-grain bread, it's hard to go back to Wonder Bread. 

The most exciting element in this new evolution of the EVE Online universe is the ways in which the two games will interact. The Dusters and the Spacers will be able to play their games in isolation if they want, but they will maximize their gains by working together. While fleets in space see who can melt their opponent first, mercenaries will be destroying fortifications and assets planet side. Either side of the conflict could determine the outcome of the battle. 

Not only will such battles occur on two fronts, but DUST will bring in new players, as will Incarna. Not only that, they will likely bring in new breeds of players we've not seen much of in EVE. Let's face it, EVE is a "unique" game, and it attracts a certain kind of gamer. For every person who plays and loves EVE, how many are out there who've tried it and said, "It's just not my thing"? Adding not only more numbers, but more diversity into the game can only improve it. 

I'm very interested to see how the meta-game of EVE evolves as the Dusters join us in our conflicts. I can already see such Duster mercenary groups hired by corporations and alliances to bring the hurt to their enemies, all without said enemies knowing which corporation the Dusters are really working for. 

Dust may have some interesting implications for those of us living in wormhole space as well. When the Dusters are assaulting a planet, PI will shut down entirely. You won't be able to reset your extractors, or import or export goods. I'm hoping the Dusters will also be able to destroy planetary installations. This will obviously have an impact on the PI products market. As supply decreases, prices may rise. This could be a great opportunity for wormholers as they're unlikely to have their planets invaded by Dusters, which means PI in wormhole systems will continue unmolested. 

Now, throw Incarna into the mix, and things start to get really interesting. We still only have a few highlights of what we'll be able to do in Incarna, but the possibilities are endless. For more on what Incarna holds in store, see this article.

DUST will add new players to EVE, and it will add whole new dimensions to our conflicts. With Incarna we will be able to interact with the Dusters face-to-face, and who knows, one day we may be able to fight beside them (or better yet, command from the field). As those mercs slug it out on the ground, they will occasionally look to the military power orbiting far above. Orbital bombardments will be the deciding factor in many DUST battles, I imagine. I can see the Dusters looking at the capsuleers much as the ground-pounders looked at the pilots in World War I. It wasn't possible for an infantryman in WWI to put down his pack and become a pilot, but in EVE Online, anything is possible.

There is much to look forward to in the future of EVE. I suspect that my imaginings are just a sample of what CCP has in mind, and even their ideas are just a tip of the iceberg of what we the players will turn this new universe into. Yes, my friends, exciting times are ahead, and the future begins next Tuesday. See you out there!

Fly smart.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

DUST 514: E3 2011 Trailer

If you haven't seen this video yet, check it out. I'm not a huge fan of FPS games, but this looks pretty cool. I'm not so much interested in playing the game itself as I'm interested in how it integrates into the EVE community and universe. The next couple years will be very exciting for EVE Online.

Fly smart.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New Turret Animations

The new animations look really cool. Check this out if you haven't seen it yet.

Fly smart.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Would You Use an EVE A to Z Forum?

I love forums. I love exchanging ideas and information with people. I love learning new things and learning to understand other people's perspectives.

I've been kicking around the idea of an EVE A to Z forum for some time now. This would be a forum that is "noob-friendly". It would be a place where you could ask questions about EVE without fear of being ridiculed. It would be a place to discuss anything and everything EVE-related, as long as it's done in a respectful manner. 

The forum would be moderated by yours truly; and flaming, trolling, and douche-baggery would not be tolerated. It would be a haven where you would be safe to kick back and talk about EVE.

I put it to you, my readers: Would you use it? I've put a poll in the sidebar. Please take a moment to vote on how much you would use the forum. The votes will determine how (or if) I proceed.

Fly smart.