Thursday, 24 October 2013

EVE: A different kind of war.

Well it finally happened (no, not the moved to nullsec) the corporation that I joined ended up in a war. It came about through a rather convoluted series of events, many of which I am still trying to understand, culminating in a member of our corp going rogue and attacking someone in order to provoke a war. The long and short of that is that the individual concerned is no longer part of our corporation and their frozen corpse occupies one of our storage hangers.

All that to one side it was interesting to see how the war played out. EVE Online gives a 24 hour countdown to war during which time neither side can attack the other without CONCORD (the space police being called) and so I eagerly awaited guidance from the upper echelons as to what our battle plan was.

Warp gate
Somehow I get the feeling my Heron was not designed for interstellar combat

When it came through I was slightly surprised to find that we were relocating to the other side of space, to be honest it felt a bit like running away until the CEO took time to explain exactly why we were doing this. A big part of EVE is profit, in fact it costs ISK (money) to declare war and an increasing amount to sustain the war, therefore there is more than one way to fight them. As all new and industrial players were being directed to a system very far away the combat division were fitting themselves up and positioning near the trade hubs and our old base to scout out the enemy.

The goal was simple; don’t let them get any kills, so that the money they spent declaring war was effectively wasted. Combat division were ordered only to attack with superior odds and in relatively cheap ships.

General advice was also given to the new players on safe war-time practices, always be facing a station, keep your eyes on local chat to see who’s about and run at the first sign of trouble. In fact during this time I learned a lot of the behaviours that are now a staple part of my EVE play-style and it’s going to be pretty good for our venture in to NullSec where you are always under threat of attack.

The biggest down-side to being at war for an up-and-coming explorer like me is that the corp asks us to stay within our wartime system or at most go one jump out. Believe me it gets dull trying to find sights in the same 3 systems. I may have gone a few jumps further out to find sights, but I most definitely did not fly 9/10 jumps to the universal trade hub that is Jita, honest.

 Yet More Ruins
Theses ruins were definitely found in our wartime system, honest!

With the war over and 0 kills on the board we declare ourselves the victors and go back to preparing for our move to null sec. However apparently there is a big war going on there at the moment which could shift a balance of power, which could impact the price of…………….. There are moments when I wish EVE was a bit simpler. However those a fleeting, fly safe pilots!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

My Kingdom for a reasonably priced horse!

As he surveyed the battlefield Brian took stock of the men he had lost, the buildings burned and the peasants crying in the street. He thought about the futility of war, whether the castle has been truly worth the cost and whether he could reclaim the losses on expenses.

Brian is my character in single player medieval-em-up Mount and Blade: Warbands, which sees you live out your life as a medieval mercenary free to loot and pillage as you please. Having clicked through the character creation process, deciding that Brian was the son of merchants and worked in a shop, I realised that this wasn’t really the start that one would expect of a die-hard soldier of fortune.

After beating some bandits to death with an abacus (and admittedly several peasants wielding cleavers helping) Brian set off to find others to share in his adventures. The early years were spent travelling from village to village, hunting bandits, rescuing cattle and explaining the relevance of crop rotation to a back-dated agrarian community. Gradually more and more people began to follow Brian (and it had nothing to do with the fact he paid them a lot of money), farmers turned pike men, cattle ranchers turned knight errants and Dave.

Dave is a footman that looks like a large number of other footmen within the army of Brian; he has fearlessly stood by Brian’s side through thick and thin. Ok so I cannot actually name my troops, but he looks like a Dave and, given his resemblance to all the others, he seems to survive every battle.
With Dave at his side and astride his mighty horse ‘Net Present Value’, Brian has left his life as a former accountant completely behind. Indeed nothing can express the sheer joy of charging headlong in to battle lance in hand. Until, that was, Brian was inexplicably awarded one of the major cities within the game.

No Dave, that is not what I meant by Hedgehog Formation!

Having taken service with one of the kings Brian took part in a few castle sieges, his ability at strategically concealing himself for most of the battle resulted in him gaining most of the credit for the ensuing victory by virtue of being alive. This resulted in said king rewarding our hero with a big shiny city.

I am playing with the diplomacy mod enabled so I cannot be sure to what extent this is within the 
original game, but having been awarded a major city Brian was then in charge of hiring defenders and sending out patrols, even building a few improvements here and there. It was a little disappointing to find that Brian was unable to rename the city ‘non-current asset’ and so it remained with the somewhat less believable name of Suno.

In fact following on from being given a city Brain (somewhat ironically) spent a lot more time looking at balance sheets and budget reports. Needing to work out exactly how much money would be coming in to which city, however the upshot of this was that Brian (and Dave) now led a troop of the hardest, most expensive warriors around. Indeed if it was not for the fact that Brian’s maximum army size is about 80 odd he would have long since deposed his employer and established a kingdom free from tyranny and fiscal inaccuracy. So off they went again, in search of more castles to capture and a vain hope that one day they would be able to command enough troops to at least stand a chance against an entire kingdom!

This game is one that I always go back to, it’s fun to feel part of an epic battle, leading from the front or a nearby sheltered position. There is a great deal of pleasure in taking an enemy lord captive and ransoming him back for a vast fortune. While combat can be a bit challenging at first charging in to the enemy soon becomes second nature, although I never quite got the hang of the shooting mechanics.

I definitely feel that I got my money’s worth with this game (given my total play time to date of 72 hours), especially since it was on sale when I bought it originally. So if you are looking for an interesting diversion you can find Mount & Blade: Warbands on steam.

Monday, 14 October 2013

EVE: Raiders of the lost Comm Tower

Often there are features in games that keep us coming back for more, that little mini-game or part that for whatever reason we cannot seem to stop playing and for many of us that is often enough to carry us through the more troubling aspects of the game. In the exploration elements in Eve online I have found something so addicting that I try to make sure I am online at low population times in order to maximise my chances of finding something.

Exploration takes the form of an interstellar treasure hunt; upon warping in to a system you scanners will let you know if there are any anomalies (an ‘x’ on the treasure map of the system if you will) hidden in the current system. It is then a matter of firing off some probes and positioning them in space to try and get a more specific location, reducing their range and the distance between them until you can warp to the site.

It may not look like much, but this holds the key to great wealth (maybe)

My main targets in space at the moment are data sites and relic sites, in that order. In high-sec space data sites are undefended and contain materials that are worth at least a few million ISK, occasionally there is the odd blue-print, but I have not yet found one of any value. Relic sites usually contain parts which sell for significantly less, however there is the occasional gem hidden amongst the rubbish. Each of these sites requires you to play a hacking mini-game which causes loot to erupt out of the site once completed. In a manner similar to the crystal maze your time is limited and you need to grab as many of the containers as you can before they disappear.

All of the above are indeed fun, however they are not the reason that I cannot stop playing. As soon as I enter a system with possible sites I know I am in a race, but in this race I usually cannot see my competitors and even if I do I have no idea if they are in front or behind me. Every second counts as I reposition my probes and reduce the ranges in order to secure that elusive site location, hoping against hope that I am just far enough in front of the competition. Often it will take 4 or 5 systems worth of looking before I find something viable, making the desire to beat everybody else even stronger.

Nothing quite beats the high of warping in to a data site and finding all of the data points untouched and yours for the taking! A quick scan to identify any super high value targets and then I set to work taking as much as I can as quickly as possible because even after you win the race does not stop. That’s one site in one system and in Eve there are A LOT of systems, each one being searched for by any number of players all hoping for that elusive score.

Comm Tower
An untouched comm tower, my holy grail!

I recently sold my exploration findings and made about 120million ISK for a few hours work which, although not big-league profits, is a fair amount for someone operating in the safer parts of space without much experience. Once I have the skills this will be being spent on better probes, a better ship and a decent cloaking device because, although high-sec exploration is fun, the real excitement (and money) is in exploring the parts of space where there is no security. Guess where I’m going…………….

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Eve Online: That's my goal! (maybe)

SO my Eve online trail has come to an end and all things considered it has been an exciting couple of weeks for me.

After the initial information overload passed and I had completed the tutorial mission (which are a MUST for completely new players) I had sufficient money to strike out on my own and see a little more of space. With an infinite number of possibilities before me I decided to charge headlong into the unknown as a miner!

The shear excitement as I sit in an asteroid belt focusing intently upon the rocks before me cannot be put in to words, will they move, will I hear their screams as my mining laser rips through them or will they serenade my with Queens greatest hits? Excitement to one side mining is a good and relatively safe way to get started in eve and not just because it’s a stable income stream.
Mining buys you time to think, which is a much needed resource in Eve, as I sat there orbiting a rock that had a particularly stoney expression I began to look at my skills and form a plan in my head over where I wanted to go. The plan was simple get some skills behind me and get a better mining ship, I worked out what I wanted to aim for, checked the skills I would need and dutifully set myself to training them.

It was like that when I got here!

I took occasional breaks from mining to make sure I had covered all of the available tutorials and at the end of the advanced combat tutorial was pleased to be rewarded with a shiny destroyer. Having seen that I would take a mere 40 mins or so to train the skills needed to sit in it I overrode my previous skill choices and set my destroyer skill to train.

40 mins and several asteroids later I sat in my destroyer and dutifully kitted it out with all of the gear I had been given/picked up during the tutorial missions and headed off for my first level 1 security mission. Some scientists had become stranded in the middle of a gang war and I needed to go in and rescue them, so off I trotted. I cleared through the first bandits without any difficulty taking down 4 or so in my destroyer and only losing 25% of my shields in the process. 

Fuelled by the rush of victory I plunged in to the next area of space and took care of the two bandits on radar. Then their friends turned up, about 8 of them and promptly took apart my beloved destroyer in an exceptionally short space of time. I had a small bit of gamer rage at this point because I didn’t understand where I went wrong or how I could have done better, I used the best gear I had.

And it was at this point that one of the great features (which I touched on in my earlier post) saved me from quitting and missing out on this great game, the community. I posted into rookie chat that I had just lost a destroyer to a lvl 1 mission and yeah there was quite a lot of light-hearted mocking, apparently it should have been easily doable, but one of the people from the channel private messaged me and took me through the errors I had made.

First off none of the starting equipment is particularly useful, anything with civilian in front of it needs to be replaced with the real versions of it (apparently my civilian shield booster was a bit of a chocolate fireguard). Secondly because of the race I was playing and my lack of experience missiles and missile launchers were my best option to start with. So he talked my through a cheap fit and then got me to message him a copy of the fit to check I had done it right. With a nod of the head he said that was a good start and to give him a yell if I had more questions and I went on my way.

We're gonna need a bigger boat!

I returned to the room of doom with my new destroyer decked out in missile launchers and I tore through it. The massive range of the launchers meant that I could easily out range each of the attackers, the afterburner the guy had suggested meant that I stayed out of their range and a shield-booster that restored in 1 second what my civilian took 4 to do meant I was basically unscathed. 5-10 minutes of advice, that made the difference between struggling and striving.

Yes Eve is a daunting world, it is so much about how much you know, but the people are there who are willing to share their knowledge with you. I was given some advice by The Ancient Gaming Noob which I want to pass on ‘set yourself a goal’, try out those tutorial missions and think about what appeals most, then message rookie chat for advice. You will get a million and 1 opinions but it will give you plenty to think about.

Having decided that mining was the way for me, I promptly set about training as a miner and then I found exploration. This has had such an affect on my gaming life in Eve that I want to write a supplementary post about it in order to fully explain why exploration is (for me) the most addictive thing in this game so far.

You can try Eve Online for 14 days for free, with some restrictions so it’s worth checking out. However to go back to another piece of advice I received ‘you get out what you put in’ so make sure when you do take that trial you make sure you have time on your hands. Finally if you are still debating whether to join us in New Eden have a read of The Ancient Gaming Noob and pOtShOt to give you an idea of some of the fun that can be had when you get further along in the game.

And yes I have subscribed to the game!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Back in WoW: It's Grim Up North(rend)

WoW has suffered from a bit of neglect recently as I have spent a lot more time in EvE Online chasing down relic sites and getting blown up because I don’t know what I am doing. However my girlfriend and I found some time this weekend to give some much needed love to our pandas.
Having recently broken free from the rather dull landscapes of Outland we are now comfortably settled in to Northrend and are busy exploring the Grizzly Hills.

Team Panda
Team Panda, ready to leap into action at the slightest sign of a node or skinnable!

We had already severely depopulated the wildlife in the surrounding area and a completed a quest which involved a lot of time spend grunting in a toilet (this quest is even more disturbing if two of you enter at the same time and forget to switch off your imagination!). So it was that Team Panda (Bamda, Harrietander and honorary member Clawd the Raptor)  were armed and ready to once more to face adventure, danger and my overwhelming desire to skin everything in sight (I have FINALLY got my leatherworking up to use Northrend materials).

We started off with a few of my girlfriends favourite quest-types, find the items, gathering various plants in order to make some strange concoction. Thanks to a slightly longer draw-distance I managed to track down mine faster (something that is apparently unfair). We then, with the aid of a human with an identity crisis, abducted a local troll and then proceeded to reduce the local troll population to a more manageable level (namely zero). Well I say we, given that I am playing a brewmaster monk and Harrietander is a marksman hunter it is usually the case that I despatch my opponent only to find her and Clawd looking somewhat perplexed surrounded by 6/7 dead bodies.

So, having taken out a large number of trolls for their mojo we eagerly await the next quest in the chain, take out some zombie trolls and steal a magic orb. Again we take to the skies soaring to our destination only stopping as the cry of ‘NODE!’ rings out and Harrietander the engineer has to stop to do the necessary bash-rock-with-pickaxe manoeuvre!

Bamda also doubles up as a node tax service!

Gem duly stolen we then head off to a mysterious outpost which turns out to be populated by worgen who then proceed to chase us as we run away on horseback, something that has Bamda looking particularly uncomfortable. This chase was made even more interesting by the need to take a cake out of the oven right in the middle of it, let that be a lesson to all WoW and baking do not mix! Please Bake Responsibly!

Poor Horse
This is horse looks like the thoroughbred of sin if ever there was one.

I do feel a bit bad that I have neglected my paladin in his quest to gear up and introduce Garrosh to my hammer of righteousness, but I still have not moved guilds to one that is active and as a result I feel less of a need to do that right now. Besides it is  fun to go adventuring with Team Panda (I am working on a theme song) and when I am on my own EvE Starts to call………