Sunday, May 27, 2007

EvE Online? What's that?

Good question.
Firstly, and probably the best way to discover what EvE Online looks and feels like, is to watch this:

Some trivia for you:

  • The song in the background is a remix of 'Beauty Never Fades' by Junkie XL, from the album 'Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell Cabin'
  • The female vocals are performed by Samantha Sprackling (otherwise known as 'Saffron' from the band Republica, responsible for the song 'Ready To Go', which you will all no doubt be familiar with given it has been used in nearly every advertising medium known to man)
  • All of the footage you see is shot totally in game - there are no pre rendered cinematics in the trailer whatsoever

In essence, EvE Online is incredible in scope, beauty, and unmatched depth. With it's beauty, comes some of the most brutal PvP online play I have ever encountered, but that's par for the course in the EvE universe. Here's the fundamentals:

What is EVE Online?
EVE is a massive multiplayer online game set in a science-fiction based, persistent world. Players take the role of spaceship pilots seeking fame, fortune, and adventure in a huge, complex, exciting, and sometimes hostile galaxy.
EVE Online is host to the largest virtual universe in the world, has an unbelievably dynamic player controlled economy (and I mean *unbelievable*), and the unique feature of leveling skills whilst offline.

What is basic game play like?
The diversity and flexibility of EVE makes it difficult to categorise it by conventional standards. It absolutely depends on the level at which it is played.

The game is set in an unknown portion of space, spanning thousands (5000!) of solar systems, many of which are settled. Players begin by creating an in-game character equipped with a basic spaceship ready to explore the world. As they get acquainted with life in EVE, players can trade goods between systems or conduct other money-making ventures such as mining asteroids, transporting goods as a courier, or even cleaning up debris for recycling. Financial gains made through such activities can be used to upgrade the ship with weapons and equipment and also to develop the character by purchasing skill packs used for training him or her in various skills he will need to advance in the world of EvE.

When a player has mastered the basics of the game, acquired some money and equipment, and advanced his or her character through basic skills, the possibilities become almost endless. Players who wish to explore peaceful paths may continue to upgrade their ships to bigger and better cargo vessels with high-end defenses, purchase advanced mining or research equipment and continue to develop their characters by specializing in their preferred skills. Others may elect to pursue a more dangerous path such as piracy, smuggling or bounty hunting.

This page shows most of the features, including screenshots, and more details than I could ever find the time to type about are available here.

Bottom line?
If you're a boy (ie: into space/sci-fi) then you owe it to yourself to try this game. Even if you're hormones are more Estrogen-based, there is plenty to offer here.
Yes, it's set in space (beautiful, eye-popping, jaw-dropping space) but that's only about 1% of the appeal. This game is deeper than a deep-diving thing set to dive ad infinitum. The choices over how you choose to exist in the world are so vast, I have trouble knowing where to begin.

For example, there are 'Corporations' in the game. These are run by players, and are lightly akin to 'guilds' in other MMO's. Only these are the real deal - complete with CEO's, CFO's, Accountants, Auditors, Factory Managers, etc. You may join a mining corp for example. Your job may be to head out to asteroids and mine ore for the corp - that's literally your job. You will be accompanied by other employees who (say) are there to protect you as you mine.
Your goal is to fit out your ships with better mining equipment - theirs is to upgrade with better weapons, tracking devices, and hull or shield augmentations.
You bring the ore back to base, it gets refined (another job for someone else), and then is either packaged and sold as a commodity over the in-game Escrow market system (complete with in-game browser support to Corp store fronts) or utilised in-house for manufacturing (some corps are set up purely as industrial manufacturers, supplying goods, ships, and equipment across the galaxy).

I happen to belong to an Australian Corporation named 'Southern Cross Mining and Industrial'. They have a stock market ticker in-game [SMC] just like a real market. Shares are purchasable, and I have the opportunity to try out different roles within the organisation. It's quite nuts.

And in case you haven't figured it out yet, the 'world' of EvE is.. well..

let's just say that UNBELIEVABLY HUGE is an understatement. The very first time you gaze upon the starmap, you feel hopelessly small, and even more-so, lost. But you quickly realise that getting around isn't as daunting as one might expect.
The map system, and nav plotting features, are all exceptionally intuitive. Plus, you start out in a high-security zone of space, meaning you tend to not stray to far away from home at first. As you gain equipment and skill, and become hungry for more, you begin to venture off into less secure zones further out from the centre of the galaxy.

It is here that things start to get.. scary. To say the least.

By venturing out into the great unknown, you are effectively putting yourself at great risk from being attacked by rival corporations or NPC pirates (rats). After spending 100's of 1000's of dollars (ISK is the in game currency) and countless hours getting to where you are happy to venture out, you will be brutally shocked as you are blown to a million little pieces.
And trust me, the feeling is one of utter despair. Your total annihilation faces you as you gaze into the screen in total disbelief.

It is *brutal*.

Fortunately, like all aspects of the game, the details of the game save you somewhat as any half-witted player should've taken out insurance on their ship. (Yes, there's a fully functioning insurance system within the game, a'la real life)

I could go on for hours and hours and hours more, attempting to describe all of the features of EvE Online, but I shant.

If you're vaguely interested at all, grab a copy of the 14 day free trial and take it for a spin yourself. The early part of the game is a totally guided tutorial which more than gives you a feel for what the game has to offer.

As for me? (Aren't you also playing other MMO's at the moment?)
Yep I sure am. But nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to being even vaguely similar to EvE. For me, I can't ever see myself canceling my subscription to EvE - it's simply too unique to every other MMO, and too deep to ignore. I have limitless fun within EvE (including the fantastic playerbase in there) and I am never far from feeling like a quick run amongst all my other fantasy-based MMO playtime.

Speaking of the playerbase, another little factoid: EvE is run on one server. Yup.
What does that mean? One community, effectively. Its truly astounding and nobody has any clue how they do it.

Anyhow, I hope this whet your appetite enough to grab a copy of the free trial. EvE is absolutely an unsung hero in the world of MMORPGs, but then again, that's kinda what makes it so cool.

As Kurt Cobain once said (quote):
"I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not."

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

EverQuest II So Far..

The top 10 things I am liking about EverQuest II the most:

  1. player housing (you're given an apartment right after the n00b zone, and you can decorate it as you wish with 100's of items, including crafting nodes like forges and ovens etc). they also include a handy vault (bank), plus a 'market board' so you can set up a broker in your house to buy & sell items from, plus you can set it up to sell in your absence (kinda like an in-house auction house) you can also give other players and friends varying access permissions, so you can use your house for meeting, crafting, selling, and entertaining as you desire.
  2. you can disable mob kill XP (to concentrate on crafting, or to complete storyline quests without fear of out-leveling the requirements, for example)
  3. no corpse runs! when you die you get revived by another player, or hit a 'revive' button yourself and get transported to a nearby location (there are still penalties for dying: a small XP debt and 10% durability loss on your gear per death)
  4. it's solo friendly for all classes and characters, with quests easy to find & in abundance (typically level a character to L7 or L8 within 90mins, with soloable content all the way to L70)
  5. a Mentoring system (a low-level player can be assisted by a higher level player, who can mentor down to a lower level while still earning experience)
  6. a huge selection of races (17) and classes (24) to choose from for your toon
  7. an extremely slick, clear, and highly customisable UI (best I've ever seen) including a powerful and flexible in game chat system and LFG options
  8. next-gen graphics (bump mapping, shaders everywhere, realtime dynamic lighting, incredible particle effects.. looks awful purdy) including full weather and day/night cycles
  9. content updates ALL THE TIME (omg i've only been playing a few weeks and already there's been 2 major content updates, including one entirely new race and starting zone), and another major update due in a few months which increases the level cap to L80, and introduces *another* new race and starting zone
  10. a mature playerbase (EverQuest has been around since Jan '99) especially when compared to WoW
I've got about 6 toons on the go at the moment, as I get to know all the classes. My fav's so far (and recommended to those starting out ) would be a Warden (Druid), Wizard (Mage), or Berserker (Warrior), depending upon your particular bent.

See here for a list of all classes and descriptions.

Given it's been around for so long, it's had time to iron out the kinks and simply get things right. Little touches make it enjoyable - for example, as I have begun a number of characters from scratch I've noticed little differences, such as upon leaving the 'starter island' you end up at different regions of the main city, depending on your race. Meaning, you can start another character and not play through the same content.

Crafting is exceptionally intuitive, fun, and most importantly; worthwhile and rewarding. Fishing is included here (unlike LOTRO where there is none) as is a unique 'collector' system: You can discover and collect items that are 'collectible', which you can add to various collections. Once a collection is complete you can turn it in for useful rewards.

Another little nicety is the ability to both fight and harvest while still mounted. And speaking of mounts, I saw someone on a flying carpet the other day.. don't see that in many MMO's! (scroll to the bottom of this page to see one, and all the other mounts explained) Another pic here, alongside one of the very cool 'spirit steeds'.

It's early days yet I guess, but so far I'm enjoying it more than WoW, LOTRO, or Guild Wars. It seems extremely 'complete' and optimised, and hopefully it will keep up the content and interest as I level.

There are a couple of trials available for people wishing to give it a try:

Trial of the Isle
lets you play the 'starter island' in all it's glory (the place you start from in the normal game - kind of a n00b tutorial zone).

Play the Fae takes you to the new starting area of Kelethin (a treetop city) where you get to play as the new race called the 'Fae', who are basically fairies. I haven't tried this zone yet, but by all accounts it's the best content yet..

More to come as time goes by. I'll be sure to keep my opinions posted as I progress further into the game.

Good times. =)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Return of The Mac

It's been nearly one year to the day since I last posted on here.

I'm old! /cry

Ironically, it's also been a year where I have introduced more people to blogging than ever before. It comes as no surprise though, least of all to myself, due to my ongoing efforts towards mastering the art of giving rather than taking; the only problem being that the subject matter is 'advice'.

Oh well. Never claimed to be perfect.

Am also not quite sure why the blogging itch decided to be scratched at precisely 1:00am on a mid-May Tuesday school night, but there you go.

Perhaps the best approach, to ease myself back into the fray, is a recap of my last year. (I would take the obligatory deep breath at this point, however I have a cigarette in one hand and a coke can in the other. I would cough then drown. Yes, I am typing this with my nose.)

Hmm let's see.. ok:
  • Played WoW for almost the entirety of these past 12 months
  • Effectively transformed into a female, and leveled a character to 60, becoming somewhat of a notoriety on my realm (read: flirt/carebear)
  • Installed Burning Crusade the day it came out
  • Leveled to 62, burnt out, got bored, got sick of Virtual Home & Away daily, left in a veil of crafted high drama
  • Purchased Lineage II
  • Got accosted by bottle-pissers and PvP *freaks* and thought "what have I done!?"
  • Discovered EvE-Online / Purchased EvE-Online / Faithfully and monogamously loved EvE-Online for 2 months solid
  • Desired to expand my MMORPG diet further than the outer reaches of near-infinite space, and discovered Guild Wars
  • Purchased Guild Wars /Enjoyed GW as a change of pace from WoW and most certainly as a scenery change from EvE
  • Purchased Guild Wars Factions / Loved GW Factions
  • Purchased Guild Wars Nightfall / Totally Loved GW Nightfall
  • Leveled 5 characters to 20 (cap) / Managed to bring over some guildies from WoW
  • Heard about City of Heroes & City of Villains / Purchased CoH/CoV Good vs Evil Edition
  • Enjoyed leaping single women in a bound / Lycra tights started to get itchy
  • Heard about Auto Assault / Purchased AA
  • Uninstalled AA approximately 90 minutes later, cursing myself for not taking advantage of the free trial first
  • Yearned for some traditional fantasy/action and purchased EverQuest II
  • Lord of the Rings Online came out / Purchased as a founding member
Umm, I think somewhere in there also; I went to work a couple of times, bought two bicycles, and finally invested in a decent home computer: my OS-agnostic and awfully-pretty iMac.

Bet you wish you were me, huh? =)

That'll do for now, and in fact that's truthfully about all there is to tell.
As I wind back into my blog-swing over the coming evenings, I'll elaborate on some of those points and wax lyrical about the pros and shortcomings of my Magical MMORPG Year That Was, including what I still play today. But for the time being, it's off to bed for moi.

That's what happens when you become One Year Older. ( where did I place my denture glass?)