Monday, February 9, 2009

EVE Online: Day 2

I had to move from my Macbook to my linux box. While empty space, and small encounters, work fine on the Macbook, it starts to bog down unacceptably when there's a station plus a few ships nearby. But, then, the Macbook doesn't meet the minsysreqs, so I can't complain too much.

I think I'm starting to get the hang of things.

As folks have pointed out in the comments for my last review, skills are trained during time that you're not logged in. This has to be the best MMORPG feature I've ever met. It means that one can log on, play for a while doing the fun stuff, set up a skill to train, and go to sleep. When you log in the next day, you'll have advanced by 20 (or whatever) hours.

For instance, I started training a skill and then ate supper and took a shower. When I got back, it was done, and I could equip the piece of gear I'd looted. This is excellent. It completely removes the advancement/xp grind found in most MMORPGs.

I've also figured out how to filter the "overview" (as the Proximal Object List is really called). This is still less-than-intuitive with very weird meanings to some of the filter options. For instance, I tried to set up a filter for all ships. So, I selected every one of the different ship types. Imagine my surprise when the pirates I was fighting didn't show up. You see, they're "NPCs" apparently, and not "ships". Or maybe they're NPCs and ships, and both have to be selected. I dunno, but it was aggravating.

I still haven't touched probably 70% of the interface. But, most of that seems related to the economic aspects of the game. So, if you're only really interested in combat, like I am at the moment, you can probably safely ignore it for the most part.

The combat is shaping up to be very interesting, for certain nerdy values of "interesting". I had one battle that went on for literally half an hour because I had a slow ship with weak long-range weapons but powerful defensive systems. Their weapons were no match for my shield regenerators. But, since I couldn't close to within range of my powerful guns, I had to endlessly circle chipping away at my enemies' regenerating shields. On the other hand, combat is mostly automatic once you've designated your target, so I fed the cats and smoked a couple cigarettes between engagements.

The one thing that combat is not is thrilling. The stakes, if they're high enough, may provoke an emotional response, but if you're just killing low-level pirates, your heart won't be pounding. You'll react to changing circumstances... but, for the most part, you'll be letting the computer orbit the enemy while also letting the computer fire your weapons automatically. You should think naval battle, not close-quarters combat.

While I talked extensively about the player-generated aspect of EVE yesterday, I haven't actually gotten involved in it yet--if I get hooked, I will be joining the now-forming metafilter corporation. I've just been playing the "agent missions", which are pretty standard destroy/fetch/courier missions assigned by various NPCs found at stations throughout the galaxy.

At least at the early stages (all I've done so far), they tend not to pay in cash, but rather in items. This is fine, if the item is something you can use. But, since most items require an appropriate skill to equip them to your ship, many of them are going to be either useless or only useful in the future. The cash rewards are pitiful: 20,000 ISK, when a basic gun might cost 120,000 ISK and a small ship might cost 350,000 ISK. The player-ruled economy also means that getting a good price by selling your useless item usually requires venturing to some other station with higher demand.

In a similar vein, items you acquire must be stored either in your ship's cargo hold, or in the "hangar" of a base. Your ship's hold has a limited capacity; very limited in the case of early-game frigates, and extremely limited in the case of combat frigates. This means that most of your stuff lives at a base. Not any base you happen to stop at, but at the particular base at which you offloaded it. This means that even if you're done with the missions assigned by the agents at one base, you'll still be returning there to pick up various junk that's only recently become useful. I imagine that as the game progresses, unless you explicitly go out of your way to maintain a home base somewhere, your possessions will become strewn across the galaxy--some of it probably becoming unreachable as you commit acts hostile to previously friendly corporations.

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