Saturday, 17 December 2011

Challenge Accepted (EVE Blog Banter 31)

EVE Online blog Freebooted challenged EVE bloggers to review EVE Online.

So. A review. Of EVE.
There are those who said this day would never come. What have they to say now?
Reviewing EVE is difficult, according to most people. I don't think it's as hard as it looks. You just gotta approach it right. That's why I'm dividing up my review:

Section 1: Gameplay
Section 2: Community
Section 3: Crucible expansion

Section 1: Gameplay
EVE's gameplay is vast and complex, probably the most complex gameplay available. It's so extensive, I haven't yet been able to explore all of it. However, from what I have seen, it is excellent. There's variety, balance, beauty, exploration, huge-scale combat, politics...everything the best MMORPG available should have...and does.
But EVE does have downsides. One is the oft-mentioned "spreadsheets in space" effect. This occurs because while New Eden is a spectacular environment, most activity happens on the Overview, a text readout that displays a filterable list of everything visible on grid (within the currently-loaded tactical area), and celestial objects/space stations. The Overview can also display range, speed, transversal velocity, Electronic Warfare effects...everything needed to fight, mine or travel effectively. In fact, most fleet fights rely exclusively on the Overview, ignoring the harder-to-use space view (even movement is controlled by selecting options from a context menu). Since EVE's ship-modules work by selecting a target and activating the module, the only tactical skill required beyond picking the right orbit distance is fitting the correct activity accomplished by dragging icons into boxes.
Should you be in less of a rush though, a passable manual flight ability exists, which can be exhilarating to use when flying a fast frigate, and space and its contents are extremely pretty.

All this is not to say EVE's Overview-centric combat is terrible; combat is still adrenaline-filled, and can have a very close smaller numbers.

The reason for this qualifier is player tactics, and a certain amount of balance problems.
As EVE has been running for over eight years now, many players and corporations, particularly those in large alliances, have acquired vast resources, enabling them to field large numbers of supercapital warships, leading to a situation known as a blob. A blob is a large fleet of capitals and supercapitals, with a few subcapital support ships, and the only viable anti-blob tactic is...a larger blob. Blobs are the mainstay of null-sec (player owned space) warfare, and their ready availability to large alliances makes it difficult for smaller alliances to gain a foothold in null-sec. (Recent changes have made blobbing harder; I'll cover this in Section 3.)

Two unique aspects of EVE gameplay are the Single Shard Universe, and the Skill Training Queue.

A shard is a game server; MMOs tend to have several, to lessen the load on individual servers. The disadvantage of shards is that players on one shard cannot interact with players on another shard, with the exception perhaps of messages, or in the case of Runescape, the ability to choose a shard at login.
EVE is different in that it has only one shard, Tranquility (exceptions: the test server Singularity and the Chinese server Serenity, which are allowed to not be called shards). This means that every player in EVE can interact with every other player in EVE, resulting in large alliances, and larger fleet fights (so large in fact that it is recommended that the commanders of large fleets inform the developers of a likely fleet fight so they can move the appropriate solar system onto an individual server node). It also results in a massive, almost entirely player-run economy, with moving items across New Eden as a profitable, if boring, profession in its own right.

The skill queue allows players to set a succession...a queue...of skills to train - in real time, even when the player is offline. This means that rather than spending days grinding a skill, then grinding for money then playing for fun, a player can go straight to the "grinding for money" part. It also means that a new player, specializing, can probably defeat a less specialized veteran in that specific way with only a few days or weeks of training, whereas a conventional skill system gives higher-level players effective invincibility against newer players. Oh, did I mention? EVE has no experience/level system. Time spent playing only affects gameplay experience and total Skill Points, two things that do not, in general, need to be maximized.

Less unique is the ability to create multiple characters. You are allowed three characters per account, and can create infinite extra accounts. While characters on one account cannot be logged in simultaneously, it is possible to log in characters on separate accounts at the same time. This means it is possible to create and train "alts" for specific purposes, something which in my opinion gives something of an unfair advantage to those having many alts (incidentally, the answers given by players on the forum to some questions recently were "get alts", which I feel is not the way it should be).

TL;DR: Gameplay is great, but has the "spreadsheets in space" issue.

Section 2: Community
I'll try to be a bit briefer this time.

In general, with some exceptions, the EVE community is comprised of cold, heartless, new-player-hating, meta-gaming bastards. While some players are friendly and will help new players get into the game, and not be total pricks, others, (again particularly those in large alliances such as Goonswarm, TEST, Pandemic Legion and DRF) disparage new players as "nubs" and "pubbies", are general assholes, and couldn't be nice to save their lives. While a certain amount of backstabbing, piracy, blackmail, viciousness etc. are completely in the spirit of EVE, some players take it entirely too far.

I'd just like to emphasize here that I am not referring to ALL players here. Some are very nice people I respect and consider friends.

TL;DR: Most players are dicks, but some are nice.

Section 3: Crucible expansion
Crucible is the latest free expansion for EVE.

Crucible introduced features and fixes that have been wanted for a very long time, such as a rebalancing of hybrid weaponry and Gallente ships, new nebula backdrops for space, and four new specialized battlecruisers, one for each race. It also introduced the short-notice but eagerly-anticipated feature of higher-resolution improved ship skins for Gallente and Caldari ships. In general, this seems to have been a Good Thing. While most of the larger changes don't directly affect me, it's certainly a great improvement, and I look forward to seeing the Amarr and Minmatar ship skin upgrades.

I said I'd tell you about the supercapital changes. Okay!
Crucible included several balancing changes to capital and supercapital ships, particularly supercarriers, making it harder to use a blob against a sub-capital fleet:

- Supercarriers and Titans had their base hitpoints reduced
- Dreadnoughts (anti-structure/anti-supercapital gunships) and Titans had their drone bays removed
- Titan Doomsday weapons became unusable against subcapitals
- Supercarriers became unable to carry standard drones; they are now restricted to fighters and fighter-bombers
- Logoff mechanics were changed, so a trapped ship cannot log off to escape destruction (applies particularly to capitals and supercapitals due to their high hitpoints; smaller ships were easier to kill before they disappeared from space)

A more detailed review of Crucible can be found here.

EVE Blog Banter 31 details are here.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jace, as one of our original reviewers, care to compare and contrast again this year?


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