Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Alts & raw toonage

      Eve is unique in that it directly allows a player to pay for their monthly subscription, with actual game money.  Players of other games can and have done similar things by converting games currency and/or items into real money by selling them over the internet.  Some games don't allow this.  Other games tolerate it but officially frown on it, and still other, but fewer, games actually overtly allow it and encourage it.  In Eve, the ability to fund your game account with said gameplay, is directly related to your ability to earn iskies.  At the beginning, it takes a lot of grinding out missions to earn 300 to 400 million isk for the mighty PLEX, but I suppose it is possible with some due diligence.  The upside is, that depending on how you start playing, you have either 14 or 21 days to get a head start before you have to start paying.  When I started out, as I have a suitably decent job that allows me to pay the cookie bill and still have a few bucks left over for discretionary spending on MMOs, I didn't worry too much about isk for PLEX.  Now though, as my skills get higher and my ability to generate isk improves, using isk for PLEX is a smart move whether you can afford real money or not.  And that Virginia, is where alternate accounts come in, as opposed to talking about "alts" as in the other two character slots that come with each account - but I have an idea about them too :)

     With alt accounts, people complain that it's "cheating" or that their computard can't handle it or that it is too expensive, and there are more complaints too.  All, some or none of these complaints might be relevant, but if people stopped to think about it, alt accounts might be more feasible than they thought and could actually accelerate their progress in Eve.

     The first real problem might be hardware.  Lots of complaints about all the latest upgrades, and how people's machines will no longer run the game.  Well, bummer, but that's reality.  Games need to, and will, adapt and get more complicated (notice I didn't say "improve", as that is a purely relative and individual assessment :))  With those adaptations and changes comes more complicated code, more features, better animations, etc etc, and with those changes, comes the need for better hardware.  Hardware companies are always coming out with new features and ability to allow "better" features and funkier software to run, that couldn't be run or run as well, before, and then coders write software that can take advantage of these new hardware features because people like new bells and whistles, and then the hardware boys make improvements on that, and it spirals upwards and onwards as software chases hardware chases software.  While people whine and moan, that spiral was what allowed Eve to be made in the first place.  People convenient rail against the machine when they get what they want, but ignore what happened to get what they want.  Uhh, so WTF am I on about . . ?  Oh yeah, alts and hardware.  So, if due to Eve updates a person's computer can barely run a single client now, even two clients are out of the question.  When I started playing, I had everything set as high as I could in the graphics department (except for the microscopic text . . Like, really, WTF is up with the font size??) and the guns and missiles and ships and explosions, and the nebulae and everything, were pretty damn awesome.  So, ok, but after a month or two, an orbiting shooting ship is an orbiting and shooting ship, but it doesn't do much for me if I cap out, or blow up.  The overview, my control panel, damage notifications, etc, THOSE are what I care about.  The INFORMATION, not so much the graphics.  So as I approached that point, I could turn down the graphics a fair bit if it meant I had less lag or chop when I hit high population systems.  Running the graphics in the memory saving mode, means that I can comfortably run 6 clients on a straight out-of-the-box, 2 year old HP Pavilion that cost me about $800 at Future Crap.  I didn't start at 6 clients of course.  I had to wait til the first alt toon was out of trial (because you can't run a trial AND a full account, at the same time, on the same machine) , and then without having to do anything funky to the Eve configuration, or tweak the O/S (as much as people cry that Vista is a POS O/S, it might be, but I can run Eve on it, so it's a win in my book :)), I could run two Eve clients in almost full screen.  As I came to value information over graphics, and slowly crept up on simultaneous clients, I went to 1024 x 768 and can window 4 clients on one 22" screen and two more on the 2nd 14" screen.  "Wow, two screens??  Must be nice".  Yeah, well I never throw out old hardware unless it is completely trashed, and the stock HP video card came with dual output, plus HDMI if I want to try it on a flat screen TV too.  So, while everyone might not be able to afford big or multiple screens, or a new Pavilion, you obviously don't need as much horsepower as I have if you only want to run two, and I could comfortable run and manage three toons, windowed, on a single screen.  A couple hundred bucks on even a used computer with any hardware that is even 5 or 6 years old would be more than enough, and old computers are dirt cheap.

     Well, the hardware is fine, but I can't afford two accounts.  Well, that might not be the case either.  If you have an account, you're already affording Eve.  If you send yourself an email invite for another account, you get a 21 day trial account, AND you also get a free month/PLEX for your main account if the 2nd account is made a regular account.  So, what that means, is that you now have a month, plus 21 days, with 2 accounts, and it isn't costing you anything more than your original account.  So, what can you do with an alt account in ~7 weeks?  A lot.  While there are some skills that can't be trained on a trial account, and you can't run a trial and a regular account at the same time on the same machine, if you add a PLEX or game time to the trial account, you still keep the 21 free days, plus the extra time added.  That means you can run both at the same time, your NEXT month is free on the main account, and now your alt can train support skills for your main.  Skills like industrial transport, or mining barges like a retriever or a Noctis for salvaging, etc.  With two accounts, even in high sec, you can make a lot of isk fast, and certainly enough to generate enough money to buy 2 PLEX for the third month without spending all day, every day on the computard.  As I went from one, to two, to three accounts for myself, and then was given access to three friend's accounts as they were either away or couldn't play for a while, I slowly got used to running, 2, then 3, 4, etc.  It's really not that hard to run three or four, even on one screen.  As mentioned prior, I pointed things mainly at mining because it was low stress and allowed me to keep track of the multiple clients as their numbers and the information grew.  Mining predominantly the lower end of high sec, with 2 hulks, 2 retrievers (on the way to hulks), and orca and a T1 transport, I can easily make enough money per month to pay for all the accounts with isk.  This isn't spending all day, every day, online either.  I also created alts on the accounts and trained them up to do PI as well, so that is triple the PI income, for each account - another easy and passive source of income.

     Alt accounts are handy on a number of different levels.
- They are great for transporting high cost/high price items bought by your other toon, just in case someone is waiting to gank you once you've bought the item.  they are also very handy to do reconnaissance and spying during times of war and conflict.
- A cloaky alt comes in very handy for scouting ahead and making sure the route is clear for shuttling the rest of the toons/ships/gear through dangerous space.
- Alts can help with pvp if you are coordinated enough for small engagements
- best part though, is the simultaneous training of a number of different game play directions without having to wait for the training time on a single toon.

     As/when the other people start playing their toons again/some more, I'll still have my main and 2 alts to execute my plan of universal joy and pew pew goodness.

The Point?  An alt account isn't really that hard to manage, with even a modest amount of time, and it can pay for itself in the extra iskies it can help you earn with your main.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Plan, yo . . .

     As I mentioned earlier, I really didn't have much of a plan.  I usually never do in MMOs.  I am severly attracted to shineys so I tend to flit around a bit, and slowly, inefficiently, I usually end up reaching the goal post.  Huzzah!  The end.  As Eve doesn't seem to have an end game even remotely similar to static high end instances/raids/etc like other games, even if it has a fairly static end game, I think I am years away from it.  In the short term though, the "now", I need a plan for what kind of game content I want to explore, and what I need to do to explore it.  Enter stage left, "The Plan".  (This is where I'd cue a clever little link to some dramatic music that I need to remember to find.)

     At the moment, my skills are high enough to haltingly run some very easy level 4s while I assist with an alt or two in combat and salvage.  I don't mind missions, and there are so many, it's very easy to hop around and find any flavour and type I'd like.  Currently though, my play schedule can change rather rapidly and I hate bailing in the middle of a mission or having to leave salvage behind, so I mostly mine as it is the fastest money maker right now.  There's something peaceful and serene about mining, and I can multitask and do reading and research while doing it.  Mining is definitely a mind numbing prospect as a solo activity, but at the moment I have access to more than one account, so if I have a bunch of clients going, not only is it not boringly dull, but it is rather busy.  Another post or two is in the works about alts and multiple clients, but with simple mining in hi-sec, I can make about 100 million in two or 3 hours with my little mining fleet, and as their mining and orca skills slowly max out, that number slowly increases as well.  Add a grav site I'm lucky to scan down, and the number goes up by at least half again.  I needs me lots of iskies for my plan, and mining and running high sec sites provides me with a level of money that I am happy with.

     The plan consists of 5 parts, and using mainly spoons, I'll lay it out.

1)  Get all the toons up to +5 implants to accelerate their learning to max (with optimal skill remaps) and load the chosen extra implants for each toon.  That amounts to about 1 to 1.3 billion isk per toon.  As it takes each toon 2 weeks to get Cybernetics 5, I have lots of time to generate the money.  All the toons (4 currently) aren't training cyber 5 at the same time, as there are other smaller, more "urgent" skills like PI skills to 4, and getting the relevent mining and refining skills up to 4s and 5s for the higher level high sec ores.  But overall, get the toons up to cybernetics 5, and get their implants in.

2)  Based on my less than focused training on my main, some of the core skills are lacking a little, and the newer toons were very focused toward minimal cobat, and predominantly indy and salavge duties like mining and transport.  So, after the toons hit cyber 5, I take 2 to 3 weeks to get a bunch of the core skills up to 4s and 5s.  Spaceship command to 5 on all, and then train up the most important basic navigation, mechanic, engineering and electronics to 4s.  Then the basic drone skills for hobgoblin 2s, and the social skills.  As the toons all train up, I'll be continuing to scan and mine, and start training up more specific long range plans for each toon, like maxxing out the Orca pilot, getting exhumer to 5 on all, getting freighter and blockade runner up on the transport toon, etc.  This extra time will also allow me to generate plenty of cash for plexes and any extra ships I might need.  The only thing I don't have is a freighter - I have lots of hulks, salvagers, transports and combat ships up to BS to use for the missions.

3)  After the skills are all up, load up the crew in ships and transports and move them all off to start running the COSMOS missions.  I want to run the mission chains at least once on my main, and then depending on how much of a pain they are, I'll either continue running them again or simultaneously on the other toons or just buy the mission kits and do them in FFWD mode.  I might need to run some smaller missions on the new toons to get basic rep to even talk to the agents, but we'll see how that goes.  The social skills training will help there.

4)  After the COSMOS phase is done, I'll locate (already have a few in mind) some low-end-of-high sec systems with decent belts, low population and no stations, and set up a high sec POS to get the hang of research, invention and some basic manufacturing.  I know I could do the research, invention and manufaturing now, but I don't want to deviate any training time away from the direction I'm headed right now, and I am in no rush with the training ques filled the way they are.  PI will take care of the POS fuel, and we'll get used to running a POS and how to fit it out properly.  I found a great forum thread on it anyway.  The POS will be safe unless someone decides to war dec the alliance, in which case, we offline the research and turn it in to a death star.  I don't think we'd have to do that, but the modules can always be un-anchored and moved later to a new POS.

5)  After a month or two or more, of managing PI and the POS, the plan is to find or buy a small wormhole.  Try a C1 with a high sec static, or maybe a C2 and see how things go in there.

The Point?  Eve is awesome in that you can go any direction you want with your toon development, problem is, you really want to go UP with skill development rather than SIDEWAYS.  Plans = focus.  Focus = good.
     Once I hit the 3rd phase, I'll start aiming at higher level combat, research and manufacturing skills for the final stages.  Some of the manufacturing skills are pretty time intensive and require a lot of sub-skills.  There is no real timeline for the 4th and 5th phases as I don't know how long the missions will take.  No rush though.  This plan was formulated 3 or 4 weeks ago so I'll update what the progress is in a bit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Epicly yours & word jams

     It's a good thing to get stuff out of your head, or my head.  It seems like it is less full and there is a small cool spot near the top.  Either that, or someone has left the window open again and there is a slight breeze that I am otherwise unaware of.  I guess I tend to write more than I think, at any one time.  I don't mean to, and I don't have an idea or plan about how long something will be or how much I write.  It's like the topic is a bubble and I end up filling the topic with the letters and words that are all piled up in my mind, like old furniture in a dusty attic.  I don't know how big the bubble will be.  it sort of finds it's own end.  Eve is such a diverse game, with so many avenues to explore and so many different types of game play, and means of making isk, there are a ton of questions, thoughts and ideas I have on it.

     In the process of looking for a direction to go in Eve, I first need to know what directions I can go.  The tutorials were great at introducing the basics, but there are so many directions to go with game play, that the searches for more information lead me to a lot of great sources of info.  I particularly like Eve University's wiki.  I like using too, because it is read only and forces me to think about things before being able to post, or ask a question.  I also like reading the Eve blogs, as some are very good sources of first hand, rationalized experience.  Forum posts are fine, but there's sometimes a low signal to noise ratio and it's hard to know what is what as a new player.

     As I am a fairly unimaginative guy, and EveHQ gives me migraines, I particularly like the blogs that take a boat, fit it out, explain why they fit it that way, how they fly the boat, and what happened.  I loved the Punisher plan from Flight of Dragons and with my skills on a similar level to his (skill POINTS, not PVP skills . . .) I too was, and am, able to go low sec ratting with a simple T1 Punisher.  It was a huge rush the first time I took out my first rat BS.  As I cross trained all the frigates and a number of the weapon systems, I do ok with a Rifter too.

     I also really enjoy The Altruist's meat and potato tutorials on basic game play aspects that come in handy for PVP and low sec.  I've read his "Know Your Enemy" series multiple times and each time I read it, it sinks in a little further.  His tips on safe undocks and bookmarks are also a confirmation of what I thought would be helpful, but he has much better implementation PLUS he's got great explanations on why to do it a certain way, not just guesses like me.  There are a number of others as well, often times pirate oriented blogs, and as I slowly click through from blog to blog, some catch my interest while others do not.  I do enjoy the first hand experiences, from a lot of different viewpoints though.

     It would be a good thing, to quiet the mind, perhaps vent some anger, if more people wrote.  While writing isn't for everyone, I think many that might write are perhaps concerned that someone might think what they write sucks, or that no one would read it or comment favorably on it.  I'm not overly concerned about that.  Eve inspires a lot of thoughts and this is as good a spot as any to write them out.  Maybe it'll help purge some space.  I look forward to seeing what it feels like to clear some of these things out of my head.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


      As alluded to, when I started playing regularly, I soon joined the corp my friend was in.  A predominantly industrial corp ("inty" - cool slang used by the . . . cool players.  Notice I didn't used it . . . yet?).  I wouldn't call them carebears because there were mission runners and some dudes that could fly some fairly hefty pew pew ships so while they weren't pvp fanatics, they had potential which later started to blossom.

     They had been in a war just before I joined the corp, and it didn't go very well, even though the war was with a fairly poor-performing mercenary corp.  I don't remember what they said they did.  I think they lost a bunch of boats, not overly stupidly though, but I don't know if they basically turtled for the week, or paid them off.  In the end, they learned some stuff about pvp in Eve, and it was shortly after that when I joined.  In fact, about 2 days after I joined the corp, we were war dec'd again.  Understandably, there were concerns that I was a spy, but my friend was fairly well trusted in the corp, and he vouched for me, so I didn't have to be quarantined (aka no war fleets, no war channel in Teamspeak, basically no reindeer games during the war) so even though I had a grand total of about 14 skill points, I grabbed my Punisher, fitted out as tackler the way they told me, and tried to help out as best I could.

     Quite the baptism though.  Overview wasn't really set up, didn't understand a whole lot of the game mechanics (I had done a lot of lvl 1 and 2 missions though, so I at least understood the basic ship controls) and the amount of information presented in a PVP fight, even a blob, was still enough to give my hands an adrenaline shake.  It was great fun even though I lost a couple Punishers in the process.  Never got podded though, which wasn't a big deal considering I had no implants to lose.  The corp replaced any boats for free if you lost them during pvp ops (until you were in a T2) so there was no real reason not to go do pvp.  As the corp was sort of new to pvp, and had a number of new players, thee weren't a lot of people available to fleet up, so we spent a lot of time ship spinning in station.  While I mention the corp, we were actually in an alliance but the vast majority of the pvp action was done by our small corp.  Most of the hard core indy guys just didn't bother logging on during the war.  When the wars came back to back though, lots of the care bear types left the corp, alliance or both.  Some that did log on, would go and try to mine, get their barge popped, and then cry and want us to go get revenge for them.  ??  Uhh, sure, and they can come too in a tackle frigate, or not, mainly, not . . .

     As each war dec came and went, one week after the next for about a month and a half, skill points and player experience were slowly increasing, as well as the courage of both our corpies and others in the alliance.  As we were doing less time as the hunted, and actually going out in 10 to 15 man high sec fleets looking for war targets.  What supposedly/theoretically started with a rich player who left the corp on bad terms, and is suspected of paying the first merc corp to war dec us, went through a serious of progressively bigger and theoretically tougher merc corps that were apparently hired one after the other by each successive merc corp that ended up doing worse and worse against us.  We developed a fairly congenial (at least blue) relationship with the 2nd merc corp to war dec us, and our performance impressed them enough to to offer their help to us should we be dec'd in the future and decided we needed help.  For the last couple war decs, with the merc corp and us, we were regularly fielding 25 to 30 man fleets and went out hunting the other merc corps.  Not big fleets perhaps, certainly not on the nullsec scale, and maybe not even on high sec scales, but they were big enough to send the targets scurrying away.

     One merc corp was fairly worrying because of their killboard stats, but as they were mainly low sec and null sec, and their sec status wouldn't even allow most of them into high sec, I wonder what the point was of them even war decing us in the first place.  It's not like we regularly cruised the space lanes down where they hung out.  it was a good thing perhaps, as their toons were considerably older than most of our corp's and their numbers were far larger than ours as well.  Another merc corp made it a habit of talking smack in local, but their performance was not up to par with their ability to smack talk, and even their smack talk at times was pretty juvenile.  As we were winning the isk war against them on a massive scale, we would just post a link to their own campaign killboard.  That server to enrage them actually, and their CEO spent a couple billion isk on paying other mercenary corps to war dec us, for weeks at a time.

     Not really interested in naming names, just in case, but one corp we fought I will name, and that was the 0rphanage.  I understand that there are different styles of play, especially pvp mercs or whatever they want to call themselves.  They are an embarrassment to other organizations of ill repute, though.  I understand ambush tactics, hit and run, etc (I actually learned a lot in our couple months of pvp, even though it was mainly blob tactics) but these guys would show up in T2 and even T3 boats, and ambush freighters and T1 cruisers.  They talked a lot of smack on the forum and in local, but their killboard against people who were actually willing to fight was the complete opposite of how much smack they would lay down.  Fighting them was actually pretty easy because they were, and likely still are, completely predictable.  They camp the same gates, the same pipes, the same stations.  If you are lucky enough to make it through their flock of alt accounts, and actually catch them, they either immediately try to run, or they make a cloud of space dust.  As an indy corp, our isk loss-to-kill numbers were something like 5% to 95% which is pretty bad advertisement for a "merc" corp like 0rphanage.  The blue merc corp with us, who was also war dec'd, was also about the same ratio.  Apparently/supposedly, one of the "fail merc" corps that war dec'd us that we were soundly trashing, was the one that hired 0rphanage to harass us in the first place.  It went worse for 0rphanage than it did for the original merc corp though.  Now to most players like the type that write the blogs I enjoy to read, they hang out in null, low or wormhole space, so corps/alliances like 0rphanage are about as significant to them as fruit flies on a rhino.  I would contend they are little more to any high sec group as well.  So, for any group that is one of the regular 10 or 12 corps that 0rphanage war decs each week, fear not!  If you take it to them, they will generally run, which is what any scavenger does.  You have little to fear from them because they don't hunt - they sit, and sit, and sit, and wait for people to fly into them.  Not my choice of play style, but I can accept that it is theirs.

     In all the war decs, and the increasing amounts of pvp roams that the alliance and corp started to fly, I've actually lost very few ships.  Lost a couple Punishers and a couple Omens, and a Geddon.

     Two of the Punishers were doing tackle duty, and their wreckage added to the greater good of the battle.
One Omen I lost while mining during a war dec when I was brand new, and it was my first war.  I was cautioned about missions and mining during war, but I was educating myself on staying aligned, watching the overview and watching local.  I needed the isk :).  I had escaped a number of times when I saw war targets show up in local, but one time, I just wasn't fast enough and I didn't anticipate or understand (actually, or know about) the role of alts, especially cloaky alts.  I had nothing of note in my clone and the Omen was insured, so it was a good learning experience.  2nd Omen lost was on a pvp roam with a FC lacking confidence who couldn't decide whether we should go or stay, and by the time he told us all to go,  in a fairly nondescript fight, our targets decided I pretty much had to stay so they could see what the inside of my Omen looked like.  At least I didn't lose my pod on that one.

     The Geddon was lost in a wormhole when a "major issue" needed to be dealt with IRL, and as we were on a pvp roam and just hopping through WHS and seeing where it took us, at the time I figured the issue would be of short duration, and I could leave the Geddon there for a couple minutes and BRB.  I notified the fleet, and went off to deal with things.  For the record, the way it works in my life, if the dear wifey has something that she wants me to do, that is a "major issue", possibly even bordering on life threatening - at least for me.  Anything else, by and/or for anyone else, and it's not so "major".  So, it turns out the "major issue" took about 15 minutes, and when I got back, I was a little confused, because now the wormhole space (first WH I'd ever been in too! :)) looked amazingly like the inside of a hangar, or at least this part of it did . . .  I thought there were NO stations in WH space??  Turns out, while I was cleverly AFK in WH space, 6 Tengus showed up and apparently took issue with me sitting in their wormhole, or maybe it wasn't their wormhole, and they just didn't like the cut of my jib.  At any rate, they decided to help me leave the wormhole by pushing me towards the exit with their bullets and both I and my pod unfortunately exploded during the process.  Another alliance member, who is a very skilled pvp pilot and a great FC, tried to guard me with one of his alts for as long as he could, but against a fleet of Tengus, he knew the smart thing was to exit stage right, which he did.   The Tengu pilots were all null sec denizens, based on where they get all their kills.  Probably Russians too (проклятые русские . . . ).  I could have simply logged, or best bet, just gone out through the WH we entered with, and then dock up or just log in high sec space.  Insured, lesson learned, oh yeah, and it allowed me to boost the Eve economy a little by buying new +4 implants.

     The last frigate I just lost was an unintended solo fight that I'll write about separately.

The Point?  PVP happens in Eve, sometimes a lot.  Just roll with it, oh yeah, and don't go AFK in WH space ;)
     I don't have a lot of kills either (only 27), and they are mostly blob fights, but there is time for that later and my schedule doesn't allow me to go out with the pvp roams in the alliance as I'd like to.  Right now however, I actually have a plan, and I need iskies to execute said plan, and more pvp content in my game "life" would have the potential to have a negative isk impact on my plan, rather than a positive one.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Aaaaand . . . . this is Eve!

     So, I know, right?  ANOTHER blog about Eve Online.  I'm thinking this is pretty much what the universe (both real and virtual) needs at this specific point in time.  Orrrrr . . not.  At any rate, it will be a place for me to track my exploits, plans and ideas.  I don't think there will be any ground breaking insights, but it will maybe help me keep things sorted out between my ears. Why pointy sticks?  Well, because back in my grunt days, a good friend and mentor used to caution us all on how being sloppy could make us just as vulnerable to people jumping out of trees with pointy  sticks as we were to things like tanks and guns.  Nothing beats the human factor for unpredictability, and I think that fits Eve too.

     I've been playing computer games since back when MUDs and MOOs were around, and the intarpipes were not even the intarpipes yet, at least as far as available consumption for the unclean masses of the general population were concerned.  The only type of "online" multi-player games that we played were BBS turn count games we accessed by dialing into them with our trusty old 1200 baud USRs after navigating all the connection protocols and initialization strings.  As Free Net, and then more available PPP connections came available, we tracked down more gaming opportunities, and more text based formats like MUDs and MOOs.  Still no pretty graphics, at least in online venues, but we could still do our LAN parties and hook up with Doom or ROTT using NETBUI or IPX.  Ahh, the good times we had navigating spaghetti messes of LAN and power cables . . .

     As online games started to progress from Ultima Online, through EQ, Anarchy Online, AC, AC2 (cough . . go engineers), I found I enjoyed the size of the games and the different graphics and play styles that were different than the RTS games I liked, like Civilization, AoE, and many others I couldn't even remember.  As the MMO games became more and more popular and prevalent, cycling through their betas and releases came more and more often.  Different styles, different times, but in the end, very much the same kind of grindage.  I ran across Eve not too long after it first came out, but it was pretty raw and dangerous for new toons, and I wasn't ready for it.  I don't mind PVP.  I engage in PVP in every game I play where it is available, but Eve seemed completely lawless, so I went back to the AC/DAOC style that I was playing at the time.

     Fast forward almost a decade, and passing through WOW, WHO, back and forth to LOTRO, with a little RIFTS and a revisit to AC (yeah, it's STILL running and the graphics?  OMG!) and then a crack at Fallen Earth, and while they are cool (again) for a while because they are a little different, they are all much the same with just a different wall paper dropped on them.  Along with some family members and friends, we've all trekked through these games together and drifted in and out, sometimes together, sometimes individually.  A friend and I moved in through WOW,
LOTRO, WHO, and then Fallen Earth.  There was something uninspiring about it to me, so I slowly lost interest, and my friend played a little longer, then quit too.  He started playing Eve in august '10, and I started shortly after, but after the trial 14 days, I lost interest, he continued.  Around Xmas, after listening to him regale us with his PVP stories, I reactivated the account and started running missions again. I was pleasantly surprised to remember how to do it, and then slowly started reacquainting myself with the game and controls again, and have been playing steady since.  Being low level, and not wanting to be inundated by the information I had access to, I stuck to simple play, but after joining my friend's corp, it was pretty much non-stop war decs for 2 months or more.  With the corp being mainly carebears, and with many new players, the corp was forced into slowly learning to PVP and in the end, we developed some fairly decent teeth in our little care-bear mouths :)  Great fun, and with the non-stop PVP, it felt rather hollow, and plain when all the PVP stopped, but I had to do some missioning and build up some cash, and get some stable time to make a plan.

     More on that later, but I wanted to comment on that clever little picture that shows the learning curve of Eve.  It's all steep and shit, and there are rocks, and sticks and dead bodies showing how "steep" the  learning curve is.  That all fine and metaphorical and junk, and it's a cool picture, but it's completely ass backwards.  "Steep" infers you need to learn a lot about Eve to play it.  You don't.  The tutorials are straight forward and show a beginning player everything they need to know to start playing.  "Steep" also infers that you need to learn fast, which, again, you don't.  As your "toon" learns it's skills, that's as fast as you can "curve" it.  That's as fast as you NEED to "curve" it.  "Steep", at least as represented by the funky picture, also implies that you learn hard and fast, and then reach a plateau.  Couldn't be farther from the truth, at least until a player has maybe a couple years in the game.  Due to the design of the game, the players have a shit pile of options, but 99% of them don't apply to a new player.  Most people come to Eve from another MMO and most of the other MMOs are all cookie cutter.  This is how you build your toon, this is the ONLY armour you can buy (pick 1 of 2), this is the ONLY weapon you can buy (pick 1 of 2), oh, and here's a cape . . .  What freaks people out is that everything that can be bought, can be bought by everyone.  The choice, and the options are staggering, but if you look at the colours, things get much more simple.  Red - can't use it.  Green, you can use it.  Can't use it?  Prerequisites will tell you what you can learn.

     Eve is the "thinking player's" game that some of the other good, old MMOs were similar to, before the games started getting dumbed down to catch the interest of all the console kiddies that had their parent's give them games, computers and the Internet to babysit and pacify them while they were either going to work, at work, coming home from work, or too tired after work to deal with.  Console kiddies and the resultant generation know little to nothing about "worth" or "earning" something, or "waiting" (gasp!) til you have enough money to buy something.  The mental hook to grab these "players" and hopefully hold on to them to make a few bucks for at least a few months, is to implement easy sauce mode.  Where some of the older min-maxxers would power level, now the whole new game mentality is for the game to power level new players to quickly and easily catch up to older players.  This means that new players have no sense of accomplishment for an item they go to a shop and buy, instead of grinding some mind-numbing task for months to earn the credits/tokens/currency to buy the formerly "special/uber" item.  I couldn't count the number of times I've experienced, heard or seen the same sad story.  The game is dumbed down, easy sauce is liberally spread around after a patch/update, the new players get high end content for next to no work which produces no sense of accomplishment, and the older players who did "earn" the content feel feel ripped off and lost another sense of accomplishment.

     Don't get me wrong, it's just a game and people (some people) sorely need to remember/understand this, but all games are some form of time-waster for most of the players but even time-wasters are more enjoyable when milestones or goals are set and hit with the surety of a bowling ball in a gutter.  Unfortunately though, the dumbing-down process is the eventual evolution of seemingly every game, Eve included.

     So back to my original premise, it isn't about the "curve", there's just no easy sauce mode in Eve (at least relative to my experience with it). The player has to make a choice.  There is no "choice of 1".  That puts people off because in Eve, unlike other MMOs, you can't screw up your toon, but as a new player, you don't understand that.  Other MMOs make you pick a type or class, and then head in that direction.  Screw up the character build, and you might gimp it pretty bad, and that is no fun for a now-now-now mentality, or a min-max player.  That kind of character building mind set comes into Eve with the new player, but it is a non-issue.  You might end up wasting some training time on a character in a direction you didn't intend to go in Eve, but that doesn't gimp it, you just head in another direction.  Later on, you'll likely need or want or use that skill again anyway.  Most of the other MMOs DO have a steep learning curve, but it's a simple learning curve.  You're led through the quests, shown where they are, given the next equipment you need, move to the next higher area, rinse, repeat.  The skills to use your character are fast and easy to learn.  Even in PVP, most games require the continuous mashing of one or 2 buttons, and that's about it.  In very short order, you have the skills you need to excel at any MMO, and you DO "plateau" in them, until you hit near-end game, or end game content.  Every once in a while you need to learn a new dungeon, or special instance, but it's not too far from platforming, just with prettier pictures.  That can still theoretically involve only a handful of months of play.  In Eve, there is no power levelling.  If you want to get the uber ships and bad-ass gear, you have to put int the time to train it.  There is no abrupt "curve", if anything, Eve teaches, nay I say, FORCES patience.  There is no rush or pressure to learn something that I won't be able to use for days, weeks or months.  It isn't about learning curve, it's about being in an actual sand box.   People don't know what to do in a sand box.  I know what a sand box is.  We always had a sand box.  I spent half my youth in a sand box either inadvertently eating sand, or intentionally eating sand as my sisters tried to bury my head, me or both.  We had sandboxes, but now, "they" have consoles and computers.  The only creation process involves trying to make they avatar look like Keanu Reeves or Britney Spears.  "They" come from games where it's all decided for them and their ability to screw something up isn't critical, there is no real penalty for screwing up, and most games allow you to easily "fix" your toon with a simple re-spec.  Eve, it just takes more time to get back on path.  Nothing but time.  Always time . . .

     Eve is definitely not a game that just about anyone would enjoy.  It takes a certain mindset and people to understand what a sand box style game can offer, yeah, even though someone in that sand box might only be occupying a very small patch of sand in a corner somewhere.  When people talk about the "learning curve" (cue dramatic music) I think it is a kind of elitism.  It's a looking-down-the-nose kind of comment aimed to impress and invoke much awe and respect in the Eve-uninformed.  Whether intentional or not, Eve has a kind of mystique amongst MMOs, which is why I stayed away as long as I did, as something that is huge and overpowering and full of crazy bastards looking to turn you into space dust as soon as you get your new shiny out of the paint shop.  Not so.  Not so at all.  It's not so bad, and definitely not as bad as people think it is.  People who lack the free thinking, or imagination, or who fear the ongoing process of deciding from day to day, "What do I want to do today"  The same thing/same direction as yesterday, or something new??", those are the people who will find Eve overpowering, but it isn't a "learning curve" that is so fearsome, oh no no, my young pad-oooo-waaan, it's choice . . .