Wednesday, March 27

Captain's Quarters, Teppoyuri, 115.3.27 - Checking In

Morwen spoke quietly as the holocomm connected. “Hi, Mom.”

Mirelle’s face appeared on the projector in front of her, smiling. “Hello, dear. How are you holding up?"

“I'm fine, I think. Very tired.” 

“You look it,” her mother responded, eyes flicking from one part of her daughter's face to another. “How are things up there?” 

“Tense. Everyone's wishing they would lift the no-fly restrictions so we could get down there already.” 

“Your project is going well, then?” 

Morwen took a small breath, then nodded. “Yeah, I guess you could say that. We've almost got two Charons' worth of supplies so far. And that convoy from Ishukone arrived in one piece.” 

“That's quite a lot. You must be pleased.” 

Morwen nodded again, a little more energetically. “Yeah. The leader of the convoy even said he would accept the supplies when it's time to take things to the surface. I'm surprised by how eager people were to donate, and how quickly and how much. It's nice to see other capsuleers displaying more than just a shred of humanity once in a while.” 

“... But?” Mirelle looked at her expectantly. 

“... But I'm worried it won't be enough.” Morwen sighed heavily. “Mom, the place is in such a mess I can't even begin to describe it. How could even ten or a hundred times the amount we have now be enough for these people?” 

“The people who live there are strong, dear. Every one of them. They will work hard, they will rebuild and they will survive. You are helping them get back onto their feet that much faster, and you should be proud of yourself for doing that, and of everyone else who is chipping in to help you. You've even got the direct attention of people in Ishukone, sweetie, I know how happy that must make you after all these years.” 

“I guess so.” Morwen sighed again, brushing a strand of hair out of her face. “I'm, um... sorry about not spending your birthday with you. Things have been so busy I forgot to get you something.” 

Mirelle smiled and waved dismissively. “Don't apologize for that. You made the right choice, sweetie. You know your father would be so proud of you right now.” 

Morwen's expression darkened. “I think he'd have been happier if I'd been able to put a few hundred salvos of antimatter charges into the Shiigeru like I'd planned on doing, Mom.” 

“No, Morwen, he wouldn't.” Mirelle picked up a steaming mug and took a sip from it, then continued. “You did exactly what we taught you to do. Given the choice between causing harm and helping protect people from harm, you chose to help people who really, truly needed you.” 

“That wasn't my choice, Mom. I wanted to get out there and fight, I really did. The station docking controllers wouldn't queue me for departure.” 

Mirelle chided her gently. “But instead of trying over and over, you gave up and did something else to help.” 

“That's not the point, Mom!” 

“Then what is?” 

“I wanted to go out there and fight. I wanted to shoot that thing out of the sky. I would have if they had just put me in the damn undocking queue! I didn't want to be stuck on the station sitting on my ass!” 

“So?” Mirelle briefly eyed her daughter’s fists, which had become clenched during her frustrated outburst. “Dear, you didn't fight with them when they told you you couldn't. You found another way to help. And then I hear you did even more later that night, working to get people off the surface, away from the fighting.” 

“... Yes, I did. Most of them are still here on the station. Naoko's crew is taking care of them. I've ... gone and hung around, to help out. Between dealing with donations.” 

“How are they doing?” 

“Most are out of critical condition at this point. Everyone wants to go back home. It feels horrible, not being able to tell them when they’ll be able to do that.” 

Morwen went silent, tears starting to well in her eyes. Mirelle frowned slightly. 

“Are you sure you’re okay, dear?” 

“No, Mom. No, I'm not. I can't stop worrying about whether I'm doing enough to help these people, if there isn't more I can do. I hate this. I hate the fighting, I want it to stop. It's why I changed my mind about joining the FDU after I graduated from the training program. I just saw senseless death and pain and suffering and didn't want to be part of it.” 

Mirelle remained quiet, listening to her daughter vent. 

“But as much as I hated it then, I still wasn't any better myself. And the sick part is I’m still proud of the places I went and who I was able to fly with. Even the two years as a pirate.” 

“Well, you know full well your father and I didn't care. You're our daughter and we love you unconditionally. I'm sure your lovely partner feels the same way, and there are several other wonderful people I've met here who I know love you very dearly as well.” 

Morwen took a deep breath, then exhaled quietly, wiping her eyes. “Sorry, Mom. Thanks. I just... I think I need to go lie down for a bit.” 

“Go right ahead. I won't keep you.” Mirelle paused, then as Morwen reached over to turn off the camera drone, she spoke up again. “And Morwen, dear...” 


“You did give me a birthday present, sweetie, one of the best I could have asked for. I am so happy for you both, you know that, right?” 

Morwen sat there for a moment, then nodded slowly. “Yeah.” 

“Knowing you are happy, doing things that make you happy, with someone who makes you happy, that is all the present I need.” 

Morwen cracked a small smile, wiping tears from her cheeks. “Thanks, Mom. I just... I wish Dad had been there.” 

Mirelle smiled gently. “I know you do, dear. Wherever he is, he feels just the same as I do.” 

Morwen nodded. 

“Some grandkids wouldn't hurt, mind,” Mirelle added with a playful wink. “When you get around to it, of course.” 

Morwen laughed a little, then with a small sniffle reached over to turn off the camera. 

“Good night, Mom.”

“Good night, dear. Rest well.”

Wednesday, February 20

Moms, Farms and ISK Faucets

So, Evelgrivion tweeted something earlier that caught my attention.
As someone who actually enjoys the Incursion content (my objections to the way the storyline was herpderped into existence aside), this is an issue I've spent a bunch of time thinking about.

As a roleplayer in EVE, this is an issue that I've probably spent too much time thinking about.

Not-so-ninja-edit: The answer, in my opinion, is both yes and no. My short answer was this (gathered from my tweets): "Yes and no. Yes in that there should be more incentives for the community to destroy the mothership before the 'last minute.' No, in that it is a major pain in the ass to pick up and move all your shit when the mom pops, and it's a non-PVP activity that people enjoy doing in groups for hours on end several days a week."

Here's the short and sweet version of how Incursion farming works.

At any given moment, there can be up to seven Incursions in New Eden. The distribution of these incursions is always constant: up to three in high-security constellations, up to three in null-security constellations, and one in low-security constellations.

Incursions last roughly a week after they spawn, and have three "phases." First, there is the "Established" phase. This lasts roughly three to four days after the Incursion spawns in a constellation. After that, the Incursion switches to the "Mobilized" phase, which lasts roughly two days. The last phase is called the "Withdrawing" phase, and lasts exactly one day. When the Withdrawing phase is over, an Incursion disappears. At any point during any of these phases, if the Nation supercarrier is destroyed, the Incursion disappears. (This site only becomes visible after the Nation influence level drops below a certain point. I am not sure what this point is.)

Good, right?

Not quite.

Incursions pay out to players in two different ways at the same time: ISK and CONCORD LP. The ISK is paid out at the completion of a site, directly into the wallets of the pilots in the fleet that is deemed to have "won" the site. (If there are multiple fleets in a given site, the fleet that does the most damage total is the fleet that "wins.") LP, on the other hand, is placed into a pool that can be viewed in a player's Journal, under either the Global Report or Loyalty Point Log tabs in the Incursions section. This pool is kept in escrow by CONCORD until the Incursion is gone. If the Nation supercarrier ("Kundalini Manifest" or "Ouroborus") is destroyed, this LP is paid out to the players. If the Incursion successfully withdraws without the supercarrier being destroyed, CONCORD retains the LP and the players get nothing. They are allowed to keep the ISK.

This here is one root of the problem of Incursion farming: there is no incentive to destroy the supercarrier before the last minute, because time spent traveling between Incursions is time spent not making money. You will make the same amount of LP per site no matter what phase the Incursion is in, and there is no 'bonus' for clearing it early. In effect, farming Incursions to the last drop is encouraged by the game mechanics.

Why should I force myself and several hundred other players to waste time schlepping to another Incursion 20 jumps away when there's several more days I could spend farming the one I'm currently in?

There's the obvious "because griefing carebears is fucking hilarious" answer, sure. But what if you're someone who's using the Incursions to make money to pay for PLEX or ships? There just isn't a good, justifiable reason. There's absolutely no gameplay/mechanics-based reason to do so. (There are, however, roleplay/in-character reasons to do so, but I'll get into those in a bit.)

Okay, so what can we do about it? What incentives can CCP provide to make it worthwhile to the pilots in an Incursion to clear it early?

There's a bunch. But as I remarked to Mynnna and Evel, they all come with flaws.

Let's start with a couple that Evel suggested (which were similar to some of mine), and then another of mine. I'll let other people who participate in this come up with some others.

What if destroying the supercarrier early will give a chance of dropping a BPC for the Revenant, the player version of the Nation supercarrier? (Evel)

Pros: The Revenant BPC currently only can be dropped from the supercarrier in lowsec Incursions, and it doesn't always do this. This would help increase the availability of an incredibly rare ship that many collectors would love to get their hands on.

Cons: The problem with Incursion loot, is that there is none, except from the supercarrier. Many highsec Incursion communities currently scoop all of the loot, and then auction it off to the fleet to fund ship replacement programs. This won't work with a Revenant BPC. It's a blueprint for a ship worth tens of billions of ISK that actually has a very low demand. The sheer worth of the blueprint alone makes it near-impossible to expect anyone to be able to purchase it in an auction, let alone sell the thing easily. In the end, it's a solution that will most likely only benefit one person in what was a team effort. It also doesn't benefit any of the other people who spent hours of their time keeping the influence levels down in the constellation.

What if Incursions were modified so that if influence levels were kept below a certain point for some amount of time, it started withdrawing early? (Evel)

Pros: Given the nature of farming, this could work extremely well. Incursions would enter withdraw within a day or so of the Incursion communities arriving. They'd appear and disappear in a few days instead of lasting a whole week.

Cons: Incursions don't respawn immediately. After an Incursion disappears, regardless of whether it was due to player action or inaction, it takes between 24 and 36 hours to spawn a replacement. On top of that, one of the pros turns into a con - given the speed at which the influence level goes down, there suddenly wouldn't be any money to make because the Incursions would disappear too quickly. And there's nothing Incursion communities hate more than having to go do something else for a couple days because there aren't any Incursions up. Except maybe when there's only one highsec Incursion active, and it's located in a highsec island like Solitude. The end result would be Incursions become even more of a playground for elitist douchebaggery than they already are, and the reduced "uptime" would just make it harder for people to get involved.

What if the final payment from CONCORD were scaled by the length of the Incursion, where destroying the supercarrier earlier would result in an increased LP and/or ISK payout, but leaving it until the last minute would result in a penalty?

Pros: This could helps offset the lost payouts from the previous two options. If destroying the supercarrier early means that some of the otherwise lost payout is regained, people might go for it.

Cons: Predictably, this arrangement would end up being minmaxed to the point where the communities would find the "sweet spot" and just farm to that point, and we'd be back to square one. In effect, all it would do is reduce the length of the average Incursion - it wouldn't affect the "farming" or "ISK faucet" situations at all. On top of that, you'd effectively be getting free ISK/LP for sites you didn't complete - not something I'm particularly fond of. Then there's the issue of who gets the bonus payout (or penalty) - everyone who completed sites, or just the people in the winning fleet in the supercarrier site? I can guarantee that the latter would not go over well.

So, we haven't even looked at the storyline end of things yet.

How the fuck can CONCORD afford to keep paying us constantly for this? Surely it would make sense to pay us in a fashion that encouraged getting the job done efficiently, not bleeding the Assembly's wallet dry.

Well, yeah. No shit. So why not?

It wouldn't make for good gameplay. What's the point of this grand, end-game group PVE content if it doesn't last long enough for lots of people to get involved in it? (Time for a little detour.)

It sure as shit isn't storyline development. CCP dug themselves into a real deep hole with this one: Incursions are essentially a flagship/Jesus feature. The entire storyline (live events included) leading up to the expansion's release was centered around this one single feature! As a result, CCP can't progress the storyline in this respect without jeopardizing the existence of Incursions.

Well, sure, they could have the Sansha Incursions die off and be replaced with another pirate faction's NPCs. None of them really make quite as much sense, however - with the possible exception of the Equilibrium of Mankind (courtesy of the "Gone Berserk" missions), who were the original antagonists for the Incursion expansion before the focus was switched to Sansha's Nation. But that's a lot of work for the Art and Content teams to put in. And I mean a lot. There's currently 15 different Incursion sites, each unique. Assume another 15 or so for another faction. And don't forget the unique pirate faction supercapital. (And subcaps, in the EoM's case.)

Now imagine what would have to go into it if they decided to make the Incursion system available to all pirate factions, and instead of it just being Sansha that has the limelight, similar Incursions could appear in various places, instigated by the other pirate factions?

Multiply the amount of work for the previous thing, between 4 and 6 times. We already have Sansha's Nation. We'd be adding the following: Guristas, Serpentis, Blood Raiders, Angel Cartel, and possibly EoM and/or Rogue Drones.

That is a lot of work for the Art and Content teams.

I think the Sansha storyline's going to be stuck sitting with its thumb up its ass for a while yet, as far as Incursions go.

And now that I've derailed myself I need to wander back to the tracks. So!

The point of this grand, end-game group PVE content is to get people to play together. You cannot solo Incursion sites. (Except maybe the "Scout" level sites. Which pay less than L2/L3 missions. Possibly even less than L1s.) You need to be in a fleet to do Incursions effectively.

It's to expose people who don't normally do PVP, to PVP concepts, like fleet mechanics, logistics, comms discipline, etc. in a more consensual environment.

And to have fun.

And, of course, to get paid doing so.

... Which eventually turns into farming when people want to get as much gain for as little input as possible.

Friday, June 1

CCP, Singularity and You: How we can all make better use of the test servers

A Brief Introduction

This past Monday, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with CCP Explorer while he was in Providence, RI. We kind of skipped around from topic to topic before he got swamped with people from 38 Studios to interview, but one of the subjects that came up was one that'd been in my mind for a while: how the playerbase makes use of the test server, and how it affects CCP's development of the game.

I figure it's probably safe to assume that the majority of people reading this know about the test server Singularity and its sister (cousin?) Duality. In case you're not in that majority, Singularity and Duality are CCP's public testing servers for the playerbase to test new features for upcoming patches using slightly outdated copies of your characters from the production server Tranquility. You can find installation instructions elsewhere on the forum or on EVElopedia.

So What's the Problem?

The problem is that there is a fairly wide gap between how CCP sees the test servers and how the playerbase uses them. While generally harmless, this gap can have some pretty nasty side effects when the things being put on the test server are going to change things on Tranquility at a very fundamental level.

Try Before You Buy: How CCP views the test servers

CCP wants to provide its customers with the best experience it can. One way that they attempt to do this is by including the playerbase in the development process for features with devblogs, forum posts and, you guessed it, builds on the test server.

Singularity and Duality provide the players with the opportunity to play with and provide feedback on upcoming features and changes to the EVE client while they are still in development. These features can range in scope from a graphical change to a whole new UI element or even new ships or modules. To facilitate testing of the latter group, most charges, modules and ships have been 'seeded' at 100 ISK/unit at several stations in each region.

CCP's hope is that players who have the time and spare disk space will install a copy of the Singularity (or on rare occasions, Duality) clients and test these in-development features, as well as fixes to bugs that have been reported by player and dev alike. The opportunity to get involved and get some practice and experience with upcoming features before they are pushed to production should be motivation enough to log into the test server on its own. Being able to play around with ships and modules for cheap is just a side dish.

EFT Warriors Unite: How the players use the test servers

Unfortunately, some of the things that CCP does to help facilitate testing of new features, changes and bug fixes are also a big part of why the players frequently use the test server for things that do very little to actually help CCP improve the game. (I'm sorry, but testing out your latest theorycrafted Moa fit in 6-C, while fun, does not help CCP in the slightest. Get over it.)

Seeding ships, modules and ammo at cheap prices has the side effect of turning the test server into not a place where testing features, changes and bug fixes is the priority, but into a magical playground where every kid can summon (nearly) any toy they want out of the aether. It brings people's focus and interest in the test server to what is effectively multiplayer EFT/pyfa/etc, rather than making sure things work. Who wants to check out some random new UI feature when you can fit and fly that ship you've always wanted to try out on Tranquility but never had the ISK to buy the hull? Who wants to take a look and see if that bug that makes the game unplayable for 3% of players was properly fixed when you can take that ship into combat and see how well it works?

The answer? Not enough people, which is a real shame.

The majority of the playerbase seems to view the test servers as the aforementioned playground - a simulator, if you will - but not as the opportunity to help participate in the development process that it is. Most people on the test server are interested in testing ship fits. This in and of itself isn't a problem, and in fact it's just fine. It's a perfectly valid use of the test server and I don't hold anything against anyone for it. The problem is that it typically comes at the expense of everything else that CCP needs the players to be testing.

Getting to the Point: How we can make more effective use of the test servers for everyone's benefit

The solution here is two-fold: both CCP and the playerbase need to bend a little to make this work.

What the players need from CCP:

  • More devblogs on features that are still in the prototyping stage, so that CCP can get player feedback right away, early in the process.
  • Timely iterations on these devblogs, either via posts on the forums or additional devblogs, addressing the feedback. Whether feedback is being incorporated into the design or not, players should get replies from the developers responsible for the feature saying so. If someone's idea is really good and you're going to add it, say so! If something we suggested just doesn't fit with the plan, tell us why. If you're not sure about what someone suggested, just say so and ask for a more detailed explanation. 
  • Public and easily visible notification that these new feature and changes are going on Singularity or Duality, and when they will be available for us to test. You have people who are on Twitter all the time, make use of them!
  • Remember that your use-cases for testing purposes may not cover all of the ones players have to experience on a daily basis. Ask us to come up with scenarios you may not have thought of - I can more or less guarantee we'll have a few that will make you wonder how you could have missed them, like the issue with POS towers with large numbers of modules and the Unified Inventory.

What CCP needs from us:

  • More testing of the client itself and less faffing about with multiplayer EFT. Before you go play with the seeded market, take a look at all of the new features and try to see how they fit into your routine. Try to break them. Hundreds of people show up for mass tests. Imagine what could happen if everyone using the test server spent half an hour testing new features before going and playing with the seeded markets.
  • Constructive feedback and criticism. Spewing bile at the devs won't get us anywhere; it just puts them on the defensive. Be polite and be detailed in your feedback. Give examples and screenshots if possible.
  • Properly-written bug reports! There are threads on the forum and articles on the wiki to help you out. The better-written and more detailed our bug reports are, the more likely it is that the developers can track down the issue and fix it quickly.
  • Help the devs increase awareness of features and changes that are in progress on the test server. Use Twitter, corp/alliance forums, blogs, even facebook or Jita local. Just get the word out!

Please note that I'm not advocating that people not be able to screw around as they please on the test server with ship fits and such. I'm advocating that people spend more time trying to help CCP by testing new things that affect the entire playerbase, not just your personal k/d or ISK/hour ratios.

In short: we need to help them help us, and CCP needs to help us help them. Do your part!

If you have comments, please post them to the  thread on the EVE forums here.

Thursday, November 24

Tyrathlion Family Estates: 24.11.113 - Time to Talk

"We need to talk."

Nobody said anything else for a moment, as if they were waiting for the words to echo in the room, to remind them that yes, someone had actually spoken those words. Given the sorts of uncomfortable discussions and subjects that usually followed them, as well as the potential fallout, this response was to be expected.

Reppy looked at her briefly, before returning her gaze to the book she had open and giving a slightly moody-sounding response. "About what?" she asked, as if she knew exactly what the answer would be.

"You," Morwen said softly, uncomfortably shifting her weight from one foot to another as she stood in the doorway to the library's study room. "Something's been bugging you lately. I can tell."

Reppy let out a quiet, noncommittal grunt, turning the page of her book as if she were done with the conversation already. Morwen sighed, then walked over and gently pried the book from Reppy's hands, setting it down on a nearby table before settling down onto her lap sideways, legs hanging over one of the armrests. "Don't give me that look," she said as she tried to make herself comfortable. "We promised we wouldn't hide things like this from each other."

"I don't want to talk about it," Reppy said quietly, tone firm. She looked away from Morwen, towards the study's fireplace, the light flickering in her eyes.

Morwen frowned. "Sweety, I just spent a lot of money renewing your license for you after you told me two weeks ago that spending some time flying again would fix things up for you. I really don't mind spending ridiculous amounts of money on things you want, but please don't lie to me - or yourself - about what you want and need, because it clearly hasn't helped enough, if at all, to have been that simple. I'm not the only person who's noticed you've been having a down spell lately, either," she added.

Reppy looked back at her uncomfortably, waiting.

"Saki and Leela are both concerned about you," Morwen explained. She paused for a moment, then continued. "So is my mother. I know she wrote to you after she got home. She told me." She reached over and took Reppy's hands, squeezing gently. "She really likes you, Reppy. And not just because I do."

Reppy responded after a moment, her voice hesitant. "She wouldn't if she knew."

"Knew what?"

"How things started."

Morwen frowned again. "It wouldn't change anything, and you know that."

The reply came back with a suspicious, half-distrustful expression. "How can you know that for certain?"

"This is my mother we're talking about, Reppy. She's more tolerant than I am." Morwen sighed. "Almost to a fault, given some things she's been poking and prodding me to think about doing."

Reppy wrinkled her nose a little, knowing exactly what the so-called things were. "If you say so," she muttered, leaning back in the chair and saying nothing further. Morwen sighed gently, then reached one hand up to stroke Reppy's cheek gently with her thumb, silently tracing the red markings that were all that visibly remained of Cruoris. Reppy closed her eyes, relaxing under the touch. Both of them seemed content to stay like that for a while; by the time Morwen decided to try again, she'd lost track of how long they'd been sitting there.

"Please talk to me, Reppy," Morwen asked quietly. "Tell me what's wrong, and let me help make it better."

Reppy remained silent for a moment, then opened her eyes and nodded slowly.


Sunday, October 2

Review: Latest version of Incarna on Sisi

So, I don't normally do OOC blogposts, but I think the latest release on Singularity merits an exception. I've spent several hours over the last couple days fiddling around in each of the three new CQs taking pictures and looking for bugs and other issues (some not even CQ-related at all), so this post is going to be partly a review of the things that have been added, but also a nice list of things that I need to remember to submit bug reports on! Also, you've been warned, this blog entry is very image-heavy.

So, first things first - the new Captain's Quarters. They are pretty damn well done. As is the smart thing to do, they are tied not to your character's race, but to the 'race' of the station you're docked at. So, if you don't like your racial CQ, you can just pick another station. I'll start the post off with the Amarrian CQ.

Amarrian Captain's Quarters - Welcome to the Gilded Birdcage

The Good: The Amarrian Captain's Quarters are, well, distinctively Amarrian. Gold highlights and engravings on various bits of furniture, an imposingly, impractically long ramp from the capsule gantry to the CQ itself solely for the sake of looking big and important, and the overall feeling that you're a couple pews short of being in a cathedral make this blend in perfectly with the Amarrian station interior. The fact that there aren't any prop-items lying around also gives a sense that *somewhere* there's a slave ducking in and out to clean up the mess.

The mirror fits in nicely with the architecture style, though I think the design on the floor should be the much more appropriate golden Empire symbol (and, perhaps in Khanid stations, the inverted silver version).

Impractical, but imposing.

Climbing back up that ridiculously long ramp, we come to the hangar balcony and capsule gantry. This balcony is pretty similar in design to the Minmatar one, with the most obvious differences being that the floor is safe for the female capsuleers of New Eden (floors without little holes in them are wonderful things when you're forced to wear heels all day because of some lazy-ass "fashion designer"), and a much more compact console.

The Bad: All in all, the things that felt "wrong" with this CQ in particular were fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. For example, the bed is totally not something a capsuleer would sleep on (or, for that matter, an Amarrian) given its appearance of a slab of rock - neither a blanket nor a pillow in sight. And while the lack of props seems fitting with that elusive slave cleaning things up, it does make the room seem a little sparse without any being there.

Noticably missing are the two statues from the teaser video - I assume that there was some issue with them, preventing them from being on the Sisi release. In addition, while I feel the extremely long ramp from the balcony to the CQ fits in with the Amarrian style, without a 'run' command, walking back and forth is going to get seriously irritating after a while.

Next, the Caldari CQ.

Caldari Captain's Quarters - Your Personal Corporate Boardroom

The Good: The Caldari Captain's Quarters are clean and utilitarian, with hard angles everywhere; looking around it becomes clear that this CQ has taken the Caldari design ethos and followed it to the letter. Function over form, nothing present that doesn't need to be there. A few Quafe bottles and cans of Long-limb Roes can be found if you look around a little, but it's pretty clear that this room is kept pretty clean.

The mirror here is nice and simple, with what looks like a small alcove in the wall for your makeup or shaving equipment. Also, the bed looks pretty damn comfortable, compared to what the Amarr and Minmatar CQs call sleeping accomodations.

Apparently the Caldari CQ is the one that CCP and that tattoo designer guy used for a modeling runway. The pillars along the sides of the corridor look nice, and coming back out from the CQ itself you can get a really nice look at your ship through the high ceiling (not pictured). The console on the balcony isn't quite as compact as the Amarrian one, but there's an interesting feature of the balcony's design - the steps to the capsule gantry go *under* the balcony itself.

Just make sure to watch your head while heading down there. It looks like it'd hurt pretty bad. Speaking of which...

The Bad: The Caldari CQ is, like the Amarrian one, pretty solidly done. Most of the issues I found unique to this CQ are not very major. Most prominently, the holoscreens are a little difficult to see against the wall - more contrast would be very helpful here to make the holoscreen pop out more.

See how the Caldari one blends into the background, but the other two don't?

Also, this is a Caldari station. Fuck your Quafe, I want Starsi ads. (Because it tastes like revenge, obviously.)

That just leaves the Gallente CQ.

Gallente Captain's Quarters - A sexy tangent to all of your curves.

The Good: The Gallente Captain's Quarters are made up of curves. Lots of them. Enough to provide a number of calculus pickup lines so great they'd last you a lifetime. (Please don't use them on Morwen in-character; you're likely to get slapped if you do. If you're going to use them on me, at least buy me a drink first, please.) There are little holes in the walls with things stuffed into them - all they're missing is covering panels that slide open and closed. Also, dat mirror.

Oh my god, that mirror. If it weren't for the reflection of the avatar and other things, I would've sworn it was a doorway to another room. It's pretty much flawless. Also, the latex/satin/silk/whatever that is that is used for the pillow and sheets on that bed? Rawr.

This is probably the second-longest walkway from the balcony to the CQ, but it follows the concept art reasonably closely, and looks pretty sweet.

Also, easter egg: if you pay close attention, you might notice that the walkway and balcony are shaped kinda like a penis. Those wacky Gallente!

The circular balcony is nice, and all the transparent green glass is reminiscient of the old transparent headpieces and other doodads the Gallente avatars used to have prior to the Incarna character creator released in Incursion. The console is placed in a way that gives a pretty good view of the pod gantry and your ship at the same time, without having to move around to see through opaque walls and stuff.

The Bad: I honestly couldn't find anything that really felt wrong or out of place in the Gallente CQ, aside from one thing. That pit in the area by the sofa.

Seriously, what the hell is that supposed to be? A Quafe dispenser? A hot tub? A giant holoprojector that'll let you display the 3D starmap from inside the CQ?

As for things that weren't tied to any one CQ in particular, the racially-tinted holograms and console displays were pretty sweet, and I noticed some cool design patterns - for example, allied factions (Amarr/Caldari and Gallente/Minmatar) share the same basic layout of their CQs.

But there were a bunch of bugs that I found.

Many people probably noticed the corporation logo for the station you're docked in over the doorway to the CQ in the Minmatar CQ. It's present in the Caldari CQ, but the Amarr and Gallente CQs both lack it - there's a black square where I assume it would be, though.

Time for a Caldari rave party!

The first nasty one I encountered was that opening and closing the escape menu results in many of the textures simply shutting off, causing most of the environment to go black, aside from what appear to be objects that have their own lights.

Another problem is only specific to certain types of clothing - female avatars with skirts will have clipping issues while sitting on any of the couches.

Double-clicking to move also seems intermittently broken; sometimes using mouse-drive for a second will make it work again, sometimes it won't. Also, there appears to be a range limit for double-clicking in the new CQs - you can move as far as the doorway from the hangar to the CQ itself, but no further, on a single double-click. This is not the case for the Minmatar CQ on either Tranquility or Singularity.

For those who play with the NeX items that have been seeded on the Sisi market and the recustomization tool, there's a bunch of issues here too. For starters, while your skills and assets have all been mirrored from TQ just fine, your avatar's mesh has not, so you will not look like what you do on TQ - instead, you'll be in something resembling a 'default' mesh. In addition, the recustomization tool is missing the icons for NEX items, so you have to click through everything to see what is what; though not critical or game-breaking, it is a little annoying if you can't memorize what shirt was what number. There is one somewhat game-breaking issue I did find, however - the recustomization tool refuses to load and requires a client restart if the player tries to open it after not having finalized a new portrait during the previous time it was used during that login. If you make a new portrait when you go through it, you're golden.

On to the other stuff - next up, ship spinning. Yes, that's right, ship spinning. Our beloved hangars have been returned to us, and as far as I can tell, all of the old functionality is still there. (Plus, the textures on some of them seem to be cleaned up and a little better-looking than before, particularly the Amarr one.)

To access them, it's as easy as walking to one of the two holograms of your ship in the CQ, either on the balcony or by the couch, and selecting the new fifth option, "Enter Ship Hangar." If you're using the one by the couch, you will have to stand up - the option is greyed out if you are sitting down.

To go back to the CQ, just click on the blue button above the undock button, which looks appropriately similar - though pointing in the opposite direction to indicate that the Hangar View is the midway point between being undocked and in your Captain's Quarters. My only issue with the system as it stands is that there is no similar button while you are in the CQ - which I would hope would be implemented as the same blue-colored button, just pointing in the same direction as the undock one - currently you must go to one of the consoles and select the "Enter Ship Hangar" option. There are no right-click options for either direction. Here are the other three hangars, just in case you've forgotten what they look like.

You might've noticed the chat in the window in the last one. More specifically, the new font.

As much as I love the devs who worked on it, I'm sorry, but I cannot stand the new font. I want it to go away just as much as many people wanted to get rid of the CQ when Incarna was first released. It looks terrible and is difficult to read at any reasonable size. Sure, you fixed some of the lookalike issues (I/l/1, O/0, 5/S, 6/G/&, 8/B in particular) but you missed a few (-/~ comes to mind), and several punctuation marks are nearly impossible to see, let alone tell the difference between (colon, comma, period, semicolon - :,.;). The font is poorly spaced, as well - some letters are way too thin (ex: capital L), and others do not space themselves from other letters at all (ex: lowercase r, capital L). Numbers no longer have a uniform width across font sizes, so now those of us using timestamps in our chat will find that they no longer line up - and thus look absolutely terrible and unprofessional. The font doesn't scale properly to parts of the UI, either - when undocked, one of the most obvious cases of this is the target locking progress bar, where the "n seconds" will often protrude outside of the progress bar and look stupid.

I'm not the only person who thinks that even Comic-fucking-Sans would look better than the font that is currently on Sisi. Couldn't they have just fixed the fucking problem characters in the old font and called it a day after adding the whole unicode support thing? Seriously. The new font hurts to look at at any size. Please include the option to keep the old font. It'd make a lot of people happy.

I didn't take any pictures of undocked stuff, but the new engine flares on some of the ships are cool-looking. Nothing like the stuff that was recently added to the Punisher, Maller and Scorpion hulls, but still cool. Also, I heard that there's a new cyno effect, but I haven't yet seen it myself...

The overview/bracket bug from several patches ago has returned - make sure to reload your brackets after jumping and undocking if you're going to be flying around on Sisi a bunch. Also, your HP readout is a lie; it seems to just display a static 66% for hull, armor and shield, which looks really disconcerting with that huge chunk of red on your HUD. And sometimes windows will randomly open even fyou just closed them for the fifteenth time in a row. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Market.

Another issue I found was that when you minimize a window and the little bar appears along the bottom of the screen, on TQ that bar will remain above anything else that is touching the bottom edge of the screen. On Sisi, this is no longer the case - if you have a window that takes focus while there's a minimized window down there, the minimized window ends up behind the window with focus. This is seriously irritating.

Overall, the new font aside, what is on Sisi now is exactly what we should have had at Incarna's initial release. I would've happily taken a couple extra months of Incursion for this to have been the initial release of Incarna, and so would many others. If this had been what was released, I think it's a safe bet to say that there would've been a much smaller mess to clean up this summer - and that perhaps, monoclegate may have caused less of an uproar. Who knows?

In any case, I'm looking forward to this stuff being released to Tranquility - so my heartfelt thanks to the staff and volunteers at CCP who have been working to put this stuff out for us to play with.

Saturday, July 30

Private Video Entry, 30.7.113 - Moving Day

Morwen appears to be resting on her back on one of the couches in the living room of her quarters on her carrier as the camera drone begins recording. She's wearing little more than a mottled green tank-top and matching shorts; given the unkempt state of her hair, she seems to be in a rather lazy mood.

Two years.

That's about how long Goinard has been the primary base of operations for whatever corpoation I've been with. First with the Ghosts, then with Veto.

Something flickers outside of the camera drone's view. It turns, then focuses on a projection of a station for a moment before returning its attention to Morwen.

Goinard IV - Moon 5 - Impro Factory.
VETO's home station since before I got my capsuleer license.

For the last couple of months, we've been on an extended trip to Syndicate to fly with some friends of the directorate, Rote Kapelle. I've known a few of their members for a while; mostly the Nihil family who used to run the Three Sisters bar in Jel. I think the place is closed now, which is a bit of a pity, given how fun it used to be. Would've been nice to take Reppy there at some point, but it's probably a little too late now, even if not for her busy schedule.

The corp took surprisingly well to being stationed in nullsec. Even me. It was... very different from what we were used to, but at the same time, it wasn't different at all. Maybe it was just the subconscious feeling that we had more wiggle room out here. That, a few lingering rules and regulations aside, we weren't bound at all by anything CONCORD had to say.

So a few weeks ago, Ethan made the decision to move us out here properly.

I guess it was a foregone conclusion that it would happen, really. That and my security status recovering, which may have been more of a side effect of getting myself burnt-out on combat sorties. When we came out here, I dived into them left and right. If there was something going on when I was around and awake, I was participating. I suppose I overdid it, because now I can barely stand the memory of what using warp scrambling modules feels like. Probably a good thing, given the amount of time I spend in highsec these days.

But... oddly, the time spent away from the corp hasn't really reduced my stress levels. Stopped them from going higher for the most part, yes, but it hasn't really reduced it any. Over the last two weeks, Nation has launched a steady assault across the area of space I now consider "home". First Sib, and Nohshayess two weeks ago, and Amdimmah this past week. Reppy and I had originally been planning to take that week off, but when Nation showed up on our doorstep, I couldn't deal with the feeling that they were right there and I was doing nothing about it.

So I fought. I spent the entire week in space, cleaning the infestation out of my home. In the end, I was there in Bukah when we took down the Revenant-class supercarrier that was the remote "brains" behind the operations in the Nohshayess constellation. Apparently I'd managed to do enough damage to be considered among the top ten pilots who contributed to the effort that week. It felt... kinda good, I admit, but... still awkward, coming from CONCORD of all people.

But that was last week... and now I'm here in TXW again, waiting for the call to go get into my capsule so we can get this show on the road. I won't say I didn't enjoy my time in Goinard. I really did, for the most part; it was a great place for a number of reasons, and I learned a lot while living there, but... I just can't stand lowsec anymore. I can't stand being an outlaw anymore.

There's another flicker, and the camera drone turns briefly once more to focus on another projected image of another station.

TXW-EI VIII - Moon 8 - Aliastra Retail Center.
Veto's (sort-of) new home, and my home-away-from-home.

That's not exactly kept me a ton of friends within Veto, but to be honest, I never had many in the corporation to begin with, outside of the Ghosts I came here with. Some of the newer people I'm familiar with - Evangeline, in particular, from the modeling contest the other month - and I've made a few friends with some of the other old-timers, like Nadia and Rathera, but... I don't know.

I'm feeling less and less like Veto as a whole is my family, and more of a job that I just want to go home from. Some of them I consider family, sure... Kimmy and the other Ghosts, Kyoko, Demetri, a few others... even Inara, to some extent, despite all the shit we've put each other through... but most of the rest of the corp? No, they've not really given me the "family" vibe. Not the kind that I can relate to and feel comfortable and safe with.

Do I trust them to have my back in space? Absolutely, and I would hope they'd trust me in the same way. But outside of the capsule? No. I don't trust very many of them outside of the capsule. I have a hard time trusting people who are more interested in ISK and profit at the expense of everything else.

Maybe I'm really not cut out to be a pirate anymore. Maybe I never really was to begin with. Hilen Tukoss and the Arek'jaalan Project have entrenched that idea more firmly into my mind than anything else has lately. It's like the opportunity to be in the Accord again, only this time the potential of the project isn't wasted on a fool like Julianus Soter. We actually have the manpower and minds necessary to make something out of the project, if we can keep it alive long enough to properly get on its feet and learn to walk. I dread to think of what will happen if Venal decides to have Ethan interfere with the project. I don't know what I'll do. Whatever it is, it isn't likely to make people happy.

Things at home have been... awkward, may be the right word for it. Reppy can tell something's bugging me as she usually can, but she's having as much trouble asking me about it as I am with being able to just tell her.

But it's hard to bring it up with her. Last time it even got referred to, she laughed it off as if it were a joke - and she was the one who even brought it up in the first place. I know she wasn't laughing at me, but it still hurt. It hurt a lot then, even if I didn't let on. And it still hurts now, as does the thought of getting the same reaction when trying to bring it up seriously.

This is just going to get messy when it does come up eventually - and it will come up at some point, I'm just not sure when - and I'm not really looking forward to it. Unfortunately it isn't something I can just swallow and go back to ignoring it like some other things. It's going to eat at me until it gets dealt with, and at this point it's just a question of which one of us is going to make the first move.

Morwen sighs, then opens her mouth to continue; a soft buzzing noise interrupts, however, and she turns her head towards its source - the door.

... Wonder who that is. Guess I'll have to finish this another time. End recording.

The camera drone deactivates.

Sunday, November 14

Fragments of Memories: 14.11.112


Then there's light, and a floating sensation. Holding tight to someone who is clutching back even tighter. Awkward movements from both, trying to move into a more comfortable position without losing grip of the other and floating off in opposite directions Success eventually, followed by soft giggling. Soft lips pressed against hers, then --

-- warm, flickering light from a fire. Softness of a fur rug beneath her side, two arms snugly wrapped around her. Quiet words whispered in her ear, a small smile forming on her face. Something moves into view out in the corner of her eye --

-- flash of a knife against her arm, a trickle of blood. It stings for a brief moment, but doesn't hurt; oddly, the predatory smile coming from the woman sitting on her lap feels somehow... comforting. Then she grins and moves in close --

-- the cool sensation of metal around one of her fingers, a hand gripping her wrist warmly as the object slides back from the tip of her finger - a gold-and-silver ring. A smile from the owner of the gripping hand, before she pushes her back against the sofa with a long kiss. Again, something visible in the corner of her eye, a person maybe --

-- running water. Back up against a wall, pinned there by something warm. A face obscured by a black mat of wet hair. Brush it out of the way with a hand, find a pair of brown eyes staring back. Can almost see her own reflection. A hand gently grips hers --

-- a carefully-crafted necklace of sapphires and rubies hangs in trembling hands, the jewels glittering as they move in the light. Her vision is slightly blurry - tears, perhaps - and her attempts to put the necklace around her neck are made difficult by her shaking fingers. A pair of helping hands assists, then wipes the tears away. Once more, something - clearly a someone - out of the corner of her eye is visible; black hair and silvery eyes with pale skin, their mouth moving slightly without making any sound. By the time she reacts and moves her eyes to get a better look, those brown eyes are too close for her to see anything but her own reflection again --

-- a small cutting sensation on her chest. Red facial markings glow back at her, as the woman perched on her lap carefully moves a small blade against her skin. A small diamond pendant, previously transparent, now shines a bright scarlet. The woman gives the pendant an appraising look, then fastens it around her neck. A familiar predatory smile before she leans closer, eyes alight --

-- curled up in a warm bath, soft giggles and quiet whispers; a gentle swat to the nose and a nip at the ear --

-- spoonfuls of homemade soup from a steaming bowl, a content and loving smile; there's that other person again in the background --

-- sitting on the couch, snugly curled up under a blanket while laughing at the absurdity of a holoreel --

-- arms wrapped around her middle, holding tight --

-- those brown eyes again; a playful glimmer visible in them before she's grabbed by the chin and pulled close, the words on the tip of her tongue silenced by a hungry kiss --

-- and then it's dark again.


Morwen. That's enough. No more.

No, no, no, I want to go back...

I said that's enough, Morwen. You've been in here for nearly a week. I'm not letting you hide in here any longer.

But I'm happy there... send me back... please...



I said no. Time to come back to the real world, Morwen.

I don't want to!

And I don't care. It's time to wake up.

No, no, no, no...

She becomes aware of a rushing sound as the capsule starts returning control to her own senses. Seconds later, dumped unceremoniously onto the floor, she coughs and sputters as her lungs try to clear the remaining pod fluid from her respiratory system before she curls up into a ball where she is, sobbing.

I want to go back...

No. You need to clean out your system and get out into the real world, with real people. You're not doing yourself or your crew any favors by being in this state. You are going to get up, you are going to wash up, and you are going to go out and interact with people. I don't care where you go, but I will make sure that you do go somewhere, forcibly if I must.

I don't want to... I want to go back inside...

Most certainly not. When she asked me to take care of you, it didn't include letting you stew in a narcotic-induced haze in your pod for a week.

You set it up for me...

Yes, I did, and I'm starting to regret that decision. Count yourself lucky that nobody outside of myself, the CMO and your capsule technicians know about it, because it could get your ass thrown out of corp if people knew you were flying under the influence. We don't even know what side effects this might have yet to cause for you. Get up. Now.

She stays there for several minutes, still sobbing, before she tries sitting up, hugging her knees close.

A good start. Let's go. It's not far. We can go to the Keep or the Piano if you'd like.

I don't want to go out...

Morwen, do you think she would want you to be like this?

She sits there silently.


Then let's go. I don't have time for your moping, and honestly neither do you. She needs this... let her try and fix herself.

I need her...

I know you do, but she needs this right now. You need to be patient... things will hopefully get better and fix themselves at some point.

A small nod, and a sniffle.

Now, let's go and get you washed up. You're a mess.

Another small nod, and she cautiously climbs to her feet, one hand resting against a wall for balance.

One step at a time. Maybe having to learn how to walk again will save me the trouble of having to convince you not to do this again myself.

Wobbly steps forward.

Shut up... not funny.

Once you're sitting down with other people, I'll let you be for a bit, but you are my priority right now, okay?

A few more steps forward, then she closes her eyes, nodding as she walks. Those words she understood.