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.

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