Oct 28, 2015

My EVE Vegas Experience

EVE Vegas 2015 is the first really big player meet I have attended. The tl;dr for this wall-of-text blog post is that it was freaking magical, amazing, fun, and wonderful. The caveat for this blog post is that I will probably forget to mention many people and things that happened. Feel free to call me out on oversights in the comments and I'll update the post accordingly when I get back to civilization (no Internet at my Mom's house; I'm sat at Starbucks posting this).

It is impossible to describe the rush of meeting all the devs who work so hard on our beloved EVE Online, the excitement that comes from hearing what's in the works for the game and being able to ask questions to learn more, and most of all, the buzz of meeting all the players I know from the game and/or #tweetfleet on Twitter, blogs, podcasts, and more. I felt so humbled and utterly delighted at the warm reception I got from ... well ... everyone. It was a bit overwhelming.

My plans for EVE Vegas started after I made my reservations back in April. The Signal Cartel leadership team started talking about swag we might like to take. We decided on a budget and chose to go with two imprinted items that would represent our #freehugs, snowballs and Festival Launchers doctrine: round white stress balls and stickers. I designed the imprint (based on the awesome Signal Cartel logo designed by Signaleer Noene Drops). Items were ordered and at the right time shipped to Planet Hollywood. I also shipped a small box of swag to CCP in Iceland to share the #freehugs love among those who couldn't attend EVE Vegas.

Then I got my crafting on by making personalized gifts for all the devs listed to attend, as well as a few friends. These consisted of small journals stamped with each character's racial symbol (except for CCP Falcon, who got a Guristas symbol of course!) on the front. I carved these stamps, a fun little project that took about 3 hours one evening. Inside each journal, I hand-stamped the recipient's character name using individual letter stamps in a typewriter font. Then I stamped "You are Simply Amazing" and "Heartfelt Thanks" using phrase stamps, and signed each journal. I also stamped black gift tags with racial symbols and the recipient's name written in metallic silver ink. Each gift was wrapped in decorative "EVE-ish" paper from my long-ignored scrapbook paper stash. I tucked a couple of #freehugs stickers under the ribbon of each gift and loaded them all into my carry-on bag. That damn thing was HEAVY!

I arrived in Vegas on Thursday evening and discovered via Twitter that Signaleer Zoe Schereau was arriving at the same time. We met up, then grabbed Makoto Priano of IKAME fame after arriving at the hotel. The three of us had a lovely dinner: these are two delightful people! After dinner, we headed to the Heart Bar because word on Twitter was that that was the happening place. Hint: Twitter is awesome for figuring out who's where and organizing people for activities.

At the Heart Bar, I had my first experience of what the entire weekend was going to be like: being warmly greeted by both CCP folks and other players, so many of whom I've known via Twitter or in-game for years. It was such a treat to meet you all. But OMG, the sheer number of was sometimes overwhelming! I could never list everyone. But I will share some stray thoughts and a few memorable takeaways.

  • I spent a lot of time with current, former, or friends of Signaleers Johnny Splunk (@eve_scout), Zoe Schereau (@gabbyhon), Noizy Gamer, Markus Vulpine, Manic Velocity, Makoto Priano, Illustria Madeveda (aka scaredpanda on Twitch but we just call her Panda), and Mark726. It is impossible to overstate how wonderful each of these folks are and how pleasant it was to have such a like-minded core group of folks to x up with for meals, presentations, and more. Plus they helped me distribute the #freehugs swag. I love you all, my dears!
  • CCP Rise saved me from having to lug around all those dev gifts by taking me back the devs' staging room where I was able to leave them all on a table. Thank Bob. I felt a little bad that more devs were in attendance than were on the dev attendee list (including Rise). Hopefully they got some of the swag I left lying around if they wanted it.
  • My awesome Signal co-leader Johnny Splunk is an even more awesome friend. He gifted me with a 3D printed Astero model that is about 6" long. After a complicated process to get the 3D model just right, he then hand-painted it in that grunge pinkish mauve color I so love and covet on a SKIN for my real Asteros in-game (wrap your mind around that oxymoron, "real in-game"). The thought and care that went into this gift are astounding and so much appreciated. I am truly humbled and amazed to receive it and will treasure it forever. Thank you a million times, Johnny. 
  • Didn't get to spend as much time with Sugar Kyle as I wanted but a huge shout-out to her for her tireless CSM work...Sugar, you're amazing, admirable, and so funny in the way you express yourself, lady!  
  • The Mittani greeted me with enthusiasm and a giant hug when I introduced myself. This was quite unexpected and delightful. We had the opportunity for a brief but pleasant chat later in the weekend and he gave me an Imperium shot glass. Yay, swag! Now for what will no doubt be an unpopular opinion in some quarters: The young man behind the character is quite personable and charismatic yet fiercely protective of his tribe. You can see why he's a powerful leader. Thing is, I'm usually somewhat in Mom Mode when interacting with players like him who are a couple of decades younger than me. This tends to put those interactions on a more human level. No surprise I found myself quite liking Alex and not really factoring his in-game persona into that. Another thing is that our in-game paths/objectives have little to no overlap. Being in EvE-Scout Enclave with our neutral stance toward everyone also means I don't  let politics color my interaction with others. Thus I come at just about every player with a a positive mindset. It is a pleasant position to take, especially when it comes to interacting with often-maligned groups like the Goons and controversial players. So, ymmv. I keep my own counsel. Let the Imperium/Signal Cartel tinfoiling begin, haha!
  • Speaking of Goons, I also met the gracious and charming Sion Kumitomo who kindly added a nifty Bee pin to my swag collection. 
  • Wow, was the swag flowing! Besides everything already mentioned, I received a lovely pink Neocom polo shirt from Protovarious, beautiful handmade earrings and TimTams from Kira Tsukimoto, a Total EVE t-shirt from Dirk MacGirk, and a BRAVE patch and pocket knife from Dunk Dinkle. Thanks so much, everyone!
  • Proto did not agree to sing the creepy stalker song that he hilariously shared on a prior episode of The Neocom. Much disappoint. :P I'll have to work on his resolve at the next meetup we both attend. Proto, it was an honor to meet you and the adorable Kira Tsukimoto...you guys are both delightful!
  • Greygal is a classy lady in-game and out! Was a treat to finally meet the woman who so intimidated me back in the day when she FC'd the Agony Unleashed PvP Basics class I took. 
  • The Chateau party was really fun but protip: When you see a dude with a pretty blue drink and the bartender identifies it as "a lot of liquor", only have one. Really--especially after two glasses of wine. I had two and thus made it back to my room only due to excellent scouting by Markus Vulpine and Manic Velocity. Thanks, you guys!
  • Matterall (EN24) and Lanctharus (Cap Stable podcast) are super guys, fun to talk with, and have fascinating stories to tell about their EVE experiences and focus. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with both of them. Would've loved more time to talk with them...there's always next year.
  • Was great so see my old friend and CEO Alekseyev Karrde who gave a fantastic talk on EVE corp startup success.
  • CCP folks did an excellent job organizing and presenting...a special shout-out to all of them for being so engaged and present with players in addition to working and partying hard the whole weekend. The weekend had to be extra exhausting for them yet they were friendly and accommodating the entire time. Devs, you guys are awesome. Special shout-out to CCP Falcon, who I was so happy to meet after all these years since we flew together! 
  • The presentations by CCP were inspiring and suggest so much good stuff to come. With all the positive stuff that has happened in game in the last 5 years, my confidence that they will deliver...and deliver well...is so high. Citadels are going to be a very interesting addition to the spacescape of New Eden and I won't lie: we in Signal are quite keen to have one of our own! They won't be anchorable in Thera (I'm fine with that; let Thera be different) so we'll have to figure out where and why we'd have one. Potential lore and PvE developments sound very exciting too...I won't rehash them here...go watch the videos on YouTube.
  • It was a pleasure to variously meet, chat, and/or dine with Debes Sparre, Jayne Fillon, Onslaughtor, Druur Monakh, Dirk MacGirk, Erika Mizune, Random McNally, Mangala Solaris (who drinks beer for breakfast, WTF!), Lost in EVE, Phyridean, Ashterothi, Mike Azariah, Wilhelm Arcturis and his lovely wife, my old friend Sard Caid, Chance Ravinne, and Xenuria. There were countless others my poor brain was too overwhelmed to recall as I wrote this post.
  • I wanted to play a poker tournament or two but the schedule was so packed that I never managed to fit it in. Lesson learned...next year, I will go a day early so I can devote some quality time to playing. I didn't do any casino gambling either but that's because it just doesn't appeal to me.
  • Johnny Splunk, his lovely wife, and I attended the Cirque du Soleil show "KA" on Sunday evening. A fantastic experience...the sets, the costumes, the music, the story...all amazing. Cirque is not to be missed if you can swing the cost of the tickets.

I have managed to write a considerable wall of text already and yet it feels like there is so much else to share. But I'll end this here. Yes, I am a CCP fangirl. Yes, I pretty much like everyone and love being social. Yes, EVE Vegas was awesome. Bottom line: if you can find a way to attend in 2016, make it happen. You'll never regret it. It is an amazing, uplifting experience. I aim to be there to throw more "snowballs" at people so plan to join the fun and let's have a drink together!

Oct 16, 2015

Musings on Skill Trading

When CCP's dev blog coasting the idea of players being able to sell/buy skills came out yesterday, I had an instantly negative reaction. I found it difficult to express why. The rationale given in my EVE O reply that it would undermine the investment we feel in our characters and cause mindless character churning and a change in the connection we feel to our own and other characters feels logically weak even if--for me--it is emotionally on-target. Sugar Kyle's blog post yesterday and the subsequent comments express better than I myself can some of what's bothering me about it.

After thinking about the matter all evening and this morning, I realized that a big factor in my negative reaction is the fact that the second half of my CSM5 term (2010) was relentlessly focused on micro-transactions and their impending appearance in the planned Incarna release. We spent a 3-day emergency summit in October that year in frustratingly unresolved discussion with CCP on the matter and the frustrations continued through the end of our term. To say that that experience left a bad taste in my mouth for the New Eden Store is a understatement; I think I've looked at the store twice, spent the free Aurum that was given out on ship skins, and continue to have little interest in the overpriced goods there or the Aurum economy.

A grungy pale pink Astero skin is literally the ONLY thing that would ever entice me to buy Aurum.

But...looking at the proposed change after putting the CSM5 factor aside (which takes remarkable effort), my thought is that yes, it will probably encourage new players who buy SP to stick with the game longer for two reasons: they can do more sooner and will have a bigger financial investment in the game earlier than is currently practical. Both of those are key factors in subscription longevity. In the current marketplace, anything that encourages a player to stay longer is probably a good thing for EVE Online. We do, after all, want our beloved game to persist for another dozen years, right?

Will this change have a negative impact on the big stories of the game, the rise of personalities who become space famous, or the tendency of players to develop their main characters lovingly? Heck if I know. But you know what? It won't affect MY game or how connected I feel to my character. I play a social game focused on exploration and culture building with slight overtones of roleplaying.

So go ahead...let new players buy SPs all day long to shortcut their way to being able to undock in ships they don't know how to fly well. Let them explode and buy PLEX to sell for ISK to replace those ships. Let the plex cartels and the deep-pocketed alliances fund SP packets and SRP for their newbros to field more robust fleets. These things won't affect me in any negative manner. I can even see value in using SP packets as rewards for corp members, e.g., those who do do significant work to benefit their corp/alliance. (EDITED TO ADD: SP packets would no doubt be used by corps/alliances to entice new members join and become as common as SRP ... and yes, alt farming to support that would likely happen.) Meanwhile, CCP could see a welcome positive impact on their bottom line and that can only be a good thing for EVE Online and its sister products in light of looming competition for players' attention and wallets.

Meanwhile, I'm determined to maintain my preferred laissez-faire attitude about EVE Online. I am happy to take the game casually, adapting to the environment as it evolves, with blinkered rose-colored spectacles firmly in place. That allows me to remain positive about EVE Online and not succumb to bittervet syndrome again. It's a lot more enjoyable to feel upbeat and to interact with the devs and the community on that basis. The tedious whine of the "Eve is dying" crowd adds nothing useful to my game experience anyway and upon reflection, is most certainly overblown with regard to selling and buying SP that has already been trained on one character or another.

For an opposing viewpoint, check out luobote kong's initial blog post and a follow-up on the subject.