Trying out Co-Op PvE in EVE Online

Last month EVE’s Onslaught update – one might call it a mini-expansion – went live and brought a couple new features with it. The one most interesting to Lakisa and myself is the addition of Abyssal PvE sites designed for up to three pilots working together.

Before this there really wasn’t any type of PvE that worked well for duos or small groups. Sure, technically you can run sites or missions together, but why share the spoils when you can solo everything easily as long as you bring the right ship and setup? For example, my mission running alt handles every level 4 mission currently in the game with ease, and while bringing along another player would speed things up a bit it wouldn’t cut the time in half, so it’s more effective if both players do their own missions by themselves. We’d like to do stuff together though. Also, mission running is boring, no matter if you do it alone or in a group.

So how do Abyssal sites work? You basically open a portal anywhere in space which can be entered by up to three frigate sized ships. This teleports you and your friends into an instance not accessible by other players. Each site consists of three pockets that have to be cleared of all NPCs before you can proceed, and some loot containers. After 20 minutes the whole site collapses, and any ship still inside is destroyed along with its pilot’s pod.

Considering the risk I cooked up some cheap Tech I frig fits for starters, two of which should be able to run tier 1 sites successfully going by early reports. Not wanting to go in completely unprepared I also looked up a bit of info on EVE University’s Wiki on the matter, then off we went.

exefile 2018-11-25 18-30-34-848
My Kestrel heading into the fray

The very first thing you notice is how much more is going on visually than anywhere else in New Eden. It’s quite beautiful. You don’t have much time to marvel at the sights though, because the NPCs are all over you in an instant and the clock’s ticking.

Turns out tier 1 sites really aren’t all that hard, and we didn’t have much problems disposing of the enemies while zipping from one loot cache to the next.

exefile 2018-11-28 22-27-37-621
Passing by a destroyed cache, picking up the goods

There’s not just enemy ships though. Nebulae give penalties to various ship systems if you fly through them, and automated towers have similar effects. There’s even one that attacks drones and missiles when in range.

exefile 2018-11-28 23-20-54-658
Defense tower all guns blazing

All of this doesn’t only affect players, the NPCs also get every bonus and penalty, so you can actually use it to your advantage.

Even with the info we had going in we still needed to learn some things on our own. For instance, Lakisa used a Tristan at first, but her drones missed their targets very often. A bit of research revealed that the penalty “Dark” sites apply to turret optimal range and falloff not only applies to player and NPC ships, but also to drones. So she uses a Kestrel too now when we run Dark sites.

Once all NPCs in a pocket are killed the gate is unlocked and you can proceed to the next, or, if you’re in the third pocket already, back to the spot in normal space where you started.

exefile 2018-12-02 17-19-26-233
Unlocked gate waiting for us to jump through, with another defense tower next to it

You have to be aware that the entrance/exit is visible on D-scan in normal space and can be scanned down by combat probes, so other players could be waiting for you and your loot. In high sec chances for that happening are slim, if you run the sites in low or null sec though – which we have to because high sec’s NPC police doesn’t like us – you should choose your point of entry wisely.

So what’s the early verdict then?

The first couple of sites we ran were tremendously thrilling and fun. No surprise really; it’s new, it’s shiny, it’s quite a bit more unpredictable than other types of PvE, and you’re racing against time. Once you get used to it the effect starts to wear off, unsurpsisingly. Still, it’s much more engaging and exciting than the alternatives. And we’ve just scratched the surface. We’ll take a shot at tier 2 sites soon and work our way from there.

It’s not the Holy Grail of PvE by any stretch of the imagination, but in my opinion that’s not what you play EVE for anyway. For us it’s a way to play together while there’s no PvP going on and earn some ISK in the process, and it’s doing that job pretty well.

Advertisements

Memorable Moments – Chapter Three

Most people are pretty averse to suffering significant penalties for dying in the games they play. While you always see folks demanding games to become challenging and ‘hardcore’ again in forums and on reddit, whenever such a game comes along next to nobody actually wants to play it.

All things considered I’m definitely no advocate for full looting or permadeath myself, but there’s no denying that a higher risk provides for much more excitement and a greater feeling of accomplishment if you succeed.

Which brings me to a tremendously thrilling rescue mission I undertook more than 20 years ago that I still remember very vividly and fondly.

It was somewhere between autumn ’97 and spring ’98. Two friends of mine and I were still playing a lot of Diablo. We’d regularly schlep our PCs (along with those bulky CRT monitors we had back then) to our computer club to play together.

Multiplayer characters in Diablo had one special ‘feature’, possibly to up the ante in PvP duels: when you died every single one of your equipped items would drop fountainlike to the ground, to be picked up by either yourself – provided you managed to fight your way back there without them – or by anyone else. While the irony of the heroes becoming a loot piñata for once wasn’t lost on us we were always a bit on edge due to this. Fortunately whenever one of us died the others were usually there to the rescue.

We had the game’s three classes divided between us. I played the Warrior, one guy the Rogue and my then best buddy the Sorcerer. The latter was by far the most powerful class for most encounters in the game, and he’d always talk shit to me (in jest) because I had to, you know, walk up to the monsters and actually hit them with my sword one by one like a barbarian, while he could set a whole room on fire with a flick of his fingers.

Diablo_Fire
He’s such a showoff!  [All screenshots found on Google]
There were two types of monsters though that the Sorcerer had a very hard time against: Blood Knights and Azure Drakes. Both melee mobs who, at the time, were completely immune to fire and lightning, the only two spell damage types in the game. His spells rendered useless the Sorcerer could pretty much do nothing but angrily wave his walking stick at them. Of course the Rogue and I were always happy when they appeared because those were our rare moments to shine.

One day in the late afternoon I was sitting at home doing whatever when my phone rang. It was the Sorcerer, and he said “Pack your stuff and get your ass down here, I’m in big trouble!”.

Turned out he had died to a bunch of Azure Drakes and tried, unsuccessfully, to get his stuff back on his own a couple of times. In doing so he had led the monsters closer and closer to the staircase leading down to that level. Now the whole gang sat right at those stairs and just waited to eat him alive should he try again.

Diablo_AzureDrake
A terrifying sight for sure

Of course my first reaction was the one you would expect from a good friend: I laughed and made fun of him. “The mighty Sorcerer has died? No way! Now you need, of all people, MY help?? Impossible!!”

Then I packed my stuff and got my ass down to the club. Meanwhile the Rogue had also arrived by coincidence, but decided after looking at the Sorcerer’s screen, where his most recent body was still being swarmed by those drakes, that this was indeed a job for the Warrior.

In theory my task was easy enough. Join his game, walk down those stairs and immediately start klicking as fast as I can while chugging health potions like crazy. Just one problem: had I failed and died both our full sets of gear would’ve been irreplaceably lost.

I hesitated. What tipped the scales was the Rogue agreeing to lend me a sword he’d found a while before, with the stat combo most coveted by every Warrior: a King’s Sword of Haste.

Diablo_KSoH
Just one power level shy of The Sword Of A Thousand Truths

With that beauty I shouldn’t have too much of a hard time killing those pesky drakes. Theoretically. Hopefully. Maybe.

I wish someone else had been there to take a photo of this: me sitting there, sweaty hands cramped around mouse and keyboard, the Sorcerer and Rogue standing to my left and right, anxiously staring at my screen. We remained like this for what felt like an eternity and must have looked like a still life.

Finally I gave myself a push and klicked on the stairs.

As expected I was swarmed the moment the level had finished loading, and I started swinging that sword like a madman. The first drake died, then the second, and another one. My health dipped every now and then, but potions in Diablo were instant and I never dropped to a critical level.

After what must have been less than a minute it was all over. The drakes were dead and the way to the Sorcerer’s precious items clear. We let go a huge collective sigh of relief. He picked up his gear, I gave back the sword and we decided that we’d had enough excitement for one day. If I remember correctly we celebrated by getting ourselves a nice, unhealthy meal at our favourite greek fast food place and headed home pretty soon afterwards.

Like I said in the beginning, I don’t really miss the danger of losing all my stuff in today’s games, but I do miss these kinds of great adventures that would’ve never occurred without such mechanics. Quite a dilemma, isn’t it?

IntPiPoMo – Marvelous mounts

Mounts are a staple feature of the MMO genre, almost on par with levels or quests. Most of the time their main purpose is to carry you around, letting you reach your destination faster. Some have additional abilities like gliding, flying, having their own inventory or being able to carry two players at once. Then there are those really hard to get ones, which above all else serve as a status symbol once you have them.

Whatever the case, they are our pride and joy, are they not?

Many have accompanied me over the years, and here are some of my favourites.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts3
Sunset over Antonica

This is my first Everquest II mount. You didn’t get one for free or as a quest reward back then (as far as I know), and it had taken me quite a while to accumulate the status points needed. As a result I was very happy with it and rode it for a pretty long time, all the way until leapers and flyers were introduced.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts8
Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Speaking of leapers, I’ve never had so much fun with another mount in any game than I had and still have with these. At the time they let me see all those old zones with new eyes because they jump really fricking high (and I couldn’t use flyers yet), but it’s also pure joy mechanically. Barely making the jump over a wide ravine or landing at the exact spot I aim at feels great and obviously isn’t half as fun with a flying mount.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts2
Doesn’t look like it, but I swear I’m moving fast

Star Wars Galaxies had no mounts at release, but pretty large planets. My characters must’ve worn out quite a lot of boots during the first months. I didn’t mind too much because the large distances added to the game’s adventurous, sandboxy feel, but it’s safe to say that pretty much everybody cheered a lot when mounts were finally added. Or…not. The first mounts were rideable beasts and just barely faster than running, so most of us were quite underwhelmed. A while later the mounts everyone was waiting for finally came: gliders and speeder bikes. The perceived size of the game world shrank a good bit due to that, but I don’t think anyone would’ve seriously wanted to go back.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts11
These are the suns you’re looking for

While we’re in the Star Wars universe, here I’m zipping around Tatooine on my collector’s edition mount in SWTOR. I liked this game’s version of the planet very much, I think it has just the right feel to it. Plus, the side quests for the Jawas are hilarious. But I digress. The mount wasn’t anything special, but at least I had one to use right away.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts1
Light cycle ready, where’s the arena?

This is my all time favourite SWTOR mount. I didn’t like doing dailies in that game much, but I ground the Gree event diligently until I had reached the needed reputation rank for this because it just looks awesome and fits my Jedi Guardian’s look perfectly.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts7
Why yes, it’s very comfy

Final Fantasy XIV has a great many cool mounts, this being one of my most used flyers. It always reminds me of the Goblin beast tribe quests that reward this, which I liked doing because they are just hilarious.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts10
I can’t think of anything to say that would make this any more ridiculous

Lakisa and I had just finished the Moogle beast tribe quests, so naturally we took off on our brand new dandelion mounts and spread the love…err…pollen.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts14
Trick or treat

This last one from FFXIV could be earned while doing the Halloween quests a couple years back. I didn’t use it very long though; an over seven feet tall Au Ra looks a bit weird on it after all…

IntPiPoMo_Mounts12
I don’t need no helmet, officer, I’m immortal. No, really!

The Secret World didn’t have mounts for a long time, and technically it didn’t need any because you could unlock several substantial boosts to your running speed. With those you made Usain Bolt look very old.

But, again, players like mounts, so they were finally added. This motorbike was the first, unlockable by doing a quest. It wasn’t any faster than the normal speed boosts and had pretty clunky animations for turning and such, but it was a nice touch nonetheless.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts6
Yet another TRON reference. I’m not complaining though.

Zipping around Tokyo on my…shoes?

IntPiPoMo_Mounts9
Yes, there actually is more than one horse in this post

This is my trusty steed in Black Desert Online. It’s fast and reliable, but man, it eats me out of house and home. So. Many. Carrots.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts13
Is there a horse under all this…stuff?

No. No there’s not. It’s dead, Jim. Well, at least it doesn’t need any carrots. Which is a good thing because I haven’t seen a single carrot anywhere in TERA.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts4
Death from above

Not only are the gliders in ArcheAge very fun to ride, they’re also instruments to be used to your tactical advantage in PvP. Here we’re coming down hard on the enemy faction’s Grimghast raid.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts5
Who says this isn’t a mount? I’m riding on it, am I not?

Another one from ArcheAge. Our guild did a huge cooperative trade run across the sea for a hefty profit. Until we reached the shore we used farm carts to speed up the journey. Now, I could’ve stored my tradepack into the cart and rode on my horse, but why? Sitting in the front seat (actually that’s the hose for watering your fields, but bear with me here) was much more relaxing and less bumpy than riding on horseback.

What’s your favourite mount?

IntPiPoMo picture count: 14 (this post); 50 (total)

IntPiPoMo – Bugs, glitches and other funnies

If you’ve played video games, especially MMOs, for any lenght of time you’ve probably encountered your fair share of things that didn’t work as intended. Getting stuck, falling through the world, physics going crazy, wrong or missing translation, what have you.

Sometimes it’s funny when stuff like that happens, but it can also be a bit annoying if it impedes your ability to, say, progress a quest or even continue to play at all.

Fortunately you don’t have to deal with such consequences if you just look at screenshots of those things happening to me. Yes, I went through all kinds of hardships so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

IntPiPoMo_ArcheAge1
1998 called, it wants its graphics back

This happened to me regularly when I played longer stretches of ArcheAge. I don’t know if it was due to my graphics memory overflowing or whatever, but it looked funny. It kind of felt as if the game had spontaneously transformed into a retro version of itself.

IntPiPoMo_ArcheAge2
So this is what pushing up daisies actually looks like

Another one from ArcheAge, this time the old ‘falling through the world’ classic. After I’d dropped through an invisible hole in the ground I was treated to this rather surrealist view. I had to swim quite a stretch to reach solid ground again, but at least I could do so under my own power and didn’t need to wait until a GM got me out of there.

IntPiPoMo_EQII1
Again…?

Different game, same drill. This time Everquest II didn’t want me to walk on firm ground anymore and had me literally sink into nothingness.

Over in Path of Exile I tried to complete a couple of league-specific challenges while playing its Incursion League. Whenever you manage to tick one off you get an on-screen notification informing you about it. One day though, I got this:

IntPiPoMo_PoE1
Yes. No! Maybe… I don’t know. Can you repeat the question?

In 2010 my EVE Online client occasionally produced the weirdest glitches. The first time it happened I was convinced that my graphics card had just imploded.

IntPiPoMo_EVE3
Proof that drugs and gaming don’t mix well after all

Whatever the problem was, it looked completely different every time. I can’t remember if I reinstalled the client or if a patch came out to fix it, but until then I was treated to some really strange sights.

IntPiPoMo_EVE2
Holy crap, that’s Matrix code! I knew it!!!

I don’t remember the exact circumstances leading to the next one, but after some kind of teleport or other scripted movement in one of SWTOR’s operations (raid zones) my character remained in this pose. I had to /stuck myself to get out of it. Until then my guildmates had their laughs at my expense of course.

IntPiPoMo_SWTOR2
Guys, lend me a hand, will ya? Guys???

Lastly I have two shots for you that technically don’t belong here because they don’t show a bug or something like that. I’m including them anyway because I think they’re just really funny.

Behold my Final Fantasy XIV Dire Wolf mount.

IntPiPoMo_FFXIV
If you can unhinge your jaw like that go see your orthodontist right away

I was taking screenshots of my surroundings while my guild assembled for a raid in Everquest II when our Necromancer’s pet suddenly decided to photobomb me without warning.

IntPiPoMo_EQII2
OH HI THERE!!

I don’t know about you, but unscripted, hilarious stuff like that is the main reason why I love playing video games.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 9 (this post); 36 (total)

92!

Not very long ago I talked about having reached level 91 in Path of Exile, a level I’d never thought I might achieve in that game. Well…

PoE_Lvl92

Unfortunately there was so much going on – as you can see – that I didn’t manage to press the screenshot button while the golden beam of light announcing my awesomeness was still…err…beaming.

Anyway, the build is still a lot of fun, and the XP bar still keeps on moving. Not quite finished yet…

IntPiPoMo picture count: 1 (this post); 27 (total)

IntPiPoMo – Horror edition

I like it when games are a little scary. Or more than a little. Hence I’ve played quite a lot of horror games during the years, among others most Resident Evil issues, Dead Space, The Evil Within, F.E.A.R., and of course my all time favourite, Silent Hill.

Most of those games ran on various older consoles though, so I don’t have any screenshots.

Fortunately there are many PC games that also have some ‘scary’ in them, and naturally I’ve always been drawn to those too.

As a die-hard MMO player I have to start off with The Secret World of course. In terms of conspiracies, fairytales and horror it’s the mother of all MMOs.

IntPiPoMo_TSW

One of the coolest, spookiest places in the game – which is saying something – is the haunted amusement park in The Savage Coast. Here I’m taking a ride on its roller coaster. Of course I expected something to happen, but it gave me the chills nonetheless, and I jumped in my seat when that apparition lunged at me just as I was about to pass her.

The next one is from a quest in Tokyo. Imagine you’re sent into a parking garage to investigate something. It’s dark, it’s gloomy, and something’s clearly not right. You walk down the ramp to the next level when suddenly what little light’s there goes out. It’s pitch black, but not for long. Before you can decide what to do next a blood red light turns on and you’re greeted by this:

IntPiPoMo_TSW4
I didn’t watch any videos, I swear! I don’t even own a VCS player anymore…

Then there’s the James Bond-esque mini expansion A Dream to Kill, which towards the end has you investigate a nursery. Evidently something’s gone horribly wrong here.

IntPiPoMo_TSW3
Yeah, I think I’d rather leave now…

One of my favourite games of all time is Vampire Bloodlines. Despite being a buggy mess and looking anything but fresh even when it came out in 2004 it’s so great that I still play through it every couple of years. I guess I have to talk about it in more detail some time. Until then you might enjoy Rakuno’s walkthrough series of the game, if you don’t mind spoilers that is.

Anyway, Bloodlines also has some seriously eerie sequences.

IntPiPoMo_BL1
That’s gotta be a haunted house if there ever was one

Actually the quest giver flat out tells you that a ghost is making trouble in that old hotel, and your mission is to put an end to that.

What you don’t know is who the ghost is and why it can’t find rest. During your investigation you find more and more clues about what happened. Apparently a family of four stayed at the hotel for it’s grand opening, and due to jealousy – and maybe also some otherworldly reason – the father’s mental state got worse and worse. He – spoiler – eventually killed his family and set the hotel on fire. I found this image drawn by one of the kids to be the most disturbing clue:

IntPiPoMo_BL2

In the end you can put a stop to the father’s haunting, and his wife’s ghost can finally rest in peace. At least there’s that.

Next up is Batman: Arkham Asylum. We have seen so many versions of Batman’s origin story by now that it’s gotten pretty stale. In this game though it’s done quite nifty (and short). During the course of the story Batman gets drugged by Scarecrow a couple of times. Sometimes it makes his worst fears become (perceived) reality, at one time it forces him to relive his parents’ death. Visually this is done exceptionally well, and the most emotional realization of the scene I’ve seen to date.

IntPiPoMo_BAA

Path of Exile makes you fight lots of big bads during the course of its storyline. Among the most sinister is Piety of Theopolis, the right hand of the game’s former end boss Dominus.

When you first enter her lair in Act III, The Lunaris Temple, the set pieces make it abundantly clear that she’s really, really evil.

IntPiPoMo_PoE2
Yep, definitely evil.

I played a bit of Left 4 Dead 2 with a couple of friends after it came out. It wasn’t really all that scary, but it sported pretty much the highest gore factor I’d seen up to that point to compensate.

IntPiPoMo_L4D2
Rochelle and the guys having yet another bad day at the office

To end the post on a lighter note, here’s a shot of some rather unthreatening ghosts you’re probably familiar with:

IntPiPoMo_MI
Yo ho ho and a bottle of…grog?

IntPiPoMo picture count: 9 (this post); 26 (total)

Quo vadis, Blizzard?

I initially didn’t want to talk about this, and now I’m way late to the party. I realized that I need to get it out of my system though, so here goes. There will be bits of strong language in this one.

Seriously Blizzard, what the fuck?

I’m of course talking about BlizzCon and Blizzard’s unfathomable decision to present Diablo Immortal, a title for mobile devices, during the first and thus main presentation on their ‘mythic stage’ – and absolutely nothing else Diablo related.

Seriously, this is what they expected their hardcore fans, who had spent a good amount of time and money to be there, to get really excited about. It didn’t quite pan out as they seem to have imagined.

Well, who could’ve known, right? It’s not like the vast majority of people attending BlizzCon are used to playing high quality games on PC and crave only one thing: more of that, just bigger and better.

The assembled Diablo fanbase basically wanted to see one of the following things (or, preferably, all of them):

Diablo IV on PC; new content for Diablo III; a high quality remaster of Diablo II on PC.

Had Blizzard announced at least one of those after their Immortal thing, this would’ve been a wholly different story. Personally I wouldn’t have cared much about the former two, as Path of Exile sates my needs for a modern ARPG well enough, but I’d devour a good DII remaster, that’s for sure.

DII
It’s astonishing how much nostalgia fits into 800×600 pixels

This isn’t the first time Blizzard comes across as tone-deaf, indifferent and even arrogant towards their playerbase though. As I’ve said before their attitude of ‘we know better what you want than you do’ has effectively kept me from playing WoW when I maybe would’ve at least tried it out at some point otherwise.

Until now this arrogance seemed to have been limited to the people in charge of WoW, at least to me, but right now it’s hard to shake off the feeling that Blizzard as a whole has gone full ‘Shut the fuck up and just buy our shit’-mode.

You see, Starcraft II didn’t fare any better. I bought all three of its collector’s editions at the time, and I’d kill for new story missions. Instead we get more co-op heroes which, of course, cost money but add nothing storywise.

SC2
One of many great ‘holy crap’ moments during the campaign’s missions

Overwatch seems to be the only franchise that’s still handled by people with a healthy portion of love for their own game, which is mostly to ‘Jeff from the Overwatch Team’s credit. Sure, not everything’s perfect over there either, but, again, I can at least feel some kind of connection between the makers, the game and the players here.

Its monetization though…no thanks. I unfortunately have to admit that I bought some of their lootboxes during the game’s first year, but I don’t intend to do so ever again.

Overwatch 2016-08-26 23-57-21-479
My favourite bad guy looks best sporting his default look anyway

For a long time I’ve been one of those people who said ‘Yeah, some of this is bad, but the game is fun, so I just play and ignore everything else’.

Not anymore. During the last couple of years things went from bad to worse in terms of customer friendliness, and I’ve finally decided to draw the line. From now on I’ll boycott the worst offenders.

Yes, I might miss out on some stuff, but you know what? There are other games to play – too many, in fact – and other products to use.

Blizzard and Apple are the first companies who won’t squeeze another buck out of my wallet as long as they don’t manage to genuinely convince me that they value me as a customer again. If enough people do this maybe, just maybe, things might change again.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 3 (this post); 17 (total)