2011-12-14

Life in a Wormhole: Agency #eveonline

Strange kind of a day.

There's a bit of a snafu when we get online, simply because a few of the things Gor expected to pick up in market simply aren't available yet. Still, he picks up a couple of blueprints for battlecruisers (both new and old), and brings them back home where we can start to put them to use.

Best part of running errands now? The new warp effects.


First, we need to set up a research lab to start optimizing the blueprint designs, which I'm able to do with only a few quite minor tweaks to the tower's power grid.

The few seconds that it now takes to anchor and online a tower module? So lovely. Dear CCP: Nice job, but I'd like four days of my life back -- the time I spent putting up and taking down towers in the past.

Once the blueprints are cooking, we do a bit more maintenance around the --

-- oh, who am I kidding? We spend at least an hour swapping in and out of all the ships that got new skins with the patch. So... pretty.

Once that critical work is complete, Gor logs and I have some time to admire our handiwork and take stock of the changes to our home system.

I've always been pretty happy with our tower set up, but the longer we work on the home system, the more I feel like we're making true, full use of all the resources at our disposal. At first, most of what we did was shooting sleepers and selling their stuff. It had its challenges (especially while we got used to the raised difficulty, as compared to Known Space), but eventually we got the hang of it. Since then, we've built a rorqual, which lets us take much better advantage of the mining opportunities in wormhole space (assuming we EVER SEE ANOTHER MINING SITE), and with the new labs in place (and ship, ammunition, and drone factories ready to go online), we're moving into some stuff we rarely took advantage of even out in known space. Exciting stuff.

Okay, perhaps not to everyone, but it's exciting to us -- it's neat to be able to envision something in our home system and then make it happen -- and it's nice that wormholes really throw a little bit of everything at you and let you make use of all aspects of a character. It really is a collection of all the good stuff EvE has to offer with very little of the stupid cruft. (I'm looking at you, Sovereignty Mechanics.)

While I explore warp randomly around the system to look at the pretty warp effects, I notice one of the other changes that came out with the patch, in the form of destructible Interbus-owned structures that now orbit around all nullsec planets (let's not ask how Interbus got ships into every corner of wormhole space). Em has already mentioned that the tax rates being levied by these structures are pretty painful to anyone who does major Planetary Interaction, and he's out in known space right now picking up the supplies we will need to put up our own orbital stations... once we blow up the NPC ones (which is about to become a priority project for the next few days). It's nearly a billion ISK investment, but it'll easily pay for itself.

It's just one more way in which we're making the system more our own -- more 'how we want it to be'.

I do a bit of scanning while my fellow system-mates take care of business. CB is heading out into known space to set up a couple jump clones (he's got proper shiny implants in his head now, and doesn't want to lose them on a random weekend roam), and Em is on the way back with parts for our new planetary offices and fuel block blueprints that we'll soon need for the tower -- once he gets them back in, Bre goes to work researching and optimizing, then heads out to our known space home base to pick up a container of blue prints she's been hoarding for months, muttering something about 'pretty shiny lab facilities'.

There's just a lot going on, and looking at it all is really interesting.

Both we and the Walrus guys have put up labs to start work on blueprints and production. Em and I are planning group activities in the form of blowing up those customs offices, and more than a few people are murmuring about a growing desire to shoot stuff, which I wholeheartedly support.

Then we've got Bre and CB out on their own projects, not to mention Gor starting up ship manufacturing again... and that's ignoring the fact that I'm using my time to do some more exploration -- never know when we'll find another abandoned wormhole that someone wants to buy, after all.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine (Lee) who plays a lot of MMOs. He tried EvE not long ago and didn't much care for it, and like another of my friends, wanted to understand the draw for me.

The best way I can describe it (thanks to a suggestion from another friend, who was talking about his daughter's love of Minecraft) is "agency".

People like to toss around terms for different kinds of MMOs -- labels like "sandbox" and "theme parks" -- and I suppose that's fine; I've done the same in the past, in non-judgmental ways. I enjoy both types quite a lot.

But that term. Agency.

Agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world.


I love spending time on Lord of the Rings Online. I'm sure I'm going to enjoy Star Wars the Old Republic.

But at the same time I know, going in, that I won't be able to affect those games very much. One of the things I love about Bioware games is the way your relationships with important NPCs are different, depending on the choices you've made with them -- it's powerful, it's interesting, and honestly it's really the only way in which your experience in the game is going to be much different from anyone else's experience in a game like Mass Effect (or, to be honest, SWTOR).

I can certainly affect the other people I play with (that's rather the point), but otherwise? No. I can't log into LotRO and set out to permanently reclaim Moria -- to make it what it once was, or something better. That's simply not an option, nor will it ever be an option. That's fine, though -- that's not the kind of game it's trying to be, and I already enjoy the game that it is.

Conversely, that sort of thing is exactly what EvE is about (and, to retain equilibrium, EvE is really rather terrible at the sorts of things LotRO is good at :)). That ability to make choices and impose (or at least try to impose) those choices on the world is what makes the game compelling to me; what makes it great, for a certain value of great.

Like most other things in EvE, wormholes are a pure distillation of that Good Thing. We have found our way into Moria through one of the many lost entrances, cleared one of the lesser halls, and set about rummaging through the old texts, dusting off lost relics, and killing any goblins (or other explorers) that get in our way. Hell, now we're mining (hopefully not too greedily or deep), and with any luck some wondrous items of our own will start flowing out into the rest of the world.

Someday, it may all come crashing down, thanks to a more powerful group of explorers, or some cataclysmic event, or simple neglect, but for now, it's ours -- we made it -- laid every stone and hammered every rivet, and there's nothing else I've experienced in an online game that's quite like it.

It's Not Easy

The thing with EvE (and again, via that distillation, Wormholes) is nothing much happens if you don't make it happen. If you don't scan, you won't have stuff to do. Nothing to mine. Nothing (or no one) to shoot. Hell, you can't even leave.

There's no agent ready to give you a mission with clear objectives. There's no amusement park with a map to all the rides where you can just sit and enjoy the spectacle.

There's sand. And some shovels. And some buckets. And some other kids. (Maybe, and what if there's not?) That's kind of it. You can make a castle, or you can sit on your ass and get a nasty sunburn. You can make ships or run out for blueprints or prep for carnage or mine or whatever you want... or spin the camera around you ship, renew your training queue, and bitch how there's never anything going on.

That's Agency: the fun is up to you.
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