Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Where have all the great Eve writers gone?

EVE online used to inspire the best writing about games. The sandbox universe of New Eden gave rise to a million stories and the uncompromising ruthlessness of the game ensured that many of those stories were worth reading. Epic stories like the Guiding Hand Social Club's meticulous evsiceration of Ubiqua Seraph  caught the attention of main stream media but I have always enjoyed more mundane stories of the day to day experiences of capsuleers: tales of piracy and revenge, tales of exploration and discovery, tales of incompetence and mastery. I myself was never more than a very casual EVE player and yet it inspired some of my own favourite writing

Where have all these great EVE blogs gone? Some stalwarths like Wilhelm over at the Ancient Gaming Noob  still write regularly about the game but these are stories of participating in mega alliances and huge wars. This seems to have become a feature of EVE writing lately. The politics of mega alliances dominates everything and gripping tales of the achievements and failures of individual capsuleers don't feature. If you want plenty of examples of the worst of EVE writing head over to Reddit's r/eve. There is a mega-war on in EVE at the moment and this reddit sub is filled with partisan tales and boasting that is unreadable for an outsider.

The last Eve blog that really gripped me was Doyce Testerman's series about "Life in Wormhole" . Wormholes are the most remote and most uncontrollable environments in EVE so back in 2012 when Doyce was wormholing there was still plenty of room for stirring tales of individual exploits.

Why aren't there still great EVE blogs about individual capsuleers? I can think of a a few possible reasons but I am not sure which if any of them are the real reason:

1. It is possibe the game has been running so long that there are no new stories to tell.
2. It is possible that the decline of EVE blogging is just a reflection of the decline of game blogging generally.
3. It is possible that EVE has changed from being a game of individual efforts and small groups to a game of mega-alliances and power blocs. The efforts of individuals are no longer relevant and no longer worth writing about.

of course there is also a more hopeful possibiliy:

4. It is possible that there are still players out there writing great indivudal stories that I haven't found yet. Please let this be the case and if you know of such writing then please direct me to it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Very brief thoughts on finishing "The Last of Us" (PS3)

I actually bought a second hand PS3 in order to play this highly acclaimed game. 

I love the strong characters. I loved the atmospheric music and settings. I loved the attention to detail in the rendering of a post apocalyptic world. 

I loved the fact that  the game had such a strong story line. I am still trying to figure out whether or nor I actually enjoyed the story but that doesn't take from the fact that I know it is an exceptionally well done story. 

I have more mixed feelings about the game-play. Shooting was awkward although it did get easier towards the end when I had a better selection of weapons and was more used to it. Melee combat is actually easier than shooting and more effective but melee weapons break after a few hits which severely limits the usefulness of melee. The stealth abilities in the game are really superb but there are many section s where you still have to kill all the enemies even if you use stealth. My biggest gripe with the gameplay though is there is just too much of it. Too many enemies to kill and too much loot to scavenge for and collect.

Despite my mixed feelings about aspects of the game play the game is superbly crafted. Even the things I have misgivings about are there for a purpose. Combat is awkward so you dread fights and hate it when enemies arrive and try to hide if at all possible. Having to constantly scavenge for loot forces you to explore the incredible environments. Even the relentless killing you have to do is actually integral to the plot.  

Friday, April 08, 2016

Virtual reality scares me.

Perhaps that is not surprising but you might be surprised to know why it scares me.

I have dreamed about virtual reality and virtual worlds since I was a kid back in the 1970s. The distopian fiction of William Gibson didn't put me off virtual worlds  instead it opened my eyes to the incredible possibilities. Virtual reality would offer humans a chance to escape from physical limitaions and the fictional representations of virutal reality in books, TV and movies whetted my appetite for it. During my formative years in the 1970's and 80's the hardware available could barely host crudely pixelated 2D environments and yet they fed the spark of my enthusiasm. When three dimiensional game worlds became possible with 1990's hardware I got further sucked in and PC gaming became my main hobby. The advent of online multiplayer worlds in the noughties was further proof that this was really going to happen. At the time I thought  / hoped that the mmorpgs might develop over time to be more than just games and instead become fully immersive virtual alternatives to the real world. This didn't happen. The public voted with their wallets for mmorpgs that focussed on being a games rather than being worlds and then most of the public lost interest in the mmorpg genre altogether.

Even though gaming hasn't yet proved to be the path to full virtual reality it has been a driving force behind the development of technology that would underpin full virtual worlds and this development has progressed ever onwards. The release of 3D virtual reality headsets such as the Occulus Rift and HTC Vive this year is an major step. Of course these early products are somewhat crude with high prices, rough edges and somewhat impractical space and supporting hardware demands but they have caught the public imagination. There is a definite feeling out there that virtual reality is going to be the "Next Big Thing". I think it is particularly significant thet many people are looking at applications beyond gaming for virtual reality: in business, education and other fields. If the public show a demand for applications or virtual reality then the march of technology will bring down the price and increase the usability of virtual reality infrastructure.

It may be another false dawn but it may also be the start of virtual reality becoming actual reality. I am excited about this but I am also scared. I am scared because if virtual reality takes off it is likely to render the 2 dimensional gaming that I have spend so much time indulging in obsolete and irrelevant. I am scared because I am not sure that I myself am going to be able to make the transition to fully immersive VR. Despite longstanding enthusaism for virtual reality I have no desire to don a headset and jump around a room while immersed in a 3 D simulation. Pehaps I am too old. Perhaps I am too set in my ways.