As Wilhelm mentioned, over on Syncaine’s blog, I can be a bit particular about building. Back in Minecraft on Wilhelm’s survival server, Ula and I, got a bit obsessed with constructing a facsimile of a portion of Renaissance-era Firenze or something like it– Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi galleries (filled with art), Ponte Vecchio (with Vasari Corridor and shops) and the cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori. A walled city we turned into a village complete with villagers, shops around the plaza, the whole bit.
What really set the hook with that effort was having a big goal/idea with an extensible theme that spun off countless smaller intermediate goals all connected by a theme. Italian renaissance castle was the big idea, which spawned the town idea which spawned the need for new materials, technologies and building techniques. Once set in motion, there was always something else to be done in pursuit of realizing the fuzzy vision.
So what kind of a game will make someone who hasn’t posted in seven+ years to revive their blog? Not Minecraft although Wilhelm, myself and others must have spent thousands(?) of wonderful hours there. Not even World of Warcraft Classic which we’ve been enjoying immensely since its launch 18 months ago. While I’ve enjoyed those immensely, I just didn’t feel I had much to say about those experiences.
Valheim is different though. It had all the hallmarks of something not worth seriously considering– a survival game that was a Steam early access title and charging money to boot. Ha! Ula convinced us all to give it a go and the rest is history as Wilhelm has dutifully chronicled being the Venerable Bede of our virtual adventures…
Its been a long time since I really got that “five more minutes” feeling and then slinked off to bed after midnight on a work night. Not posting in seven years also means I’m even less likely to miss my bedtime. So what seems to be working with Valheim? Exploration? Check. Progression? Check. Base building? Check. Skill-based progression? Check. Co-op multiplayer (but not massively)? Check. Private hosted server? Check. Beautiful environment? Check. I’m sure COVID fatigue is certainly playing a role in fueling my escapist enthusiasm, but its not the only thing. It seems I’m not alone in getting sucked in.
If you asked me how I’d improve Minecraft to suit my play style, I think I’d end up designing something very much like Valheim. So much so, it feels like someone has been eavesdropping on my brain.
One of the challenges our small group has always been the varied amounts of time that we all have to play a given game. Progression mechanics tend not to be very forgiving for someone with limited play time. No one likes to feel like they are “behind” or alternatively that they are being held back by the slowest member of the team. Our little group made the conscious decision to carefully limit our progression during our times in WoW over the last fifteen years, as painful as that can be, in order to keep us all at the same level so we can experience challenging and level-appropriate content as a group.
Minecraft certainly allowed players with different time budgets to play together and collaborate, but it was always more about building than true progression. Combat, for me at least, was never compelling and more of an environmental risk than playstyle.
In Valheim, there just doesn’t seem to be a right and a wrong way to approach combat. There are situational choices that are favored– I’m not looking to attempt backstabbing trolls yet– but by and large, there are interesting choices to be made and those can simply be based on one’s taste. Positioning and reacting (blocking and dodging) can matter but its not so twitchy that my age addled reflexes are overwhelmed. Rumor has it that content difficulty is scaled to adapt to how many players are involved. I have no data on that, but if that is true, that may be the killer feature of the game. So far, I can thoroughly enjoy/challenge myself as a solo or with several friends on the same content regardless of relative skill level. Whether this remains the case over the long haul, we shall see, but for now. All is well in Valheim.
After our successful run to our forward base in Curse, I finally had at least one doctrine combat ship, a Harpy, and my Viator blockade runner, in theater. Owing to time zone issues (US West Coast), I’ve successfully missed all of the various coalition and alliance convoys headed to the combat zone. So my plan was to forward deploy a pile of doctrine ships in a nearby high sec system and shuttle them into Curse in my Viator under the cloak of, well cloak.
Retracing our circuitous route through the Great Wildlands, all was going well after a few close brushes at the gates near Goon and TNT operations in Curse. Once off the beaten track, I was often the only person in a system. The track through the Great Wildlands consisted almost entirely of systems without stations, so visitors are few and fleeting.
Of course, I was feeling pretty good and well along the way when I entered what I now know is the gate system from null to low sec. Had I done a bit more homework, I would have know that. It also would have perhaps impressed upon me what is obvious to vets, but less obvious to null sec noobs like me: you’ll find bubbles and camps on the null sec side of these gates as bubbles aren’t permitted in low sec.
Such was my state of mind after about 10 null sec systems where I was the only person in system when I jumped into the gate system and saw reds in local but none on grid. Again, had I done my homework, I would have realized that of the three gates in the system, they were most likely to be camping the gate to low sec, but who does their homework these days…
Having just missed the Great 6VDT-H Battle in Fountain being only able to reach the rear area and not actually, well, shooting anything, I was looking forward to being able to contribute a bit more in the Delve Campaign. And to some extent I have been able to in my own limited way.
However, most of the ops have been either local defense fleets batting away generally bothersome local gangs or siege fleet ops. The siege fleets are built around stealth bombers and some support ships. After arriving in Delve, I found myself wanting in the skills needed for the bombers. In a turn of classic Eve irony, my second account pilot is fully stealth bomber capable and he’s safe and sound in high sec in non-allied corporation… So if I wanted to siege and serve as something other than the ammo truck, I’d have some skilling to do.
For the defense fleets, I was also sorely lacking in the skills needed for doctrine ships too other than the odd tackler or occasional logistics ship. To get the skills needed for most of the ships here would take some skilling up too.
Between the two, I was closer to a stealth bomber than an assault frigate, so that’s the road I chose. A scant 9 or 10 days of training and I’d be there. Of course, I just managed to complete the longest skill (Caldari Frigate V) of that needed group tonight. That left just a few level I skills in other areas and I’d be minimally functional in a stealth bomber. After seeing Wilhelm’s latest sovereignty map and assuming that Eve will throw me another curve, I’ll likely just strap into my new stealth bomber and undock just about the time the Delve Campaign is over… Such is Eve.
so in order to complete my training, I had to buy and train some new skills since it was impossible to acquire them in high sec and “inject them” before I had completed the prerequisites. And with clone jumping around in null sec, I couldn’t “carry” them with me until needed without clone jumping to a location where they were and then waiting another 24 hours before I could jump back to the action.
So for the skills, a trip to high sec was in order. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a jump clone in high sec before I joined a CFC corp. And even if I did, I’d still only be able to manage one jump in 24 hours anyway. Of course, in Eve, where there is a will, there is generally a way. In my case, the pod express.
Having a jump clone at my null sec base of operations, I was able to set my medical clone for a station in high sec (conveniently the School of Applied Knowledge station in Parra, a scant 2 jumps from Jita), undock and self destruct. Poof, telemort to high sec.
Once I’m done shopping, I can jump back to my jump clone in null sec which will conveniently leave a clone in high sec. Voila!
While there, I made sure I took the time to make sure I would be able to acquire and inject any and all needed skills before I departed to avoid the inevitable Eve O Shit moment when you realize you still need that one additional skill to operate that ship/module/dingus which was the entire point of your plan to begin with.
And with Eve there is ALWAYS another skill needed. Torpedoes are a perfect example. There is a skill for the torpedo launcher (only Missile Launcher Operation Level I required), while the actual torpedoes requires training Missile Launcher Operation through Level IV, Light Missiles through Level III, Heavy Missiles through Level IV and finally, Torpedoes Level I…
And of course, with Eve’s infamous UI, getting at all that information can, well, clutter the screen a bit, hence the screen shot at the top. That’s how I Eve… in about 1 square inch of actual space. And that’s only one of two monitors I use…
After this last weekend’s ill fated jump into “nonbat” in 1DH, I was feeling a bit frustrated. I never seemed to have a ship that I could fly that was needed for the ops being conducted in 1DH and more importantly, with no extensive logistical support established yet, few options were available locally. Difficult to even find a simple tackler.
So rather than cursing the darkness, I lit a candle.
Seeing the dearth of tackle frigates available in 1DH, yet hulls and components somewhat available nearby, if a bit dangerous to acquire, I decided to go into the rifter business in1DH.
My first plan, “The Operation,” whereupon I would grab an industrial ship, collect the bits, build the ships, and sell them in the time honored tradition of war profiteering. The Operation was a failure (Iteron V + hope in a “neutral station” in a hostile system = nope).
My second plan, “The Other Operation,” whereupon I grabbed an even cheaper industrial ship, stuck a cloak on it and went to ostensibly less hostile systems to collect parts was also a failure (gate camp 1, Badger 0).
Finally, I came upon my third plan, “The Other Other Operation,” whereupon I would retrieve my Viator blockade runner from many many jumps away and use its ability to move quickly and warp while cloaked to avoid the pitfalls of the previous Operations.
This for me was the turning point. The Other Other Operation was a success. The main problem was hauling capacity. The Viator is great for everything except volume… Rifter hulls are 2500m3 per, and the slippery blockade runner fitted for evasion has only about 4000m3 IIRC.
One rifter per run…
Even with a source of hulls close to 1DH, thats undock, insta, gate check, jump, station check, dock, load, undock, insta, gate check, jump, station check, dock, unload…
Nonetheless to prove the market, I did that for 10 rifters, fitted them up Sunday night and listed the contracts in 1DH. I logged in Monday am to 800 people in local and TiDi in 1DH. Sales were brisk and I was sold out quickly. As I suspected, I couldn’t make them quickly enough.
That led me to my next plan, “The Other Other Other Operation” or 4xO for short, whereupon I use the Viator for everything but the hulls. For the hulls I would use a more traditional cheap low/null sec fitted poor man’s blockade runner– a combination of a T1 industrial ship, a few cargohold expanders, and enough power grid modules to permit it to run a 10MN microwarp drive and the Tech II, Improved Cloaking Device II.
All hail, my Mammoth (aka the SS Pod Coffin). With T1 cargohold expanders (what was available), I get about 9000m3. If I could get T2 versions, I could get to 10km3. So as is, I can haul 3 hulls per run and I’ll only use the mammoth to haul hulls when needed.
Things tend to cool off later in the evening Pacific time, so its reasonably safe if one is careful and religiously uses the improved cloak-mwd trick.
I had one narrow scrape which I survived (a first!) and taught me a few things:
Don’t update the intel channel until you are truly safe. A gate cloak doesn’t qualify as safe.
“ddddddddd” or “sssssss” in chat will not cause you to warp no matter how much you mean it…
Turn on your tank before you hit the gate/station, etc.
In this ship, always always always use the cloak-mwd trick. Gate cloak, align/cloak/mwd, then when max speed is reduced because of the cloak but before your speed falls off once the mwd shuts down, decloak and insta warp. You’re visible when you start to align, but quickly disappear. you’ll likely finish aligning under cloak and mwd, then you’re visible momentarily when you decloak/warp. I use two hands. I’m old.
So my scrape involved a Hawk on the 1DH side of a gate. I was warping to 0 (dangerous and impatient, a violation of the Three Ps of Eve…). I saw him and jumped through.
He didn’t follow or so I thought, so I was being the nice guy and quickly updating the intel channel when he showed up on the my side of the gate.
Of course I had wasted most of my gate cloak timer, didn’t have my resistance mods turned on, was not aligned, etc., I panicked a bit, and while uncloaked started to align, he instalocked me and closed so fast I couldn’t cloak.
Just as the ship finished aligning, I hit the mwd, finally turned on the resists just in time as as two volleys slammed into me and took out 75% of my shields. That was when I realized i was typing “dddddd” in the chat window… Fortunately, I clicked on my destination in the overview, hit d again and off I went to the station where I docked safe and sound. From local, I knew we were the only two in the system so the station was safe.
Reviewing my earlier lessons (Patience and Prudence), I decided to do a few chores before bed and wait him out. Sure enough, I came back about 15 minutes later and he had logged and there were no reds/neuts in the system. I picked up my hulls and off I went back to 1DH safe and sound.
Preparation dictates that if I’m going to use this ship with any regularity in these neighboring systems, I would be well served to do the leg work to set up instas and safes and gate tacticals. In the Viator, its easy to be lazy.
Now I just need to find some more difficult to locate components nearby at a reasonable price at a station that I can dock and undock from with some acceptable degree of risk… I’m not likely to get space rich, but the risk premium on each ship does make it worthwhile, and if I’m careful it could be quite lucrative until logistics catches up with the Delve campaign. So if I can make a little dough AND help the war effort while I’m at it, so much the better.
And its a great opportunity to spend some time learning all the necessary survival skills in null sec without jeopardizing the success of fleet mates during an op. If I screw up, I really only have myself to blame.
Of course, with a scout on an off night, I could stockpile materiel in 1DH if I can convince Wilhelm to come out and play on a work night…