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Petri Wessman's weblog

Minireview: The Burning Life, by Hjalti Danielsson

Good gaming fiction does exist. I’ve read books based on games which I can honestly call “good”, sometimes even “very good”. Unfortunately, Hjalti Danielsson’s EVE Online novel The Burning Life isn’t even remotely in the “good” category.

The story, such as it is, concerns two people: a young Blood Raider and a Gallente mission agent. The Blood Raider survives an attack on his home station by a capsuleer (i.e. an EVE player character) and swears to get revenge on all capsuleers. Meanwhile, an overstressed mission agent tries to keep herself going by resorting to drugs, and finally crashes hard. The Blood Raider goes on a tour of the universe (starting with the Sisters of Eve), while the mission agent goes on her own tour, along with her best friend, to search for some meaning in her life.

There are some brief nice spots here. The whole view of EVE player characters are marauding forces of nature, casually destroying everything in their path just because they are bored, is amusing. Likewise, the glimpses into the life of a mission agent, the isolated sections of a station where capsuleers reside, and internal life in some of the factions (Sisters, Guristas, etc) are somewhat interesting. The brief chapter set in an Amarr monastery is probably the best section in the book. Unfortunately, those are the only positive things I can say here. The writing is utilitarian but totally without any sort of flair, the characters are unbelievably two-dimensional, the dialogue is mostly juvenile, and the whole “plot” is more an excuse to do a whirlwind tour of as many game factions as possible. Nothing is given any depth, and you’re left mostly yawning at it all. Focusing on a (much) smaller scale and actually developing the characters beyond shallow caricatures would have served the author much better, here.

If you’re an avid EVE player and want to get some background color on the factions, you may want to give this a go. It’s a fast read, if nothing else. Otherwise, forget it. I’m told the earlier EVE book by a different author (“The Empyrean Age”) is even worse. If true, that’s actually an accomplishment of sorts. And no, I don’t intend to find out, this one was quite bad enough.

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Winter hibernation

Still alive, though the recurring flu of this winter is (was) back for a short while. Feeling much better now, but we spent the weekend in Jyväskylä at a wedding and Sunday morning had me feeling like something the cat dragged in… and I didn’t drink that much. Decided to stay home and vegetate yesterday, was feeling pretty crappy – and it was worth it, now back at work and more or less ok. Managed to watch some small bit of my tv show backlog when I wasn’t horizontal in bed, so at least something good….

Otherwise it’s life as normal; nothing spectacular has happened but I manage to keep busy and entertained. I bought the board game Arkham Horror and most of the expansion packs, and we’ve been trying that out. Fun game, and even though it is complicated we’ve mostly managed to figure it out. FFG really does publish some brilliant board games; the newer Battlestar Galactica board game is also very, very good and a huge amount of fun.

Been playing a bit of EVE now and then, but it comes and goes. The new expansion does sound very interesting, I have to admit; I’m busy brushing up on my exploration/scanning skills so I can go try out the new “wormhole” stuff once it goes live. At the moment nobody knows how the new Tech3 stuff will work out. I suspect the devs are clueless there, too, and the “let’s tweak it as we go along” model is in play. I’m ok with that, as long as they do balance things eventually.

Oh, and I do have to mention my new (work) phone, the Nokia 6210 Navigator. Now, it’s not often that I praise anything done by Nokia, I’ve usually found their hardware to be ok but the software abysmal. Well, this thing is actually pretty sweet. Nice, compact form-factor, a navigation suite that actually works quite well, and software (on both phone and PC side) that doesn’t utterly suck. Even the PC Suite thingy was usable now, instead of the mind-eating horror it used to be. Go figure. It’s not a total home run.. the GPS reception is patchy at times, and in true Nokia fashion the menu choices and “which button does which logical thing” seem to be randomly assigned at times. But I don’t want to bitch too much – this is a very nice phone. I’m especially loving the combined A-GPS navigation plus compass… having a GPS map on a phone which rotates according to your own orientation is cool. As is the walking (or driving) routing guidance it can do. I’ve already used it as a car navigator a bit, and it works. Pretty well, in fact.

Pew pew pew kaboom: Alliance Tournament finals weekend

Well, we lost that one. We fielded what we considered to be a pretty good setup, but Star Fraction brought pretty much the last thing we wanted to see – something very similar to ours, but absolutely focused on fast cruiser firepower (we had more support stuff there). As a result, they had a lot more cruiser-level dps out there than us, an also proved to have more skill than us in flying that sort of nano gang engagement. While I think we did pretty well considering (we took out quite a few of their Fleet Stabbers), in the end Star Fraction won that vicious, close-range furrball.

It was a fun fight, though… but a very short one for me. I got taken out by a huge drone swarm during the first minute. In hindsight I should have started burning away the second the fight started, but instead I did drone launch and assignment, and then got my tracking disruptor on my assigned EW target. By the time that was done, those Stabbers were pretty much on top of us, and they did the smart thing and waited to launch drones until they were on top of us. I guess I didn’t realize just how fast those Stabbers can move. I was watching my overview for drone aggro, but when it did come I didn’t have time to run much. I called for a smartbomb (and got it), but that was too late to help me – Gahrian’s smartbombs actually ended up killing me (final blow on killmail). Got my pod out with most of the pod armor gone…

The fight after that was a fast, close-range knife fight. SF did some nice maneuvering there, pulling our primaries out of our range and forcing us to chase them (took a while for us to realize what they were doing). That and their superior firepower soon left us with just a Fleet Tempest and a Damnation on the field. Those ships were seriously tanked (the commentators started talking about “Tempest Hero Tank Issue”), since their function in our team was to provide support and not die. Well, it actually took so long for SF to chew through the 250k ehp of the Tempest (and more on the Damnation) that the fight timeouted before the Damnation went down – Teo got to keep his ship intact.

In any case, SF got a deserved win. Better fleet composition versus what we brought than what we had against them, and very good FC and piloting. In the rock-paper-scissors game that is the Alliance Tournament, this time both teams brought “rock”. SF just brought more rocks than we did.

After that was done, the rest of the weekend was spent watching the rest of the tournament on our TV. Excellent fights in there, this current tourney format proved to be very nice – very few boring fights, as compared to last year’s turtle tank fest. I especially loved that hero Nighthawk pilot vs the Abaddon… awesome job from both pilots.

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Pew pew pew reloaded: Alliance Tournament qualifier round 2

Well, as predicted it was a somewhat tougher fight (as in: it actually was a fight), but we still scored a comfortable win over Privateers (video).

We used what looked like the same setup as the last time, a calculated move. Privateers were expecting us to switch, which worked to our favor… but mainly we just ended us with counters to their tactics, while they didn’t have as many to ours. Good piloting from the Privateers, they did the best they could with the cards they were dealt. As per intention, we didn’t give the opposing FC any easy choices in who to make primary.

The commentators were (if possible) even more clueless than usual. In the beginning they were expecting Privateers to totally demolish us, since according to them Thoraxes are totally superior and Drakes, well, suck. The commentary ended up being a long string of stuff like this:

“Ok, here come the Thoraxes, we’ll see them tear those Drakes apart any second”

(Thorax goes boom)

“The Thoraxes will start winning any second now”

(another Thorax goes boom)

“Why aren’t the Thoraxes winning?”

…all in all, good for a lot of laughs. Apart from that comedy commentary, the Privateer FC posted a commentary on the fight which tells people what actually was going on. It’s funny, the only people who don’t seem to think we just got lucky are our opponents…

On Saturday it’s the finals, with live “televised” Eve TV coverage. Our next fight will be against Star Fraction (19.20 eve time, 21.20 Finnish time). Should be a very tough fight, and also a fun one: it’s two roleplayer alliances facing off. Impossible to say how this one will go… the finals are single-elimination, so one lost fight means you’re out. No room for bad luck or mistakes.

We’ll try to provide people with an entertaining fight, at the very least.

P.S. That Ishkur you see orbiting a Dominix in that picture is very possibly mine (or a certain team mate’s, it’s impossible to know for sure).

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Pew pew pew, or: EVE Alliance Tournament 6

Some busy weeks here, on the EVE front. Our alliance (Electus Matari) is one of the 64 alliances competing in this year’s big Alliance Tournament, and I’m part of the tournament team. We’ve spent quite a bit of time brainstorming setups, testing them out on simulator, scrapping some, keeping others, and generally learning to fly as a team.

Well, it paid off. In last Saturday’s first qualifier round, we decimated our opponent, White Core (link to video of fight). Some bad mistakes by the opposition were a factor in that; White Core opened fire early and were penalized one of their Paladins (ouch)… we lost an Ishkur, but that’s a fair trade. In addition to that, the opposing FC made some apparently weird choices. But in sum: everyone on our team performed great, our setup had counters to what they fielded, and generally it was just a slaughter. Even though that fight looks pretty peaceful and clear-cut, I can tell you that as one of the Ishkur pilots it was pretty intense; took quite a while for the adrenaline to settle down.

Oh, and as usual the commentators on our fight are a bit clueless, they get quite a few things wrong. I’m fine with that, misinformation is good.

So, this Saturday we’re facing off with Privateers. They are a much more credible outfit, and they also decimated their opponents (video link) in the first fight. I expect this to be a tough fight, and could go whichever way. On the other hand, due to the way the qualifier round scores are calculated, we stand a good chance of making the finals even if we don’t win this one – as long as we do at least some damage.

Obviously, I’m not going to give any details about our past or future setups here, or about our tactics. Our opponents would no doubt much like to hear about them, should any of them stumble on this. I will say this: we have a plan and it’s pretty solid. On the other hand, no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.

Videos of all the fights can be found here, in case someone is interested.

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