Posted tagged ‘MMO’

Return of the Ultimate

May 28, 2011

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It’s been years since I’ve really gotten into Ultima Online, but this past week has seen me playing UO more than any of my other games. Why? Even after all these years it’s still the most unique, amazing MMO I’ve ever played. So what’s so good about this game that most MMO players have never even tried? Well, I’ll be playing for a while it seems, so I’ll keep you all in the loop.

The first thing you’ll notice, almost instantly, is the amazing community in Ultima Online. From the time I stepped out of the tutorial section, which lasted all of five minutes but covered the basics, I had people passing me and waving, or stopping to ask if I needed anything. A few even just stopped to chat for a bit. This really shook me at first, and I had to retrain myself to not find it strange to talk to strangers again.

After about twenty minutes of exploring the small town that they start you in, a town completely overrun by the undead, I made my way to New Haven, the only real city on the starter island. Within a few minutes I was wrapped up in a conversation at the bank about whether I wanted to play the game without any starter help, or whether I’d like a few items and a little bit of money. I took the items to help me not die, and the money to insure my items. Insuring is something that wasn’t always in UO, but you basically pay a certain amount of gold to insure an item, more gold for better items, and when you die all your insured items will stay with you. This would be prohibitively expensive for a noob to do to all his gear, but having a weapon and armor when you’re trying to get back to where your body is really helps.

Speaking of death, I’ve always been a huge fan of Ultima Online’s death system. When you die your ghost starts standing over your body. Unlike WoW, you don’t start at a graveyard and make your way back. As a ghost most people won’t be able to see or talk to you, unless they have a high spirit speak skill, so your goal is to find either a wandering healer NPC, a player that can see and res you, or head back to a city and find the main healer shoppe, where they will res you. Then it’s your job to get back to your body before it decomposes or someone takes your stuff.

Anyway, I was invited to join a pretty active guild on my first day, and they took me to their Guild Hall in order to have a small ceremony where they informed me of the guild policies and what was and was not expected of me. After that I was informed that the guild does a Hunt every night practically, and noobs were welcome to come along. We met up at 6pm pacific at the Guild Hall for a quick rundown of the night’s Hunt and what we were planning on doing.

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We took a portal one of our mages made to the ice caverns where we were to fight the White Wyrm and the Ice Fiends that patrolled near it. The cave was really amazing, the fog rolling through made it feel cold and obstructed our view, making it seem like people and monsters were winking in and out of existence.

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The UI of UO generally stays in the black area. It seems weird at first, but it allows you to see the game world unobstructed. Aside from the health bars up there, which are movable, and have small buttons on them that I can click to heal or purge my party members.

We made our way through the ice caverns and killed the dragon, and I only died twice. After a harrowing search by everyone for my corpse, which turned out to be underneath an ice elemental, I got my gear re-equipped and we decided to take on the rat people that were in a cave connected to the ice caverns. The first thing I noticed was that each of the rat people had a name. Not like “Rat Enforcer” like most MMOs, but a unique name for everyone of them.

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The rat fort was pretty cool. A massive wooden fort with high gates and wooden pole walls in a huge cavern deep underground. Of course they swarmed us like rats, but our mages and dragon tamers easily took care of the whole lot. After that we had to call it a night, and everyone finished looting and took the portal back to the guild hall. There all the money was given to the hunt leader, who took it to the bank and had checks written to split the gold between the four of us noobs who needed the money. They gave me my check, which I took running to the bank, and I now had 50,000 gold. It’s not much in Ultima Online, but it’ll let me keep my equipment insured.

All in all it was the best experience I’ve had in an MMO in nearly ten years. The people were all great, and even days later I mentioned not being sure if I was ready to leave the noob island of New Haven, and a guild member voluntarily came down and hung out with me for over an hour, just chatting and watching me kill things as he got a sense for whether I was ready, both character skill and player skill wise. Then we just chatted for a bit, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that in an MMO.

Ultima is back baby, and I’ll keep you posted on my adventures.

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Rift…Set…Go!

February 26, 2011

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Amun is my tanking Warrior on the PvE Deepwood server.

As anyone who is even remotely interested in this blog already knows, Rift launched on the 24th and I’ve spent every moment of my free time playing. In fact, the only reason you’re getting a post is because they’ve brought the shards down again to do some quick fixes. I love that Trion is willing to fix things quickly.

Both me and the wife are sitting at level 17. She’s a healing Cleric, human style, while I am a tanking Warrior of the Dwarven persuasion. We’re having a blast, and it’s a great combo for any MMO. If we run into a Rift, a Greater Rift, or an Invasion we have no problems. I throw down some initial AOE aggro moves, then settle into alt smacking everything around me while she heals. He constantly add people as well, so if you are on the Deepwood server we’ve probably already grouped together once.

I haven’t had a chance to do any dungeons yet. They start at 17, so we are waiting until 18 to go, in order to give ourselves some leeway. I did try the Warfronts, and just as I feared being level 10, you are utterly useless. I chased this level 19 Cleric around the map, he never even healed, just let me whack and miss the entire match. So we haven’t gone back, but being level 17 we’re ready to take the plunge. I just really wish Trion has taken a que from WoW and made the PVP brackets 5 levels instead of 10. That is the best change to WoW PVP I’ve seen since the game launched, and I had hoped Rift would follow suit.

I did however have a pretty epic moment. Due to the massive amount of people in the 10-20 zone there are tons of invasions and rifts going off all the time. This WILL clear up as you level higher and the population thins out, which is good because at the moment it’s almost TOO much. Almost. Anyway, we were participating in one of the zone wide mass invasions, and we never get to help take out the final boss. He’s always too far away for us to get it. This time he spawned nearly on my head. He was a level 20 elite raid style boss, and I was only level 16. I managed to tank him for the entire 15 minute fight, only loosing aggro a dozen or so times throughout. I managed to get it back, and even got a couple of people in zone chat telling me I did a great job tanking, which felt pretty damn good.

One thing I’m furious with though is the racial abilities. Every race gets some kind of movement increase, such as the group aoe sprint humans get, or the 15 second cooldown short duration FLIGHT that the High Elves get. What did Dwarves get? I can fall a bit farther than everyone else. Gee, that’d be fair if the entire game was played on a cliffside. Jumping off a slightly taller cliff and almost dying is only slightly better than doing it and dying, and it’s far behind an AOE sprint or a quick cooldown flight option.

The other race that got screwed, but to a lesser extent, is the Kelari. They basically get to turn into ghost foxes. This doesn’t increase movement speed, which sucks, but it does allow them to walk almost on top of aggroable mobs and not have them aggro. This does increase the speed with which you arrive at your destination by allowing you to bypass a ton of fights, but it’s still only slightly better than nothing.

All in all, I’m having a friggin blast playing, and I can’t wait to get another level and get some dungeons under my belt. I did manage to get my Mining to 75, and my Armorsmithing to 75 as well before logging off. My Runecrafting is only at 51, so that’s not that good, but it’s not too bad.

What is an MMO?

January 29, 2011

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Back in 1997, when Ultima Online released, MMOs were a fledgling genre. No one was sure if they would succeed. Hell, no one even knew exactly what constituted an MMO. Of course there would be a persistent world for the players to interact in (in the case of Guild Wars that persistent world would just be the city and the player hubs), and character progression would be included as that is the basis for all computer role playing games.

So, in 2011 has the genre become a more solid entity? Do we understand exactly what makes an MMORPG, let alone what makes a GOOD MMORPG? The answer, I feel, is no. Right now there seem to be two categories of MMO gamer. The first is the old school MMO player, the guys and girls who cut their teeth on AOL Muds, Ultima Online, Everquest and the like. These people will take every opportunity to let you know that they’ve played UO or EQ (much like I’ve done above, and right here, and probably below this too). The second is the player who got drawn into MMOs because of World of Warcraft. These are not necessarily still playing WoW, and it’s these people who are often the most likely to rant and scream about how terrible WoW is.

To that first category, which from here on will be referred to as Old People, todays MMOs are missing that spark that made UO and EQ great. No one is exactly sure what it was that made them so great, but everyone has a theory and they won’t hesitate to share it with you. From the more sandbox nature of UO, to the neverending grind/socialization of EQ, players will talk about how much more ‘alive’ the old MMOs were.

The second category, which I have dubbed Noobs, doesn’t have those old school games to warp their perception. Often these people have only ever played WoW, or if they have branched out most of them haven’t been able to enjoy the other MMOs out there. Why? Because for them WoW IS MMOs. They may have stopped playing it because 3 years of any single game is enough to drive someone insane, but WoW is still their basis for comparison. To these people the more social aspects of MMOs take a backseat to their personal progression.

So which of these people are right? Neither really. The Noobs (forgive me for the name Noobs, it just fits when compared to us Old People) believe that an MMO that forces them to group up is a failure, while the Old People will scream about how the old games, like EQ, were far superior to the new games because they forced you to group up and interact with people. Coincidently they will be playing one of the new games and NOT one of the old school MMOs.

Now that I’ve grossly over generalized an entire group of people, let’s get to what I think an MMO is, and what I want to see in an MMO. The first thing is that we need the basics: persistent world, character progression. That’s the basis for an MMORPG. Sadly most companies making MMOs, ever since the early days of EverQuest, decided that the most important thing about making an MMO was keeping their players playing for as long as possible. This has resulted in the dreaded EQ year long grind to the level cap, the 40 or more man raids, and the horror that is rep grinding.

When do we put up with shit like that in our single player games? If I picked up the new Dragon Age II and it told me I needed to grind the same quests/mobs for a few months before I could fight the final boss it’d be the first game I brought back to a store and demanded a refund for. So why do we accept it as part of an MMO? For the same reason millions of people play FarmVille. Is it tedious and ultimately pointless? Yes. Does it take hours out of your day just to do something you get no enjoyment out of? Yes. Does it also allow you to space out, like vegging out in front of the Television, while at the same time interacting with friends and feeling like you are accomplishing something? DING DING.

So MMOs, since the beginning, feed on our basic want to improve ourself, while at the same time allowing us to sit around and space out, grinding away on mobs for rep or xp. Was it fun in Final Fantasy XI to get a good group of Linkshell mates and just grind mobs for hours? It could be a total blast if you had the right combination of people to chat with, but you know what? I could get that in a damn AOL chat room too. A video game should not have a caveat like: Sure the gameplay and story are boring as shit, but I get to chat with people and compare myself to others as I play! A video game, of ANY genre, should above all be fun to play.

I’ve recently been reminded, thanks to several blog posts and friends playing DCUO, exactly what I always wanted in an MMO.  Ever since I first started playing Ultima Online I realised that I wanted a video game with a persistent world. That has yet to happen. Instead we’ve gotten repetitive grinds, whether quests that are meaningless kill quests or straight grinding for rep or XP. There is very little ‘game’ in current MMOs. I want the basic concept behind games like Demon Souls multiplayer aspects taken to the extreme.

I want a single player experience wrapped in an MMORPG. Give me an 80 hour single player RPG like Dragon Age, then make it the same persistent world that everyone else playing the game is occupying. Let me hit the city and see thousands of players walking around, doing quests, shopping or just chatting. Don’t give me bullshit quests just because you’ve decided it should take me a month to get to the level cap and you need more quests to fill up the time. Treat it like Dragon Age, where most quests are either directly involved with the main questline, or if not they are epic on their own.

Then what happens when you’re level 20, at the level cap, and you’ve finished with the 80 hour storyline? That’s end game baby, time to do some end game dungeon runs and start raiding just like everyone else. Don’t let it end there either. I don’t need massive expansions every year, but instead I should have DLC constantly. Perhaps a five or six hour story once a month, and perhaps a new raid or so every two months. Then the expansion hits and the level cap is raised to 30 and everyone levels up and gets ready for end game again.

So what’s the difference between that and current MMOs? Removal of the boring stuff. Should you have to go spend a while gathering herbs for potion making? Yes. Should you have to spend three weeks grinding daily quests to get your rep up with someone so you can get one piece of enchantment that you need for raiding? No, that’s done ONLY so that you spend more time playing and thus more time spending money on the game.

Does an MMO need to keep me playing nothing but it for three years? No. But it should be fun while I am playing it. When did we start accepting bad design and purposefully gimping our playing experience just so the company making it could (theoretically) make more money. It seems stupid to me, but I write this while waiting on the PVP que for WoW to pop, so it’s not like I’m voting with my wallet here. Still, it means The Old Republic could be exactly what I’m looking for.

Playing Rift

January 7, 2011

Just a quick update. I’ve started playing Rift beta 4!
Wolfsbane server, character name Amun if you want to say
hi.

Rift Beta–Stuff I Didn’t Like Edition

January 2, 2011

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The best looking humans in any MMO I’ve played.

So here we are, my second rundown of the Rift beta 3, and this time it’s all about things I didn’t like, or things that worry me because I don’t know anything about them. Here we go.

The Bad:

Kill stealing. Rift takes mob tagging back to the basics. The person or group with the most damage on a monster when it dies gets to loot it/get xp. I’ve never liked this type of loot system because it can lead to some serious griefing. Imagine going around questing, and instead of someone corpse camping you they just follow you and anything you attack they one shot, preventing you from getting XP or loot. There are a few reasons I can think of to have a system like this, such as rare boss spawns like in Final Fantasy XI, where guilds would camp these open world spots for hours or days hoping to get some rare loot. Can you imagine having one asshole tag it before you can? Oh I’d be pissed off. Is Rift going to be a open world, non-instance dungeon game? I hope not, but I’d be able to deal with it.

1, 2, 3 combat. I’m generally OK with this style of combat, so it’s not exactly a massive negative. On the other hand would I have liked to see something new? Perhaps, but it might have gotten old after a while, and it might be a blessing in disguise that Rift went with something familiar. Then again this will drive off a lot of people who seem to be in a rage over this system, so there’s that.

You’ll need a high end computer if you want to run it on max. Trust me, it looks unbelievable on maximum settings, but you’re probably going to need to upgrade your “WoW Killing Machine” if you want to see all the pretty pretty lights. Is this a negative? For some. In fact, until I upgrade my graphics card it’s a pretty sad negative for me. Hopefully I’ll upgrade when I buy the game, and really get to enjoy the amazing graphics this game is capable of.

The soul system for classes could get REALLY confusing. How so? Well first of all you have the ability to pick three classes, and then you must split your talent points between these three trees. Is it best to pump them into one tree like in WoW? That kinda kills the customization of choosing your second and third soul. So what’s going to make a good spec? More importantly, what is going to gimp the shit out of your character? How many people will quit halfway to endgame because every fight is SO DAMNED HARD, when it’s only because they’ve severely gimped their character. Add to this the fact that PVP is going to be insane. Imagine only seeing one of four classes when you attack someone. Now imagine that this means they are any one of hundreds or thousands of combinations/specs that could completely change the way you need to go about attacking them. This could be fun at first, but if it means you’re never going to be able to have high level strategy against enemies because you never know what the hell you’ll be facing, well that could seriously hurt the game.

This part isn’t really the developers fault, but I eventually had to leave general chat because it was almost as bad as WoW’s Trade chat. People spent hours slinging racial slurs, making foul ass comments or just bashing the game for being an MMORPG (How DARE they include 1,2,3 combat! And leveling! who wants leveling? Or stats? It’s all recycled!).

The Nervous:

What is the focus of Rift’s end game? Is it itemization ala WoW? Dungeons and raids? PVP? At this point I really don’t know, and if it is PvP then will the massive amount of classes and spells cause more frustration that fun, ala end game Warhammer or Aion?

What about late game? All I’ve seen so far is level 20 and below. Will the great quests crap out halfway through like Age of Conan? Will there even be ANY end game content? Will we be forced to grind for weeks to get the last few levels?

There are only two starting areas. This is seriously going to be a problem for alt-aholics like myself. Sure, it may be great the first or second time, but I’d be willing to bet that by the 20th time I’ve gone through the level 1-10 quests I’ll be giving up any idea of rolling a new character. At least games like WoW, Warhammer and Everquest II give us plenty of starting areas to explore. Sadly, no matter what race you pick, you’ve only got the one starting area per faction. I’m sure they did it this way so that they could make it as fun and polished as possible, sacrificing options for polish, which is acceptable for now. Let’s hope the first expansion adds some new starting areas for us level loving alt-aholics.

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The game does have a sense of humor. I got this squirrel tear for slaughtering an innocent level 1 critter, as I am want to do. This made me smile.

Well that’s my list of things that either worry me about Rift, or are downright crap. Let’s be clear here though, nothing on this list even makes me think about NOT buying Rift. I went from not even kind of excited or interested in Rift to blown away and eager to experience more in just a very short week. Stay tuned for more information on the game as I (hopefully) get accepted into further betas, and after the game comes out. Did I touch on the things you disliked about the beta? Did I miss something or flatout get something wrong? Let me know in the comments.

Rift Beta

January 1, 2011

I managed to sneak into the 3rd Beta event for Rift. Sadly my wife, who I always duo with in games, didn’t get accepted. Still, below is my take on the Rift Beta.

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Between me and my wife we quickly filled up all six character slots.

What I Liked:

The first thing you’re going to notice is going to be the graphics. If you have a rig capable of running this bad boy with all the bells and whistles it’s a truly beautiful game. Far better than the now aging Age of Conan, and almost into the realm of single player RPG graphics ala Dragon Age on PC (I hear on consoles it wasn’t as nice looking). Screen shots don’t do it justice either. Until you see the plane of fire open up with tentacles of flame the sear into the ground, slowly spreading and charring everything in it’s path while it spews forth fire monsters, well you can’t really appreciate the beauty of it.

The classes are amazing. You have four archetypes to choose from, but this isn’t one of those shitty games where you start out as a generic mage and have to work your way to level 10 in order to finally not suck. No, once you’ve logged in as either a Warrior, Mage, Cleric or Rogue you’ll be given a quest to go collect your first soul. Souls are the classes, as you’re taking the souls of fallen warriors to fuel your own power. Anyway, you can then choose one of six classes from inside your archetype. That’s a total of 24 classes, but seeing as how you will be getting other souls, for a total of three at a time, you have a near limitless number of classes to choose from. Want to be a dual wielding melee warrior with a pet and the ability to creates spears of fire, stone or wind to hurl at your enemies as you close the gap, only to ignite your swords with fire as you tear through the enemy, perhaps using your pet for added dps or to keep another enemy busy? Well, you can do that. I haven’t been this excited about class selection since Vanguard, which had the classes right but not much else.

Looting. There’s not much you can do to make looting better, but Trion has managed to improve this very basic interaction. How so? Well imagine you’ve just gone to a lowbie area, or maybe you grabbed far to many mobs and just barely managed to take them all out. You loot your first body and you will get all of the loot from all of YOUR KILLS within a certain radius. This is called AOE looting and it is a simple change, but MUCH appreciated. This can also be turned off, for those who want an old school, slowly picking through the bodies of the fallen approach. +Rep for giving us choices!

Crafting is another thing I really enjoyed. Sure it may be very similar to games you’ve already played, but again Rift just does it a little better. Imagine you get to your first town and decide you want a profession. Perhaps you decide, being a mage, to go tailor. A couple of silver later and you’re a tailor. The first thing you’ll notice is that all of the things you can make are green, useful, and probably better than what you are wearing. This seemed to be true throughout my leveling experience in Rift, and it’s a welcome change. Add to that the fact that you can create shoulders VERY early on, and I am in love. Of course, Trion wouldn’t stop there, you see they also gave you the ability to break down armor you’ve made or gotten from quests. This isn’t like disenchanting either, that is a separate profession. Lets say you break down a low level robe. You might come away with some gray frayed twine and a couple of burlap cloth. In some cases I managed to get back all of the cloth I had used to create an item. Of course sometimes you don’t get any back. This ability to reuse items, to grind for skill ups, then tear those works down and use the pieces to get even more skill ups, has me revving my engine for more Rift.

The combat is one of the most important aspect of most games, and as long as you like the traditional 1,2,3 MMO style combat you’re going to love Rift’s system. It doesn’t stray far from tradition, and others have put it down for that. To them I say that this game is a lot like Super Meat Boy. The controls may be the same old tired run and jump we’ve seen in every platformer ever, but by perfecting them and taking it to that ‘sweet spot’ both Team Meat and Trion have managed to make it feel fresh and fun again. The spell effect are stunningly gorgeous, the attack animations are fluid and devestating, and the pacing is right on the money. It’s not as fast as WoW’s combat, and not quite as slow as Warhammers, but it manages to make me feel like a badass each and every fight. Will that wear off? Perhaps on my fifth alt, but that happens with every game.

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You start off looking cool. In many games you’ll start off looking either horrendous or somewhat ok, but you quickly progress to looking like a clown for the rest of your leveling experience. In Rift I found that no matter what piece of armor I got it may look different, but it still matched the overall scheme. This allowed my character to get even cooler looking, while never looking like a complete tool. It’s not as drastic as Warhammer’s ‘new look every 10 levels’, and it’s better off for it.

The quests, while not as cinematic as WoW’s new lowbie experience, are contained. You’ll get four or five quests for an area and you’ll clean that area out before heading back and moving on to the next. If you’re the type of person who reads through new quests the first time, you’ll also be treated to a very interesting, tightly woven story that gives a good reason to be doing what you’re doing, at least in the lower levels. If you fear that this means you won’t be exploring or seeing anything new, then you haven’t experienced the Rifts.

Rifts are basically Warhammer’s Public Quests, but done right. Instead of a long, slow fight in a static location that yields a set reward which, after receiving you never go back to, in Rift you’ll open your map to see where you’re going and see a rift off in the distance. As you close Rifts you get ‘currency’ to buy good equipment and buff items, so you’ll drop what you’re doing and haul ass right through whatever’s in your way to reach the rift in time. This means you’ll actually be exploring areas of the map that may or may not have quests associated with them. Rifts are pretty fast events, ranging from three to six stages from what I saw. You’ll quickly burn through them and it didn’t seem to take many people to utterly decimate the rifts when they appeared, giving me hope for early level rifts late in the games life cycle once most people have reached level cap.

That’s it for this post as it’s getting kind of long. There are plenty more things I loved about Rift, but next post will concentrate on the things I didn’t like, or am worried about.

Confessions of an EVE Noob

June 30, 2010

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I haven’t put too much time into EVE yet. According to Raptr it’s only been 5 hours, so I’m not going to comment on my overall view of the game obviously. I am however going to mention a few things that I like, and a few things that I dislike.

First off the game is as beautiful as ever, though I’m not sure whether I like the graphics of EVE or Star Trek Online better. Obviously I love the SIZE of the EVE space compared to STO and it’s instanced bits, though I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune when I have a four hour flight sometime down the line.

I like that they have a tutorial now (the last time I played, shortly after it came out, it didn’t). I’d prefer it if the tutorial were scripted and instanced, just so I they could make sure everything happened as it should, and the tutorial could react to unexpected things, like losing your ship on the third military career mission. I was left sitting there wondering what to do. Do I fly back to the base? Can I come back for my stuff? I figured it out, but it would have been nice for the game to tell me.

The reason I died, and a major problem with my own way of thinking, was that I was too close to my enemies. I knew guns in EVE had optimal ranges, so I checked them out. ~15km for my guns. I figured that meant that 15km was good, and anything closer was better, like a handgun. That is not the case though. Apparently when they say 15km for optimal range, you better be at 15km or as close to that as you can get! Once I found this out and bought a ship upgrade I was nearly unstoppable for the rest of the military career tutorial.

The music is another thing I wanted to mention. I don’t normally notice music in games, and I don’t normally like anything techno-ish. That said, I LOVE the EVE Online combat music. As soon as I warped into an area I needed to clear of pirates the music kicked on and I was blasted with music that got my heart pumping, even if the actual action wasn’t all that fast paced or exciting.

I’ve applied to EVE University, but apparently the interview que is 7-10 days, so it’s going to be a while before I can comment on that. In the meantime I plan to finish the tutorials, figure out EVEMon, and figure out what I need to do to eventually fly something that shoots out drones or fighter jets or something like that. I want to look like an ant hill just exploded when I attack something.

For race I picked the Amarr, simply because they seemed the coolest. Their crazy strict society and willingness to make everyone their slaves appealed to me, even if in game I’ll probably just be avoiding fights and running for a long time.