n00b 0.0

As a departure from the usual photorant, today's entry is on the game EVE Online. Specifically, it's about how to play by going against the usual guidance for new players: instead of taking it slow and learning the ropes in the safety of the center Empire area, to move as quickly as possible into the lawless and higher-powered realms of 0.0 space.

I'm writing this for (new) EVE players, so I'm not really going to explain terms or basic game info, though I'll insert links along the way to wikis and so forth.

Despite what you may have heard, 0.0 space is not an ongoing death-to-all-comers destruction derby. In fact, a lot of 0.0 space is pretty quiet, populated by players performing the usual EVE chores: killing rat pirates, mining ore, or sitting docked in a station selling and processing the results of those activities.

Borders are the dangerous regions in EVE. The borders of Empire space itself (security 0.4 to 0.1) are often camped by player pirates who want to avoid CONCORD but also avoid the tougher opponents they might encounter in 0.0.

Gates from Empire Space into 0.0 space are often guarded too. What's often not apparent to new players is that the gates aren't so much guarded against players from Empire as they are being guarded against other players from 0.0, who may be trying to flank a border within 0.0 space; or to blockade transports and freighters that may be trying to move goods back and forth from sources and markets in 0.0 and Empire.

"Borders within 0.0?" you may ask. Do yourself a favor, and get some maps. Get a copy of the Ombey PDF maps, which can guide you from system to system, and a current copy of the EVE Political JPEG Map, which will show you the layout of alliances within 0.0 space.

Systems that are along borders -- especially borders to areas marked "contested" -- will inevitably be the ones most closely guarded.

So how to get past them?As cheaply as possible. By that, I mean: make sure that if you get blown up it will cost you the bare minimum, so you can be cloned and zoom right on back again with minimum ISK loss. Don't bring in anything expensive, and be aware that you will lose any fight in 0.0 at first. Your only defense is to run like crazy. That means you should use a rookie ship (if you get podded you'll get another for free), a shuttle, or even blast around in just a pod. All of them are quick, small enough that they may be hard to target by battleships and the like, and easily replaced.

You can also use an alt character to do exploration for you -- have the alt run around into various systems, check them out, and if the alt survives, log it off, jump back to the main character and follow. Losing the alt -- repeatedly -- is usually close to free for a new player.

The best time to try the run into 0.0? Just before or just after daily EVE downtime. Just before, people in 0.0 will be busy docking-up and packaging or setting up transactions. Just after downtime, the population will be low. My first successful run from Empire to deep within the Stain region was done right at the beginning of the day -- I crossed most of it in the first two or three minutes. Within five or ten minutes, the dangerous and more hardcore 0.0 players were starting to appear.

To make the run, do not use autopilot. Pick a destination and fly it manually. In systems that are empty, warp to zero. If the next system is occupied, warp to a planet or moon (add planets to your overview), then warp to a gate. Beware of the straight-line path between gates in occupied unknown 0.0 systems, as there may be someone who has placed a bubble along that line specifically to snare inter-gate warpers. Use a planet to come in from the side.

If go don't think you can get through, warp back and forth between planets until you run out of capacitor and get stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere. This is the safest place for you to be, away from any celestial body. Make a bookmark of your new safe spot, and then log off. Come back later and re-assess the situation. Are the people who were blocking you before still blocking you? Rinse and repeat.

Where are you going? Hopefully, somewhere where the local rules are "NRDS." That is, "not red, don't shoot." These are increasingly rare. The usual alternative rule is NBSI: "not blue, shoot it." Assuming you have no special standings, you will be neither red (hostile) or blue (friendly) to any existing corporation or alliance of corporations. If you can make it to an NRDS area, you should generally be safe from other players.

Regardless, things change. It's important in 0.0 to have allies as quickly as possible (more on that below).

Make your destination somewhere that has a station that has medical services (which you can identify either from the Ombey maps or the in-game map view). When you dock (be careful -- some stations may not let in non-friendlies), change your clone to that location. You are now in 0.0 space, and can't be easily expelled.

Now what?

You can't rat. Even the smallest 0.0 rats will probably blow you up quite handily. Your first priority should be to get into a local corporation and alliance, if at all possible. They may give you guidance on how to work your way up their own speciality path -- PvP, industry, etc.

If you can't do that immediately, your next plan should be salvaging -- that is, looting -- from the wrecks of rats destroyed by other players (and on occasion, from the wrecks of other players). The wrecks in 0.0 will have much more valuable stuff than the wrecks you might find in Empire. Be careful here, as some players may get torqued at you and until your skills and resources are up, you won't have much ability to retaliate if they decide to pop you. Better to be on "Local" channel, be friendly, ask permission. If this is your course, learn the "salvaging" skill and learn to use a destroyer -- they tend to have a large cargo bay and if you learn to use "salvager" units you can mount a lot of them (a destroyer is not much of a combat ship in 0.0).

Finally, you can mine. The minerals you will get in 0.0 are worth much more than what you can find in Empire. Be careful in the local asteroid fields, as the rats can appear suddenly and may be quite strong compared to you. Learn trade skills, so that you can set up sell-orders for the minerals you find.

And of course, learn the learning skills as quickly as possible, as they'll have ongoing effect on the speed with which you acquire all other skills.

Skill you should have before you go: Infomorph Psychology. You should really be able to clone jump. This can be invaluable when you first arrive. Get a jump clone in Empire before you leave, and once it's moved, you'll be able to move back and forth to Empire once a day freely. This is important to new players because the availability of rookie-level skill books in 0.0 is close to nil. Jump to Empire, buy all the books you can (especially learning skills), start to train each one just for a minute -- now they are "inside" your character, and you can keep studying the skill even after you jump back to 0.0.

You can also jump back and forth if you're having a rough go in 0.0 -- go back to Empire, do some rookie missions, build up what you need to get into a 0.0 corp. If you need a corp that's tolerant, try JMHF.

This post is long enough! Good luck, and fly safe -- or not.

Posted April 10, 2008 | Comments (0)

LX2

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After returning from China I gave myself a few weeks to see if Panasonic would announce a new LX3 at February's camera-business trade show. No dice, so I promptly ordered a new LX2 to replace the stolen LX1. Here are a few notes, comparing the two.

Only the LX1 camera, one card & one battery were pickpocketed -- my case & charger, 2nd battery & backup card were still in my luggage. Not surprisingly, everything fits perfectly, equipment-wise. Perhaps with time I'll also learn to adjust as smoothly.

The lens is the same killer Leica 28-105-ish. I have been impressed with the improved color renditions, and I don't mind the slightly different character of the in-camera JPEGs (I also don't buy the notion, proposed by some bloggers and others on photo.net, that the LX2's "Venus III" chip does pre-processing on its RAW data -- an assertion that makes no sense to me).

The higher ISOs (two extra stops, from 400 to 1600 as the top end) are a very welcome addition, regardless of how noisy the highest ones may be. A sharp grainy photo is better than an unreadable blur or no photo at all.

I might yet tape the back of the camera for grip as I did the LX1 -- but not the front. The LX2's front finger grip is much-improved in providing your middle finger purchase. Simple, and well-done -- but it needs to counter a downside change, hands-wise: to accommodate the larger LCD screen, the LX2's designers have cramped the rear-side controls. It's harder to shift your (my) thumb around and hit the correct thing in that smaller space.

If I want to hold the camera firmly, one-handed, I end up with my thumb on the screen (and away from the buttons). I am pretty sure that I only rarely used the LX1 one-handed, so this difference may feel like a bigger deal than it is.

Overall, the narrower thumb space means that my hand is significantly less comfortable when holding the camera "at rest," and that in turn creates the (false) impression that the LX2 is heavier.

The controls themselves have been subtly improved, mainly by Panasonic's UI designers realizing that people confuse the joystick with the directional buttons -- so, whenever sensible, you can use either control to accomplish the same task. This is good usability design, thinking about what the user wants to accomplish and letting them get there in the way most natural for them. A+

The biggest impression of difference between the LX1 and LX2, however, has been speed of operation -- or rather, the lack of it. The LX2 is slower between shots. I would have guessed about 25% slower, which matches change in the pixel count. dpreview's test shows a 32% slowdown on RAW writes, as well as a slowdown in burst mode. Those percentages feel like a lot, given the rhythm I'd already developed with the LX1. This is frustrating given that the camera's operations are otherwise responsive and the AF is even a tiny bit quicker. That extra second and a half of write time can be tough.

Token LX1 sighting: I saw Sylvia Plachy using one on Ovation's televison bio Close Up. She was switching back and forth during the same session between an LX1, a Leica M, a Rolleiflex, and a Hasselblad 500 of some sort (SWC?).

Posted April 06, 2008 | Comments (1)

Kinda Busy

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Okay, I suck. Not a single post since my return from China. Of course, I have tons of excuses, including the fact that I was back in the office for less than one hour before hustling off to the airport for yet another business trip; or that GDC came in the middle of this period; or that I was sick in bed for weeks; or that it's beta time and much software needs writing; or that I keep catching myself putting my web energy into (giant sucking sound....) Facebook; or that a large slice of the remaining time has been happily spent on family and wonderfulness. All true.

Posted April 05, 2008 | Comments (0)

 

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