Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Change of Pace

Thanks to the forced change in my EVE play-style -- it is very difficult to get back into the game when I can't interact with the people I've known for years -- this blog will probably not have nearly as much ingame EVE stuff going into it. After all, I can't tell you what I'm doing anymore!

SLBG will be shifting focus into a general gaming blog; at least it won't need a facelift! If you have no interest in reading about games other than EVE, I won't be (too) put out ;)

Thursday, 8 December 2011


I will no longer be available for contact ingame as I have been re-hired.

Any and all updates on this blog should be taken as personal opinion only; all fiction pieces should be considered precisely what they are: fan-fiction.

I intend to remain close to the community. Feel free to stalk my twitter feed if you want @HellcatBeth. It's not an official feed by any stretch of the imiagination, though I may see about reawakening @CCP_MaidenSteel under my new dev name.

That is all.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Recent Events

My, it's been a while, hasn't it? In my defence, I was hired by CCP at FanFest and shortly thereafter required to go to radio silence.

I am one of the 20%. Last Wednesday, I lost a job I loved, working for a noble cause with people I came to care for dearly.

All any of us wanted was to help make EVE, Dust, and WoD the best they could be. And you better believe I'm still playing the game now. The people, the community and the team behind it all mean a hell of a lot to me.

I am now going to be very blunt and give you an insider's perspective on the events of the past few months.

Let's start with Monoclegate: the massive, public flap over the introduction of the NeX store and several corporate communications being leaked.

I don't like the Noble Exchange. Pricing aside, the contents are ugly and not worth paying money for. I'm perfectly of the mind that if you don't like it, you don't buy it. The threat of including items that would actively affect the game, however, is something I can get onboard protesting. Here's why:

Many MMOs have gone free to play with microtransactions providing goods and services: access to expansion content, gear, shiny things to decorate ingame houses, whatever. A lot of these things have an effect on your ingame stats; I shall call these things "Bonussed Gear" beacause "Gold Ammo" is misleading. Yet nowhere has there been such an outcry against these until it was a possible addition to EVE. The reasoning behind this is simple. Most MMOs provide PVP on a selective, optional basis. Many players never touch the PVP zones; their Bonussed Gear is used against NPCs. Those people who do PVP are guaranteed to be on an even standing with other PVPers there because they have all bought Bonussed Gear. There is no inequality.

EVE, on the other hand, was built on the concept of all PVP all the time. By clicking that Undock button, you're accepting the risk of nonconsensual PVP. Every time you open the market window or contracts, you're accepting the risk of being scammed. Every time you talk to another player, you're accepting the risk that they might not be playing nice. Bonussed Gear, paid for with real money in EVE, would be used against players who had not made the same investment; conversely, it can be lost as easily as anything else if the other, non-bonussed players are better or get the drop on you. EVE's balance is such that a pack of newbies can overwhelm an experienced player, and unlike in other games, Bonussed Gear in EVE would not be as much of an automatic win-button. The loss would not only be time and effort -- as with all current losses in EVE -- but also a paycheque.

(As an aside, I am aware of the MT uses in World of Tanks, APB: Reloaded and other PVP-based games; these games were designed/redesigned around a MT model that puts all players on an even standing and the only thing you can potentially "lose" is bonussed ammo.)

I felt -- still feel -- that the EVE is Real motto does not need to be boulstered by costing players real money to enjoy it. EVE is already Real: the loss I felt when I was unable to play the game as I have done since 2007, unable to socialise with the ingame family I've become a part of, made that abundantly clear. Every time someone rages after losing a ship, or being scammed, or having their corp swept out from under their feet because they trusted the wrong person, it proves EVE is Real.

Now that that's out of the way with, let's talk about the players' reaction to all of this.

You people are rude, when your ire is up. You're so eager to shoot the messengers, you seem to forget that they're only messengers; the message is coming from higher up, from people you never interact with avatar-to-avatar. Raging at the GMs, insulting the Community team, blasting vitriol at Content developers who are trying to create something fun for you with spontaneous live events... this is not the behaviour of adults. It hurts us, it makes us wonder why we try to do good things for you with a game we all love.

Contrary to popular belief, the developers do play EVE. We just can't tell you who our characters are, for very good reasons. I logged into EVE almost every day, for at least an hour or two. For over a month, I had to maintain my silence, close chat windows, and run the game like a solo RPG because I could not in good conscience join a conversation anywhere. Try to put yourselves in our shoes: we're just people, trying to improve a game we love, and we're being abused verbally for it.

The layoffs worry me.

Let me put this in perspective: after all the shit heaped on us over the summer, things were beginning to look up. We'd had an internal reshuffle which was frustrating but gave us hope that the new teams would be able to deliver what we were promising. There were new initiatives that had everyone thinking positively. I felt that, if we could pull all of this off the way we were planning, it could completely revitalise EVE and bring back at least a little of the old game I started playing four years ago. Morale was high, people were really putting their backs into it again. It was going to be Apocrypha 2.0.

And then the sucker-punch was delivered.

I was just an intern with the Content department; I knew if the shit hit the fan, I was expendable, but I was willing to take that risk because EVE means a lot to me. What makes me sad, and angry and worried is that many others who were let go were counting on that job security. We were told we were alright only a few weeks ago, people were getting ready for the office move by buying new houses closer to Decatur, moving to new apartments, getting their kids' schools sorted out. And all of a sudden, the company we poured heart and soul into has told us it can't keep us on.

Some of these people have been here for YEARS and were right in the middle of important projects for the upcoming expansions. They know more about their part of game development than anyone else in the company. I've seen a lot of, "Great! CCP should stop working on WoD and focus more on EVE." I've got a news flash for you: the WoD teams, EVE teams and Dust teams were almost entirely separated from each other. Letting go of dedicated WoD devs won't improve EVE or Dust. It'll just push WoD development back by a significant margin.

Telling CCP to drop WoD for EVE is like asking the Content team at DragonCon when hybrid turrets are going to be fixed. One does not affect the other.

Speaking of the Content team, it's been decimated. They (not I, I wasn't offered this) were told they had to either move to Iceland or accept severance. Most took severance because they have responsibilities here: children in school, spouses with careers, rental agreements and bills and car payments. These are people who were working on the most content-heavy drive CCP has ever pursued. Now they're gone, and everyone's happy that CCP is refocussing? The mechanics end of the game may be in good shape for a while yet, but anything requiring more multi-disciplinary work will suffer.

Will I continue to play EVE? Yes.
Will I continue to check CCP's hiring lists for Content Writer openings? Damn straight.
Will I worry that, because of this last setback, CCP won't be able to pick up the pieces?

Unfortunately, yes. Only time will tell if they can pull through it.

You can cancel your paid accounts, switch only to PLEX, get rid of unnecessary alt accounts, boycott the NeX. I don't care if you're paying money or not.

But please, if nothing else, try to support the people who are working on EVE, Dust and WoD. If you truly care about the future of any of these games, don't rage at the people who only want the same as you do. The support of the community is integral to the success of the game.

And keep blogging. They hear you.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Eye of the Serpent -- Episode One "The Black Freighter"

First launched in YC93, Eye of the Serpent earned immediate notoriety for both its ambitious script and its simplistic production design. Now celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its release, the cast and crew have been reunited to share their memories of the experience, offering a unique glimpse behind what has become one of the Federation's most iconic holoserials.


"Eye of the Serpent was... well, my first professional work, I'd have to say. I did other holoserial scripts before, but those were just one-off episodes; Eye was the first production I was fully in charge of, and I really, really pushed the limits. I created two main characters, one of whom wouldn't even appear until the second year. There was Adrian Fray, who was this FIO agent working under deep-cover within the Serpentis, feeding intel back to his handlers and trying to-to keep the outlaws from getting too powerful. Then there was Gamma Reyvis, who was this really quite ambitious underling of Salvador Sarpati, who fancies herself a better leader for the Serpentis. It was complex, dark, very serious with... I tried to inject a very dry, gallows-type humour. (laughs) I like to think I succeeded."

KEI LeMAR ("Adrian Fray")

"When I was first approached by the producers to play Adrian, I didn't quite know what to make of it. It was more ambitious and boundary-pushing than most holoserials at the time, and... I think the portrayal of people like Sarpati, people who are not only still alive but well-known... made it a bit risky (laughs)."

CORTINA HARRAN (Co-producer)

"It helped, I think, that we presented it to the studios as a comedy, rather than a serious drama. It was aimed at a younger audience, though it gained quite a following among adults as well."


"It was a risk, a big risk. We almost didn't get a studio to take it, but eventually Essence Syndication Network took us on, with the threat that, if it didn't pay off in the first six months, we were going to be shut down. We mostly paid out of our pockets, and you can tell in those early episodes by the-the overabundance of product-placement that we were taking a lot of advertising money just to keep a roof over our heads."


A dimness at first, in which dark shapes can only just be seen. Somewhere, sluggish water is dripping, an eerie counterpoint to the subsonic rumbling of a ship's systems at rest. A beam of light cuts through the darkness, blinding momentarily before swinging back the other direction.

"Fray, are you sure about this?"


"This ship is huge Adrian, there's no way we'll find--"

The light goes dim as the first voice, a quavering tenor, yelps and falls with a splash. White torchlight silhouettes the forms of two men as the taller of the two helps the other back to his feet. "It's here, René, if you'd actually looked over the real manifest rather than the 'official manifest'..."

"Ugh." The smaller man makes a futile effort to wipe water from his sodden trousers. "You'd think they could maintain their ships better."

"At least it means we're not likely to run into anyone else down here." Fray trains the beam of his FedMart-brand NightTorch up the racktower storage arrays, towering skeletal frames set in tracks on the floor and ceiling, hypertensile tritanium alloy shelves designed to house massive freight containers and make loading and unloading easier. "You don't want to think where it might be coming from."


LARU en KIMA ("Little René")

"The water. That damnable water (laughs). I fell in there, tripped over one of the guiderails, and that was not scripted. They left it in anyway."


"At the time, the popular thing was to have holoseries recorded entirely on sound-stages with the set added in later via computer simulation. We could no more afford that sort of technical setup than we could afford to shoot on-site, so what we did was find, well, junkyards, essentially, where there were a few hulls that were still airtight that hadn't been stripped by scavengers. For the first episode, it was an Obelisk-class freighter. If we'd tried to film the series like that today, I'm not sure we'd have been permitted. I still don't want to think what might have been in that water."

L'SIATA ROUVENOR (Co-producer)

"I think the mere fact that we found those locations to film at -- scrapyards we really should not have been in, station hallways with the general population as our unwitting extras, film crew-members' redecorated quarters -- made it ground-breaking in its simplicity and realism. It was all recognisable and familiar to the audience."

KEI LeMAR ("Adrian Fray")

"Get in trouble? Sure we did. Get stared at, in those ridiculous outfits? (laughs) I had to work out daily, every single breakfast pastry showed in those tight jumpsuits. It was the fashion at the time for kids' programming: you could have the darkest storyline in the world, as long as there was no swearing and the set was all vivid, happy colours. We got dark at times, we really wanted to use the first episode to let them know we weren't just playing around."


"Sst!" Fray skids to a stop on the slippery floor, an arm extended to hold René back. "You hear that?"

The smaller man is shaking his head adamantly. "I don't want to hear anything except you saying it's time to go, Fray, we shouldn't even be here..."

"It came from over here..." The tall, dark-haired Gallentean sloshes through the muck down a side-passage between rusted-out containers.

"Fray! Sssss! Bring the light back!" Muttering under his breath, the shorter blond man picks his way carefully through the knee-deep water as Fray turns to wait for him. "You know what your problem is? You're too eager."

Fray's finely chiselled features arrange themselves into a frown, underlit starkly by the white torchlight. "I don't have a problem. Do I have a problem? I have a job to do, here."


KEI LeMAR ("Adrian Fray")

"The dialogue. Oh! That was great fun. Jaial is a really good writer, really good. It always amazes me when people criticise the dialogue and say it was bad. It was done that way on purpose."


"It was part irony and part... part social commentary, really, to make the dialogue the way it was. We must have spent upwards of three weeks debating how to do it. The studio was on our case to make it funny, to make it child-friendly and accessible. We had a lot of fun bending the rules, and the actors... I think they took it and started hamming it up even more."


Fray pauses near a freight container, leaning his ear close to the flaking metal, water sloshing around his boots. A soft tap on the side elicits a rustle of movement from within, and the lean Intaki reaches up to pull the security pin from the latch. A shriek of terror echoes through the hold as water begins to seep through the opening, and René flinches.

"Oh great! Close it up!"

Ignoring him, Fray casts the beam of the NightTorch through the hatch, the bright white spotlight passing across the frightened faces of a dozen filthy Minmatar children huddled as far back as they can. Murmuring reassurances, Fray crouches down on the floor of the container, propping the torch on the floor. He tries a couple different languages until the children react to his words; then he asks questions. One of the oldest, a Sebiestor girl with tangled dark hair, answers him hesitantly.



"I was the only one of the children with a name. None of the others really had to do anything except look terrified and go where we were told. They had a boy chosen originally to play Miryol, but he came down sick the day before filming and couldn't get out of bed. They gave the script to me because I was the only other one who could speak a Sebiestor dialect."

CORTINA HARRAN (Co-producer)

"The inclusion of the children's sub-plot and introducing the character of Miryol was a last-minute thing. The studio came down and told us we couldn't have a children's show without a child of the target age being a recurring character. we almost had to bin the whole thing, but Jaial really came to the rescue, it was a stroke of genius."


Sighing, Fray backs out of the container, then rises to face René. "Refugee kids. Their parents were promised they'd be educated and taken care of."

The smaller Gallente man snorts. "Oh, yeah, they'll be taken care of alright. Probably in the drug factories as test subjects or carriers." He eyes Fray grimly. "Don't think you can help them, Adrian, it'll be noticed and so will you. And me. I don't know about you but I like my thumbs where they are."

Fray's expression tightens, a dark fire in his blue eyes. "Well, I'm not leaving them here to be swamped. The access stair to the next level was over there, right?"


"I mean it, René." He leans back into the freight container, holding his hand out to the Sebiestor girl. She hesitates only a moment before seizing his fingers in hers, then turning to talk to the other children. Shortly, the two Gallentean spies are leading them between the stacked freight containers, René muttering under his breath and looking constantly over his shoulders.

Fray coaxes them up to the to the dry second tier and over to a dark space in the shadows. Speaking softly, he offers his name. The girl looks uncomfortable for a moment, then says, "Miryol."


KEI LeMAR ("Adrian Fray")

" A lot of what we did was very much by the seat of our pants, you know, we had things scripted but then things would get changed at the last second. Originally, I was supposed to close the kids back into the crate with a promise to return, but the water on the floor was a surprise. I felt Adrian wasn't the sort of guy who'd just leave a bunch of kids in a dark crate anyway, but the water really sealed the deal."

LARU en KIMA ("Little René")

"René was... well, he was meant to be a very self-serving, calculating sort. Fray's conscience and guide, if you will. But he always seemed to me to be a bit of a coward. He's in a very dangerous occupation and would really rather not do anything at all to gain attention from the wrong people, and I sat down with both Jaial and Naret to see if we could develop that a bit more."


"Adrian, that was way, way out of line. How are we going to cover this up?" René is fretting, one hand repeatedly readjusting his collar. Fray smiles mischievously, a grin that would become famous over the next three years.

"I've just thought of something. Follow me."

The taller man leads the way out of the cargo hold. The crew lift is damaged, so he jimmies the lock on the access stairs while René groans in disbelief. "What are you doing?"

"Cargo manifest will be in the bridge computer. It'll save us a lot of time."

The shorter man looks as though he'd rather be anywhere else but follows, shaking his head. The beam from their NightTorch flares and arcs as they follow the winding, rusted stairs around the curve of the lift shaft.

"Ugh." René leans on the wall as they reach the top. "Tell me the bridge is close."

Fray points along the hallway, the lights set dim for station-side night. "Just up there." He makes his way down the corridor, René trailing close behind, and quietly slides open the door at the far end.

Dimmed orange light illuminates the curved expanse of the bridge, consoles darkened and shut down. The Federal agent locates the main computer panel and begins to hack through the security. The whine of a blaster pistol powering up causes both men to turn suddenly.

"Who are you guys?"


LARU en KIMA ("Little René")

"They did a fantastic job making that rusted-out shell of an Obelisk look active. Generators to power the lights and all, and we all chipped in to help clean up the upper levels. The places we filmed in the hold were the same three alleys between the freight containers; there were only about fifteen of them, and the crew rearranged them so that the place looked filled no matter the angle."

L'SIATA ROUVENOR (Co-producer)

"Jaial originally wrote the character of Little René to be a sort of comic relief supporting role, but when we got down to the filming we realised that it would look better if he was on more of an equal standing with Adrian. They're both agents for the FIO, they both have a lot of physical and academic training. The only real difference is that René is very cautious and has been in there for a long time, while Adrian is much younger, a new face among the Serpentis. Almost all of what he does horrifies René, who specialises more in cloak-and-dagger than in being a man of action. It was a different dynamic from most children's shows back then."


Fray raises his hands, showing them empty, but gives a confident smile. "Serpentis Corporate Security, captain. Can you tell me about your cargo? The manifest raised an alert and you must understand we want to make certain everything is in order."

The freighter captain pales and swallows nervously. "Oh... oh. It's about that, isn't it? I never wanted to carry it, it wasn't my idea but... it's money, man. You know?"

Fray is nodding readily. "Of course, of course. I must ask to inspect it, however. I'm sure you understand the risks involved."

The captain drops his arm, the pistol's amber targeting beam sweeping to the floor. "Y-yeah. Yeah, sure. It's in the secure cargo." He leads the undercover agents back down to a separate cargo level with a heavy security door. Fumbling with the keypad, he babbles, "I-I never wanted to carry it, man, you know? It was just too much of a risk..." Behind his back, Fray and René exchange a puzzled glance.


KEI LeMAR ("Adrian Fray")

"Adrian is... a very social animal, you know, he's very charismatic and personable and he has an ability to read people and respond with what they expect to hear. It's part innate ability and part expensive implants and training, and it's how he reached his position within the FIO as an undercover agent."


"I wanted to show very early on what the characters of Adrian and René were like, I didn't want to have any horrible clichés involving secret identities or dark pasts... the sort of tropes that were popular at the time, there was an utter rash of those sorts of antiheroes at the time, and I thought it was about time that children had.. well, a real hero to look up to."

KEI LeMAR ("Adrian Fray")

"I didn't want to be-be put on a pedestal, you know, I'm not comfortable with heights at all (laughs). But it was... I found it moving, really, when I learned that Adrian Fray was such a great role model."


The centre of the floor is occupied by a solid crate, anchored by heavy bolts to the decking; the pale half-light of a security field hums around it. The freighter captain takes a step back, allowing the two agents access. "I don't have the pass for the field, you understand--"

The shriek of an alarm cuts him off mid-sentence. Fray catches his arm before he can bolt away down the corridor. "What is that?!"

"Containment alarm from the main hold! We need to evacuate!"

The Intaki releases the captain's arm, yelling over the sirens, "We'll be right behind you!" He watches as the captain runs for the exit, then turns to see René popping the lock on the crate. The smaller man glances up at him, holding up a palm-sized electronic security breaker.

"We went to far too much trouble to get here just to be scared off. Give me a hand here."

Together, they open the crate. Crystalline green light spills out across their faces, illuminating Fray's broad grin and René's puzzled frown.

"Is this... it?"

Adrian Fray reaches into the crate and lifts out a scintillating optical-crystal sculpture, fragile-looking tendrils curving and swirling around a core of light. "You bet it is. The Serpent's Eye. Stolen from a museum in the Fed last month. This thing is priceless and older than dirt. I don't know why they wanted it, but they're not buying anybody with it now." He gestures impatiently with one hand and René quickly pulls a collapsible box from a pouch at his waist and pops it into shape. The green light disappears as Fray secures the lid over the sculpture. "You take care of the package! I'll see to the kids!"

"You aren't seriously going back for them!"

"I sure am! Get going!"

Fray clatters down the stairs, arriving at the bottom with a splash. Looking around, he starts to head toward the second level when a slender pale hand grabs his. He spins, a slender pistol appearing in his hand, then relaxes as he sees Miryol. In her language, he asks, "Where are the others? There's something leaking in here."

The girl shakes her head. "They're safe, near the exit. I pulled the alarm."

Fray reacts with surprise. "You pulled it?"

The Sebiestor girl smiles. "I was in training to serve on a ship like this before we were brought from the Empire. I'm good with electronics."

Laughing, the Gallente scoops the girl into his arms and hurries with her across the cargo bay. "I'll have to keep that in mind. You've been a big help today."

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Status Update

I'm in Reykjavik, settling in for some fun before Fanfest next week. If you're going to be around, come say hi! ^_^

Monday, 21 February 2011

Crew Log: Engineering Specialist Reane Mouri, YC113-02-08

I had something else I wanted to record today but what happened this evening has blown it clear out of my head. I don't know even where to start with this, but I'll try.

The captain died today.

No, I'm getting ahead of myself.

It started as just a routine assignment. Not that we really get told what we're doing, after all, we're just the living pieces of the Dodixie Chick's machinery making sure it works the way the captain needs it to. Captain's the one who has to worry about what's going on outside. I always thought I lucked out when I signed on here, though, to be honest, he's fair, pays well, we get time off, and if there's anything we'll need to keep an eye out for, we're told before the ship ever undocks.

I think it was Serps we were engaging this time; we got in a bunch of kinetic and thermal hardeners to install this morning. Can't see outside the ship when you're crawling around its guts, after all. I think it was going well, no alerts or nothing, a bit of turret overheat Gaz and I were called up to deal with. Then everything went to hell.

Something happened, a sudden change in momentum that threw everyone off their feet. Arti-grav and gyro-comps only cover so much, and we must have been going pretty fast. I smacked my head off a console when I went down, Ling fell off the service catwalk and broke her arm. Something ruptured amidships, I remember the alarms doing off, so loud I couldn't half hear myself think. And then all the lights went red.

We train for that, the evacuation orders. Regular maintenance on the escape pods and all that, and we have regular drills. But I'd never before had to actually evac in the middle of a fight. You don't waste time to think, or ask questions. I just hauled Ling up by her good arm and hiked her over to the nearest pod bay, both of us dripping blood everywhere. Ciaran got there the same time and between the two of us we got Ling into a seat and strapped her arm out of the way before hitting the eject button. I got to meet the floor for the second time in five minutes, but by that point I didn't give a flying fuck.

Escape capsules give all crew members immediate access to the Local comms channel so we can get in touch with retrieval crews. As soon as our pod launched, the air filled with an argument between the captain and several other capsuleers. From what I gathered, while Ciaran slapped a mediplast over the gash in my head, they'd got the drop on us while the captain was finishing off a Serp patrol, and wanted money in exchange for letting us go.

The captain refused. They finished off the Dodixie Chick, her beautiful chromed hull evaporating in a cloud of burning shrapnel that shook our tiny escape pod, then snared the captain's own escape pod.

We heard his scream as they destroyed it.

We were sitting there for maybe an hour before the rescue crews arrived to fetch us. We were just... numb. We're just crew-members, we fix things that can't be repaired otherwise and keep the captain's interface running. He's supposed to be an immortal demi-god, untouchable and powerful beyond measure, but to hear that...

When we finally returned home in the care of InterBus, the captain was waiting in the assembly hall. He looked the same as before, though his skin looked a little too smooth, too perfect. I supposed that was the effect of being cloned back to life. The look in his eyes, though... The last time I saw that look, it was on Muri after he lost his family in the pirate raid. The realisation that he's not invincible and that something has been taken away that he'll never get back.

I can't even imagine what it must be like to have your self burned out of your head and injected into a new body like that. In that moment, while he debriefed us and spoke of future plans to replace the Dodixie Chick, the captain looked as vulnerable and human as the rest of us.

I'll never forget that.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

I aren't ded

Well, it has been three months, hasn't it?

I've been busy, alas not with very much Eve-related apart from graphics, so it's not been worth posting. I've been ingame a lot, but semi-afk or running logistics in highsec whilst working on other stuff, and RP logs are very difficult to reproduce for a blog entry. I'm starting to understand why many RPers simply summarise.

That being said, the next blog post will be an RP log, modified into a readable format; something a little different.

Veto. Corp is preparing for FanFest. We'll have a significant number attending again, and this time I'm officially a part of it, rather than being the adopted sister like last time. I'm not complaining, mind, it was great to have a group of people I knew to hang out with. The 2011 Veto Bar Combat Wing is getting ready to roll out.
Hold on to your livers, it's gonna be a crazy week.