Elder Scrolls Online: Too Much Beta

In my post earlier today, I pointed out Ripard’s abrupt disenchantment with Elder Scrolls in his last few months of blogging.  As I stated there, I think a lot of it was basically a case of Too Much Beta.  I was not able to participate heavily int he beta due to my slow internet and inability to get the client downloaded until about halfway through each beta session I was invited to.  In retrospect, I’m glad of this – I didn’t get tired of the game prior to it coming out.

Ripard is not the only person I think this happened to – Isarii, at Tamriel Foundry did something similar.. he was invited to the continuous beta, and after giving the game an excellent comprehensive review in February, stating at the end: “It is addicting, and it’s addicting in a way that I haven’t felt from an MMO in a very long time. No, it doesn’t grab you right away – and that’s a problem we’re seeing from a lot of the reviewers who didn’t get very far – but once the game opens up, there’s actually a lot to like, and that, for me, is the spark that lights my hope for the game’s success.”

Now, that’s exactly how I feel about the game, but bear in mind this was written on February 14th; 2 months less 1 day prior to release.  Isarii, as a major element of the staff at Tamriel Foundry at that time, had significant contact with ZOS at various events, and was a continuous beta player.  I know this because he also joined my corporation – Thrall Nation – in EVE, having just started that game, and then left again precisely because of continuous beta.

A little over a month later, he left Tamriel Foundry as a staff member (and mostly as a poster), and posted on his blog why he was done with Elder Scrolls Online.

This stands in stark contrast to his review of a month earlier.  I think some of his concerns are more valid than others – in particular, I don’t think ESO is that buggy, nor was it at launch, mainly because I have yet to see an MMO that wasn’t fairly buggy at launch, and quite a few of them retain some long-standing bugs that never get fixed.  I think getting the bugs out of a game designed to run on thousands of computers around the world with no quality control over the hardware or software of the clients is a much harder task than most of us appreciate.  There’s a level of unacceptable bugginess Vanguard: Saga of Heros, for example) but ESO never hit it.

His complaint of dishonesty, near the end, is a little more valid (mainly because of the sale of mounts) but even there it really falls into the realm of different interpretations.  Technically, mounts and pets are found in the game, but like he says, they’re minor.  I chalk that up to Paul Sage making an ill-advised absolute statement, not lying.

His feelings as to whether they are transitioning to free-to-play, and intended to all along.. I don’t know.  He had access to more information than I.

Now, having talked with him extensively, I know that Isarii is not a stupid man, nor dishonest, nor a malcontent.  He is, however, very straightforward and blunt, particularly towards people that are not using good reasoning, or ARE malcontents, dishonest, or stupid.

He’s not immune, however, from normal human emotions, and I think that the feeling of suddenly having to pay for something he already played, with no new content for at least 6 weeks, became too much.  I think the same thing happened to Ripard.

This is a growing issue with the MMO community in general – “I want the game, but I don’t want to pay”.  Isarii was never a FTP or BTP advocate – like me, he advocated for subscription – but the reality is that it’s much easier to go from paid to free than the other way around.  Free games don’t go to subscription.

If you played the beta though, that’s exactly what happened to a lot of players.  ESO is not the first game to have a beta, but it does seem to have included a lot more players doing a lot more testing.  It’s paid off in some ways – bugs are dying in droves – but it’s also gotten a lot of strong community members tired of it before it even went live.  Some might say that’s lack of content, but there’s no lack of that, nor a lack of pvp oppurtunity.  What there is, is simply an unwillingness to do the same thing over paid that one did free.

Torturous arguments

As I alluded to in my very first post, one of my inspirations for this blog was the departure of Ripard Teg from the EVE blogosphere and his abrupt ending of Jester’s Trek as an active blog.

I won’t say that “I saw it coming”, because I didn’t.  There were signs, starting with his equally abrupt end to the series of posts that led to his discussion of the Erotica 1 bonus room.  There was also his equally abrupt switch from enthusiasm to dismay with Elder Scrolls Online, although that sort of abrupt switch (which I will cover shortly) was not the only one of it’s kind I observed.  Elder Scroll’s extensive beta program seemed to produce quite a few people who, having played the game extensively, were suddenly disenchanted with having to pay for the same content they’d already played for free in beta.  That’s a topic for another day, however.

Ripard had recently given up his CSM post as well, and his original reason for starting the blog was to support his first CSM run.  He got elected to CSM later, but with that term over and the abrupt change in relationship to the EVE playerbase that entailed (some players seemed unable to understand that he was, in fact, no longer on the CSM) that most likely provided a rather substantial shock to his usual blogging routine.  Indeed, he’d previously hinted that after his CSM term he wished to get back to guides, hints, and other more gameplay-oriented posting.

The abrupt change in tone of the blog, however, over the last couple months it was active, should have been a clue things were coming to a head for him.

The first indication of this tone, of becoming frustrated with his inability to get his point across to people that didn’t want to see it, was the “bonus round post”.  Now, I fundamentally agree with the vast majority of this post.  Ripard’s intentions and message were fundamentally accurate.  Erotica 1’s bonus room is reprehensible, and should not be permitted or tolerated by CCP, nor should anyone else’s.  This sort of thing is disgraceful, and the massive errors in reasoning committed in trying to defend it are evidence of the nature of the defenders.  While it’s a fallacious argument in itself to argue that an error in reasoning means that a conclusion is necessarily false, if ALL of the arguments for a conclusion are fallacious there’s a very good chance the conclusion is as well.

The most prominent of these fallacious arguments (although not by much) is the argument that “CAM members can just get someone they don’t like banned.”  This is an appeal to motive in a number of ways; just because Ripard was on the CSM, and does not like Erotica 1’s conduct does not mean CCP banned Erotica merely for his appeasement.  In fact, given that his term was almost over, he was not running for re-election, and the CSM is purely advisory in role in the first place, it’s hard to see why CCP would be particularly concerned about simply appeasing him.  The CSM has 14 members and he’s only one; other CSM members, such as Malcanis, disagreed with him.

It’s always appealing to revert to implications of corruption when a governing body does something one doesn’t like.  This is why codes of ethics in government, and CCP’s rules for conduct of it’s employees reflect a desire (in real government’s codes of conduct often explicitly stated) to avoid the appearance of impropriety even in situations where no impropriety actually occurred.  For example, a judge will recuse himself from a case where he has prior connections to the parties even if those connections are relatively incidental and he feels no real preference – people can perceive a preference.

The problem with this is, however, that people determined to find impropriety will find it no matter what, even when they need to make tortured claims that CCP bowed to the will of a lame-duck CSM member for no apparent reason.  Remember folks, CCP couldn’t possibly be motivated by the possibility of bad press and turning away potential new customers (an area they are perpetually in need of help in), it must be because Ripard Teg demanded it!

That said, Ripard did overstep in one area – his repeated description of the event as “torture”.

Now, I have very high standards for describing something as torture.  Torture is one of those words that tends to get thrown at any mildly undesirable experience a person undergoes these days.  I find this to be a very bad habit of society; diluting the seriousness of the term for rhetorical impact.  Torture should be regarded as something truly appalling; very severe pain inflicted over an extended period of time against a defenseless victim, and without any legitimate purpose.

Unfortunately, even legal definitions of torture tend to fall short of this.  In an effort not to attempt to exhaustively list every type of torture, or provide a line that the depraved can walk right up to, the law tends to define torture as a very vague, nebulous thing.  The U.S. statute on torture could be read to prevent placing people in handcuffs.  While some anti-government forum nimrods not faced with the responsibility and danger of actually having to arrest people themselves, or needing to ensure people actually come to court might find this appealing, the fact is that physical pain, discomfort, and harm are sometimes necessary, and thus do not rise to the level of torture unless they go beyond what’s necessary for the safe arrest and control of accused persons.  It might be necessary to hit a person pretty hard to get them to submit to arrest; the same blow to obtain a confession isn’t necessary because while the government has a responsibility to ensure the accused go to court, it has no similar responsibility to ensure they confess or are convicted – the accused may be innocent.  That same blow, however, doesn’t become torture unless it’s repeated and severe.  Abuse is not a synonym for torture; while all torture is abuse, not all abuse is torture.

In the case of the Erotica 1 situation, another criteria arises – the defenseless victim.  The victim was not, in fact, defenseless.  He was capable of simply leaving.  Erotica 1 and his advocates have used this as an excuse to claim that they “did nothing wrong”.  This is not the case; coercion by means of deception and bait-and-switch does not become acceptable because the victim can walk away at massive cost to themselves, but it DOES mean that the victim was not being tortured.  This is scant defense for Erotica 1, but it is important to me because while I find the conduct of Erotica 1 reprehensible and the ban perfectly sound, this should not be considered real-world criminal behavior, nor should victimizing someone via the internet because of a video game be considered “torture”.

Real schoolchildren are, these days, often subject to terrible cyberbullying where even their own house is not a refuge any more as the bullies penetrate that haven by means of social media and the internet, leaving them with the choice of being social outcasts by being denied the media of their peers, or being outcasts by means of the ostracism of a few classmates that are “harvesting tears”, thinking that schools are their own “sandbox” in which to bend the rules.  A few hours of humiliation after getting in over one’s head in a video game is not the same psychological torture that school kids undergo (although it is a form of cyberbullying), and it certainly does not deserve the same appellation as the treatment of POWs and oppressed people throughout history.

This kind of use of extreme terminology weakens the argument against such conduct by making those opposed to it look like unreasonable fanatics.  Unfortunately, it’s common in society today – witness the ranting and screaming by the left about a “war on women” that amounts, substantially, to possily having to pay for one’s own birth control.  As my own wife said, to listen to these people you would think all women cared bout was consequence free-sex.  And yet, after making a professional victim like Sandra Fluke their mascot and other associated panic, they wonder why their opponents gain traction.

EVE players opposed to the Bonus Room and other such misbehavior should not make the same mistake.  This, ultimately, is a video game.  Yes, we need to call out appalling behavior, but we should not make ourselves look foolish by pretending it’s real-world crime or torture.  A criminal that confines themselves to violations of gaming rules of conduct is vastly better than one that violates his fellow citizen in real life.

Blaming the victim

I tried to come up with a clever title for this post, but it eluded me.  I kind of don’t want to make this post, because it’s likely to derail this entire blog into real-world politics, but it sort of has to be made before I can get into some other things.

For anyone who has not listened already, the soundcloud of the actual bonus room is here.

One of the (numerous) excuses made during the Sokar scandal involving Erotica 1 was that Erotica and his cronies remained polite and calm during the entire “bonus room” exercise, while Sokar became more and more upset, eventually ranting angrily, and including some racist language and making some death threats.

Now, those two issues are separate ones in and of themselves, and I might get into them later.  Suffice to say that whether or not Sokar made death threats or used racist language is irrelevant to the question of Erotica 1’s conduct.  Racist, homophobic, sexist and other bigoted language are fairly common in EVE, and while they’re tasteless, inappropriate, and reflective of the juvenile sides of their users, they are not a result of rampant racism, sexism, or homophobia in the playerbase; they’re a result of people simply getting tired of living in a world overrun by liberals eager to condemn anything they don’t like as “racism”, “sexism”, or “homophobia” as a form of ad hom fallacy to distract from real issues.  Victim politics is very powerful in the western world, and dominated by the left (although the right is increasingly getting into the act, and with the typical clumsiness of the right in the last 15 years.)

Victim-blaming (or, when that doesn’t work, blaming the police officer, the court, the “system”, or in EVE, the CSM or the devs) is a time-honored tradition of criminals everywhere – and for those for whom distractions are unavoidable, Erotica 1 is a criminal in the EVE context, not in the real-world one, as far as I know.

Victim-blaming, unfortunately, has also been hijacked by feminists and rape victim “advocates” who go into hystrionics every time an alleged rapist is given his right to a fair trial, to confront his accuser, and to have his guilt proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  This habit has highly distorted what we view as victim-blaming; pointing out that going to the bedroom of someone who has been hitting on you all night when you’re drunk is stupid is not blaming the victim.  Victim blaming attempts to excuse the attacker; merely pointing out that measures can be taken to avoid sexual assault does not somehow translate to condoning the sexual assault.  The fact that one has a right to not be assaulted is irrelevant – the nature of criminals is to violate the rights of their victims.  The fact that one has a right to leave valuables on one’s car seat does not mean that doing so is a bad idea because it makes burglary of the vehicle attractive; the fact that one has a right not to be sexually assaulted when in private with an unfamiliar person does not mean getting into that circumstance is not a bad idea.  “Rape culture” and other inventions of the feminist are made of this sort of distortion, however.

The excesses of the feminist movement make it necessary to explain what is and is not victim-blaming.  Victim-blaming occurs when the conduct or nature of the victim is used to excuse the conduct of the criminal, and that conduct or nature is either A) irrelevant or B) not a cause for action on the part of the criminal.

Victim-blaming also assumes the presence of a victim either in the moral or legal sense.  People often attempt to mix the legal and the moral to their advantage, but a legal victim is not necessarily a moral one, and vice versa.

A person who pulls out a knife to rob someone, for example, and finds himself shot by his victim, is neither a legal nor a moral victim; his conduct was A) relevant to the response (he created a threat, and the shooter defended himself) and B) a cause for action.  A person on the other hand who makes a death threat over EVE Online would be a legal victim, although possibly not a moral one if the person he threatened showed up at his house and killed him; while the threat was relevant to the response, making threats over a video game is not cause to hunt down the threat-maker and kill them as “self defense”.

In the Erotica 1 case, the victim was both a legal and moral victim of Erotica 1’s conduct.  His own bad behavior does not excuse Erotica’s.  Erotica had neither the right nor the duty to expose closet “racists” by luring them into his bonus room.

This excuse smacks of the same problems as criticism of the Nurnburg trials.  Hugely questionable from a legal sense on numerous grounds, such as (but not limited to) the appearance of Ex Post Facto law and the presence of the Societs despite their own bad behavior, no amount of legal irregularity or shenanigans changes the fact that the Nazis on trial were despicable in every sense of the word, and the victors were under no obligation to give them trials at all.

Erotica 1, similarly, used the ISK-doubling game (itself a permissible type of scam) to lure people into the bonus room.  The bonus room is an inexcusable abuse of the sandbox concept, and a deliberate blurring of the line between in-game conduct, and private matters outside the game.  No amount of pointing out Sokar’s misbehavior will change that fact, especially since it was entirely a result of him being in the bonus room in the first place.

Why the bonus room is impermissible, I’ll get to soon.  For now though, it’s enough to know that there’s no excuse for it, either participating it, or defending it.  Those still trying to pretend it was some travesty that Erotica was banned ought to consider themselves lucky it wasn’t everyone involved, and that it’s not me making decisions at CCP.  If it were, defending conduct already declared impermissible on the official forums would result, at a minimum, in a forum access suspension.  This conduct has absolutely no place in any online game, and the people that insist on it really don’t need to be playing MMOs at all until they can learn that the game is there for the gameplay, not for their sense of imaginary superiority over those they can lure into questionable situations.


But…. But… But….

We’ve all said, or thought that at one time another, or at least words to that effect.  It’s the thought process we engage in when we’re in trouble.  When we realize that, rightly or wrongly, we’re in for it, we grope about for anything that will get us out of it.  That might be mitigating circumstances, some violation of our rights, whether what we did was actually a violation of the rules or law, whether we were the one that did it, or even just pleading for mercy.  When you were a kid, the first one and the last two tended to work with mom, or at school, but arguing your rights, or trying to play lawyer didn’t tend to work with mom, or at school.

Criminals (by which I don’t just mean violators of the law, but whoever gets in trouble in a particular context) tend to come in three types.  You have the “career criminal” who doesn’t care about the rules, and who engages in crime or rule-breaking as his major activity.  You have the otherwise good guy who just makes a mistake, and most likely won’t repeat it.  Then you have the in-between; the sort of person that doesn’t really intend to get in trouble, and theoretically cares about the rules, but who lacks impulse control or has poor judgement, and so is always stepping in it.  This is That Guy we all know that has a job, most of the time, but keeps losing it because he gets a DUI every year or something like that.  Or, the guy that gets arrested every so often because he just couldn’t back down from the trash-talking asshole at the bar that said something offensive about the Korean War.

“That’s all dandy, Kiryen” you say “but what’s it got to do with EVE or Elder Scrolls?”

Well, I’ll tell you.

As I said in my very first post, one impetus for starting this blog was Ripard quitting.  One of the major impetus for him quitting (I think) was the volume of crap slung at him after the Erotica 1 incident.  I realize the Erotica 1 issue may, to many people, be old news, but by the same token, I also think that gives a little perspective that may not have been there at the time.

The Erotica 1 incident, though, has to be understood with the understanding that there’s 2 “legal systems” in EVE.  There’s the rules within the client which permit, even encourage some “criminal” behavior as valid play,  Then, there’s the EULA and TOS, the other legal system.. and those work a lot more like Mom’s legal system did than real court does.

What’s really interesting to me is not the final incident of Erotica 1’s career itself, but the player reaction, and the hoops that a certain vocal contingent tried to jump through to tell itself this was some monumental injustice.

Yet on reflection, it shouldn’t be surprising.  Real criminals will grasp at any straw to get out of trouble, or at least to lessen the consequences, and the Erotica 1 crowd, regardless of what they do within the client, consists of a lot of people that very much fall into the first type of criminal.  Erotica 1 and his cronies were breaking the rules, they knew it perfectly well, and their plan was to try to lawyer their way out of it if they got caught.. if they had a plan at all.  They forgot, however, that EVE is ultimately a video game, not the government, and ultimately your legal rights are there to protect you from mistreatment in the real legal system.

Now, it’s perfectly normal to want to minimize trouble when we get into it, and that is not bad.  Mitigating circumstances should be considered.  If rights were violated in legal process, a remedy should be made.  If what you did wasn’t against the law (even if at first glance it appeared to be) or you weren’t the one that did it, you shouldn’t be punished, and the court should be merciful (to at least some degree) to those that show honest remorse and regret.

People in general, though, will tend to grasp at any of these straws when in trouble, and the more criminal they are in mentality, the more they will try to twist and wrangle the facts to make it work.  People, in general, do not know their rights, and talk themselves into even more trouble trying to get out of it, but it’s never their fault.

That’s the mentality of the Erotica 1 defenders.  Even if they weren’t in trouble themselves, and even if they aren’t criminals in real life (and in all probability they aren’t) in their gaming, or even just in this game, they have acquired a criminal mindset, and not just in-client.  They have something they want (tears) they are willing to do anything to get it, and when caught they accept no responsibility, and try to turn the consquences into some sort of persecution.

I’ve been in law enforcement for 12 years now, and this is not new to me.  It is, however, interesting to see the same behaviors I’ve observed so often in people under arrest surface in people who can’t keep the game in the game.


Looking back: Arena and Daggerfall

In the history of the Elder Scrolls series, there’s something of a break in collective memory between Daggerfall and Morrowind.  From casual observation, it seems like Morrowind represents a significant change in community awareness of the game’s history.

There’s several possible reasons for that.  Morrowind came out in 2002, Daggerfall in 1996, a break of just under 6 years between games, making it by a few months the longest series break over that between Oblivion and Skyrim.  A player who was 15 when Morrowind came out would have been about 9 when Daggerfall came out.  Daggerfall also had no expansions or DLC as the later games did, and while a mod community developed for it, there was no offical “construction set” as the later games had.  Morrowind was the first game available on console as well, expanding it into that realm of gaming.

Those of us that remember those early games are a much rarer breed in the community, therefore, than those that started playing with one of the later games.  Elder Scrolls has changed a lot since those games, and a review of the series history is something that I feel I should do before saying anything about The Elder Scrolls Online.

Now, a disclaimer:  Daggerfall came out when I was a junior in college.  I was supremely busy at the time; I was an MS III in Army ROTC at Virginia Tech, which also put me in its Corps of Cadets;  Virginia Tech and Texas A&M are the only schools in the US that are normal civilian colleges, but which maintain a full-time military experience for its ROTC students and those others that elect to participate, thus mixing the military academy with the regular college life.  The junior year is the busiest and most demanding of the ROTC schedule, and culimnates in camp, where essentially, one’s future or lack thereof as an Army officer is decided.  Needless to say, I was busy.  I also was just not playing a lot of computer games; my gaming centered at the time around playing Warhammer 40,000 with my friends.

Because of this, I didn’t really get around to trying Daggerfall until 1999.  By that time technology had largely passed the game by and Diablo, Starcraft and Baldur’s Gate eclipsed it.  Everquest came out early that year, thus ending my brief foray into Daggerfall.  It is the only game out of the main series I did not play extensively (I tried out Battlespire as well, the prior year and did not care for it for reason I don’t recall) and the only one I never beat.

Looking back on it, I don’t think I missed a lot.  Daggerfall had extensive features and possibilities, but reading about its story afterwards it is by far the least engaging plot, and its weird “all endings are canonical” thing turned me off.  Afte rthat, I essentially forgot the entire series other than fondly remembering Arena, until I noticed Morrowind on a lunch stop at Best Buy one afternoon in 2002.

That’s a story for another day, though.  Prior to my belated, abortive experiments with Daggerfall and Battlespire, I had played Arena through no less than 3 times completely and countless others without carrying it to the end in my Freshman and Sophomore years.  Arena was for its time the best game I had ever played.  I had been a big fan of the SSI D&D games (Gold Box series, and others) before that, as well as F-19 Stealth Fighter in junior high, but none of them held my interest like Arena did, and the only reason I didn’t play Arena even more was the enticing social life of college.

Arena resembled pen-and-paper RPGs far more than its successors, with rigid classes and experience-point based advancement.  There were no skills at all.  Only the classes that fell under the Mage could cast spells, with the exception of the Bard, who was under the Thief (and had no bard-like musical abilities).

The game covered the entire continent of Cyrodill with its procedurally generated land and dungeons.  On top of that there were the big dungeons that held pieces of the main quest, and the artifacts that evolved into Daedric artifacts in later games.  Back then, you could only have one at a time, and they would disappear if you used all their charges.  Each big dungeon in each province was preceded by another dungeon in that same province that held the map to the one you really needed.  Loot was in big piles on the floor that looked the same no matter what.

Your weapons and armor were dictated by class as well.  You chose what type of attack to make with your weapon (side slash, diagonal slash, downward chop or stab) which had various multipliers to attack rolls and damage.  You COULD raise ability scores every level, but from all appearances, the amount of points available to assign was random; it wasn’t like Oblivion or Morrowind where the number of available points at level-up was based on how much you used that ability.

Magic had a surprising number of effects, including the Passwall effect which allowed you to destroy a wall out of a dungeon and cut your way through.  Lava was a frequent hazard, and fire resistance was critical.  If I remember right, there was at least one quest where surviving a long lava swim was mandatory, at least unless you had Passwall.

Very little of Arena survives today in Skyrim or Online outside of the lore.  The Nightblade and Sorcerer are classes that were around in Arena, but there are no formal classes in Skyrim.  The variety of magical effects has shrunk.  Selecting what type of attack to make has made a return in the form of block, bash, standard, or power, but the attack rolls are gone.  The ability scores are gone from both games, and while the three main attributes remain, they work completely differently – most importantly all three regenerate over time, not just when you sleep.

Arena was the product of pen-and-paper roleplaying, and the computers of the early 90s.  Its obviously obsolete in its technology.  It’s most important aspect, however – the ability to go where you please and do the main quest as and when you please – has defined the entire series.  Too many people, talking about what “is Elder Scrolls” and “Isn’t Elder Scrolls” forget Arena and Daggerfall.  This is where it all started, and if you ever are in the mood for some retro action, go try them out.

The Dinosaur’s Briefcase

EVE launched it’s Kronos update on June 3rd.  Included in that expansion were 3 new pirate ships, from the Mordu’s Legion faction; a minor pirate faction up till now represented among rats and missions, but otherwise paid little attention amidst the parade of Sansha, Blood Raiders, Guristas, Serpentis, and Angels.

First up, the Garmur frigate:


A very pretty ship indeed.  The hull form and colors tend to remind me of an F-22.  Next, the Orthus cruiser


The triangular-ish wings in the center remind me a bit of the F-23; the unselected competitor to the F-22.  Finally, the Barghest battleship:


Uh.. ok… really? I mean, I like it, it’s cool, and all but…  everyone knows what I mean.  The only real debate is, is it a spatula, or a fry pan?  There’s a corp (or alliance?  I forget) out there known as Sniggwaffe, associated with pandemic legion, that has the ticker [WAFFLES].  If they don’t make this thing a doctrine ship…

Next up, several ships had their hulls revised.  First, the Condor/Crow/Raptor hull:


Very cool indeed; really looks fast and maneuverable now which is the hallmark of the ships that use it.  Next, the Moa/Eagle/Onyx hull:


Of all the hull redesigns to date (or at least since I started playing in 2011; I wasn’t here when the Scorpion got it’s makeover) this is the one that makes me happiest.  The old Moa hull was so godawful that I simply wouldn’t even consider flying it, and it’s appearance (something like a dinosaur carrying a briefcase) is the reason for the title of this post.  This new hull is a vast improvement; it looks like a cruiser, not just a bunch of thrown-together pieces of ship that was what passed for “utilitarian” Caldari design before.

Finally, the new Typhoon hull:


The old Typhoon was not a hull I disliked, but this one is definitely more fun and looks more like a battleship.  Battleships should be big, powerful, and tough-looking; something most of the other battleship hulls achieve.  The Barghest conveys that, despite its unmistakably culinary resemblance.  The Nestor conveys that despite it not being entirely clear which end is the front.  The Typhoon didn’t so much; it looked like a deathtrap of thrown-together metal.  This retains the minmatar “feel” of rusty and perhaps a little behind, but makes it feel more like someone actually built a ship instead of a giant garbage can.  More importantly, it makes the ship look faster, and speed is a Minmatar “thing”.  Battleships aren’t fast, but at least it looks fast.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the trend of ship hull redesigns and the new ships that have been introduced.  Since I started playing, new ships have included the four attack battle cruisers (all of which I like), the Sisters of EVE ships (all of which I like, especially the Stratios) and now Mordu’s Legion.  It seems the older EVE gets, the better the ship models get.

I don’t necessarily dislike asymmetrical ships.  I like the Catalyst hull, and the Thorax hull, but in both cases the asymetry looks like it serves a purpose.  Ships that are mostly symmetrical but have minor pieces that aren’t like the Coercer, Megathron, or Machariel are reminiscent of real-life ships, vehicles, and aircraft where there are minor differences from left to right.

People often justify the more inexplicably asymmetrical designs by pointing out that in space, things don’t need to be aerodynamic.  That’s true, but symmetrical designs are easier to balance around engine thrust, and more easily cover areas around them with weapons.  Internal arrangements of ships are more complicated when the ships aren’t symmetrical.  Bits hanging way off the main hull by some thin strut or strand look like they’d get blown right off by a solid hit.

The Moa was a terrible offender in this regard.  It had that godawful cockpit coming off an indescribable hull, plus the briefcase-thing on one side.  Some people argued it looked utilitarian, but it really didn’t; it look as if the designer had gone out of their way to make it as awkward, unstable, impractical, and ugly as they possibly could.

In real life, ships ARE aysmmetrical when they need to be. The most obvious example is the aircraft carrier.  The angled deck permits landings at the same time the bow is being used for takeoffs.  The island is placed opposite the angled deck to keep it out of the way.  However, asymmetry hasn’t always been a good idea even WITH a purpose.  The first British Dreadnought battleships had wing turrets to permit more gun power forward and aft.  This prevented a full broadside, since at least 1 turret would always be masked by the hull.  After building 3 classes of battleship like this, the British tried building one with the wing turrets offset from each other so that (in theory) they could fire cross-deck to achieve a full broadside.

In practice, this not only was hazardous to the ship itself from the blast of the guns over its own deck, but the arc of fire for either wing turret firing to the opposite side of the ship was so small as to be nearly useless.  It also complicated the internal arrangements of the ship to a significant degree.  The Neptune and Colossus class ships were built in this fashion, before its impracticality was accepted, and it was not repeated in the Orion-class, which also eliminated the wing turrets, adopting superfiring centerline turrets, as the U.S. Navy had with its first dreadnoughts in the South Carolina and Michigan.

Some people have complained that the new ships and new hulls starting with the Sisters of EVE ships don’t look “EVE”, and I do see what they mean, but I’m not sure that’s bad.  Some of the EVE hulls have simply been better than others, and in view of the need to redesign some of the worst models, departing a bit from EVE tradition isn’t a bad thing at all.  When it comes down to it, we all want to fly cool ships, and these new models definitely hit the mark.

What is a Ginger Armory?

It occurred to me that probably the first question anyone would have stumbling on this blog is “Why on earth is it called ‘Ginger Armory’?”  Most people can probably figure out that I might be a redhead, but what has that got to do with EVE or Elder Scrolls, or gaming in general?

Well, nothing really.  I couldn’t come up with a blog title though, that nicely meshed those 2 very different games together.  Everything I thought of sounded terribly cheesy.  So, I just went with the fact that A) I’m a redhead, and possibly a little inordinately proud of my genetics (I have the pale skin, freckles, and easy sunburn to go with it) and B) I absolutely love redheaded females, and C) an “armory” is nice and general, and can be found in futuristic, modern, and primitive settings.

Now, every so often on gaming forums (whether those specific to a particular game, or a forum about games in general) someone will want to know why males play female characters.  In some cases the person seems honestly curious; in other cases the questioner loads it down with a presumption that there must be something wrong with this form of “cross-dressing” as they put it.

There has, lately, also been somewhat of a stink about females being supposedly treated as “sex objects” in games, and a series of videos from Anita Sarkeesian about this “trend” or whatever she calls it.  This isn’t a political blog.  However, I have no intention of shying away from political issues where they touch on gaming, and the fact is that gender issues seem to be touching gaming a lot recently.

With that in mind, there’s two related, but distinct issues here.  First off, why do males want to play female characters?

Well, I imagine that there are a lot of answers to that, and in a few cases there might be something of concern there, but for the most part I think a lot of it is that A) we like looking at a female avatar and B) female characters make the world more interesting.

In the first case, that population of forum nimrods that really worries about males playing female avatars invariably wants to know why we find “pixels” attractive.  Well, because they’re arranged to look like an attractive female.  If someone complains that some spaceship in EVE (such as the pre-Kronos Moa) looks ugly, no one talks about “but why do you find pixel spaceships ugly?”  No one would ever wonder why people might admire a female (or for that matter male) painting or sculpture was beautiful.  Note that I didn’t say “sexy”; I said “beautiful” and “attractive”.  We are often lectured, especially as children and teenagers, that we should be able to appreciate the beauty of the human form without thinking of it sexually.  Believe it or not, we often DO.. yes, even males.  Sexiness and sexuality are a component of this, but they are not the whole thing.  I like my female characters to look like adventurers – dressed practically, strong and athletic; not thin, waifish, and half-naked, and I am not the only male, nor part of a rare minority that likes this.  I like real-life women who look strong and athletic as well.  My Elder Scrolls Nord Dragonknight is a redheaded female who is as tall and muscular as I could make her, and looks like she might be captain of a woman’s basketball team on earth, with her hair in a conservative bun so it stays out of the way in a fight; not hanging all over the place where an enemy could grab it (or rather, could if the game allowed that sort of thing).

Strangely, women almost NEVER play male characters.  My daughter has played male characters in WoW, but she is literally the only female I know that has done so.  But because of the imbalance of male and female players, male characters playing females is necessary to make the world seem interesting in the way that modern, egalitarian society wants.  Female protagonists in science fiction and fantasy are just as enjoyable as males.  Honor Harrington comes to mind.  In order for there to be enough females in an MMO, many have to be played by males.

Playing a female character does not say anything about a man’s sexuality or tendencies any more than playing a dwarf or an orc does.  It’s a simple matter of, for whatever reason, taking the opportunity to step into a body other than your own.  This might involve a certain amount of curiosity about what it’s like to have different plumbing as well, but why are we treating that curiosity as something weird or disturbed?  People wonder about things.

This brings me to my next topic – Anita and her worries about “damsels in distress” and the complaints from people that agree with her about women being “sex objects” and the like.

This complaint is problematic for a few reasons.  First, rescuing, protecting, and helping people in distress is perfectly valid game fodder; it doesn’t suddenly become “sexist” when the person being helped is a female. Endless MMO quests involve rescues of all sorts of townsfolk, stranded starship passengers and crew, captured people of every description, and so forth.  Huge numbers of these are male, and Anita, in her rush to focus on the anecdotal misses this – to say nothing of the fact that the character doing the rescuing might well be female in many games.

Second, while impractical female armor and overly sexy bodies are common, practical female armors are also common.  Male revealing armor is not unknown either, and excessively bulked-out males are also a staple of many games.  The situation is nowhere near as uneven as Anita and her followers would like to pretend.

Third, the simple fact is that games are fantasy.  Males like feeling tough and powerful in games, and seeing attractive females, often in a fantasy-ish sort of way.  Women like to feel attractive to men.  For that matter, males like to feel attractive to females, and females like attractive men, as well.  People are what they are, and we don’t need to filter out plays to our sexual nature from our entertainment.

The disturbing underlying implication of this is that males need to turn off their sex drives and sexuality to make women feel safe from being noticed by them – and that women should not be given the option to do what they think men will find attractive.  This is present in the vast majority of complaints about “sexual objectification” throughout society – the idea that because someone is being seen sexually, that they are being made into a sex object by the viewer.  Male sexuality is seen as aggressive and dangerous, and to be controlled by not allowing women to be too sexy.  In real life, this ends up with women in burquas.

There is, of course, a valid concern about harassment and stalking in games, but it is not limited to males stalking or harassing females, and it is not caused by sexy female avatars, any more than short skirts cause (or justify) rape in real life.

We don’t need this kind of authoritarianism in video games.  The gaming community and game publishers should publish games as gamers want them.  That means some games will look like Elder Scrolls with sensible female and male dress, some will be skin-fests, some (like WoW) will have a mix of the ridiculously-sexual with the well-covered (anyone who doesn’t think this is in WoW need only check out the starting outfit for a female death knight) and some, like EVE, where the avatar is a mere afterthought.  We do not need people like Anita Sarkeesian looking for an easy backdoor into academia by writing a thesis about underwear in video games because she doesn’t want to enter a field that has actual standards of scientific merit, and thereby imposing a dress code on imagination.

Aaaaand we’re off!

I’m not really a big social media person.  It took me years to get started on Facebook (which you won’t find linked here), I don’t do Twitter, Tumblr, and I resisted getting a Smartphone for years.  Unfortunately, that didn’t stop everyone else from texting me…. so I gave in.  I wanted to make contact with old friends from college, so I surrendered to Facebook.

I’d been thinking of starting a blog for some time now.  There’s some really good ones out there.  I’d been talking on a few forums for years, and I had occasionally entertained the notion of starting a forum.  I don’t have the time to monitor and moderate a forum, or manage a community, though, so I came back to the idea of a blog.  I also really don’t want to spend a lot of time debating with other people; I want to get my thoughts out there and respond if and when I choose.  Typing stuff to put on the internet takes a lot of time; and while I like doing it, I stop liking it very fast when encountered with some forum nimrod who just can’t stop repeating the same already-addressed point over and over again.  That’s time that could be spent with my family, or playing games, or doing other things I like.

Three things in quick succession got me to start, though.  First, my EVE corporation CEO, Coffee Rocks, writes (however occasionally) his own blog.  Reading one from someone I know rather than some internet person without the good sense to stay as anonymous as possible made it seem more approachable.  Second, Elder Scrolls Online launched, to a reception I felt was both predictable, and only partially fair.  Third, Ripard Teg stopped posting rather abruptly at Jester’s Trek.

I have no illusions, nor ambition, to replace Ripard.  While it would be nice to be so involved in EVE that I could run for CSM with a chance of winning, I don’t have that kind of time, nor would my wife ever put up with it.  I certainly don’t feel prepared to reproduce his Fits of the Week, although with his departure and that some months previously of Azual Skol (EVE Altruist), there’s a definite need for EVE bloggers that give technical and tactical advice.  I agreed with Ripard on a great many issues, but disagreed with him on others, and in retrospect, the end of his blog should not have been a huge surprise.  The signs of burnout and exasperation were there.

So what do I want to accomplish with this blog?  Well, mainly to get my thoughts out there.  I can feel assured that I spoke up.  Much like on forums, I plan to post more for those that don’t respond than those that do.  Our discussion, in every sphere these days, and especially on the internet is dominated by the loud and obnoxious; monopolized by extremes that demonize the opposition, and treat moderation as heresy, or at least “not standing up for your principles.”

I want to talk about being reasonable.  Being reasonable doesn’t necessarily mean being a moderate, or seeking a “golden mean” on every issue.  It does, however, mean recognizing the valid points of those you disagree with and addressing them, rather than treating every dissenting voice as a dragon to be slain.  Despite living (for the most part) in free countries, we are starting to enter an era of censorship by white noise, where every speaker shouts as loudly as they can for their viewpoint, and only theirs, denigrates those that disagree, and fairness is trodden underfoot.

If you’re the sort of person that doesn’t like to speak up on internet media just because it seems like a titanic effort to get a thoughtful opinion out there and then defend it against the onslaught of snark and ranting.. this blog is for you.  There will be strong opinions sometimes, but reasonability will be my watchword.