Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Mobile Eve: Surface Pro 3 Edition

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So a few weeks ago I made the call to upgrade my Windows 8(.1) tablet from my old Acer W700 to a brand spanking new Surface Pro 3 (i7 252Gb). So I guess the obligatory question needs to be answered:

“Will it run eve?”

If you’ve read the previous post on running eve on the Acer, you probably know the answer, but the SP3 has a few tricks up its sleeve which might just surprise you. I’ll keep this post in a similar format to the original mobile eve test I ran so that a direct comparison can be drawn between the two tablets.

So let’s talk about specs first:

CPU: i7-4650U clocked at 2.30Ghz.

RAM: 8Gb

OS: Windows 8.1 64bit

Graphics: Intel HD 5000

As per the original post, I won’t be reviewing the tablet in general. But as a quick once over, its smaller, lighter and has a better screen than the original. The Type cover makes it far more useful in mobile situations (read the train) and the pen is a godsend. My only complaint is that the edge detection is inferior to the Acers, meaning that auto hiding the task bar makes it impossible to open with a finger. However despite that it’s an excellent tablets which I highly recommend. But let’s get onto the meat of the post. Eve.

The HD5000 (with the i7 version) has fixed the alt tab issue the older HD4000 had and so eve is at no risk of locking up your graphics. This was a pretty minor annoyance however, and one which I suspect will persist on the i5 version of the SP3.

So let’s looks at settings shall we? My first test was at full graphics. It took a pretty big toll and the system was noticeably slow to respond to mouse movements and clicks. Docked up I was getting an average of 18fps and 10fps undocked.

Next I removed the Anti-Aliasing and this gave me a few extra frames, however the system was still noticeably slow (18fps docked, 10fps undocked).

Then I optimised the graphics for performance (using the pre-set in the graphics menu). This was far more acceptable with 60fps in the hanger and 45fps undocked, without doubt the setting I would advise for playing with.

I tried dropping settings lower, but it made no difference what so ever. Heat wise the surface did start to get a little hot during the play testing but not so much as classify as “overheating”. It’s also worth noting that CCP have moved onto Dx11 from Dx9 since I last ran my test so the improvements I am seeing in this surface vs the Iconia may be either hindered or helped by that change.

So the tablet will still run Eve fine, and indeed marginally better than before. To the point now where I might be willing to play the game on the tablet in serious situations should the need arise (not going to get rid of the main PC however :P). But the real upgrade is the utility given by a minor change in the form factor. I mentioned in the previous review that eve does not accept touch input. A lot of games have this issue, where by UI elements expect a “mouse over” event before a “mouse click” event. This is expected behaviour of course for any interface using a mouse. However when you switch to a touch screen the “mouse click” and “mouse over” events happen in the same instant, meaning that 90% of the time the click will execute at the mouse’s old location rather than where you just prodded. A second prod will activate the UI element. However when you then click on the next thing you want to do, another click is executed on your old location and then the mouse moves. It’s not unique to eve, but it does mean that playing eve with your fingers won’t ever happen until there is a major change in the game engine.

Playing eve with a pen however is a different kettle of fish. Because the pen moves the mouse around when in proximity to the screen, UI elements get the “mouse over” event long before you click and I can confirm that using the SP3 pen works perfectly with eve. It’s even more precise than a finger, so the smaller UI doesn’t matter anywhere near as much, and indeed might even be considered better than a mouse for some tasks such as PI.

It really works fine on the move, anything you can do with the mouse alone, can be done holding the tablet (say on a train). Of course the moment you need to type something you’re going to need to use the type cover, which requires a flat surface to be comfortable. Skill training, PI, fitting ships, checking cargo, even flying can be done in slate mode however.

In summary the SP3 is an excellent secondary eve running client which might even work as a main in a pinch.

Fly mobile,

Hark

Post edit note: I have a friend with the i5 version of the SP3 I will confirm the FPS figures for that and report back soon!

Tablet eve 4G eddition (9 Months on)

Nine months ago I received my Windows 8 tablet (Acer Iconia W700) and immediately installed eve on it to test if I would be able to play. The result was my review of how eve played on a tablet and furthermore if it was a viable platform for playing games like eve “mobile”. The conclusion I came to then was that the tablet did successfully run eve, but that the touch interface was both aesthetically and technically challenging to use. Now that I have had the tablet for 9 months, I’ve decided to give an update on this, and discuss the honest usage I have gotten out of the tablet, and if my opinions on it for gaming (and eve in particular) have changed.

Let’s start with the broader stroke of windows gaming and the touch interface. A lot of games quite simply are not designed to be used with a tablet. Almost all of the games I own on steam either don’t work with a touch interface (requiring two pokes to click, similar to eve), or require more than just a left mouse Button to play. Some, such as Civilisation V and don’t starve work just fine out of the box, others are tolerable such as Revenge of the Titans or The Walking dead. Some require a keyboard and mouse such as Kerbal space program. Because of this I have purchased a Microsoft Wedge Keyboard and Arc Touch mouse (IMO the best travel kit on the market at the moment, despite the mouse taking up my one USB slot)

[Edit: during the process of editing this document the small USB dongle which connects to the Arc Mouse received a bump and has subsequently stopped working. This is a great pity as apart from the silly Wifi dongle the mouse is pretty much a perfect travel mouse. However because it used up an entire USB port, and now its discovered weakness (destruction of a 50p dongle ruins an otherwise working £50 mouse), I can’t say that I will be purchasing a second one).]

With these connected the tablet works just like a laptop would, but with more flexibility for where you place your K/M on the crowded commuter trains mine sees its most usage on. In the near future there is some software coming out which looks set to change this: Gameplay Gesture Works, but we shall reserve judgement on that for when its released.

This said, I rarely play steam games on the move these days, preferring to peruse my extensive list of RSS feeds on the go using NextGen Reader. This is where the windows tablets flexibility kicks in, on the train I tend to use it much like an android tablet, reading articles, perusing reddit, or playing the odd game from the Windows Store. But when it arrives at work the workout begins. Firstly I have several OneNote folders set up for various needs in the business, along with a good handful of Spreadsheets and Word documents. In customer requirements meetings, I can hook into the intranet and demo functionality, or remote onto my virtual development box and make minor changes to my code. When lunch time rolls around, I fire up eve and pop online to update my buy and sell orders, as well as organise my PI structure. Because the corporate network blocks eve, this is done over a Galaxy S4 configured as a portable 4G hotspot, it takes seconds to turn on and off, and the speed is plenty fast enough for eve, and I’m yet to have any connection issues.

Once my eve time is finished I boot up steam and spend a 20 mins or so in my current lunch hour game. This ranges from things like System Shock 2, through Mirrors edge all the way up into Skyrim. Lunchtime over its back to the grind, until I get home. There the tablet is hooked up as a 5th screen for the computer using Synergy. Here it gets used for stats tracking, or as a map for my roams in Faction warfare (using Dotlan’s Radar function).

For any one especially interested in playing eve over a 3/4G connections I can tell you that it uses far less data then you might expect. I found that is uses around 0.3mb per minute of light play (defined as flying about in a hauler, updating the market and doing PI, all in a relatively quiet system). I’m not sure I would want to attend fleets on it, or do anything of high-risk, but that is more my healthy paranoia of allowing technology to factor into the risk reward ratio of eve than any instability record. If there were a move op say when I was out of the house, I would certainly consider moving using the tablet.

So is it perfect? Simple answer is no. For a start I would like to see a tablet with a proper graphics card in it. Also if I were buying again right now, I would want a tablet with a Wacom Bamboo pen as an input option (taking notes at work would be quicker). Furthermore I am very surprised that very few tablets have a built in 3/4G modem which I could slot my sim into for mobile internet, but this is something I hope will be fixed with the next generation.

Despite these minor issues, I am still immensely pleased with this tablet, and it gets a great amount of use every day.

Fly a spaceship, in a plane,

Hark

Mobile Eve

Today the nice postman was kind enough to drop over a nice little package. My new Windows 8 Tablet arrived! So Extra Vehicular is taking a little sidestep into the world of mobile computing. Specifically the question which I’m sure every one reading is silently asking:

“Will it play Eve online!?”

Lets find out:

First of the tablet itself I wont go into too much detail on my selection process. Needless to say I picked a windows tablet specifically the Acer Iconia w700 NT.L0EEK.002:

The important statistics are as follows:
CPU: i5-3316U (dual core 1.70Ghz)
RAM: 4gb
OS: Windows 8 64bit
Graphics: Intel HD 4000

Again I wont dwell long on the tablet itself, its very nicely made feels like a solid product. Its a bit heavier than the iPad (I held a friends one once), but not so much as to be unusable on the move. My installation was delayed slightly by the awful driver shipped with it (intermittent disconnects). With that sorted though the very first thing I did was install eve online:

Network issues sorted, it installed with no hitches what so ever!

So without further ado, I pressed play, and found a couple of minor issues.

Issue 1: scrolling through the EULA is VERY hard with your finger. eve scroll bars are tiny! I eventually resorted to using the arrow down key to skip past the EULA.
Issue 2: The tablet does NOT like you alt tabbing out of eve when its in full-screen mode, and indeed if you kill the eve process through the Task Manager (as I did) the screen will stay screwed until you restart the device (admittedly this takes a few blinks to do)
Having switched to full-screen windowed mode (from which alt tabbing works perfectly) I proceeded to log in:
Yup, thats eve on full high graphics, working just fine (18-20fps), sorry for the shitty picture, its only a phone camera, I can assure you that the screen looks great in real life. So as I was already in Jita I decided to undock and give it a real test:
Ok so maybe full settings is a little too high, 6fps doesn’t seem like a good level. So went into the menu and optimized the graphics to performance, this was the result:
Not bad, lets test it on the undock again:
Thats a bit better! So the simple answer to the question: “Can an Acer Iconia W700 i5 run eve online?” is “Yes!”, very well in fact; after an hour of running it was barely even warm and I’m confident I could tweak the graphics off the lowest settings and still run reasonably.
But there is a caveat:
The eve UI. on the 11.1 inch touch screen the eve UI just doesn’t work. Every thing is tiny (even on 125% UI scaling. Further more the buttons have not been designed with touch screens in mind. Every interactive item on the screen seems to take two prods to active; the first to select the button/dropdown/textbox, the second to actually make it do its function. Indeed I have to admit cheating while writing this by plugging in a mouse, to ensure performing the actions of changing a ship and undocking a few times didn’t take a year. 
Eve worse, some UI elements (like say the Character screen), once opened, seemed to take any further prods (such as trying to open the training window) as a signal to close… not exactly helpful.
So lets amend the answer:
Yes a W700 can run eve, however you cant really do much, and what you can do takes a year.
I have got a stylus in the post to me soon, so we will see if that improves the interface use, I dont really expect it to make any difference. For now I will be only running eve via a keyboard and mouse (plugged into the on-board USB). I wouldn’t beg CCP to go and re-factor the UI for touch-screen usage (there are far more important and wider used features to be sorted first), but I will warn CCP: If touch screen devices take off in the way that Microsoft, and indeed a lot of industry leaders seem to be predicting, eve is going to need a lot of work before it can compete.
Update: a couple of suggestions I wanted to test:
1. lower the resolution and see if the UI works better:
 Originally the Res was set to 1920×1080 so I scaled it down the the suggested 16080×1050. However I didn’t really see much of a difference. So going for kill or cure I scaled down to the lowest I could: 1024x768 interestingly UI scaling above 100% isnt possible in this mode. buttons were much easier to click however the smaller items were still impossible to use (i.e. moving windows, scrollbars). FPS on full settings however did shoot up to 26 average on the undock.
2. checking the onscreen keyboard
yup this worked fine. The W700 comes with a nice little bluetooth keyboard, but what if you were out and about? First of to use the windows keyboard in the desktop, you have to activate it on the start menu (above the system tray). This mean that I had to have eve in Fullscreen window mode, so I could alt tab out and activate the keyboard. However once this was turned on, it worked fine (apart from obscuring half the screen). The onscreen keyboard did have “windowed” mode of its own, so you can move the window out of the way of what your editing.
I tried getting a screen-grab of it, but sadly the keyboard doesn’t show up on it.
Fly while on the bog,
Hark¬ 

BB42: Harkconnan’s Eve Online Review

Link to the Blog Banter Breif
This is going to a long one, stay with me people…

Before I begin if you are reading this while considering joining the game register and start downloading now no review can truly tell you if your going to enjoy eve online. That said it a big download, so you should keep reading, just to be sure.

Introduction
Every review needs an introduction, this way you get to know me, and thus can judge if my views an opinions match your own. I’m Harkconnan, an eve player of 4 years (with a 1 year break). I started playing, as every one does, in highsec doing missions. After just under a year of mission running I got bored and quit eve (playing other MMO’s [wow and others]) however eventually I got bored of elves and pixies and the call of space brought me back into eve. Here I found my long time cohorts were in lawless space (called 0.0) with an Alliance (Clan) so after a short exchange I flew out to join them. My main has called 0.0 home ever since.

In 0.0 I have participated in small gang warfare, I have lead roams (kind of like free form Raids, but in PvP form, think running around with a group of friends looking for pvp) and helped form and build an alliance. I’ve worked my way from flying small fast frigate ships all the way up to capital class carriers. I would consider myself and well rounded experienced 0.0 player, with a lot still to learn. With this in mind let us commence the review.

This review will use a somewhat usual scoring system. I have laid out a series of headings some of which I consider important to any MMO and some which are important to PvP only. I will score this game out of 100 (100 good, 0 bad), but this will evolve as I go along. starting with a Score of 50/100, representing the expectation of mediocreness I presume when I start any new game. Every time I mention something bad I will subtract from the score (depending on how bad it is) and every time I mention something good I will add to it. Each time this happens I will note the change in square brackets like this [-50] or [+5] (each bad thing can only be marked down once) and at the end of each paragraph I will show what the tally is and the amount the section changed it. At the end we will see how well it scores.

Interface & Controls
Lets get the biggest disappointment out of the way: new players, please understand that if you are expecting a control system similar to Privateer, Wing Commander or X3, you are going to be disappointed. Eve online is all about point and click. A lot of early players come into to the game expecting joystick and keyboard controls and come away upset[-1]. But don’t let this discourage you, if you come in thinking of eve’s spaceships as behemoths manned by a crew of hundreds you should be able to understand why the ships don’t have a “Fly by Wire” system. Think back to watching popular SciFi; Kirk wasn’t sitting at the helm of the enterprise with a joystick, and Darth Vader didn’t do barrel rolls in the SSD Executioner; they both pointed to a bit of space and said “Make it so” (well they didn’t Pickard did), and so will you. Thinking in this way the point and click interface actually makes a lot of sense [+1].

Moving on from the mouse controls to the rest of the interface, we can begin to see the games heritage;  launched in 2003 some parts of the game haven’t really changed much [-5], interfaces like the chat channels and the clunky corporation management pages really show their age. That said eve has a history of graphical and interface updates [+10] with the graphics engine in its entirety being overhauled in late 2007, and the last patch (2012) updating and elderly part of the interface (Targeting UI). The interface as a whole is however quite quirky, which I don’t think is either a good or a bad thing, and accentually sums up the entire game very well.

Total: +5 (55/100)

Early game
The equivalent to level 1-25 in other MMO’s takes around 3-6 months in eve, as it skill system is not based on grinding quests for XP [+5] but instead on time (both logged in and not). Some have expressed fears that this would cause older players to have an unbeatable advantage over younger players. Fortunately between the player skill needed to fly ships and the level 5 cap on any in-game skills younger players specialising can quickly outstrip older players [+5]. Indeed even when an older player has specialised in the same area, a new player can quickly level the playing field to leave player skill as the only remaining decider. Although eve has a pretty fair system for newer players, there is the sticky issue of the games community. Although I will expound on the benefits of the eve community at great lengths later, in this early game section I need to express its darker side. The eve community is ruthless and harsh to new players, the learning curve is famously steep, and new players are expected to keep up or fall off the curve [-5]. No place is safe in eve online, once you leave the almost-but-not-really safety of the starter systems, your fair game to scams and ganks. You need to be preprepared for this and ready to weather the harsh storms of life in space. To counter act this though there are many communities and groups who will help you getting into eve, and even a charity for new players, of course you need to find these first [+3]. Eve is a very hard game to get into, but those who do survive tend to have a great time.

Total: +7 (62/100)

Entry to 0.0
I said at the start of this that I am a 0.0 player through and through. As such I am pretty much reviewing my experience in the game, which revolves around 0.0. Getting into 0.0 was the biggest change in my career, and without which I doubt I’d still be playing today. My transition was pretty easy, I had friends in a 0.0 (sometimes called Nullsec) space who invited me to join them. Simple as. I think this transition was maybe a little bit easier than most, but really it represents the average transition [+5]. Of course you wont be able to join one of the top alliances off the bat (unless you come from an external community like Something Awful or Reddit), but you can have fun in a lesser alliance until you have enough skill and experience under your belt to make that jump. Joining a NullSec Corp/Alliance usually follows this process:

  • Make a list of potential Corps
  • Join their Public channels (think private text chartrooms)  and chat with people about the alliance to get an idea of the group
  • Pick one that fits and speak to their recruiter
  • Jump on their Communications server (TS3, Vent or Mumble generally) for an interview
  • Join
Sure its a little officious and convoluted [-2], but that’s for their and your protection, spies are a very very real worry in eve online. Its not as bad as some people make out. Once your in (assuming you picked a good group) you should find a very welcoming and warm sub community of eve doing everything they can to earn your loyalty [+3]. Getting physically out to NullSec is potentially a little more difficult [-1]. If you have a carrier, its pretty easy going, but as a new player, the chances are your going to have not much more than a battle-cruiser at most. My best advice would be to save up around 200-300 Million Isk (it’ll seem a lot to start, but its really not) and fly out in a pod, to by the ships you need out there, but chat to the alliance recruiters about the best way of getting set up, you’ll be fighting for sovereignty before you know it. Really getting into 0.0 is as hard as you make it, and less difficult the more you plan ahead.
Total: +5 (67/100)

0.0 Life
I’m expecting to find a lot of +’s in this section, it is after-all the bit that’s kept me playing all this time. I had to describe eve online in one sentence the other day, and I went with the following: “Its a bit like Corporate espionage mixed with cowboys and naval combat, but in space” and I think that really describes what Nullsec is really like. Let me break it down for any potential new players reading. Nullsec is lawless space, unlike Highsec, where a police force hunts down criminals for committing physical crimes, in Nullsec you are free to do what ever you want to whom ever you want [+5]. Space is held and controlled by player created and maintained Alliances who jostle and manurer to exploit the space to their own means. like the ultimate Player owned housing, in eve players can have player owned Continents [+10]. Alliances are formed, wars are fought and backs are most defiantly stabbed. Actually I should revise my statement its a bit more like feudal China than cowboys, or perhaps medieval Europe. Nullsec life has many many facets; keeping up with the latest political manurers [+5], fighting wars against the sworn enemy (“We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”)[+5], or if you climb high enough, leading a nation of 5000, pilots to victory (or defeat) over another nation[+10]. Its not all ponies and rainbows though. Certain game mechanics can make the process of claiming or defending your sovereignty of a system long and boring [-5], there is also a certain aspect of luck to getting the combat you want. The best analogy really is pets; A single player game is like owning a dog. Its a bit stupid but its loyal and you can take it out for a walk any time you like. A game like World of Warcraft is a bit like the Zoo, you have to wait till you have enough friends on-line to make the visit worth itt, but as long as its open and you have the friends its great. Eve is more like owning a cat, it doesn’t love you, it puts up with you. You can feed it all you like, but it will never come to you beck and call. Sure sometimes it will sleep on your lap and rub your legs, but if you try and pick it up for a cuddle when it doesn’t want it, it will scratch you face. In null-sec the shear numbers of people and logistical pre planning that goes into a battle means that you cant just jump in to combat when you want to (there are other areas of eve where you can of course). A lot of the time when your spoiling for a fight there just wont be any combat about [-5]. This is to the point where most organised alliances have an “on call” system, where available players are logged into a chat interface like IRC or jabber. Most of the time you’ll be logged out of eve and playing other games or doing other things. Then suddenly a “ping” goes out and alerts you a fight is about to happen and you log in. You don’t so much play eve online, as eve online plays you.
Total: +20 (87/100)

Combat
As I said above, in 0.0 you don’t necessarily get to pick when you get combat, but when you do oh boy was it worth the wait. Combat in eve is varied and intense. I am going to tell you now that I have done top level raids in wow, and nothing, nothing compares to the thrill of pvp in eve. Even the last 1% of the boss you have been trying to down for a month with only 5 members of your raid group left alive gives a fraction of the adrenalin of the smallest engagement in eve [+20]. Like the rest of the game combat has lots of different aspects to it, its more than just throwing slugs at each other through the void of space[+10]. There are weapon types, damage types, tank types, ranges, tracking speed, electronic warfare and that at the lowest level of abstraction (one vs one) zoom out to fleet combat and add; tactics, searching for the enemys co-ordinates to warp to them, battlefield manipulation (called grid fu), betrayals and even dropping reinforcements into the fight. You honestly never know what’s going to happen. Even better there is very little in the actual combat system which is truly bad since Time dilation (time slows down the more events are happening in the fight to combat server lag) fights have been amazing, with the only true downside being when the enemy decided to not show up (called blue balling) which always sucks [-1].

Total: +29 (116/100)

Community
eve is often praised for its amazing level of community which may seem a bit odd considering my statements in the Early Game section. But its one of many doublethinks in this game. The eve community is at the same time harsh and cold, and warm and welcoming[+5]. We don’t suffer fools, but we do nurture potential, if you mess up bad people will smack you down, then teach you how to do things right next time. Not only that, but in this game, if you really, really want to succeed you will need to engage with the community and research your moves to progress[+5]. You cant just log in and play, you have to join the meta game (for current eve players: meta isn’t just about spying you know, its about gaining information), and that makes for a great community [+5].

Total: +10 (126/100)

Average play session
Average is a very misleading word, the average (median or modal) play session for me would be:

  • Revive Ping
  • log in
  • fight
  • log out
but if you have read the Combat section of this review, you’ll know how un-realistic that is. Instead I will attempt to convey the Average Mean of my playtime by expressing what I do in percentages. Graph one is playtime on my main account (Nullsec combat). Graph two is my playtime across all accounts. All values are estimations on my behalf:
To score this section I am going to use Chart 2 giving each activity a fun factor from -1 to +1 and multiplying it by the number of hours played.
Combat – See Combat section
Score: +1 x 9 = 9
Moving Ships – In eve there is no real quick travel method, although carriers can kind of do this, it requires a bit of setting up first and isn’t exactly *click map and go*. every time the fights move region, you have to move with them. Its pretty boring tbh.
Score: -0.5 x -2 = -1
Fitting ships – This is actually kinda fun, but its not exactly combat really.
Score: 0.1 x 1 = 0.1
Waiting for combat –  I’m including moving to and from my home station to a fight in this section. Its kinda boring but also at the same time a good build up to fights. Assuming the fight happens. I would leave this neutral at 0 because of the anticipation, but because some times fights dont happen its gona get:
Score: -0.1 x 3 -0.3
PvE – Repetitive and kinda boring, but also required for money. It is still blowing things up (good) but nowhere near actual combat
Score: 0.3 x 5 = 1.5
Trading – My main source of income. Its a real discipline to keep doing but is in its own way a kind of pvp.
Score: 0.5 x 0.5 = 0.25
Total: +9.55 (135.55/100)
Final Thoughts
So there we have it. A 135.55 out of 100 score… well what did you expect? I have been playing this for 4 years with a total play time of over 150 days. Yes that’s an actual logged in time of just under a half year. You don’t log that kind of time unless you think its the best thing since sliced bread. This was always going to be a bias review but here is the kicker. This Blog banter will likely contain 20+ reviewers with a similar story, and lots of people are devoted to this game. The question is, “Is it for you”? well there is only one way to find out: Give it a go
Score Break down:

Starting assumption of mediocrity: 50
Interface & Controls:
5
Early game:
7
Entry to 0.0:
5
0.0 Life:
20
Combat:
29
Community:
10
Average play session:
9.55

Final Score:
130.55 out of 100