Apocrypha on-line

12th March 2009 – 10.30 am

The patch doesn't want to download to my computer for some reason. But that's okay, because patching from inside the client pegs my notebook's CPU at a constant 50%, so I grab the Apocrypha patch from the EVE Online website. I actually end up downloading the entire client again, as it is the only link that works for me, but with the patch being roughly the same size it seems like a good idea to have a clean build anyway. A couple of hours later I have the game installed and ready to be run.

The first and most obvious change is the graphics, as it is the first time the Mac client has had access to the premium graphics settings. To be honest, I didn't have a problem with the classic graphic style, probably because mostly what is being rendered are spaceships and space stations and without needing to model life-like characters at all, let alone with any complexity, there is not much that can go wrong. However, there now is a significant difference in how shiny all the ships, stations and stargates appear. Metallic cockpit screens reflect their surroundings, myriad dots of blue light glare their way out of structures and the level of detail makes everything feel bigger. I really want to find time to run a mission to see how combat looks now.

The new animation for jumping between systems is pretty neat, with a bubble 'imploding' your ship rather than having it simply dissolve. I also notice that the transition between warp and sub-warp speeds no longer shakes the screen. Whilst no fan of invasive effects the shaking screen was a useful indicator that the ship was coming out of warp, a notice to pay attention to the surroundings again, perhaps to activate a stargate or prepare for combat. Without the shaking screen I find I either have to pay more attention to my distance from the target or align the camera's view with my ship's direction, which can get a little tiring when having to change the camera orientation after every jump. Looking on the positive side, at least directing the camera to see what is ahead of me shows off the shiny new graphics of the stargates and ships surrounding it.

With Apocrypha comes the skill training queue. I know I can make good use of this. I generally only get an opportunity to log on in the evenings so any skill that takes less than eighteen hours to complete either needs to be carefully managed in several chunks or delayed to a weekend when I can start it late in the evening and have it complete when I am available in the day, which is far from convenient. The skill queue allows for any number of skills to be placed in the queue as long as they all are due to begin training within a day. This means that several skills that would take a few minutes to a few hours to learn can all be lined up to train consecutively without further interaction from the user. Training new skills up to a reasonable level will now be far easier and require much less micro-management, no longer needing to keep track of when to log on to change skills every couple of hours, or having to interrupt combat to keep skill training flowing. With the last skill in the queue able to be of any duration, as it only needs to start within the next twenty four hours, the skill queue won't require daily interaction either.

As for the interface, the skill queue looks to be quite polished already. Right-clicking on a skill can add it to the queue, or skills can be dragged-and-dropped from the character sheet directly in to the queue. The order of skills in the queue can be changed by dragging them around and removed with a couple of clicks. There is a bar at the top of the window showing how long the current cumulative skill training plan will take, clearly showing if you have room to add another skill at the end of the queue, whilst each item in the queue has a small bar underneath it showing when in the next twenty four hour period it will start training, also neatly displaying the available time in the queue. The skills display on the character sheet has been changed so that it always shows the time required to complete training to the next level, rather than only showing it on the context menu for the skill as previously, facilitating quick selection of skills for the queue and offering a better overview of training times at a glance.

Along with the skill queue there is also neural rewiring, allowing a character's attributes to be modified within certain parameters. Having been trained as military special ops, having good perception and willpower, I found myself struggling to keep up with the training for an industrial career, which requires memory and intelligence. I take advantage of the neural rewiring to balance out those four attributes, weakening my mostly unused charisma as a result. I imagine that whatever training time increases the lower charisma burdens me with will be more than made up by the gains made in training the far more prevalent skills requiring all the other attributes. With a year-long wait until I can safely rewire my brain a second time I hope my changes are not too rash.

There is no doubt much more to be explored in the Apocrypha expansion, but I still feel like a newbie floating in space. I can set myself a mid-term target of training in probes to try to find a wormhole or two in the next few months but until then I can be happy pushing myself towards making my millions from the market and working towards the more-profitable Tech II manufacture.

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