Monday, February 23, 2009

Reports and Updates

I was very lucky to be seated at a 2/4isk NL table on EOH Hold’Em between two of my favorite players: Mynxee (on my left) and Quofous “Q” (on my right). If I’d had my druthers I would have put Mynxee on my right as she plays a bit tighter and more straight forward than Q.

The table was fully 9 handed with chips stacked between 100 and 700+. I sat down with the max buy in, 300.

I’ve been working on my ring game lately. I’m reading ‘Harrington on Cash Games’ by ‘Action’ Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie. Like the rest of the Harrington on…series it’s terrific. Highly recommended. And one of the aspects the book teaches that I’m working hard to develop in my game is putting everyone involved on an accurate range of hands.

Just a few hands into this session I look down in late position at AA after its limped 4 or 5 ways to me. In case you haven’t played EOH Poker, almost every hand is limped from every position until someone min-raises or goes All In. That’s about the gist of it. I espoused earlier in my blog about how maddening this is but I have evolved. I don’t want my opponents to learn why this is terrible play…I want to learn to better exploit it. I want these kinds of tables and I want to adjust my game to beat it.

So, AA and I pop it up to about 16 or 20. The raise gets called in 2 or three spots and the flop comes 7, T, 4 rainbow (or something like that). Check, check and I bet about 3/4s of the 70 chip pot. [estimates based on poor recollection throughout all hand history]

Fold from the BB and min raise from the early position limp/caller, fold in mid and back to me. The check raiser has more chips than me and although I’m not deep here I hate to lose a stack early. So I quickly put this hand back together. This guy open limps from early position and flat calls my late position raise pre-flop. So he doesn’t have a huge hand but he could have a small pair or big connectors. There is no obvious straight or flush draw. So, worse case I’m staring down a made set. Could he have T7 or some other weird 2 pair? Yes. I don’t know him at all. But, I decide that regardless, the range of hands he could have that don’t beat me and the range that he’s ahead but I could still overcome justify staying in. I shove and he hesitates but calls…turn and river blank off and he shows JT off suit for top pair medium kicker. AA holds up.

I start to watch players to determine what kind of hands they open with, what kind of hands they raise with and what kind of betting they do when in a hand. There is SO MUCH info to be gathered and interpreted but making this part of my game is critical.

Most of the players at this table limp with anything. They are seeing greater than 50-70% of hands when they can limp in. A couple of players are ‘tight’ and see less than 30% or even less than 20% of hands. These are very rough estimates as this is my first time seeing most of these players and I’ve only watched a few orbits.

In later positions I’m limping along with the crowd with suited connectors and Ax suited. I will even come along with trouble hands like QJ or KJ for cheap. When I play hands like these my goal is not to hit a pair. I will fold QJ when the board pairs a Q high and I encounter a lot of action. Why? Because these players will limp AQ the same as Q7 off….you have to be cautious. What I’m really looking for is straight, flush or 2 pair at the very least against an aggressive stack with at least 25-30+ big bets behind.

I don’t find too much of what I’m looking for and my stack dwindles down to close to my original buy in.

Last couple of hands I get QQ back to back. The first time is in early position and I open raise to 16, I think. It gets called by a mid position player that fits the LAG profile I described above and gets called in the BB by Q. I tell myself that if over cards flop and I meet resistance these bitches are hitting the muck. Flop: A, blank, K with 2 spades. Bleh.

I think Q checked and I probably checked here too…but the mid position caller led out and Q called. That’s all I needed to know…bye bye Hilton Sisters. And it turned out to be a good fold as both players held strong-ish Ace and King hands. Folding big hands like this is something I’m learning to do more and more. It’s a vital step in a beginning player’s repertoire.

Last hand and the very next deal I get the girls right back, QQ. Limped in a couple of spots and back to me…I raise it up to 20 I think. I get called in a couple of places and the flop comes rag-rag-Ace. There is around 70 in the pot. (I’m actually last to act here because the blinds for some reason skipped me due to player changes).

Check, Check and it’s to me. I know very well that either of these guys could and would call with any weak ace. I decide, however, that this fact does not justify a weak check behind given my hand. So I bet out 2/3rds of the pot with the expectation that if I get called I’m backing off this hand. But they both fold and I turn up the girls and call it a night.

Now, before I close this entry I want to try to relate one hand I saw Q play when I was not involved. He has about 400+ in stack and the pot gets limped into from an early player then a mid position player raises to about 12 chips and Q in the cutoff re-raises to about approximately 40+. I have AJ clubs and realize that this hand is probably behind…fold. Early limper folds and mid position raiser flat calls.

The flop comes ace high and the mid position player checks to Q. After a few moments of hesitation Q shoves over 400 chips into a pot that holds less than 100. All this while I’m trying to put people on hands. I originally put Q on a very strong hand but now I’m re-assessing. What does that monster over bet say? It does NOT say, I have an ace and want you to call. In fact, it screams I don’t have an ace….please just give me this pot. I don’t think there was an obvious straight or flush draw but I could be wrong.

After a few more moments in the tank the mid position player calls with KK and takes the pot when Q turns up 88. I’m learning more and more to rebuild the action in a hand in my head and interpret what it means about a player’s holding. This is so vital.

And it’s necessary as I was describing to Mynxee that next week my employer is sending me to Las Vegas for a 5 day medical management conference. How nice! I’ll be at the Mirage for 6 days and I’ll be trying to jot down notes and blog some about live action.

Friday, February 13, 2009

EVE in the Blogosphere

Raph Koster is a well known game developer and MMO enthusiast. He commented recently on the whole DBoB affair.

I posted a comment as well that I want to repost here. This just repeats how strongly I feel about the great value of EVE in this gaming market.

""I’m a EVE player. I’ve also played most of the other MMOs on the market, starting with Island of Kesmai, Gemstone, UO and on and on to present.

I think Raph’s in depth analysis of the social dynamics of EVE is compelling. But I take some issue with his opening comments that suggest “another EVE Scam…ho hum”.
EVE, as many will tell you, is probably the most complex simulation/MMO on the market today. Even if you don’t care for the harsh PVP or the Sci-Fi genre you have to be impressed with the intricacy of the game itself.

But the true value, the real driver of what keeps players sticking around EVE for years and years is the humanity of it all. Yukon Sam seems to suggest, eloquently, that the MMO market would benefit from a game that pursues a more utopian interaction from players. I personally find some aspect of that kind of play in ATITD. But what keeps me coming back to EVE is that the game has found that blend of qualities that endear it to the true human spirit. Conflict is part of humanity. Tribes (clans, corporations, alliances) are what we, as humans, do. Exploring the good, bad and ugly of human interaction is one of the best parts of multiplayer gaming.

The ability to ‘scam’, pirate, steal, etc. in EVE gets a lot of press. But, regardless of how often those things happen, there is a great deal more communication, trust, community development happening in this game. It’s just that the more morally ambiguous behavior garnishes the public response.

What happened to BoB is terrific. Not because it happened the way it did but because it is yet another step forward in the social sandbox of EVE. I disregard the notion about ‘in-game’ versus ‘out of game’ mechanics. EVE inspires ‘out of game behavior’. EVE TV, EVE Radio, Killboards, blogs, interaction at every level is what MMOs should be about. How GoonSwarm did this is not as important as is the fact that they DID THIS. Of course, BoB isn’t ‘gone’. The players are still there and the alliance will be reborn. But the anthill has overturned and the interactions generated are so great for the game.

Rome fell. Europe and the British Empire evolved because of it. Machiavellian politics and plots happened. We all should appreciate the wealth of human interaction that arises from our inherent xenophobic Tribal tendencies. It is our base urges toward conflict as well as our occasional insights into the value of cooperation and charity that make us human. The Jailor’s dilemma, isn’t it?

I love EVE because it embodies the best place in the current gaming market to explore all of this human content. ""

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Way Forward

EVE Online has bridged a significant gap amongst MMOs. I don’t mean eclipsing the peak concurrent user record for simultaneous players on a single server: >51,000!

What I’m referring to is CCP’s success at moving massively multiplayer games into an increasing variety of media outlets that actively involve players. This creates a self reciprocating synergy that grows immersion and popularity of the product.

Not only do we explore, research, build, buy, sell, hunt, kill and explode inside a single massive multiplayer server galaxy…but we also Facebook, blog, YouTube, teamspeak, twitter, killboard, web radio and now: EVE TV!

This weekend’s Alliance Tournament VI broadcast on EVE TV was a spectacular venue to watch and listen to EVE commentators, developers and players taking part in an exciting culmination of the Swiss-style tournament.

CCP flew well known players to Iceland to commentate and interact with developer staff. The studio, camera settings, in game video and graphics overlays were very well done considering this is not the full time medium CCP operates in. And you have to appreciate the videos interspersed throughout the tourney coverage. They were great.

Rebroadcasts of memorable footage from 2008 Fan Fest was mingled with insightful interviews of various developer staff at CCP in their office spaces. CCP Soundwave did a terrific job coordinating interviews and showcasing information about the upcoming Apocrypha expansion.

Taking questions from players on IRC chat as well as those from the in studio guest players, we got to hear a lot of new information about not only what we’ll see in EVE after 10March, but also how it is designed, developed and what might come in the future.

On the in-game Alliance Tournament chat channel there were grumblings from a few about not being interested in how CCP utilized the new program management styles, SCRUM and AGILE to bring Apocrypha to light, but I found it fascinating and I’d like to make a few points about this well put together piece.

How many WoW or Everquest players would give their eye-teeth to get a fraction of the developer interaction with their communities that we enjoy in EVE? A lot. And when was the last time you saw Blizzard or Sony present any significant information about the inner workings of their development houses with the kind of transparency that CCP embraces?

You’ve heard it before and this weekend displayed it again: CCP has an out of the box approach to developing, marketing and interacting with a customer community that the rest of the industry should pay attention to.

The MMO business started out as an unfettered, unexplored marketplace but it is evolving into an industry where competition is fierce and market share is fought hard for. The behemoth in the room is currently unassailable due to its shear size and momentum. Ok, there is unlikely to be a game in the near future that will over take World of Warcraft for total subscriptions. But there are many healthy and viable companies that wax and wane versus one another. There is plenty of market out there to be had and it is still growing each year. The MMO company that is most innovative, knowledgeable and in touch with what the market wants (and delivers it) will seize a larger piece of the pie and retain it.

CCP is going above and beyond its competition by involving the community in ways the rest won’t. By building the kind of gritty daring game that is sought by players and not hobbling its product to large corporate ideas of politically correct market dynamics. CCP and EVE are not only pushing but blowing the envelope wide open when it comes to trying new things and involving players in exciting ways.

The Alliance Tournament VI was great. The coverage was amazing and the evidence that CCP is leading the charge into the future of MMOs is apparent.

That’s my (more than) 2 cents. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Faction Warfare Microcosm

I discussed my views about FW in my previous post. Specifically, that Faction Warfare is meant to be a stepping stone between Carebear/Hi Sec/PVE and Lo-Null Sec/PVP/’EndGame’ content.

I also mentioned my idea that plexing, as an FW system, serves a very powerful role that most capsuleers don’t fully appreciate. Plexing provides a conflict space where you can have fleet fights (or solo engagements) between very specific hull categories. Is plexing boring? Maybe, if all you do it for is capturing a control point. Does plexing have any intrinsic reward or payback? Not really, unless you covet a rank insignia.
Will plexing or faction warfare change in the future to provide any of these enhancements? Good question. We’ll see I guess.

In the mean time I’d like to focus on what Faction Warfare and Plexing do provide. Last night was a perfect example. Some corpmates and I formed a small (6 or 7) fleet of a few stealth bombers and a merlin or two. Our goal was just a long patrol through Gallente Lo-Sec. We started out in Verge Vendor and proceeded through northern Placid. We ended up crossing the Gallente/Caldari border space at the Aldranette-Nennamaila stargate.

In Nenna we found a lone Catalyst flying wartarget in a minor plex. We warped to the acceleration gate and the stealth bombers began moving away to cloak. Stealth bombers, being T2 frigates, can’t enter a minor plex. The acceleration gates only allow T1 frigates and destroyers, primarily. A few of our absent fleet members arrived in system with a destroyer and another frigate at about the same time a second wartarget catalyst come into local.

Those able to get in jumped into the plex and good fights ensued. We were outmatched and lost 2 ships to their 1. Myself and a couple more team mates dashed off to dock our T2 hulls and grab a couple of griffins. Some additional wandering wartargets in more destroyers arrived and more good fights happened inside the plex confines.

Overall, this was a very good, low cost series of small gang fights. I have seen some seriously large ballistic furballs inside plexes as well. I’ve read that if you want to pvp you need to have the skills to fly a HAC, Recon, Battleship, etc. And that T1 frigates and, especially destroyers, have no place in pvp.

Thanks to faction warfare plexing, these statements are not true. Excellent, tactical, well fought pvp is happening in FW plexes all over the galaxy. If you are just starting out in EVE and want to learn the pvp ropes while being a vital part of the team, or if you are an experienced pilot with wisdom to share who needs a break from the blob and pos fights, get into FW, find a plex and have a good fight.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Poker & Internet Spaceships

Poker: Eve Online Hold’em ring games remain down after someone hacked many accounts and absconded with much isk. Selene has given reassurance that the ring games will return with new and refortified security measures. I have not played many of the sit&go style tables on EOH because they require some very specific tactics that I’m not developing right now.

I picked up a copy of one of Dan Harrington’s newest books: Harrington on Cash Games Vol. 1. If I haven’t mentioned it before, his 3 volume set, Harrington on Hold’Em is the best investment I have made in poker thus far. And I’ve made a lot of investments, from Poker Tracker and Poker Stove software to a veritable library of books.

So I’m focusing my game on cash ring play right now. I got back on Full Tilt and am playing the micro limits. I find it amazing that you can sometimes pull down a $15 pot in a $.05/.10 game.

Internet Spaceships: I’m still involved in Faction Warfare on the side of the State Protectorate. The 22nd Black Rise Defensive Unit (my corporation) has made many inroads of late into the plexing and system flipping niche.

A lot of people lament that FW and plexing in particular are no fun because the systems lack any inherent reward. To some degree I concur. I wish there was a more substantial return on investment for the time spent plexing. But, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced of a couple of points:

CCP does not want FW to be an end in itself. It was always meant as a stepping stone between the Hi Sec Carebear population and the LoSec/Null Sec PVP population. It is a gateway between the two play styles.

Secondly, plexing, although boring and without integral reward does something that no other mechanic in EVE has so successfully done; it provides a diverse conflict space for a wide variety of ship types. If you can only fly T1 frigates or destroyers you can still engage, fight and win while plexing in FW. If you can fly cruisers and T2 frigates but don’t want to be ganked by HACs or a BS gang…you can do it while plexing.

This mechanic enhances the first point, that Faction Warfare is a gateway system for new players or older PVE centered pilots who want to get their pvp legs under them without jumping straight into the deep end.

I grew tired of the FW grind about a month ago and left for a short time. I’m back now with this renewed perspective and I hope to utilize the FW community and multiple targets in limited conflict spaces to get some FC experience.