Computers, Entertainment, EVE Online, Games, MPOGs, Technology

Beware of Worlds Collide in EVE Online

I just got the Level I mission, “Worlds Collide”. The story is that some civilians got caught up in a fight between Guristas and Angels and you have to rescue them. It was offered to me for about 250,000 ISK (including bonuses) so I accepted.

The first part was easy. Lots of pirates and my Moa (a Caldari cruiser) freshly fitted with heavy missiles barely got scratched. Unfortunately the acceleration gates (there were two – one Angel and one Gurista) only accepted frigates. I tried in a badly fitted out Condor and lasted about three seconds… Luckily NPCs pirates don’t go for pods and the Condor was given to me free by an agent.

Since I couldn’t be bothered to properly equip a frigate that wasn’t going to use again I had to give up on the mission.

So beware of that one…

EVE, Angel Cartel, Guristas, EVE missions

Computers, Entertainment, EVE Online, Games, MPOGs, Technology

Mini client for EVE

EVE needs a mini client. Something that can run as a normal window without taking up lots of resources that lets you do most thing you might want to do in a station. Things like sending/receiving EVE mail, accessing the market (setting up orders or just plain immediate buying/selling), changing skills, possibly accessing player missions (or contracts as they will become) and corporation management.

There’s lots of times when I don’t want to play EVE as such but I’m waiting for something to happen. And in windowed mode EVE takes up a lot of system resources and performs far less well.

Maybe this would be better mentioned on the EVE forums…

EVE, sci-fi games, multiplayer games

Life, Personal

I might need a visa

Julia is currently on an exchange program in America and I plan to visit in November. Which unfortunately means I need to get a visa.

America (like a lot of the world) runs a visa waiver programme whereby people in certain situations don’t need a visa to enter the country. At the moment holders of a UK passport listed as British Nationals going for business or pleasure trips of less than 90 days that haven’t been arrested don’t need a visa. On October 24th that will change. As well as the above requirements you will need a biometric passport.

Biometric passports are being brought in over here slowly. Any passport applications may, or may not receive a biometric passport as the increase the volume of BPs they can produce. Which means I can’t just apply for one.

Sometime in “early October” however the change over to biometrics will be complete and all new UK passports will be biometric. But that is cutting it very close. They do have systems in place whereby the application can be sped up (down to as little as one day) but that involves extra hassle and extra cost. Possibly less than that needed to get a US visa though…

visas, passports, US, America, biometrics

Computers, Entertainment, EVE Online, Games, MPOGs, Technology

Better missions in EVE online

A new patch called “Dragon” was deployed to EVE recently (it took a whole day and they still have an extended downtime today to fix some problems it introduced). The biggest change for new players (or anyone hanging around Empire space) will be the new agent missions.

For anyone really new, on board stations are agents. These are NPC characters who hand out missions to players. Early on, missions are the best way to make money. To be offered a mission by an NPC you need good standing with the NPC (or with the NPC’s corporation such as Lai Dai or even the NPC’s faction such as Caldari). New players will always have a good enough faction standing to find an agent who will help them.

Before, most missions were courier missions. Go somewhere, pick something up, go somewhere else, drop it off. Courier missions have new been almost completely removed. Instead you get combat missions. For the low level agents (I and II) these involve killing pirates and rogue drones. Occasionally you also have to fetch back some loop or blow up a structure as well. For the most part this is a good thing for everyone.

The main advantage is they’re more fun. The second advantage is that overall, you get more money. Although you may have to pay for ammo you also get the bounty for blowing up pirates. The only disadvantage is combat missions get harder much faster than courier missions. If you do lots of missions level II agents (who pay more) become available to you before you can actually do them. Yesterday I nearly blew up when I came across pirates that were harder than I expected:

Level I missions tend to have pirates around the 3000-6000 ISK range which you can do in a frigate. A couple of level II missions I did had the same pirates but lots of them. Then suddenly I come across a pirate in a Moa (a Caldari cruiser) with a bounty of 50,000 ISK. Since I’m in a Moa I managed to complete the mission still but I had to regroup and recharge my shield and do it in two attempts.

So to summarise, the new missions are good, but beware…

Caldari, Lai Dai, EVE, online games, Elite

Computers, Languages, Technology

How to learn a language

I found an interesting post through Technorati tagged Pimsleur about how to learn a language. And for once it actually seems quite sensible and plausible. It’s also made me think about grammar and how it should be handled in my language learning app.

At the moment it plays the audio at you without anything on the screen. Perhaps the screen could display explanations of interesting or important points about what you hear? I’m worried about distracting people from listening and limiting the offline usability of precompiled lessons though…

Pimsleur, polyglot

Computers, Entertainment, EVE Online, Games, MPOGs, Technology

More R&D in EVE

Ooh, after reading the forums I found a way to increase the number of research points you get when doing R&D in EVE Online.

After starting R&D you can also ask the agent for missions. The rewards for the missions are extra research points instead of ISK. The reason I had to go to the forums to find this out is because it apparently isn’t available until a day after you start the R&D.

R&D, EVE Online

Languages

Collocation

Collocation refers to a phrase or small group of words used together in normal speech with restrictions not explicitly imposed by grammar. Quite an odd concept, but vitally important to language learning. Correct use of collocation is probably the best way to identify a native speaker from a near native speaker.

I bring this up now because Julia made a wonderful example of an incorrect collocation for English. She came up with the phrase “two and a half hundred”. In English you can say “two and half thousand” and “two and half million” but for some reason it doesn’t work with hundreds (it does in Finnish incidentally).

Finnish, linguistics, collocation

Computers, Languages, Technology

Language learning pricing and making it pay for itself

If I’m considering paying for voice talent for the language app (which let’s face it, I’m going to have to do) I have to be thinking about getting the money back somehow and I have an interesting idea that essentially equates to everyone helping each other learn languages.

Basically when learning, you pay per phrase (phrase in this context means any named element. Usually a phrase but could also be a specific term). The cost would be something really low (say for example $0.01 each). You only pay for a phrase once regardless of how many times it gets repeated or how many conversations it appears in. Just to provide some sort of concrete example, the material I’m testing with (which covers the first two Pimsleur lessons) has 82* different phrases/terms. Quite a few simple conversations can be put together with that material. As the number of phrases increases, the number of conversations increases exponentially (the mathematician within me has to point out that strictly speaking it’s probably not exponential).

The clever part would be to allow people to upload their own audio. Although this has a few issues with regards to quality it might work. If you upload audio, you get a percentage of the money spent on listening to your audio. What the exact percentage should be is complicated though. As well as audio, the other big part of the system is the scripts. The traditional part of me feels that the scripts should have some sort of professional input from someone with experience teaching the language. Another part of me realises that hundreds of books exist for teaching languages that are written by professionals that are totally useless (and therefore professional input may not be all its cracked up to be). With that in mind, someone fluent in the language may be all that is required. Either way, the script writers need money too and should probably get a percentage as well. That $0.01 is being spread quite thin…

The system obviously needs an infrastructure in place to sort this. At a basic level it should list phrases that are needed in scripts but are missing. Another part would be to highlight underutilised phrases that need more conversations writing for them.

As a final note I’d like to explain another bit of cleverness in the system (and an associated problem, perhaps). Before a conversation is played it is checked for completeness – i.e. do sound files exist for all the required audio. Shortly I’ll be adding another layer to this – checking for sound files by the right people. Phrases in a script are marked by “person”. Simply a way of identifying who is doing the talking when a script involves more than one person (which most of them will do). It’s important that all elements in a script marked “Person1” are by the same person and all the parts by “Person2” are by the same person (and that “Person1” and “Person2” are different from each other). This means that there will be some duplication of audio going on. If someone records all the initial audio, but then never records any more, someone else will have to re-record most of it since it will be used in later scripts. Which also implies there’s nothing to stop people re-recording the initial material in an effort to get a percentage of the money (assuming enough is offered to make it worthwhile). I’m not sure if that really is so bad though – it offers more variety for listeners…

* Or perhaps 164. Whether you should pay for the native and foreign versions is a tough subject. I’d like the application to be independent of a specific language so my preference would be “yes”. They take just as much effort to record after all…

Pimsleur, language learning, voice talent, foreign language

Computers, Languages, PHP, Programming, Technology, Web Programming

How much fluff is needed?

I’ve been sorting out exactly what needs recording for the language app (which I finally have an idea for a name for) and I was trying to decide how much extra instructor speech is needed. Situations aren’t described for instance (no “Image an English man sitting next to a French woman”) and you aren’t asked to say things explicitly (“How do you ask someone if they speak English?”). Will this harm the process at all?

The best thing to do perhaps would be to avoid trying to be Pimsleur quite so exactly.