Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Main Characters In Eve Are The Ships

Incarna is supposedly appearing in 2011, concentrating on giving the avatars more personality - what we really want however is ships with more personality.

Look at the Millennium Falcon was a spice freighter, but it's through a lot it's been shot at, repaired at unlicensed facilities, upgraded, patched up, pushed beyond its limits, surfed an explosion and even vomited out by a giant space slug.

Or the USS Enterprise which went on it's 5 year mission, got beat around more than a few times, had some crazy scotsman work miracles to hold it together and push it beyond the limits, it eventually got upgraded just in time to deal with Vger, and later got the shit kicked out of it by the Reliant. After that Starfleet decided that repairing it was not economically viable so it was scheduled to be decomissioned only to have the former crew steal it and ultimately self destruct the vessel over the Genesis planet.

Don't you want that kind of history to be etched into the hull of your favourite ships?

So maybe it's time to completely redo the life cycle of ships to give them a real life, so here's a few ideas to think over.

1) Give Assembled Ships a Serial Number and Registration Date
I sold a noctis to some desperate pilot for 360million isk, at the time he had one of the first of the production line and for a few hours he could feel pretty pimp in his new ride. Now, there's nothing that betrays this fact I could build a noctis today and claim that this was one of the first, nobody would be able to prove otherwise. Similarly, maybe there's a ship collector who's prepared to pay a premium for a ship that was involved in some famous event, but again there's no way to prove this. So when a ship is assembled give it a unique serial number, and a date of registration, these will not be changeable, unless you repackaged the ship. Killmails would display these registration numbers as part of Concord's bookkeeping process, in space you'd be able to see the serial number of any ships on grid by doing a 'Show Info' on the vessel.
This simple feature would enable killboard developers to track individual ships, it would let people collect sightings of Supercaps, provide collectors with an unforgeable ship ID and even let Chribba realise when RMT'ers are selling the same titan again and again. (allegedly)

2) Add a combat log and travel log and other random statistics to ships
Sure, you could just use an external killboard to track kills in a specific ship, but I can't imagine it would be a huge technical stretch to add the same kill logs to the ships and make them visible inside the game. Similarly we could easily track systems visited by that ship in the same way that you can view systems visited by your character. And to satisfy the spreadsheet fans out there include all sorts of other numbers like 'Time spent in space', 'lifetime shield/armour/hull damage taken'.

3) Put all those logs in a black box which can be salvaged after destruction
The ships equivalent of a frozen corpse - either a memorial or a trophy, depending which side of the killmail you were on, the logs might even reveal important data on the victim's behaviour...

4) Long Term Wear And Tear
Ships in Eve can be restored to pristine status by on board modules, nothing ever wears out, well time to change that! The long term stresses due to combat will slowly wear out the shield emitters, power relays, thrusters, warp drives and general structure, internally the game will slowly apply penalties to the ship as daily use wears it out. Now, this means that used ships suddenly are no longer quite as good as new ships, so this in turn creates an actual reason for a used ship market to exist.
Now to offset this slow decline in your chariot of the gods you can take it in for servicing, where the engineers will take your ship into dry dock, take it apart and fix all those things that nanobots just can't deal with in deep space. This takes spare parts, time, and a facililty that's capable of building ships - the amount of time would be similar to the time taken to build the ship in the first place, but the material requirements would be along the line of 10% of the ship cost - now, owning a ship in the Eve universe costs money to keep it running, and maintaining those Titans is going to cost you about half a billion isk a month, after all it would be a shame if your jump bridge or Doomsday weapon failed to activate at an inopportune moment.
After the service it comes back almost as good as new, maybe, even better... I mean maybe you decide to pimp your ride a little more. Sure, you can put those fancy faction modules on your ship, but those can be unplugged at any time, no I'm talking about using the fancy Iridium plated fusion spike initiators as opposed to the plain old tungsten ones....

5) Only The Best For My Ride
So when you're getting your ship serviced you provide a pile of spare parts, which are of course built by players from blueprints, but for each type of spare part you have choices, you can use the designers recommended replacements, or you can save a bit of money and use cheaper bits and pieces which don't work quite so well, or last quite so long. Or you can blow money on fancier parts that eke out more performance. Installing these parts normally needs a complete strip down and rebuild of the ship, but, for those who are impatient we could make an exception for the ships coming straight from the factory. Upgraded spare parts could be added when the ship is assembled for the first time, before any rigs or modules are added, after that the only way to pimp the core ship would be as part of a maintenace service.

6) Packaged Ships = Factory Fresh
Anything that changes the core attributes of a ship, either making it better or worse cannot be stored once a ship is packaged, so if you want to sell a ship on the market it needs to be in pristine condition. This might mean you have to service a ship to bring it back to factory specs, but why bother, there's a contracts system that'll let you sell it 'as is'.
Indeed, with a decent customization system, it opens up the possibility of known ship builders who specialise in putting together ships which come with a bit of an edge out of the box.

7) Exterior Design
More options to personalise ships, alliance logs should be no problem, and you can put those notches on your nose every time you get a kill in that ship. It's not too much of a graphical stretch to add a ships name on the exterior, or the registration number if you've stuck with the default "CaldariCitizen376298's Ibis". And then there's the space dirt that makes your nice shiny Apocalypse look a little less shiny over time, or in the case of Minmatar ships, the rust decals start to peel off and have to be reapplied when your ship is serviced.
Sadly, for simple CPU/GPU load reasons other pilots may choose to disable these features and choose not to see your vessel in all its glory.

I'm sure there's more to this, but I come back to the core idea - ships need more personality and after Incarna is upon us it would be remiss if the ships of the Eve universe were nothing more than cookie cutter copies of each other.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Skye's Turning 6 Today

So, a perfect excuse to link some of her Eve related exploits.

So, we played around for a bit a couple of weeks ago - ratting in hi-sec and running some missions nothing you haven't seen before. Then she got in a rebellious mood and decided she didn't want to follow the autopilot markets, instead she picked a gate and even though I warder her that it would take her into low sec she wanted to go....

You have my permission to share this with any hi-sec carebears who think they can't survive outside of Concord's domain of guaranteed vengeance.

And for all the critics that seem to think the Skye is losing her childhood because she occasionally gets to fly a spaceship, here's Skye and Orion doing some colouring.

Best bit is at the 4 minute mark where the kids discuss the merits of the Rifter.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

No More Planetary Vehicles From GM (Gallente Motors)

The market for Planetary Vehicles in New Eden showed massive movement this week as a CCP Big Dumb Object revealed that the biggest single source of planetary vehicles in New Eden had stopped working since the start of the month.

No doubt all the production line workers are out joyriding in their shiny new noctii.

You see, Planetary Vehicles was one of the planet products that was most difficult to make, requiring Supertensile Plastics, Miniature Electronics and Mechanical Parts - made more expensive by the fact that Mechanical parts are in demand as a POS fuel and for making robotics. However there was never any need to do this because like most commodities that existed prior to the introduction of PI there were stockpiles to be eaten through first, but unlike other commodities the stockpiles showed no sign of depletion over the last 6 months. While many of the commodities were still dropped in small amounts by various mission structures there was one specific mission which would drop enough vehicles for a thousand joyriders, so with such an abundant supply, relatively low usage and complex production chain only a moron would spend time making them.

Now, that mission no longer drops these, and CCP has confirmed this is intentional the speculators have been out in force buying them up all over the cluster. The prices have gone from a few thousand to about thirty thousand isk, but this is still less than half the price you would expect based upon the cost of the input materials so while it's a big jump in cost for the planet industrialists it's still a bargain compared to producing them yourself.

However, I did some checking and managed to find a few missions that I knew dropped PI loot, and I can confirm that this loot nerf isn't just removing one giant drop from one mission, but it's a more pervasive change that may have removed all PI drops from missions. So while everyone has been panic buying Planetary Vehicles there has also been a lesser rush for Guidance Systems.

I think this may be backwards to be honest, Guidance systems are used in TII drone production in addition to it's place in PI production, so the net demand may be higer in the long run.

Not that it matters too much to me, I have large, cheap stocks of both ready to use/sell when the time comes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Noctis Economy

While the Noctis May be designed to operate in a vacuum the rush for its construction has not taken place in an economic vacuum. Many people looked at the new ship and saw profits in moving the BPO's to hi-sec and selling at a profit, industrialists looked at the market and knew they could make profit selling these ships.

But for many, the speculation didn't go further, and they missed out on many more ways to make money. The first thing is that those new ships needed fitting so there was an increased demand for Tractor Beams and Salvagers, but many newly minted Noctis pilots considered this an upgrade over their existing destroyer based salvage boat and simply moved the modules over. What they couldn't move over was the Salvage Rigs, and I made a handsome profit selling those rigs, and, on the back end, I placed buy orders for the destroyers at below mineral cost.

Mineral cost quickly became a big issue for the manufacturers, all the minerals showed a bump in prices and today Nocxium is now selling at 40% more than it was a week ago. It should have been obvious to anyone who looked at the BPO before its release that nocxium would be in demand, since this ship contains a much higher proportion of this mineral compared to other ships. Smart speculators would have acquired a stockpile a couple of weeks ago and sold it for a handsome profit once the demand started picking up.

I'd like to say I anticipated the mineral market but even my stockpiles got eaten up quickly after I decided to manufacture from multiple prints in parallel. Instead, I ran the numbers and started buying up battleships and reprocessing them for minerals, for nocxium I was able to buy up large numbers of mining crystals, shield boosters and other nocxium rich items to make up the shortfall and keep my production lines running and profitable. So, of course, the prices of ships are now rising to keep in line with the mineral basket, and somewhat amusingly, the cost of running a mining fleet has risen slightly as there are no more cheap crystals available.

Not that the average miner will notice, after all they think the minerals they mine are free.

Friday, December 3, 2010

3 Incursion Releases, 3 Names.

Playing through the new release, I'm deeply happy with the work that has been done by CCP and the contributions of the player base. (I'm also quite happy to have made billions, but that's another story). However with the actual Incursions of the name still a month a way I feel that the name need reconsidering to reflect this - here's my proposal for release names:

Incursion 1.0: "Excellence" - because this release represents a tangible manifestation of CCP's much touted 'Commitement To Excellence'. I committed to making obscene profits from the noctis rush and the related market movements.

Incursion 1.1: "Emancipation" - No More learning skills! Noobs are now free from the needs to waste their early days training learning skills, the vets no longer feel nagging guilt about not raising their advanced skills to 5. Free SP to spend on training for new toys, industrialists will make a killing selling new toys. Pirates will no doubt catch some extra tears as new toys get turned into wrecks.

Incursion 1.2: "Invasion" - Sansha Claus finally arrives and hopefully starts killing macrominers. Invasion is a way better name than Incursion, just because a dev accidently leaked the name doesn't mean that the marketdroids need to change the name.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If Only Industry Were Always This Exciting

I was one of the 200+ pilots who logged in 4C-B7X this morning in an attempt to snag an early lead in the noctis market. Even though I got in seconds after downtime the system filled up in seconds, but the station camps never assembled themselves quickly enough to catch me or many other pilots who all had the same plan. I had been slightly worried because I'd seen a 40 man gang from IT sitting on one of the stations last night...

But they didn't bother to turn up in the morning and the undock was mostly clear. I decided my risk threshold was about 2billion isk, so I 'only' bought 5 blueprints (390million each), loaded them into my Tengu and headed to hi-sec with best possible speed. Along the way I had some conversations with other T3 pilots making the run, and many LOL's were had at the pilots in covert ops ships getting caught by the occasional gatecamp. The last jump into hi-sec at Orvolle was especially impressive with a lag inducing number of bubbles surrounding the gate, but again, I just warped right through these and into hi-sec.

Most pilots headed for Jita or Dodixie, but I set my eyes on Amarr, on the far side of the cluster, I wasn't the first person to get a BPO on the market, but it looks like I was the first one to sell one - for a cool 899,999,999 isk. Now that may see like quite a markup from my purchase price, but based on the fact that I was able to the first ship off my production line for 360million you can see that the buyer still got themselves a bargain. Unless of course they were foolish enough to start researching it first....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

The Incursion release has been quite a startling turnaround, in a few hours we're going to get part 1 which is essentially a bunch of player requested mods that will make Eve a vastly better game for everyone. Never in the history have Eve have we seen an expansion with this much player input, and I must admit I'm feeling more than a little excited.... although that may be the feeling of anticipation I feel trying to fly out of outer ring with some blueprints (and maybe skillbooks) in my hold.

However, we should bear in mind that this is not the first time the CCP has bowed to player pressure and made changes, and, not everyone would agree that the results were ideal in the long term.

Remember the Dominion release, Motherships renamed to Supercarriers and given fighter bombers? CCP Abathur presented the original changes which were tested on SiSi by lots of dedicated players, many of whom had never had a chance to fly a Supercap before. Then along came CCP Nozh who decided that the new supercarrier design was overpowered and nerfed the number of bombers which could be flown, in exchange supercarriers were given the ability to dock. The rage flowed from the fan community, and the supercap changes missed the release, a couple of months later we had Dominion 1.1 which essentially gave the players what they wanted - the original Abathur approved supercarrier.

Now, almost a year later, the residents of 0.0 are now grumbling about Supercarriers being overpowered and starting to think that maybe a nerf is in order.... perhaps Nozh was right.. (then again being able to dock a supercap would make station games ridiculous)

Another long requested feature which CCP finally implemented was sized rigs, I mean it was pretty sweet to be able to put rigs on a rifter without feeling guilty. However since small and medium rigs have been added there has been an inexorable rise in the number of Drake blobs flying around 0.0. The cost of fielding a drake dropped by 30million isk the day that you could put medium sized shield rigs on it, that's a big chunk of the cost of the ship, even moreso when insurance is taken into account. So, again we see that giving players what they want can cause things they don't want - blobs of drakes and lag inducing missile storms.

Anyway - on with the new release - see you in Outer Ring!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Now Is the Time To Train Learning Skills

.... Because they're going away in a couple of weeks.... and all SP invested into the skills will be reimbursed.

At least in my case I have 5/4 in all stats, so I can train some learning skills faster than I can train say Leadership skills which rely on my weak charisma. When the Learning skill emacipation arrives I'll be able to take those SP and put them into skills that I've put off learning for a long time because of the training time is longer than others.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Stuffs

I thought that Invasion was a better name, but nonetheless the last couple of months have been fascinating with the devs finally aquesing to good sense and spending some dev time on the low hanging fruit that the players have been requesting.
* Rockets De-Nerfed - leading to speculators buying up all the faction and TII missile boats
* Tech II ammo de-nerfed
* Icon changes to differentiate those fancy faction and deadspace modules
* Afterburners and Microwarpdrives now look different
* Menus reorganized, so that it's harder to accidently trash your ships.
* Probes on the overview

Meanwhile CCP have decided that 'excellence' is something worth committing to and have rejiggered the release date of Incurstion, and boy am I happy to hear this. The proper release with new avatars, incursions and improved PI is pushed back to january, but the user requested fixes will be released on November 30th (and a bonus christmas present just before Christmas).

Anyway.... this is all old news, the new news is the leaking/posting of the trailer for Incursion showing us a whole bunch of ice miners getting wiped out by a Sansha invasion fleet while Mr K himself looks on (showing off the new character modellin technology). Given the number of ice miners which are macros I find myself egging on the bad guys :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

New ORE Ship - The Noctis Salvage Ship

The Noctis, based off the Primae's hull we're getting a proper new ship in the next expansion. It'll be a dedicated salvager with bonuses to tractor beams and salvagers "60% bonus to tractor beam range and speed per level" so that'll be 80km range tractor beams if you train the new 'ORE Industrial' skill to level 5.

The blueprints will be seeded out in ORE space and will retail for 390,000,000 isk, so you can expect a few expensive lossmails in the days after the release as traders attempt to move these to hi-sec. I have no doubts that this will be a very popular ship replacing thousands of destroyers shoehorned into this role for the past few years. So, expect the demand for destroyers to drop off soon too.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Next Expansion After The Next Expansion

Some sharp eyed people noticed this picture which was part of this GDC Europe presentation. This confirms that CCP's current plan is for Incarna to be the Summer 2011 expansion, with a bunch of Incarnaesque features and presumably bugfixes following on in the 2011 winter expansion. The same document also puts the planned release date for 'Invasion' as November 16th, and to tie in with the 18 month plan, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that Eve's winter 2011 release will be the one that ties into Dust 514.

I must admit that I'm going through a period of disinterest in Eve right now, Planetary Interaction has been the main culprit in killing my love of the game. When the asteroid video got popular I spent a day where I almost didn't log into Eve, I only remembered with minutes to spare that I had a skill completing and needed to line up some new ones. And not double clicking on a hundred extractors made me feel a whole lot better, so my entire PI infrastructure has ground to a halt.
But this has had a knock on effect on my Eve playing, now, since I'm not doing PI, I'm not really making the best use of my time, which eventually morphs into not caring about the whole game in general.

I've got enough isk and assets to buy PLEX's for a couple of years with both my accounts, hopefully they'll fix the game before by money runs out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Real Asteroids.....

This really is supposed to be an Eve blog, but I'm going to drop my guard and post a little astronomy video I created a few days ago - it seems to have become quite popular.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Myth About Mission Rewards Busted....

Anyone who knows about the mechanics of missions will know that one of the biggest factors in determining mission rewards is the security status of the system where the agent is based. This is a hundred times more important than the agent quality, so all those pilots grinding missions in Dodixie are really missing out on a decent chunk of their mission rewards.

Now, many sources state that mission rewards that are governed by this include ISK, LP and Standing gain, and indeed I thought this was the case, so when grinding standings for a research alt I used my understanding of the game to run a bunch of courier missions in low-sec hoping that the lower security status would lead to faster standings gains.

Well it didn't, the gains were essentially identical to those of another agent with the same quality and located in a 0.8 status system, so my cunning plan was thwarted. The mission rewards and LP were slightly better, but they were a drop in the ocean compared to what I could be doing elsewhere, all I cared about was standing. (and more importantly, standing that I could gain while paying the least amount of attention to the game while working on other stuff).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wife Aggro

An corp mate had to logoff because of wife aggro, another corp member suggested using that using ECM would break her lock on him. I pointed out that this would never work in my house because we have kids and every Eve player should know that moms are "Immune to all forms of Electronic Warfare".....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Winter Expansion To Be Called 'Invasion' - Maybe

It's funny how things just slip out...
In response to the bittervetstorm of discontent surrounding CCP's failure to live up to their previous promise that Incarna wouldn't take developers away from the core Eve product CCP Soundwave made a comment

And then hurriedly changed it

If you look carefully the change was to turn the capitalised word 'Invasion' into 'a new flying in space feature'.

Now, this could be an internal codename which marketing will play with until they come up with the final title - for example Dominion was known internally as Rubicon. However the name clearly implies a certain direction or theme for the new iteration and combining this with the information that the PVE content design team is apparently working flat out for this release leads me to speculate that this will bring another big step in the back story of Eve.

My guess - the popularity of the live Sansha events has been noted and the theme of pirate incursions into empire is going to be expanded on with more mission content. But that on its own doesn't stand as a feature so perhaps the missions will have some new wrinkles - such as requiring multiple pilots to collaborate or perhaps a 'live' feature where players run PVE encounters in specific locations to help defend systems from attack.

No doubt we'll find out sooner rather than later now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Free To A Good Home

Thanks to whoever abandoned a Crow outside the Sisters of Eve Station in Soshin - I was passing through and I can assure you it'll be given plenty of the right kind of abuse.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Like Your Avatar? Be Prepared To Re-Design It This Winter

The CSM summit notes are finally online, and amongst the legitimate complaints regarding CCP's development priorities and interaction with the council I did notice this interesting mention regarding the winter Expansion....

The winter expansion will focus on polish of existing features, mainly planetary interaction, and
preparation for coming expansions. The aim is to include new character modeling, which involves new
technology and new artwork.
Players will be required, when the new character creator will be released, to recreate all avatars in the
new system. CCP will probably continue to provide the paid service of remaking avatars.

So, I'll have a lot of work to do when that arrives.

Further down I noticed one other interesting comment regarding refining rates...
ORE Faction Control Tower. POS refining has a large shortfall in efficiency. Develop an ORE
Faction control tower (small, med and large...or at least large) with bonuses to either: 1. Refine wastage
percentage or 2. CPU and Power Requirements of refinery array equipment. Offsetting drawback is to
have no bonuses to defenses.
CCP’s response: The whole reprocessing system needs an overhaul and individual towers will not be
added or receive a refining boost in the foreseeable future. To phrase this in a bigger perspective the
station refining being at 100% might be the source of the problem, not the lack of more efficient POS
tower. Limiting the game-play by having a ‘perfect’ outcome with little effort is a route that CCP believes
needs to be revisited.
Session discussion: CSM asked for clarification on CCP’s response. CCP replied: The issue is not the
towers but rather the presence of perfect refinery in NPC stations, which is the guideline.

Now, If you've read my previous comments on the Mineralpocalypse you'll know I've been advocating a rebalance of the refining system to deal with the high efficiencies that even untrained pilots get when melting down mission loot in NPC stations, so I'm taking this as a sign that CCP are ready to look at this and perhaps make those skills that I spent weeks training worth a lot more.

My Poor Hardware

My Eve play style for the last month has been kind of odd, I was doing a bit of travelling so all I really got a chance to do was login and manage planets. However, I also found myself at home for a few days without the rest of the family, so in theory I could get some proper playtime, but instead squandered it by playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii, which left me with only enough time to manage planets.

Then disaster struck and my laptop died on July 4th, and since then I've been forced onto my aging MacBook Pro which gets stupidly hot when I run Eve with minimal settings, lasts about 60 seconds on battery power (I need to replace that someday), and has all sorts of annoying UI problems relating to only having one mouse button, and having the Function keys requiring another key to use.

Of course, the Mac is designed around only one mouse button, my Thinkpad had been suffering for the last few month from a disfunctional Right mouse button, which makes all sorts of random things completely impossible unless you plug in a mouse. Try playing Eve without the ability to right click, you'll find that there's all sorts of things that you take for granted that are suddenly impossible.

I could take a ship out and go ratting in belts, as long as you can select something in the overview then you can warp to it, missions however are impossible since you need the right mouse button to warp to a bookmark (another reason why I'd love to see bookmarks on the overview), in theory Courier missions are possible, but you can't set autopilot destination, so you need to manually plot your course. Weapons work fine, but you can't right-click and reload or change ammo types, instead you need to open your cargo and drag the ammo to the weapon, and without the right mouse button you can't launch drones.

Oh and if you've just bought yourself a shiny new ship you're going to need that right click menu to assemble it, at least with assembled ships you can drag them from the ships window into the hangar to board them.

Mining is about the only thing you can do industry wise, manipulating blueprints for research or manufacture is all controlled by the right button, and even if you mine a bunch of ore you can forget jetcan mining, since you can't jettison anything from your hold. So warp to station once you get a full load and then despair as you realise there's no way to refine it.

Forget about managing you market orders, the best you can do is buy the cheapest thing in our current station/system/region, or place a buy order for an item. You can't sell anything in your hangar, or trade it with someone either via contracts or direct trades, and forget about using your daytrading skill until you invest in an external mouse.

However, while I complain about planetary interaction's awful UI, it had one redeeming feature for my half broken input device - you can do everything necessary to run a PI empire without ever touching the right mouse button. Although if you want to import or export products you need to use a spaceport and hope that you have customs offices on the overview...

Can't wait for that new laptop so my mac can have a rest.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Is EvaGate Too Obvious?

CCP have just annouced that Eva Jobse AKA Ankhesentapemkah has been removed from the CSM for violating the NDA - details are sketchy but she denies this, and there's a great deal of speculation as to what was disclosed. This announcement is much more vague than when Larkonis Trassler was dropped from the CSM for making some market trades based upon confidential information (the scandal dubbed 'LarkonisGate'). Larkonis was allowed to make a statement explaining the situation, apologise and resign, but in this case no such statement has been forthcoming via CCP channels. This has lead to speculation that this situation is a whole lot more serious than Larkonis' inside trading, and given that Eva works for another video games company people have even been throwing around the term 'industrial espionage' - which is highly unlikely since pet doggy games have very little to do with internet spaceships. has contacted her as part of their coverage and Eva's statement reveals very little beyond the fact that CCP and Eva disagree as to whether an NDA violation has in fact occurred.
When reached for comment, Eva had the following to say: "All I can say at the moment is that out of respect for the CSM, the players of EVE, as well as the good people at CCP, I cannot give any details besides my personal conviction that CCP's statement is not in relation to any of my recent publications, and that I do not share CCP's conclusion that there has in fact been an NDA breach. I am currently engaged in following up this situation with CCP."

It's unclear how much the rest of the CSM knows about the situation, Sokrates has been making a number of comments in the discussion thread, and has stated that the NDA violation is unrelated to Eva's blog which has been critical of CCP's development priorities - if that were the case I suspect that half the CSM would be on the line and I might have a chance of bubbling up to CSM status :).

Mortarion Curze Memorial Station

When I first moved out to 0.0 I based out of BR-N97 which had an outpost named in memory of a Mortarion Curze, the primary character of Michael Fisher, Michael had died at a tragicly young age due to a genetic condition.

Earlier this year when Sylph dissolved my new alliance rushed to grab what we could and spent many hours to capture the station, in fact we spent way more time that we needed to because after knocking the station into structure there was a server crash and restart which meant that the station HP got reset - all 350million of them. Despite the amount of work we put into capturing this station, and the loss of some dreads due to a -A- drive by Titan fleet we decided to keep the name, most of us had come out of Sylph alliance in the last year and so there was some vestigial respect for the reason behind the name.

Now, Imperial Order has come in and taken control, they come with the support of -A- and we're in no position to refuse, so after 2 years the name of Mortarion Curze is gone, replaced by IO Command Post - chosen by a new generation of residents who no longer have ties to the old.

I wonder how many players that flew with Mortarion Curze are still playing?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Spending Those Skillpoints

The process of 'spending' skillpoints is hugely different from regular training, and I've seen a bunch of pilots just applying it to whatever skill they're currently training. Considering that many of these players are the kinds to optimize and tweak skill plans in EveMon I find it quite surprising that the same amount of effort wasn't applied to the skillpoint decision.

The ideal strategy is to spend it on the skills which you learn slowest, and for most people that means anything with Charisma as a primary attribute, so, put points into those Trade, Social, Leadership and even Planetary Management skills. You may not have been planning to learn those right now, but you'll save yourself a few hours down the road. And should you have been lucky enough to get this bonus while you were still inside your <1,600,000

Myself, I realised I could put a couple of levels into negotiation, and get some extra points in leadership. Meanwhile my training towards large Hybrids V is almost over.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

NPC Orders Begone!

So we've had a fun week of Planetary interaction with many people realising that the fastest way to make money was to buy NPC goods and process them into something more valuable to sell. You could setup whole farms of advanced processors on hi-sec worlds, feed in mechanical parts and consumer electronics and then process these into robotics which could then be sold to NPC's for about a 50% gain in value. I made about 100million in this way in the past week, using a single toon running a bunch of barren & temperate planets in hi-sec. Some very fancy tier 4 components could be manufactured with ease using NPC components as input and those appeared on the market well before they would be expected, with production lines kick started by NPC products.

Anyway, if you didn't know this and were interested then tough luck, because CCP have removed almost all the NPC buy/sell orders during downtime. So now, planet interaction doesn't have the NPC market supporting it we can expect a slow evolution towards equilibrium as 'market forces' free themselves from NPC orders. Except that if you look at the volume numbers on NPC goods you'll see that people clearly were stockpiling items in anticipation of this moment, and right now in Jita there are already sellers dropping their stocks on market trying to guess at the final value.

Silicate Glass is a great example - old NPC orders were <200isk, but under the new PI production chains you make it by mixing Silicon (only found on lava planets) with Oxidizing agent (only found on gas planets) - so it's one of the hardest Tier 2 materials to make. As such those people who were buying up silicate glass are now selling it at over 1000isk a unit.

Robotics is an interesting one to watch though, because of the Buy->Process->Sell chain there are no doubt large amounts of these, or at least the components in people's hangars, but there's also a constant demand for these in POS fuel, and manufacturing either requires a single installation on rare plasma planets, or shuttling materials between other planets. So I suspect that actual production will be a lot lower initially (except in 0.0) as prices will be depressed, but as supplies get used up the prices will only rise until it becomes worth people's time to produce them.

The people with those fancy plasma planets are currently better off making Precious metals, and maybe once the prices for those drop, Enriched uranium. Enriched uranium from NPC orders is pretty pricey so it didn't have the same incentive to buy and stockpile. Precious metal prices currently push that even higher, but those can be extracted from barren planets, which are much more common, so the price for those will drop more readily.

Myself - I've got almost 20 planets being farmed right now, some in hi-sec/low-sec and some in 0.0 - I've already made my investment back and expect to continue to do well over the coming days, I have a few more ideas on where the market is going and investments have been made.

How is Smartbomb Range Calculated?

One of those dumb questions I just had to jump on SiSi and test it out - indeed from the screenshot below you can see that the target is being damaged even though the ships centers are more than 5km apart. the range of the bombs is computed based upon the gun range and so the range is boosted by the collision radius of the models. This means that the 'volume of effect' (not area of effect - that's 2d) is larger for larger ships, and pilots putting smartbombs on their capitals are getting more bang for their buck than those who use bombs on their dinky little battleships.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Making Planetfall, Not Planet Fail

So I jumped into planetside production with both feet and managed to get all 6 of my alts trained in production mostly only with level 3 skills - so improved Command Centers and 4 planets each, but the two 'mains' have gone and trained the skills for advanced command centers. I've made a few mistakes and realised that I needed to nuke a bunch of buildings and redesign my colonies, but each new one is getting more and more efficient.

For example I used to put the command center and launchpad at a spot roughly equidistant from all the hotspots and have everything feeding into it, but now I setup a command center on one hotspot and the launchpad on another hotspot and both of them can be used as buffers for materials prior to processing. Any other hotspots that are required may get a dedicated storage node if there's a decent chance that a 5 hour cycle would overload the link and require an upgrade - even though I aim for 23 hour cycles as the default it's nice to have a buffer for moments when a 5 hour cycle is possible.

And, it appears that there's been an annoying bug which causes cycle times to increase if they cover downtime, it ends up being more like a 36 hour cycle which I then pad out with a couple of 5 hour cycles. It's not the only bug affecting PI, materials get disappeared randomly, sometimes when I'm exporting them off planet. It's mostly annoying, since as far as I can tell everyone is dealing with the same problem, at least if someone has discovered a fix they're not telling. Regardless, the market is so young and chaotic that I expect that the effect of material losses is small compared to other factors driving the prices.
3 of my neutral alts are working together, I've found a pretty nice low-sec system very close to hi-sec - when you're going for low-sec planet harvesting remember that yield goes up as sec status goes down. So like the risk-reward graphs I laid out in my discussion of missions there's this discontinuity that makes the increase in rewards from 0.4 sec planets a whole lot less attractive. No, you really want to look for those 0.1 sec systems to get as close to the yields you expect in 0.0 as you can without having to deal with holding sov or sneaking though warp bubbles. So 2 alts have some extractor dominated setups in a couple of low-sec systems and the 3rd is focussing on building the final product with 4 barren/temperate worlds that are almost exclusively host advanced and hi-tech processors. I just import the products and the whole production chain goes to work pushing out a p4 every few hours, I'm still optimizing the whole thing, and over time I expect changes as some of the NPC goods I have in stock run out and need to be built - but that'll be a long time for some.
My other characters are all out in 0.0 furiously producing POS fuel stuffs, my alliance is going through a rough patch and I don't see a huge internal market for the P4's at this time, but, we'll always have towers to fuel. (and even if we end up leaving our current space, the new residents will have towers too).

Anyway - here's some pictures of my layouts..

One of my first - concentrating on making p2 and p3 materials, I only have 3 advanced processors so I switch them aroung right now, but I think I'm going to settle on a single chain soon. Notice how the command center just sits there like a wart on the side of the network?

So my improved design uses the command center as a secondary storage node - setting it on top of one deposit, and then the spaceport goes on another, on this gas planet I only really needed two locations so I get this layout that resembles a dumbell.

And this is one of those factory planets I mentioned, only 3 extractors but lots of advanced processors fed by imported materials. The local extractors may be nuked in the future to make way for more processors as some NPC stocks start to get used up.

And finally, this is the result of trying to place a command center when a red fleet shows up and made me panic, I put it on top of a deposit which wasn't needed to make POS fuel, so it just sits there completely isolated from the network.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Training The Perfect Alt

With the introduction of Planetary Interaction Eve has added yet another thing that alts can do very effectively for very little skill training, and when I'm talking about 'alts' I'm really talking about the spare character slots on an account that frequently go unused because you can't play or train with them at the same time as your main.

I'm guessing the training is the main thing that holds most alts back from getting seriously developed, people don't want to devote weeks away from training their main to increase the utility of their alts. At least that's what dominated my strategies and skill selections - I'd plan things ahead of time in Evemon to tune the learning plan, and try to take advantage of those times when my main was spending time in a PVP clone without implants.

Two of my alts were created under the old character creation system, they started out with roughly 800,000 sp, I didn't really train them until Apocrypha changed the rules and added the 100% training time boost, this speed boost is a huge help to creating alts focussed for their tasks and while it was nice to be able to create a Gallente pilot with Drones 5 out of the box, it was rather less useful to have Drone Navigation 5. (For those of you who joined Eve after apocrypha you can get an idea of the old character creation system from online tools like this one). Nowadays you only get about 50ksp, so you end up with 750k more skillpoints trained at double speed in the skills you choose - for most things you want alts to do this is generally going to work out better for you in the long run.

So what do you do with those alts? Well - here's a few pointers

Planetary Interaction - The new stuff, it has the advantage that once you're setup you just need to login maybe every day or so to restart extractors and pickup finished products. Training time is light, new characters come with the pre-reqs for the basic skills, and all you need is a big enough ship to deploy the command centers, It's quite possible to carry and deploy them via cargo expanded astrometrics frigates.

Market Trading - They can sit in the market hub of your choice and update orders, trading skills let you place more orders and extend your reach, but you can make cash without any real skilltime invested. Only danger is that you realise your 'alt' is making more money than your main and turn into a full time trader.

Datacore Farmer - Requires a chunk of training time to get the skills (Science 5, Engineering/Mechanic/Electronics 5, Research 5, Lab Operation 5), and a bunch of missioning to get the standing, but once you do the datacores just keep getting produced and the only thing you need to do is pay your R&D agents a visit once a month.

Research Alt - There's always such long queues at the research slots in hi-sec, but you can compensate for this somewhat by queueing up lots of work across alts. Very easy to get skills for ME/PE/Copying and if you've got a datacore farmer setup then this is included for free. Invention takes more work, with you needing 2 science skills and a racial encryption methods skill too.

Manufacturing Alt - Get production efficiency to 5 and you can grind out more stuff, and we all know more stuff = more profit.

Neutral Hauler - Need to move something in hi-sec when your corp is war-decced - train up an alt and have them move it for you, it'll take less than 12 hours to get in a hauler. I recommend an Amarrian toon for this since the Sigil only needs Amarr Industrial 1, plus for smaller stuff you can move decent amounts in a Magnate (as demonstrated by the number of obvious macros running courier missions in a magnate.

Neutral Scout - No training needed at all, just fly the noob ship to the scout system and profit. It's nice if you can get a cloaking device, or even just make a frigate unprobeable with ECCM, it's even better if you train for covert ops.

Cyno Alt - All you need to train is Electronics 5 to get access to Cynosural Field Theory then you can put up that big sign that says "I'm Here, Gank Me!" so that your friends can jump in their expensive cap ships and then dock up while you sit stuck in space until you're destroyed. The nice thing about having your alts trained for this is it's quite often that your friends will be hunting around for someone in the right place to light a cyno, so having multiple extra options will make you lots of friends.

No Strings PVP Alt - Join Red Vs Blue and have some fun, or just

So, anyway, I tend to combine most of these functions into one - Datacore Farming, PI, Hauler, Trader, Cyno Alt - and so I spent some time trying to come up with an optimal skill plan that would minimize my training time.

I mused about the best starting race for some time -
Amarr - Win lots of points for hauling and PI because the Magnate and Sigil have lots of low slots which can make them really capacious, or harder to catch with the aid of a full rack of WCS's. They're excellent for managing PI in low-sec. Shame that they don't really have any effective low SP combat ships for missioning or PVP.
Caldari - They're the best race for missioning, The AML Caracal will make standing grinding a whole lot easier, and you'll need to do lots of grinding. They also have specialist ECM ships which are a gift to Low SP PVP, except that RvB bans ECM.
Minmatar - The Rifter and Thrasher are nice for mission grinding, but with low skillpoints I can't find a cruiser which is suitable. The Mammoth is also an excellent hauler if you want to train Minmatar Industrial up to 4
Gallente - drones are nice, especially for semi-afk mission grinding, but unless you train drones 5 you're missing out on Drone Interfacing which gives a huge boost to drone effectiveness. They also have the best Hauler in the form of the Iteron V, but that requires quite a big of investment, and by the time you're there you're already thinking about making your alt a freighter pilot.

In the end I went for an Amarrian pilot, trained frigate to 3 for the Punisher and Amarr industrial 1. Then I started training Caldari Frigate to 4 so I could Get Caldari Cruiser and fly the caracal for mission grinding. The industrial skills are all rank 4 so going purely Caldari and training Caldari Industrial to 3 to get the Badger MkII is more training time than training an extra frigate skill to level 3. I made the toon Amarrian because I figured that I'd be more likely to use lasers than I would be to use railguns.

To Get a cyno alt I'd need Electronics 5, which along with Science 5 gives me access to the Electronic Engineering and Electromagnetic Physics Skills, not the best datacores, but it saves having to train Engineering or Mechanic to 5. Add in the important PI Skills to Level 3, some basic combat skills for flying the caracal (general rule - if it gives some useful bonus, or unlocks some type of module then train it at least to level 1), some social skills - negotiation will increase my datacore yield, and some trade skills - feed them all into evemon and come up with implants/learning skills that reduce the overall training time and start cooking.

It's a Pain to grind standing when you're basicly confined to courier missions or low level combat missions, but with good agent choice and some help from other alts you can speed this up immensely.

The Caracal Setup I use for level 2's requires almost no training and is stupidly overpowered for anything it encounters -

Highs: 5xAssault Missile Launchers
Medium: 10mn Afterburner
2x Large Shield Extender
2x Shield Resistance Amplifiers (change as per mission needs)
Lows: 2x Ballistic Control System
Drones: 2x Hobgoblin
Rigs: 3x Medium Core Defence Purger

You don't need to train the skills for the rigs either, just contract the ship to your main, fit them and then send it back. Same applies for the Sigil - stick cargo rigs on it and get 16k cargo capacity without actually having to train Jury Rigging or other skills.

Anyway, between 2 accounts I now have 6 characters working on planets, now my task is to optimize the planet side interaction to reduce the amount of time I need to spend managing it - but that's another article.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Missions Need Fixing

And I don't mean in the way that the chorus of people complaining about loot nerfs, giant courier packages, low-sec missions and level 5 bug fixes are wanting, I mean a complete re-appraisal of the mission process from mission availability, mission design and rewards. In short, something that will probably never happen, but you know I can dream and maybe something might happen.

One of the biggest problems with missions in Eve is that the rewards in the hardest missions largely come from the bounties and loot dropped by the NPC's in the missions, this causes many problems indirectly -

* While agent rewards provide some incentive to find high quality agents in 0.5 sec space they don't make much of a difference compared to the loot/bounties, so pilots still congregate in the same hubs.
* It encourages players to reject missions where the bounties and loot are perceived to be poor e.g. drone missions.
* It encourages farming of missions such as Recon (1/3) where the rat bounties can be collected daily for aweek.

All three of these serve to reduce variety and therefore increase the percieved 'grindiness' of mission running, which in turn will no doubt lead to players losing interest more quickly.

NPC Spam in Missions is counterproductive, from a realism/roleplay (delete as appropriate) perspective it just seems bizarre that a single battleship can lay waste to so many pirates and odder still when you see that these mission rats have lower bounties and less loot and salvage compared to their random asteroid belt cousins. Plus there's the simple fact that mission AI is terrible, the rats almost never switch targets to defend themselves against your drones, or target the non-tanked ships in your fleet. So, I'd like to see CCP mission designers commit to revamping missioning in general to have fewer, smarter, more deadly ships. The bounties and loot can be brought back in line with what you'd expect from non-mission versions of the rats, but I'd anticipate that the mission rewards due to this would still be significantly diminished.

Reducing these rewards leaves more room to boost direct agent rewards in the form of cash, LP and other widgets that sometimes get gifted to bold pilots in exchange for risking their ships. It also gives the rewards system much more room to adjust mission rewards and make those 'crappy drone' missions much more attractive to the dedicated mission runner. As it stands right now there are a number of factors that determine mission rewards

* The Agent's Quality - higher quality means more payout
* The Security Status Of The Agent's System - agents in lower sec systems pay more
* The Average Time Players Take to Run The Mission - the longer players take to hand it in, the bigger the rewards.

This last one is one of the few ways that mission runners indirectly affect each other, it's most obvious with the 'Recon' series of missions, where players like to farm part 1 for a week before handing it in while parts 2 and 3 are quick flythroughs, so the agent rewards for part 1 are 10 times the rewards for the other segments. So when I'm working up standings with a low skilled research alt I'm always happy to see the Recon mission offered because all those people holding on to the mission for a week are pushing up the rewards I get for zipping through it in a shuttle. While farming a mission that respawns awesome rats every day is currently justified by the monetary rewards I don't believe this to be a great gameplay experience.

The Security status scaling in theory provides some incentive to mission in low security space, but it really doesn't have any real effect. Firstly we've already established that the agent reward part is pretty small compared to the loot and bounties, but even if we corrected that with the agent rewards dominating you'd still be left with a simple linear function. Now - let's do a very Eve thing and use a spreadsheet to make some graphs of risk and reward....

Umm well ok blogger wants to reduce the image quality, but nonetheless you can see 3 graphs here - Reward - linearly scaling as we head to lower security status, risk - a step function that jumps when we leave Concord's protection, and the Risk-Reward ratio. Of course I just pulled numbers out of my head here, I'm putting the risk in low-sec as 3 times higher, which is probably only true if you're a pilot who's using scouts and directional to stay on top of things. The point is that the risk reward equation shows this massive dip the instant you step into a 0.4 sec system. So Even if we fudge the numbers and make it that the risk:reward eventually exceeds the peak in 0.5 sec space there'll still be this trough which will act as a natural potential barrier discouraging missioners in low-sec.

I don't believe that missions in Eve should be forcing pilots into low-sec, I do believe that those pilots who choose to take the risks should be rewarded in a way which is consistent with the risk.

So yes, CCP developers could take all these variables and could try to come up with new equations to take account of these parameters, they could collect all sorts of internal metrics on mission running and analyze the data to come up with a reward model that's makes players happy.

Or, and this is where my discussion really departs from Eve's existing mission design, they could let the players decide by opening mission availability up to a market.

How could that work I hear you ask?

The current model of mission offers is a pilot flies to a station talks to an agent and then can either accept or reject a mission (possibly with penalties for rejecting too often). The mission selected is generally random within a set of constraints - such as those described in the courier mission dev blog. No other players get involved in your mission offers unless you ask them, and clearly some agents are very busy with hundreds of pilots working hard in mission hubs like Motsu and Dodixie. This model's very limited choice and lack of interaction with other players means a radical change is required to introduce market forces to the missioning market.

Aha! So instead a mission market is created, or rather more like a mission Contracts system. You'll be able to pull up a list of missions being offered by Agents and choose which one you really want to do right now. The list of missions will be viewable by everyone, but only a subset will be visible to players, a subset that depends on location and standing, you won't be able to see mission offers from an agent if you wouldn't have the standing to accept it. And if you're too far away to accept a mission then there's no point in displaying an offer - devs can of course add a bunch of new skills to improve mission visibility and acceptance range so players will have some more things that need the charisma attribute.

So as a missioner you can pick the mission that's best for you, no more twiddling your thumbs while waiting for your 4 hour timer to expire. So an agent has a mission on offer and you don't like it because the rewards are too low, or the location isn't quite right or any of a million other reasons. Maybe all the other pilots think like you and nobody wants to run The Blockade in pirate central, so, what does the Agent do? Well he does what he's programmed to do, he gets more needy as time goes on, he really needs *someone* to beat back these pirates, so over time he sweetens the deal, increasing the rewards, and maybe dropping the standings requirement in case there's a less reputable pilot that's prepared to take the risk. Eventually, the risk-reward equation for a mission makes it the best choice for some pilot, and the mission gets accepted so it's removed from the pool.

The whole process works something like a reverse auction, and nicely simulates a supply vs demand market, it rewards mission runners who travel off the beaten path and perhaps take some risks. Or perhaps that low-sec mission represents no risk at all, because the player is treating Eve Online like an MMO and has cultured good relations with other residents in the region. Good relations works to reduce risk and therefore bumps the risk-reward ratio in the right direction.

Now obviously some consideration needs to be given to how missions get added to agents rosters, it would be desirable to maintain a healthy supply of missions and ensure that missions would always be available, regardless of how many players are accepting them. My proposal is to have each mission offer respawn upon acceptance but with a different agent either within the faction or corporation, so the mission never disappears it just moves. It may move to an agent that's less desirable because they're in a less popular NPC corp or less accessible part of space. But what's less desirable to one pilot is better for another, so again this rewards those players who step outside the herd, sorry, that should be sloth, which is the collective term used for bears.

One thing that would remain untouched would be the storyline missions, that mechanic doesn't really fit into this model and doesn't need to. I've also been considering the issues related to probing pilots in missions, and would be interested in re-examining the old penalty for scanning ships in deadspace, but tempering this with the introduction of the ability of dedicated salvage pilots to scan down wrecks once the deadspace has despawned.

OK train of though ends here....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things Getting Borked

We're getting some clues as to what CCP might do to 'fix' the PIpocalypse recycling 'exploit' from the latest changes to Singularity. The most up to date patch has disabled the ability to reprocess POS modules and new Broken versions of all the Tier 4 Planetary products have been added to the object database. So it seems entirely likely that anyone holding the unbroken products will find them replaced as of Wednesday (when the 1.0.1 patch is due to be released). The new broken items can't be used in building POS stuff any more, but they're not completely useless, they can be refined to 10,000 units of tritanium.

Now we have a clear idea where CCP is going with this, the question is how thorough they will be in following the trail of melted POS parts. Swapping all current tier 4 products with their broken versions will be easy, and it won't be much harder to cancel all active manufacturing jobs using the new blueprints and return the input materials to the installer. But people who were on the ball fast will have built and sold completed towers on the market already, at that point I don't see CCP going after completed products. So people that got in early and didn't get in too deep have probably made a tidy profit, and the copycats who rush to follow are more likely to be left with piles of worthless broken components. Then again, those components will eventually be 'collectors items' - so if I had one I wouldn't refine them.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tyrannis Tears Roundup

It's only been out a couple of days and already there have been many expressions of LOLWTF! resulting from the changes, so many that you might have trouble keeping up so here's the quick summary:

Standings System got changed and suddenly a number of POS's started shooting blues because the pilots were members of corps that weren't set at +10 standing by the parent alliance. This lead to all sorts of hilarious emergencies when expensive ships found themselves scrammed and under fire from a blue POS while alliance got on the batphone to the owners to get stuff fixed. Sometimes a rescue was sucessful, sometimes we got fancy killmails - such as this rattlesnake.

People are still whining about insurance, some are quite happy that the payout on their Assault Frigates and intereceptors have doubled, but most people are annoyed. The most hilarious example of insurance whines comes from a pilot who bought 92 ravens and insured them all hours before Tyrannis was deployed, on the incorrect assumption that the insurance contracts would retain their value. Now he's going to lose 30million per ship instead of breaking even, and because insurance contracts last 3 months he pretty much needs to lose one a day to avoid losing even more money. Of course, he claimed that this was all done in the name of assembling a cheap PVP fleet, but nobody believes this so it's even more amusing to see someone who was gaming the insurance system get bit in the arse by his own inability to research the changes.

PI gear hasn't been seeded, but it's possible to get the advanced products used for POS/Module/Stucture construction by reprocessing the same stuff bought from NPC sell orders. At first people thought it was cute to put up sell orders for this stuff and people paid a premium for it, but then it became apparent that there was potentially huge profit to be made by melting down things like Moon Harvesters and then building POS Towers or Outpost Eggs for a fraction of their NPC cost. Threadnaughts have started and already CCP Devs have stepped in saying 'we're aware of the problem, and there may be unspecified consequences', I don't think this has stopped anyone. On Saturday CCP disabled all sell orders for POS Gear, with the intention of restarting them later in the week, presumably after some 'rebalancing' of costs.

For some unknown reason the hard limit on pilots in Jita has been dropped to 1000 from 1400+, this has lead to the system gates becoming parking lots full of freighters repeatedly hitting the jump button and occasionally getting ganked.

Mission Grinders are complaining about everything, lots of people claiming that they're only ever getting sent into low-sec now, I myself while experimenting found a day old noob getting sent on a courier mission through lowsec by a Tutorial agent. The funny thing is, the patch notes tell us this is the result of a feature that got added ages ago to help spread missions to less loaded systems, but due to a programming error this was happening in reverse. So, technically mission runners should be grateful that they had this extra grace period....

The Loot balancing has resulted in significant shifts in the module markets, in particular the price of named Afterburners and Microwarpdrives has collapsed as just about every mission rat is dropping them. Many mission runners are saying it's no longer worth their time to salvage missions, which might be good for me, since I'm sitting on a silly amount of salvage components from my insurance scam operation :)

And at the other end of the player hierachy the PVP'ers are all having problems with some accidental changes to the amounts of Nanite Paste required to fix overheated modules without docking. We're talking tens of millions of isk in nanite paste to repair light heat damage to a rack of battleship guns, compared to a few percent of that at an outpost repair service. But pilots needn't worry, because the odds are that they'll get caught by surprise due to the overview update bugs, so no need to repair those guns when your ship is destroyed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CSM5 Results Are In And I'm Quite Happy...

Not ecstaticly happy, with a win of my own, but happy that Mynxee won the most votes and therefore the chair, she easily the most deserving candidate in the field and ran an exceptional campaign. She also stands above other individuals who if they had achieved chair would have had their status tarnished by suggestions that a number of their votes were due to being placed first on the candidate page, or because they spread lies like 'level 4 missions are being moved to low-sec only'.

So, myself I managed 444 votes - 28th place, around the middle of the pack, with only one more vote than Corbeau Lenoir, I'm so glad I bribed Skye with some ice cream so she'd vote for me. I'm looking forward to the elections for CSM6 - that'll be in March next year, and I figure that I managed to go from 0 to 444 votes in a month of campaigning, so with 10 months of preparation time It's not unreasonable to expect that I can increase my visibility within the Eve community and make a convincing campaign in 2011.

So, once again, congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone that participated, and a special thanks to everyone that voted in me - one day when I win CSM(N) you'll be able to say you were one of the early faithful ;)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Prize Ships for Alliance Tournament VIII

Details of the prize ships for Alliance Tournament VIII have been revealed - a couple of soon to be super exclusive Tech 2 Gallente ships -

The Utu is almost like a combination of the Iskur and Enyo - it has a huge 75m^3 drone bay, although it only has 25Mbit drone bandwidth so the pilots won't be fielding full wings of medium drones, but it also gets a 10%/Level bonus to drone damage. It gets a 50% reduction in heat damage, a 50% bonus to Hybrid optimal range and tracking, a 10%/Level Bonus to Warp Disruptor/Warp Scrambler Range. And of course to top it all off it gets more Hull, Armour, Shield and Capacitor just to make sure you have the edge over those far more common gallente assault frigates.

The only field in which the Enyo and Ishkur can claim any sort of an edge is the number of Hi-Slots, the Utu only gets 3, but it gets 4 mids and 4 lows so it can fit a Scram and Web. I haven't messed with EFT either but it might even have a viable dual propulsion setup.

Ahh yes EFT... because theorycrafting is all I'm likely to do with this....

Anyway, on to the Adrestia, based on the Thorax hull this is what a blaster boat should be with a 25% bonus to speed out of the box and 20%/level bonus to hybrid damage so this thing can get in range fast and lay a lot of hurt on its target. It also gets 50% bonus to hybrid falloff range and tracking speed to help with the whole 'laying of hurt' functionality, and, like the Utu a 20%/Level bonus to Warp Disruptor/Scrambler range. The drone bay is 100m^3, that's twice the size of the drone bay on the Deimos, so no need to choose between light and medium drones when loading up - and lets face it, if you're loading out this ship it'll be those super fancy Augmented Hobgoblins, Hammerheads and Warriors. It loses the utility hi-slot and gains a mid slot, and again more HP and more capacitor all around.

Of course, very few people are ever going to see these rare ships, if you have tens of billions in cash to spare then you might be able to buy one, at least when the tournament is over and the prizes have been awarded.

And then I hope that someone has the balls to make sure these ships do more than sit in hangars - my hat goes off to Admiral Goberius who flew his Mimir during the providence war.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sansha Invasion = Great Opportunities for.....

I've been using the Vigil as my main mode of transport around hi-sec, it's relatively cheap
since it has more space, faster unboosted speed (700+m/s) and a trio of warp speed rigs to shave seconds of the time taken to warp across a system. I fill out the highs with salvagers and I've found more than a few wrecks for the taking on my travels, it has no need for guns, but I usually toss a combat drone in the drone bay. In the midslots It fits a MWD - giving a boosted speed of almost 5000m/s, a Capacitor Battery and recently the third midslot is fitted with a target painter. For a while I was fitting a shield extender for more tank, but it didn't really add anything and the vigil does get a bonus for target painting.

But what use is a target painter on this ship?

Well along with the drone it's proven quite effective at getting me onto killmails for those Sansha carriers turning up in hi-sec, being able to move across grid quickly and hitting the target with EWAR from 50km out is a hugely effective way of securing my place on the killmails. On top of this, the salvagers and speed make speedy work of the vast number of Sansha Battleship wrecks that end up being left on the field of battle. I turned up to some previous events in a Hawk, but a combination of the hawk not being hugely fast (would be nice to have had that AB bonus we talked about) and the 'Slave' turning up in a Nightmare meant that the target died before I could get in range, the short lifespan of battleships is why they've switched to carriers. Sure I worked hard and blew up scores of the loyal frigate rats that were webbing and scramming other players, but my hard work was barely recognised.

So, the 'killmail whore' setup is performing exceptionally well in that respect. I'm seriously mulling over the possibility of creating a comic alt who's entire purpose is to get onto other people's kilmails. My strategy would be to fit a frigate with an ECM burst and basicly trigger it in the middle of other people's battles in 0.0, it's possible to do this on an astrometrics frigate with an expanded probe launcher so in theory you could drop scan probes around an engagement and warp right on top of targets, fire the ECM and then try to GTFO - and repeat this until you finally get caught.... One day I shall test this theory.

Anyway, at the Sansha event in Vylade yesterday I also managed to get on scene with an alt in a tackle frigate, for about 5 seconds - warped to zero, landed next to a carrier, locked, fired and got blown up by a smartbomb. At which point it occured to me I had seconds until another smartbomb cycle was going to take out my pod and the UI was running far too slowly to make warping to a celestial in time so fearing for my implants I hit ctrl-q at which point my whole system grinds to a halt and windows decides to spin while closing the app. I get control back on my main character just as autopilot jumps him into Vylade, so I head into the breach and target paint my way onto the killmail before salvaging as many wrecks as possible. I finally log my alt back in and she's still in her pod, so I bookmark her wreck, fly to station and come back in a shiny new noobship.

For what it's worth I grab the remains of my ship, and figuring I have nothing to lose if I aggro someone I look in the wrecks around me. First wreck is the remains of the carrier.... containing a Capital Shield Booster!!! Nice, now I have to figure out how to get it back to station before someone else does, a 40million isk module is fair payment for the trauma of losing my frigate.

hmm there are a lot of people sitting nearby, I wonder if they've noticed? So I jettison the shield booster from my old ship and flip the Capital booster into the same can, I hope that Slave dude doesn't come back anytime soon because now he's within his rights to shoot me. Meanwhile with my main I'm looking around for a hauler, I've got one 4 jumps away, probably too far, and on the market some enterprising individual has bought up all the haulers in system and relisted then at 1000 times their regular price. No I do not want to pay 500million for an industrial. So I head next door to Dodixie and get myself a Mammoth.

Back at the wreck site, I can see people coming and looking in cans around me, every 3 minutes I add another jetcan to the collection of stuff around me and I keep the cap shield booster switching from one can to another in an approximation of the shell game. At one point a pilot in a Cyclone comes by and steals my old non capital shield booster, just as I switch out the cap booster to another can. But either he doesn't notice the real prize, or he doesn't think to flip it into his own can, and after a tense few minutes I arrive in my brand new mammoth to secure the prize. Sometimes the most exciting things in Eve are nothing to do with shooting at anything.

That shield booster will pay for the Research Project Management skillbook my alt was about to buy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ore Rebalacing For Tyrannis

One of the Dev's plans for rebalancing the mineral market was to increase the amount of low end minerals refined from mid range ores, the types of ore found in low sec and garden variety 0.0 systems*.

A quick examination of the test server shows the current changes as

Jaspet now refines to 439 Pyerite, was previously only 259

Hemorphite triples the amount of Tritanium from 212 up to 650, and gains 260 Pyerite and 60 Mexallon

Hedbergite added 290 Pyerite to the refinery output.

Spodumain more than quadruples its tritanium output up to 3190 from 700, and almost triples its pyerite content to 400 from 140.

So, if you're mining any of these ores I'd sit on them until the new release to maximise your profits.

* Many miners who've never left empire labour under the delusion that Arkonor is found throughout 0.0, anyone who's been there will attest otherwise, most 0.0 systems are in fact crap for mining.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Planetary Interaction In The Slightly More Distant Future

So, deployment of Tyrannis is being pushed back by a week, and CCP has bought even more time to fix bugs with planetary interaction by pushing back the seeding of the planetary command centres until the 8th of June. That'll give everyone time to train the skills, and figure out which planets they want to use before there's the mad land rush on the 8th.

I'm actually quite happy to hear this, it's better to do things right the first time rather than rushing out something with a whole bunch of known problems.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Revitalizing Low Sec - Pirate Software Edition

So last Saturday I participated in a round table organized by Mynxee regarding Low-sec and throwing around ideas on how to revitalize it and make it more distinct from Hi-Sec and 0.0. Generally the main thrust is that it needs new and unique resources and rewards and the ability to harvest those without putting players at so much risk that the risk/reward gets devalued below that of empire. People were very fond of cops & robbers themed concepts such as 'Corruption' which build an underground economy in low-sec around criminal products.

Boosters are a great example because they have a direct correspondence with the real world drug trade, and because boosters have an actual in game use in 'enhancing' your abilities to fly internet spaceships. For this reason boosters got a lot of attention with suggestions for changes that encouraged pilots to keep taking more and more to keep themselves under the influence and stay ahead of the crash. Other 'questionable products' like prostitutes, banned holoreels and plain old non-booster drugs can certainly be produced in low-sec and moved around to planets that need them, indeed if PI ever gets some decent population management features these might be great additions. Beyond these we kinda stalled in looking for 'stuff' that would be unique to low-sec, but useful to players everywhere, something that would pull people into lowsec to produce and fight over.

After the discussion a further idea occured to me - Pirate Software, Black Codes that let you break into other systems and do things you're not supposed to. Things like...
  • Temporarily disabling sentry guns at gates and stations, so you fleet can operate unmolested, at least until the other side notice the glitch in the network and send a squad to investigate.
  • Messing around with local intel, not appearing in local is one thing, but if you combine this with some of the intel redesign suggestions it could also be used to read local intel when you'd otherwise be blocked out.
  • When you're tackling a pilot in a belt, use our 'leet hacking skills to make it hard to call for help, CCP can't stop pilots calling for help over third party teamspeak, but they can make the 'warp to member' fail, or perhaps drop the cavalry 200km off target.
  • See all those offline towers? Instead of shooting them for hours just roll up and inject a software virus into it's now vulnerable processor, over the next 24 hours it'll slowly subvert the locking systems unless the owners can get on the scene and load fresh firmware (and fuel).
  • How about sneaking a look at things that would normally be off limit to you - wallets and hangars, some in game sactioned espionage?
Ok you get the idea, there are a whole bunch of things that people have asked for with hacking and I don't need to rewrite those proposals here, or spend weeks balancing them all. e.g. Being able to hack into an opponents ship and make shut off their enignes, disable weapons, make them jettison cargo or self destruct might sound 'interesting' but it could mean a pretty radical change to PVP. One person suggested a hacking mini game where attackers and defenders move firewalls, IPS, ICE and other widgets around a data core, but it ended up sounding like something out of Puzzle Pirates. So, full on infowar PVP isn't going to happen and really isn't necessary to get this kind of content into the game.

In the PVE context Pirate Software might be used to disable defences, open back doors, or simply give pilots credentials to allow them past something that would otherwise shoot them. Now I want to dwell on this for a moment, mission runners in low-sec fear getting scanned down and ganked, one of the big problems with NPC AI is that if you're running a mission and a pirate warps in with the intention of ganking you you've now got to deal with DPS from both the rats and the players which hardly seems fair. Now, if you're running a mission for your local shady underworld type he might give you special codes to make you invisible to the defenses, but people not in your fleet will have no such protection and will find themselves under attack. If you listen to the Low-Sec round table some people are suggesting limiting uninvited incursions through the use of gate keys, so this is a variant on this, where hostiles are used to interfere with an attack rather than simply deny it. Although, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that gates might also be hackable with the right pirate software to bypass need for a key.

As an aside - on the subject of missioning in lowsec...
I alluded to the fact that running level 4 missions in battleships makes it really easy to scan you down, and it makes travel in low-sec a matter of time before you get caught at a gate, so level 4's in lowsec can never be as profitable as those in hi-sec. If I were designing an expansion built around low-sec I'd take cues from the pirate speedboat missions and design around small mobile ships as being the intended vessels of choice. Missions might even be designed with some of the specialist ship classes - the covert ops, the stealth bomber, the assault frigate in mind.

Furthermore, pirates tend to operate in gangs, and mission runners tend to be solo - low-sec mission content might be an appropriate place to introduce multiplayer missions with goals that require multiple pilots (e.g. a gate needs a lock 'disabled', but the lock is far from the gate and respawns before a single ship could fly the distance). There was a lot of people angry at the Gallente storyline missions, they were not happy with the prospect of taking a battleship several jumps into lowsec where they'd be easy meat. However, I flew these missions, and instead of the large slow ship I took a couple of rifters along instead, 2 pilots working as a team, the first created a diversion and drew aggro on the combat ships, pulling them away from the transports they were protecting. While the second swooped in and took out the now undefended haulers, I don't believe the original mission design was built around this tactic, but you could see how a PVE encounter could be designed with this in mind. The most painful part of the whole process was travelling 25 jumps to the site and the same distance back, for a crappy reward, all the time grumbling that none of the other factions are forcing their pilots to run these 'special' missions.

All this is of course designed to provide content which isn't simply cookie cutter repeats of experiences you'll get in the safety of hi-sec, and to provide it in a manner where the risk-reward equation favours the bold both by increasing the reward and reducing the risk. Plenty of wormhole dwellers were empire only mission grinders until they were tempted by the rewards of t3 and the promise of better PVE, the same equation applied to low-sec has a successful precedent. Plenty of people want to play as 'the bad guys' without necessarily PVP'ing as pirates, but with 'Corruption' suggestion an integrated avenue for PVP leading to rewards it's not too much of a stretch to see pilots participation naturally progressing in that direction.

Anyway, all of this is a significant amount of work, CCP would have to dedicate a release to low-sec, and while I'm one of those shouting 'slow down and fix the bugs' I'm also saying that low-sec represents a significant part of New Eden that's being squandered, so it is indeed worthy of a dedicated expansion.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Oops I Accidently The Whole Server

So, due to a process that generates Item ID's going offline it looks like the system lost over 100,000 items which were 'manipulated' during the hour or so leading up to todays shutdown.

Time to go and petition that Titan blueprint I lost. :)

7 Years Of Eve Patches (Part 5)

Quantime Rise, frequently referred to Quantum Nerf for its rebalancing of speed and to a lesser extent missiles - Released on 11th November 2008. One major update that's not mentioned in the patch notes, because technically it's a server side change, was the disabling of Ghost Training which created one of the longest running discussion threads in the history of the Eve forums.

69477 - Quantum Rise
- Outer Ring excavations (ORE) and Deep Core Mining (DCM) have completed a joint venture by creating The Orca.
- One of my favourite ships, partly for its looks, but mainly for the sheer utility it offers.

- Speed rebalance has been introduced, affecting a great many different ships and modules.
- Another forums threadnaught resulted from the Nano-Nerf which was intended to put 'ludicrous speed' out of reach.

- Certificates are a powerful tool to reinforce your bragging rights
- The only certificate I see people bragging about is 'Hull Tanking - Elite'

- The Crane, Prorator, Prowler and Viator can now equip a covert ops cloak
- I love my Crane and Viator, I just wish that CCP had given them all an extra hi-slot for that cloak.

- All missile types have been balanced
- They removed the 'Easy' button and replaced it with a 'Not Hard' button, except in the case of rockets where the button says 'LoL'

- The 30-day renewable license pioneered by CONCORD is an alternative to its pod pilot contract license.
- now market traders in could manipulate the costs of game time with much greater ease.

- players can now create some of the rarer moon minerals like dysprosium and promethium through reactions.
- After careful analysis of the market prices of moon minerals CCP introduce Alchemy, a method to increase supply of the rarer ones. A month later it was discovered that a number of people were using a duplication exploit to increase the supply of high end minerals and everyone realises that the analysis was based on completely false data.

70393 - The shield recharge time on the Orca has been changed to 2100 seconds
- They made it longer so people would realise that the Orca is the ultimate in hi-sec hull tanking.

71655 - We have made various performance improvements to UI rendering in the graphics engine.
- In QR they'd managed to introduce a whole lot of client side performance issues, and while fixing them they also added new options to disable bits of eye candy like drone models and explosions.

83913 - Apocrypha, released 10 March 2009
- Our Classic client has been retired to make way for Premium Lite
- Which meant you couldn't play Eve on graphics hardware made prior to 2002 any more.

- Wormholes will bring a whole new level of adventure and exploration for every pilot who dares to probe out an entrance to the unknown.
- And since we had a lot of hi-sec carebears jumping into them the 'adventure' frequently was provided by other players.

- New technology found in Wormhole Space allows players to research, manufacture and fly the next generation of cruisers.
- That was a year ago, and I'm still too much of a wimp to PVP with my 'new' shiney.

- Character attribute distribution can now be rearranged in order to diversify or specialize skill training.
- Action finally being taken on the Achura overpopulation problem.

- Scanning in New Eden has been completely revamped
- And it became truly awesome, requiring real, honest to god skill to scan down sites and targets.

- As part of our ongoing effort to bring cutting edge graphics to EVE’s players, almost every effect in game has been redone.
- Can I have the old Cyno effect back?

85476 - Going through a jump bridge or using a cynosural field will no longer cause ammunition that is being reloaded from being lost.
- Seriously, I don't care about the ammo, even the fancy faction stuff, I just want the electrified awesome that was the old Cyno.

86756 - Stealth Bombers have had their role refocused to be anti-battleship role.
- They got covert ops cloaks, epic torpedo damage and bombs that didn't make you poor, everyone bought them instead of T3.

88517 - The default overview setting for war, militia, and global criminal targets has been changed.
- triggering hundreds of friendly fire incidents until people figured out how to fix their overview.

88974 -Modules will no longer be subject to an activation delay when a ship has de-cloaked after jumping through a stargate.
- All of a sudden gatecamping had got a lot easier as pilots failed to cloak fast enough.

89883 - Jumping through a gate will no longer cause the client to lock up.
- This bug pretty much killed fleets roaming through 0.0, if you jumped in just as someone was decloaking your client locked up, frequently followed by reds killing your helpless ship as you restarted your client.

93706 - The drop rates for faction drone blueprints have been increased substantially.
- And still those augmented drones are as rare as hens teeth.

99186 - Carriers, Dreadnoughts, Motherships, Titans, Jump Freighters and the Rorqual now have special fuel bays.
- CCP deals a blow to the Honor Tank.

101786 - It is now possible to shoot objects that are 0 meters away with turrets.
- it was always frustrating to have to fly away from something so you could hit it at point blank range.

And so, we've reached Dominion, so now this series has come up to date there's nothing more for me to say - see you out there.