Thursday, April 29, 2010

POS Modules and Sovereignty Structures Now Buildable By Players on SiSi

A month ago I was speculating that the final products of planetary production chains would be Implants of Skillbooks, largely based upon the fact that final product names like 'Recursive Computing Module' and 'Wetware Mainframe' sounded like the kind of macguffins a mad scientist in New Eden would use to interface with a capsuleer's brain.

Well new developments on the test server pour water on this idea since a whole bunch of blueprints have appeared in the item database which use these advanced products. These blueprints aren't for implants or skills, they're for things like Gun Batteries, Corporate Hangar Arrays, SBU's, TCU's and a whole bunch of other big things that go in deep space rather than inside our head. So it's looking like mission runners will remain the primary source of implants for the moment, and brave traders will still be able to make great profits by supplying 0.0 stations with implants.

On the other hand, people testing planet side production in its current form are reporting pretty poor returns on their investments of time and materials - one player estimated that he could make 15 units of enriched uranium per day, which at current prices worked out to 1.5million isk per month. OTOH I can fly out to a belt in 0.0 and in 5 minutes I'll have made the same amount, so I would hope that there'll be some shuffling of numbers used in the production chains prior to the release, otherwise the number of people participating will be small, until NPC sell orders are removed and prices jump to 10x their current value as market forces take control.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Story Of Monkeysphere and The Folly of Relying On Side Effects

Monkeysphere is a player who's been doing a hugely effective job at killing cloaky macro ratters in 0.0 space, you know the kind of pilot that kills high bounty pirate rats while they're alone in a system and then warp off and hide as soon as they see someone else in local chat. It's very hard to catch this kind of pilot, generally it involves lots of logging in and out in a system to trigger the warp in and out behaviour until you get lucky and end up in the same belt as the bot. Actually killing a macro ratter once you catch them is generally a whole lot easier since they're not really setup for PVP and can't react to another player outside of attempting to run off. Macro anything in Eve is not only disliked by the legitimate players, but also against the terms of the EULA, when a macro loses his ship there's not exactly a groundswell of sympathy, and robots generally lack the mastery of the English language to complain on the forums.

But when Monkeysphere killed some real-honest-to-god-flesh-and-blood ratters they complained very vocally claiming that the agressors had not appeared in local chat until seconds before their arrival on grid with a cry of OMG HAXX they rallied support and a threadnaught ensued. It's basicly 63 pages of people arguing on every side of the issue and every pilot involved has been accused of breaking the EULA, while some people who are actually educated, rather than simply opinionated, went out and developed a version of the local-cloak exploit by hijacking Eve's custom IRC system. And to add to the 'controversy' for much of this time Monkeysphere found himself stuck inside a wormhole unable to find an exit big enough to let his ship out. This of course led to tin-foil-hat wearers suggesting that the GM's were keeping him locked up while they investigated whether the logs really did show nothing. Let me make it clear that proving an exploit is possible is a long way from proving a pilot used an exploit, and lets face it, nobody likes macro ratters so a lot of people are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt based upon his stellar record cleaning up the universe.
This thread started on the 19th of April, and a week later CCP deployed a hotfix to the servers to plug the exploit, although the jury is still out on whether this fix has actually worked with tranquility and singularity running significantly different versions of the codebase.

Regardless, this whole incident really illustrates to me that Local chat as a source of intel needs overhauled anyway, it's a side effect that's core to the way people work in 0.0, and everyone ends up with all this excess UI space going to waste when they drag the chat window into a thin vertical pane. Instead we should get a dedicated UI that's more compact with narrower rows and multiple columns for standing, sec status, corp/alliance so we can sort through this data faster. Once this happens local everywhere goes to delayed mode and everyone tucks it back into their stack of chat channels never to be used again except to make the occasional 'GoodFight' after your ibis had judgement laid upon it by an avatar.

Now on top of this, the rules for what you see in local would be changed, in hi-sec everyone should generally get all the info, providing they're in good graces with the controlling faction, if your standings drop too much with the caldari you lose access to local intel in Jita, although you're probably more concerned with the navy running after you at that point. Factional warfare would be treated specially, with Militia pilots blocked from receiving intel in enemy space. The FW combat zones would be designated sensitive militarily sensitive areas with only friendly FW pilots receiving local intel, but this being FW, the faction in control of a system may change, so getting local intel is a reward for militias that make the effort to capture and control systems.

In NPC 0.0 the standings based rules would apply, if you're out of favour with the pirates don't expect their traffic control to tell you about that battlefleet in system. The real awesomeness of this plan finally shows up in the rest of 0.0 space, there's no intel here by default, but once your alliance plants your TCU and takes control you can setup a trackin station upgrade that will monitor anyone entering and leaving the system via the jump gates or those oh-so-obvious cyno beacons. Ships arriving via covert cyno's and wormholes wouldn't be detected until they do something to signal their presence, such as approaching a gate, POS or outpost. The tracking station would have to be setup away from any interference so it needs to sit in deep space, away from POS towers, and being a big hunk of electronics it's quite sensitive to things like guns and missiles. Give less than a million hp of shield+armour and maybe 10million structure, easy to disable quickly by a small gang looking for something to do while the system residents hide in stations.

As an alliance with your own space you get access to even better tools for intel monitoring, as well as intel in local alliance members (perhaps only with the correct roles) would be able to go to the starmap and see the status of all the systems they controlled. Instead of the delayed map statistics you'd be able to see numbers change much more rapidly, and you'd be able to look in the system you were about to jump into, instead of trying to find someone in your lame intel channel who's not AFK. You'd be able to see that red fleet arrive on the edge of your space, know what way they're headed and arrange the response with a better understanding of what you're facing. Unless of course the incoming fleet makes a point of sending in someone to kill your tracking stations.

The 0.0 behaviour provides new reasons to take and hold sov, it provides a proper intel dashboard to track enemy incursions and it also provides some tangible sov related targets for small PVP gangs that find their targets hiding.

And finally.... for wormholes things would be pretty much the same as right now, no intel, and the persistent fear that there might be a cloaked fleet out there waiting to announce themselves when you go and play with the sleepers.

So I may be dreaming aloud, but there's a non-zero chance of me getting enough votes in the forthcoming CSM elections, and you never know what dreams may come.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Not Another Krazy Kinux Blog Banter Entry

Having been a winner in Crazy Kinux's last blog banter contest and, given that this latest competition is on a theme which I am supremely unqualified to write about I decided to pass and instead ask Skye to deliver her commentary on "The Ladies Of New Eden" -

Who the hell is steve?

After the latest Dev Blog covering the redesign, redistribution and addition of landmarks to New Eden I had more than a few questions about 'Steve'
What's this Steve business?

Well you need to know a bit of (St)Eve history to get the reference - Steve was the first Titan built in the game, and also the first one destroyed, in celebration of this watershed event in 0.0 power balance the wreck of this titan is on permanent display in C9N-CC, a system in the Esoteria region.

Ascendant Frontier were one of the big alliances back in 2006, big enough to be able to throw sufficient resources at their titan construction and beat all the other alliances to the prize of having the first Titan in Eve. It was unveiled to much fanfare on September 25, 2006 - pilots from all over the empire were lining up to get experience the power of Judgement so they could show the lossmail to their grandchildren, or something like that. Ascendant Frontier were also the first alliance to deploy a player built outpost.

Ultimately BOB brought down Steve when the pilot logged out with aggro timers still active, enabling enemy pilots to probe him down and make short work of the defenceless supercapital, Steve was destroyed on December 11th 2006, not even 3 months old.

Ascendant Frontier went on to provide a textbook example of an alliance failcascade, but they made their mark on the universe of new Eden before their time was up.

Friday, April 16, 2010

CCP Nerfs The Great Deep Safe Nerf

Maybe the devs took the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (was someone losing at scrabble when they came up with that name?) as a sign that some deity was angry that he was going to have to re-sub and move his logged out supercaps into plain old safe spots. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth a new dev blog was published backtracking on many of the changes.

It'll still be impossible to use current techniques to generate new safes, but instead of disabling warping to deep safes they're going to run a script to move all bookmarks and entities in towards the star. The bug fix will go live with tyrannis, but the script may not be ready by then, so you might be able to enjoy your super deep safe spots for a while longer than thought. The boundary was also moved out to 20AU beyond the deepest celestial, so there's a little more breathing room.

And if you ever wondered how many people were really doing this......

The fun bit at the end

  • There are around 2,300 items outside the 20AU boundary
  • Around 60% of these items are ships
  • Around 25% of these ships are unpiloted
  • There are around 430,000 bookmarks outside the 20AU boundary
  • The furthest bookmark is 5,900,000,000 AU (95,000 light years) from its sun. This is roughly the same distance as the diameter of the milky way

Alienware AlienFX Support in Tyrannis

Something I noticed on the Tyrannis Features Page:

Tyrannis harnesses the visual cue capability of AlienFX-compatible DELL machines and keyboards. The multi-colored perimeter lighting will now pulse and change when triggered by critical game events including:
  • Low capacitor
  • Warp scrambling
  • Autopilot waypoints and destination
  • Cargo full
  • Cap recharge levels when in jump-capable ships
Sounds kinda, but it would be even more awesome if it were a bit more general purpose - sending these kind of events to an external process that could operate any sort of visual/audible(/tactile?) cue in response to these events. Of course anything that could receive these kind of events could make bot writing a whole lot easier, so I don't expect this will happen any time soon.

Here's a video showing the keyboard lighting on one of those fancy gaming laptops, so you can imagine sitting in your carrier waiting for it to turn green and indicate you have the cap to jump again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Are A Winnar!

Apparently my crazed ramblings on the subject of the forthcoming economic changes which are soon to manifest in the form of Tyrannis have attracted sufficient respect from legitimate bloggers to be selected as a winner in Crazy Kinux's recent planetary interaction blogging competition.

I'm seriously chuffed with this turn of events, this blog is pretty new, still figuring out what it wants to be, and as such it's still one of the less travelled blogs with only a few readers dropping by from time to time. So being recognized by Eve's Blogfather is a great stamp of approval that shows that I have some practical knowledge of New Eden and this will hopefully bring on a few more readers.

The timing of this couldn't be better as I submitted my candidacy for the Council of Stellar Management last week, largely on a whim. With luck the people at CCP won't see any glaring errors in my application, and I'll spend the next month trying to convince some of my readers that I am perhaps the candidate most deserving of their vote. However, there will be more on that subject when the campaigning starts properly. (and even more on it if I'm rejected on some sort of technicality :)

The PLEX will go to fund "my daughter's" account, so that she can continue to make cute videos for youtube.

Fly Safe

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Great 2010 Deep Safe Nerf is Official

The New dev blog even takes all the fun out of reblogging, since they drop a summary at the top....

"Tl;dr AfterTyrannis, for any point more than 10AU outside the furthest celestial in the system, you will not be able to open cynos, create bookmarks, or warp to that location. Also, all "stuff" outside this range will be deleted during Tyrannis deployment."

So, save your effort, don't go rushing to get those soon to be rare deep safes, because they will be swept away soon, and not just the bookmarks, anything you've left parked there is being nuked. Including ship and capsules, if you log off there in May 17th expect to find yourself podded back to your clone station.

At best you might be able to pick up some safespots in some systems that are hard to find because they're way out of the ecliptic, but still within the limit set by CCP, spots that you would otherwise be unable to get to when the logoff in warp bugs are fixed. However these are unlikely to have the kind of utility that true deep safes had, unless the system is truly huge.

Myself, I did some testing on singularity and discovered that logging off in warp freezes your logoff timer until you arrive on grid at the destination of your warp. So there's no escaping arriving at your destination regardless of how far away it is. There is however an odd bug that ships on grid at the other end cannot select 'look at' while they're killing your Freighter.

What's In My Hangar?

If you know my play style you'll know that I'm something of a generalist in Eve, so I've trained for all the races ships and can fly almost any tech 1 sub capital ship, albeit with less than perfect skills (I still don't have many t2 weapons systems). So following the current Eve blogged meme my answer is well.. at least one of everything.

Essentially, if it's a regular t1 sub-cap then I've bought one, fitted it, flown around, run missions and then generally put it in storage with the rest of my collection. This includes all the racial industrials ships too all the way up to the rod err god of t1 hauling - the Iteron V. Beyond this I also own all the faction frigates, all the caldari T2 frigates, cruisers and haulers as well as an Orca and a Charon.

See I'm a bit of a collector when it comes to ships, so I have many of them that I've acquired simply to add to my collection, but I have spent a bit of time in all of them and prior to this I usually take a look at ship fits to get a decent clue as to how people think they should be flown. Of course being good at missiles and drones I occasionally find my preferred fits aren't exactly what everyone else is flying.

So here's what's currently in active use, assembled, and fitted.
'SnM' - Dominix: Dual rep setup with rails in the highs and a complement of drones. Solid, low maintenance mission running ship.
'Tickle Princess' & 'Tickle Me Again' - Drake: I asked my daughter for a ship name. Classic passive tanked with t2 heavy missiles. Great for missions, and letting my daughter fly. Flew with me on many PVP fleets before I really learned the value of battleships and spidertanks.
'Geddon it on' - Armageddon: switches between ratting and pvp setups through the magic of saved fittings. This ship originally started out based in BR-N97 when I was with Sylph, then followed me out to Wicked Creek for a while, before returning (via wormhole) to Catch and recently contributed some DPS to capture the station in BR-N97 for Twilight.
'Topsy' - Apocalypse: The classic RR fleet sniper.
'Hork' - Hawk: Strictly for speed running low level plexes and missions when necessary, never PVP'd with it.
'Xb' - Charon: Xb = Extra Boxy - like the Scion Xb, but a mile long.
'Cuddle Bunny' - Orca: another one named by my daughter. While it's an industrial vessel I'm proud to say it has a kill to its name.
'No More Speed' - Vigil: fitted with 3xOverdrives, 3x warp speed rigs this is my shuttle, it'll go faster than a shuttle while autopiloting to gate and warp faster. Also has a full rack of salvagers which has made me some cash from the wrecks of the occasional hi-sec gatecamp victim.
'Rapunzel' - Abaddon: yet another one named by Skye, fitted with Mega Beam lasers it burns its way through missions pretty well, but it doesn't get flown so much now that I fly the domi.
'Karri' - Caracal: Assault missiles and passive shield tank for running low level missions and cosmos plexes where assault frigates are banned. Caracal with assault missiles is complete win. I also have the navy variant, but I've got no imagination and done exactly the same thing with it, it's pretty good at doing the archaeology stuff in cosmos sites.
'Stupid' - Arbitrator: The only amarrian cruiser I liked was the Arbitrator, the other ones have trouble with frigates in level 2 missions and bigger ships in level 3 so I never really found them effective.
'Big Nose' - Buzzard: I actually have 3 buzzards around new eden, they're useful for all sorts of things, but not being seen is the most important thing they're good at.
'Sneaky Bastich' - Manticore: I like my stealth ships, and I like my stealth bombers a lot more since they god reworked.
'The Last Mimzy' - Tengu: Again, named by Skye. I've almost exclusively used the tengu with a covert cloak and interdiction nullifier for moving freely through 0.0. For a while I was heading into deep 0.0 systems and shooting the local rats for some variation on the angel/sansha rats I'd been used to. It did get caught by the bubble bug and subsequently petitioned successfully, but since the bug has been fixed it's largely avoided any direct interaction with reds.
'xxx' - Crane: This is my third blockade runner (the previous 2 suffered... accidents), it's your basic, extra agile covert delivery machine.
'No More Jetcans' - Hulk: Cargo expanded hulk used for lazy mining in hi-sec, hasn't seen a lot of use recently because of the profitability of insurance scams as a 'semi-afk' activity while doing real work. I also keep another hulk in 0.0 which is quite capable of tanking and killing rat battleship spawns.
'The Mack Is Back' - Mackinaw: because you need ice products to fuel all our POS's
'Flo' - Vexor: Like the arbitrator, a great mission ship I fly for fun from time to time.
'Thai Phoon' - Typhoon: I found one on contracts for a ridiculously low price when we moved back into Motarion Curze Memorial, so, I put torpedos on it and it's a pretty darn effective close range ship.
'Arrowhead' - Rokh: Fitted as a sniper, but really it's sitting in hi-sec doing very little because it's shield tanked and without t2 guns it's not the epic sniper that it could be. In a couple of months though I expect to be ablt to deliver some serious hurt with t2 hybrids.
'Don't Ask' - Republic Fleet Firetail: Fitted with large rigs from the days before sized rigs and before the rebalancing. For a long time I used this as my fast transport ship, and it was great at zipping around in 0.0 generating strategic bookmarks while acting as bait. Hasn't seen any pvp since the change in rig sizes since it's now something of a collectors Item.
'Hippo' - Caldari Navy Hookbill: Again, large rigs (CDFP's), but I can't come up with a decent fit these days with those rigs so it's sitting around waiting for some love.
'Rod' - Iteron V: Cargo expanded for moving production materials from the refining station to the manufacturing station. Originally brought down to 0.0 via a WH that conveniently popped up on the day we needed to kill an outpost, letting us bring a bunch of supplies through to 0.0.
'Buster' - Bustard: Before I could fly the itty this was my hauler workhorse in 0.0, it's still preferred when the loads are small enough because it's tougher and has built in resistance to warp disruptors.
'Trieste' - Tristan: I bought this because I needed a t1 frigate for some mission, and I figured this never gets any love because it's a Gallente missile ship. I like it for missions.
'Skeewiff' - Skiff: Before I had transport ships the skiff was my transport, it warped and aligned faster than most industrials and had a decent cargo hold, it's now setup for mercoxit mining, and hasn't seen any in months.

Everything else is packaged away in storage. Except for hundreds of noobships I've picked up in space, abandoned by their owners, I've left them unpackaged to keep their original names "xxx's Velator". One day I dream of leading an army of volunteers in these noobships to glory... or something like that. Or maybe I'll just move them into one giant pile and smartbomb them.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's Not Just About Planets You Know

For a long time the closest you got to planetary interaction in Eve was when you warped through them and nothing happened, before you read any further I'll tell you that this 'feature' is not going to be removed in the next expansion - Tyrannis.

Tyrannis is being pitched as an industrial expansion which will add provide the capsuleers of New Eden access to new production processes which were previously the exclusive domain of the NPC organizations. Commodities such as Mechanical Parts, Robotics and Nanite Repair paste have previously been critical inputs to the player run economy and have so far been supplied primarily primarily by NPC sell orders on the market providing a small cash sink. Furthermore, the processes available at this time are still in progress and the most advanced products have no direct use in the game but the names - Neural Interface, Psychosocial Telemetrics, Cerebrographic Composites - wouldn't seem out of place in the kind of sci-fi technobabble used to describe the components used to manufacture implants (or skillbooks?). As such it would seem reasonable at this time to expect that the final process may finally provide these commodities and cut the NPC corporations out of the loop.

Beyond planetary production there's the more subtle set of changes being applied to fix insurance fraud and simultaneously avert the minerapocalypse that naive meddling in the affairs of minerals might summon. At first the insurance changes were added to SiSi with no fanfare and were immediately spotted by those bold test pilots, and this information was quickly seized upon by a number of armchair economists and doomsayers (including myself) who conjured multiple threadnaughts to discuss the implications of the change. CCP eventually made the official position clear with a number of smaller changes aimed at adjusting the supply of minerals from secondary sources so as to protect the miners from the collapse in mineral demand which was being fueled by insurance fraud (again, including myself). The effects of these changes are already being felt over a month prior to the release of Tyrannis as speculators make guesses about the variations in the long term prices of the minerals.
As soon as Tyrannis was announced there were of course a bunch of combat pilots immediately complaining about how the expansion gave them nothing, the fact that it had been described as an industrial expansion led to comparisons with Quantum Rise which was hugely unpopular with 'bitter vets' due to the speed rebalancing AKA Nano Nerf. This expansion is no QR, although I haven't entirely discounted the possibility of a Dramiel nerf in time for the release.

Pilots in deep 0.0 or wormholes will see the benefits of simplified logistics with the need to ferry supplies of essential NPC goods to remote bases replaced with the need to manage local production planetside. Anyone who PVP's can attest to the utility of Nanite Repair Paste, without it you simply cannot overheat your modules except in the most dire situations, and not being able to get that extra performance with any regularity is going to leave you at a disadvantage. The rest of the NPC goods don't directly affect PVP, but the reduced need for trips to and from empire space will mean fewer hauler escorts with the related ganks at gates. The biggest effect will most likely be felt for 0.0 alliances who generally have to deploy many POS's to support their operations and who are resident in systems for extended periods. Wormhole explorers could exploit planets, but many WH operations are much more mobile and it's not yet clear that moving a planetary operation from system to system will be as 'easy' as moving a POS. Wormhole residents will never have a local source of ice products which is a far greater logisitical problem than the relatively small amounts of NPC goods needed, so the benefits may not even be worth it, depending how the numbers turn out when Tyrannis is fully cooked.

One other critical economic question that remains is whether the NPC buy/sell orders will remain after Tyrannis is released. On one hand they will provide a buffer to ensure that POS fuel supplies don't run out during a transition when everyone is learning how PI works, but they will enforce a price floor and ceiling in their current form and I feel that CCP and their good Dr Eyo would rather do away with as many NPC market options as possible. Testers on Singuarlity are discovering some problems with finding some of these things for sale on the market, but this appears to be a bug with browsing the market since it affects all orders for a commodity equally. I suspect that in the long term these orders will go away, but before that we may see some adjustments in prices to increase the gap between buy and sell order prices to allow the market to adjust. Some speculators are stocking up on essential POS items like Enriched Uranium and Robotics, gambling that CCP takes the bold step of removing the orders sooner rather than later.
For the combat pilots in New Eden the transfer of production to planets will introduce new possibilities for interfering with this supply of goods, the orbital transfer points in orbit need to be visited by haulers to supply inputs. These hubs form obvious chokepoints which can be exploited either by small gangs of combat pilots actively degrading the industrial operations of an enemy alliance, or by pirates simply looking for easy kills. This could provide a much needed boost to small gang pvp at the alliance level which is suffering a lack of real attainable goals in the post Dominion era. Ganking industrials picking up POS fuel is vastly more feasable than killing hundred million HP structures, and a whole lot more fun too.
Beyond this simple tactic there's so much that Devs could do to Planetary Interaction to provide new problems for pilots to solve with combat ships rather than haulers. Let me take of my 'speculator' cap and put on my 'game dev' wizards hat and throw out how a couple of small additions to PI would add opportunities for more than industrialists.
  • I'd like to see NPC pirates spawning at orbital transfer points in the same way they spawn at asteroid belts, and, make the orbital transfer system refuse to transfer materials back and forth if there are rats on grid. So pilots may need to make some show of protecting their assets and drive the pirates away before the haulers can load and unload materials.
  • The current 'launch can' mechanic needs improved, it's impossible for hostiles to intercept the materials regardless of how good their planning is. I'd prefer to see the planetside equivalent of the station haulers which take a few minutes to travel between the planet surface and the orbital transfer point. These take a few minutes to make the journey, during which they are vulnerable to attack by other players (but protected by concord in hi-sec). Perhaps if you really invest in a planet then you can build a beanstalk instead and replace those fragile transports with a permanent bridge between the surface and space.
  • 'We are but simple villagers, we need your help to protect us from the evil El Guapo', if you've ever used research agents for datacores then you know the drill, you get mission offers from your staff. On planetary scales the same mechanism could be used, with mission offers appearing in your journal, ignoring of failing these could lead to negative effects on your production chain, if you don't keep the pirates in check then they'll just keep stealing your stuff. Or you might need to deliver some emergency supplies to deal with a problem such as a disease or reactor problem that threatens to bring production to a halt if not dealt with quickly.
These mechanics are already in the game in other forms so development time would be minimal, the most complex would be adding and testing a bunch of new planet themed missions. Maybe some of these ideas are already in the Tyrannis release, or maybe they've already been considered and discarded for some gameplay breaking consequence that my feeble mind has failed to perceive.

Regardless, planetary interaction will change a lot of things even if you're not the kind of person to be fooling around with resource management you'll find yourself ultimately reliant on the production system. And even before then Tyrannis is going to change things in a big way through the changes to the minerals and insurance, you can't escape the effects of Tyrannis (well short of performing the classic emoragequit when you lose your pimped ship)

Friday, April 2, 2010

5 Year Old Skye Killing Pirates In Eve

Continuing on her quest to dispel any myths that playing Eve is hard, she takes on some Sansha pirates in hi-sec and comes away with some truly epic loot. She's flying a punisher with minimal skill training, and shows that it's more than up for the task.