Wednesday, April 3, 2013

EVE 101: On HP, EHP, and basic tanking

I'm not going to get into a philosophical discussion about tanking types (shield vs. armor and passive vs. active), but rather address this from a factual standpoint, so you can tank your ship however you please, hopefully better with the knowledge I provide you.

In EVE, HP and EHP are almost never identical. Total hit points (HP) are the combined raw shield, armor and structure points your ship has after any physical modules or rigs are added to provide additional points. HP is almost never equal to the damage you can take (or tank) though. There is basically one module and one rig (per defensive type) that increases your HP. Shield Extenders, Armor Plates and Reinforced Bulkheads are the modules, while Core Defense Field Extenders and Trimark Armor Pumps are the rigs. You will notice that there are no Hull rigs. That's because nobody really hull tanks. You just shouldn't. Installing these modules and/or rigs to your ship increases the base HP of your ship.

Effective Hit Points (EHP) is the combination of HP and resistances. I am going to talk about EHP as a static number, even though it's not. EHP varies from engagement to engagement, and , so please take the time to think about your EHP every time you engage, whether in PvP or PvE.

We are going to use a Gallente Thorax as an example. Below are the raw statistics of the Thorax:
Hit PointsResists (EM/Exp/Kin/Therm)

This ship (before any modules) has 5040 HP, but 6225 EHP vs. kinetic damage. That means if a single volley of damage were 5500 DPS (kinetic only) the ship would survive with a fraction of hit points (725 structure points).

How EHP works (in a perfect world).
Your ship can take a certain amount of damage (assuming no repair services) before it blows up. The more damage it can take (or mitigate) the longer it lasts before it explodes. Each ship has some basic resists to each of the four damage types, and some "holes" to some of the damage types.

In a simple world an 80% kinetic shield resist Thorax can withstand 6833 DPS of kinetic damage. In the real world of EVE, no weapon puts out a single damage type. Hybrids do Kinetic/Thermal damage, Lasers do EM/Therm, while missiles and projectiles do varied damage types. So most ships fit for at least two types of resistance.

Your EHP should be optimized to defend against the types of ships you will engage. For PvE this is actually pretty simple. PvE ships should fit against the (typically 2-3) damage types they will face. If you run missions (or rat) against Serpentis, that means you want to have strong resists against Kinetic and Thermal damage, since Serpentis rats usually utilize hybrid weapons. In PvP it gets more complex. A lot of PvP players fly Minmatar to provide them the opportunity to optimize damage against any opponent they encounter. Traditionally PvP ships try to balance resists across the board, recognizing that (for example) plugging the EM shield hole in Gallente is critical, because a good PvP pilot will utilize EM-focused damage against your shields, in anticipation of it being the weakest resist. However, if you know you are going to battle a fleet of Oracles, it's a safe bet to maximize your resists against EM and Thermal damage.

I don't want to get into tanking types, but just a brief comment so you understand that any repair modules affect your EHP. If you are active tanking, it's important to understand that your repairs are worth more than the raw numbers, due to EHP as well. For example, if you fit a Medium Ancillary Shield Booster on that Thorax, it repairs 146 shield hp every 3 seconds, but that 146 HP is actually worth 204 EHP (kinetic) in a basic Thorax in combat.

I hope this brief overview into how EHP works helps you fit your ships for better survivability.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Blog Banter 44: Capsuleer Identity Distributor (CID) Reciever

"The local chat channel provides EVE players with an instant source of intel of who is in the system. With a quick glance you can tell who is in system and what your standings are to them. War targets, hated enemies, friends and corp mates all stand out clearly. Is this right? Should we have access to this intel for free with no work or effort? Should the Local chat channel even exist? Should normal space be more like wormhole space where the Local channel appears empty until someone speaks?"

I've been silent a long time, that happens in RL. But this particular topic is one that has been on my mind since the release of Apocrypha, and then my introduction to life in nullsec shortly thereafter. I've played in all the areas affected by any change to local chat. I was a hisec carebear for a bit over a year before Apocrypha, and then spent a couple months learning the ins and outs of wormholes, but realized early on I didn't have the time to dedicate to life in a wormhole. Since then, I've spent time in both NPC and sovereign nullsec, as well as Faction War and lived in losec. Chat channels have been part and parcel in my game forever, and local most of all.

I've spent far too many cycles thinking about Local, and the intel it provides, and justifications for keeping it and losing it. I've refined and reviewed and regretted my position on Local over the years, but at this point I am comfortable with my position today. With that extended introduction, here's where I'm at with Local.

Local is a great intel tool. Knowing exactly who is in your system can be the difference between a ship and an explosion, but players have become far too dependent on knowing everything, all the time. Local in a wormhole is the exact opposite – you have no idea of anything when entering a wormhole, which in the beginning is part of the excitement and appeal. Somewhere between these two extremes is the appropriate solution. Here's my take on it...

First, the RP justification...

Due to the near godlike abilities of capsuleers, CONCORD implemented a unique identifier in the neurological upgrades that enable capsuleers to utilize implants. These ID codes broadcast on a specialized frequency that can be identified by the CID Receiver, which is deployed as part of the stargates, and utilizes the stargate network to broadcast the identity of all capsuleers within a system. Due to recent financial challenges, CONCORD recently announced that they would no longer cover the cost of maintaining the CID Receivers throughout known space.

Empires recognized the importance monitoring capsuleer traffic within their borders, so they took over the cost of maintenance for the CIDs internally. The factions that have sovereignty in NPC nullsec have taken over maintenance of the receivers as well, including NPC areas like Phoenix constellation in Fountain, or the Blood Raiders constellation in Delve.

The devil is in the details...

The CID Receiver ties into the Stargate network (which is why it doesn't exist or work in wormhole space). Whether offline or online, the CID Receiver will always broadcast the number of capsuleer signatures in a given system (local count). If online, the CID Receiver will broadcast the identity of any capsuleer who uses a stargate to enter or exit a system. There are no CID Receivers in Smuggler gates, so these gates will never broadcast the identity of a capsuleer who enters a system through a Smuggler gate. This means that pilots who enter systems via other methods (logon, cynosural travel) will not have their identity broadcast, but the local count will increment for each additional capsuleer who enters the system. Jump Bridges and Cynosural Beacons do not broadcast identities to the CID, so traveling via these methods do not display the identity of the traveler in local. In addition, upon entering a system, capsuleers can bribe the CID maintenance workers to block their identity when entering any system in empire space. Finally, in sovereign nullsec and Faction War systems, CID Receivers can be hacked to put them offline for 15-60 minutes (randomized based on the hacking success ratio). If a CID Receiver is hacked, all local identities are lost, and identities are only updated once the Receiver goes back online and pilots travel in and out via stargate. These two tools (bribe and hack) enable pilots to travel anonymously throughout any region of space.

In case it isn't clear, the CID is what provides count and identity of pilots in Local. Local in all known space systems will always have a count (Local [###]). Once a ship decloaks a pilot name will be added to the Local Channel list under the following conditions:
  1. The CID is online, and a pilot jumps into the system using a normal stargate.
  2. The CID is online, and a pilot undocks from a station in system.
  3. A pilot talks in local chat.
Hacking the CID
Hacking the CID is done with the Codebreaker module. When the CID is successfully hacked, the module goes offline and a timer appears on the module, counting down until it goes back online (automatically). Hacking the CID utilizes the Hacking skill, the meta-level of the Codebreaker module, and a formula to generate an offline time. This time ranges between 15 and 60 minutes, depending on the outcome. Note that any pilots who jump into the system while the CID is being hacked will be updated in local.

Bribing the CID
Bribing the CID can be done before a pilot decloaks. Bribe amounts are based on a combination of system sec status, pilot sec status, and (in FW systems) contested status. A bribe provides a 60 second delay before the pilot ID is updated in Local. Bribing also prevents the Faction Police (but not CONCORD) from tracking or attacking a pilot who has negative standing to the faction until the pilot ID updates in Local.

What other people think:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Impressions of Mining Barge and Exhumer Changes

Last week brought about Inferno 1.2, with significant changes to the ORE fleet of barges and exhumers. After spending a bit of time looking at them, I think CCP let the pendulum swing too far the other way.

Barges before were paper thin, a 10-hour old character in EVE would have enough skills to destroy one with ease. In addition, only 3 of them were worthwhile. Miners would fly a Retriever, Mackinaw or Hulk, there really was no reason to fly anything else, based on the skills required and the bonuses and capacity of those ships. That was then.

CCP blogged about the changes to the mining fleet, and although the concept is sound, the implementation is a bit off. To summarize, there are basically three types of ship now: tank, capacity and performance. It sounds good in theory. The "Tank" is the Procurer or Skiff, with a high EHP and a small hold. The "Barrel" is the Retriever or Mackinaw, with a whopping 30,000m3 +/- of capacity in the ore hold, and the "Performer" is the Covetor or Hulk, with the smallest ore hold and the fastest cycles. Again, this still sounds good. You can fit up a Skiff or Procurer with a solid tank to withstand gankers in any hisec system, the Retriever and Mackinaw are the kings of the ice field with amazing capacity, and the Covetor or Hulk are the fast cyclers, making them ideal for fleets (or the unlikely lo-sec/null-sec solo mining). Unfortunately, CCP really hasn't built any downsides into the middling ship of the fleet: the Mackinaw and Retriever.

This ship needs to be iterated quickly. It is the ultimate AFK mining machine, which is the antithesis of what EVE should be about - player interaction. I have spent three days mining ice in my "new" Mackinaw. It gets around a 70% reduction in cycle times, and holds 35 sheets of ice, with 26,000 EHP and middling resists (66/63/72/77). It sits, ignored, in an ice belt, for 48 minutes, then I can warp to the station, unload, and go back. Yes, I can (AFK, at work on the sly) pull in 350 sheets of ice during a workday, and only touch EVE 10 times.

If the price of ice doesn't crash soon, it's only because the CFC and the HBC are bridging 800 man fleets around for the fun of it, artificially inflating the price of ice.

Using a Mackinaw in a mining configuration (less than ideal) I'm pulling in about 100,000 units of Pyroxeres every 15-odd minutes.

I'm no game designer, but there is no reason to own or fly a Hulk today. The "performance" boost of a Hulk is no match to the sheer volume and AFK nature of the Mackinaw, and with a 26,000 EHP tank, CCP had better improve their bot detection routines, because real people can mine AFK far to easily with this new ship.

I think the following things need to happen with the barges, specifically the Mackinaw:
  • Ore Hold size needs to be revisited.
  • Mining Rigs need CPU drawbacks.
  • Mining Upgrades need stacking penalties.
  • CPU/PG levels need to be revisited on all mining vessels (lowered, in general).
  • Role bonuses on Tech 2 ships need to be revisited.
Practically every other ship in EVE requires you to make a compromise (the other obvious failure in this is the Drake). In the Mackinaw, you get a solid tank, with huge capacity, and shortened cycles, resulting in a very imbalanced ship. It's no wonder this ship costs almost twice the price of a Hulk right now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Game Design is Hard

I posed a question to the #tweetfleet (the EVE twitter community) yesterday, about cloaking devices:
Hey #tweetfleet what's wrong with cloaking devices using some sort of fuel? #EveOnline
I was curious how people would respond to a feature change that would significantly alter a security blanket in EVE, and overall, the responses were what I expected. @bel_amar provided a perfect response for this discussion:
Because most complaints about cloaking is really about AFK cloaking. And the real issue with AFK cloaking is suddenly hotdrop
And that's about all I have to say about cloaking devices and fuel. I'm not for or against it as a feature. My question was more about how hard it is to gather feedback about a game feature (or change).

Game design is hard.
CCP relearns this every time they add or change a feature or function in EVE. CCP has some very talented folks on their payroll, but (like the rest of us) they are only human, and make mistakes. The advantage they have (as developers first and players second) is that they aren't trying to design or modify a feature to their benefit. They (hopefully) are making changes to improve the game as a whole. The problem they face is that for any single feature or function in EVE, there are hundreds (or thousands) of people who use it and rely on it, one way or another, and people detest change. Realizing that any change they make will piss someone off, CCP does what any smart developer does, they filter out (or ignore) most comments or discussion once a feature is in development. This is (usually) a good plan, to keep them focused and on target. However, when a feature actually makes it to Sisi, CCP needs to take the earplugs back out.

On any given day, there are 30-40 thousand people logged into Tranquility, and maybe 200 on Singularity. That's a very small group. Those people study the impacts of changes long before they make it to Tranquility, and are in a position to take advantage of any new features. They are also in a position to discover glaring exploits long before they go live. CCP needs to find a way to channel the knowledge of these players, a way to utilize them to minimize the glaring errors that should never see Traquility.

Things like the Technetium bottleneck, Faction War LP manipulation, Planetary Interaction exploits, could all have been avoided if CCP was listening to the players on Sisi, and took into account the fact that a player on Sisi is more invested in EVE and might even know more about a feature than the developers. Let's face it - there are some very smart people playing this game, and some of those smart people are smarter than the people writing the code (side note - I am not one of them). If CCP were to channel the experience and knowledge of the players on Sisi, it might make a better game for all of us.

Back to the question in the beginning. Of the 17 individual replies, one of them addressed the question. There was a good smattering of why AFK cloaking isn't a problem, but no direct response to the question (the one that addressed the problem mentioned that it had been discussed and would be hard to do). I'd be surprised if responses in the official EVE forums were any different. The signal to noise ratio (16:1) suggests that any general discussion with the community at large about a feature will produce very little quality information. By reducing the pool of responses (focusing on Sisi players), one might hope to reduce the noise level, and increase the signal response, to a useful level.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

This Far, No Further...

Welcome to the thirty-seventh edition of the EVE Blog Banter, the community discussion that brings the collective minds of the EVE blogosphere together to chew the cud, exchange opinions or troll the world.

"EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE's success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?"

Rumors abound in this game. Rumors and urban legends. Buried amongst them may be some facts, but one can never be sure where those rumors blend into facts. EVE is rich in stories, player created events and actions, and the nature of the game promotes this with a single, shared universe across the world. People have always been known to do what they could to win - some more than others - but what is the edge of acceptable? At what point does the metagame go past gaming and into the dangerous realm of crime, and how do those who push the edge justify their actions?

EVE is real. CCP wants this marketing slogan from 2011 to become fact. But with this desire comes good and bad, the nature of humanity is revealed in bold strokes. There are good people in EVE. People who will give ISK, ships, advice, almost anything to others. Usually within a specific context, like TEST or Goonswarm with their new-player friendly attitudes. These alliances shower their home-grown new players with ISK, ships and knowledge, perpetuating a pay-it-forward attitude within those groups. Of course, this isn't for everyone. You have to be part of the culture outside of EVE to get access to the culture inside. Something Awful or REDDIT members who are recruited into this world have a leg up on the random player who read an EVE article on PC Gamer. The Mittani claims that this type of recruiting leads to higher player retention – the guy in the ship next to you isn't some random person who happens to have joined the same alliance as you, he's a goon, just like you, an SA member with a posting history and a cultural similarity. You already have an outside-EVE connection. This type of out-of-game experience is good for EVE.

EVE is real. The dark side of EVE is money. Money drives people to do things that they would never believe themselves possible of. In the Real World, perfectly normal, socially responsible people, will do the stupidest things for money. Stealing from work is a common issue. From boxes of pens to computers, upstanding employees have done stupid things because of money. And this crosses over into a game where you literally pay for everything, in time or money (or both). Money changes everything, starting with the level of commitment and what you are willing to do because you are invested in the experience. Many players (myself included) justify in-game action that would be considered cruel, illegal or just not nice outside of the game, because it's just a game. But if you take that kind of action outside the game, you've crossed the line. Anything goes when you are logged into EVE. Steal 50 billion in ISK and ships from your alliance. Give some new player a billion ISK because they made you smile. Pod some fool in a deadspace-fit Hulk. Wipe an entire alliance off the map because you don't like them. To some extent, actions outside of EVE are even acceptable (or laudable). Did you infiltrate an alliance (in game), and have access to their fleet actions during a battle? Happens all the time, in fact most large bloc alliances expect this kind of activity. Did you provide the public password to their TS server to your alliance, and send them greetings in a most unexpected way? This is closer to the edge, but still acceptable, because you aren't outside the EVE bubble yet. It's a very grey edge, and when you cross it, you often cross the line from it's a game to it's a crime – and you may not even realize you've done it. I try to define this line clearly for myself, and I'm going to offer that definition to you as well.

If the action you perform impacts someone outside the EVE bubble then you are over the line. I don't care if their RL Facebook account is linked to their blog which is linked to their corp forums, and their corp is in an alliance at war with yours. The minute you touch that Facebook page you've crossed the line. If you spam an EVE player on Twitter, that's not over the line. If you follow them, see them post to someone outside of EVE and bring that person into the loop, you've crossed the line. If the alliance/corp you are at war with is using an out-of game communication system like Jabber or Teamspeak, the minute you attack the service (not the group using it) you've crossed the line. The line is crossed when it leaves the game world and enters someone's real world. At that point, it's not a game anymore, and it could be a crime. It takes great situational awareness to keep your actions on the correct side of that line if you play the metagame, or a blatant disregard for others in the real world. Don't be that guy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

D * V * F > R

Blog Banter 36: The Expansion of EVE
"With the Inferno expansion upon us, new seeds have been planted in the ongoing evolution of EVE Online. With every expansion comes new trials and challenges, game-changing mechanics and fresh ideas. After nine years and seventeen expansions, EVE has grown far more than most other MMOGs can hope for. Which expansions have brought the highs and lows, which have been the best and the worst for EVE Online?"
"Time may change me
But I can't trace time"
- David Bowie

CCP heralds the twice-annual EVE expansion as "Free", and in the strictest sense, it is. We don't have to pay more for it, but it is not truly free. Players pay every month for EVE, far more than maintenance costs. Seventeen expansions into EVE, I've seen ten of them, beginning with Trinity. When I tried to list the expansions I've seen, several were forgettable. I'll cover my top three, and touch upon the ones with the most failed promise that I've lived through.

I Trinity

Trinity holds a special place in my heart, as the most important EVE expansion for me. As a Mac user, I had drooled and grumbled about not playing EVE for the first four years it was out. When it was announced that the Intel conversion at Apple was bringing EVE to the Mac, I signed up for a subscription on Day 1 (I didn't even do a trial). It wasn't the most game changing expansion for EVE, but it was for me.

II Apocrypha

Apocrypha had the most impact on me as a player. I had been solo-ing EVE (badly), and having skills to get in and out of wormholes early in the Apocrypha days made me friends with people who did things in groups, and opened my eyes to the truth of EVE - it is not a game for solo players. New probing methods, Tech 3 ships, isolated islands in space, Apocrypha brought about a whole new class of player - the dedicated wormholer, and strategies and tactics alongside it.

III Crucible

For many, Crucible was the make or break of EVE. Players who had yearned for the success of Incarna had been disappointed (putting it mildly), and the issues that surrounded Incarna needed a clean break. Crucible focused CCP on spaceships, and EVE was once again a fun, beautiful game that included spaceship combat. Cruible kept many of us from leaving the world of New Eden forever.

The worst expansions are harder to cover. Really, only one expansion in the 4+ years I've played EVE has been bad. I had some forgettable ones though. Quantum Rise and Tyrannis didn't bubble to the top of my memory when thinking about expansions, and I wasn't sure Incursion was a full expansion until I checked the expansion history on Wikipedia. That didn't make them necessarily bad, they just weren't...memorable. In the four years I played EVE, only Incarna was a failure as an expansion. Incarna has been covered so many ways, by so many including myself, I'd rather just say "it was bad" and leave it in the basement.

Two expansions that could have been amazing were Empyrean Age and Dominion. Both of these brought about new conflicts, new areas for player driven content, and both were abandoned half-finished or worse – broken. With the recent introduction of Inferno, CCP looks like they might actually make good on the promise of the Empyrean Age, and it hints at changes to fulfill Dominion in the future. Here's hoping that Winter 2012 (or Summer 2013) brings about the next iteration in the long-broken Dominion as well.

The title of this post is taken from "The Formula for Change" created by Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher, refined by Kathie Dannemiller and is sometimes called Gleicher's Formula. This formula provides a model to assess the relative strengths affecting the likely success or otherwise of organisational change programs.

Simply put, Change = dissatisfaction + vision + practical first steps

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On the definition of Piracy

Just a bit of a brief explanation, in case anyone cares.

In my fantasy land of EVE Online, pirates aren't just pilots who run around in frigates looking to gank ratters or miners in losec belts. They don't just sit on hot losec gates in instalock canes popping noobs who turned on "shortest" autopilot.

Don't get me wrong, they do these things. But they do (or they did) much more. Pirates hunted the losec systems of EVE for lucrative haulers (who used to exist), for hisec mission runners attempting to run the rare losec mission, or small fleets running LV Missions. Pirates felt like they owned certain constellations, or systems, and made it their mission to hunt down anyone who dared enter their territory.

They didn't just shoot each other, or the foolish random pilot. They hunted Faction Warriors (they didn't join FW). They might have even occasionally roamed into hisec for the terror of a mining fleet gank (not a random one, a full-blown operational gank).

To be fair, I haven't seen a lot of pirates in losec lately. I see solo hunters, I see groups who are more like the mafia than a pirate corp. Not that there is anything wrong with either of those things. But they aren't pirates. If you are calling yourself a pirate, take a look at the historical (and modern) pirate, and ask if that's what you are doing. Because if you aren't, you shouldn't bother calling yourself a pirate. Also, just because you live in losec, have a -5.0 or lower sec status, and you shoot people, that's not really piracy either. Just saying'....