Monday, November 21, 2011

Cargo Run

I hated cargo runs. The Occator class transport was an unwieldy beast of a ship, based on the Gallente Iteron III. But the nimble Viator didn't have enough cargo space to bring in the materials to build out the squad of Vagabond-class cruisers I had commissioned from Bruna. His materials list read like ancient earth latin. Nanotransitors. Hypersynaptic Fibers. Fernite whatsit. Hundreds of millions of ISK in the cargo hold wrapped up in those odd materials. The Occator was the best ship for the job. It had the tank and speed to crash a stargate if caught by an pirate fleet, and advanced electronics to prevent a warp scrambler from affecting the warp drive. But it flew like a fat pig in thick mud.

The only reason I was doing it myself was the cost. Many of the couriers I've used recently had suffered setbacks, or made stupid mistakes and lost goods. So I was going to move it myself, from Jita. Once passed Uedama, I relaxed for most of the flight. I had a scout waiting in Deninard, to check the losec passage through Onne and Vitrauze. Onne and Vitrauze are interesting systems. There's a great Losec pipeline that goes through most of empire without a single hisec stop. We called it the Silk Road, although I had no idea why. Onne and Vitrauze are part of that road. Because of that, there are fewer camps than the well-know Parts/Obalyu gate, but often larger fleets. This makes them ideal for my purposes, but not safe. Deninard was busy. Based on local chat the Goonswarm crew was maintaining their Ice Interdiction, not ganking transports on the gates, so I was jumping into Onne before my scout reported two signatures in Vitrauze.

Two ships aren't much of a threat to a calm transport pilot. It's the rare PvP ship with dual point/scram in losec, so it's usually easy to split two attackers on a gate with aggression tactics, and get out one side or the other. But this wasn't even a PvP pair. Twins, it appeared, one in a Bestower and one in a Rifter. My heart didn't skip a beat as I passed the Bestower in warp in Onne, and landed on the Vitrauze gate with the Rifter in range. I jumped through and aligned for Droselatory, a hisec island on my route. Imagine my surprise as the Rifter jumped through with me, accelerated towards me and tried to warp scramble my ship. I almost cancelled my warp just to watch him die to the gate guns, but I was so busy laughing I couldn't complete the command. I simply warped off as his ship fell to the gate guns.

A few jumps later I was laughing it up with Bruna, after he had begun construction of my Vagabonds. What fool in a Rifter tries to tackle a Transport ship on a gate in losec? My only regret was forgetting to activate my ECM before I warped, to get on the killmail.

CynoAlts and You

So you need to set up cyno alts on that second (or third, or fourth) EVE account to jump your big ships around.  Now is a great time to do that, with the Power of Two promotion going on with EVE Online. First, create a new character and transfer 12,000,000 ISK to them.

If your cyno alt is Gallente (or Caldari), you've got it one book easier, but you need to buy at least two skill books: Cynosural Field Theory (9,000,000 isk) and Infomorph Psychology (900,000 isk). If this alt will do anything els3 (or you've got ISK or implants to burn) get Cybernetics (67,500 isk)  and the following implants: Cybernetic Subprocessor - Basic and Memory Augmentation - Basic.

The skills you need to train:

(Cybernetics III)
Electronics IV
Engineering V
Cynosural Field Theory IV
Infomorph Psychology III
Gallente (or Caldari) Frigate III

If you are plugging in implants to speed this up, train up your Cybernetics first, then plug in and do the rest. This whole skill tree takes about 3 weeks on a new character. The best news: you stay under the 900,000 free clone SP limit with this set of skills.

Once your skill training is done, join Estel Arrador's Corp Services corp with this character, and create 3 jump clones. Now, go buy 1 Navitas (or Kestrel) and 1 Cynosural Field Theory Generator (and 350 Liquid Ozone) for each Jump Clone, and move your clones to their respective Losec homes (make sure to set medical for at least one of them to one of your new home stations!).

The first time you jump your capital to any of those clones, bring along a spare ship, module and more fuel for them. Cynoships get popped frequently, so be prepared to replace them regularly.

Ok, this character is done. If you want to be completely self-sufficient, create two more on this account, giving yourself a total of 3 jump points. With 3 jump clones and 3 characters, you can basically go from one end of New Eden to the other, once every 24 hours.

NOTE: I suggest Gallente Frigate III and recommend the Navitas, because it has the CPU/PG and cargo space to be a very inexpensive cyno ship. Caldari Frigate (and the Kestrel) is a viable option, but there is no good, cheap option for Minmatar or Amarr.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crucible: Measures of Austerity

She was tired.

She knew it, because she recognized how others looked at her now. The dark bags forming under her eyes. The streaks of gray in her hair. She was known for her public speaking skills. They had been a major asset in her campaign. But lately, she was less persuasive. Less believable. She was tired.

Panaja walked back to her desk, grabbed her tablet and reviewed the figures again.

"Anzillaques, this can't be correct."

"I'm sorry madame. But we are straining the coffers to pay out bounties to those damn eggers every time Kuvakei's monsters strike."

"They seem to be getting very efficient, why not just scale back the payments?"

"You know that never goes well. Remember what happened in Jita a few months ago? We need to look at additional revenue streams. I've something in mind, of course..."


"There is a decent volume of planetary production being run by the eggers. We could boost the taxes there, and stop replacing the customs offices when they are destroyed by pirates in losec and null. That should get us through at least for the next few months. In addition, we could let the eggers build the customs offices, and sell them the blueprints. Recoup some of what we are paying out for their work against Kuvakei."

Panaja considered the suggestion.

"It's pretty good. But there's one other thing."

"Yes madame?"

"We aren't underwriting Pend on insurance payouts for suicidal capsuleers anymore."

"I'm sorry?"

"For years, Pend has paid insurance on ships that WE have to destroy, to keep the peace. Now that they are being subsidized by CONCORD, we can stop that foolish practice."

"Interesting..." the CFO punched at her tablet for a few moments...

"Perfect!" We've managed to stretch the budget for the full fiscal year with that additional change, and we can even improve the payouts for assaulting pirate command sites. Of course, this also depends on additional egger recruits, but I'm sure that Obuchi can coordinate a campaign to encourage additional recruits to the capsuleer program."

"Thank you Anzillaques."

"Yes madame."

Panaja Paukonsuo sat, leaning back and closing her eyes. After the last year with the uprising of the capsuleers, and the internal audits and the economic breakdown, these new changes were promising. If she was lucky, she wouldn't be fighting for her job at the next board meeting. Anzillaques had done well. CONCORD would survive this economic downturn, and come out stronger. Of course, the eggers would have to take ownership of remote customs offices, and responsibility to maintain or replace them if they wanted them. Faced with the economic challenges, CONCORD needed to scale back, to focus on secure empire space. She knew it was necessary. CONCORD could barely afford to keep the stargates manned in nullsec, let alone maintenance and replacement of those customs offices.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Crucible: The President

It seemed strange, to be here, in orbit around Caldari Prime, but Miliose was not uncomfortable. Only when looking through the viewport at the Leviathan and it's fleet, did she think of the cold vacuum beyond. A shiver ran through her as she watched.

"Are you sure?" She asked, knowing the answer already.

"Of course. Not only that, the others will be entering production within weeks. Are we ready?"

"Yes, father. The Talos has been ready to enter production for some time. It is an impressive ship. It's a shame that our combat systems do not compliment it..."

"And that brings us to you, Joroutte. What can you report?"

"Well, Mr. President, after completing the modifications to the Talos, we began work on your request to bring blaster cannons up to modern warfare standards. Avagher has the specifications here on the entire product line, as well as plans for retrofitting existing combat systems."

Joroutte looked at her companion, who pulled out a data crystal case and set it on the desk. "We are very, um, excited, by the upgrades we have proposed. The, er, changes we have ready to deploy will, ah, bring the Gallente name back inline as a fearsome combat ship."

"How long?" His piercing blue eyes burned into Avagher Xarasier, his expression unreadable.

"We, ah, believe it will be in conjunction with, ah, the, um, launch of the Talos."

"And do they know?" He asked, looking out the viewport at the Leviathan.

Miliose glanced at the table, then back to her father. "Yes. They have an extensive network of operatives, and they have reverse engineered our blaster upgrades for their railguns."

Jacus Roden smiled, as he turned to the table. "Of course they have. Our ships benefit from their railguns as well."

He smiled now, knowing that Tibus would hear every word. "You have done well. The Federation will grow strong because of your hard work. We will remind our neighbors of our scientific prowess. We will remind them why the blaster was once the most feared weapon in the cluster. They will flee before a fleet of Talos battlecruisers, or they will die."

Crucible: Blog Banter 30

"With the Winter expansion possibly being named 'Crucible', it certainly is a melting pot of refinements and tweaks aimed at making the EVE experience smoother and more wholesome. If the developers suddenly found themselves some spare resources and approached you for an additional feature to include before release, what single concept would you pitch them and how would you implement it?

For bonus points, the one thing lacking from this "patchwork" of iterations is a cohesive storyline to package "The Crucible" together. How could this expansion be marketed to potential new customers?"

Much is being made of the winter expansion currently entitled "Crucible." After a long and dark winter, the spaceships and the universe that revolves around spaceship combat is being focused on in many small (and some larger) ways to restore the polish to a once-favored combat simulator. I have only a few minor concerns with the changes due this winter, but one thing I wish could have been introduced as part of Crucible would be a change to the impacts of Faction War.

Currently there is no real impact to anyone in occupied systems in the warzone. In war, taking possession of assets and controlling conquered territory are some of the least exciting and most necessary activities to stabilize the newly occupied territories. What if your faction stations turned over (from Minmatar to Amarr, and suddenly employed docking fees for the opposing faction? What if station services were disabled in systems that are contested? Some small change to the impacts of Faction War, perhaps even something based on existing mechanics (like something based on incursion effects), would round out the changes in Crucible to address at least something in each of the pain points from the last 3 years. The absence of even a small list of bugfixes for Faction War missions or complexes makes the Empyrian Age the largest expansion that isn't even glanced at in Crucible.

As for backstory, or storyline events to bring cohesiveness to Crucible?

Well, it takes a while to write a story. I'll be writing up separate blog entries for that, in the spirit of the Chronicles.

Crucible: The President
Crucible: Measures of Austerity
Crucible: Capital Competition (coming soon)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Feature Lock (code freeze)

It's Monday, November 14th, and the features on Sisi are the features coming in the winter expansion. They aren't necessarily exactly the way the features will be, but there isn't "one more thing" coming in a dev blog that you can't see on Sisi today.

Those of you in software development know about code freeze – and so does CCP, and for once they seem to want us to have all the cards up front for testing and validating.

Now the trick is to try things out, and see what doesn't work. Because with the large number of little (and bigger) things CCP is trying to put into this release, the devs don't seem confident about any of their features being correct. There's been a lot of push-pull in the forums about the information in the various devblogs, and so many of these features will require actual field tests to determine their stability or balance, that each of us should take a few minutes (ok, a few hours) and download and set up Sisi to test your favorite things in EVE.

Because if CCP broke it, now is the time to get them to fix it – at least as long as it's in the current feature list.

So pull up the list of dev blogs in your favorite browser, get a cup of coffee, tea, or beverage of your choice, and make sure that your game isn't broken on Sisi. Because this expansion really is about the players - and the game - and CCP can make this expansion a good one if we help (by testing their game and finding out what they broke).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

When you must state the obvious...

Just a short note.

I mentioned today on twitter that a new theme is developing on the official EVE forums, and it's one that is both good and bad. Let's start the good, because it's really good - a lot of EVE developers (CCP employees) are posting on the forums, and interacting with the players. This is a win/win for the players and CCP (if CCP can handle the trolling, anyway). Communication makes people feel involved, it gives them positive reinforcement (even if the communication isn't always exactly what they want), and it helps tie them closer to the communicator(s). This is a great activity with the current atmosphere around EVE, because the dev involvement on the forums (and other online venues) implies a greater connectivity to the game and the universe of EVE. If any of you CCP devs read this blog, I appreciate you taking the effort to talk to the players. Some of them are smart people. Some of them know this game really well (I am not one of those, BTW).

What saddens me is that the devs posting feel they must tell the players that they play EVE. There was such an outcry about everything that was going wrong with EVE for so long, and so many people used the "play your own game CCP" tagline, that someone in CCP felt it was necessary to remind us that they, too, like to play internet spaceships. I love the fact that the devs play EVE. I hope they enjoy whatever aspect of EVE they have taken up, although I hear through the rumormill that they can't do big sovereign warfare (which is a shame if true, but that's another story for another time).

I hate the fact that the devs at CCP feel they must (or have been asked) to remind us of that.

Players of EVE, these people have been here, among you, all along. For all I know, that guy in corp who types the teamspeak password in our public channel is actually a CCP dev (I'd still be frazzled by that regardless). But it is us, the players, who have to be reminded of this.

If you were to look at the changes coming in the next expansion (and perhaps beyond) it should be painfully obvious that CCP developers play EVE. Guys, I know you feel you must (or have been told to) remind us of that fact. For that, I am sorry - because I knew it all along.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The cold harsh reality of space

For a long time, I was the epitome of what is wrong with some EVE players.

I played alone (I even formed a one-man corp to put up a tower in hisec).

I ran missions.

I mined Scordite in hisec

I avoided losec like it was a pile of rancid meat.

Nullsec wasn't even in my vocabulary.

I was, as is hinted in the title of my blog, the penultimate carebear.

Things change, or they should, if you keep playing EVE. Because eventually, those tasks in EVE become so mind-numblingly boring, you will do almost anything to avoid them. I took the easy road out of Carebear hell - I joined a corp that was friendly to training folks for PvP. But this blog post isn't about me.

EVE has always been marketed as a sandbox. A game where anyone can impact any part of the game, independently or with friends. Some of the greatest marketing stories about EVE involve the actions of one person bringing about world-shaking events. And there is a growing movement to destroy the sandbox.

If you thought "Goonswarm" when you read that last line, you are actually part of the problem. If you thought "entitled whiners" then you are not. If you don't like what category I just put you in, you might want to stop reading this post now.

EVE is a game that, in every way but two, pits players against each other for everything. The obvious PvP I will only mention in passing - combat. If you buy or sell on the market, you are playing against others. If you build or invent ships or modules, you are playing against other players. If you mine (in some hisec systems) you play against others on an intermittent basis, since the belts can be mined dry. If you explore, you play against others. There are only two places in EVE you don't compete with others directly - mission running and ice mining.

However, these activities are not (and should not) be risk free. EVE is a sandbox. EVE is a multi-player game, and because it is these things, there should always be competition. Missions (and ice fields) are always there, with no competition. You can't go to an agent and be told "Sorry, I have no more missions today." You can't mine a hisec ice field dry. And therein lies the problem (and, perhaps, the answer). Below I line out proposals to change both of those activities. In my opinion (which is wrong at least 50% of the time) these proposals are better for EVE as a sandbox.

Ice Mining

  • Ice should not be a limitless commodity. The sliding scale of value -> security should apply to ice just as it does to minerals, missions, rats, and any other PvE activity in EVE.
  • There should be at least 3 tiers of ice in each type, with variable quantities of refined materials in each type.
  • Ice tiers should also change in block size. HiSec ice should have the largest blocks (in m3) with the fewest refined commodities, losec ice should be smaller, with more material per block, and nullsec blocks should be smaller still, with even more materials per block.
  • Ice fields should be smaller, and it should be possible to mine a field dry with a dedicated fleet, within a short amount of time. I don't know the exact numbers, but the amount of ice in a belt should be reduced so that a well managed squad (9 Mackinaws and an Orca) can clear a field of ice in about 4 hours. Of course, ice would respawn at downtime, just as it does today.
  • Ice fields should be added to gravimetric sites. This would allow people to find and exploit small quantities of ice anywhere, and provide a tiny amount of additional security when attempting to harvest ice in LoSec or Null. Personally, I'm a fan of all mining being done from gravimetric sites, or all minerals except Veldspar being limited to gravimetric sites (and a higher frequency of spawns than exist today).
  • A new rig should be introduced to further reduce cycle time: Ice Harvesting Optimization Rig I and II. A fully trained Mackinaw pilot with a fully T2 rigged and fitted ship, should be able to run a complete cycle in 3 minutes or less. This, in conjunction with the volume changes of ice blocks in losec and null, will help reduce the risk while mining. A full cycle would still be required to acquire a block of ice (per Harvesting module). Ideally, this ship (in nullsec) could pull as much (or more) ice as a Cargo-rigged Mack in Hisec in the same amount of time.
Ice Harvesting is the most mind-numbing activity I have seen or done in EVE, which means it is the easiest to script for botting 23.5/7. These changes, as a whole, reduce the raw income potential of risk-free botting in HiSec. Ice Fields would run dry, so the bots would run out of easily scripted targets. The massive reduction in cycle time (in conjunction with the reduction in hold size) would make LoSec and Nullsec ice harvesting slightly more viable (but still the riskiest PvE activity in ISK/hr for those areas). Moving ice to gravimetric sites would provide small opportunity to have low-risk higher-income ice mining.

Mission Running
Beyond the intervention of ninja-salvagers and mission-griefers, mission running in EVE is the other big lonely activity in EVE. You don't need friends to run missions through level 4, and you can (usually) do them completely unmolested for hours on end. Recent changes with the Orca has negatively impacted the small amount of PvP in mission running, so I'd like to look at this from a different perspective. Competition is at the heart of this proposal.
  • Each agent should have a limited number of missions/hr to distribute. The number of missions should be inverse to the quality of the agent, so L1 agents have 4x more missions than L4 agents.
  • A mission is "reserved" after a player accepts it. If a player declines a mission, it remains in the pool that agent has for that hour. If a player fails a mission within the first hour, it returns to the pool for that hour.
  • The missions/hr do not "rollover" - each hour the number of missions is reset whether all of them were used in the previous hour or not.
  • Agents without missions can "suggest" agents that still have missions available, within their own corporation and mission type. A player can "reserve" that mission if they so desire, then fly to the recommended system to run the mission. This reservation is good for 60 minutes only, after which the mission is released to the local mission running population.
A nerf to L4 mission running? Yeah, sort of. There are 661 L4 Security agents across EVE. If each one of these had only 20 missions per hour, that's still a pool of over 12,000 L4 missions per hour. Of course, a decent number of those are in LoSec or Null, so let's just drop 1/4 which leaves only 9,000 L4 missions per hour available. That's one L4 mission for every 4-5 players in EVE on an average hour. That means you may need to move about to get a mission, and there would be competition for the best agents. This is a nerf designed to add the smallest flavor of PvP to mission running - you are competing against the other mission runners for the limited number of resources (missions) every hour.

EVE is a sandbox. Competition against others is at the heart of this sandbox. These two humble proposals would bring the nature of PvP competition to two of the most risk-free activities in EVE, without actually increasing the risk to assets.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tomfoolery, Election Fraud and the CSM

There's a new groundswell in the EVE social media community lately, and I've touched on it a couple of times myself. Mostly it's about dissatisfaction with the CSM, and a comment Hilmar made in an interview that can be construed as his own frustration with the CSM.

And the general discussion is missing the forest for the trees.

The concept that seems to have favor (at the moment) is to have, essentially, districts. That's great, I'm glad that people are thinking about increasing participation (I've been a foolish voter for several years now). But the idea of district representation in EVE is inherently broken.

You can't elect someone in EVE to the CSM just to represent wormholes. Because for all you know, that person is going to get sick of living in a wormhole a month later, and go run incursions for less stressful ISK.

You can't elect someone in EVE to the CSM just to represent Faction War. Because the CEO for that person's corp could have plans on moving from Faction War to Nullsec Sovereignty that the CSM rep would know nothing about.

Basically, you can't create districts because one of the simplest things to do in EVE is to change the direction of your game.

White Tree was a member of TEST when elected. Now (if I remember correctly) he's in a wormhole corp. He's not in TEST anymore. So all those TESTies who elected him no longer have their "TEST" representative. This real-world example shows why the idea of representative division is a failure before it begins.

Each player (not character) who runs for CSM runs on a platform, like any politician, claiming to support (or oppose) particular issues. If you look back at the CSM platforms, each member of the CSM had their own platform and presented that to the community at large.
I'll have grounds
More relative than this—the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
Fun Hamlet quotes notwithstanding, the platform is what you vote for or against in a CSM election. Because that is the best estimate you can get on what a person will or won't support or oppose. And the simple math of 1 account = 1 vote means that if the candidate you support can get enough votes, they will get a seat on the CSM.

In addition, the CSM has changed a lot over the few years it's run. The terms are longer, and this group can run again (I believe they have recently removed term limits for the CSM). This allows for two things: continuity and complacency. If I were to humbly suggest anything to Hilmar for changing the CSM, I would do the following:
1. Stagger the terms, much like US Senators, so there is partial, regular turnover.
2. Limit the re-election to 2 consecutive terms.
3. Have the chairman selected by the CSM, from the CSM every election cycle.

Stagger the terms
This one seems the easiest. Make the term 18 months, with an election every six months. That's a lot of politicking, but 1/3 of the CSM would turn over every six months, leaving 2/3 to provide consistency. Of course, the problem here is the non-stop campaigning cycle that would barrage the EVE players. A second option would be two year terms, with half the council replaced every year. But can you really count on someone to be active and excited about EVE for two years straight with the pressure of the CSM?

Term Limits
A no brainer (sorry Trebor) but there should be term limits. Two consecutive terms, then you have to take at least one year off before running again. Gets the politicians back in the game as normal people for at least a little while.

Internally Selected Chair
This would be a requirement based on the staggered terms presented above. The chair would have a 1 year (or 6 month) term as chair. This should be merely a parliamentary position, and the "face" of the CSM for group issues presented to players or CCP. The CCP representative would have a vote on this as well in the event of a tie.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Fine Art of Not Making ISK (How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the HiSec Missionrunner)

Today in Twitter I was affronted by a post by @EVE_Rhavas. I'm easily affronted, but moving beyond that, here's the post:
@redrickstar Fantastic post. I strongly support a "senate" approach. +1 follower. Cc @HilmarVeigar #nerfnullsec #eveonline #tweetfleet
Now to be fair, I have no idea what Rhavas was supporting. Because all I saw was #nerfnullsec. My reply:
@EVE_Rhavas @redrickstar @HilmarVeigar in case you hadn't noticed, nullsec has been nerfed about 10 ways to Sunday. #nerfhisec
For those of you just joining this game, welcome. EVE Online is a harsh mistress, moreso than the Moon of Heinlein's imagining. The follow-up discussion (if one can have a discussion in 140 characters or less) was even more entertaining, from @redrickstar:
@swearte @EVE_Rhavas @HilmarVeigar Crying about your milk being spilled and your answer is to piss in everyone else's is a poor solution
Now I get it. I won't even go find a blog, or an original link, and even if there were an original idea with merit, it doesn't matter. Because @redrickstar is angry about Goonswarm. Maybe he's an ice miner, who likes to sit and watch torrented films while multiboxing a fleet of dangerous Mackinaws. Maybe he's an unlucky Gallente Cap pilot (like me) who can't undock the big girl because the fuel cost is too high. Maybe he's running a Gallente POS farm reacting Technetium, and he's not swimming in ISK anymore. It doesn't really matter, because whatever he's doing in EVE, he's angry.

The basic argument I'm finding from the cesspool we know and love called the EVE Online official forums, is that Mittani should not be encouraging Goonswarm to do dastardly things, and he should not participate himself in these alliance activities, because he is the chairman of the CSM. Of course it doesn't help when he posts things like this in his twitter stream:
Ssh. The Tornado is for ~fleet warfare~. Pay no attention to the hisec ganking possibilities! #tweetfleet
Of course, the problem isn't The Mittani. Or Goonswarm. Or their current game, Gallente Ice Interdiction. The problem is that too many people in EVE are risk averse and feel entitled.

People are angry, yes angry about the Goonswarm Ice Interdiction. After all, you can't mine Gallente ice and make mindless isk right now, and the price of oxygen isotopes makes that so tempting that even the wisest of carebears is probably considering the risk to reward ratio. But the simple thing is, EVE is a sandbox game, and in the nullsec section of the sandbox, CCP has a lot of work to do. Looking at the hints, allegations, and things said about the winter expansion (and beyond), CCP realizes that. But in the meantime, one of the largest groups of players in the game are bored. And bored players will do crazy things. Last time, shortly after the fall of BOB, Karttoon led them on a rampage against hisec towers. It's a lot harder to make that fun, but Goonswarm made it memorable, and (hopefully) had fun in doing so - even if most of that fun was bad forum posting.

I made a comment in the EVE forums that perhaps what people should be doing since they can't mine ice, is anything else. EVE has so many avenues of experience, you don't have to simply mine or PvP. You can cut your hands off at your wrists doing missions. You can have some enjoyment doing Incursions. You can explore, and do it in LoSec where space is really a no-mans land. You could, oh, I don't know, learn to lose ships and not care.

What Mittani is doing (and by extension Goonswarm) is playing EVE. There is a vocal minority who believes that his version of EVE is wrong, and he shouldn't play it, because he's on the CSM. Others claim he should resign from the CSM, because his playstyle doesn't match their own. EVE is a game. A very involved, very time consuming, sometimes very frustrating, game. It has many facets, and one of the most important is that CCP does not interfere with the sandbox. We all share one universe, one game world, and if you don't like the way someone is playing in one section of the world, move.

Pack up your Orcas full of barges, and move to a different space. Or don't. But don't complain about someone playing the game. Find a way to enjoy the game on your own terms. Because the rage you spew, in the forums on Twitter, on your blogs, feeds their enjoyment of the game they are playing.

Now about the title of this blog. Nullsec is broken in many ways, and that's changing soon, from the looks of it. In the meantime, people who like to play this game against other players are finding other avenues to do so, and when the only way they can afford ships is the intermittent Incursion fleet or the mindless Level 4 mission, I'm not at all surprised that the unwashed masses of Goonswarm (and their finely manicured leadership) are turning against those players who think HiSec is risk-free riches. It's quite possible that even fixing Nullsec won't change this, because a side effect of the Gallente Interdiction is that every Nyx and Technetium-chewing tower costs a lot more to use right now. Which actually makes the game fun for more than just the Goons.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back to Nullsec...

Switched Corps.

New corp almost dissolved within a week of joining to merge with another corp in a nullsec alliance. Then the alliance took our small crew in as-is.

Now we are Unforgiven. And I've got 30-some-odd jumps from the losec system most of my ships are in to the losec staging system for the alliance. And then it's another teen/tween jumps to the corp HQ - only thing that would make it easier? Jump Drive Calibration V (40 days) and a non-Gallente carrier. Funny thing is, I have a Nidhoggur but I only have Minmatar Battleship III. And who flies the Minmatar caps anyway?

Guess I'll find my way to Stain somehow. Never managed to get negative sec status either. Maybe I'll suicide some hisec fools on the way back to nullsec.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In difficult times, come difficult decisions

Today the hammer fell, on CCP Atlanta. In a public relations notice, CCP announced the layoff of 20% of their workforce - mostly in Atlanta (but some in Reykjavik). Atlanta was home to White Wolf, the property behind the now "back-burner" project World of Darkness, Content folks for DUST 514, and most of the Community Management team. With no official list released (which would be bizarre anyway), speculation abounds for who was released and who is staying. Before I go on, I must wish the best to everyone who lost their jobs today, and hope that they are quick to find new work. Even though I am thinking most of those I know, all of you are in my wishes for a quick rebound.

I have met a handful of people from CCP Atlanta, including Mike Reed, CCP Cupcake (Stacy), and CCP Big Dumb Object. I have interacted with the CM team for years as a player and sometime forum poster, and as a member of the #tweetfleet. I only know of three specific layoffs, in what must number close to 100 - Zymurgist, Fallout and Hammer - some of the most vocal of the CM team. What worries me most is whether the CM team (mostly based in Atlanta) was completely disbanded as part of this restructuring of CCP.

I've been in small and large businesses through a couple economic bubbles. In the dot-bomb at the end of the 90s, I had to be on the management side and was one of the last men standing in a company that didn't survive the downturn. So I know how hard it is to let good people go. With the challenges they set for themselves, and then the difficulties in meeting them alongside the drop in subscriptions, CCP was looking at the short end of the balance sheet, and had to make changes. I can only say this - 20% of CCP had better include a lot of Incarna and WoD folks, because it did include the employees of CCP who made the most effort to keep us, the vocal and annoying players of EVE, talking, and participating.

A smart business, intent on communicating with their customers, probably shouldn't lay off their entire Customer Management team. But it appears that may be what happened with CCP today. Businesses intent on surviving the tough times need to keep a finger on the pulse of their customers - but CCP decided that finger should be lopped off, perhaps to spite the hand that feeds it. I can only hope that the executive team, who actually made the poor decisions that led to this day, realize that those positions had greater merit for goodwill and community support (and helping convince fools like me to resubscribe rather than lapse) - and the positions - if not the people - had better be filled as part of the restructuring.

CCP needs goodwill from the vocal community, as does any company in today's overly social world. CCP Fallout and CCP Zymurgist were a big part of that goodwill to the few hundred in the tweetfleet, and to many who read the forums. They will be missed personally. But the company needs those roles filled with communicative, involved and excited employees.

EVE isn't a game you easily unplug from. EVE isn't a fly by night I'll try it and move on game. If you get involved, you get involved deeply. And having a quality Community Management team helps temper the speculation and frustration of those players who are involved beyond logging into a virtual world. CCP - you do what you must. But I hope you realize that you must have a Community team that actively participates.

Rumor has it that the CSM will become more involved in CM - I only have one problem with this. I love the CSM as an idea, and I think they do good things - but they aren't the right voice of community interaction. The Mittani, as the chair (and leader of Goonswarm), is very capable, but he doesn't display the soft skills needed for a good community relations employee. The CSM are very good at grating bluntness - a great skill, but not for community relations. Nothing personal guys, I like most of you from what I've read, seen, and heard. But you aren't touchy-feely – and that's what the community team needs to be. CCP - I hope you have quality people lined up to replace those we have come to call friends. Because it's hard to make new friends in EVE that you can trust...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wayback Machine: 02 September 2009 (First Flight)

This is the fourth in my series of "wayback" posts - posts recovered from archives of previous iterations of my blog. My first trip into nullsec...

So I was greeted at login last night with "check your EVEMail - we have a wardec coming."

Ok. Might as well learn it all, right? So we will be at war, publicly, by the time I write this. After discussion with my CEO and combat trainers, I decided it was time to take the plunge and find my way to our 0.0 home. Ironically, it is deemed safer there than in my normal HiSec mission location, now that we are at war, and our Empire base of operations will likely be difficult to get in and out of during the war. So I filled up one last GSC of supplies, dropped it in the transit hangar, and set my autopilot for my new home. I was also going to be learning my new ship, Pyrios, a Helios-class exploration and scout vessel. Pryios is fit for exploration (probe launcher, analyzer, codebreaker) and a covops cloak generator. After a series of HiSec jumps, I entered the losec zone approaching 0.0. Lots of red in system everywhere - but the covops cloak meant I was invisible beyond my id broadcast in local.

As I approached the last losec jump before the 0.0 road, I realized I had made one big mistake - I hadn't contacted Concord to relocate my medical clone to the new home in 0.0. If I made a mistake, or just had bad luck, I was going to find myself 15 systems back in HiSec in the middle of a war, and the only ship at my current medical facility is a Velator. Quickly conferring with corpmates, I turned around and flew back a couple of systems to a station with medical facilities, and requested a clone move to my new home. I'd still have to check in and move the clone once more, to a medical facility, to ensure I can keep up to date, but at least if I sucked vacuum on this flight I'd end up at my destination.

The first system into 0.0 had my hands a little shaky, especially as there was a red in system - in a Buzzard. My combat trainer piped in over voice comms -
"Pick a planet, or moon, and warp to 100. Make sure to keep your cloak on!"

I was nervous, after all, it was my first time in 0.0, and this guy was in a ship designed to hunt and kill me. Fortuantely my nerves held long enough to get to a planet, and start moving off at a random angle, all while cloaked. I watched as a second red appeared in local - and just as suddenly the first one warped in behind me at the planet, a mere 16km off my stern. I watched as he sat, then warped towards the outbound gate, then disappeared off local.

"Initial red and neut are both out of system, newer red in system. Should I continue on?"

"Negative - sit tight for at least 5 minutes, they may be setting up a bubble on the other side of the gate to catch you. Wait them out."

So I sat, for a few minutes, fiddling with my overview settings, talking about 0.0 travel tactics, safes and bookmarks. Finally, it's just me and one red in system. I warp to 100km off the gate, and there's no-one there. Look directly behind me, warp to a belt, turn around and warp 0 to the gate and jump through. There's no-one in system, no bubble, nothing. I'm all alone. This situation (couple of reds or neuts in system), random bubble on a gate repeated itself all through Cloud Ring and Syndicate, on my 24-jump trip through 0.0 to my new home. I set up intermediate warp locations (not good enough for safes, but good enough to make safes off of) through most of those systems, finally docked up in my new 0.0 home. Settled my clone into a Medical facility so I could maintain my knowledge, checked out what ships I already had in system, and warped to our POS before logging off, cloaked, in my new 0.0 home. All in all an uneventful trip to 0.0, but exciting enough for me that some of my fur fell out on the way...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wayback Machine: 27 August 2009 (Shedding isn't easy...)

This is the third in my series of "wayback" posts - posts recovered from archives of previous iterations of my blog.

About a month ago I finally decided to grow up. I've been playing EVE since December 2007, when the Mac client was released, and in that time I have racked up 0 kills and been podded 9 or 10 times. I did hisec missioning, not even trying out L4 missions forever. I was the poster child for Care Bearing. I think part of it was, I didn't really get into EVE. For me it was like a round of Civilization - play every once in a while when you have time. Well, I got a couple of co-workers into it, and they called me on the care bear lifestyle back in March of 2009. Just before Apocyrpha was released. So I started looking at what goes on in a PvP lifestyle, and started focusing my skill training more on ship/ship support skills, rather than the shotgun approach I'd been taking since the beginning. I started reading blogs written by PvP players, like Wensley, Flash, Mynxee, and the like, but I wasn't looking to be a pirate - just learn how to fight and defend. Then I started taking missions and occasional drops into LoSec, learning more about the directional scanner (I still need work on this one), and watching local, and flagging players and corps with status so I can keep careful eyes out. Finally, I dropped the non-existent shield of the NPC Corp (The Scope, FWIW) and applied to a full-on PvP corp.
After a bit of Q&A, I was accepted and have been a novice in the corp for about a month now. I haven't started my actual PvP training yet, since days after joining the corp left Empire and went back to 0.0, and I wasn't ready for that leap. I've been grinding up my status with an NPC corp in Empire to get a jump clone, so I can take shelter in my fuzzy empire blanket when the 0.0 lifestyle gets to be too much, or when I need easy ISK or items that are too hard to make or get out in 0.0. Let's face it, I'm really just hanging on to my fuzzy status just a little longer, because I'm afraid of the change. However, this weekend I will have trained up the skills to mostly fly a Helios, and I'm going off the deep end. It's a 30 jump trip from Empire to my corp base in 0.0, and I'm going to learn my way down in the Helios, fit with a CovOps Cloak, jump clone or not...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wayback Machine: 25 August 2009 (The New Beginning)

This is the second in my series of "wayback" posts - posts recovered from archives of previous iterations of my blog.

First, the definition from Wikipedia:

I can be found in New Eden. I wander the empires, in the shadows of the universe that man calls wormholes, and the lawless places outside the empires. I am not a vicious killer, nor am I a fuzzy bear. I am Gallente, and in that I believe in everyone's ability to grow, learn, and be more than they are. I am honest, or at least I think I am, but I have a long memory, and all those who have wronged me will eventually see justice in the cold dark of space. Like you, I am immortal, but not infallible. I know that my immortality is a construct of technology, my body dies but my mind can be preserved. I do not consult the priests on the perseverence of my soul - I suppose that one day I will face account for my actions, and on that day I do not wish to be found wanting. I suppose that means I try to be a good person, even though I am a capsuleer. I am not a fool - I will not jump to the aid of those who cannot be saved, but I will not turn on them either.

From the wayback machine...

I blogged a long time ago on Gamescribe (some of you older EVE bloggers may remember that). I found one of my old articles archived on the wayback, and it was even a blog banter. It's painful to read, now with what I know in EVE...

EVE Blog Banter #8: Fighter-class ships and sqadrons
May 26, 2009, 12:54 pm 
Welcome to the eighth installment of the EVE Blog Banter , the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux . The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed here . Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!
This month’s topic comes to us from Ga’len at The Wandering Druid of Tranquility.  He asks: “What new game mechanic or mechanics would you like to see created and brought into the EVE Online universe and how would this be incorporated into the current game universe?  Be specific and give details, this is not meant to be a ‘nerf this, boost my game play’ post like we see on the EVE forums.”
Nobody asked me, but I thought I’d chime in on this one. Game mechanics are a veritable rathole of scary stuff. I’d like to see a few things changed, but something all new?
I’m sure someone else has talked about piloted fighter squadrons, but that’s my choice. It’s kind of funny, as I play solo, but I would love to see the ability to set up a squadron of fighters that are either commanded by one pilot and the rest under AI, like solo play in some of the squad-based console games, or each pilot(ed) by capsuleers. Much like real fighter jets, they’d be small, with limited armor, but lots of speed and the ability to cause a bit of damage. Something like a micro-frigate concept, but specifically designed for group tactics, too fast for most standard ship weapons (requiring opposing fighters or frigs with tiny guns and lots of tracking bonuses) and dogfight-like UI that reminds one of a flight sim. Think X-wings or starfuries - tiny little things that are short-range (unable to warp on their own) but nasty in groups. Damage would be on par with Drones, maybe a bit more, but also modifiable with various ammo types. Short range (under 5k) shooters that can’t be targeted and hit by anything larger than a small gun (75mm anyone?), and too fast to hit with most missiles or rockets.
Let’s start with two classes for each race, a guns only fighter and a missiles fighter. Obviously R&D to maybe make a mixed-weapon fighter, or “stealth” fighters. Also brings about the possibility of atmospheric battles, as fighters would be designed for atmospheric flight.
  1. CrazyKinux’s Musing, EVE Blog Banter #8: Care for a little game of SecWars?
  2. The Wandering Druid of Tranquility, Wow, that new thing is so shiny!!!
  3. I am Keith Nielson, EVE Blog Banter #8 - Return of the Top Gun
  4. Once More from the Beginning, 8th EVE Blog Banter May 2009 Edition
  5. A merry life and a short one, EVE Blog Banter #8: In the Year of Our Awesome
  6. Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah, Planets
  7. Helicity Boson, Bantering the blog
  8. Achernar, Unique adventures
  9. Ecliptic Rift, OOC: EVE Blog Banter 8: Standings and secondary factions
  10. The New Edener, EVE Blog Banter #8
  11. Journey to New Eden, Eve Blog Banter #8: What new mechanic should be added to Eve?
  12. Life, The Universe and Everything, Blog banter 8: mentorship
  13. EVE Guru, EBB 8: Yarr! Prepare to be boarded!
  14. The Ralpha Dogs, Greed Is Good, Greed Works
  15. Rifter Drifter, Blog Banter 8: Strategic Gunnery
  16. A Mule in EVE, Expanding EVE
  17. Letrange’s EvE Blog, 8th Blog Banter
  18. Roc’s Ramblings, Blog Banter #8
  19. The Nude Nerd, Blog Banter #8
  20. More to come

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's the end of the world as we know it...

Welcome to EVE Online. In this universe, they players make the stories happen.

Sometimes, I love to make end of the world predictions. Perhaps I'm somehow related to Nostradamus, or Edgar Cayce. Regardless, today we will discuss the end of the world, in relation to EVE Online. Let's start with the firestarter, one of the most famous and polarizing figures currently in EVE Online, The Mittani.

CSM Chairman, Top Goon
Mittens, as many call him, utilized his formidable political skills to get elected Chairman of the CSM, and has, since his election, utilized those skills in an effort to steer CCP towards focusing on EVE Online, the spaceship game. In recent weeks, it seemed as if his skills were bearing fruit, as various tweets and forum posts and comments hinted towards an announcement or information from CCP that flying in space (what most people call EVE Online) would be the primary focus of development for the foreseeable future. Many rejoiced, including myself, that the Top Goon had leveraged his skills successfully.

This week, the other shoe dropped.

I fear that for all the placating comments, and pandering to the EVE community, The Mittani is lying to EVE, and this camel's nose is based on the current CFC/Goon propaganda machine. Looking at it from both inside and outside the CFC, there are some amazing things that are about to happen - some mildly interesting, others potentially terrifying. But enough dancing around the campfire. Goonswarm, and their allies, have announced a new campaign to "freeport Delve". At this level, there is a little to worry about - turning a sovereign 0.0 region into a free-for all with open access to all stations seems a bit odd, since regions like Syndicate, Curse, and Outer Ring (NPC Nullsec) already exist, but it isn't the strangest campaign Goonswarm has ever undertaken. This campaign, however, comes alongside what could be the biggest troll in EVE (ever) or the biggest concern in EVE (ever).

thanks to Riptard Teg of Jester's Trek
Let's start with the theoretical NIP between the CFC and the DRF. For those of you who don't particularly care about nullsec, these are the two largest coalitions in all of EVE. The DRF (Russian alliances based primarily out the drone regions and what I will call the northeast corner of New Eden) and the CFC (Goonswarm, Test Alliance Please Ignore, and others) already control, between the two coalitions, over 70% of nullsec, at least in name. There's a great poster here that shows the combined regional control and military might of these two powerhouses. Recently, discussions cropped up in various EVE-related forums about these two groups creating a non-invasion pact, and basically splitting up all of sovereign nullsec between them. An unlikely event, most people would think, and very controversial, at best.

Controversy, however, is what many members of Goonswarm thrive upon. So over the last week or so, TEST and Goonswarm forum posters and tweeters (including The Mittani himself) have been fueling the fire of speculation that this could come to pass, even going so far as to make plans for their entertainment following the completion of the DCF conquest. These plans are the only real concern, were this entire activity come to fruition.

As a parent, I am painfully aware of the potency of a full-blown temper tantrum. My girls (who already have me wrapped around their little fingers) can change a whole plan with a well-timed (and well-executed) tantrum. My fear is that The Mittani, thoroughly frustrated by the doublespeak and lack of action by CCP to "save" the spaceship game EVE Online, has escalated his frustration into a tantrum, at the root of which is the DCF concept. After all, if CCP won't work on the game he wants to play, why should he, as the "King of Space" let anyone else play the game they do make.

I can hear most of you about now saying "what the hell are you talking about?" So here's the tl:dr.

If the DCF were to take over 95% of nullsec (or all of it, which is the plan, supposedly), the discussion by goons on many forums is to then turn their sights on Empire, and grief the players who blindly continue to pay and play the game that isn't the EVE Online they want it to be. The goal, by wardeccing empire corps, and running regular operations into empire space to attack those players, is to drive players out of EVE - to make the game so frustrating that the poor "carebears" would stop logging in.

The conclusion, in this perhaps crazy plan, is to bring about the end of EVE. The funny (sad?) thing about this is, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, whether true or troll. After all, Goons have always played their game - which often translated into ruining your game. This is the same alliance that, when bored a few years ago, wardecced corps to take down their towers, in a jihad against moon-pillaging evildoers.
After a while though people will start leaving the game. Not the bittervet assholes like us who post on or fhc either... the people who love the game despite its flaws and still play, and who played all through the bad expansions. The people who kept a positive attitude during the rough times because they had faith in the devs and fellow players as well that the game would get better. Maybe for them it never got bad at all. These people start leaving in droves because they can't play the game anymore. Griefed out by the fucking Mittani. Melvin the Mission runner and Kevin the Carebear. You never gave a shit about them before -- they were just ships passing by. Little people playing the game in a small way and enjoying it. When those people leave because of this it won't be CCP they blame. It won't be the expansions or monocles or engine trails or MT. They will look to you as the reason. And that is how Eve Online will finally die. It won't be because of CCP's unfortunate design choices - it will be because the biggest power bloc in the game got bored and decided to break it for everyone.
and the response from a prolific Goonswarm Poster, "endie":
This all sounds fucking brilliant.

So there it is, the end of the world. Let's hope that Rixx Javix was serious about playing EVE until the lights go out. Maybe he and The Mittani can do a frigate duel, in the spirit of Nash's Celebrity Deathmatches, for the last fight in EVE Online.

One can only wonder if, by actually iterating on FiS, and improving the actual spaceship game EVE Online, that CCP can stop Goonswarm, the DRF, and their allies, from bringing about the ultimate headshot, and bringing to an end, EVE Online. I will be watching, from inside and out, as the future unfolds.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

EVE Online: Addiction

Let's be clear here. I love EVE Online, the game you fight in spaceships. I have paid and played for years, and would like to pay and play for more years (my wife would prefer I not). I speak out about things I am passionate about - but in the end I have to vote with my dollars, because that is all CCP seems to listen to.

My subscription(s) should do three things (in this order):

  • maintain the existing infrastructure and environment for the game EVE Online
  • update and introduce new features to the game EVE Online
  • enable CCP to expand as a company into new products and ventures
If it doesn't then I'm paying for something I don't care about. I'm pretty sure the first (maintenance) is covered, since I logged in last night. Unfortunately, the priorities of the second and third items do not seem to match my expectations, at least over the last 6 months. That is my sole concern. 

Blog Banter 28: "The Future of EVE Online, CCP and the CSM"

Recent events with the CSM Emergency Summit minutes (or lack thereof) and the subsequent dissenting CSM voices on EVE Radio, assorted blogs and various other gaming media have brought the relationship between CCP and the CSM (and therefore the players) to the fore once again.

Tweetfleet conversations later discussing the situation led to calls for a Blog Banter to facilitate a broader dialogue across the blogging community. As a result, the following questions have been asked:

"In recent months, the relationship between CCP and it's customers has been the subject of some controversy. The player-elected Council of Stellar Management has played a key role in these events, but not for the first time they are finding CCP difficult to deal with. What effect will CCP's recent strategies have on the future of EVE Online and it's player-base? What part can and should the CSM play in shaping that future? How best can EVE Online's continued health and growth be assured?"

OMG! EVE IS DYING! (again?)

Well, we've all heard it. In the almost 4 years I've been playing EVE, I've heard it a lot. EVE is dying. Usually when CCP comes out with an expansion that doesn't meet the wishes of a specific group of players. But then, we all watched the logins increase, from 20k, to 30k, to 40k, and more. And then there was Incarna. I'll admit I log in less since Incarna. In fact, I have two accounts due for renewal in the next 2-3 weeks that I disabled auto-renew on when Incarna came out. And I'm not sure I'll renew them. I've rambled about the expansions before, but looking seriously at each of the semi-annual expansions, Incarna is the first one that is absolutely nothing about spaceships. CCP claims it needs to move towards 3D character interaction (walking in stations) to move forward, but that motion is slower than maple sap in mid-December. Incarna was "released" in June 2011, with one small room and no interaction. Today (September 2011) it's still just one small room and no interaction. This room is supposed to be your quarters, but really it's only accurate if you live in a Minmatar station. So there are 3 more small rooms that haven't come out of CCP yet before we even start talking about actual interaction. And this was considered an expansion of EVE Online. So where did it all go wrong? How about missing the point completely. Here's a quote from the EVE Online website:

What is EVE Online?

EVE is a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMORPG) that takes place approximately 20.000 years after our times in a galaxy on the far end of the universe. When you join EVE you assume the role of a freshly graduated „Capsuleer“, a relatively small group of elite spaceship pilots capable of controlling powerful spaceships on their own from within their capsules. Capsuleers are often referred to as "The immortals" due to the fact that the highly advanced capsules they are connected to from the inside, are capable of instantly dowloading their consciousness to a clone of themselves in the case of physical destruction.

This sounds like a game about flying around in spaceships. In fact, that's the reason I started playing back in 2007. Unfortunately, 2 of the last 3 expansions haven't really been about flying around in spaceships. Tyrannis was about planets, and getting stuff out of planets, but no interaction with your actual spaceship (unless you call a mid-space rendezvous with a static box interaction). Incursion made us hope CCP realized the game was about spaceships, and it was pretty good. Incursions are a great way to get players to work together and make a good amount of money in game. It brought some freshness to EVE, although it took several months to trickle out completely. And then there was Incarna. Incarna brought the NEX (a RMT Cash shop for clothing for your new EVE Avatar) and a single room where you get out of your POD and sit on a couch alone. Incarna also brought most standard gaming rigs to their knees with it's intensive hardware requirements and 3D engine, so much so that many veteran players disabled it, only to discover the insult of CCP - when you disable Incarna, you stare at a door. No ship. No hangar. In fact, as far as spaceships go, Incarna reduced the number of functional tools are game playability when in station. Many people took this suggestion (see the door) and cancelled their subscriptions, including myself. As I mentioned, two accounts come due in the next couple weeks. So why would I renew them?

This is the same question many have asked since the release of Incarna. People at CCP used to play EVE. Many still do, I'm sure. But do they do more than log in, flip a skill, and watch the video screen in their Minmatar Captain's Quarters? There was a time that CCP paid attention to what was happening in EVE Online and made adjustments to the game, because they recognized what their players were doing, and came up with ideas to make it better. Then there was a time that CCP recognized that EVE needed something fresh, and exciting, and they added new ships and content to the universe. But that freshness is now stale, changes have been made but not iterated on (like the never-finished nullsec upgrade Dominion), and updates to some ships have made others virtually useless.

So much bad news. So what is the future of EVE Online?

I'm going to be positive, because even after 4 years I still spend hours reading and writing forum and blog posts about this game that I love, but the reality is, CCP has to recognize the issue and act on it sooner than later. I think (I hope) that the winter expansion will bring the focus back to spaceships. Even though team BFF seems to be a small piece of the hundreds of CCP employees, they are the team that seems to actually play this game we love, and they are trying to work on the spaceship side of the game (or at least that's what they say). But as the weeks (and months) pass, more and more subscriptions (like mine) are tailing off, and the number of folks logged in is dropping. Hopefully CCP sees this trend, and in the winter expansion (or before it) they will bring back one small piece that everyone took for granted – low-impact ship spinning. So many would log into EVE, and just sit in station while using corp/alliance/chat (or now Jabber) and undock when there was action. When CCP took away that view, many stopped logging in because the heavy load of the Incarna Engine on a computer, just to stare at your ship, made it hard to do other things while EVE waited. Now, when the ping comes across Jabber, fewer folks are actually logged in, so why bother at all? By showing us the door or 75% CPU/GPU utilization to stand alone in a room, CCP has asked us not to log in and wait, so it becomes effort to log in at all, and people just don't.

The CSM knows it, and they are gearing up to try and push CCP to recognize that bleeding your cow to death isn't the wisest course of action. Posts by The Mittani, Seleene and White Tree show that the CSM is gearing up to do what CCP seems unable to without them - try and save EVE Online. Because if the current trend continues, and there isn't growth for the spaceship side of the game, EVE will die before it can become real (the fantasy shown at FanFest).

Upper management in CCP needs to look at the logs, really and make sure that the spaceships get as much attention as the spaceshirts - because if they don't there won't be anyone to wear the fashionable artwork coming into the NEX.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Incarna 1.0: less than the sum of its parts

Where CCP went wrong on 21-June-2011

It seemed normal - the summer expansion for EVE Online, this one was Incarna, the first iteration in the new direct character-to-character interaction in EVE. Even though there would be no new interaction (Incarna 1.0 was just the individual quarters), it was to lay the foundation for the next aspect of EVE, more than just a space combat simulator, a space opera with direct interaction. Oh, and they included the rudimentary Noble Exchange, which ostensibly would enable players to personalize their character (and someday ship) with a new currency in EVE Online, the aurum. There were the obligatory changes and fixes (although not many), and the random upgraded ship (although it seems this was done solely for the login screen). Just another patch day, until a perfect storm of errors led to the "pitchforks and torches" being raised in forums across the internet that discuss EVE Online. Let's hold of on the tangents until later (there are plenty of them), and focus on what is wrong with Incarna 1.0, the so-called summer expansion of EVE Online.

Captain's Quarter(s)

The solitary captain's quarter. Although there are stations built by each of the four major races (and frankly I wouldn't be surprised if there were stations built by the various lineages, but that would be even more challenging), Incarna 1.0 contains a single version of a single station - the Minmatar. Ok, it takes a long time to develop textures and variations of nurnies for variation in 3D environments. However, Incarna has been spoken of by CCP to the EVE playerbase for years. And in those years, we have one hangar (with odd DOF issues) and one hallway, and one room. If Incarna had included the 4 racial quarters, it would have at least been a resonable addition to the production environment.

The blatant ignorance of game lore and playability in the release of the Captain's Quarter. When I started playing EVE (December 18, 2007), I took the time and read every piece of lore in the Chronicles. It helps when answering trivia for Somer Lotteries, but little else, until now. Entering and exiting the pod is a non-trivial experience. But in order to force exposure to the single Captain's Quarter, CCP game designers decided to forgo 9 years of lore and have us appear, fully clothed and clean, inside a room, everytime we dock. It has been suggested many times that the proper immersing experience would be to have a "disembark" option directly above the undock button in the interface, and the hangar view of the active ship (the docked view prior to Incarna) a standard piece of the experience. Disembarking should lead to a choice of clothing, then entrance in the CQ. That seems quite logical, and immersive. Even the bittervets would probably explore the CQ at least once, perhaps dabble in it during "downtimes" if it were optional.

Having new players start in the CQ makes sense - it is an introduction to the game, and a way to find information and learn a process - but forcing everyone who docks to go into the CQ breaks immersion. EVE is not "real" with that one simple choice. Even a dialog when docking (do you wish to disembark) would be better than the current experience, and the choice of not loading CQ (staring at a door) is the biggest insult to the veteran player ever. The bitterest of vets have seen this approach as a ploy to encourage players to start spending money on Noble Exchange items, since the CQ is currently the only place to see your personal purchases in this release.

Reduced functionality. Seleene and others have discussed how the forced experience of CQ reduces the actual functionality of the gameplay, for those of you who for some foolish reason don't read or follow them, gameplay has basically been limited and functionality reduced in the following ways: right click on current ship in hangar, double click on current ship in hangar, drag and drop ship from list to hangar, and more (those three affect my gameplay personally).

Noble Exchange

I'm not sure where to start with this. This particular topic can easily digress into the tangents that occurred around the release of Incarna, but I will try to stay within the actual 1.0 release at first. The handful of items available in the Noble Exchange are outrageously priced. Want a fully fit carrier? Choose between that and a monocle - they cost about the same in ISK. A complete outfit costs more than a faction battleship hull. Oh, and these items are NPC generated only - there is no player created content or material in the Noble Exchange, and (since you are naked in your pod) they are never destroyed during combat (unless you are hauling them around in you hold). So prices. Prices are a bit off, in my opinion. Realize that the "new" player will have about 10 million ISK in their wallet after doing every tutorial mission and the introductory Epic Arc - and then realize to get a pair of custom boots they need more than that 10 million (assuming someone has reposted a pair of boots up on the market at purchase price – which is a bad assumption). Each unit of Aurum (right now) costs about 110,000 ISK, but you can't buy it that way. You can only get Aurum by redeeming PLEX, which cost at least 350,000,000-400,000,000 ISK each (and for that you get 3,500 Aurum). It's apparent that the Noble Exchange is designed to be a PLEX sink, and actually the price of PLEX ticked up during the lead into the release of Incarna - but most of the purchasers have apparently sat on their now bubbled PLEX as the price of the few items in the Noble Exchange are unrealistic. To gain widespread acceptance, users should have been able to buy a few things, perhaps a whole outfit, for less than one PLEX. That would have increased updake of these new, NPC generated items. But pricing isn't the only issue.

The community has brought up again and again how the items in the Noble Exchange are not truly part of the player-driven economy, and their indestructability more foolish than the indestructability of player deployed outposts in nullsec. Well, the indestructability is questionable. According to lore, pod pilots are naked in their goo, so clothing is irrelevant. But the monocle (which offers no ingame benefit and is outrageously priced) would be lost in the depths of space when a pilot is podded, much like the implants in their clone. That is a simple fact. By denying this simple, standardized rule of existing gameplay, CCP has broken their own set of rules for an overpriced vanity item, with no real justification or reason. Clothing in the hold of a ship is subject to the same rules as any other item, the monocle (or any other physical addition to the current clone) should be subject to the same rules as any other addition to that clone (i.e. implants). Secondary to destruction is creation. Items in the Noble Exchange should require some player-created component to make/purchase. Planetary Interaction provides us with a wealth of items that could easily be integrated into the Noble Exchange much as LP store items require Tags/Ships/Modules/ISK for purchase. This at least would integrate the Noble Exchange into the EVE economy in some small way - but for some reason a pre-existing game tool couldn't be replicated for a new game feature to maintain the player-driven experience that is EVE.

These are the two major components of Incarna - a fraction of the first avatar-driven space, and a fraction of the new Microtransational store. Fortunately, the semi-annual upgrade doesn't cost the EVE player any additional money - CCP hasn't started charging for these upgrades on top of the monthly subscription (yet). There is more to Incarna, but those things have been lost in the disappointment and frustration revolving around the two large components of the summer expansion.

Into the fire...

Following the release of Incarna, an internal CCP memo discussing microtransactions was leaked to the public. The timing was perfect for the "I hate EVE crowd" – This fueled an already burning anger after the recent missteps of the Third Party Licensing fees and the discussion of ships in the Noble Exchange. I will not comment on this just yet - I am going to give CCP the opportunity to finish their response to the community, but I, like many other EVE veterans, feel betrayed by the company that makes a game we are passionate about.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughts on money...real money part I

I've been digesting the issues CCP has put before the community recently, and trying to determine how bad some of it is. I've posted short twitter comments, but really, that medium doesn't allow wall-of-text exposition, and some of these topics need that.

First up: Microtransactions

This one is rife with trouble, most of it revolving around discussions for a special, skinned ship, the Ishukone Scorpion. This ship would (initially) only be available in the Noble Exchange, which has much of the community up in arms, as this appears to be the first step towards cash for real items, at least to the short sighted. Of course, CCP claimed that they would not introduce items that gave an in-game advantage to this new Microtransaction store, and at first glance this breaks that agreement. Unfortunately, it's a misconception on the player's part. Let's follow the path of money (real money) into EVE online. Right now, there is only one way to "spend" real money on EVE, and that is for subscription time. You can pay a standard monthly subscription, you can buy a Game Time Card (GTC) from a CCP partner, or you can buy PLEX (Pilot's License EXtension) from CCP. A GTC is converted in-game into two PLEX, an in-game item. Today, a PLEX (or a GTC, for that matter) can be traded for ISK, on the open EVE market. OK - that's how money gets into EVE today. Coming soon: Aurum. This is a new way to get money into EVE, I don't know the actual process, whether it's only a PLEX to Aurum conversion, or if you will be able to directly buy Aurum with money through CCP (or third party authorized sites). Either way, this is the microtransaction currency. I think this is dumb, by the way. They just ought to let you buy ISK, and add the new items to the regular market. After all, you can already do that.

As we followed above, when you buy a GTC you can convert it straight to ISK (by selling it to another player) or convert it into two PLEX (which can also be sold for ISK). So you already have a path to convert real money into ISK. That ISK can be used in game to buy whatever items are available on the market, from a single unit of Tritanium to a Titan. Depending on what you buy with your ISK (think +5 implants, or better ships/modules), you can gain an in-game advantage over someone with less real-world cash, because you spent money to get ISK quickly, while someone else has to grind it in game. So what exactly does the Aurum market add besides un-neccessary complexity?

Moving money around in EVE
With the introduction of Aurum, it seems to me CCP is just trying to assuage upset customers who don't realize you already have fairly direct ways of spending real money to "get ahead." After all, Aurum comes from PLEX (you sell a PLEX for Aurum), and CCP has said that you can buy a PLEX with Aurum, so you basically have a second currency for no good reason. After all, PLEX -> ISK -> PLEX is already a proven currency flow, so adding PLEX -> Aurum -> PLEX is actually just an extension of the chain: PLEX -> ISK -> PLEX -> Aurum -> PLEX -> ISK. I see PLEX now as a new "meta currency" between the two main currencies in EVE, Aurum and ISK. So why have two currencies with an exchange? I don't know. But I do know that no matter what is for sale in the Noble Exchange, you will be able to get it with ISK. After all, if you have about 350 million ISK (June 2011) you can buy a PLEX. Now, take that PLEX and convert it to Aurum. Now buy what you want in the Noble Exchange. Turn around and sell it for a profit, take the excess Aurum and convert it back into a PLEX. Sell that PLEX for ISK. Rinse and repeat.

So although I was initially upset about the Ishukone Watch Scorpion (a special skinned ship that would be available in the Noble Exchange), I'm not anymore. After all, if I have enough ISK to convert to PLEX to convert to Aurum I can buy one, basically with my ISK. In addition, once the item exists in game, I should be able to sell it on a contract on the EVE open ISK market, (or buy one the same way), without having to deal with the Aurum/Noble Exchange at all. CCP seems to have done this to create an false wall between ISK and microtransactions, when in reality it's just adding more steps between ISK and new items. Unless, of course, those items can never, ever be traded to another player. But wouldn't that be stupid?

As for the ship itself, it's not functionally special. CCP has said it was a standard Scorpion with a special paint job - but why does that matter? So what if you can only get it in the Noble Exchange? You can take your ISK, convert it to PLEX then to Aurum and buy it. You don't HAVE to spend real money on it. And that brings me (finally) to my question. What's the big deal then?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Enter the Carrier...

Thanatos. In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the daemon personification of death.

Shortly, I will have finally given in and will be flying my first capital class ship. Even after almost 4 years, I know nothing about capitals, except that when they blow up, everyone makes fun of the fittings. Well, knowing that I will lose it sooner or later, I want to try and avoid some of those snarky comments. So I open up comments below for Thanatos fittings. I'd request that if the fitting comes in an EFIT format the name be the descriptor for the role the fitting is designed to fulfill.

Try not to pimp out too much – it is only a carrier, and hence likely to be lost sooner than later.

Here's a first cut:

[Thanatos, Standard Nullsec Carrier]
Damage Control II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Armor Kinetic Hardener II
Armor Explosive Hardener II
Armor Thermic Hardener II
Capital Armor Repairer I

Sensor Booster II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II

True Sansha Heavy Energy Neutralizer
True Sansha Heavy Energy Neutralizer
True Sansha Large EMP Smartbomb
Capital Remote Armor Repair System I
Capital Remote Armor Repair System I

Large Capacitor Control Circuit I
Large Capacitor Control Circuit I
Large Capacitor Control Circuit I

Firbolg x10
Einherji x10

Ok folks - let 'er rip. Give me your Thanatos fits!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Burn out comes to all of us

Title says it all. I'm approaching 4 years in EVE, and I am feeling a bit of burnout. It's not that I've done everything (I haven't even come close), but that my life has changed over the last 4 years, and less and less of my free time can go to EVE. This lack of time is probably a large factor in the burnout - after all when you have 30 minutes at the end of your day, you need a playstyle that will support that type of time. POS management? Not a good choice. Mining? Works, but really? Log in for 30 minutes of mining? Missions? Not likely. L4s take a bit more than that unless you are just blitzing. PvP? Sure. Just log in, fit up that ship you have in your hangar, you have all the mods too right? If not, spend this session getting the gear. Next session fitting the ship (trust me here - do a couple of them). Finally a few days later you can go PvP. Quick, hop in to Anamake or Old Man Star and hope you get a fun fight and not just a ride on the clone vat express.

I'm not complaining (OK, yes I am complaining). I'm looking at my time, and wondering what I can do that is just, simply, a bit of fun. EVE is a great game, a wide, expansive universe, but there isn't a lot of fun in small doses. Last night was a prime example. I've been running L4 missions for ISK, since my wallet finally dipped below 100m recently. But L4 missions take 1-2 hours to complete usually, including loot and salvage (and if you are in it for the ISK that's sort of required). That means (if I'm lucky) I get to run 1 mission during an EVE session. I've been working a 5-mission arc for more than a week (yes, really), and I still have one to go. Thank goodness each time you complete one stage the 7 day tick starts again for the next mission stage.

I started contemplating getting some cheap(ish) solo PvP ships into NPC nullsec and doing some solo PvP, but I've found (in recent experience) that I'm not very good at that, and I'd lose them fairly fast. My corp is fine (well, it's an industry corp, and even though the title is about being a closet carebear, I've been out of the closet now for about 5 months, and I don't think it's where I want to be), they are active enough, and there are things going on there, but not 30-minute heart-pounding PvP fun. Time to start looking for something fun to do (once I rebuild that wallet, anyway).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

DED Complexities, or "Why the Anomaly nerf isn't the end of the world"

I've been contemplating this more and more over the last couple days since the detailed devblog from CCP Greyscale, and I wonder if there isn't a different motive, regardless of what CCP Grayscale says. The introduction of the Haven/Sanctum upgrade to Dominion created a new, vast raw ISK faucet in the large bounties for the rats in these now-rapidly-spawning plexes. Unlike L4 missions, exploration, or WH ops, you can create/introduce a lot of ISK into the economy (rather than the NPC wreck -> salvage/loot -> ISK conversion). The folks who make similar money in L4 missions are not just shooting the ships for ISK, they are salvaging, looting, converting LP to items, and many other balanced ISK conversions.

Even if CCP won't admit that as a reason, they can't seriously just cripple the income stream for the largest number of nullsec pilots and alliances to repair a broken ISK faucet. And in fact, they really aren't.

OMFG I can't afford my system anymore

What does a fully upgraded system cost these days with iHub + Pirate Array installed? According to the EVE Wiki it costs 180 million ISK every 30 days to maintain sovereignty. There are no monthly fees for an iHub with Military or Industrial Upgrades installed - only the initial deployment costs. I'm not going to go over the Sovereignty Upgrades, as they all have additional cost, on the monthly scale, and should't be installed in every system anyway. That works out to 6 million ISK/day in sovereignty costs, which means (with a baseline 10% tax) pilots need to earn a cumulative 60 million ISK day per system to pay for basic Sovereignty.

The discussion as to how much you can earn in an anomaly ranges from a pittance to several hundred million isk (when using assigned fighters or titans). Let's get real though, and just pretend we don't have any Havens or Sanctums now. That means we get the Faction Hub as our cash cow. Reliable sources have the average ISK/HR for a Hub at about 15-20 million ISK/hr. According to the EVE Wiki, an iHub with Pirate Array 1 will spawn 4 simultaneous Anomalies (in any 0.00 system), and the Pirate Array 5 will spawn 20 simultaneously.

Based on 15-20m/hr raw income per Hub (the highest anomaly in those low truesec systems), with only 4 Hubs (not Havens or Sanctums) and one pilot ratting in each (for 10 hours a day total) you've covered your sovereignty costs. In addition those pilots are taking home (net divided by all of them) 540 million ISK, which seems to be about 15 million isk/pilot/hour (if my math hasn't completely failed).

((4x10)x15)= (600*.1) = 60
600-60 = 540/10 = 54/4 = 14.5

So you can still afford sovereignty if you have 40 total hours of ratting per day and a baseline 10% corp tax. OK, that's covered.

The individual pilot can't afford a T2 cruiser on that budget, but for a couple hours ratting they can have a T2 Frigate or a T2 Fit Standard Cruiser.

But what about my Faction/Deadspace Fit Tengu?

DED Complexes rediscovered

For some reason everyone is missing the other side of this argument. Any old roaming gang can fly into your space, pop open the directional scan, and get into your anomalies and farm your ratters. But it takes time, a little effort, and a specialized ship and skills to get at your Cosmic Signatures (also known as DED complexes). Everyone has ignored these (mostly) because the Havens and Sanctums were quick, easy money, but a smattering of DED complexes exist if you purchase and install the Entrapment Array. This hasn't been too awesome, because if you aren't in the cool faction space, you didn't get a full range of DED complexes. But wait - isn't this also being changed in Incursion 1.4? Why yes, yes it is.

New DED Complexes belonging to various pirate factions have been discovered, with returning capsuleers often proudly displaying never-before-seen modules obtainable exclusively from the most challenging foes in these complexes.

In a previous blog, CCP Big Dumb Object mentioned that they would be filling out all the higher end DED complexes (and adding a bunch of module drops). Remember this one? Out of the Shadows. Suddenly all the various faction DED sites exist in the most difficult (and most profitable) types, and they are going to drop more faction modules, some for the first time ever. With the Entrapment Array (still only a one-time purchase cost per level) now you have these DED complexes which have rats, possible faction spawns with a full suite of new faction module drops on top of the anomalies in the Pirate Detection Array.

Oh, wait a minute...

So CCP is reducing the value of the easily accessed Cosmic Anomalies, but really it isn't the end of the world, since you can still make a little bit of ISK there, and they are expanding the range of Cosmic Signatures and the loot drops from those signatures. Overall what I see is a move from a raw ISK-only stream (bounties) to a more balanced object-based ISK stream (loot drops). I also see safer space to work in, since every roaming gang isn't always going to have a combat/core prober in fleet (and even if they do it's a lot easier to look for probes now too).