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).

Politics, Voting, and Coordination

The results are in, and of nearly 50,000 votes the numbers are scary. 33,635 people voted for candidates that made the council (and alternates). That means nearly 20,000 votes (or over 1/3 of the total) did not go to one of the 14 (yes 14) names on the delegate/alternate list. That means that the top vote getter (The Mittani from Goonswarm) took home barely more than 10% of the votes cast.

In fact, if the only people who voted for The Mittani were Goons (and they weren't) he'd have had close to 6000 votes (if all those members were on different accounts) - which is still barely more than 20% of the total number of votes cast. What was most interesting to me in this election was the average age of the voting character was over 2 years, which means that most of the folks who took the time to click three times on a web page (after logging in) were older players, and likely nullsec players, based on the results.

55.44% of voters had accounts older than 2 years, 13.33% older than 5 years and 2.88% older than 7

Most of those 55.44% of voters probably bloc-voted for nullsec candidates, in light of the type of campaign run by most of the nullsec candidates. The entire CSM is made up of Nullsec alliance members, if I am reading this correctly (yes, even Trebor, who is in Initiative Mercenaries). What does this mean for those of you who are feeling un-represented? Well, not all is lost. First of all, many nullsec pilots have hisec alts who run missions, so that aspect of EVE is probably not going to be ignored or unknown to the CSM members. Second, even though The Mittani is Chairman, Goonswarm isn't out to destroy EVE - so his guidance (if he has any real authority) will not be to run EVE into the ground. The biggest worry is for the New Player Experience, with no solid representative to stand for the clueless in EVE. New players aren't leaping immediately into nullsec alliance politics and war, so hopefully a couple folks in the CSM will remember new players are the growth and future of EVE.

What may surprise you is that none of the Empire/HiSec candidates made a significant showing. This makes sense, since (unlike the nullsec alliances) these candidates don't coordinate (either for or against each other) with the same type of regularity as the nullsec alliances. Nullsec alliances are powerhouses compared to the rabble of hisec, groups who easily gang together 10-20, 50, 100 or more pilots at a time, alliances with thousands of members who communicate regularly in one way or another. This year they did so, and the results are striking. How do you overcome such organization? Fight fire with fire, as they say. EVE is a social game, a shared experience, and even though you, and your corp (of 15 buddies) and your alliance (of another 30-40 guys you loosely associate with) feel like you have an impact in your little pocket of EVE, those numbers need to expand exponentially to become a powerhouse, and you can't exactly run missions with battlefleets of 20-50 (I'm ignoring incursions and wormholes here on purpose) with any real profit in EVE.

To present a unified front for the Empire/HiSec players, coalitions need to be formed well in advance of CSM elections - coalitions that represent players with common goals, playstyles, and experiences. A coalition (or even 3) of Empire/HiSec players would have easily found a seat on the CSM, but fractured, independent candidates are actually representative of life in Empire. These players are fractured, independent, and rarely group-goal oriented. Only by creating a coalition around a similar playstyle/goal/method can the fractured Empire playerbase hope to compete in this event. Perhaps the new structure of Incursions, where groups must gather and play together with others more than before, will be the foundation for some sort of structured Empire coalitions, if not (assuming that forward progress with CSM as a stakeholder continues), when CSM 7 comes around next year we will see the same thing. If you were a candidate, and you didn't have a large playerbase to communicate with and to, now is the time to start campaigning again, get out and talk to the players you expect to represent, find out where they disagree with you, and find a common ground to move forward. Build your coalition. Or, be satisfied that others can do it better than you. Politics isn't for everyone, after all...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Post-Mortem: PAX East CCP Event

Marketing campaigns are always tricky. CCP Daishi has been experimenting with various methods of marketing and communication, and the result of one of these experiments was the EVE player gathering during PAX East in Boston, MA. A scheduled 2-hour social with what seemed to be about 50 players from both PAX and the local area (including apparently some who traveled from Pittsburgh). Two CCP Marketing folks (CCP Cupcake and Daishi), CCP Big Dumb Object from the content team, and GM Syndemic rounded out the hosts. They all circulated well, and I was able to participate in a very interesting 20-30 minute discussion with CCP Big Dumb Object about our favorite space opera. I'm sure I could write up anything specific I remember, but rather than take the slim chance I can't, I'll simply say that I am hopeful that the content team in Atlanta is able to do some of the things that were mentioned - they would be good for EVE. The one thing I will talk about is the challenges they face with Faction Warfare. It was interesting to listen to him talk about how CCP has to walk a fine line with backstory and content in relation to actual gameplay features, and how Empyrean Age was a painful learning experience for them. Not afraid to admit the challenges his team has fallen short on, and discuss success as much as struggle, I was very impressed with CCP Big Dumb Object, and the things he was able to talk about, both past and present.

GM Syndemic and I had a few minutes to talk about life as a GM, and I learned that we, the players of EVE Online, are exceedingly vain. Although there is always an increase in petitions when a new patch comes out, the release of the Incarna character creator (and the subsequent click-happy acceptance of changes to the avatar) produced the most petitions of any single event ever - people couldn't take the time to do it right, and didn't read the dialogs that told them it was permanent, and the result was more petitions for a single issue ever in EVE. Wow people, I know we've been stuck with our faces (some of us for many, many years) but the sheer volume of petitions described because you A changed your face and B didn't read the dialogs warning you it was done shocked me.

Here's hoping that the tattoos and piercings don't generate a repeat performance.

CCP Daishi appears to have a lot of motivation for promoting EVE (he is also the voice behind the Butterfly Effect video), and a matching level of faith in the intelligence and skill of the EVE player. QR code hints, messages buried in websites and videos? These are ideas that come from his planning, and add a different kind of challenge to EVE. Also a fan of single-malt whiskey (the Scottish variety), as the mastermind behind the event I think he did a great job, even with the challenges he faced in pulling it off.

The players in person? This is always interesting to me. With a dual degree in literature and psychology, I tend to watch people, and their behaviors, from an intellectual point of view. There were the hard-core fans (the guy in an Agony T-Shirt, the guy in the Hulkageddon III shirt). The campaign stumper (one of the CSM candidates was there handing out flyers), and the group with the largest showing (about 10% of total attendees) was Test Alliance Please Ignore, and they were very fun-loving, energetic people, matching the impression one gets from the alliance as a whole. Most people had their RL name and at least one in-game character on their "Hi My Name Is..." badge, and the once who really made me laugh were the folks who started a conversation with "Hi, I'm insert name here have I ever ganked you? You don't seem familiar..." In a game with 300,000 accounts, and an average 35,000 people online any given hour, to run into someone who you know unintentionally is highly unlikely, and to run into someone you've ganked (unless you are a top-ten Battleclinic pilot) even less so. It shows something about how we perceive ourselves, in this universe, as significant in some way.

The most interesting thing I took away was something we probably don't often think about. I met a guy from R.A.G.E. (Northern Coalition member). I'm not a fan of how the NC works, what they possess in EVE, and the way they have grown. I have grudging respect for it, but I don't personally like it. But this guy (Phil) was a real person, not the NC Boogeyman that I (and others) see on the map. He was down to earth, a nice guy, and great to chat with. Sure, when we sit down in front of our machines and log into EVE, we take on the persona of the player we are in game (not RP here folks, but the type of game you choose to play), but when you walk away, the guy you just popped, podded, and probably smacked in local, is a lot like you. When you both walk away from the keyboard, you are both just as excited (or passionate) about this game and the universe of EVE, even if you are on different sides in an epic conflict. I am happy to say that the folks hosting this event are just as excited (or passionate) about EVE. Really. They are.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My hopes for CSM 6

The official list is out. You can see the whole list of CSM Candidates here.

I have 3 accounts, and with them choices.

To me CSM is both a blessing and a curse. We are electing players we hope will speak to what is best for EVE, as a whole. Although I could be very, very wrong about my choices (although I obviously haven't voted yet), I can only hope CSM 6 will work as a whole to help CCP recognize that the work of Team BFF is critical to the long term stability and balance in EVE, and just posting in a devblog that "the feature will be modified as necessary" isn't the same as actually doing that.

Although CSM5 has been able to put pressure on CCP with the support of the playerbase and the power of the internet for communication, CSM isn't a game design board - it's a representative body to bring up player issues for EVE as a whole. Folks who recognize that first and foremost will be the least surprised when they get to Iceland and don't get to have the CCP devs work on their personal pet peeve for EVE. The candidates I am choosing to back have that perspective, and realize that EVE is larger than what they do in the game individually.

For those of you who fear the possibility of a 0.0 powerbloc in the CSM, realize that most of them have just as much experience in PvE as PvP (although for them PvE it's a means to an end, not an end unto itself), and that over the last 3 years 0.0 has had the least attention of CCP (see below). I'd be more worried that a divided CSM, with varied agendas and personal goals, would be less effective than CSM 5 (which was the first partially effective council ever).

Where do I want CCP and the CSM to focus? Here's a list of expansions since 2008 (I'm counting Trinity since 12/2007 is so close)
  1. Trinity (12/2007): 5 New Ship Classes, mixed PvE/PvP use - these have never been "tweaked" since release that I am aware of. The common belief is that Black Ops, EWar Frigs are both broken (badly), and have been since their release.
  2. Empyrean Age (06/2008): Faction War. Empire content only. Faction War with PvE and PvP options - this has never been iterated that I am aware of. Faction War has a laundry list of problems.
  3. Quantum Rise (11/2008): Industrial Ship rebalancing (Orca introduced). Speed nerfs on Interceptors. Nothing to see here. I suppose you could call this an "Empire" content patch, since Orcas are not exactly roaming the nullsec roid fields...
  4. Apocrypha (03/2009): T3 Cruisers, Wormholes. Mostly PvE content, although wormholes allow PvP experience. Some ship tweaking. Apocrypha was iterated at least once (introduction of Epic Arcs). This was the golden release for EVE in my opinion. Apocrypha introduced a lot of new things that actually worked. There really isn't a huge backlog that I'm aware of from this release, other than the T3 Frigates that never were.
  5. Dominion (12/2009): Mostly Nullsec content. Overhaul of Sovereignty system. Introduction of Pirate Epic Arcs (occur in nullsec). Although major issues introduced with Dominion (lag) have been iterated on, the Sovereignty system was never fully deployed, and has never been iterated. Supercarriers were modified and (like other ship changes) need serious adjustment (again).
  6. Tyrannis (05/2010): Hello PI. Other than making the Scorpion look new, there is no PvP content in this patch (unless working to fix lag counts). Tyrannis content has been iterated at least two times. Oh, and CCP totally screwed up T2 production and gave the sov holders in the North the biggest wallets in the history of EVE with the disastrous Technetium buff.
  7. Incursion (01/2011): Primarily PvE content, some ship modifications and T2 ammo adjustments. Incursion was released in 3 pieces, one of which may have actually improved large fleet combat lag.
Looking through that backlog of just over 3 years of content, Nullsec/PvP has not been getting the attention that PvE/empire has, and the attention it got (Dominion) was then largely ignored (like Faction War) as far as iterative development and correctly. This should be the focus of the CSM. Fix issues introduced in major updates that were supposed to be iterated on. Hello, Team BFF. You have a big backlog, and we want it fixed. My votes for CSM are all about getting in front of CCP and reminding them that they should deliver on their promises.