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.