Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Impressions of Mining Barge and Exhumer Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Game Design is Hard

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 5, 2012

This Far, No Further...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 25, 2012

D * V * F > R

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

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

I Trinity

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

II Apocrypha

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

III Crucible

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On the definition of Piracy

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

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

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

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

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

Ships in my Hangar

I've not been logging in a lot lately, but I've been collecting my ships from around New Eden into a central staging system. After 4 years, I had a lot of ships scattered around, and now I find I just have a lot of ships. It doesn't help that I used to play Somer.blink and collected my wins instead of cashing them out.

Upon doing this list, I realized that I have a serious problem – too many ships. So the first thing I did was donate some hulls to Hulkageddon for prizes. The other interesting tibit was that I don't have a single battleship in my staging hangar. I have a couple hulls stored in HiSec, but not one fit up Battleship. I never really liked them. Too slow and deliberate for my style.

Saying that, I like frigates a lot, even though they aren't the hardiest of ships. I added up the numbers, and (excluding T1 hulls) I have almost 48 frigates in my staging hangar. Here's a sampling of them:

Enyos (a lot) - I really like this AF, and it's even more awesome since Crucible.
Ishkurs I keep meaning to set one of these up as a losec PvE boat.
Jaguars and Wolves - Did I mention that when AFs were buffed in Cruicible I bought a lot of them?

Helios - A decent LoSec prober for exploration. Less useful in Null (where I fly a Cheetah instead)
Keres - I've never fit up the Keres. I am really annoyed by Sensor Damps in PvE, so I really have to try it soon in PvP to see if it annoys others. But it requires good support to survive.

Ares - tackle. Because fleet tackle matters.
Taranis - tackle with a bit of a bite. Also a good 1v1 boat.

Hounds & Nemesis' - my old CEO loved bombers and hot drops. I've bombed badly a number of times, not sure I've ever done it well.

I won't go into the other hulls. Lets just say I have too many ships, and I need to start losing some.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Unintended Consequences

Once upon a time, traders plied the spacelanes, hauling goods across the expanse of space to net a profit.

In the olden days, these traders had to utilize freighters or industrials to haul their goods across dozens of systems. Then, the empires developed the Jump Freighter.

A massive vessel with over 300,000m3 of storage, the Jump Freighter is able to both navigate standard stargates and jump to a cynosural beacon. And in that instant, losec died.

This is not a clarion call for the end of the Jump Freighter, because it has a purpose, in fact much of nullsec in EVE would not exist as it does, without the Jump Freighter. This is a thought, about the rule of unintended consequences. I believe the idea was to improve logistics to deep nullsec. After all, even on a good day, it's fairly difficult to get to Stain, or the deep drone regions. And that is with a Jump Freighter.

But the unintended side effect of the jump freighter may have been the death knell for true losec piracy. After all, it's not profitable to hunt the spacelanes between regions when there are no industrials (or freighters) traveling them. And so, as I found in a trip out to Solitude this weekend, the once-busy losec routes are, sadly, desolate and barren. But the station systems on common jump routes are filled with cyno alts, awaiting their moment to undock in a frigate, pop the cyno, and sit for 10 minutes, waiting to either dock (or if they are lucky, get shot).

And so piracy in New Eden is but a ghostly shell of its former self.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fixing Dominion Part Four: Details and Errata

Part four in the series covers the bits and pieces, the little details around this new sovereignty system.


Alliances will now have the ability to tax member corporations. Tax rates are voted on by the members of the executor corporation, and implemented with a successful majority vote. Failure to gain a successful majority will prevent the tax changes from occurring. Taxes are based on a percentage of income to a corp wallet, from any given transaction.


Survival and prosperity in EVE requires cooperation. Corporations and Alliances will have a new tool to enable cooperation: the Treaty. A treaty allows all entities involved to have identical access to sovereignty upgrades including stations, jump bridges, and the Subspace Transmission Tracker Array. Any party in a treaty can opt-out with a 24-hour cool down notice to all other parties in the treaty.

Index Decay

All upgrade indices can decay over time. The baseline decay rate is 10% divided by the Empire Sovereignty Index. Activity in a system reduces the decay rate for a particular index. For example, if the Pirate Detection Array 5 is installed there are 20 anomalies that are spawned simultaneously. Each anomaly is worth a % reduction in the decay rate for the day, based on the level of the array. The decay rate is carried over daily. Each iHub upgrade has an independent decay rate and activity level. If a particular upgrade index has a decay rate less than 0%, the index will climb, rather than decay.

When the activity index is calculated for the system at downtime, it is possible for the sovereignty level to drop based on cumulative rate of decay. If sovereignty drops below the required level for an upgrade to function, the specific upgrade will go offline. If the level drops below that of a specific Infrastructure Hub Upgrade, that upgrade will function at the next level down.

Damage Resistance Profiles

All sovereignty structures have a baseline resistance profile. The resistance profile for generic structures is an omni resist at 30%. The profile is increased based on the Empire Sovereignty Index. If the ESI is 2.5 then the resist profile is 55% (with a maximum of 80% at true ESI 5.0).

Jump Bridge Fees

Jump Bridges can have usage fees. Fees are paid directly into a selected corp wallet. Fees are based on usage and standings. The calculation for Jump Bridge fees is: ((500 * Jump distance in LY) * (ship mass / 1,000,000,000)) * Standings Fee. Standings Fee is: Baseline ISK * (10/Standings). The total cost for a 4LY jump to a pilot who is +10 to your corp in a 270,000m3 Cruiser would be 54 ISK. For +5 pilots it would be 108 ISK. Pilots who are neutral or have negative standings cannot use Jump Bridges.

Turret Damage Calculations

Missiles do less damage based on the signature radius of the target. Turret damage calculations need to be altered to behave in a similar way - although it has to scale for turret size. There is a discussion on Failheap Challenge about this concept, where large weapons do less damage against smaller targets. I'm not a mathematician, but the idea is a variable damage result, based on weapon size (sm/med/lg/xl) vs signature radius.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fixing Dominion Part Three: Total Domination

This is part three in a series of nullsec changes I wish CCP would implement. Part One: Use it or Lose it focused on how the sovereignty index is a tiered system based on empire size, sprawl, and individual system use. Part Two covered smaller strategic engagements. Part three covers war, in all it's glory.

One day in the pavilion at Karakorum he [Genghis Kahn] asked an officer of the Mongol guard what, in all the world, could bring the greatest happiness.

"The open steppe, a clear day, and a swift horse under you," responded the officer after a little thought, "and a falcon on your wrist to start up hares."

"Nay," responded the Kahn, "to crush your enemies, to see them fall at your feet -- to take their horses and goods and hear the lamentation of their women. That is best."

"Genghis Khan: The Emperor of All Men" by Harold Lamb

Total Domination

The endgame in nullsec is to take, hold, and control territory. Total domination of your space, to build your own space empire. Unfortunately, war today is one of timers and structures with millions of hitpoints, with a single victory by the defending party leading to a total reset of the battlefield. War should rage across multiple systems, multiple constellations, with victories on either side affecting the total tide of the battle. Each system taken reduces the Constellation Index, each constellation liberated reducing the empire index, and affecting the systems and constellations around them. In addition a "headshot" at the capital system and constellation can bring the empire index crashing down, affecting the decay rates of all systems in the empire.

Strategic Targets

Currently Dominion has two (or three) strategic objectives in a given solar system: The Infrastructure Hub, the Territorial Claim Unit, and a station. To assault a system you need to have Sovereignty Blockade Units anchored at 50% of the gates in a system, attack the iHub. Attack the Station. Repeat twice more. If successful, attack TCU.

Station Games

The first change to this is to remove the station from the required targets list. Control of a station is not required for control of a system. However, if the TCU and the Station are not owned by the same alliance, the station is vulnerable at anytime, and can be taken by anyone. In addition, if the station is not owned by the controlling alliance, it becomes a freeport (anyone can dock). If the TCU and station are both owned by the controlling alliance, the station is invulnerable (although services are always vulnerable) unless the system itself is vulnerable.

Control Bunkers

Similar to Faction Warfare, when a system becomes vulnerable due to the deployment of SBUs, a series of bunkers are spawned. One bunker is spawned for each Military and Infrastructure iHub upgrade in the system, and is tied to that iHub upgrade. These targets appear on the overview just like FW control bunkers. Bunkers are gated, to prevent capital and supercapital ships from participating directly in the bunker battleground. In addition, sovereign ships will land in proximity to the bunker structures, while any foreign ships will land on grid +/-50km to the structures. The bunker will have variable resists based on the sovereignty index (base of 30%, up to 80% omni resists in a system with a local sovereignty index of 4.5-5). Small bunkers can only be entered by Cruiser or smaller ships. Medium Bunkers are limited to Battlecruiser and below, while Large Bunkers allow Battleships and below.

Once a bunker complex is occupied by an invading force, the SBUs become invulnerable until the bunker is destroyed or vacated.

Bunker Structures

At each bunker are three structures – a remote repair tower, a cloaking dispersion array and the bunker itself. The cloaking dispersion array will deactivate the cloak on any ships inside the complex once every 5 minutes. The remote repair tower will automatically repair all sovereign ships and structures on the same grid as if it were a set of Tech 2 large armor/shield/hull remote repair units. The remote repair tower can be hacked using the Codebreaker, which will disable it for 5 minutes, or destroyed. Destroying the bunker itself completes that objective. When a bunker is destroyed, the activity index for the paired upgrade is lowered by one point (not below 1).

Destroying all bunkers in a system makes the iHub vulnerable (as it is under Dominion), for the shield/armor/hull cycle. At the end of each reinforcement cycle a new series of bunkers deploy in the system. If enough SBUs are destroyed to defend sovereignty, all bunkers will despawn automatically.

This model introduces several battlefields in a system simultaneously. The SBUs at the gates are vulnerable for the defender to attempt to resolve the conflict until the bunkers are occupied. The bunkers provide multiple targets that affect the system as a whole and impact the value of the system if the defenders choose not to actively defend from the first vulnerability cycle. In addition, the gates at the bunkers provide multiple battlefields requiring different ships, while still preserving a space in strategic system control (iHub and Station assaults) for Capital and Supercapital ships.


For the defender, victory is the same terms as today - destroy the SBU(s) to regain control. The difference is, to destroy the SBUs bunkers must be empty of opposing forces. For the attacker, the destruction of all the bunkers is required to make the iHub vulnerable for each cycle, ending with the destruction of the iHub and the vulnerability of the TCU. Occupation/destruction of the station is no longer required in station systems.

Trickle-down impacts

When a system is lost, the constellation and empire sovereignty indices are automatically recalculated, with all the affecting results.

Destructable Outposts

Even in Empire, stations can be destroyed. Player deployed outposts are no different. If an outpost is flipped (shield/armor/hull reinforcement) a new deployable charge "Outpost Demolition Device" can be jettisoned from the cargo hold of a ship outside the station. After a two minute timer, the demolition device will "destroy" the outpost. During the two minute timer, the device can be targeted and shot, or any member of the alliance who deployed it can disable it.

Replacing an Outpost

Destroyed outposts can be reconstructed or replaced by deploying a new Outpost Egg. The new outpost does not have to be the same type as the previous one.

Accessible Assets

All Jump Clones are destroyed. Medical Clones are moved under the same process as a revoked clone. An outpost wreck will contain all assets that were in the outpost, accessible only to the owner of those assets. Based on corporate roles, a player may see the contents of their own hangar or the corp hangars. Items can be removed from the outpost wreck, but not added. Items in a wrecked outpost do not expire. If a new or replacement outpost is deployed in the same location, all items in the wreck are transferred to the new outpost, and the wreck despawns. If an outpost is deployed elsewhere in the system the wreck remains.

Part One: Use it or Lose it
Part Two: Farms and Fields
Part Four: Details and Errata

Fixing Dominion Part Two: Farms and Fields

This is part two in a series of nullsec changes I wish CCP would implement. Part One: Use it or Lose it focused on how the sovereignty index is a tiered system based on empire size, sprawl, and individual system use. Part Two talks about smaller strategic engagements, while Part Three will cover war.

Part Two: Farms and Fields

I was involved in the original "farms and fields" discussions on a couple years ago, and I may or may not have actually linked that phrase to the woes of combat in nullsec. For those of you who don't understand the idea, there are two primary opposing schools of thought in nullsec - the group that wants to get fights, and the group that wants to hole up and let the nomads fly on by. Both of those are valid positions. The "Farms and Fields" position states that there should be something the invading force can do to disrupt life if left unopposed. You can sit safely in your castle, avoiding the fight, but the bandits will have license to burn your farms and fields to the ground.

Smaller Strategic Targets

First of all, let me be clear. The concept here is to create points of conflict, not to tear down huge space empires. However, an empire that cannot or will not defend itself will suffer if their farms and fields are razed.

Targetable Infrastructure Hub Upgrades

Individual iHub Upgrades can be attacked, and when offlined, the AI index for that system drops by one level for the duration the upgrade is offline. This creates an immediate effect - if your Pirate Detection Array is offlined, you won't get as many anomalies to farm. iHub upgrades have omni resists at 30% + the Empire Sovereignty Index effect (with a maximum of 80%) and a very small signature radius to minimize damage from larger weapons. The HP would be relatively small, so a small gang (20 cruisers) can offline an individual upgrade in about 10 minutes.

Repairing iHub Upgrades

The default offline duration is 4 hours, with an option to repair using a new High Slot module, the "Infrastructure Repair Unit" (IRU). The IRU has small, medium, and large versions. Repair points per cycle are scaled based on module size. In addition, iHub upgrades have a natural repair/recharge cycle that takes 4 hours. 20 large IRUs will repair an offline upgrade in about 10 minutes. If an upgrade is offline when any sovereignty index is calculated, that index is calculated at the original level to prevent downtime shenanigans.

The Codebreaker module can now be used to temporarily offline a single iHub upgrade for 5 minutes, with a 30-minute cooldown between uses.

Player Owned Customs Offices

POCOs are already targetable, reinforceable, and destroyable. This would not be changed.

The Codebreaker module will be able to "crack" the security on a POCO. If there are any commodities in the POCO, a certain percentage of them are liberated by a successful hack (but not the planetary resources below). These commodities are taken randomly from any player who has them stored in the POCO.

Station Services

Station Services can already be attacked individually. There is no change to this behavior.

The Codebreaker module can be used to offline any single station service for 5 minutes, with a 30-minute cooldown between uses.

Introducing small targets of opportunity via the Codebreaker and targetable iHub upgrades provides opportunitites for small gangs or dedicated terrorist groups to harass individual systems or whole constellations, but not significantly impact the empire as a whole.

The Benefits of Ownership

These new methods of being able to harass or terrorize a sovereign alliance are counterbalanced by increasing the returns from existing PvE content in Nullsec, as well as new farms and fields.

Local changes in Nullsec

The Local channel is one of the easiest (hence most valuable) tools for intel in EVE. There are three significant changes to how the Local channel behaves:
1) In all space, the name and portrait of a character does not update in local until the 30 second invulnerability timer expires (even if the character immediately recloaks, this data updates).
2) In NPC Nullsec, names and portraits do not show up in local unless the character is docked in a station. Note: If a character undocks, until the 30 second invulnerability timer expires they will still appear to be in the station.
3) In Sovereign Nullsec, names and portraits do not show up in local unless the character is docked in a station. In addition, if the sovereign alliance has purchased the "Subspace Transmission Tracker Array" members of the sovereign alliance (and associated coalition members listed in the coalition treaty) then local (for them) is treated like Empire Local.

edit - thanks to TGR at The Codebreaker module can be used to temporarily offline The Subspace Transmission Tracker Array for 5 minutes, with a 30-minute cooldown between uses.

Sovereignty Upgrades

Subspace Transmission Tracker Array
The Subspace Transmission Tracker Array is a sovereignty upgrade that is anchored within 300km of a stargate. It requires Sovereignty 4 to online, and updates Local for the Sovereign Alliance and Coalition allies to behave like Empire local.

Internal Affairs Monitoring Upgrade
This iHub upgrade reduces the corruption level in a system by 2% per System Index level (up to 10%).

Racial Professional Outpost Platform
Professional Outpost Upgrades double the specific upgrade features from Advanced Upgrades. These upgrades are designed to bring player outposts closer to the production capacity of empire stations.

Racial Outpost type Mission Platform
An Outpost Mission Platform provides one mission Agent from the Outpost faction. Each outpost can be ugpraded with 3 Mission Platforms (Security, Distribution, Mining). Each level of the upgrade adds an agent of the next level (Basic: L1, Standard: L2, Advanced: L3, Professional: L4). Mission platforms (like other station services) can be attacked and disabled, or hacked and disabled.

Part One: Use it or Lose it
Part Three: Total Domination
Part Four: Details and Errata

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fixing Dominion Part One: Use it or Lose it

Well, here comes a big post that will bring about nothing but make me feel a bit better. Dominion, the nullsec sovereignty expansion, was never completed, and is broken. It seems like most folks I talk to in various forums agree with that. CCP isn't paying focused attention to nullsec right now (which is fine, there are a lot of underlying issues that have to be fixed first), but I'm going to write this up anyway. The ideas here are a casserole of various ideas from places like, the EVE-O forums, and postings in various blogs over the years. So let's start with the big picture, and drill down into the various details afterwards.

Show me the money

Peacetime activity in nullsec usually involves jump cloning to hisec for mission or incursion running for a lot of players. This creates a vast wasteland of unoccupied and uninteresting systems throughout nullsec, because it's just not worth it to risk your ships for a marginally larger reward (Titan ratters and botters not included). Nullsec needs to be significantly more profitable than HiSec to the individual pilot to balance out the risk:reward equation and develop an vibrant, active population. If I participate in a PvE activity in nullsec for an hour, I should make significantly more ISK that I would make blitzing missions or running Incursions in HiSec during that same hour. In addition, PvE activities should scale (in sovereign systems) to support more and more players simultaneously earning ISK. Each site spawned by an Industry or Military Upgrade should provide the potential for significantly greater ISK income than equivalent activities in HiSec.

Nullsec needs methods to condense more players in fewer places. Condensing players provides more opportunity for interaction (positive and negative). If the players of a small (500-man) alliance are spread out across 20 systems, it's not working. Or, if the players of a 2,000 man alliance are spread out across 60 systems, it's still not working. So the goal should be a construct where a single system can support virtually any number of players simultaneously.

Finally, Nullsec needs a more dynamic combat and sovereignty system, where use is more valuable than just ownership, and combat is not centered around a series of static timers system by system.

Part One: Home, Sweet Home

Use it or Lose it (Activity Index)

Basically, the number of sites (anomalies/complexes/gravimetrics/magnetometrics) that are completed raise the activity index of the specific ihub upgrade as well as increase the number of sites that are spawned by that upgrade. This would support players clustering in a single system by dynamically increasing the available content based on use. For anomalies, complexes, and magnetometric sites, a new (random) site will spawn if all the current sites are occupied. This provides an mechanism for players to group together in a system, since there is no hard limit on ISK making opportunities. In addition, the ISK value of rats should be increased in nullsec by about 20% across the board (or nerf the ISK value of missions in hisec by 20% across the board). By creating obvious targets (grouping players together) the risk level goes up significantly. That risk increase should be accompanied by an equivalent reward increase, otherwise this is pointless. If you can make more running L4 missions or incursions in HiSec than complexes or anomalies in nullsec, the risk:reward balance is broken.

Activity Indices would rise (and decay) based on site completion. Each iHub upgrade has a unique activity index, which would contribute to the system activity index. The sovereignty index of a system is tied to the activity index, rather than a clock. If a system is used, the activity index will rise, and the system index will rise. If a system is unused, both will decline. Sovereignty upgrades tied to a certain index level would go offline if the system dropped below the minimum level required.

The System Index is the current sovereignty index. System Indices are calculated based on the Activity Index multiplied by the influence modifier (below). All System Indices within a nullsec empire are averaged together to create an empire-wide Sovereignty Index. In each constellation, a Constellation Index is based on the number of occupied systems in the constellation and the System Index for each system - if an empire has 4 of 7 systems in a particular constellation, the Constellation Index is (SI 1:4)/7

Sphere of Influence

The rate of change of an activity monitor would also be affected by a range modifier. Space empires need capitals - centers of activity, and the further from the capital the less control an emperor has. This is calculated into the rate of change for the activity monitors. The further from the declared capital of an empire, the slower activity index changes. This mechanic discourages sprawling space empires. The calculation would also be affected by neighboring systems (or constellations). The activity monitor of the system next door (and then scaled up the constellation next door) provides a small boost against the range modifier.

Within the capital constellation, the influence modifier (SIM) would be 100%. Each constellation further reduces that influence modifier by 1%. Each unmodified constellation that exists between the capital and a sovereign constellation, increases that reduction by an additional 1%. If the capital constellation were to fall, the influence modifier is immediately lowered by 50%. Installing and owning POCOs can increase the influence modifier by 0.2% per planetary installation, not to exceed 100% overall. If a player corporation that is not part of the sovereign alliance has POCOs in a sovereign system, each POSCO reduces the influence modified by 0.5% per planet.

In addition, corporate (and alliance) taxes suffer from graft or corruption in systems with a lower sphere of influence. The constellation index is used when calculating the percentage of lost revenue from any ISK sources. For example, ratting in the capital constellation would provide 100% of the tax rate (10% as an example), but ratting in a constellation with a 75% influence would only provide 7.5% tax, with the other 2.5% "lost" to corruption.

Sovereignty Index

The Empire Sovereignty Index is calculated based on the number of sovereign systems divided by the average the sovereignty level of all constellations in an empire. The Empire Sovereignty Index is used to adjust the default decay rate of the individual iHub indices.

These indices establish the baseline of the nullsec empire. The final sovereignty index of the empire affects the rate of decay for the activity index. An empire with a high sovereignty index has a slower rate of decay than an empire with a low sovereignty index. The rate of decay affects how fast or slow System Indexes rise and fall.

The use of each system impacts the sovereignty index of that system, as well as the overall sovereignty value of the empire. Large, sprawling empires of empty systems aren't as effective as connected, clustered systems, and empires that are constantly invading other territories are at risk of their home losing value the longer they are away.

Part Two: Farms and Fields
Part Three: Total Domination
Part Four: Details and Errata

PvP and EVE Part 2: LoSec

LoSec has been the source of a lot of heated discussion over the years. Is it broken? Working as intended? Can you "fix it"? I could go on and on, and as a long time resident of LoSec who has managed to keep my sec status above -2.0 I think I can speak a bit on this topic. But that's for the end of the post. If you missed PvP and EVE Part 1: Hisec, check it out first. With that in mind, let's start looking at PvP in LoSec.

Ship Combat
LoSec has been sold as the "pirate haven" in EVE. You can engage anyone here, on gates, on stations, belts, missions, anywhere. But that engagement comes at a price, everywhere. Hostile action reduces your security status, and podding your opponent reduces it even further. But beyond that, ship combat in LoSec is fairly wide open. A few things to keep in mind is that Titan Doomsdays, Bombs, and Interdiction spheres (bubbles in general) don't work. This (along with the pervasive security status hit of combat) are the big differentiations between LoSec ship combat and NullSec ship combat. In addition, the existence of sentry guns at stargates and stations means frigate combat must occur away from these public areas. Battlecruisers (and even cruisers) can tank the gate or station guns for a while in LoSec, but
frigates and destroyers will pop quickly to the nearly perfect tracking and signature radius of these guns.

Market Combat
The markets in LoSec are poorly represented. Sure, some residents run missions, and some may even sell their loot on the open market, but in general the market in LoSec is weak. With less than 10% of all pilots in EVE residing in LoSec, and easy access to HiSec markets and trade hubs, there isn't a lot of profit in the LoSec market. Not to mention the fact that eventually someone will manage to destroy your hauler on the way in or out of a station or system, means that the market in LoSec really needs to be a self-sustaining one to be viable, and with the low population it just isn't. Most items are priced closer to NullSec than HiSec, and are "emergent" purchases rather than planned ones. There was a move a while ago to change this in Intaki - but I haven't heard how successful that was. If you know, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Resource Combat
LoSec should be the haven for the majority of planetary interaction. With increased returns and the ability to install player-owned customs offices (pocos) there should be significant competition for resources here, but this doesn't seem to be developing as well as it could. Most corps that are installing (or killing) pocos are doing so fairly unopposed, although some fights are happening over pocos, a flight through a losec area of space will still contain more Interbus customs offices than pocos.

Issues with LoSec PvP
I think the biggest issue with LoSec PvP is perception. PvP happens a lot in losec, and recent reports by CCP Diagoras support the fact that ship combat in LoSec is alive and well. However, the volume of actual players in LoSec suggest a much higher concentration of combat than experience (living in LoSec)

There's a proposal on the official EVE forums about this, and it's not bad.

(addendum 4/17/2012:17:00EST)
My biggest complaint with most LoSec proposals is that they are focused almost exclusively on Faction War or Piracy. Both of those are valid activities, but LoSec industry is just as valid, if even more difficult to work with. Reactions, R&D, even mining in LoSec should have some validity, with an appropriate risk:reward balance.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On ships, skills, and balancing

CCP released a doozy of a devblog today. Initially not having clear language about skills and ships flown with the suggested change to racial battlecruisers and destroyers brought up a threadnaught in the forums that is settling in at 30+ pages after a couple hours. In all this, the concept of changing ships from straight tiers to roles has been largely ignored, but the skill change got me thinking, which is never a good thing.

Ship skills are the basis of everything about EVE. So I'm going to suggest some changes that actually make  more sense than racial destroyers (but I agree with racial battlecruisers).

Tech 1 Ship Skills
Tech 1 ships (and Pirate/Navy ships) require the appropriate Tier 1 skill (frigate/destroyer/cruiser/battlecruiser/battleship) and a matching skill in Spaceship Command, but not the class below it. A new player in EVE always gets basic Spaceship Command and racial Frigate skills. Currently that player has to grind up through both to get to the next tier, and so forth. My suggestion is to streamline this path and allow a player to drop in at whatever size ship they want.

To train for a frigate, you much have Spaceship Command 1
To train for a destroyer, you must have Spaceship Command 2 (not Frigate 4)
To train for a cruiser, you must have Spaceship Command 3 (not Destroyer 4 or Frigate 4)
To train for a battlecruiser, you must have Spaceship Command 4
To train for a battleship, you must have Spaceship Command 5

If a player wants to leap straight into battlecruisers, why force them to train ship skills that are not relevant to the battlecruiser class at all? Spaceship Command 4 then any racial Battlecruiser is open to you to train.

Tech 2 Ship Skills
For Tech 2 ships, change the skill tree to require Advanced Spaceship Command (the cost of this skill should come down to around 10 million +/-) with a corresponding change to the pre-requisite of Spaceship Command 4 (instead of 5). The Advanced Spaceship Command skill level would have to increase with the ship size, just like the Tech 1 version:

Tech 2 Frigates require Advanced Spaceship Command 1
Tech 2 Destroyers require Advanced Spaceship Command 2
Tech 2 Cruisers require Advanced Spaceship Command 3
Tech 2 Battlecruisers require Advanced Spaceship Command 4
Tech 2 Battleships require Advanced Spaceship Command 5

 In addition you would only need the minimum skills to fly the Tech 1 version of the ship. Using a frigate as the example, Tech 2 Frigates require Advanced Spaceship Command 1and the racial Frigate skill to fly the Tech 1 variant of that frigate. Then for the ship bonuses, map the bonuses based on the source ship type. So (for example) the Enyo is based on the Incursus, which requires Gallente Frigate 3. So to sit in an Enyo, you would train the following skills:

Spaceship Command 4
Gallente Frigate 3
Advanced Spaceship Command 1
Assault Ships 1

A skill tree that makes sense, and can be applied across the board at all levels, and makes it more interesting, since under-training (for newer players) would get them into shiny ships faster, but still leave lots of room to improve how those ships behave. In addition, the ships themselves have the bonuses built to support this model. Keeping with our example of the Enyo, the ship has the following bonuses:

Gallente Frigate Skill Bonus:
5% bonus to Small Hybrid Turret Damage per level

Assault Ships Skill Bonus:
10% bonus to Small Hybrid Turret Optimal Range per level
7.5% bonus to Small Hybrid Turret Tracking Speed per level

These bonuses would unlock improvements in the ship as the pilot continued to train the related skills, but you wouldn't need Gallente Frigate 5 to get into the Enyo.

One of the best things about this change is that it could be announced in advance (far enough in advance) so that players could train the single skill (Advanced Spaceship Command) to the appropriate levels long before the launch of Inferno. In addition, a skill that currently has very little actual value until Capital training, suddenly has value for all classes of players and ship sizes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

PvP and EVE: Part 1

EVE is by nature a game of Player vs. Player (PvP). Many people unintentionally or unwittingly participate in PvP, not realizing it goes far beyond ship vs. ship combat. I'm going to look at PvP in EVE in a series of articles, covering the different types of space (HiSec, LoSec, NullSec (NPC and Sov) and types of PvP (ship, market and resource). This first one will look at PvP within the bounds of HiSec Empire space. But, before that, I thought I'd define PvP in the most basic sense:
PvP occurs when any player interacts with another with the intention to profit in some way.

Ship Combat
This one is easy. Two ships engage in combat, consensual or non-consensual, and the desired result (for one of them) is an explosion (not theirs).

Market Combat
Ok, a lot of eyes just glazed over. Come on, people compete in markets all the time. Can you make a profit undercutting that sell order for 20 rifters in Dodixie? Do you have a solid grasp of the Covert Ops Cloaking Device II market in Rens? Buy low sell high is the basic idea here, whether all in one place or with a bit of shipping in between. Is it profitable (enough) to just sell your mission loot to open buy orders, or is it worth posting sell orders?

Resource Combat
Sometimes intimately tied with ship combat, this is the battle for moons and moon goo, asteroid mining for higher value ores (or any ores in busy systems), planetary interaction (resource extraction), and exploration. A lot of the NullSec wars tend to (lately) revolve around resource combat for Technetium moons, but this can apply just as easily to a lower value Vanadium moon in LoSec.

HiSec PvP
Ship combat in HiSec exists in one of three basic frameworks: wartime, assault, or theft. Theft is the easiest mechanic to get lower-risk PvP in HiSec - steal someone else's loot and they have permission to defend themselves. Once they engage you are free to strike without intervention by CONCORD. This mechanic is often used by mission griefers and ninja salvagers with great effect and some amazing kill mails. If there is an active declaration of war, the parties involved (consensual or not) can engage in combat in hisec. HiSec wardecs are often used to grief nullsec logistics, or industrial alliances with great effect and profit. If there is no active war declaration, pilots can still engage in combat, but CONCORD will intervene and punish the aggressor (often after the vicitim has already lost a ship). This form of PvP (lovingly called ganking) has been the most popular recently, with events like Hulkageddon and the Gallente Ice Interdiction. Gankers often target miners in their thin-hulled industrial ships. There is no way to defend against a gank. Attention and luck are the only things that can minimize your loss.

Market combat in HiSec is often summed up as "0.01isk bidding bots in Jita." But that barely scratches the surface. EVE's market combat has been the source for many economics papers, and CCP even employs an in-house economist. Beyond Jita, there are 3 other large regional markets (Dodixie, Amarr, and Rens) and 22 other HiSec empire regions. Each region has pilots who buy and sell goods with the intent of profiting off of others. There are also pilots who buy in one region or system, and ship to another for even greater profits. Even large alliances have played the market, most recently Goonswarm by buying up Oxygen Isotopes then selling off in huge profits during the Gallente Ice Interdiction. A patient or attentive pilot with a knack for spreadsheets can turn a small starting capital into billions quickly and easily in EVE.

Resource combat in HiSec is the simplest form of PvP in EVE. Extraction of materials in planetary interaction is affected by the number of extractors in an area, and popular planets will provide less resources than less popular one. Finding a quiet, out of the way planet for your extraction means you get the maximum return (limited by the reduced returns in HiSec overall). Mining for low- and mid- grade ores in busy systems where fleets of Orca-supported Hulks strip belts bare is the easiest example of this type of resource combat. Find a quiet system with a good variation of minerals and clear the belts from high to low value ores. Another type of resource combat in EVE is in production. NPC stations with research slots (and to a lesser extent copy/manufacturing slots) are always busy, with a long queue to get a blueprint researched, or copied, and in some stations, manufactured. Learning which modules or ships are the most profitable to build and sell based on the region of space you are playing in (or in general). The last type of resource combat in EVE is the exploration sites. There are a limited number of sites, and more pilots than sites in most areas. First-come first-served isn't always true, and this occasionally leads into ship combat as well.

Issues with Hi Sec PvP
I'm going to go out on a limb and say there really isn't a lot wrong with HiSec PvP. There may be issues with individual PvP mechanics (neutral remote-repair comes to mind), but in a broad sense, I think PvP in HiSec isn't horribly broken.

In the next article, we'll look at methods of PvP in LoSec.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dining In...

For years I enjoyed reading (and occasionally trying) the recipes presented by Ret. Col. Roc Weiler. The Gallente people have an unbridled enthusiasm for many things in life, and food ranks high on that list.

As Roc has found himself far from any quality cooking or ingredient lists these last few months I have missed his recipies. Until he returns (and perhaps even after) I will endeavor to post one new recipe a week, something to inspire and fuel the capsuleer on the go, or the capsuleer looking to woo a woman.

This week is a simple, yet elegant meal. Designed to entice the senses and dance upon your tastebuds, this meal can be made quickly (in under 30 minutes). It's easy to make while waiting for the fleet to form up for the next strategic op.

Tortellini, Spinach and Proscuitto
9oz cheese tortellini
9oz fresh spinach (or baby spinach)
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan/Romano cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
4oz (4-5 slices) Proscuitto

Cook the tortellini until al-dente (just a tiny bit chewy), usually 7-8 minutes
While the tortellini is cooking, heat a large (10"/25cm) skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast lightly, tossing to keep from burning (about 2 minutes). Place the pine nuts in a bowl.
Add 1 tsp oil to the skillet.
Add the garlic to the oil, and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the spinach and cook until wilted (about 8-10 minutes).
Combine the pasta, spinach and cheese in the bowl with the pine nuts. Toss lightly to mix.
Slice the Proscuitto into small slices (1/2 x 2 in or 15mm x 50 mm).

Place pasta in a dish, and liberally toss Proscuitto slices over the pasta. Serve with slices of fresh melon (I recommend HoneyDew, but Cantaloupe works as well) and a glass of a light white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc.