Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Market Milestones - 20 billion in one Month

I am currently away from EVE for two weeks. December will be a low month in trade profits as a result, but in November I hit 20b in profit for the first time:

My play time did not increase, but my profits did. There are a few explanations for this:

1. In late October I reviewed all of my orders, threw out those items (around 20b isk in stock) that were not making decent isk but also needed to be updated frequently. I only trade in competitive items when I can be sure some will usually sell before I get out bid, otherwise I stick with low competition goods that sell just enough to be worthwhile. In total, I changed around 40% of my stock, and it looks like it paid off.

2. November had some of the highest activity in EVE in 2014. New and returning players in particular mean more market activity.

3. Moving large goods has become increasingly unattractive in late 2014. Ever since Red Frog started charging more for shipping, both because of slowly warp times and, later, because of CODE. freighter ganking, I've seen less competition for large goods. Since I do my own shipping, and have not (yet) lost a hauler, this is great news for me.

Investments in November: In November and early December I used some liquid isk to made a few investments and experiments. First, I stocked up on some of the items I sell that are selling at 3+ month lows, which has already started to pay off. Second, I bought materials for some bowheads. Third, just for fun, I bought a virtue set for a "perfect" scanner.

Fourth, though, I tried my hand at some market manipulation, just to see what would happen. I carefully (I thought) picked an item in Jita that was (apparently) under-priced and would (apparently) be hard to quickly re-stock. I cleared out the sell orders and started re-listing the items. Other players had stock as well it seemed, and, instead of riding the wave, just listed the prices at 5-10% of the original value, which I thought was strange. In total, I spent maybe 3b isk and only made a profit of around 200-300m. Not bad, but not worth the time. Maybe I will have better luck in the future.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Killing a 7 Year Old Ship

Looking at this Hawk kill, it might seem fairly boring. A strange fitting, suggesting that the pilot is a newer player, and a look at the player's employment history says he played for a bit over 7 years ago and then recently started up again. Initially, I blew up his friend in a thrasher. The Hawk ran, but came back to see about salvaging his friend's wreck. After fighting the Hawk, I talked with the pilot for some time...

It turns out that this player once played 7 years ago and has recently started back up with his friend. This player is so old that he has 1.5m SP unallocated from learning skills, those god-awful skills-for-training-skills. What's more, this Hawk was 7 years old. I talk to this player for over an hour, learning about his initial aimlessness starting out in EVE, followed by a long departure, then recently playing again after hearing about all of the changes to the game. 

Skye Vinnen > Well. Believe it or not, you did me a great service. I haven't been killed and podded in nearly a decade. Felt good. Adrenaline!
Skye Vinnen > True. but that ship was LITERALLY 7 years old. Feels weird.

It's a great story, I think. A 7 year old ship—a relic of the Revelations-Trinity era—comes out of retirement. Docked for 7 years, it finally feels the rush of wrapping, shooting light missile and victoriously destroying a Serpentis pirate—the first kill it has seen in almost a decade, only to be ambushed and destroyed on its first night out in space... It does capture what EVE is all about. Ships aren't meant to be docked for years, they are meant to be in space, flying and dying, and sometimes they're at their high-point is in the dying. Even better, though, is the attitude of the pilot behind the ship. The adrenaline of flying in dangerous space, the prospects of winning fights outmatched and outnumbered, the endless possibilities that EVE has to offer, these are the things that lure players back into games to wipe 7 years of dust off their old ships and fly again.

I've made it a point to talk to any newer players I happen to explode in game, as well as many I just happen across in low sec, in addition to replacing their ship or sending a few dozen million isk their way in any case. When they are days old, in a belt mining in a venture, I tend to warn them of the dangers of low sec instead of blowing them up (well, sometimes using them as bait at the same time). Talking with many days old players that wander into LS in their ventures, it seems that many are out looking for minerals to complete their career agent missions, preferring the dangerous option to buying the minerals on the market. That seems like just the attitude fit for EVE.

Lately I've been hanging around Oueletta, a virtual low sec hub for new players given its proximity to the Gallente rookie systems (ironically, my first ever low sec loss was in this system). On some nights in the past few weeks, I am at a safe talking with 1-3 new players who have wandered into the system. Talking with new players--telling them about dscan and PVP and making isk and low sec and EVE Fit and joining a good corporation and in general communicating excitement about the game—has become one of my favorite activities in EVE, and I've made quite a few friends doing this (including some years ago now who still play). Sometimes I introduce them to PVP, flying in a frigate duo in low sec, such as with Lily Plaude, one of my new-bro friends since summer of 2014 who has started up again. 2 kills to 62 losses in 2014; alliance tournament pilot in 2015—calling it now.

Talking to Skye Vinnen about all of the changes that have come even in the past few weeks (weeks) and about the possibilities for PVP even as a new player, he eventually said:

Skye Vinnen > This is the EVE I want to play.

I agree mate. This is the EVE (or, has become the EVE) I want to play, too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The State of EVE - Ship Kills in 2014

Back in mid-2014, I started keeping track of player activity statistics in EVE, including jumps, NPC kills, the ACU count, and, in particular, ship kills across different regions of EVE. I wanted to know how player activity levels have changed in EVE, and what that might say about the game's overall health. Obviously there are many limitations in the data and what it might say about the game. I find the trends interesting and suggestive (merely suggestive) of a few things about the game, but that's really it.

I've kept an eye on ship kills is low and null security space in particular. The data, collected from Dotlan's statistics, is at the bottom of the post. I decided to sum up the numbers now, before the December 2014 statistics are in, simply because Rhea introduces so many new elements of game play to EVE that December 2014 really marks the start of a new era of PVP, making it worth looking back on 2014 just in terms of the past 11 months. Here are the graphs charting ship kills each month over the past 5 year (incidentally, I don't actually know what the PVP spike in 2012 was from, or if it's real):

First, low security space ship kills, with 2014 in the light blue:

Next, ship kills in null sec:

And LS+NS combined:

There are some straightforward explanations of the trends witnessed in 2014.TEST leaves Innia and Faction War in late 2013, part of the slow decline of faction war that culminates in the second half of 2014. In February, Barlegeut had 11,800 kills; in March, 4800; and by April, just 399. Brave's PVP activity in March and April was largely clustered around Sendaya and the low security systems surrounding the area, but by May virtually all of Brave's PVP switched to to null security space, with only 142 kills in Sendaya. By June, a low security system wouldn't even appear on their top 10 systems by kills.You can see this movement of Brave on the LS and the NS charts for 2014--that drop in LS ship kills corresponds exactly to when Brave leaves for NS, which corresponds with a sharp rise in NS ship kills.

That discrepancy of on average 50k less kills in low security space from May to December 2014 is, then, largely explained by the loss of Brave & allies, the loss of the single largest content driver in low security space in 2013 and early 2014.

However, once you take into account Brave's departure from low security life (not to mention the departure of a number of other major groups in late 2014, including Pandemic Legion), and the general slump of faction war in the second half of 2014, the statistics for low security space do not look too bad, all things considered. Imagine someone at the start of 2014 asked: What would PVP activity in low security space look like if Brave left and faction war got stale? I am pretty sure they would say, “pretty bad,” and one might well expect the statistics to be close to 2010-2011 levels. Instead, though, low security space PVP in the second half of 2014 was still the second best May-Dec period ever, surpassed only by the record-breaking year of 2013.

So, to sum up, the general state of LS & NS PVP activity in EVE online currently and throughout 2014 is this: PVP activity in LS and NS has reminded very close to the record-breaking levels of 2013. Activity was higher than ever in low security space in early 2014, and activity was higher than ever in null security space in late 2014, largely following the movement of Brave & allies and the ebb and flow of faction war activity.

If you recall the loud chorus of “EVE is Dying” during the summer of 2014, these statistics should be surprising. They indicate that the people claiming the death of EVE  largely off-track, in that many people were still  active in things like PVP compared with the record-breaking year of 2013. Of course, the many people who were actively playing EVE during 2014, and the people writing eulogies on the forums, were largely two separate groups. 

What about the impact of Phoebe on Null sec activity? While we only have a month of data, the numbers are highly encouraging. Ship kills in null spike in November, part of a 3 month period of close to record levels of PVP activity in null security space. Looking at PVP trend in 2014, it actually looks like null security space is in better shape than PVP in low security space. Critics of the changes in Phoebe certainly can't point to a decline in activity in null to bolster their arguments.

A final lesson is that, as I argued in my post “Why You Shouldn't Trust ACU Numbers,” the ACU count does not closely track player activity levels. The amount of people flying and dying in space has remained remarkably close (if a bit less) to 2013 levels, while the number of alt accounts has surely declined, in part due to near infinite skill queues, multiple-character training, and rising PLEX prices, etc. 

The chorus of “EVE is dying” has largely been swamped by optimism, even on the official forums. The hugely successful “This is EVE” trailer could not have come at a better time for the community, bringing in a mass of new players who would be joining a more welcoming community than I can ever recall, with more small and large scale initiatives to help new players than I think the game has ever seen at one time. When you combine that with the fact that the Phoebe+Rhea releases are are, for many players, close to the single best set of changes EVE has seen in a very long time, there is now a lot of optimism about the game's next year. Could PVP activity in 2015 break the records of 2013 and 2014? I certainly hope so, and I think the chances are better than ever. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hunting the Elusive Good Fight - November Solo PVP in Review

My PVP goal for the month of November was to lose 50 ships in solo PVP...

Kills: 202
Deaths: 23
Good Fights: Not Enough
Bad Deaths: Too Many
New Players Given Their First Kills (at my expense): 2

Losing ships in solo PVP is not what "elite" PVPers typically do, PVPers who rack up thousands of kills with few losses. But for me, aiming to lose 50 ships meant being out in space, taking risks I normally might not take, and in general having fun dying gloriously. So that was my goal for November, a serious solo binge. 

I only managed to lose 23 ships this month, though. It turns out that making, say, 15b isk in a month relatively afk is a lot easier than finding enough fights to lose 50 ships in 4 weeks. Here's what happened. (Disclaimer: The following is mostly written for myself as I've reflected on trying to get more solo pvp.)

My month of PVP starts out in a fun, if strange way, flying a 150m isk logi Bantam in one of the themed public roams on the twitch stream run by SirSqueebles. There's probably a better way to learn how to fly logi, I suppose, then by jumping in a logi frigate worth close to 200m, but I somehow manage to get on a few kills, not die, and keep a few people alive (briefly). If you haven't checked out SirSqueebles, he is one of the most entertaining EVE streamers and often runs public fleets that even terrible players like myself can contribute to.

The first set of solo fights comes around my new brief home in Curse near O-SHT, flying primarily dual MASB probes--one of my favorite ships. The first kill is a faction fit Taranis while being chased on grid by what has to be the largest gang to ever chase a solo probe.
The mighty battle probe inspires fear, rallying the denizens of depths of null against her
I go on to kill another Taranis followed closely by two Condors in the probe before jumping back to low.

For my first loss of the month, I explode a MSE Rocket Corax in a close fight against a Comet. The added DPS from the friend plus the rat at the end didn't help, but in general the only Corax fit I've come to like is the dual MASB Rocket fit I've flown with some success, such as, shortly after, netting me an Algos kill.

The second loss comes in the form of a Thorax which had more than earned its keep, killing two assault frigates in October and dying gracefully to a gang in November. I don't particularly like this Thorax fit, so I was, in a way, happy to lose it after some decent kills including a near 60m Comet followed by a Hawk in the gang I eventually die to. Many solo PVPers in EVE almost exclusively roam in kiting ships--roaming solo in a passive tank brawling ship like that Thorax is essentially a death wish, hoping for a kill or two in the process of dying. When I undock in a brawling ship, I am essentially undocking expecting to die soon or later, merely hoping to take at least something with me in the process.

After this, I destroy some POS mods as part of my POS destruction project, this time not getting many good drops unfortunately. Then, I get some minor kills, mainly in the form of some newer players, whom I try to talk to to explain what happened and send them some isk. I have a long chat with this guy for instance, sending him isk and adding him as a contact. Like many people, dying to a helpful pirate is how I first learned about PVP. I am happy to return the favor, in a sense. I head over the the home of Aideron Robotics in Filet, a group that often gives me good fights in very late USTZ (thanks mates!). Flying the same dual MASB Corax, I kill a Comet and then, in an insanely close fight, a Coercer.

The next day, I earn my third loss, finally exploding the hero probe in a 2v1. I manage to kill one of the interceptors in the process, and, had my manual piloting and selective shield boosting been better, would have likely gotten the second as well. What is atypical about that probe fit is that I now use T2 resist rigs, given how cheap they are.

In the following days, I kill some faction war players in high sec, including some clueless miners (yes, people mine in HS while in FW, and sometimes in exhumers). I get a great, close win against an EVE Uni Enyo in Placid, while flying a shield Algos. EVE Uni is another group that often gives me great fights even at very late USTZ hours in Placid--thanks guys! They do have some highly competent PVP pilots, so their fights are certainly not easy wins (nor are they usually 1v1, but that's part of the fun). I derp a shuttle and null sec pod to a station camper to end the night off...strong.

Back in null, I kill a hauling Ares (huh?) and then a Crusader with another probe, but die to a massive Harpy camp in the process. Jumping over to low sec, I kill a Wolf in that same dual MASB Corax, then a Comet who is part of a gang before finally dying to that gang. That Corax had a great run, and I vow to fly more MASB fit versions in her memory...
I will never forget you, O' Corax--the only Corax that ever seemed worth flying

Fast forward a bit, I kill a Caracel in my first time ever flying a Firetail, but then lose the Firetail to another, better Firetail. In generally, the Arty-tail will kill most other Firetail fits, as it is close to a hard counter--but a fun fight nonetheless! Later, though, I have a great set of fights with E-UNI, killing an Enyo, then Slicer, then Breacher in my shield fit Algos. Passing through high sec, I find a bunch of faction war targets to pick off, including a rather strange Myrmidon in the process.

On Monday late USTZ the 10th, I joined a new player in Uedama bent on stopping CODE. from ganking innocent players. I liked this new bro's attitude, so I joined up with him. We got on some kills but did not manage to save any freighters, alas.

Back in low sec, I kill a merlin in an experimental neuting Algos fit I am trying out, and then kill a Cormorant, but make a bad choice to engage a gang and die without scoring a kill. My month begins to turn down hill from here, in a discouraging way. I lose a probe to a Slicer in null, largely because I started the fight with no shields and some armor damage. I then hop into a Slicer myself, and after struggling to find a fight I have to go afk for less than a minute, only to return dead to a random Pilgrim. Then, as a sign of how bad I am at EVE, I lose an Algos to a kiting Tristan. This was completely unnecessary: not only did I have many chances to casually warp out, I also did not even start to kill the Tristan's drone's until late in the fight, when I soon after burned out my armor rep. Mistakes abounded and, props to the Tristan, he stayed around with low HP until the end. Afterward, I find a newer player in a Myrm in an asteroid belt--a great opportunity for building up my morale! But, no, I am in a Coercer and I get the Myrm into low structure,  but die to Gardes getting some good crits. I gave that player their first kill in EVE! Little do they know, I'm an easy target!

My bad luck gets a bit better a few days later. I kill an Algos in a PVP Navitas fit in my efforts to PVP in every ship in EVE, and then get a Cerberus kill in a Navy Vexor. I chased this player away from a DED site, stayed around for a bit, and then found the player coming back in a Cerberus. Great for me, since Geckos are OP. (Incidentally, this site was a Serptenis Minor Annex. I spent the next hour trying to complete it, only to finally kill the last trigger and get literally nothing. So the joke is on me, I guess, as this is one of the worst combat sites in LS.)

The next day I reach a goal I've long had in EVE: I join Brave newbies. I am hoping to get some fun fights in Null, and some experience in larger fleets. I am also living in Curse briefly, so joining Brave in Catch is convenient. Maybe I will even get to help some newer players?

I am so bad at EVE, though, that I manage to get kicked from BNI in less than a day. But not before I fly in two fleets. First, I fly in a quite useless STRATOP NOSPAIS fleet against PL in their "invasion" of Catch.
Here's PL in their Navy Apoc fleet, out farming BNI in Moas
I am largely clueless as to how a normal human being can willingly participate in such fights. Large fleet fights in null have about as much "fun content" as sitting in a cubicle pressing a single button for hours on end, interspersed with bouts of yelling from the FC--which is why many players in null fleets play other games at the same time, especially when waiting for fights. Next, I get on dozens of kills in an interceptor roam in BNI, a common fleet called "FAF" roams. They often just involve roaming a pipe in friendly space looking for the single non-blue player in the system out of 40 or 50 blues. Given that there are bubbles and camps on all the main gates (in BNI's case, bubbles and camps from, HED- toward GE-), these fleets are often little more than shooting already dying fish in a barrel. As a solo player, I legitimately felt bad every time we killed a solo player roaming null in our elite interceptor fleet. However, as a regular F1-presser I can say I was masterful in doing my standard 5% damage to the helpless target...
Zoom zoom, pew pew! You can't win the isk war, after all, unless everyone is on every single kill, so hold the pod so all 35 interceptors can add it to the killboard!!

It was merciful, in a way, to get kicked from BNI--for reasons unknown, perhaps because I once spent a day in Marmite, or because I accidentally killed a friendly neutral (because, it turns out, even when you join BNI you are literally blue or friendly neutral to half of null). BNI is all about fun-per-hour but they do take potential spies very seriously. As a largely solo PVPer, I am of the opinion that sov null sec space is even more flawed than high security space. It adds less content than high sec, in addition to being far safer the deeper you go. The PVP there is often incredibly boring, and soloing in sov null can often feel like nothing besides "ceptor-popping." Null sec creates "news worthy" content but struggles to create stable content, which is why, I suspect, CCP is in the process of changing just about every single part of it.

Days later, I find time to do some solo PVP again. I kill a Firetail in a Breacher and have a nice long chat with the player after. Later, though, I lose a Comet to a problem I've been having lately: Server disconnects. I've never had connection issues in EVE until recently, when I started getting socket losses, and I've lost a number of ships to this as a result. There's little else more discouraging than dying repeatedly due to server problems--and EVE has had its fair share of server problems lately, mainly in the form of DDOS attack, though I'm not sure what's the cause of mine lately.

The main discouragement lately, though, comes with the difficulty finding decent fights. The next day I lose a Vexor while thinking I was helping a blue FW gang (good lesson: one always has to be careful entering a fight as a third party even when one side is apparently friendly etc.). I'm not trying hard at EVE at this point, in the sense that I am burnt out, not the least because every time I roam looking for solo fights, I spent the majority of time in empty system after empty system, including areas that are typically the PVP hot spots in LS. And when you've spent an hour or more in EVE looking for a fight and finding nothing, you are primed to take stupid risks.

I get a bizarre kill days later, from a retriever who attacks me after poking his MTU. He comes back in a Vexor. Tech I drones are out, so I am thinking this might be a feasible fight. Unfortunately for me, this player planned well (and me, not so much): I kill over a dozen tech I light drones, but they keep coming, and meanwhile I am scrammed and webbed, and as a result, die. This is another case where I give a player their first kill in EVE. That's just my way of giving back to the community, I suppose!

Days go by again, and I am flying in a public and primarily new player roam with SirSqueebles. It is going well, and we get some new players their first kills, but I get a connection hiccup and die, fortunately coming back in time to save my pod.


When things in EVE get stale, take a break for a while--days, weeks, or months--then try something new. I am constantly trying to PVP in new places, new ships, and new ways. I finally finish interceptors V (joining the band wagon about a year late...) so I am working through a stack of all the interceptors with common (and some not so common) fittings for solo PVP. Flying a crusader in Catch, I fight a Taranis and then a Condor,  and kill a few newer players out roaming in LS and NS. Talking to them, they joined EVE after seeing the new trailer, and wanted to give life outside of high security space a try. I often send new players links to recruitment ads from fitting groups, so hopefully some end up joining groups like BNI or RVB.

Back roaming, I kill a cloaky Sabre in a Hookbill, another ship I have little experience in but am working on flying. I made mistakes in this fight, which is unfortunate since I had complete range control in every way, but get lucky on the kill anyway. I swap the Hookbill for a Rifter, one of the few I have left to lose, and roam deep null. What you find in deep null is invariably afktars (especially since I was in CFC space) and ratting carriers. Unfortunately, local chat exists, giving locals in null a complete advantage in safety so long as they pay attention. As a general rule, the deeper you go into deep null, the worse the ship fittings get. I kill a bad Malediction in my Rifter before dying to a Sabre on my way out.

With the influx of newer players, the ability to join faction war on trial accounts, and the current status of T4 for the Amarr, most of the Min-Amarr war zone is fairly active. Getting a WH to this space, I roam the area in a LML Breacher, a ship well beyond its glory. There was a time in EVE when LML kiting frigates--Condors, Kestrals, Breachers, Hookbills, etc--were one of the stable metas in FW LS, due largely to the tendency for brawling frigates to fit afterburners. In fact, this meta even made its way into RVB. During my early years in 2011-2012, I flew mainly kiting Condors and Kestrals. While they are still around, the slight nerf to LML damage only solidified the end to the relative dominance of this meta. In fact, though, this meta was ending far sooner, partly because of the power creep in anti-kiting frigates, and partly because of a general shift away from pure AB brawlers in faction war. Roaming in a LML Breacher, it was like I traveled back in time, killing a string of AB fit, cheap ships, from an Incursus to a Coraxa Slasher, then Rifter, ending the night with a farming stealth bomber kill. What is this, 2012?

To close out the month, I join another public fleet run by SirSqueebles, composed of about 1/3 new players (including one play who had only just finished the tutorial!). It is a great armor frigate roam, racking up 30 kills or so including a Rupture gang and some expensive HACs, before we finally whelp into a large camp, making for my 22 loss of the month.

I get some fights after that, but nothing exciting. My 23rd and final loss of the month finishes it off it an ironic way. Solo for long enough, and you will inevitable die to a gate camp. My first time ever undocking in a worm, and I meet a nasty T3+Recon+HIC camp. It's just a reminder that the hardest part of solo PVP, is finding the solo PVP. 

The month ended on some positive notes, so as I continue to solo PVP and hunt for those elusive good fights, I can only hope that things are getting better.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to Fix Jump Clones

CCP is starting to look at the mechanics of clones, making a fantastic first step in removing clone grades--so no more skill loss, and no more clone updgrade fees.

I know for a fact that there are at least a few high skill point PVPers who will be PVPing more in null sec in cheap frigates after Rhea. The barrier for them has always been the fact that their clone fee costs more than their ship and implants together--a mechanic that encourages risk aversion and is long overdue for removal.

However, it is time CCP looked at jump clones as well. There are two things jump clones do, and these two roles are usually in conflict:

Role 1: Jump clones as a fast travel system.

Role 2: Jump clones as a system for swapping implant sets.

These two roles need to be separated. Completely.

I personally do not care what happens to jump clones as a fast travel system. It could be completely removed from the game, for all I care, as I do most of my travel through wormholes to other regions, or in interceptors. It is well known (e.g., from CCP posts in feedback threads) that with the nerf to jump range and frequency in Phoebe jump clones became the most powerful travel system in EVE and are the cornerstone of capital caches. On that basis, CCP has some good reasons for nerfing jump clones as fast travel systems.

However, there is another use for the jump clone mechanic, one typically at odds with the travel system, and that is simply that jumping is the only way to swap implant sets. This role of jump clones needs to be separated from its travel system somehow. Here's why: Many players (such as myself) have multiple clones in one system, with implant sets for different purposes. Skill training sets, specialized pirate implants (a slave set, a snake set, etc.), general purpose PVP, a "Geno" clone for the PG/CPU bonuses, and an empty or cheap clone for null sec PVP. Jumping into a clone in the same system essentially locks you into that play-style for the rest of the day, and the more specialized the clone is, the less options you have open for that day.

I have all of these clones and more in one system, and jumping between them shares the same timer as jumping 40LY away. That's completely inane by itself, but it also limits what I can do in a single play session / day. For instance, say I jump (into a station in the same system) into a slave set for PVPing in an armor fleet in LS. The fleet finishes, and I have 2 hours left to play. There's a fleet about to leave to roam null sec. I can't go, as even though my null sec clone is in the same system, I have to wait the full jump clone timer (20 hours or so). Such limitations are common, and if I could swap clones in the same system, I would likely PVP more in a single session (and likely roam null sec more).

Here's how to fix this fairly inane mechanic. There are lots of good potential solutions, so this is just one. Change clones so that they can be swapped if you are in the same station, and same-station swapping does not accrue the jump timer. Simple as that. Using jump clones for travel keeps its limitations, while using jump clones in a single system allows players to swap implant sets. Being able to swap implant sets allows players more flexibility and options in PVP as well as PVE. More options in EVE means more reasons to log on and be out in space.

Here are a bunch of other much-needed improvements to jump clones that many players have asked for:

-Multiple jump clones should be allowed in the same station. This is a no-brainer.

-Clones should be movable. I should be able to pack my clones up in a ship and move them all to a new locations, or make a courier contract for someone else to move them. This opens up the possibility of losing clones more frequently, which is fantastic.

-The jump clone timer should be based on how many light years are jumped. A 20LY jump should not have the same jump timer as a 1LY jump. (This would be another route to fixing the problem of conflicting roles for jump clones, as same-system or same-station jumping would give a trivial timer, if at all.)

-Probably, there should be a POS module which allows for storage of clones and for jumping to that POS. Maybe.

But really, these would be icing on the cake for me, so long as I can swap clones in the same system at least a few times during a play session.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Trading in Thera: Part I - The Plan

[Back to some less negative, more contentful posting!]
I am a PVPer at heart, but I love many other aspects of EVE as well--perhaps none more so than logistics and regional trading. Logistics and trading are, for me, one and the same: I hate updating market orders, so my trading is largely based on buying in places like Jita and Amarr and transporting the goods to remote hubs in high sec, low sec, and sometimes null. The profit is made largely in the logistics--moving the goods--especially since large-scale movement of goods in high security space has gotten a bit harder due to increases in freighter ganking (and a bit more expensive if shipping via redfrog), which creates for opportunistic players like myself. Come Rhea, I will be doing "logistics+trading" in Thera as well.

The introduction of Thera, a wormhole system with four fully functional stations, opens up some huge potential trade opportunities. It is difficult to predict just how popular Thera will be over the long-term, but it is likely that at least one station in Thera will make it into the top 20 trade hubs, along side some of the biggest null sec hubs. The market in Thera will be starting from scratch, something that has not happened in EVE in an NPC station in a very long time. In this series of posts, I am going to describe my plan and progress trading in Thera. I don't expect to trade in Thera as a full-time project, but something on the side, in addition to my existing markets, partly to make a bit of isk but mostly for the fun of it (and given that, I am happy to share my plan and progress and hope other players new to trading will find some useful ideas here). I expect to make pennies in isk compared to what some players make. But, I enjoy the challenging logistics in and of itself. For the new player, Thera provides what is likely the single best new trading opportunity to the game in years.

Some traders might do "station" trading in Thera, but part of the beauty of Thera for a regional trader like myself is that, unlike Jita or other high sec hubs, players won't generally be bringing their goods to Thera to sell like they do in Jita. Thera is stocked with asteroid belts, but I'm pretty sure the only miners that are going to be out are going to be bait (or, about to be dead). So, when I talk about trading in Thera, I am mostly talking about the logistics of getting goods to Thera.

Part I: The Plan (and some early preparation)

Here's some of what we know about stations in Thera thus far: There will be four, and all four will have full station services, from clones to industry. All four stations are Sisters of EVE, and (I'm assuming) the market fees in these stations will be based on Sisters of EVE standings. The many wormhole connections to k-space found in Thera will admit freighters.

And the dictor undocks in 2..1...
In preparation, ideally one will want to get high standings with SOE, to lower market costs. That's optional (and also based on the assumption that the stations in the system have their fees tied to SOE standings in the usual way etc.--I tested this recently and confirmed it but anything can change by patch day) but lately I've been working on standings for my trade alts anyway. I'm also doing a lot of thinking about what to trade in Thera (see more below). Besides that, and some skill training, there's not much concrete preparation I am doing. 

There's going to be two phases to setting up a market in Thera. The first, on release day (Dec. 9th) or shortly therefore, involves getting to Thera in the first place. Then, once settled, the main work is going to be getting goods to Thera. In this post, I am going to talk about my plan at a general level.

Phase 1: Release Day

On release day, December 9th, my first task is going to be searching for a connection to Thera. As a solo player, this is going to be tough, as it means lots and lots of scanning until I find a connection. The dev blog says Thera will be "much more connected to K-space than to W-space," so finding a connection via HS/LS/NS will likely be the best option. It is unlikely I will be among the first to Thera, unless I get lucky, but it doesn't matter. That first jump into Thera will be risky, since it is likely that k-space connections into Thera will be camped on the Thera-side, especially early on. For this reason, I plan to search for connections to Thera largely in backwater LS. On release day, if Thera has a k-space connection that is, say, a few jumps from Jita, it is likely this entrance will be camped by the first PVP visitors to the system, whereas a connection to some backwater LS region has a better change of being clear (and lasting longer, due to less ships jumping in/out).

Fast forward to when I find a connection to Thera. Here's the plan: I am going to move an alt into the system and set up jump clones (likely in all 4 stations) and do basic tasks like setting up dozens of bookmarks, including dozens of instant undocks and instant docking bookmarks for all of the stations obviously. This alt will be a trading alt who is also able to fly interceptors and has decent scanning skills. Why interceptors? I expect at least a few PVP groups to move to Thera and attempt to claim one of the stations as their own, and so I expect all four stations to be, more or less, permanently camped. Anchorable bubbles cannot be deployed in Thera, but I expect plenty of interdictors and HICs camping undocks and HS wormholes. The bubble immunity and potential 2 second align time of interceptors makes them perfect for "safe" travel in Thera, though interdiction nullified T3s would work well, too. Set up safe spots, throw a probe launcher on the interceptor, and you have a very capable scout.

The regular job of this character who lives in Thera will be to keep the orders somewhat updated, but, mainly, to scan for k-space connections. It will be much easier to find HS/LS/NS connections from inside of Thera than to try to find them out in k-space, obviously. On release day (and the days following), the first, main task will be stocking Thera. That raises three questions: What to sell in Thera? And where to sell? And how to get those goods to Thera in the first place?

Where to sell
Given that all four stations have the same services, it is an open question whether one station will become the "central" market hub, or whether all four stations will compete. It may, in fact, be worthwhile trading in the "second" hub of Thera, since there will be less competition and if one station becomes the "Thera 4-4" it will be heavily camped, which will, in turn, push players toward shopping else where. So, I am actually considering trading in all four stations. We'll see.

Getting Goods In
What I predict will happen in Thera mostly by early 2015, after the dust has settled, is that a number of permanent PVP groups will move in--perhaps some former wormhole corps, perhaps a few traditional LS pirate corps, and so on. I expect each of these groups to do most of their own logistics, and they have a decisive advantage in making billions in Thera. If a group lives in Thera and is large enough to control the main market station as well as the HS wormhole connections available, they will be able to bring in freighters relatively easily (relatively) and stock the market in bulk.

Since I won't have such advantages, I plan to do most of my logistics in two ships: blockade runners, and, at certain times, in deep space transports. I posted here a long time ago about common fits for these ships. Blockade runners will be the "safest" means of getting goods into Thera, but severely limiting what I can bring in.

What to Sell
Well, just about everything. Exactly when the servers go live on patch day, the market in Thera will be empty of player orders--an idea I find fascinating. That means everything needs to be stocked in the market. Obviously some goods will not be very competitive in Thera, such as POS modules, given that they cannot be used in the system. In my trading in the system, I am going to stick to what I call"General perishables and dry goods" at first. This means stuff that players will frequently run out of--ammo, drones, charges, and so on. As the market settles, I may back out of these goods. My plan is not to compete with the locals who largely control the system, though, but to fill in gaps. This is, really, most of what I currently do in HS/LS/NS trading. I may eventually move to trading bulkier goods using a DST, which will make for some fun jumps into Thera.

Phase 2 involves running the market, which will be a bit more difficult than my usual markets. I plan to post my progress--what's been successful and what's been unsuccessful--after a week or so into the project once Rhea is out. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Are New Systems Good for EVE?

The dev blog covering some of the details of the new wormhole systems--particularly, Thera--is now out.

Content in EVE, unlike in most other games, is not usually handed to you. Particularly with PVP content, you need to go out and find other players and get them--willingly or not--to pew pew. This is one of the best unique features of EVE, but it is also a risk. Content depends on other players.

But what if there are no other players around? Many MMOs would work decently well as a solo, offline game. Not EVE.

Just about every day, EVE's server population drops to below 25-20k. Those happen to be some of the times I frequently am able to play. Of those 20k players, a decent portion are docked in stations, maybe afk but it doesn't matter. Of those players in space, some are afk. Finding fights during these times--solo, small gang, or fleet--is extremely difficult. It is boring, and discouraging. It often involves hours of just warping around, only to get a fight that is decidedly not a good fight. After an hour just looking for someone in space, visiting "PVP hubs" and being the only person in local, you take fights that are really not worth it, just to have something to do. When you add in slower warp speed changes for bigger ships, longer and more grueling logistics especially after Phoebe, and so on, this means EVE--already a slow game--gets even slower when less people are online.

An obvious solution is: don't look for PVP when the server population is low, PVP when it is high. However, what if 20-25k becomes closer to the norm? Or what about the players that can't play during peak server time?

What does this have to do with the new wormhole systems? Thera has the prospect of bringing lots of players together into one system (sort of like BNI draws PVPers of all sorts to their area, where ever they go). Having a central hub for PVP should make finding fights a bit easier at times. I am extremely excited both to PVP in Thera and possibly to trade there as well. However, it also means that, if EVE does not get more players, there will simply be less people elsewhere. Finding fights outside of Thera has the potential to get even harder.

What EVE needs more than 100 new systems is 10,000 new players. New systems might bring in more players--hopefully they will. But it is a double-edged sword: If the new systems bring more players to the game, the game is doubly improved. If, however, these new systems don't bring in more players, that has the potential to mean EVE has the same number of people just spread out in more systems--more empty systems, more time spent going gate, to gate, to gate, to gate, etc.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Market Milesteones - 5 months over 10b isk

It has been a while since I've updated about my trading income and current goals. In the last update, back in August, I updated about my first year of trading. Tracking my total profit has become a lot harder, but also less of a concern. Here's the basic results, with the numbers in isk in millions from trade:

August ended up being my best month for trading, reaching 15 billion. My activity declined in September and October, and I started a few new projects, but I still reached over 10b per month. That puts me at over 100b in total profit, with the bulk of that obviously coming much more recently (looking back, those first seven months were painfully slow! Fortunately, 1b isk was a lot to me at the time, and trading was a side project to exploration). Here's what I am working on currently:
  • As I posted about here, a side project I've been engaged in for the past 3 months involves destroying abandoned POS modules, such as labs and assembly arrays. Finding them is difficult, and with limited play-time I am lucky to find 1 a week, but they have the potential to net a massive amount of isk. Thus far, I've reached nearly 20b isk in drops--blueprints, ships, and materials--from this project, though it has slowed considerably (this income is not reflected on the above graph). I also continue to do casual exploration, and that provides a surprising amount of isk these days.
  • As a direct result of the POS-clearing-project, I was able to dabble quite a bit in industry via the fully researched blueprints I found. I've since added a few items to my regional markets that I produce, adding roughly 10-20% profit over buying from Jita prices on these items. A considerable amount of my profit in August and September went into industry. However, I don't really track my industry profits (they are not reflected on the above graph, for instance), and I couldn't even ballpark what I've made besides saying a few extra percent on some items. It was more a learning experience than anything.
  • In terms of my trading, before Phoebe hit I did a massive review of all the items I trade, removing around 50 items and adding another small market I trade at instead. I've also increased my market at Simela by roughly 100 orders, a project you can read about here. This is a very slow market that doesn't need frequent updating, so adding orders does not add much extra time for me.
  • Since my markets are mostly done growing in size (number of orders, frequency of updates, etc.), I've poured most of the profit into long-term investments. My trading is not constrained by good items to trade--there are thousands!--but by play time.

Monday, November 3, 2014

'Twas the night before Phoebe...

Twas the night before Phoebe, when all through the region
Not a spaceship was flying, not even P-Legion
The supers were logged in their caches with care,
In hopes that a capital brawl would soon be there;
The pilots were nestled all snug in their pods,
While visions of dead titans was dreamt by these gods;
And Mittens in his onesie, and miners their ore,
Had settled their brains, for a long winter's war...

May Phoebe bring us endless war and destruction--cheers!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Investing 100b Isk - Update II

In July, before Crius, I started an experiment: If I had 100b isk to invest, what would I invest in, and would I make a profit? Some of the investments in some amounts were real, some were hypothetical. In my first update, post-Crius, I sold almost half my stock (mostly to buy orders) and made almost 5.7 billion isk, with very little research or effort. About half of that profit was really made.

Now I'm ready for my second update! I've since sold off everything except the remaining recon ships, and have turned another profit of some 6 billion isk with minimal effort (using none of that super-sophisticated market analysis stuff that awesome market gurus like the EVE Prosper market show uses, which everyone interested in the market should check out). That puts me at 12.4 billion isk profit. The big changes in this update include PLEX sale, a fortuitous selling of my bomber stock before a massive crash, and a major pay off from limited edition items. The updates are highlighted:

Category 1: Nestors -300m
Let's start with the only item I've yet to lose isk on, Nestors. I knew I would likely lose isk on them and I didn't "actually" buy any, but I thought there was a small chance they would be rebalanced, made useful, and spike briefly. They were rebalanced, but not enough to make them useful enough to actually use in decent quantities. So, I sold them and took the 300m hit--no big deal.

Category 2: PLEX! (Finally) +1.5b
In July I bought 32 PLEX at 795m, at the time a very high price. I didn't actually buy that many PLEX (I did actually buy about 10 PLEX from regional buy orders, and I used 5 for my accounts and sold 5 recently, making around 80-100m each). PLEX finally sailed past the 800m mark, so I simulated selling them to buy orders at 845m, making about 1.5b. Of course, I could hold on to PLEX and likely make a lot more isk. If I actually did make the investment, I would likely hold on to them. However, one of my original goals was to have all of my stock sold by December, and I predict a PLEX sale at the start of Phoebe, so it was a good time to sell.

Category 3: Bombers +500m
In total, I made around 500m from bombers, a lot given both my small initial investments and because they have since crashed. I sold them off in August when the prices started to fall from a spike. I count this one as a lucky break. The fact that they were going to be nerfed, crashed in price, then actually just got buffed but have stayed cheap, is pretty funny.

Category 4: Basilisk +70m
I bought Basilisks at a high price and I was lucky to sell them at slightly higher buy orders recently. I consider the 70m isk here more of a lucky break than a real profit.

Category 5: Limited (?) edition items--Geckos and Genos +4.8b
So far in my experiment, the bulk of my isk has come from limited edition items--Leopards, at first, and now Geckos. Geno implants are frequently used and seemed like a good investment, but they recently started slowing, even dropping in price. I decided it was a good time to sell them off and make a meager profit--my main worry here is that a lot people will return in Phoebe, people who have a stock of Geno implants, and will sell them off to make a quick profit. My bigger worry is that these implants as well as Geckos will be given out as Christmas gifts, so I thought it a good time to sell. Now for Geckos: it is insane to think I bought 400 for an average 17m isk. If I could go back and do this for real, I would have bought any and every Gecko that was going for less than 20m with all the isk I had, simply because they are so OP. They are so overpowered, in fact, that I would predict CCP will either nerf them if they give any more out as gifts, or will simply not give any more out. I could be wrong, but in September I sold my stock mostly to buy orders around 29m. They are also so OP and were such an obvious investment that I think quite a few traders and groups have stock piled them and I don't want to have stock around when someone decides to dump a few thousand Geckos on the Jita market, something that seems to have happened, slowly, when they peaked over 30m.

Wrap up (sort of) and some Lessons

That just leaves the recons left to sell. I could sell most right now and turn a small profit, even from buy orders, but I am holding out hope for a rebalance in Rhea and would assume recons will generally get a buff--but who knows. It seems like a good point, then, to offer some summaries of the project:

Overall, it went far better than I expected, but I was helped by the release of Crius which caused more market speculation than I think any release is likely to do again, expect, maybe, for a release which massively redistributes resources (e.g., perhaps in the upcoming null sec occupancy changes). Crius gave me a fortunate break, in that shortly after release a lot of speculation and market fluctuation occurred on items I invested in, items which have, since then, remained largely stagnant. Even though my predictions would have made around 12b, I actually feel less confident about investing than before I started, simply because of how unpredictable the market can be.

"Winners" for small scale investors, I think, are going to be PLEX and limited edition items that get wide use, but the timing is everything with these investments. The general lesson in my experiment is that it if you have a lot of isk to invest, is insanely easy to make billions of isk on the market while devoting very, very little time to it. However, the flip side of that lesson is that it is easy to make isk partly because the market in EVE is so irrational.

One thing I am curious about is the actual effects making large investments has on the market. It seems quite common in Jita for some trader or traders to buy out the entire stock of some items on the market. In the EVE Prospect show, Locke sometimes says this is to re-set the price, and is skeptical it makes much of a profit. I would like to know more, and might consider an experiment in "buying every order of X and seeing what happens" soon. If it never made isk it wouldn't happen so often, I would guess. Another lesson I've learned is that some of the "players" in the markets are big. Super big. When there are single sell orders of over 700 PLEX up (well over 500b isk) or hundreds of billions of isk in stock on, say, T3s gets bought out in a day, it is not hard to see that there are a decent number of players with isk into the trillions to invest. And the thing is, the more isk you have, the easier it is to make the market follow you, rather than attempt to play catch-up and follow it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Month of 50 Losses

In mid-October I turned (EVE) 3 without even realizing it--56m skill points on Sven, a little less than 3 years of training due to an initial few breaks. Looking at the list of game's I've played in the past few months shows a nearly empty list except for EVE. My list of goals in EVE is still relatively unchanged:

-Solo PVP (win or lose) at least once in every combat capable ship in EVE.
            -> I am still working on T1 frigates and a few destroyer fits, but I am very close to having solo'ed   
                  in every T1 frigate/dessy in a variety of fits for each. I was recently inspired by this reddit post,  
                 where the author describes getting a killing blow in every T1 frigate, to expand my solo PVP 
                 goal to include attempting to solo in as many ships as I can--rookie ships, logi frigates, and so 
                 on, included. I've since gotten some pretty silly kills while flying rookie ships and exploration/logi 
                 frigates--it has been a lot of fun so far.
-Get experience with every general form of PVP in EVE 
-Get at least one kill in every low sec constellation in EVE 
Exploration and General Gameplay
-Visit/explore every system in EVE at least once
            -> I've recently completed a number of empire systems, as posted about here.
-On my market and trading character, get to a full set of orders (304) and at least 50b in stable sell orders. 
            -> Completed at the end of summer. My trading has remained stable since then, and I've since used  
                 profits to make long-term investments, partly via industry after looting a bunch of BPOs.

Fear of loss, risk adversity, and obsession with killboard statistics are some of the quickest ways to grow bored with a game like EVE. I've managed to accumulate almost 1.5k solo kills, including hitting over 100+ for 5 months in a row; however, to celebrate the beginning of the next 3 years, my goal for November is to lose 50 ships. I should be able to finish my initial goal of flying in every T1 frigate and dessy in the process, and move up to interceptors (only about a year late on this one...). 50 losses, not caring about how many wins, just being out in space trying new things and taking bigger risks than usual. I have 2-3 of each interceptor fit up, with fairly standard as well as some experimental fits; 8 firetails, 6 algoses (my last destroyer), 8 tristans (saving the best T1 frigate for last!), combat fit logi frigates, and an assortment of other frigates left over. I will likely be venturing into null more than I usually do as well.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why You Shouldn't Trust ACU Numbers

Since subscription data became a private statistic, interested players have tried to track EVE's overall "health" by looking at metrics such as the Average Concurrent Users number, tracked by places such as EVE Offline. Much significance has been put into these numbers--first, when they rose significantly around Retribution, and, second, when they have since fallen, particularly in the past year. There's little doubt that more people played EVE 3 years ago than 5 years ago, and that more people likely played EVE 3 years ago than currently. However, little else is known with any significant degree of confidence, making ACU numbers an interesting if mostly unreliable statistic. Players will, of course, continue to make exaggerations about EVE's health--good or bad--based on this single statistic alone. However, it is an unreliable piece of evidence that should not be trusted unless paired with a large amount of other supporting data (which it rarely ever is). Here are three reasons why, as well as a forth reason which will (probably) come in Phoebe:

I. DDoS strikes skew ACU numbers

DDoS events have been an ongoing issue for CCP. In addition to annoying players, one thing they certainly succeed at doing is skewing the ACU numbers. What appeared to be a DDoS strike happened Saturday during peak EVE time--server population was just over 41k. Then, at least 20k players were disconnected. When I logged back in, server numbers were just climbing back over 20k, creating a noticeable nose dive on EVE offline's ACU count for the 24 hour period on Saturday. If players had more data about server status and player count, beyond just the current users online, we might be able to standardize the ACU count by removing deviation from server interruptions, but we don't (and it wouldn't ultimately remove the other problem that some players on some occasions don't log back in after getting disconnected, whereas they would have kept playing otherwise).

II. Multiple character training on a single account fundamentally changed how many players use alts

Prior to the ability, having an "alt" usually meant having a separate account. A player with 3 characters in skill training at the same time would have 3 accounts and could then log in to each at the same time (and EVE uses so little computer resources that there is little reason not to have multiple accounts open at the same time if you have them). This presented a highly variable set of data to the ACU count, where one player might be registered as having two or three or however many characters logged at the same time. While many people still have alt accounts, there was a fundamental change with the ability to train characters at the same time. Now single players are less likely to be logged into multiple accounts at once, having one account per alt running even if not actively playing on those accounts. We don't have data on how many players have activated multiple character skill training, so we don't ultimately know whether it has made a serious impact on the number of accounts total--personally, I've kept my account total at two, while I've trained many months of skills on separate characters. If I didn't have that option, I likely would have gotten a third account, and I usually have all of my accounts open at the same time.

III. ACU does not track player activity

A basic limitation of the ACU count is that it flat-footedly tracks players online, regardless of what they do in game. 30k players out in space is not much different than 40k players online, 30k in space and 10k afk in stations. ACU time gets inflated by afk players, in station or in space (such as hundreds of pilots sitting on a Titan afk, waiting to see if the enemy fleet will form up). The aim of many changes to EVE over the past 3 years has been to get people logged in, out of the station and into space--from making every ship worth flying, to adding new exploration content, to making more content drivers in space, and so on. Though the ACU count is lower now than it was 3 years ago, other metrics such as ship losses, NPC kills, and jumps, suggest that the reality is that less players are online, but they are engaged in more activity in space compared with their 2011 counterparts.

IV. When unlimited character training is released in November or December, expect the ACU count to drop further as a result, even if activity in EVE goes up overall.

The ability to plug in literally hundreds of days of skill training on an alt will likely cause the ACU to noticeably drop even if, after Phoebe and Rhea, a lot more people are actively playing EVE. Training a new character even just for skill training is hard work, requiring logging in multiple times a week to update the queue. I have plans for some fairly low maintenance alts--plug in skills, wait 3 months, come back to a highly useful character. Skills with missing pre-reqs still cannot be plugged in, but the ability to pile on week long skills on top of week long skills means that alts in training are going to be very low maintenance.

From various metrics I watch--player activity statistics, total market data and activity, new characters created, etc.--player count in EVE looks to be on the uptick. Many quality of life changes to EVE continue to have side-effects on the ACU, typically lowering it. Even the new multi-sell ability saves time--more time for enjoyable activities in game. As far as I'm concerned, an hour playing EVE now is worth quite a bit more than an hour playing EVE three years ago.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Should EVE Have Longer Trials? Yes, Probably

In short, trial account players will have far more options available when trying EVE, including sending and receiving isk, doing higher-end PVE such as level 3-4 missions or incursions, and, something I've advocated for a while, and will be able to join faction war. There is also a host of skill changes for trial accounts, opening up PI, battlecruisers, and tech 2 frigates, but limiting weapons to tech 1 variants and so on. This allows trial account players to experience more and progress further in the game than they currently can. 

With so many fundamental restriction removed, however, it begs a bigger question for EVE: Should trial accounts only be limited to 14 (or 21) days? Why not extend trial accounts to upwards of 1-2 months? Why not even allow trials to be unlimited, but have a hard-cap on skill points? Consider the following:

In one of the best presentations at the last fanfest, CCP Rise's presentation on the NPE, Rise noted that "after one month of playing, 50% of new players leave, 40% head to solo/mission experiences, and the final 10% move towards larger player corporations. This final 10% joins fleets, are on more kills, and are engaged with the game." Players who stay are the players who find a niche--particularly those who join player corporations and do group activities (but it wasn't clear during this presentation whether the larger solo/mission runner group results in less players staying in EVE overall--in any case, they are important, too, since apparently 40% of new players go that route).

EVE is a slow game. It takes a long time to learn. It takes a long time to train a variety of skills. And for most players it takes a long time to enjoy--it is an acquired taste, requiring multiple attempts at the game for many players who finally get hooked. 21 days is not very many skills, and certainly not much time to sufficiently try out different aspects of the game while also managing its large learning curve. A longer trial period might also encourage vets to add more alt accounts. So why not have 1-2 month trials? EVE certainly needs the players.

But what if the ACU count continues its steady decline? What if we get to a point where the weekends are lucky to see 25,000 players online? It is not that EVE has slowly gotten worse over the years: in the past three years alone it has come so far, and in almost every respect is a far better game than it used to be. 

Drastic measures would need to be taken to get the game growing again, fundamentally changing how new players are treated. Maybe the game, in such a state, would need to have unlimited trials--embracing a sort of free to play but not free to skill-train model--or perhaps it would need to grant new players a few million skill points to reduce the tedious period when one starts the game but cannot do many activities. If you've ever watched twitch streams of new players starting EVE, it is painfully obvious to see how the numerous skill barriers prevent them from having an enjoyable time. Are drastic measures--whatever they be--needed now? Depending on how these next few releases go, they at least might be needed soon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

How I Made 15+ billion isk Shooting Starbases – Or, Unorthodox PVP Part II: POS Destruction

(A while ago, I started a series of posts about "unorthodox" PVP styles, partly out of a desire to give every form of PVP in EVE a try, starting with baiting mission runners in my first post. In this second post in the series, I explain the mechanics, tactics, and potential value in destroying offline POSes.)

This story starts back in August. Seeing that I was going to have little time for anything besides the random 15-30 minutes to log in during August and September, I “fixed” Sven's security status and got him into a Stratios with +5 attributes in his clone for skill training. Every day or so I would have 15-30 minutes to log in, so I would do some high sec exploration and work on my completionist goal of trying to visit every system in EVE.

I started in Verge Vendor, visiting some systems I've apparently never occasioned, scanning for combat sites and using dscan to look for the odd mobile structure I might blow up (a compulsive habit I have)—and maybe use to bait for some PVP. By chance, I found myself at a moon, and noticed something strange. Having almost zero experience with starbases, or POSes, I nonetheless noticed that at this moon was a starbase with dozens of modules—guns, research labs, hangar arrays—but without a force field. I was in RVB the year we destroyed EVE University's POS (probably my only other time at a POS), so I at least knew the difference between an active and an inactive POS, as well as the insane amount of people and time it would take to destroy an online POS in high security space.

I was intrigued at this offline POS with modules, so I started doing research, and I started visiting moons and dscanning for such POSes as I explored and visited new systems. As I swept through the Verge Vendor region, visiting a system or two every time I could log in for a bit, I found almost a dozen other such offline towers with modules. I learned through research that an offline tower could have it modules destroyed without destroying the tower itself (besides the guns and otherwise worthless parts). I also learned that all POS modules which could store items, from Ship Maintenance Arrays to research labs to compression arrays, could drop those items stored inside if destroyed. 

Why not see what's inside? I started a corporation on an alt (another first for me) and did some research on the owners of these POSes. They were all very small corporations, and sites like eve who suggested that they were inactive. I didn't exactly want to target active corporations, as I don't really feel like the war dec system in EVE is fair and it harms new players trying to join corporations far more than it benefits the attackers (something I hope CCP fixes in their corp rebalance soon). Not lacking the money, I declared war on the owners of all the POSes I had thus far found (yet another first for me). The 24 hour timers ran down, and I was free to engage--with no sign of the players in the corporations. One POS now had its force field up, but the others were easy targets. In my first round of POS mod destruction--finding around 9 POSes in the region of Verge Vendor--I was amazed to find drops from labs and assembly arrays in about half of the POSes. I was able to pay for the war declaration costs and then some, but I also started building up a supply of blueprints. As a trader I've always had an interest in industry, but never felt like I either knew enough, or had enough time, to incorporate industry into my trading business. I was getting tech2 and tech1 BPCs and fully researched tech1 BPOs from these POSes, and started doing research on what I might do with them all. 

I started getting loot drops such as: 

The best had yet to come. I continued these 15-30 minute bouts of playtime in Genesis, Kador, and Kor-Azor, visiting systems I've never been to, exploring and running combat sites (see my post on casual exploration in high sec for some of the results), and scanning for offline towers at moons. I found a few targets in each of these regions, usually with just 2-3 mods such as 2-3 research labs, but occasionally I would come across extensive industry POSes, with a dozen or so labs and arrays.

 This led to not one but two "jackpots," POSes that dropped over 5 billion in isk. On the first occasion it took a few trips in a freighter for all of the materials, with not a few blueprints in the mix as well: 

 The next find was even better, as it contained many fully researched BPOs for cruisers and battlecruisers: 

 In total, from August to the beginning of Octobor, I've made around 15 billion in isk--about half in materials, and then at least another 7 billion in blueprints. However, that's just the base value of the blueprints, as you can see in screenshots like the ones above. Almost all of the blueprints I found were fully researched, adding a huge amount of value. Realistically, the value of the blueprints is closer to 10-15 billion isk. 

I've learned a lot from this little side project: I've learned a bit about POS mechanics, for one, but I've also learned about industry. In fact, as of now, I've sold 90% of the blueprints and have kept a few for myself. I've finally gotten into industry as a result, doing invention on some blueprints and building tech2 items to incorporate into my trading. I've heard it said that every industrialist in EVE is also a trader--that's where most of the profit comes, anyhow--so how and where to sell these items hasn't been an issue. I will be posting soon on have I've incorporated industry into my trading.

Interestingly, I also have never heard from or seen many of the owners or corp members. Using Eve who, I added the corp members of these groups to my watch list, and I've only ever seen a few log in out of the hundreds. Out of the 50 or so corporations I have declared war on, about 13 either activated the force field on their POS or took down the POS or mods entirely .That leaves about 80% of the groups completely inactive. I assume this means that many of the owners of these POSes either quit EVE or went inactive for a long period of time--that seems like the only explanation for why so many of these POSes would have fully researched BPOs just sitting inside them. 

I have also learned that a few other groups of players specialize in this sort of activity, but not enough to make finding these offline POSes impossible--though the competition is there (e.g., on a few occasions some else has destroyed POS mods before I could get to them). For one, there is a constant turn over--groups go inactive without taking their POSes down all the time. Second, obviously, there's a lot of moons in high security space...

This type of gameplay has a lot to recommend it, not the least of which is the potential for making some isk (with the risk, of course, that you won't make any isk after spending a bunch on war dec costs). It feels like a type of exploration, not PVP. I scan for sites, warp to clusters of moons, and look for combat sites at the same time as I look for POSes without force fields up. However, such POSes can be hard to find--only a few in any given region at any given time--and also tedious to dscan down since offline POSes will often be in clusters with many offline, lone towers as well as other online towers.

This side project has also given me some experience with the state of POSes in high security space. In my opinion, there needs to be better ways to destroy towers and also more reasons to have a POS. An active POS in high security space, with hardeners and other defenses, is one of the safest assets to have in space--attempting to destroy an online, large POS in high sec requires dozens of people for what will likely be no reward. However, an even safer asset is a lone, offline tower. With the industry rebalance, some players were worried that towers in high security space would rapidly proliferate, since you no longer need standings to set up a POS, and destroying a control tower in high security space is about one of the worst things you could decide to do in EVE. Offline towers with no mods are everywhere. Dozens in each system. And there is zero reason to attempt the tedious work of destroying them (unless it is 1 jump from Jita, but that covers little space), so these towers are going to sit in space probably until the game is closed for good. For the sake of comprehensiveness, I destroyed two small towers solo when I started this project, including a faction small tower (no, I didn't use hammerheads on it the whole time...). Even with 800DPS, it took around 8 hours per tower. With laser and drone DPS, you can essentially go afk, but that's 8 hours or so for what amounts to zero reward, since towers won't be dropping loot. 

I think EVE would benefit from two changes to POSes: First, there should be more reasons to have a POS. I recall back in Ultima Online, housing spots were for a long time very limited. Almost everyone had a house and everyone wanted a house--you could design and decorate them in ways still unmatched in any MMO, but they also had many more uses than the "bank" and towns had (I remember finding my first housing spot, the smallest possible plot of land, and being insanely excited...I also remember many nights waiting for a house to decay, and the ensuing mass PVP as people tried to get all of the dropped loot). In my ideal EVE, POSes are far more useful and useful to every player, and stations are less useful and potentially destructible or ownable. Allowing jump clones in POSes would be a huge first step at this, and something that would make wormhole life far better. Second, though, offline control towers should be easier to remove. There's been lots of good suggestions for how to allow better removal--being able to hack them when offline, having their shields drop to zero when they go offline, and so on--and all of which could add interesting new gameplay.

I'm on a break from this project currently. Is this side project the sort of thing you'd be interested in doing? If you like exploration, you might enjoy it, but finding targets makes finding 4/10 combat sites in HS feel easy! How can you protect your own POS? It is pretty easy and completely obvious: If you go inactive, pack up your modules and put them in a station. Leave the tower and the guns/hardeners/etc. if you have them. If you are quitting EVE, of course, please do pack everything you own in your SMA and leave your modules up so others can have your stuff!