Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why Kronos Might Be the Best Low Sec Expansion Yet

Though Kronos is the first “expansion” in the new 10-release a year cycle, and thus has some of its previous main features (e.g., industry) pushed back to Crius, I'm of the opinion that it will be the best expansion ever for the health and ecosystem of low sec. The other close contender would be Retribution, are largely because of its revamp to the crime watch system and a very little big change in the sentry/station gun mechanics (whereby they only shoot you when you engage a target on grid thus essentially removing the low sec PVP downtime from 15 minutes, to seconds).

Almost every play style in low sec is getting a much needed boost, in addition to the fact that Kronos is bringing many changes that will gameplay in general (such as graphics improvements, audio customization, and new UI improvements). Let's run through the positive changes (the patch notes can be found here):

Love for Low Sec Exploration and PVE
New Rats:
First of all, there will be new Mordus rat spawns in belts anywhere in low sec (and low sec only) which drop blueprints for the three new pirate ships. This is significant because farming clone soldier tags is currently an activity which nets less than (but close to) the average isk made running level 4 missions. The added possibility of Mordus rats means that now ratting in low sec belts is (finally) likely to be more profitable than doing level 4 missions in high sec (at least in .1 and .2 sec space where the profitable clone soldiers appear).
Second, for the first time ever, the BPC of a pirate battleship will drop in low sec, not null. This change, in and of itself, is a huge shift from the current status quo of null sec always being a notch better than low for most activities. I already cover 50-100 belts in low sec when search for clone tags in a session, and the ability to now also find Mordus rats dropping much more valuable items is a massive boost to visiting belts in low sec space.

New Exploration Sites:
In answer to my questions about the new exploration sites on the forums, CCP Reddawn said the following:

Just to get things straight:
1) The BPCs for the new pirate ships (Garmur etc) drop from Mordus rats in low security belts.

2) Contested Guristas Covert Research Facility sites will (only?) drop data that can either be sold on the market or traded at the Mordus station. But otherwise these sites drop no loot? And these sites too will spawn in low sec?

3) Once enough data has been delivered to the Mordus station, Besieged Covert Research Facility sites will start to appear anywhere in low sec and they will drop the new ship skin BPCs, "low-grade" implants, and warp speed modules?

Is all of that correct or am I missing something?

I also have a question about the "Besieged Covert Research Facility" sites. Once they have been "unlocked," are they permanently unlocked such that they spawn all over low sec from there on out? Or is it more of a system where 1 is unlocked as a spawn for every X amount of data delivered to Mordus
?

CCP Reddawn:
“1) Yes that's right.
2) Yes these Contested sites only drop the data you need to unlock the Besieged sites and they will be present in low sec.
3) Yes. The Besieged sites will be over all of low sec and drop what's mentioned in the dev blog.
In regards to your question, they will be permanently unlocked in one big batch.”
Later, he noted that the Contested sites will be in both low and high sec. Once Besieged sites are unlocked, that means a permanent new type of site in (only) low sec (appearing as an anomaly, not signature). They drop the (new) “low-grade” pirate implants, awesome as hell ship skins, and the new warp speed modules. They can also be done solo, or so testing on Sisi has confirmed, but will take some pretty well fit ships (unless someone figures out how to farm them in stealth bombers, which hopefully won't happen).

Also, don't forget about the removal of lootspew! I might actually do relic/data sites again as a result (the lower isk rate is not an issue—my hand not hurt after clicking for cans is the issue).

I don't think low sec has ever received this much legitimately new (as opposed to re-done) PVE content in a single expansion, at least since I've been playing. Of course, the PVE content will matter for people who explore and rat in low sec. It will draw in more players, which the PVPers always love. However, the low sec traders will also see added business. It is a win-win for everyone, particularly because all of this content is spread over the entirely of low sec.

Massive Improvements to Low Sec Transportation and Logistics
More wormhole connections:
When I lived in low sec as an explorer, I used the rare low->high or the rare low->low(boarding high) wormholes for virtually all of my travel to high sec. Low->low wormholes will now be more common. This helps logistics to and from high sec for players living in deep low, since sometimes other low-sec systems will have a much easier passage to high sec. Furthermore, there will be more low->null wormholes, which opens up the possibility of more spelunking into null, either to explore or to PVP.

Improved Blockade Runners
The main improvement here is the cargohold increase. The nerf to Jump Freighters hurts low sec corps a bit, but the buff to blockade runners is a massive boost for the solo player or very small groups in low sec. This is a rare expansion where solo logistics is actually getting quite a buff, while group logistics is getting a bit harder—part of which us solo folk at least appreciate. DST might also be worth using, but I'm not convinced yet.

New Ores and the Prospect Mining Frigate
Even though low sec industry isn't getting a buff until Crius, mining will be more profitable in low with the added ore spawns, and the Prospect makes it far safer. Serious miners won't be affected much, but a decent group of players—for some reason—likes to venture into low (and null) in mining ships, and at least CCP is giving them a way to do so a bit more safely.

Faction War Tweaks
It is hard to tell how much of an impact the small FW plex changes will actually have, but FW farmers will likely have a harder time farming in ships fit solely with warp core stabs. The changes don't make much sense to me—the real problem with farmers is there warp core stabs, not cloaks—and it also removes the ability to kill farmers using cloaked 2 or 3x scram ships. The changes also push more PVE into FW, which is not a step in the right direction. However, at least CCP is trying to change the farming-meta in ways that will ideally benefit PVPers in FW.

New PVP Toys
Of course, the new PVP ships and the rebalanced pirate ships are largely great changes for low sec PVPers. New modules like the medium micro jump drive for battlecruisers are a bit odd and do not at all seem like they will help battlecruiser PVP, but they add at least a slightly new dimension.

Low Sec Improvements for New Players
Lastly, it is becoming easier to be a new player living in low sec and doing activities like exploration. Some of the reasons were already mentioned: mining is safer with the Prospect, the Mordus rats in belts will have the potential to be killed by a newbie in a cruiser/battlecruiser or maybe even a stealth bomber, and logistics is getting a lot easier. However, the drone changes are actually a huge boost to the viability to new explorers. Why? Well, T1 drones, partly with the revamp to the drone interfacing skill, are going to be doing more base damage. This means a new player in, say, a Tristan or an Algos or a Vexor using T1 drones will be able to much more effectively do 1/10 – 4/10 combat sites which are everywhere in low sec. Furthermore, the MWD speeds of heavy and medium drones are going up substantially, meaning that using them in PVE is more viable. This is a small but significant boost for new players.

Less Stealth Bombers?
Finally, here's a change in the patch notes that no one is talking about so far as I've read:
The Clone Soldier Trainer, Recruiter, Transporter and Negotiator NPCs found in low security asteroid belts have received significant upgrades to their engagement range.”
This seems to suggest that stealth bombers will be less effective against clone soldiers. I haven't been on the test server to test it yet though Currently, you would be crazy to farm clone soldiers in anything besides a stealth bomber: uncloak at 20k or further, fire about 10 rounds of torps, loot, cloak, repeat. It is an incredibly safe activity and unfortunately adds virtually nothing to the low sec ecosystem. I really hope this change—and the abilities of the Mordus rats—makes farming clone soldiers in bombers less viable. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An Applied Introduction to Regional Trading: Part II - Items to Sell


Way back when, I started an introduction to regional trading, one that gave specifics on what and where to sell. Here, finally, I talk about what to sell—with specific examples, but also a focus on how to find a market niche.
In part I we introduced the basic ingredients of setting up a regional/inter-regional trade market, and picked a suitable location. Here's what we have at this point:


Sell Location: Simela, Genesis
Buy Location: Usually Jita, but Dodixie is an option as well (we might also buy up orders in systems nearby Simela and pool them into the market there).
Profit Goal: Make a stable 1b a month with infrequent order updating.
Investment Goal: 10b, on the modest assumption we will make 10% of that a month.
Product Goal: Find at least 10b in suitable items to sell.



What to Sell?


Let's start by making a list—a big one. Were going to list, first, the main activities players engage in in Simela and surrounding areas. Then, starting with the most popular activities (so far as we can tell) we are going to list all the main items people use in those activities and, more importantly, all the items people lose in those activities. At that point, we will look at the actual market details in Simela and see which items make for potential trade opportunities.

We already know what the most common activity is in Simela: missions. Level 3 missions are available for the SOE faction, but there are also level 4 agents available in system as well. Hang around the stations for a while in Simela, or the gate leaving system, and you will notice few use the two non-SOE stations. You will also notice that the majority of ships leaving the SOE station are level 3 mission ships—battlecruisers, primarily. However, try hanging around Bherdaspot at the Simela gate or at the sun using dscan for a while, and you will notice a decent amount of level 2 mission ships out (like cruisers), as well as level 4 mission ships like battleships.

We are going to start our market, then, by building around the mission runner population. But what else do players do in this area? PVP probably comes in second. If you spend some time looking at the killboards for systems around Simela-Gonditsa, you will notice that very few loses are from PVPers fighting PVPers. Search through the kills in Gonditsa on any given day and you will find only a few PVP ships dying for every few dozen non-PVP ships. This tells us that PVP-specific goods might not be the best market in this area, but is perhaps still worth stocking later on.

Mining is also a common activity no matter where you go in high sec, but scanning the belts around Simela every so often suggests the miner population is relatively low. Exploration is also quite common, particularly leading into the low sec area. While it might not seem like it, Simela is also next to a travel route. The pipe from Gonditsa leads into Van (Aridia) which leads to Solitude, so it is likely that some players as far away as Solitude use Simela as a nearby hub for buying and selling.

So, first we focus on items relevant to missions. Then we move to PVP-specific items, then mining and then exploration items.

Where I usually start when brainstorming what items to sell is by thinking about what people lose. If they lose it, they will likely seek to replace it. The starting place is probably obvious: Ammo and drones. Ammo gets used up, drones get destroyed or left behind. However, I've tried trading in ammo and drones elsewhere, and the competition in intense. But something strange happens when we look up common types of ammo on the Simela market. There is not much competition, even in the most frequently used ammo types. As a general rule, it isn't usually worth trading in T1 ammo and drones given the massive amount that needs to sell in order to make a profit. That leaves us with T2 ammo and faction ammo.

Take missiles as a test case. Experimenting selling all these kinds, as one might expect, heavy missiles are the fastest movers while rockets and light missiles are the slowest, with the rest in between. Scourge missiles of all types tend to move more quickly than those of other types, and javelin/precision variants are the slower of the T2 types. There are trade offs at every point, however. T2 and faction light missiles have almost no presence on the market. They won't move fast, but 1) the orders will rarely require updating in 0.1 bid wars, and 2) the profit margins will be determined largely by you. As market order slots becomes an issue—we have around 300 total on a character fully skilled—these two features might be less attractive, but market order capacity ceases to be an issue when you use more than one character for trading. So, I experimented in the following items:

Heavy Missiles
Caldari Navy Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Precision Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Fury Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge

Heavy Assault Missiles
Caldari Navy Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Javelin Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Rage Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge

Cruise Missiles
Caldari Navy Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Javelin Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Rage Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge

Torpedoes
Caldari Navy Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Precision Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Fury Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge

Light Missiles
Caldari Navy Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Precision Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Fury Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge

Rockets
Caldari Navy Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Javelin Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge
Rage Nova / Inferno / Mjolnir / Scourge

12 in each category, 6 categories—if we traded in all missiles, we'd already be up to 72 orders, with sell orders totaling around 1 billion isk depending on how many of each ammo type you stock. As an example of the sorts of profits I made in my first month trading, with no more than one update / restock per week and from buying directly off sell order in Jita:
Mjolnir Fury Heavy Missiles were at the high end, netting me 47m in profit from a sale of 111k. Caldari Navy Heavy Missiles tended to require more babysitting to keep my orders the lowest, so I made less than other areas where less competition was found. 
Light missiles--on the low end of profits--still generated around 30m profit from all the orders and I only needed to update the scourge missile orders a few times. 
HAMs made a similar amount as a whole, with a comparable lack of competition. 
In total, I made around 200m in missiles in the span of a month (a statistic somewhat complicated by the fact that I did not get many of the orders up until part of the way through the month). Not bad at all for what was largely passive--a few updates and a few trips to restock in sum.

I've since pulled out of some of those markets--they were done largely as a test, as I've never traded in ammo before. But they sum up a general lesson: profit can come even in areas of a market that look empty, with no past history.

For this reason, I would seriously caution relying on the market table/graphic pages for planning trades. Why? Because it is limiting and misleading in a lot of ways. The main is this: the market history does not tell you the key trading counterfactual conditional: IF I sold item X at this station for X isk, how often would it have sold? Many of the items I traded simply had no presence on the nearby market until I listed them, so their trade history gave me almost zero relevant information. Finding good trades, in other words, is less about looking at the market's past history of trades, and more about accurately predicting its future trades. Many of my favorite items to trade are those that are not usually listed in regional markets, and I would have never learned to trade them without simply experimenting with assortments of items based on my best guess about what activities people do and what they buy and lose in the system.

Next we move to other ammo types. Hybrid charges—large, medium, and small—of all the above types (faction, T2 such as void and null), then projectile charges, then laser crystals. Browse the market in Simela and you will find that many ammo types are not on the market, and many more are not in Simela in particular. There is easily a few hundred good items to sell just in terms of ammo alone!

Besides ammo, there are a few other types of items commonly used by mission runners which are lost or depleted. These items include T2/faction drones, navy cap charges, and mobile structures--particularly mobile tractors. Unfortunately, I've not have much success in any of these markets, as even in Simela they are highly saturated. I have a suspicion that someone manufactures T2 drones and sends them to Simela, in fact, because the margins are very frequently at or near major hub prices.

Mistakes Will Be Made

A final point is worth making. Mistakes will be made. Sell orders will be put in at 1 billion isk rather than 100 million. I lost around 250 million isk in brokers fees at a single time. Digits will also be dropped, rather than added, causing you to sell items to a buy order for tens of millions rather than list the items for hundreds. Mistakes like this happen and should simply be calculated into the costs of running a market. Here's is a personal habitual example:


I seem to screw up orders on mobile tractors once a month in Simela--no idea why. This is simply a feature of not being a bot, I suppose.
In the next post in this series, I will detail more potential trade opportunities. Instead of disposable items, we will look at T2 modules.





Monday, May 26, 2014

Career Agents for PVP - A step-by-step guide

The tl;dr is
-There should be a career agent for PVP which walks players though building a simple pvp frigate (like a brawling frig) similar to the current military agent but...
-It should involve real pvp experience via the duel system
-New players should be directed in the career agents--somehow--to the eve recruitment page and the community spotlight organizations where they might find, e.g., pvp corps who help newbies.
-They should also be notified about faction warfare, and FW should potentially be opened to players and perhaps should involve boosted insurance payments for ships lost (so as to reward PVP but not exclusively winning at PVP in FW)


----------- 

One thing I have learned from recent reports about new players entering EVE—such as the new player experience presentation at fanfest—is that, statistically, the vast majority of new players enter EVE 1) after hearing about some highly publicized PVP event, such as a major fight in null, and 2) join EVE hoping to at least see about taking part in similar content.

Some of my current friends in EVE joined right after B-R, and that was explicitly why the gave EVE a try. Their goals were framed around taking part in such content. Few of those new players I met (who've also stayed with EVE) still have "be in major null sec fights" as their goal (though some of them do—e.g., one just joined one of the major null sec blocs after beginning training in their fleet doctrines starting as early in his first month of playing), but it is clear that taking part in PVP is a primary reason for trying out EVE.

Here's another example. Today, the new player systems were unusually populated. This likely has to do with the combination of it being a holiday for some players, the end of school for others, and from EVE being featured on the humble bundle right before. I was restocking items I sell in some new player stations and found a group of new players dueling and chatting about it in local. Other new players in system got interested, and a conversation ensued about fittings, tactics, and how to go about dueling, etc. One day old player had built his Atron largely out of parts he acquired from the players he destroyed, which was cute. Sadly he lost the ship eventually, but seemed to have a fun time doing so. This was pretty encouraging to see, and I wished at the time that this experience they were having could be more than a mere accident.

As the statistics of new player paths in EVE presented at fanfest suggest, these anecdotes about new player goals are the norm, and the people who enter EVE for the “PVE” are few and far between. After all, monumental “PVE” accomplishments of EVE have never been featured in main stream media, and I doubt anyone has ever started EVE by saying either that they heard it has a great mining system or that they are enticed by the possibility of running the same handful of PVE missions for the next few years and learning how to do so afk while playing DOTA. (I happen to think the PVE in EVE is far better, for some player types, than its terrible reputation deserves, but that's another topic.)

As is also pretty well recognized though, new players do not have great systems in place for even starting the path to making those goals a reality. The players who stumble on the duel system—and without getting baited by an older player—are few and far between, as are those who manage to piece together tactics for successful PVP. In the first days of playing, they are presented with a set of career agents which suggest that 1) their goals will be provided for them by NPCs—that EVE is not as much of a sandbox as they may have heard, and 2) that the available “career” paths in EVE actually involving fighting NPCs in highly structured, scripted environments, much like every other MMO on the market.

These career agents—even the “combat” ones—do not necessarily teach skills relevant for PVP, nor do they even usually teach skills necessary for PVE in EVE. Something needs to be added in the new player system to better help this vast majority of new players both learn the basics of PVP and learn how to get involved in PVP after the tutorials.

Of course, we can day dream and imagine some pretty amazing ways of having a new player PVP tutorial, but they would very likely take up a massive amount of developer time if seriously implemented. And, as a result, they probably won't be implemented.

So our goals are to come up with a new player PVP tutorial which fits into the current career agent system, consisting of a set of training missions which both teach the player the basic elements of PVP and rewards them with the basic ships, skill books, and modules needed for PVP. The tutorial should:

  1. Teach the basic elements of fitting a ship (most likely, a frigate) for PVP.
  2. Teach the basic methods of PVPing in such ships.
  3. Actually involve some type of PVP, so not just involve fighting rats.
  4. Direct the new player, upon completion, to different PVP organizations and systems within EVE.
  5. And finally, the tutorial should take up as little dev time to create as possible. So nothing fancy, and ideally nothing that would require the programming of an entirely new system in the game.

The importance of goal 5 should not be underestimated and it structures every one of my suggestions to follow.

Teaching Skills

We can model much of the PVP tutorial on the existing career agent tutorials (particularly the military career agent) which are not ideal but they'll have to do unless massive dev time is going to be spent. The majority of the missions will be straight forward, step by step instructions on how to fit a ship for PVP. To keep it simple, the tutorial should focus on brawling (kiting is probably a harder skill to teach a new player still getting used to the game's controls and environment). That includes 1) orbiting within the optimal range of the relevant type of guns/missiles and using an afterburner, 2) the importance of using a scram and/or web to pin the target, and 3) tanking a ship to its strength, rather fitting a random assortment of tanking modules. It can build on the foundation already present in the military career agent missions, perhaps with more explicit recommendations for using those skills in PVP rather than in PVE.

Real Experience

The key to this tutorial, though, is that it has to involve some type of PVP where these skills would actually be used. So, I suggest that toward the end of the tutorial, once the player has a sufficiently built PVP ship provided by the tutorial (e.g., an atron with blasters and ammo, afterburner, scram, web, and at least a damage control), the mission instruct the player to take this ship and request a duel from another player and attempt to destroy their ship upon acceptance. In the process, it can explain the difference between types of flags—e.g., the light blue flag indicating a limited engagement with another player where both can freely attack—and it can explain the use of the safety settings.

The player should be warned that if they choose to accept this mission and request to duel another player, they risk losing their ship if the other player wins, but they also face the possibility of 1) destroying the other player's ship and 2) getting to freely loot that player's cargo which happens to drop when they explode. Perhaps the players could also be instructed about the ability to look at the other player's biography and see their character's age, and then be given a recommendation to request to duel newer players like themselves.

The tutorial would be complete when the other player accepts the duel—so win or lose (or run away or dock) the player would get at least a potential experience in PVP. I also suggest that the tutorial give as part of its reward the same ship and all its fittings previously given, so that if a player loses the ship in the process of dueling they have a full replacement ready.

Some players and developers might be worried about new players requesting a duel from older players who will gladly destroy them—perhaps older players waiting for just such an opportunity. I find this a strangely paternalistic attitude in a game which is marketed in the mainstream press as one of the few games ever made where you can destroy (or have destroyed) anything you or anyone else flies. There are rules in place prohibiting players who want to grief new players in starting systems, for one, and these should continue to be enforced, obviously. However, given the fact that so many players start EVE on the basis of hearing about its PVP and wanting to experience something like that, one might—rightly, I think—begin to think that the new player system as it currently exists is a deliberate attempt to direct players into anything butPVP experiences with other players. Not a word of “PVP” is so much as mentioned in the new player experience, so it is no wonder so many go on to mission and mine and leave. Where, indeed, would they even find PVP if they wanted to? Where, furthermore, would they find rewarding PVP? 

Where to Find Rewarding PVP

That leaves one final requirement of the PVP career agent: it needs to direct them to player organizations and game systems which can teach the new player how to PVP. Here, my recommendations are blatantly clear:

There is a long-running debate about how CCP can direct new players to good organizations without “favoring” some organizations or putting themselves at risk should some continue to exploit players.
There is now a concrete solution to this problem: the community spotlight series. In doing a community spotlight, CCP has given public recognition for certain organizations—Brave newbies, RVB, and recently the smaller open university of celestial hardship, for instance—and rightly so, yet they give recognition and important information without explicitly saying new players should join these groups. Thus, the PVP career agent tutorial should direct the player to the series and indicate that many new player organizations are featured there. That gives CCP the ability to externally modify the list and add or remove organizations as needed.

Second, the new player tutorial should direct players, with a link, to the EVE forum recruitment page as a place to find current organizations involved in PVP who recruit new players.

The tutorial agent should then also direct new players to faction warfare. If you think about what it takes for a new player to engage in PVP in EVE, many of them are virtually unavailable due to the existing game systems. Should a new player go to low sec and PVP, they will either only fight much better pirates they can freely engage, or they will lose security status fighting non-pirates. Eventually, the latter bars them from high sec, where they are used to living and making isk. What's worse, almost every PVP system in EVE (open to new players) involves losing isk rather than making it—besides faction warfare.

So, I suggest that new players be directed to faction warfare in the tutorial and be encouraged to find FW corps to join on the forums. This raises a complicated issue. If players on the trial were directed to FW, they would either have to be told that, unfortunately, they could not do it on a trail, or the ban on new players doing FW in a trial would have to be removed. I am not exactly sure what justifies the ban on trials entering FW any longer. It is becoming harder to farm plexes in Kronos. Sure, it would exclude the new player from half of empire space, but they informed about this and consent to entering (and can leave at any time). There's a worry that existing players would repeatedly create trial accounts to farm FW for isk for their main account, but 1) there is still an inability to run a trial account and a regular account at the same time, and 2) there is already a general ban on players exploiting the trial system with possible bans if found, so I don't see this problem as a justification for removing a potentially worthwhile and relatively safe source of game play from new players.

Finally, I think FW should have an automatic type of insurance, where losing a ship to another player ship in FW gives you an automatic “FW insurance” refund for a decent portion (obviously no more than 100%) of the cost of the hull. This would be like an NPC version of a Ship Replacement Program that so many large corps run, and would reward PVP without exclusively rewarding winning as it currently the case.

What's clear, even if my suggestions are not ideal (they probably aren't), is that the current new player system in EVE does not cater to the real reason why many players enter EVE, and it is likely that any changes, even if not ideal, would be for the better.

Goals

Having long-term goals in a game is one of the features that keeps me playing for more than a trial. In EVE I've had a number of goals since I started playing.

PVP

-Solo PVP (win or lose) at least once in every combat capable ship in EVE (and many that are not so capable). I talked about my progress in this back here and I should update soon about it.

-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

-On my market and trading character, get to a full set of orders (304) and at least 50b in stable sell orders. That's what I currently count as “finishing” my market, but I am not sure what goals I have after that, including what I will do with (where/how I will invest or use) the extra isk. I have no goals for how much isk I'd like to have, for instance. Anything above a plex and some PVP ships a month is counted as extra.


It is cool to see other players with similar completionist type goals. Katie Sae at To Boldly Go is in the process of visiting every system in EVE, giving them a much more detailed look than I will / usually do. EVE Travel is another popular site that has encouraged me to visit the unique places spread throughout the galaxy.

I realized how worthwhile this would be even as a brand new character. Partly in virtue of the different graphics and ambiance of each region, certain areas of space just had a "flavor" to me. I started the game around the Verge Vendor area, and specifically around Luse for some reason. It had a certain feel to it, one that still brings back nostalgic memories. Clellinon seemed incredibly busy, and Dodixie seemed like it was on the other side of the galaxy, and the sisters of eve arc seemed like it sent me on virtual day trips around the EVE universe. 

EVE still has that sense of scale to me, but one much more determined by the players who live in those regions than anything else. Heading into Khanid low sec, Surely You're Joking is everywhere and even the shuttles have cynos. Covryn in Placid is a place I started solo PVPing and continue to stop in occasionally, but it is ingrained in my thought as the(/a)  home of Cynosural Field Theory, where you might die to a alliance tournament ship at any moment. Over the past year I've been spending time in every region, trying to accomplish some of the above goals (like getting a kill in every low sec constellation) and I might someday write overviews on different regions. Most of it is common knowledge for those who have PVPed long enough, but when I was starting out I had no idea how the PVP would differ in Genesis as opposed to Black Rise etc. Spending time in these regions has also taught me how frequently they change based on who lives where--and PVP corps don't generally seem to last all that long. This makes for a sometimes very rapidly changing game world, in a way that no other MMO matches so far as I've seen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What to do when you don't need Isk

About a week ago, JonnyPew released a few new videos. JonnyPew, a great content creator for EVE, is also one of the main reasons why many pilots--myself included, way back when--got into exploration in EVE. In his welcome back video he raised an interesting topic--what does one do in EVE when one does not need isk? PVP was his answer--and PVP is my own answer. For the most part.

However, I've hit a strange point in my EVE career(s). Due to an explosion of sales--not really correlated with an explosion of play time, incidentally enough--I've hit 32 billion in sell orders, with an expected 8b in just this month. What's insane about that, for me, is not just that the isk has poured in in spite of my limited play time, but that in almost three years of PVP I've only lost 3.3b--and not for lack of trying. So I guess the first thing I need to do is PVP in more expensive ships, and I am working on that goal with my "solo in every combat ship in EVE" project.

I do feel like there is something fun about trading in its own right. Moving goods myself, watching them sell, seeing long-term trends in the market. But my play time is not really focused on making isk. So what does one do in EVE, if not for isk?

Besides the usual PVP when I have time to focus on it, here are some random things I've done in the past month in spite of--or, better, because of--not needing isk:

- I bought security tags for Sven so he can roam around high security space.

- On a few occasions I've tried being a "high sec white knight," fighting mission baiters and station baiters--even to the extent that I've earned my market trader her very first kills. I am going to work more on this project--the pirate who turns into a white knight every so often, I guess.

- I've developed a compulsive mobile structure destruction disorder (CMSDD).

- I've practiced my "forum warrior" skills on the EVE feedback thread for the new tool tip system (I really can't make a habit of this--bitter vet it does make).

- For some reason, I've started doing high sec combat sites and anomalies. I do 4/10s in cruisers (which can lead to some PVP-ish) and I pretty much f- up blood raider hideaways in my astero, for no reason whatsoever.

- I have also taken the time to compulsively organize all of my space goods. Everything I own on all my characters is now nicely organized into only a few stations. My "Assets" tab makes me look like I started EVE last week.

- I've also made friends with some new players, taking some on exploration roams into low sec (best part was when we saw a carrier cyno out of an otherwise empty system in low sec--the new bro asked if "some shit is doing to go down like BRB [B-R]" here? and I could only say probably, probably) and helping others learn PVP. One has come an impressively long way in the past month, finding his way into a null sec corp and comfortably PLEXing his account a few months in advance.

So I guess my answer to the question "what does one do in EVE when one has enough isk [besides PVP]" is . . . really random stuff. Like really random.
What's awesome for me, though, is that after almost 3 years of EVE not only have I experienced only a tiny fraction of the game, but I still find enjoyment out of almost all of it--even the silliest parts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Game Breaking





This is now what it is like to interact with stuff in space in eve:


Mouse over a collection of anything--ships, wrecks, celestials, etc--and you are greeted with a massive box of text blocking your view. Because who wants to interact with stuff in space (or even be able to see it) when you can interact with a giant list instead?

Little changes sometimes have big consequences, and in this case I can't recall a more game-breaking change in eve than this brilliant idea.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Flying and Dying Ship Skins – The Good, the Bad, and the Makes-No-Sense

It has been over a month since the new ship skin pilot program was released. I'm a huge fan of this project and want to see it succeed. Thus far though, the program is a mixed bag, with some implementation quite good, some of it bad, and some of it making no sense at all. I was particularly looking forward to pvping in these new skins, and was not disappointed in that respect. 

Some highlights of PVP in (or against) ships in new skins include this Hyperion Aliastra Edition kill
I saw it leave station and head to a safe, so a corp-mate went to get probes. It leaves the safe, and a moment later I see mining drones on dscan. No way, too good to be true, seriously mining in a Hyp Ali edition? Sure enough, it is in a belt, and its massive 5-plate tank (lol) is no match for frosty pirates. Just a bit later, I have a nice fight with a police comet and get my first cop kill, though I think this pirate stole it.
I'm currently on a win-streak with my incursus aliastra edition (it was featured two posts ago) but I died in a fire after undocking the merlin skin. At the rate skins are being added, it is going to take me a long while to pvp (and die) in all the new skins.

The Good

By far, the star of the new ship skins is the police comet. I see more of them out in low sec than regular comets. This has a reasonable explanation, on the developers of the program seem to mostly miss at this point: Most people want the ship skins in order to add personality to the ships they fly—which means, first, they need to be fairly cheap to prevent them from merely being collectors ships, and second, the skins need to actually add personality and immersion. The police comet does this well—it is a bit expensive, at around 10-20m extra, but that is well worth the skin for the pure joy of flying around with police lights flashing, detaining criminals etc. There is a “roleplay” element, one that even non-RP players can get into.

The added personality and immersion (and luls) is why some PVPers put stuff like dancers, coffee, and drinks into their cargohold (like one of my favorite PVPers Sard Caid—http://eve-kill.net/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=22838793). I personally like to add “prisoners” into my cargo—they fit the theme of being a pirate. While not available on the market, they can be found in contracts, and they are mission items, so I end up looting them occasionally when baiting mission runners.

Ideally, most players seem to want the ship skin program to reach the point where alliance logo skins become a reality. There are other ways of adding significant personality before the program reaches that point. Instead of a reddish looking “Krusual” rifter, why not a “damaged” rifter with obvious signs of wear, such as bullet holes? Or, a “damaged” rifter skin which simply makes the makes the ship permanently on fire, a graphic that is already in game with the hull damage effect? I would love to fly a flaming rifter than one with a reddish tint that means nothing to me, and this fits the theme of Minmatar ships much better than simply a red looking rifter.

The Bad and the Makes-No-Sense

So, on the other hand, all the other ship skins, while neat and pretty cool looking, don't add much personality. They just vary the paint job a bit. Some of them look awesome—like the hyperion skin—but are also expensive. And then there are the skins which simply make no sense. I'm thinking particularly of the T1 hauler skins which came as a reward for buying the fanfest HD stream. Last year, the HD stream included a choice of a new pirate rookie ship—some of the coolest ships ever put into the game. Relatively rare skip skins for T1 haulers, though, make no sense to me. At most, they will be collectors items. Some will be used to hauler a few hundred million isk in cargo or more, and will be suicide ganked. Perhaps if they were very inexpensive—only a million isk or so, for instance—they would be widely used, but as is, they seem to miss the point of the ship skin program altogether, which shouldn't be to merely add collectors ships. The ship skins session at fanfest, covered at Jester's Trek briefly here, gives me hope that the project will continue on, hopefully in a good direction.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fanfest Notes

tl;dr most of the recorded EVE sessions are worth watching, as is the EVE keynote though most of the information released there has already been disseminated through the eve community.

Watching fanfest is one of the highlights of my gaming year. I make many of my summer plans based on what is announced at fanfest. Many of the sessions this year seemed significantly better than in previous years—better run, more content, more graphs, etc.--and the EVE keynote was packed with concrete plans. Themitanni has good coverage of the announcements at fanfest, and Jester's Trek is covering many of the roundtables not streamed. While I am still digesting a lot of the information, here's my run-down of the highlights for me and what I'm looking forward to:

Game Design Panel was decent, with the main news being the upcoming module rebalance, similar in structure to the ship rebalancing work. Meta modules will have specific roles, opening up a massive new range of ship fitting possibilities since currently there are only a handful of occasions when meta modules make sense to fit. Fozzie hinted that a long-term goal is to make meta modules craftable.
This panel, though, felt like every reply to the questions consisted of “wait until the keynote.” I think the EVE keynote would be better placed on the first day of fanfest.

Economy: Into the Second Decade was, as usual, full of pretty fascinating economic information, especially this year since I've gotten so involved in market trading. I think for the first time ever, CCP released numbers on Titan production as well as destruction, which you can find here.

Gridlock Talks Performance I love the technical side of EVE server performance. CCP Veritas and the rest of team Gridlock are absolute superstars in EVE, incredibly innovative. The session had a lot of info covered in past dev blogs, as well as new-ish tools the team is using to monitor TQ, but the real news from this talk (briefly covered in the keynote as well—an indication of how important it is) is that the brain in a box project is in Q&A, though still beyond summer expansion. When released, it means actions from docking and undocking to jumping and exploding will see reduced load times.

From Evidence to Bans was one of the better ran sessions, and probably had the most graphs, which I commend, but they also released a decent amount of unreleased data. For instance, a geographical breakdown of where botting occurs in EVE indicated that it is fairly evenly distributed in Null, and congregates particularly in The Forge. I am looking forward to their upcoming dev blog to revisit these numbers.

New Player Experience Vision run by CCP Rise was maybe my favorite session, covered in detail here. I was really impressed with Rise's general knowledge of trends in gaming tutorials and design—he seemed to have done his homework in the process of rethinking the new player experience, referencing a lot of good examples in recent (largely indy) examples in game design. The applications to EVE were concrete and super exciting, such as more tool tips and less text in the tutorial (even to the point of removing it altogether in favor of a more interactive and response progression). One of his main worries is that the tutorial sets people up—like most other MMOs—to have the game direct player goals, rather than teaching players how to find their own goals in a sandbox type of game.
He also released some numbers on how many people leave EVE based on which activities they engage in after the tutorials—those who try a range of gameplay and get involved with other players (e.g., PVP) stay longer than those who “follow the tracks” and transition from the tutorial into solo missioning. I am probably more exited to see the work on the NPE in the upcoming release than I am to see any other team's work.

Probing the Future of the EVE engine was also a great talk, but another one I need to re-watch for all the information to sink in. The “EVE Probe” project, a sort of app that runs a segment of EVE which players download in order to test performance on their machines, is going to make optimizing performance for EVE a whole lot easier. Easier for the devs, but probably also for players as well (there was some talk in the Q&A about the probe giving players feedback on performance in addition to the devs).

Alliance Panel is a panel I haven't watched in past years, which is a bummer because, not knowing much about some of the alliances featured, it was surprisingly good, at times hilarious. I would have liked it even longer, as there was only time for alliance overviews.

Some other announcements relevant to my gameplay include plans to removing cloaking in FW plexes and implement proper large outposts. The buff to low sec mining, via the new T2 version of the Venture and the improvement of low sec ores, means more people coming into/living in low. It might turn out to be a pretty good expansion for low sec after all.

Of course, most of the big announcements came via the EVE keynote. I've been following the industry blogs with interest, as it is a branch of EVE completely foreign to me but one I would someday like to try.

In the keynote, CCP Rise and Fozzie indicated that the next ships in line for rebalancing are the Orca-Rorq, stealth bombers, recons, and T3s, but didn't specify any timescale. I hope this means stealth bombers get more generous fittins and recons get a little love. 

There was mention that every structure in EVE should be destructible, but I don't know how literally this was meant. Presumably it doesn't include NPC stations—but maybe control of NPC stations is in the very long-distance future?