Thursday, January 28, 2016

Table of Contents (Guides on EVE Lost and Found)

PVP Guides

Solo PVP in Every Ship
-Discusses my progress toward the biggest goal I have in EVE--doing solo in every ship--and lists ships killed and my favorite fits

Solo Stealth Boming

-My guide to doing effective bombing runs while solo.

Wormhole PVP: Part 1
-My first experience doing solo PVP while living out of a wormhole

3) A Nice 15b Isk Drop From a POS - But Is It Worth the Time?
2) Pillaging POSes: Now and Later
1) How I Made 15+ billion isk Shooting Starbases – Or, Unorthodox PVP Part II: POS Destruction

-A three part series on finding inactive POSes in high security space and destroying them for potentially large amounts of loot

Unorthodox PVP Part 1: Baiting Mission Runners
-My first guide on niche forms of PVP, from when I was a fairly new player.

5) Tons of New PVP Options with the (2015) December Release
4) Hunting the  Elusive Good Fight - November (2014) Solo PVP in Review
3) The Best Guide for New Player Solo PVP
2) What Solo PVP Looks Like - In Graphs
1) Practicing Flying Skills for Solo and Small Gang PVP

-Miscellaneous posts about my progress toward learning solo PVP, such as using out of game tools, learning to solo in null, finding fights during dry spells, ship fittings I've used, and so on

Exploration Guides

Sansha Wormholes for PVE and PVP
-A guide to making isk in the three Sansha wormholes, one of my favorite places for exploration and not widely known about in the EVE community

Besieged Covert Research Facilities - now spawning in a system near you
-Covers fittings for running besieged covert research sites as well as the average loot drops and value (currently being updated for 2016)
Gas Harvesting
-My experience making a one month character to harvest gas sites in wormholes

3) Four Months of Casual Exploration - Some Statisics
2) The End of an Era (with some exploration statistics thrown in) 

1) Exploration and Isk - 7 months of Statistics 
-A three-part series on living nomadically in low security space doing primarily exploration. This was how I made my first billion in EVE and then was able to PLEX two accounts doing something I really enjoyed.

Market Trading Guides 

2) Hauling 1 Trillion Isk
1) Safe(r) Hauling

-How I haul large volumes and isk amounts, without incident in over 2 years

2) Trading in Thera: Part 2
1) Trading in Thera: Part 1 - The Plan 

-A two-part series on a small trading project I did in Thera

3) Investing 100b Isk - Update II
2) Investing 100b Isk - Update I
1) Investing 100b Isk - An experiment

-A three-part series on a project a did that involved investing 100b isk in long-term markets

6) Market Milestones - Reaching 300b Isk
5) Market Milestones - 20b in One Month

4) Market Milestones - 200b Isk from Trade 
3) Market Milestones - 5 months over 10b Isk
2) Market Milestones - 10b in One Month
1) Market Milestones

-Covers all of the progress I have made in doing trading (regional and station) to make isk

3) Some Good Places to Trade
2) An Applied Introduction to Regional Trading: Part II - Items to Sell
1) An Applied Introduction to Regional Trading: Part I

-A three-part guide to getting into regional market trading, with specific examples of locations and items

Taking and Owning POCOs Solo 
-Covers the player-owned customs office system and how to (potentially) take over POCOs as a solo player. I also discuss the profit I make off a number of HS POCOs and how I would defend them if/when attacked.

Misc. Guides 
Ten Things You Can Do With a One Month Alt

-One of my favorite guides which covers a bunch of different useful alts you can make using only one month of skill training (particularly relevant since the release of skill trading)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sansha Wormholes for PVE and PVP

This post is an introduction to PVE and PVP in Sansha shattered wormholes. Other players have written quality guides to shattered wormholes and frigate wormholes--the fantastic blog Interstellar Privateer has an introduction to these systems and their lore, and Invading Your Hole has a great series on making isk in these systems--but no one (to my knowledge) has talked much about Sansha systems. There are only three Sansha wormholes, making this form of gameplay niche even for EVE online. However, I spent a month in two of these wormholes with 4 characters (an exploration alt in two, a PVE character to run the bigger sites, and Sven to PVP), and I would say they have some of the most interesting PVP and PVE opportunities in the game (not to mention some of the most interesting lore--I mean, pirate NPCs living in a shattered wormhole, what's not to love already?!). I put an exploration alt in the Sansha system with a LS static, and another in the system with a HS static. If someone were to ask me what I would do for isk if I did not trade, I would say PVE in Sansha wormholes. In my opinion they combine many of the fun aspects of wormholes with null/low sec exploration all in one system.

The three Sansha systems are: 

1)  J010556. A Pulsar C4 class with static connections to HS, C1 space, and C2 space.

2) J011195. A C4 class with static connections to LS, C5 space, and C5 space.

3) J005299. A C4 class with static connections to NS, C3 space, and C5 space.

I will refer to these as the "HS," "LS," and "NS" Sansha systems, respectively. 

 The essential info about these systems is this:

-All three of these systems have at least 3 static connections (each to a different type of k-space), plus receive wandering wormhole connections. (The above WH statics might not be 100% accurate, but the k-space static info is accurate.)

-Only Sansha relic and data sites spawn in these systems--meaning no sleeper relic and data sites spawn here.

-All named Sansha combat sites spawn in these systems, from 1/10 to 10/10.

-Regular C4 gas sites spawn in these systems, containing sleepers.

-Sansha combat anomalies spawn in these systems, in great numbers, and including Sanctums.

-These wormholes get a huge amount of traffic. They have at minimum 3 static connections at any time, but also receive wandering connections (reflective of their C4 status). I have seen as many as 7 or 8 wormhole connections in the HS Sansha system and never fewer than 3 or 4.

-The first rule I discovered about these three wormholes is this: All of these wormholes get a huge amount of traffic. But, if you want to do PVP in Sansha wormholes, your best bet is to fly in J010556, the Sansha wormhole with the HS static. It gets considerably more PVE and PVP traffic than the other systems. However, if you want to do PVE, probably focus on either the LS or the NS Sansha hole.

How I Found the Wormholes (aka the lazy way)

For over 8 months I've been casually looking for a few (5 or so) particular wormholes, including any of the three Sansha wormholes. Wormhole dwellers can fairly quickly find particular holes by causing static connections to collapse and respawn, or just by waiting a few weeks, given the sheer number of connections they map. The method of simply manually search for a wormhole one system to another is theoretically feasible, but not practical. Instead, I've taken the long road to finding a few specific wormholes, which involves just checking the listing of wormholes connected to Thera on EVE Scout everyday. Sheer statistics worked, and after some eight months I've found the specific wormholes I had in mind. I've wanted to write this blog post for 8 months now, but I only found the wormholes in December. Hence the "lazy" way of finding wormholes!

PVE in Sansha Wormholes

In discussing PVE in these wormholes I am going to describe my method. My method is best suited for solo players, whereas groups can run the content much more straightforwardly. However, large wormhole groups would be better off printing isk in a C5/C6, so PVE in Sansha wormholes is probably better suited for solo or duo players anyway. 

Here was my method for PVE: I camped the LS Sansha hole J011195 for a little over one month. I placed a low SP alt in the hole in an Astero. This character essentially lived in the hole, using a mobile depot and occasionally dropping off loot into the LS system of the day. I primarily only did PVE once a week on this character. By far the most time consuming part of living in these systems involved scanning down the signatures--there were as many as 20 signatures in system at one time. Very few players do (/did) PVE in the LS/NS Sansha systems. One reason for this is because explorers looking for pirate relic/data sites in wormholes will immediately skip Sansha holes once they see the system is a C4. Traditional C4 holes do not spawn pirate relic/data sites, so Sansha holes get ignored (see below for how this plays out in PVP in the HS hole--it basically means mostly newer explorers visit, who do not know the type of wormholes to look for).

Anything you can do to speed up your scanning time will increase your isk per hour in these systems given the number of signatures and the fast respawn rate. I used the Astero because it could easily scan and run all relic/data sites in the system, first. My records suggest that around 4-5 exploration sites appeared in the hole per day, with as many as 10 present at one time(!). My theory for their respawn is that the respawn mechanics for Sansha wormholes is restricted to the pool of 3 Sansha systems. I believe this is the case because if I ran a relic/data/combat site in one Sansha wormhole, I would often see the site respawn in the other Sansha hole I was camping. I can't confirm this, but in any case all site respawn very quickly in these systems, meaning you can log in one day, run all the sites, and log in the next day with most of them back.

The second reason I flew an Astero is because it can easily run the 1/10 to 3/10  Sansha combat sites (it can run the 4/10, but it takes a very long time). The key to making good isk in Sansha wormholes--as well as staying alive, given how much traffic comes through these system with all of the wormhole connections--is blitzing the PVE sites as fast as you can, and knowing which sites in particular can be done quickly. There are two PVE sites that can be blitzed in less than 15 minutes: the 3/10, and the 5/10. For the 3/10 (the Sansha's Command Relay Outpost), there are just two pockets. You simply need to kill the overseer in the first room, loot the key (and see if any good but rare faction mods dropped), and then kill and loot the commander in the second room. With less than 3m SP I was able to run this site 6 times with an average time of around 5 minutes, and an average loot value of 50m. 

But, of course, you will often find Sansha 4/10 sites and all the way up to 10/10. If I found any of these sites I wanted to run (obviously the Astero can't do them), I would simply fly my alt in a Tengu to the LS connection, pop in, run the sites, and leave. In terms of isk per hour, only one of these sites is really worth it unless you have a friend to help speed them up: the 5/10. One of the best blogs about exploration in EVE, Pilgrim in Exile, covers this site in extensive detail. The key is, you can blitz the 5/10 in under 15 minutes. I am not going to cover how to blitz the site because I can't add to what Pilgrim already has, but it is worth noting that you can blitz this site in a number of different ships. He has a specialized HAM Tengu that is very fast, but HML Tengus also work (and can still complete the site in under 15 minutes), and the Ishtar and Gila work well too. I ran around 7 of these sites, an average time of 13 minutes, and an average isk of 200m. 

If the wormhole does not have players actively hunting, I also run the 4/10, 6/10, and sometimes 7/10 Sansha sites. All can be done solo in an Ishtar, Tengu (except the 4/10 since you cannot enter in T3 Cruisers), and other typical PVE ships. However, all of them take a fairly long amount of time since you cannot blitz them like the 3/10 and 5/10, but are often worth doing if you have the time.

As mentioned, I primarily did PVE in the LS Sansha system. However, the HS Sansha system has one advantage: it has the effects of a C4 Pulsar. This significantly buffs shield tanking, and makes it possible to run the 7/10 and up using shield fit ships like the Rattlesnake or Tengu and so on. After around a month of very casual PVE in these systems (doing PVE sites only once or twice a week), I came away with over 3b isk. You could easily farm one of the holes and make upwards of 5-10b isk a month in them if you were active two or three times a week.

PVP in Sansha Wormholes

I also had a second project I wanted to explore in these wormholes: PVP. My overall opinion from a month of PVP on Sven in the HS Sansha wormhole is this: You get a ton of traffic through the wormhole, but it is primarily two groups of players. First, you get some newer explorers. More seasoned explorers will often pass the wormhole up because they do not expect a C4 to have relic/data sites, while veteran explorers who might be living in the Sansha hole are difficult to catch. Second, though, you have the wormhole groups who find a connection to the Sansha systems and want to run the sites. I have seen wormhole groups bring in 5-10 players in Gilas and Asteros and clean out the system in a few hours. There is not much I can do against such groups as a solo player (especially in the weird off-meta stuff I fly). However, it is a great place for wormhole groups to find PVE groups to kill. Here is my only notable example:

I am on the killmail, at the very bottom. Here is how I organized the death of this 3b isk Golem: One night, there was a random connection to null sec in the HS Sansha wormhole, to I N F A M O U S space. A covert ops explorer pops in, then leaves. He comes back in a Golem and starts running the Sansha Sanctum anomalies that populate the system. Of course, I am a solo player and never have anyone to "Batphone." I also don't have any big ships nearby (and it turns out he had a mobile depot with warp core stabs to refit if tackled (hence the stabs on his loss mail--those were refit), so I would have lost the kill solo anyway). So, I looked at the killboard history for the wormhole, and contacted a group that was active there a few hours prior. 20 minutes later, they show up in a T3D fleet, and thankfully the Golem is still present. I decloak and pew just to get on the killmail. The group even gives me the loot for providing the intel, how nice! :3

But beyond this instance, there were no other notable kills I got or was on, and in total I only got 19 kills in the HS Sansha system. A regular C1 with a HS static would have netted more kills in a month in my opinion. I am still the top all-time killer in J010556, though, and those 11 kills in the Endurance in the system are from me (lol)!

Sansha wormholes are one of the rare instances in EVE where I would say the PVE opportunities are more exciting (to me) than the solo PVP opportunities. In the future I may return to these wormholes to PVE (especially if I ever stop market trading), as they provide a really niche and unique type of gameplay in EVE with their combination of pirate NPCs in shattered wormhole systems.

If there is anything I can do to improve this guide, let me know! Any suggestions or further info about these wormholes would be much appreciated, as I believe a few others players regularly do PVE in these holes as well. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

How I am Going to Use Skill Point Trading (and how I would use it if I were new)

The February release of EVE Online is scheduled to bring Skill Point Trading to the game. I have followed the discussion and debate over this featured on reddit, blogs, and the forums, and I fully support skill trading as outlined in the dev blog and am excited for it to be released. I have yet to hear a single good argument against the mechanic as CCP plans to implement it. The most common complaint is simply that it is "pay to win," but the accusation never gets explained and is highly implausible. Critics of the feature also seem to forget that the character bazaar exists (a much quicker way to go from credit card to character than skill point trading will be, it should be noted), and that it has not done any measurable harm to the game over the years. The second type of complaint is simply subjective. Some players object to using the skill trading because it does not fit with their own play style--for instance, the satisfactions of training skills, or learning how to use what you have incrementally. However, those are not good reasons to prevent other players from using skill trading, because EVE is a game of many radically different, and sometimes opposing, play styles.

Anyhow, I am making plans for how I hope to use the feature. Once the market settles I may trade in extractors/injectors, but I am more interested in using them myself first off.

How I am Going to Use Skill Point Trading

The first thing I am going to do when skill point trading launches in February? GET RID OF ASTROGEOLOGY V!

I am so freaking excited to rid myself of this skill, partly for personal reasons. Astrogeology V was the first "long" skill I trained as a new player. I of course wanted to make a bit more isk mining (back when I was so new I mined in a hauler, making less than 1m isk an hour). Shortly after I finished the skill, I went on my first Ganked roam into null. In my poorly fit incursus packed full of loot from the fights, I died while trying to get home, and was podded. Unfortunately, my medical clone had just grown out-of-date, and I lost skill points. Not just any skill points--I lost rank V in Astrogeology. I think I then tried to re-train it, but decided it wasn't worth it before it finished. So it sat, at "79%" ever since.

I wasn't too upset because I knew I wanted to focus on PVP anyway, and it was just a good reason to leave mining behind. However, four years later, and I still have that 639,000 skill points in Astrogeology as it sits at "79% done." Not for long! I am going to rid myself of that bad memory first thing.

Besides getting rid of mining skills on Sven, I am going to rid my market alt of her mining skills. I also have a third character at around 10m skill points who used to be my extra trader for special projects like Thera and Simela trading, but I no longer use her skills. In total, I expect to have around 6 million skill points extracted. Because Sven has over 80 million SP, he will only receive 150k SP if I inject them. I am happy to take that diminished return in exchange for skills I will never use. I plan to apply the skill points to drone skills--Drone Durability V and maybe Gallente Drone Specialization V, because they are skills I would also make use of yet hard to train given that I am never in a drone-specific (memory+perception) remap.

How I Would use the Skill Point Trading if I were New

What about if I were new? Well, there's two relevant categories of new players here. There's the new player at sub-5m skill points, who will get a 100% return in skills from injecting 500k SP. Then, there's the 5m-50m skill point range, or characters who will receive 80% of the skills returned, or 400/500k.  

If I were a new player with sub-5m skills, I probably would not use skill trading, simply because I would be too new to the game to really understand what to train. However, some new players are a lot better at the game than I am, and know quite early what skills they need--such as fitting skills or skills to fly doctrine ships. So, some new players in the sub-5m SP category might well have great use for skill trading and will get a full 500k SP from injecting, and that's awesome for new players in my opinion. Me personally, I was just too bad at the game to make use of skill trading that early.

However, the 5m-50m SP category of new players is another category altogether. These are players who have been playing for anywhere from 5-6 months to a full 3 years, and they will get a fantastic return on investment. I sure as hell would have used skill trading during this period, and if fact it is when skill trading would have been most useful to me. I think I fully knew what I wanted to do in EVE at around 5-6m skill points. My EVEMon skill plan already stretched upwards of 2-3 years of planned skills. How would I have used skill trading during this time? A few ways:

1) First off, like many players I've talked to already, one of the best uses of skill trading is to create PI alts. 500k SP is enough to have a near max PI character. And, the profit for PI is currently going through the roof, and will continue to rise with and after the release of the massive PI material sink that will be Citadels and their rigs. I think the number one use I would make for skill trading if I were newer would be to create 2-6 PI alts. It would pay for itself in just a few months of LS, NS, or WH PI.

2) The next way I would use skill trading if I were 6 months to 3 years into the game would be for fitting skills. Skills like Advanced Weapon Upgrades V that are so essential to virtually any play style in EVE but are giant skill training hurdles. With a 400k/500k return on skill points I would definitely consider getting most of the fitting skills I needed.

So those are the two main ways I would use skill trading if I were between 6 months and 3 years into the game, and sub-50m skill points. I am looking forward to reading about how other players use skill trading and whether it makes the game more enjoyable for them. It certainly will for me.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

How I got a 2.6 billion Isk Bounty

This is just a short (kind of boring) story about how I got a 2.65b isk bounty on Sven, with an added 120m on the corporation (of which he is the sole member). It is a silly system. But, I also want to suggest some reasons why bounties on players are not always a complete waste of isk, contrary to popular opinion.

The first "big bounty" came a few years ago. I was briefly trying out faction warfare in high security space, something I've never really talked about but netted me a gross amount of exhumer, faction battleship, and marauder kills just solo roaming in a beefy ship. One juicy target was a mission runner in an opposing faction doing HS lvl 4 missions in a Vargur. I destroyed the Vargur, and found myself with a 1,00237,851 isk bounty or something similarly specific. I haven't seen the player online, and he never replied to my (attempted) friendly messages. My guess is, he just dumped all of his remaining isk on my head and called it quits. I feel a bit bad about it.

Fast forward two years. From my frequent deaths as a solo PVPer, I have this bounty down to 600m (it occasionally gets some additional bounties from miners or players otherwise unhappy to have gotten blown up). I thought I might even burn through the bounty eventually.
However, a few of the inactive POSes I have destroyed were not completely inactive. The owners came back to EVE, or were just away for a week. Some of the owners--coming back to a destroyed and ransacked POS--sent me a message or started a conversation. Surprisingly, all of them have been cool cats. They were interested in how I found the POS, what I looted, and so on, and not upset. I express my sympathies (my goal isn't to grief players, after all). When a POS goes inactive--anywhere--it is only a matter of time before players come poking at it, and if it weren't me it would be another group probably only days later.

But one more recent group was apparently not too happy. They were doing primarily t2 research and production on small, new ships, like command destroyers. The POS modules destroyed were only worth a few hundred million, and the loot and BPCs dropped were not much more expensive--they were valuable more for being time consuming to make. The corp mates eventually came back online, and put two 1b isk bounties on my head. So now I sit at 2.6b isk.

Don't get me wrong, bounties are not a great use for isk in any case. But, I don't think they are completely useless--such as when putting bounties on a player like myself, a player who regularly dies. I lose a lot of ships. If a player wants the psychological satisfaction of getting updates in game whenever I or anyone else dies, they can put small bounties on the player and receive the notifications. But say you want to reward the people who kill me or players like me. I'm losing 20 or more ships a month, 500m isk total or much more. Putting a large bounty on a player like me is a way of tipping the people who kill me. If a solo player kills a typical pirate frigate I fly, they receive something like 15m isk. Hey, that's not bad! It would buy a new slicer hull for instance. If I play long enough to lose all 2.6b isk, all of that isk is a tip divided among my killers. That's a neat system, if you think about it, and it is not a great use of isk, but it does make a small statement, something like "I dislike you/your actions enough to tip the people who will kill you in the future."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Solo Stealth Bombing

I have or plan to try every form of PVP in EVE Online, but after four years it occurred to me that I have somehow never done bombing runs in a stealth bomber. I have frequently flown torpedo bombers solo, and have gotten some nice kills in the process, but I thought it was time to try bombing. And, now that I've tried it, I am hooked! It is a ton of fun to do even when solo, and it is one way a solo player can be meaningfully involved in large fleet fights.

In this post I am going to talk about tactics for solo bombing. I don't mean flying a stealth bomber solo using torpedos for your primary (or only) damage. I'm going to talk about how to use bombs only, solo, to get kills, or to meaningfully contribute to fleet fights as a third party. There are many active NPSI communities in EVE who regularly do bombing runs, but doing it solo means you are solely responsible for your own warp-ins, bookmarks, and execution.

I think the main reason why I find solo bombing so enjoyable is that it depends heavily on tactical knowledge of battles and grids in EVE, effective bookmarks, and a psychological understanding of fleets. It is very much like playing EVE in "RTS" mode.

The idea of using bombs, solo, is attractive at first, given how much potential damage they do on impact. Up to 8k damage with max skills. But this is unrealistic when most players research the way bombs work. Bomb damage ignores ship velocity and only pays attention to signature, and as a result bombs only do full damage to targets with high signatures (400+).

The formula for bomb damage, ignoring resists, is roughly the signature of the target ship / 400m (the explosion radius of the bomb itself) * 8000 from the bomb base damage (at Covert Ops V) from the bomb.

This means that against a ship—such as a frigate or destroyer without MWD on—with a signature radius of 50, the bomb before resists will only do around 1k damage. That's not enough to destroy most any frigate or destroyer on impact (well, sometimes it is!), though it will noticeably hurt them (hence why logistics pilots in fleet often say “Do Not broadcast for bomb damage!” The damage is enough to want to broadcast for, but overwhelming for logi to take care of in a fight).

However, if a frigate or destroyer has their MWD on, and has less buffer than about 4k EHP, you can one shot them with a bomb. Here are some examples of headshots I've gotten where this was the case: Thrasher kill 1, Thrasher kill 2, Garmur kill (notice the bomb alpha went through a MSE as well).

Here is a fantastic video of a Garmur headshot in a bomber that is very much like my kill and shows the tactics involved in one-shotting targets with a bomb.
Notice that the bomber pilot stays on grid a few seconds (server ticks) before warping. You can, AFAIK, decloak, launch a bomb, and warp, within 2 server ticks (you can "feel" the ticks in the delay it takes for your modules to respond and ship to warp), and where you are only vulnerable for 1.

However, if you stay on grid for a few more seconds, you have a chance of baiting ships to MWD into you--and, hence, into your bomb. This is essentially the tactic I use: When at range and aligned to a warp-out, decloak and launch bomb, count to 2, then warp. This is dangerous, insofar as it gives ships time to lock you, but it can be effective in baiting a headshot. Here is an example from A2-, the main area I've been working on bombing skills given that there are large fleet fights at least once per day in system. I've since added around 30 bookmarks around the station at different angles and ranges, but in this screenshot you can at least see a basic path: warp 50km in front of station, align to bookmark behind station, crossing the undock area:

You can even headshot entire fleets with a single bomb. Here is one of the best examples I know of where a single bomb took out a large number of ships in a fleet (Jan 02). Cormorant fleets typically lack any buffer whatsoever, making them perfect targets for bombing runs. The difficulty, of course, is having a good bookmark or warp-in and being able to time and aim the bombing run right, given that the fleet will need to be MWDing in order to one-shot targets. That difficulty is part of the fun of solo bombing.

What about solo bombing as a third party during fleet fights? I've found this to be just as fun and as challenging as trying to headshot targets, particularly when the fleets are fast and kiting. It is a rush when ships are flying within 10km as you try to sneak in close to a fleet for the perfect bombing run. What I was particularly surprised about, however, is just how much damage solo bomb runs can do. Here are some log analyses showing my total damage during bomb runs on fleets:

This first fight was a large Ferox vs. Ferox brawl featuring NARM vs. Horde. I had good bomb placement in this one, and BC-sized targets and both easier to hit than cruisers and have a larger sig. I ended up hitting 110 targets (drones, corpses, and wrecks included) and doing over 30k damage, but just as I sent the bomb off a dictor bubble popped up in my path, and I had to warp to a different target, just barely escaping a confessor:

In this most recent fight, a LAWN Caracal fleet fought a kitchen sink fleet on Horde's A2- undock. It was a challenging engagement to bomb because the Caracel fleet kited the entire time, but after 4 runs managed this one, which ends up being about 39k to targets with fairly small sigs and lower EHP:

Finally, in this bomb run, removing damage to the drones and wrecks, one bomb does 41k to a small fleet of Hurricanes:

There's nothing to brag about here as anyone could have the same success, but what surprised me was just how much damage a single bomb can do. And, obviously, if a single bomb can do upwards of 40k to a fairly small fleet, just imagine what a group of 6-7 bombers could do in a single run. Bombing is a fun playstyle and I recommend it to anyone who hasn't given it a try, particularly if they are solo players who want to get involved in large fleet fights.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Should the War Dec System Simply be Removed?

High Security space is, statistically, where a large number of players spend their time. High security space may even account for the majority of players, but CCP has never released statistics that are fine-grained enough to know conclusively. High security space is also one of the most neglected areas in terms of balance passes on the fundamental mechanics underlying the space. Security status, corporation standings, Concord/faction police, and the war dec system are all mechanics that have not seen serious developer time since I started playing. That's not just an issue by itself, but with the new Citidal expansion and structures coming this spring, it mounts a huge problem. At the very least, I would argue, the war dec system is the main mechanic that needs a serious overhaul with and not after the Citadel expansion.

I've been thinking about the war dec system in EVE for as long as I've been playing, and I've been "abusing" it for almost as long as well. As readers will know, I've looted something like 50b in inactive POSes in HS that I've destroyed using the war dec system, and purely on a casual/weekend type of gameplay. And the longer I've thought about war decs and theory-crafted changes, the more I've come to the conclusion that the current system is inane and broken. It adds almost nothing to the game in its current form. And the conclusion I keep coming to is that nothing of value would be lost if the entire war dec system were removed from the game.

Here are some of the most important facts underlying the war dec system in EVE that must be considered before changes are suggested:

1) NPC corporations cannot be the target of player wars. This is incredibly important. It means there are already thousands of players in EVE who cannot be killed in HS unless you get them to attack  you (e.g. in a duel), or suicide gank them. Of course, everyone with a shred of knowledge about EVE puts their trading and hauling alts in an NPC corp for this very reason.

2) Most important PVP and group versus group content in the game occurs independently of the war dec system. Of course, the war dec system is almost entirely independent of NS/LS/WHs conflict. Few in NS/LS/WHs would even notice if CCP quietly removed war decs one day, for instance.

3) Many PVP encounters in HS occur indenepndently of the war dec system, namely, by CODE. and other groups who "forcibly" destroy targets independent of declaring war on them, as well as by players who acquire a criminal status in order to be freely attacked by other players ("baiting" them, but no less consensual for it).

4) The major conflict that occurs in HS that depends on the war dec system is POS and POCO take overs (given that they cannot be realistically suicide-ganked!). However, these are also the types of structures that are in the "old system," currently being replaced. New structures like deployable structures operate independently of the war dec mechanic, and are better off for it. Sure, POSes and POCOs won't entirely be replaced for a few years, but balance changes should not be made on the basis of old and soon-to-be obsolete features of the game.

5) The only other use for the war dec system is for easy kills in high sec. HS war dec groups are some of the most risk averse players in EVE. And, as we all know by now, the game does not in any way require this to be possible to exist. It is a marginal and highly risk averse play style that only a small segment of the EVE playerbase engages in, and one that adds virtually no content of value to the game.

6) Balancing the war dec system is notoriously difficult, potentially even impossible. The system is blind to whether the group is full of new players. It is balanced by "isk," from the scaling fee, but as we've all learned, you cannot balance anything in EVE by isk value alone. Many rich solo players could perma-run wars on all of the largest groups in EVE, for instance. The current isk fees for war decs are inane, but the problem is, there's not actually a good way to balance them around isk alone. Furthermore, there's no real counter-play to having a war declared on your corporation--besides dropping corp and sitting in an NPC corp, which is what many active players do in response. That's a sign it is a broken system, but there's no good way to actually fix it.

Given these facts, I see no reason for the war dec system to even exist in game. It could easily be removed if CCP did the following:
First, make all structures (POCOs and POSes) operate on the same aggression mechanics as current deployable structures. You are free to attack them any time and anywhere, but you receive a criminal flag and they go into a reinforce period after a certain amount of damage, notifying the owners. This means that even in HS you could freely attack a POS or Citadel, but recieve a criminal timer and have to return during the vulnerability period. CCP could allow structures in HS to have extra-narrow vulnerability periods, to allow for the relative "safety" of the space (as opposed to null or wormholes).
Second, remove faction police from High Sec. This would allow players of negative standing to PVP in HS, but be freely engagable by everyone, without Concord intervention.

Then, simply remove the war dec system in its entirely. If you want kills in HS, you either have to get them to engage you, or attempt to gank them but lose your ship in the process.

The benefit to simply removing the war dec system and replacing what's useful about it is first that it removes a problematic, broken mechanic from the game that is otherwise in serious need of balance changes; second, it unifies the aggression mechanics across all areas of space; and third that pairing it with the removal of faction police from HS and only criminal timers for engaging structures replaces war decs with meaningful, content-driven PVP in HS.

The only thing that's lost, of course, is the ability to score easy kills on targets in HS by declaring war for irrelevant amounts of isk. However, there are still many ways to disrupt player groups in HS without wars. You can siege their structures, if they have any. You can attempt to bait or gank their miners, haulers, or mission runners. You can engage in market PVP against them. You can engage in reddit warfare against them. And so on.

So, as far as I can tell, the best option for CCP this spring is to remove the war dec system entirely, and replace it with a structure aggression system and the removal of faction police. It requires very little dev time, and everyone wins.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 in EVE was an Amazing Year

2015 will go down as one of my favorite years in EVE. Hopefully not the last!

2011-2013 were my “training wheel” years in EVE, playing primarily with RVB, living nomadically in low sec on an alt, and just trying to learn the basics of survival and PVP in this insanely complicated and competitive game.

In 2014 the training wheels came off, and I focused on low sec solo PVP in frigate and destroyer class ships.

In 2015, I finally moved on to null sec and wormhole PVP, and I spent most of the year following the large, neutral groups around null looking for solo PVP opportunities. In 2015 I also started actively using (and losing) ships bigger than the frigate/destroyer classes.

At the end of 2014 and start of 2015, I moved to null sec for the first time ever. I lived in Curse, during the time when Brave swarmed throughout Catch, and through “The Siege of GE-8JV.” While some recall March of 2015 as the month that Brave began to implode, some/many players look back on the siege of GE- as one of the funnest periods in the game. Basically everyone and every playstyle was bottled up in one region for a few months, and there was little reason to go anywhere else. Everything from capital fights, kitchen sink fleets, small gangs, and dozens of solo pvp fights was going on at the same time seemingly without end.

The Siege of GE-
It certainly was one of the best times in EVE Online for me, and that month remains not only my most active period ever playing EVE (with 350+ kills mostly solo) but also the time when I really started to understand and enjoy null sec PVP.

As a result of those early months fighting in Catch, I've stuck with null sec PVP throughout 2015 except for a few breaks to PVP in wormholes. I fought Horde when they lived in Cloud Ring (aka, “content ring”) and used Thera to PVP everywhere from Omist to TEST/PFR space in the east. After a break during the late summer I've come back to solo PVP with a lot of renewed energy and am having a blast fighting NARM, Brave, Horde, and everyone else in the Querious thunderdome. And probably more this year than ever, I've spent a lot of time watching people on twitch. Said Caid, Mr Hyde, Prom, Suitonia—the list goes on of amazing solo PVPers who stream some amazing content on twitch/youtube.

My overall impression of the the state of solo—one that many others share so far as I've read and discussed—is that solo pvp has become harder to find in 2015, compared with years previous. This is partly due to some poor balancing by CCP, but perhaps also due to the lower activity levels in the game as a whole.

For some, that has led them to try other forms of game play—or other games. For others (like me), solo pvp remains rewarding enough to be a primary playstlye.

The Rifter has never looked so good, with the addition of ship damage

2015 left me with 2118 more kills, 128 losses; with around 73b isk destroyed (mostly solo), and around 4.7b lost. Going into 2016, I am comfortable PVPing in every type of space. I plan to continue to flying in bigger and more expensive ships and work toward that goal of PVPing in everything that flies, so I expect I will lose a lot more isk in this upcoming year. But, I don't know where I will fly. NS? LS? Wormholes? Probably a mixture of all three, following activity levels and conflicts.

In terms of non-PVP goals, I have now explored 80% of high security space, with only 3 regions remaining to cover. In 2015 I tested what a solo player can do in game, taking POCOs for myself and destroying inactive POSes around high sec, accumulating almost 50b isk in loot from blueprint and material drops. My "systems visited" map is slowly getting painted in:

I still prefer the old map but the new one's aesthetics is growing on me
In 2016 I expect to finish exploring all of HS, and probably most of LS as well, and I am sure I will snag a few more inactive POSes along the way.

On the year, isk from trade total over 150b, which isn't bad given my almost complete inactivity with trading in the summer.

Ending the year on an uptick in trading profit