Tuesday, June 17, 2014

PVP Dry Spells

For the past few weeks—maybe even over a month—I've been in a dry spell in solo PVP. The sort of dry spell that makes me roam hoping to explode, so long as it involves a solo fight or something close. I've had a hard time finding fights, win or lose. I only have anecdotal evidence, but it just feels harder to find solo fights of any sort currently than, say, 6 months ago. The expansion being released makes it even harder, as it feels like no matter how excited I am for the expansions, my main activities when they are released always seem to be logistics--hauling, market orders, etc. As nice as the new low sec exploration / PVE content is for the health of low security space, they also involve a huge amount of travel. My single Mordu BPC only came after a few hundred belts--fortunately I was able to do a bit of PVP at the same time, and the pay out at the time was equivalent to a PLEX.
This PVP dry spell has led me to reflect back on my losses on the first half of the year—48 now. I wish it were higher, as it would mean I've found more fights in general. I divided my losses into the following groups, which I think pretty well reflects what it is like to be a non-elite solo PVPer in EVE:

“Blobbed” here means killed by a sufficiently large number of pilots and in such a way that it is highly unlikely I get even a single kill during the process. “Out numbered” generally means fighting 2-3 ships, and “outgunned” means the ship is a class or type higher—e.g., fighting a pirate frigate in a T1 frigate (generally, the cases where I die to a blob or small gang are also cases where I am partly out gunned as well).
Out of 48 losses total thus far in 2014, the following are ship losses while attempting to solo in low or null sec (so pods and fleet losses are not included):

Blobbed: 12

Out numbered: 6

Solo loss: 9

Of those 9 solo losses, 4 were against ships that outgunned me (typically, fighting navy frigates in T1 frigates). 2 were “just die already” fit coraxes I was desperate to explode due to really disliking coraxes. Of the remaining 4, one was a great fight between a 400mm plate rail comet (me) and a SAR rail comet in which I died in a fire. Another loss came in a destroyer against an assault frigate that was also one-sided. The second most recent was a fantastic slug-fest in a 400mm plate coercer against a 400mm plate algos where I learned how much better the algos is at that sort of brawling. Finally and most recently, while trying to solo in a punisher, I died to a hard counter a few times over—a neuting, TDing slasher who could also leave the fight at any time.

The frustration caused by dry spells is actually one of the things that gets me to try harder and try new things in EVE. So, I am going to be doing two new things in the coming months:

First, I am going to be doing a short stint in FW, specifically in the Amarr FW. My reason for this is primarily to PVP in a new area of space and see some new faces (I've almost never ventured into Amarr/Minmatar FW space). This is part of my goal to earn a kill in every low sec constellation as well as visit every system in EVE. I won't be joining an "elite" group, but trying to look like an easy target in hopes of getting fights. Finally, with the Minmatar currently hoovering around T3-T4, there will, hopefully, be a few targets around.

Second, once I lose enough ships in FW, if there is a "summer war" heating up I may join Brave Newbies with some newer friends. Since I am a virtual newbie when it comes to null sec as well as coalition "PVP" I figure it will provide a decent opportunity to find some action and meet new players.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Besieged Covert Research Facilities - now spawning in a system near you

Besieged Covert Research Facilities are now spawning all over low security space. It appears that around one spawns per five or so systems, but they can be more spread out or more clustered as the case may be. The rats come in two waves: Three ships of some combination of Mordu battleships and cruisers, and then some combination of five ships (four battleships and one cruiser seems typical). They do significant kinetic damage with no trouble applying the DPS at ranges past 100km and to targets with low signature radius, and they appear to be weakest to kinetic—this makes typical PVE ships like the tengu and the ishtar perfect for soloing these ships given their high default resists to kinetic. I am playing with fits at the moment, but so far an active tanking heavy missile tengu seems to work well, putting out upwards of 700dps with scourge fury heavy missiles at 70km—well away from the point range of the Mordu ships. The sites can thus be farmed in only a few minutes given the small number of rats. Even with resists in the high 80s or into the 90s, these second wave in particular requires a decent tank.

It is too early to tell what the average isk payout of these sites will be. Covert research tools, one of the new low-grade pirate implants, and a new ship skin BPC, seem like a fairly consistent group of drops from each site. However, the market will take a few days to weeks to settle on prices for these items.

Here are the drops from five sites thus far:

1. Thrasher Thukker Tribe BPC, low-grade harvest alpha, and around 5m in covert research tools.

2. Cormorant Guristas BPC, low-grade edge delta, and around 5m in covert research tools

3.Thrasher Thukker Tribe BPC, and around 5m in covert research tools

4. Coercer Blood Raider BPC, and around 5m in covert research tools

5. Ferox Guristas BPC, low-grade snake epsilon, and around 5m in covert research tools.

Once the price on the ship skins settles I look forward to PVPing in them. The low-grade pirate implants will also make a cheaper alternative to the mid / high grades, as I assume the price of a full set of LG snakes, slaves, etc., will balance out to a few hundred million isk.

These sites add a new set of content to low sec exploration and another reason to live and travel there, without really overshadowing any of the other exploration content.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Are there any games like EVE online?

Sometimes my friends ask me why I don't play X,Y,Z, and why I solely play EVE. I get incredulous stares when I say "It's the only game worth playing so far as I'm concerned."

Say I want to play a game that has the following features. First, there has to be PVP, but not in rigidly defined ways or prescribed areas—it has to be an integral part of the game, part of the next two features. Second, the game has to be a sandbox in some minimal senses—and not merely having a crafting system, say, which some game developers seem to think is the condition for being a sandbox. I take “sandbox” to mean that players can build and destroy vital, core parts of the game world. Third, it has to involve risk. Rewards in games mean nothing to me if there is not also risk. On my view, features 1-3 combine to transform a game into a virtual world.

It is also a plus if the game has a lot of content and minimal bugs—further conditions which exclude many newer games due to the increasing trend of releasing games in beta or alpha or in pre-release-releases where players pay to bug test and read dev blogs about someday content. People seem to love newer games, but for me, a game needs to be released—and continually updated—for a few years until I consider it worth playing. (E.g., I tend to buy Total War games only 2 or so years after they were released, both because that's about how long it takes CA to fix many of the broken features and that's how long it takes the modding community to get really established.)

There are really only a few games which satisfy these features—partly because these features identity virtual worlds more than mere games. Cross out virtually every MMORPG, even those billed as sandboxes. Some mostly single-player games involve world-building, but not in the sense where PVP is integral to the sandbox and the risk elements. So far as I can tell, besides EVE online, your options are slim. Dayz (and its clones) is one similar such game. Player interaction in the game is highly unpredictable, usually outright strange. While the game is certainly not a themepark, it is also a bit too much like a drawn out FPS with weird social interactions for me. Someday, if and when permanent modification of the game world is implemented (e.g., building and fortifying), and if server size ever sufficiently increases, I may find it worth some time.

But so far as I can tell, EVE Online is almost completely unique in satisfying my conditions 1-3 (as well as having years of content and few really major bugs). And it likely will be the only game / virtual world satisfying those conditions for at least 5 years. At least 5 years because, first, few games are in development which aim to satisfying conditions 1-3. Of those that are, many of them are from very small studios, and many likely will only have a small following upon release. Could a game be released with features 1-3 that surpasses EVE? Sure, but to match the amount of content—player created content in addition to dev created—the game would need at least a few years of a dedicated community building, destroying, exploring, fighting, etc. Devs create the means and tools for a sandbox game, but the players ultimately make a game a sandbox. So, I guess for me--now and in the next few years--my gaming choices boil down to either EVE, or nothing really.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Monthly Top – May 2014

Zkillboard has a nice little feature which lets you view the monthly (as well as all-time) “top” for any given pilot, the most useful stats being the most used ships and the most frequent systems for that character's PVP “wins.” I figured it would be worthwhile—for my own reflections, at least—to make a series covering my monthly top 10—the ships, at least, but sometimes the systems as well. I wish the killboard had a monthly top losses as well, but generally my top killing ships were also ships I lost the most of. I will start with May, 2014:

For the month of May, I was in Stay Frosty, and virtually all of my fights were solo (attempts at solo, at least). May and June tend to be some of the busiest months of the year for me “IRL,” so I am happy with how much activity I ended up with.

1. Coercer. 17 kills.
Tied for the top ship of the month for me is the coercer. I have been flying versions of the “Standard” PVP fits for coercers for the past few months as part of my plan to solo in every combat capable ship in EVE at least once. I used a standard 400mm plate armor fit, sometimes with (now “mid-grade”) low grade slaves which really helped the viability of this brawling setup when combined with the ship's decent range and passable DPS. I also used a high DPS, small pulse laser fit which proved quite solid, scoring kills such as this dual-rep incursus, a near 2-shot on this condor, and other such kills. The high-DPS coercer does not have as much DPS as max DPS catalysts nor does the 400mm plate version have as much tank as the 400mm plate algos, but it combines those types of fittings with a generous engagement range when using scorch. I learned the value of that ranged DPS the previous month when I warped on top of a high DPS catalyst and managed to pulse the MWD outside of his blaster range—but still inside the coercer's laser range. Lasers are still quite new for me, so this fight was a learning experience.
In a quick secession of fights, this coercer, which eventually died to a random command ship, provoked a high sec group of players into throwing what looks to be their entire fleet of ships at it, to no avail, including a mackinaw, a noctis, a retriever, and a drake navy issue. I'm not at all sure what happened here, but at least they got a sort of revenge in the end when a passerby killed me.

1. Astero. 17 kills.
The Astero is one of my favorite ships. I use a fairly standard dual rep, cap boosting fit for scouting around, for semi-afk PVP activities such as waiting for explorers to wander by, as well as for exploration in 1/10 – 3/10 DED combat sites when there is little else to do. With drones on aggressive and an afterburner going, the latter is largely a semi-afk activity as well. I've also scored almost 50 solo kills in my astero—which I bought sometime in November 2013 and have yet to lose as of June, 2014. The 17 kills of May include many a hapless explorer (for the new players among them I always repay them more isk than they lost and strike up a conversation about exploration and PVP, explaining how they can avoid getting killed next time they venture into low sec. I've made a few friends this way). However, the astero is more than capable of fighting other PVP ships. This algos is one real fight this ship had during May, as I tend to be fairly risk-averse in this ship, maybe because I like it so much.

3. Stratios. 13 kills.
In May, I mostly flew a Stratios in high sec while in a +5 attribute clone, during short play sessions, as part of one of my completionist goals to visit every high sec system in game. I visit new systems and poke around a bit, doing some exploration sites in this ship, but also getting into some strange fights at times. This drake was upset I killed his mobile tractor, while this thorax—a frequent baiter of mission runners in this area of space—was no match for the pre-nerf Geckos which boosted my Stratios fit up to an insane 850 DPS. RIP pre-nerf Geckos.

4. Ishkur. 9 kills.
There's actually not much to say about the ishkur kills in this month, as I was largely testing out fits and cleaning up some mobile tractors I found.

5. Tormentor. 7 kills.
Like the coercer kills, the tormentor kills in May were part of my attempt to solo in every combat capable ship at least once, and like the coercer it is frequently underestimated (which can make getting fights a bit easier). Laser ships like the tormentor are still very new to me. I used a “standard” 400m plate fit, a dual rep fit similar to the dual rep incursus, and a small ancillary armor rep fit with a 200mm plate (again similar to a parallel incursus fit). The tormentor is a pretty tough little ship, capable of fighting above its mere T1 class due to its decent DPS at scram range and its excellent tank when either passive or active. All of my fits are afterburner fits—which opens it up to being easily kited. Flying smart can sometimes prevent this, getting lucky where you land can also help, but sooner or later if you fly afterburner fit ships you are going to die a slow, painful death to a kiting ship—such as to a condor or the new garmur.

6. Purifier. 7 kills.
Tied with the tormentor is the purifer at 7 kills. I had a blast in this ship in May, with many reminders at how viable stealth bombers can be even in low sec against the right targets. I flew the purifier around low sec mostly looking for clone soldiers while keeping an eye out for potential targets in space—an activity that pairs nicely with having two monitors and doing something besides EVE on the second. I encountered this ratting caracal as well as this harbinger navy issue while not really looking for fights, but stumbling on them anyway.

7. Moa. 5 kills.
The Moa, now one of the hottest ships in EVE, used to be ugly. I started flying it when still ugly and it quickly became one of my favorite cruisers. I use again fairly standard blaster as well as 200mm railgun LSE fits, and have an XLASB fit in the future line-up. In cruiser-class brawler versus brawler fights, it fares pretty well. However, it is quite slow and runs out of cap very quickly, which makes flying the 200mm rail fit somewhat odd—on one hand, you have good range. On the other hand, you cannot exactly kite since the MWD only lasts a minute or so.

8. Celestis. 5 kills.
I was largely trying out some bait celestis fits, simply getting a feel for its tank and DPS. This resulted in fairly odd kills like this one but nothing really special.

9. Nereus. 5 kills.
Also largely testing out some bait fits and shooting some mobile structures. Nothing really special. 

10. Executioner. 2 kills.
Finally, the poor executioner. I've tried hard to get a fit that works, that can score some—any--solo kills, but the executioner simply isn't as solo-friendly as most other frigs. Using a scram range kiting fit with an active armor tank, I scored this cormorant kill and counted it as a massive accomplishment as was the first time I've flown the executioner without just dying in a fire.

There are a few other ships I flew and scored 1 kill in, and there are many other fights I had which either resulted in 1) me exploding, or 2) no one exploding, but that's roughly how May went for me—a lot of really strange fights which occurred when I wasn't exactly looking for a fight. However, I learned a huge amount and made steady progress toward my personal goals in EVE, so I count it as a successful month.