Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Taking and Owning POCOs Solo

Some things I do in EVE are attempts at seeing what a solo player can accomplish. Earlier this year, I wondered what it would take for a solo player to take, and own, a POCO in HS. I researched the topic and found virtually nothing about a single player accomplishing this, so I set out to give it a try. For science. 

The basic questions I sought to answer were these:

1) Is feasible for a solo player to take a HS POCO? What I mean is, are all POCOs owned by active, large groups who will defend their holdings from a presumably easy target like a solo player?

2) What are the logistics of taking one? I.e., roughly how long does it take to tear down, solo?

3) Most importantly, how much isk do HS POCOs make and is it possible for a solo player to hold them for long enough that they turn a profit?

So, I started doing my research.

A Brief History of POCOs in HS

The introduction of player owned customs offices in HS in Oct. 2013 added one of the largest sources of player conflict in HS. It essentially created new content out of thin air, and it should go down as one of the best changes ever made to HS. Future changes to all space should follow the basic rule it demonstrates: giving players the ability to control--and then fight over--more parts of the game/space world creates content where none previously existed. The more you can build in a sandbox, the more you can tear down. (One of the most notable sources of conflict over HS POCOs was RVBs long history with taking and defending a large POCO empire, for instance.)

The week after Rubicon, player groups went on a mad rush to destroy InterBus customs offices and replace them with their own. Groups continue to fight over POCOs, but the initial mad rush left HS without any remaining InterBus customs offices left within just a few months.

I picked Verge Vendor as my region to study, if only because this is the area of HS space I was most familiar with. The first thing I did was a fairly laborious task: I went through each system and made a spreadsheet of the planets, documenting which groups owned the POCOs. (A little over 100 planets/POCOs.) On that spreadsheet I also documented whether that POCO had changed hands, so far as zkillboard indicated.

One of the first interesting things I discovered is that maybe 20-50% of the POCOs in the region have not changed hands since the first mad rush in 2013 to take InterBus POCOs. Even more interesting, a decent amount of those groups are small (less than 10 players) and are no longer active, or at least inactive for most months out of the year. If you research HS corporations, one thing that becomes apparent is that HS based corps come and go a lot more frequently than null sec or low sec empires who control the POCOs in their space. This means that a ton of POCOs in HS are held by inactive corporations, even when those corporations were at one point very active.

So a rough estimate indicated that around 20-50 POCOs in the region were potentially easy targets, owned by small corporations no longer, or not currently, active in game. 

POCO profit from the taxes automatically appears in the corporation wallet. I do not know whether the tax still feeds into the corporation wallet even if the corporation does not have any active players (if it does, CCP should certainly consider changes this so that POCOs do not pay out their taxes to a corporation unless at least one player or player-with-roles in that corporation has an active account, otherwise it is making isk even when not active in game.) But nothing requires the owning group to be active, and it is not like POCOs "decay" if the owners are not around (though maybe--probably--they should have a decay mechanic).

A completely boring SS of grinding down a POCO
Taking and Owning POCOs - My Experience so far

People who have read this blog for a while may remember that the first POCO I tried to take was held by an active corp of roughly 15 people. I wanted to see if anyone would defend the POCO, but I also had kill rights on me at the time and it led to a near gank by 15+ people.

After that incident, I picked better targets. I took 5 POCOs in March/April of 2015. No one showed up to defend, presumably because the corporations were inactive. Using a max DPS rattlesnake puts a POCO into reinforce in around 2 hours. Using two with an alt (and putting some polarized torpedo launchers on them!) lowers the time to around 45 minutes. That's a lot quicker than taking down even small control towers in HS. Like all player structures, they exit reinforce during a narrow window later as set by the corporation. Once they become vulnerable, it is simply a matter of destroying them and putting up your own. How much does it cost? The base war dec fee is 50m, plus whatever customs offices and the necessary PI materials cost on the market at the time. Custom office gantries are running around 85m currently, and the PI materials around 25-30m total. So, expect to pay at least 150m per POCO. For five POCOs (from four different groups), I paid 750m isk.

After taking the POCOs, there was no incident. No one contacted me, no one tried to take them, nothing. I set the tax rate to 5%--better than other POCOs in the system. And within a few days the isk slowly started to come in.

POCO Profit

So this brings us to the main question: How much isk do HS POCOs make, and how long does it take for them to turn a profit? The answer, of course, is "that all depends..." The isk they make depends on the current game activity levels, the type planet, the tax rate, and of course the location. Name a random planet in The Forge and I could not even begin to guess what it makes per month at a 5% tax rate.

I can only report what I've observed with the 5 POCOs I own. As mentioned, after around 6 months they paid for themselves. That's around 750m from 5 POCOs in a half a year. By 8 months the profit has reached around 1b isk--or, to put it another way, that means after 8 months I've now made a 250m profit on my initial investment. However, the POCOs are not equally profitable. One in particular has made almost half, making around 40-50m a month. The second most profitable has brought in about 300m total; and the other three are even slower, only making around 100m each. The three slowest POCOs will thus pay for themselves in roughly a year, while the most profitable paid for itself in 3 months.
I am sure there are far, far more profitable POCOs in HS, such as on planets near Jita; and I am also sure there are far worse POCOs in HS as well, such as those in the least visited HS system.
I would not be surprised if the most profitable POCOs in HS brought in 300m a month and the least profitable struggled to make 50m a year, and I would guess the average income from a HS POCO with a 5% tax rate is only going to be 100m-150m a year. That is complete guesswork though, and I could be utterly off-track! An interview with RVB indicates that when they had some 275 POCOs in HS, they were making roughly 10b isk a month.

Is that a good amount, or bad? I suppose for being an entirely passive form of income, it is good. But compared to many other activities in EVE, it is pretty terrible. Running anoms in null, farming wormholes, doing dara/relic sites, or trading--those will all potentially make more isk per effort (given the effort it would take many players or groups to acquire 275 POCOs!). 

When HS POCOs were introduced, some players predicted that large null sec groups would take over many of the POCOs in HS. That prediction after 2 years has largely turned out false, if only because HS POCOs really don't make that much isk after all, and because getting to HS to take or defend them is pretty inconvenient. Instead, it is HS war dec groups that are probably the biggest owners of HS POCOs, and for good reason. They are the ones who have the muscle in HS to take and defend such holdings.

However, there's another wrinkle here. One of the best reasons for taking a HS POCO is if you or your corporation do PI on that planet. You can then set your own tax rate to 0%, and after a few months or weeks of PI (depending on how many alts or corporation members you have doing PI), you will have paid off the initial investment just from the tax break. In this, Ripard Teg at the old Jester's Trek blog was on track in his prediction that many POCOs outside of key areas like the Forge would end up being owned by the locals who lived in the system.

Defending POCOs in HS as a Solo Player

Well, what happens when someone tries to take your POCOs? If you get suspicious that a group might take your POCO holdings soon, you can always sell or simply transfer the POCOs to other groups so long as your corporation is not currently at war. Ultimately, the rule of the sandbox is: Any sufficiently motivated and powerful/numerous entity can knock over the sandcastles of any weaker, less motivated, or less numerous group. So, if a large group really wants your POCO, they'll probably get it. But, if war comes, you do have a few options.

First of all, look at the types of fleets that grind down HS POCOs. A look at zkillboard provides a lot of information. Groups of a few BCs and BSs are common fleets to bash POCOs in HS. This means you have a number of options in how to engage them.

1) The "brawl it out" option: If the group engaging the POCO is fairly small or new, you do have the option of simply brawling it out at zero at the POCO. In some cases, the group engaging your POCO is going to be extremely easy targets. For instance, some players use destroyers or afk laser boats to grind down POCOs. Just today (as of writing this post) a number of HS POCOs were brought down by a small group of destroyers. Groups of 1-4 BCs are pretty common in POCO bashes. For instance, let's say a group of 4 vexor navy issues are grinding down your POCO, and it is highly unlikely they will have any backup. If you can fly a ship like a Golem or Rattlesnake (especially if you have neutral off-grind links to buff you up) then you can easily take the field. Maybe they will reship and force you off the field, maybe not, but the more losses you can inflict, the longer it will take for the POCO to start earning a profit for the new owners.

2) The "kite it out" option: Probably, you won't be able to just brawl out control of the grid. And ultimately, in many cases your goal is not to win the grid (they can just come back later or in bigger ships) but to make grinding down your POCOs not worth it economically. A better option for defense is this: make a ton of tactical bookmarks around your POCO, and engage the enemy ships with long-range sniping boats, such as a sniping ferox or naga. POCO bashing ships are often glasscanons, such as attack BCs, like in this fleet, and would melt. Kill even just one attack BC and suddenly the POCO will take another few months to pay off that loss on top of the usual fees.

3) The "be a pain in the ass" option: Maybe the fleet has its own long range snipers, or maybe they bring in tackle, and so on. Your last option is to simply be a pain in the ass to the fleet. Bring in a cormorant and kill their drones. Bring in anti-tackle ships like an Orthrus, Dram, Daredevil, or RLML ship, and kill any tackle they send at you. Warp to zero in glass canon catalysts and try to melt any weak targets they have. If they have ships not using drones, come back in a griffin and repeatedly jam them. Get an alt in another corp and try to sneak in your own POCO in another corp when the space is open. Get an alt in a bumping Mach and try to bump the ships away from the POCO repeatedly. Ultimately, you will probably lose the POCO, but at least make it an annoying experience for the group taking it. 

My only feedback for the POCO system is this:  
I think any income that can be made in EVE without having to at least occasionally undock has proven over the years to be largely bad for the game--and income where you do not even have to log on has been a fortiori worse. While player owned customs offices are a great form of content in game, the payment system is not--in fact, it is the epitome of passive income, insofar as the player or corporation can be completely inactive and still get that slow trickle of isk from the taxes. My simple proposal to change this is, simply, this: taxes should accumulate in the POCO itself, not directly in the corp wallet, and should only be deposited in the corporation wallet when a player from that corp (with the right roles) undocks, flies to that POCO, and hits a button that says "collect taxes" or something equally as simple. This would at least require some living, breathing, logged in player from the corporation that owns the POCO to undock at least occasionally to get the isk. This would be trivially easy for local groups who own and use the POCOs to collect the isk, but would remove the income for a corporation who takes a POCO and goes inactive (at least until they return to game to collect the isk).

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

EVE Online IS a Solo Game

There are a lot of myths about EVE Online. People say it is only full of rude, mean, psychopathic cheaters out to steal your money, for instance, but the community is full of genuinely nice people who party together in person many times a year in Iceland and Vegas. (Without bloodshed or fisticuffs.) We even do our best to help those who suffer from depression and other real mental illnesses in online chat channels like Broadcastforreps.

Probably the top myth about EVE, though, is that it is not a solo game. And sure, most new players do benefit from joining a corporation or alliance. CCP has shown statistically many times to the effect that players who join corporations early in their career in EVE stay in the game longer, and my advice to new players is always to join a good new player group like EVE University or one of the many great new player null sec alliances like Pandemic Horde. But, EVE remains a game that is extremely well suited to solo play, just as much as, or even more so than any other MMO on the market. The simple reason for this is: you can do virtually everything solo in EVE that you can also do in a group!

You can do level 1 to level 5 missions solo. You can run the hardest, most dangerous exploration content in EVE solo (and keep all the isk for yourself!). You can run a high sec industrial empire, solo, and even take and own POCOs and set up (or knock down) starbases containing billions of isk, solo. You can become a feared PVP pilot solo, in ANY ship, from a rifter to a battleship to a titan to an alliance tournament ship that costs ten times the average titan hull. You can trade or invest your isk solo, and become one of the richest players in EVE, solo. And the best part is? You can be completely solo in EVE Online while also being an active member of the EVE community! You can make videos, stream on twich, post on reddit or the forums, write in a blog, travel to Iceland, join NPSI fleets that do PVP or missions or mine or run incursions, or donate thousands of dollars to CCP's charity events, all SOLO. Stay in a newbie corp like CAS for all it matters, you can do everything in EVE solo that you can do with 5000 other players. 

Solo just makes it all the harder....but it also makes it all the more rewarding when you finally succeed. And you will succeed at whatever you aim to do, if you only put in the effort.

My Favorite Blog Post of 2015 - Suitonia on Ship Balance

There's no player I've learned more from in EVE than Suitonia, also known by the youtube account EVE is Easy (or, for those who know "the Terror of Querious," SharkPrince2001). His youtube videos introducing solo PVP are the best introductions I know of to PVP in the game. His video "20 Day Old Amarr Character Executioner PvP" is the first thing I recommend to any player, old or new, looking to get into PVP. Watching his videos about soloing in null sec is how I first learned to PVP there.

More recently, Suitonia has been blogging at Suitonia.wordpress with some of the most well-argued, researched, and careful balance discussion I've seen in EVE or any game community I've been involved in, and his most recent post "The Top 5 Most Oppressive things in the solo/small gang meta right now" is far and away my pick for the best blog post of 2015. I was thinking about posting something very similar, but he argues for these changes far better than I ever could.

It's not that I 100% agree with him on all of his suggestions, but that I cannot refute any balance arguments he has made because of how well reasoned they are. This recent blog post, though, really captures the main problems in balance in EVE currently, and his blog as a whole is in my opinion the highest quality EVE feedback available currently. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tons of New PVP Options with the December Release

The Dec 8th release brings new ships, but also a host of small looking balance changes to ships and modules that open up some interesting new fits for solo PVP. I'm not going to talk about the new navy ewar frigates or command destroyers until I get more experience in both, and because I tend to avoid the flavor of the month ships (e.g., I only just started flying the worm last week). People who only fly the OP or FOTM ships won't be interested in anything that follows, except possibly unhappy at the first change.

In total, I have a good 20-30 ships/fittings I want to try even excluding the new ships. 

-Tech 3 Destroyers are now forbidden to enter Small Factional Warfare sites.

This change has a lot of potential for changing the meta in FW LS. Of course, the number one change I am eagerly awaiting is the removal of off-grid links that CCP has suggested is coming this winter. In my first 2 years as a solo PVPer, I flew almost exclusively in LS space. Not only was there a lot of solo activity there, but a diversity of ships being flown. The proliferation of link alts, the introduction of T3Ds, as well as simply having statistically OP ships for each plex (linked garmurs and the worm for novice plexes, T3Ds for smalls) has slowly pushed me--and other solo PVPers--into null. Removing T3Ds from small plexes is a step in the right direction toward revitalizing solo PVP in FW LS, although it is a sign that the ship class is completely out of balance--and the svipul in particular, a ship that since its introduction is involved in PVP kills almost 150% more than the next most popular ship, and usually over 200% more often than the third most popular.

Other similar changes many players have been asking for would likewise revitalize solo PVP in faction war space. Removing security status penalties for PVP into plexes would especially help newer players get into PVP. Adding another plex class under the current novice, where only T1 frigates would be allowed to enter, would also help new players find more even fights. Hopefully CCP is heading in this direction or somewhere similar.

-Breacher:-0.08 inertia, +5 m/s
-Tormentor: +10m3 Dronebay
-Tristan: -10 m/s, -100 Hull hitpoints

Neither of the first two changes affect current fittings on these ships, but they are small buffs to two of the most powerful tech 1 frigates currently, and my two favorites. I plan to fly a few of each just to revisit the ships. The tristan change might be a little too extreme--it didn't really need less hull, just less speed. However, it remains a powerful ship, but more even compared to the tech 1 playing field.

-Rifter: +5 CPU, +3 PWG, 
-Slasher: +5 CPU, +2 PWG

These two are actually big and do change current fitting options. I've not had much luck in the slasher, but I've had a lot of luck in the rifter over the past two years. People love to engage it, assuming it will be an easy kill, and as a result I've bagged over-confident garmurs, firetails, slicers, and interceptors. In the current risk-averse meta in EVE, looking like an easy target is more important to finding fights than anything else. However, both ships lack the dps and the tank to fully compete in the current small ship meta. The boost to power and cpu allows both ships to easily fit a nos or neut with 200mm autocannons, which both ships need in order to power an active tank or, more often, to fit the neut offensively. In the past both ships would have to downgrade guns or tank in order to use the utility high. I am looking forward to flying both ships in null, hunting interceptors in particular. I will try shield fits (MSE) for the speed and buffer but I will probably more often run an ancillary armor rep plus 200mm autocannons, web, scram, MWD, and small energy neut. Well-fit PVP maledictions and claws will likely win, but cap-hungry interceptors like the crusader will be easy targets in a 1-on-1.

-Punisher: +1 Turret, +1 Lowslot, +10 PWG, +13 CPU, Replaced the 5% damage bonus with -10% laser cap use per level

CCP does not seem to know what to do with the punisher, besides refusing to ever give it a third mid slot. This change opens up some weird fittings, none of which will likely be all that good in solo PVP but will be fun to fly. First, you can, of course, super-tank the ship and put beams on it so that you can project past scram range (or autocannons so that you cannot be neuted out). You can put two 400mm plates on the punisher and get more buffer than some cruisers, and you can probably get kills here and there from players forgetting that they can simply walk away from the punisher.

Two weird fits I am also looking forward to trying are a bit different. The first is to fly the punisher like a fat slicer, which the added low slot helps with. The problem with the fit is DPS and projection. You can use beams and project well into disruption range, but at sub-100 DPS; or you can use pulse lasers with scorch but struggle to project past 20km. The final fit involves beams with a 10mn AB, which puts you at over 2.4k m/s cold. It lacks the agility to effectively kite, but ships with over-sized afterburners are fun to fly primarily because of how hard they are to pin down and kill. They are less of a traditional kiting platform and more of a "run away while shooting" ship.

-Republic Fleet Firetail: Increased tracking bonus to 10% per level
-Caldari Navy Hookbill: Changed damage bonus to 25% Kin, 20% Em/Therm/Exp

Pretty simple changes that help both ships quite a bit. The comet is the undisputed OP ship in the line, and the slicer the undisputed king of scorch kiting at the moment and one of the funnest ships to fly again and again. The firetail's added tracking does not affect autocannon fits too much, but it does help arty fits which are particularly strong in FW space. The hookbill's change finally allows it to use something besides scourge missiles at a dps higher than the kestrel, which means its engagement profile expands quite a bit after the change.

-Osprey Navy Issue: -1 Launcher (second utility high), +100 pwg, +15 dronebay and bandwidth, Changed damage bonus to 25% Kinetic, 20% EM/Therm/Exp

It does somewhat suck that so much development time for this release went into into "small ships," with 3 new small ship lines. The Oni change is a nice break, though the last thing the "big ship" meta needs is yet another RLML kiting ship. But this change is nuts. Basically, anything will fit on the Oni now with RLMLs and, now, a full 5 light drones to help the damage. Ample fitting room and two utility high slots, in exchange for relatively low DPS and speed compared to similar types of ships.

RLMLs with two medium neuts? Easy fit, and with a small cap booster and the MWD off it is cap stable. Great for completely draining small targets that get into range, or engaging active tanked cruisers or BCs.

RLML dual prop? Check, just downgrade a medium neut to a small and it fits easily.

XLASB fit? Check, also easy to fit if you downgrade the neuts to smalls.

HAM fit brawler? Check, and surprisingly well-rounded:

100mn AB fit? Check. 2.7k m/s if you run a fed navy 100mn AB cold with no implants or links.

500mn ludicrous speed Oni? Sure why not! It's not even too terrible to try:

Add mid-grade snakes and links and you get 9k m/s cold, and with RLMLs which will apply to any target and past 60k. Silly, but fun to try for laughs.

-The brand new Expedition Frigate known as the Endurance has been released.

This one is even more for laughs. Since it can fit drones it is more viable for PVP than its counterpart, the Prospect. 120 DPS is easy to achieve with a decent tank and small neut, which is more than enough for killing interceptors that think you are an easy target. Also works well against covert ops ships or anti-covert ops rocket bombers, but will struggle to kill a PVP Astero. If the Astero lacks a small cap booster you have a shot at shutting down its tank, but its drone DPS will likely still make it a close fight.

-Frostline Sites

I had a lot of fun with the blood raider gauntlet event in October. It led to a nice pile of isk but also a lot of fun kills and strange fights everywhere from HS to LS and wormholes for me. This time around the event will be longer and there looks to be even better loot (this page on reddit has a list of available loot). Apparently, PLEX and multiple pilot training certificates have a chance of dropping. After 7 sites I've only gotten quafe and clothes. These sites will be a hotspot for finding PVP activity everywhere in space.

Besides the new ships added, did I miss any changes that make new fits or ships viable? 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Making Billions is Easier than Solo PVP

I don't really like shooting things that shoot back, but when they are pinatas sitting in space it is hard not to. These days when scanning systems I only scan down clusters of 5-10+ structure sigs, making scanning a few dozen systems in under an hour pretty easy on an alt while doing other more interesting things. Another POS down, another 3.5b in BPOs, and since they are all fully researched it will likely amount to 5b+
These days, players in EVE seem to be more risk averse when it comes to their Svipuls than other players are with their POSes full of BPOs. Making a lot of isk in EVE is a lot easier than other forms of gameplay, especially, it seems, in 2015 compared to previous years. Finding a few good solo fights is like pulling teeth, but finding billions of isk while mostly afk is inanely easily.

Fortunately, there continues to be a good supply of solo players making EVE content these days, even, when such content in game can be hard to find. Streams doing solo PVP are in good supply, including some of my favorites: Mr Hyde, Zarvox, Suitonia, Prometheus Exenthal, and a lot of others are making awesome content at the moment--including none other than Big Miker continuing to make videos. Though player numbers might be low these days and content harder to find, there are a ton of players who continue to to play EVE the hard way, and share it with others. I hope it lasts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Market Milestones - Reaching 300b

Well, I seem to recall first starting trading in EVE recently, but apparently it has been almost 2 and a half years now... I have no idea where the time went, but my markets keep plugging along, and when I add my income from my main trader plus my other side projects (Simela, Thera) I am well over 300b in profit now. Nothing to brag about considering the earnings of many traders.

Since May, I have been on "casual mode," and have only updated orders and restocked markets one to two times a month. Yet I still bring in decent profit considering that I only put a few hours into the market a month now, with most of that time spend hauling goods. My isk efficiency now is better than it has ever been, even in the record month of November 2014 when I made over 20b on one character. I am happier now to simply spend a few hours a month to pull in 6-10b.

Here are some major changes I've made in trading over the past 6 months:

- Sadly in some ways, I no longer trade in Simela. It was too time consuming to maintain the market there, and was originally just a side project. In total over the course of a year or so, I think I made roughly 40b isk from simply putting common items on the market and leaving them for a month or two at a time.

- I continue to change what I sell (and where) based on market and gameplay trends, but nothing more sophisticated than looking at Dotlan's PVP / NPCs killed numbers and saying "this region seems active, let's go there." I feel I have reached the maximal balance of time relative to potential profit.

- I've become a little more lazy, shall we say, when it comes to hauling my goods. I will probably be a bit more careful now that I am activity playing EVE and so on, but when I was playing casually I would sometimes haul 5-10b isk in one trip. In fact, here's a rather funny screenshot of a rare occasion where I had to venture through Uedama with 4b in my cargo, thankfully not in a freighter and flying away unnoticed:

- What about the profit? Over the past year, I have switched to making long term investments, so most of my liquid isk goes into market speculation that may or may not result in big payouts later on. For instance, one investment I made--like many players--was to buy a ton of Geckos. I sold most of them when the prices hit 120-130m a piece. Whether I will have similar luck with other investments remains to be seen.

- Finally, I did "cash out" recently. During the last PLEX for Good I donated 60+ PLEX to win books signed by CCP, which was most of my liquid isk at the time. I am now back to where I was a year ago in terms of liquid isk. Ready, I guess, for another PLEX for Good to donate to...assuming it is too optimistic to think there will never again be another such crisis. If only.

Trading definitely remains one of the best possible ways of making isk with little time. All you need is a decent starting capital (or some aggressive day trading at Jita to get there) and knowledge of the market in some--any--aspect of the game. If you know what is a "low" price for some item X,Y,Z and you know what a "high" price is, you're in business.

Friday, November 27, 2015


"Join 14000 other players." ?

I Suppose...

Start 2 hour mix of music.


Two Players in System. Dscan Dscan Dscan. Warp. Dscan. Nothing.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Two in System. Dscan Dscan Dscan. Warp. Dscan Dscan Dscan. POS Trash.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Two in System. Dscan Dscan Dscan. Warp. Dscan Dscan Dscan. Nothing.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Empty System.

Warp. Jump. Three Orthruses on Gate.

Warp? Pointed.

Sigh. Alright, then.

Pew Pew

Wait, Orthrus scrammed and webbed. How does that happen, I'm in a T1 Crusier?

Oh, doesn't matter. I'm dead anyway.

2 hour mix ends.

“And you like this game?”

It has its moments...

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Nice 15b Isk Drop From a POS - But Is It Worth the Time?

So, it was a pretty typical case. An offline POS in High Sec, with a few research labs. But this one had a good 15b isk in blueprints.

Most of the BPOs were researched to near max, so they are selling for more than the base price. This puts my total isk income from offline POS removal at something like 30b now, over 1-2 years of casual exploration. I feel bad if this player was active and just forgot to refuel the POS. I hope, instead, they just left EVE. Then again, considering they were producing capitals and keeping BPOs in a POS, they probably have more isk than they need. Maybe.

This drop is absolutely nothing in comparison to drops like this 200b isk plus story on reddit a few weeks ago. But considering the time it takes to find an inactive POS these days (you know, with how active the game is and all), it really isn't worth the isk from the perspective of an isk-making-activity. For me, it is comparable to looting junk like melons in fallout games--a habit of an OCD player. I got a virtual shit ton of melons and corn and etc. in fallout 4 for what it's worth. (Which is nothing.) I like "cleaning" stuff up. But running level 4 missions or 4/10 DED sites in HS is likely going to be better isk over time than looking for the rare offline POS or two.

But really, these days, making isk is the last reason to play EVE. Destroying large numbers of isk is also not a reason to play anymore. Let's be frank, there are some heavy, heavy faucets in EVE, where even Titan losses are a minor financial blip. Isk is...meaningless? Maybe not that harsh, but close. These days, logging in depends on content, not isk--gaining, or isk-destroying. If CCP gave every player unlimited isk and max skills, would the content be enough to still log in? I guess, given my goals, I pretty much have both. And I am pretty sure many others do as well.

And I'm still logging in. So that's something I suppose, even if solo PVP lately has been...eh, yeah, that's the word.

Monday, November 9, 2015

EVE as a Casual Game

I've been playing EVE “casually” for the past few months. Thinking of CCP Quant's fanfest presentation on “types” of EVE players, I went from something of a full-time “professional” to a weekend traditional and maybe bi-monthly aggressor. Even though I've been almost exclusively a solo player for the past 4 years, something I never fully realized until now is that EVE is surprisingly well-suited to completely casual play.

This all started last spring when I got fairly burned out on EVE. It wasn't from a lack of content in the game—there's always something going on (i.e., people to shoot, places to explore) even when the log-in numbers are low, and always goals to work toward. But, in the spring and summer there was a lot of negativity in the general community about the health of the game (i.e., “EVE is dying”), and it was slowly draining my enthusiasm. I took some time off from the community as well as the game. I was also busy with life—moving, new job/internship, in addition to lacking a computer that could reliably play EVE for a time, so I went into super-causal mode, doing occasional solo PVP, exploring just a few systems a week, updating markets maybe twice a month, and training some long skills. I even—for the first time in a few years—found the time to play some games besides EVE.

In addition to having more time in life to play EVE for extended periods, what brought me back to “full-time” EVE play was a combination of three things: EVE Vegas generated a lot of excitement about the current and future state of the game, with a lot to look forward to. New ships, new mechanics, the return of expansions, better hardware, and of course Citadels. The Blood Raider Gauntlet event—a type of special event that's a staple in every other MMO and MOBA but rare in EVE—brought a lot of PVP opportunities in addition to faster skill training, the latter of which EVE has never really seen before. And after four months of casual play, I had a bunch of skills completed and ready to use—HAC, EAF, and Recon ships all to V, for instance. Oh, and I suppose playing other games, including some MOBAs, made me realize just how awesome EVE is (or how much some popular games are overrated).

For all of its reputation as a fierce, competitive, life-consuming virtual world—all of which is true—EVE equally deserves a reputation as a fantastic game for casual and solo play. First of all, there is not a traditional grind, unless your playstyle demands one. Skills, ships, and game knowledge do not typically become obsolete in EVE with new releases. If you were good at something in EVE years ago, chances are with some brushing up you will still be good at it now, making it a great game for occasional breaks and eventual returns. 

On my first week back, I did hit some lucky breaks, first killing a random 2.5b isk Paladin; then looting some 1.3b in BPOs from an offline high sec POS. Oh, but I am sure the moment I go out to do some solo PVP I won't see such luck...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Beyond the Links Problem: How to get 750m in bonuses with zero risk of loss

Imagine that CCP introduced a new type pirate implant set, one you purchase with a monthly subscription using either PLEX or traditional subscription costs, $14.95 a month (or  $10.95 if you buy it for a full year). For $14.95 you get a unique implant set with the following bonuses:

10% Armor HP 
10% Shield HP
10% Agility
10% Scan Resolution
10% Targeting Range

I will call this the "10% x5" set for short. 

However, here's the really good part. By paying this monthly subscription, you cannot lose this implant set. Using it, in other words, involves 0 isk risked. If you have this subscription and fly a 100m isk worm in an empty pod and lose the ship and the pod, you lose 100m isk--the 10% x5 set remains active the very next time you undock.

At this point, it sounds dangerously close to a pay-to-win system to me, but maybe the really troubling part about it is the fact that your implant set is never at risk. It is 100% safe so long as your sub is up, which is contrary to the fundamental, risk versus reward design of EVE.

However, let's also say CCP sweetens the deal. If you buy this implant set not only can you never lose it, you don't have to buy the implants with isk in addition to the monthly sub. So unlike, say, pirate sets which have a high up-front cost and the potential risk of losing them (and having to buy them all over again), the implant set is "included" in the monthly sub, in addition to the fact that it can never be lost if you are an active sub. And hey, this implant set is not even bound to your character--the buffs apply to any of your active characters!

CCP, being so generous, sweetens the deal even more. If you subscribe to this implant set, you can also have any of your other implant sets on top of it that get attached to your clone and can be lost. So, you can have the 10% x5 set plus your geno set or some snakes.

To sum up: for the price of a monthly subscription, you get 10% armor, 10% shield, 10% agility, 10% scan res, and 10% targeting range to your active character, buffs which can be used on top of any other clone-based implants, comes free with the subscription, and can never be lost like your ship and regular implants can be.

This seems like a fundamentally broken system with high reward and zero risk. And this is exactly how fleet bonus characters work.

Here is how you can get exactly the above implant buffs that you cannot possibly risk with just a monthly sub.

First, create a new account and pay the monthly sub. There is your fee for your buffs. Now, buy the trivially cheap leadership skill books--the ones that give bonuses when in the proper role in fleet, like armored warfare--and train them to V. As I described in previous posts, training them all to V takes roughly one month, but you can get them all to IV (.i.e, a full 8% bonuses across the board) in under a week.

Here is how fleet bonuses work if you are not aware: you only need the relevant leadership skills and the role of booster in fleet, and if you are undocked the bonuses apply to anyone in fleet in system. It does not matter what you are flying.

No, really, it doesn't matter what ship you are in: You can give fleet boosts in a rookie ship.
You can give fleet boosts while cloaked at a safe spot.
You can put a prototype cloak on a rookie ship and cloak at a safe spot and provide fleet boosts.

The easiest and completely risk free method is just to be in an empty rookie ship (afaik you cannot provide boosts while in a capsule). You can park the rookie ship booster at a safe spot. If it dies, you lose absolutely no isk. With the clone grade and medical clone cost removed, you lose absolutely no isk if you get podded as well--just the inconvenience of having to get your risk-free bonuses back into system (trivially easy if you set a station in system as your home system for instance). You can even use this booster as a scout, or cloak the character on an important grid.

This is a troubling system. You get a large set of bonuses plus other benefits like a scout but risking 0 isk in the process. The risk-free booster is not used much, though, because most players just prefer links--you get the fleet bonuses plus officer module / pirate implant set level bonuses for very, very little risk and cost. However, the risk-free booster still remains an option.

How much, though, is the 10% x5 set worth, compared to existing bonuses? Let's compare this set of bonuses to current available skill implant and pirate implants. What combination of implants (pirate included if needed) could we use to get roughly the same bonuses, and how much would such an implant set cost?

First of all, it is impossible to get the same set of bonuses using just implants. However, we can get close. The main issue is that the agility, shield HP, and scan res implants all use slot 7. There's no other way to get scan res via implants, and the only other way to get shield HP is via a full geno set which will give you roughly 5% but use slots 1-4. The problem with getting agility via implants is that we have slot 7 in high demand but the mid/low grade nomad sets are extremely expensive. Low Grade Nomad Epsilon provides 5% agility at roughly 350m isk. Another option is to use the Low grade nomad alpha + beta + delta + omega which will get you to the 10% agility but at roughly 500m isk at the Jita average price (though the price of low grade implants varies a lot since they are in both low demand and low supply). The much better option is to use the full geno set, which provides roughly 5% Shield HP, 5% Armor HP, 5% Agility (among other bonuses obviously), and is roughly 380m isk total at current Jita prices (though subject to change and likely upwards).

So here is the most cost effective implant approximation to the 10% x5 bonus set:

Slots 1-4: Genolution Implants, providing roughly 5% Shield HP, 5% Armor HP, 5% Agility (among other bonuses obviously) at 380m isk.

Slot 7: 'Gnome' Shield Management SM-705 - 5% Shield HP at 125m
Slot 8: 'Gypsy' Long-Range Targeting LT-805 5% Targeting Range at 125m (the +6% is over 875m)
Slot 10: 'Noble' Hull Upgrade HG-1005 - 5% Armor HP at 125m

In total, this gives us roughly 10% Armor HP, 10% Shield HP, 10% Agility, 5% Targeting Range, and 0% extra Scan Res, at a cost of roughly 750m isk at current Jita prices. Obviously this does not get us the full bonuses--we don't get any scan res, and we lack 5% extra targeting, but the genolutions also give us other valuable bonuses such as powergrid, so the bonuses do equal out in value at the very least. So we can estimate that the isk value of the bonuses provided by the 10% x5 fleet bonus is roughly 750m isk in bonuses, all provided by an empty pod in a an empty rookie ship risking 0 isk. This does pale in comparison to the value in isk full links provide compared to how much they cost. Suitonia, for instance, calculates that you get roughly 10b isk in bonuses for a roughly 1.2b isk ship that itself is rarely in danger. But the fact remains that even the base fleet bonuses are a fundamentally broken system where you can get in the range of 750m isk in bonuses at no risk whatsoever.

What are potential ways this disparity in risk versus reward could be fixed? My suggestion would be that CCP change how links work roughly following the suggestions of Suitonia's detailed post linked above, and in the process remove the base fleet bonuses from the game. That way, you don't have the possibility of an alt in a rookie ship providing free bonuses, and instead the only fleet bonus/link system in game is one where the reward is commensurable with the risk and one which requires active and intelligent flying, rather than cloaking up at a safe spot.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My 2015 Balance Wishlist - (Over) Half Way There

At the start of 2015 I wrote about what, in my opinion, are the seven most necessary balance changes needed in EVE. I think the list is missing a few dozen major balance changes that would sigificnatly help the game, and a few relatively new bloggers have highlighted some of these needed changes. Two of these bloggers I highly recommend are Gorski Car (who also and primarily posts at Crossing Zebras) and Suitonia. Gorski Car has offered some of the best analysis available of the current solo and small gang meta, and provided fantastic in-depth guides on recent changes such as the balance pass on prop mods, plates, and shield extenders. Suitonia of course makes some of the best PVP guides on his youtube account eveiseasy, but his new blog has offered some of the best proposals for changing links, assault frigates, and battlecruisers on his blog. I hope the devs are reading these two blogs though Fozzie & co. seem to be increasingly following Gorski Car's proposals for balance changes.

As for my wishlist of changes, though: Six months later and four of the seven changes on my list have been--to some degree--changed by CCP, something I am extremely happy about! So let's go through my wishlist and how CCP have balanced the game in these areas:

1. No security status penalties for combat inside faction war complexes (unchanged)
Unfortunately, CCP has largely moved on from crime watch and low security / faction war balancing, though they have mentioned a need to revisit some aspects of crime watch and players in FW frequently press the need for security loss changes. However, I would actually modify my proposal now, given that CCP has removed skill loss and clone grades. Since getting podded is not as big of a risk as it used to be (since you cannot lose skill points now), CCP should cut back on security status loss from destroying capsules. The massive security loss is a relic of a time when podding someone could potentially cause them to lose skill points, and so no longer has a reason to be such a huge penalty. I would still advocate for the original proposal as well, though, or even removing security status penalties for engaging in LS altogether.

2. Remove fleet warp (changed--mostly)
Well as of the July release of Aegis,  FCs (etc.) will no longer be able to fleet warp to locations that the fleet members could not already warp to--so no fleet warping to bookmarks or probed locations etc. I would still advocate for removing fleet warp entirely, but this is a step in the right direction. CCP's intention here, to quote Fozzie from the June 11 o7 show, is that it “encourages you to fly your own ship more, and rely less on other people flying it for you.” That is basically the exact justification I gave for such changes in my original post: other players should not be able to play the game for you, and forms of passive game play should be re-worked into active game play that requires each player in a fleet to contribute to the goal. As I asked in my original post: 
Fleet commanders cannot align other fleet members, activate their guns or other modules, nor can they (as of January 2015) use multiboxing software to effectively fly more than one ship at a time, so why should FCs be able to warp an entire fleet with a single click? 
This is a huge change in the right direction toward making fleets require more individual player skill and participation, as well as towards boosting the effectiveness of solo and small gang players fighting against larger numbers. If you have ever tried to engage or harass a large fleet solo or small gang, a common experience is that the mobility of the fleet depends primarily on one person--the FC. If the FC wants to scan you down (particularly on-grid), he/she can essentially control X number of ships at the same time to land on top of you. This means that while the mobility of a solo player or small gang depends primarily on the skill of each individual player, the mobility of a large fleet depends primarily on a single player--a pretty inane way PVP in EVE has evolved if you think about it. From my own experience, the ease of fleet warp makes fighting against large fleets highly tedious, and pushes solo/small gang players into narrow metas where they have to fly extremely kity ships that can remove tackle quickly, because a single FC can warp dozens or hundreds of players directly onto your location and, particularly if this is an on-grid warp, you will only have seconds to react to either pull range or warp away. This reasoning all the more supports removing fleet warp entirely, as again it simply does not make sense why another player should be able to control X number of ships piloted by other individuals.

3. Reduce Drone DPS by Around 3-5% Across the Board (changed)
Drone damage did not get reduced across the board, but CCP has nerfed sentry drones as well as some of the more OP drone platforms, primarily the ishtar. Drones as a PVP weapon system are in a better place now than they were six months ago, so I count this as a positive change overall.

UPDATE: However, CCP has also gone a step further in reducing drone damage across the board by reducing the drone damage bonus provided by drone damage amplifiers. The change would mean a 2.5% nerf to drone damage provided by tech II DDAs. This is a fantastic change in my opinion, in that most of the tier 1 or cancer tier ships in game right now are drone based--the Tristan which is king of tech 1 frigates at the moment; the vexor; the ishtar; the dominix; the VNI; the rattlesnake; the worm; the gila--all of these ships are the best or close to the best in their respective class, and are, statistically, much more frequently used than any competing ship in the class. This change is also much smarter than my original proposal, because it will not affect the use of drones on ships that use them as a secondary weapon and hence do not use DDAs. There is a strong correlation between ships that use DDAs (i.e., primarily rely on drones for their damage) and ships that are cancer tier or close and hence used far more frequently than their rivals. Another great change that will serve to make more ships worth flying in the long run.

4. Increase Medium Projectile Rate of Fire by Around 2% (changed--mostly)
CCP did not buff medium projectile DPS, but they did make a number of changes which, in effect, amount to a medium projectile buff, even if they are still not in an ideal place overall. First, CCP buffed the range of medium projectile ammo overall, and then nerfed the DPS on sentry drone platforms and medium rails. This in effect has created a more even playing-field, even if medium projectiles are still underwhelming.

5. Reduce Warfare Link Effectiveness by Around 50% (unchanged)
I would now rate changes (nerfs) to links as the #1 most needed balance in the game, but CCP has yet to figure it into their plans. However, more and more players are calling for a major nerf to links, and some of them (like Suitonia at the blog linked above) are offering fantastic proposals for how to make links a more engaging (less passive) but also less overpowering mechanic in game.

6. Local Chat Delay: Pilots do not appear in local chat upon entering a system until their gate cloak ends. (unchanged)
While this is unchanged, it may be a future game play option with the upcoming structure and sov rebalances. CCP is increasingly allowing players to control how much intel they get, and interfere with how much intel other players get. Delayed local chat is one proposal that may make its way into the future sov rebalance, though I still think delayed local should be the default in every system in game. Intel in general is far too cheap and easy to acquire in EVE.

7. Increase Fleet Warp Speed on Battlecruisers and Battleships to be closer to Cruisers (changed!)
CCP has improved the fleet warp on BCs but they have also made warp speed rigs less costly to fit by changing the reductions away from CPU. CCP Fozzie also hinted that combat battlecruisers (and their navy counterparts) will be seeing an interesting balance pass soon, something I am extremely excited to see!

Overall, 4 of the 7 areas I hoped would see balance passes have been significantly improved, and after only 6 months. I hope in the next 6 months the remaining 3 areas get positive changes, but CCP has already surpassed some of my other hopes as well. Heavy Missiles will be getting a DPS increase in July (as hinted by CCP Fozzie) and they are finally introducing modules that improve the velocity or explosion radius of missiles, something many of us have been waiting for for years now.

I've remarked frequently that the current meta in EVE is pretty terrible for solo PVP, but things look to be improving. A few more changes and balance passes and solo PVP might once again be in a good place.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Inching Along in EVE (and searching for a wormhole)

Inching along in EVE is probably the best description of how I've been playing EVE lately. Not only am I coming off a long phase of high activity, but I've had little free time to enjoy space even when I want to log in--changing jobs, moving (twice), not having internet for a while, and so on. When I do find time to log in, it is primarily just to relax and make a little progress on my projects.

The first thing I usually do after a period of inactivity is restock and update my market orders. Somehow, I don't find this tedious, even after almost 2 years of trading. It is always satisfying to see that I've made isk even weeks after I've updated the orders! :

I logged in during late May and early June to stock up on items but went through a 10 day spell of not updating orders, yet still managed to make a decent amount each day--albeit significantly less than when I am frequently maintaining the market hubs.

The second thing I do is a bit of casual exploration. I search for inactive POSes, wormholes to check out, mobile structures to blow up, and combat sites. Lately, I've enjoyed exploration in tactical destroyers. Not only are they one of the few ships that can fit expanded probe launchers fairly easily, but they are great for running low-end combat sites. This past week I've had some decent luck in the Jackdaw. Sharpshooter mode gives light missiles a range of over 70km--though it is still not as convenient as running combat sites with drones. I would love to have a drone-based tactical destroyer, if only for I. the expanded probe launcher and II. the fact that I wouldn't have to target NPCs while running combat sites, the most tedious part by far...

EVE's graphics continue to see huge improvements. The graphics team is certainly the MVP of the first year with EVE's new fast release cycle--if only the other teams worked as fast, maybe we would see all sub-caps balanced at this point (including some much-needed balance passes on links, assault frigates, and some under-performing individual ships...). But, EVE evolves at its own pace.

For the past few weeks--and, really, for the past few months--I have also been searching for a specific wormhole (or three). There are, as far as I know, three Sansha shattered wormholes in EVE: J005299, J010556, and J011195. These are shattered wormholes with Sansha combat sites and landmarks, and one of my goals over the next few months is to find one of these wormholes and live nomadically in one for a time, reporting on my experiences here. However, finding them on my own is no easy matter. I monitor EVE-Scout to see if they are connected to Thera, and I check every wormhole I find while exploring; but finding one is still statistically highly unlikely. As far as I know, each of the three has a different static: one has a NS static, one a LS, and one a HS. I would be happy to find any one of the three, though the HS static would provide more PVP opportunities. Someday, if I explore enough, I will stumble across one of these systems, but for any of my readers who happen across one (or have a character parked in one...) and would like to help, I would greatly appreciate any info on locations of connections! I would also be happy to pay a few hundred million isk for the location of a connection as well.

Finally, I did one other things while on break. CCP's PLEX for Good campaign ran an auction to raise money for the Nepal earthquake relief. I decided to "cash out" some of my trade profits, and won LOT#2 in the auction with a bid of 62 PLEX, winning:


In the end--as in, when I am tired of trading!--I will likely donate most of my isk to a future PLEX for Good campaign (assuming there will be one--which is kind of depressing if you think about it, since it would mean there is a new major humanitarian crisis...). The package of these books is with my family as I am in the processing of moving, and I likely won't receive it until late June, but I am extremely excited to check these books out (I did not previously own any!) and am extremely grateful that CCP allows players the opportunity to do some good--however small--with the isk they earn in game. After all, what else would I ever spend my isk on...?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Why Do Players Enjoy Massive Fleet Fights?

I am an equal-opportunity player, in that I can recognize the value or enjoyment in every play style. I understand the fearless solo PVPer--they find enjoyment in fighting against the odds, playing EVE on "hard mode." I understand the tournament player. They refine small gang tournament skills to fly in an extremely competitive PVP environment. I understand the mission runner and even the miner--they find PVE activities relaxing and work toward goals of improving their isk per hour. I understand the CODE. players and other gankers, who wreck havoc on high security space inhabitants. Etc.

However, there is one play style in EVE I do not understand. I do not understand how players can enjoy flying in large fleets. I am referring to fleets where players must simply press "F1" to sufficiently play their role, hence the derogatory term "F1-monkey."  I suppose I can understand flying as tackle or logistics or Fleet Commander in these fleets, given that these roles, when done correctly, take significant experience and skill to perform well. However, the average "line member" seems to play a role that requires little skill besides (as a Brave advertisement eloquently puts it) a pulse. I do understand why new players fly in large fleets--such as massive Brave fleets. However, I do not understand how veterans of the game, in coalitions like the (former) CFC, can enjoy being line members in large fleets. If you've played EVE for more than a year, yet continue to participate in large fleet fights, I would like to know what value or enjoyment you find in this activity. I legitimately want to know, because it is the one activity in EVE I find completely boring and valueless.

As a solo player, I am sometimes killed by such large fleets. I often wonder what value they get out of being 1 among dozens on a kill. Is it fun? If they purely want killmails, why don't they just join a high security space war-dec group or RVB?  If kill mails and killboard were removed from EVE, would we still see the average line member logging in?

CCP's move toward making null security space sov warfare spread over multiple systems is a step toward de-emphasizing the 1000 player versus 1000 player fights and a step toward emphasizing skill-based game play, where coordination and tactical thinking win fights, not n+1 pilots pressing a single button while they play league on another monitor. This is partly due to the fact that large fights severely tax CCP's servers. It is also due to the fact, though, that such game play will not take EVE into a third decade, because after 10+ years now it has proven too boring to sustain a growing number of subscriptions.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Sometimes EVE Just Breaks

So last night I had some time to do some solo PVP. I had some interceptors fit up and ready, and headed out to Brave's new home in fountain.

At first, it seemed like the game was being extremely unresponsive. I would try to manually pilot and the client was hearing none of it. I was watching some PVP streamers on twitch and they seemed to be having similar issues--maybe just the server acting up, I thought.

However, I noticed later on the forums that others were experiencing a similar issue, and CCP confirmed it as a bug and are currently working on a fix. It appears that spamming buttons while changing state (e.g., going into warp) causes the client to not respond to input from the player, such as hitting "jump" on a gate or manually piloting. CCP stated that:

"We have been able to track down the issue, and it has to do with spam clicking a button that is changing state, that is going from inactive to active. We are working on a fix and can hopefully deploy it soon."

It isn't often CCP acknowledges bugs on the forums, so you know this is a legitimate and serious bug. Unfortunately, I died at least 2 times, potentially 3, as a result of this bug, all 2-3 times in an interceptor in Fountain. In the first fight, after killing a merlin in a claw and running from a BRAVE fleet I was unable to warp or manually pilot away. In the second fight, I warped 100km off a Black Legion cyno, from which dozens of tengus poured. I hit warp, I tried to manually pilot, I tried to stop my ship, but it was as if my mouse and keyboard had suddenly disconnected, and I flew directly into the BL. fleet. The third fight was pretty much the same as the first, though I am not as sure it was due to the bug. In all three of these losses, though, I at least killed someone before dying, so all was not lost.

This acknowledged bug got me thinking, though: What is the error rate in EVE's processing? In other words, how many errors really do occur on CCP's side? I often feel that the servers do not receive 10% of my inputs--module activation or manual piloting clicks or the like. I think many other players have the same intuition, when you see them spamming every button and spamming clicks in space when manually piloting. I think many players have the sense that EVE sometimes just does not receive your inputs. Sometimes, cap boosters do not reload. Sometimes, even though you click reload on some modules, the game seems to ignore it. Sometimes, the game seems to take a 1 minute smoke break.

But there are other bugs beneath the surface as well. How many losses, I wonder, are due to bugs or problems on CCP's side? I know for sure I have died at least 5 times when CCP servers have crashed, insofar as they publicly announce server problems. I would estimate that 2-5% of my 530 losses (or, around 5-25) were due to bugs or problems on the server's side. There are less bugs in EVE, I think, than in any other MMO I have ever played or researched. However, I think EVE has its fair share of bugs lurking beneath 11+ years of old code...

Okay, the real point of this post...


...my other 525 losses? well, probably just bad piloting...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pillaging POSes - Now and Later

"Real life" has had me fairly busy lately, though I'm often working from home or at least with access to EVE. When busy, I like to work on long-term projects that I can chip away at in play sessions of 30 minutes or less. One of those long-term projects involves visiting every system in EVE.

As readers may know, when I visit high security systems I like to use combat scanner probes to search for players, POSes, drones, and of course cosmic signatures. Sometimes, I happen upon inactive POSes with modules that can be destroyed, and I have a particular fondness for pillaging these vulnerable bases.

My routine goes like this:

I enter a new system, making some bookmarks while using combat scanner probes (scanning on the setting "show all"). A few close probe scans around celestial clusters reveals all of the starbases in system, from giant complexes like this beautiful but lag-inducing POS:

...to the dozens upon dozens of abandoned control towers in near every system.

A combat scan around a celestial offers a top-down picture of all of the POSes (et al.) around the planet:

A habit I've now taken to is bookmarking all active POSes I find. There's no reason not to, and when I pass through visited systems I briefly check the active POSes. This new method has helped me find a few POSes that have lapsed in upkeep, and sometimes find them before others do.

Well, as I've described in previous posts, this can be a fairly lucrative business, and I know of at least a few dozen players now that sometimes engage in the same type of search and destroy scanning. However, it has been quite a while since I found a decent haul from looting laboratories, assembly arrays, and hangars...until recently!

A nice 1.9 billion isk collection of minerals and research and PI materials, not a bad find at all.

However, my recent return to POS pillaging has me wondering what will come of this profession after the upcoming overhaul of structures in EVE. With the just released entosis module, POS "destruction" will no longer involve shooting (at least at the L and XL size structures, so far as we currently know from the early dev blogs). So, presumably, can we expect that inactive POSes will be even easier to remove? Currently there is little reason to destroy lone inactive towers because of the DPS needed (or inactive towers with guns and batteries, modules which cannot be destroyed or looted until after the tower is destroyed). However, after the structure rebalance, it seems like it will simply take (in HS) a war dec and then a few minutes (?) of entosis magic. Will this "Destroy" the structure, creating a killmail, or will this de-activate it and allow it to be scooped? We don't yet know. I would personally prefer the entosis link to destroy the structure itself, resulting in a killmail, with some plan for what loot can drop and what will be "stored" in some way for the owner (the structure dev blog features a lengthy discussion in the comments about what method of "storing" dropped loot for players should be taken. I don't have a preference.)

But what about active structures in HS? Currently, high security space POSes are very safe when active, even without guns, simply due to the time commitment involved in trying to destroy them. Plus, an active corp will immediately take the valuables out of the POS when a war is declared, making it a waste of isk for the attackers as well. What will happen after the structure rebalance, though? Here would be a bad outcome: A single player can declare war on Red Versus Blue, who owns many dozens of customs offices around high sec (these POCOs become some version of new structures after the overhaul, the dev blog states), and then travel all around HS putting all of RVB's POCOs into reinforce. That, it seems to me, would be a bad outcome. On the other hand, what I do think HS needs is more conflict-drivers. The introduction of player-owned customs offices in HS a few years ago was an amazing change, one of the best in the game's history, because it added an entirely new source of conflict in the game. HS (as well as all other areas of space, LS and NPC Null especially) need more sources of conflict. So ideally, the structure revamp will 1) create many new sources of conflict in New Eden, while 2) not giving the attacker too much of an advantage to the point that it is never safe to drop a structure in space. I don't know how to balance 1 and 2, but I am eager to see how CCP tries to do it, and I hope "POS Pillaging" will live on into the future.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Solo PVP in Every Ship

The following list is my own personal progress in my goal to solo PVP in every (or just about every) ship in EVE. It also includes my favorite ships and favorite fittings when I have a preference. In most cases I have flown in 1-5 different fittings for each ship, and on average 3. I am almost done with tech 1 frigates, rookie ships, interceptors, except for a few odd cases. Obviously I've flown many ships in classes larger than frigates and destroyers, but I am still working on better skills for those classes in most cases. The example fights listed aren't necessarily the best I had in the ship (they do not include fights versus small or large gangs, for instance) but they just represent a bit of what the ship can successfully fight against, and matter to me personally. This list is purely for the sake of my own personal goals in EVE, and certainly not an attempt at being an "elite" PVPer. It's simply me having fun with "completionist" goals:

Solo Kills and Favorite Fits

T1 Frigates:

Favorite: Breacher, Atron, Merlin, Tormentor, Tristan, Probe

         Favorite fits: 1. AB, AAR Neutrons (LS)
         2. AB, 150mm Railguns (LS)
         Favorite Fit: Dual Rep, Cap Booster (LS)
         Favorite Fit: Dual MASB neuting “baby Tristian”

          Favorite Fits: 1. LML MSE
          2. Dual MASB Rockets
          Favorite Fit: Neutrons, MSE, Dual Web, AB “honor Merlin”
Kestral vs. Executioner https://zkillboard.com/kill/31354376/
          Favorite Fit: Rocket, AB or MWD, MSE scram range kiter (LS or NS)
          Favorite Fit: Dual Web, AB, Scram, TD

          Favorite Fits: 1. SAAR, TD, 200mm Autocannons (LS)
          2. MSE, TD, 200mm Autocannons (LS)
Breacher vs. Tristan https://zkillboard.com/kill/41121013/
          Favorite Fit: 1. SAAR, MASB, rockets (LS)
          2. MASB LML kiter (LS)
          Favorite Fit: Dual MASB battle probe

Executioner vs. Cormorant https://zkillboard.com/kill/38563819/
          Favorite Fit: SAAR, Focused Pulse, scram-range kiter (LS)
Crucifier vs. Crucifier https://zkillboard.com/kill/42908980/

Rookie Ships:

Navy Frigates:

Pirate Frigates:
Garmur vs.
Daredevil vs.
Dramiel vs.
Cruor vs.
Succubus vs.
Worm vs.
Astero vs. Caracal Navy Issue https://zkillboard.com/kill/37675586/

Ore Frigates:
Prospect vs.

Ares vs.
Claw vs.
Malediction vs.

Stealth Bombers:
Nemesis vs.
Manticore vs.
Hound vs.
Purifier vs. Harbinger Navy Issue https://zkillboard.com/kill/39011571/

T1 Destroyers:
          Favorite Fit: 400mm plate Dual Light Pulse Lasers
          Favorite Fit: LML MSE kiter
          Favorite Fit: 200mm Autocannons, MSE
          Favorite Fit: MSE, Light Ions. Small Neut
          Favorite Fit: Neutrons, Web, max DPS “honor” catalyst
          Favorite Fit: Dual MASB Rockets

T3 Destroyers:
Confessor vs. Cerberus https://zkillboard.com/kill/44266198/
          Favorite Fit: Dual Light Beam, SAAR, 10MN AB, Kite Confessor

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The State of EVE - Ship Kills from December 2014 to March 2015

A while back, I started tracking monthly ship kills in EVE, collecting data from as far back as 2010. Ship kills in low sec and null sec are a small indicator of the amount of PVP activity in the game, which is itself a small indicator of the game's overall health. December 2014 from March 2015 marks a distinct phase in the game's life, insofar as Phoebe (with its jump changes) released in November and Rhea (with the introduction of Thera) released in December. March represents fanfest and the start of discussion of "fozziesov," including announcement of the upcoming structure rebalance and initial changes to null sec sov coming as soon as April. So, let's look at the past 4 months of ship losses in low sec, null sec, and both regions combined, and all of them indicated on the purple line:

If you attended fanfest or watched the streams (or read the follow-up blogs) you likely got a sense that many players are concerned, but not pessimistic or completely unhappy, about low security space. The graph explains a bit about why players who PVP in LS are a bit concerned: LS ship losses in February and March drop below the losses in 2013 and 2014. Now, to be frank, 2013 and 2014 were both fantastic years for LS PVP, and 2015 is following similar trends, but many have a sense that LS needs more players, more content drivers, and ultimately more PVP. Non-FW LS (it exists!) in particular needs help, and faction war needs an iteration that will 1) expand it and 2) make PVP more central no matter the state of the tiers. However, because of recent events LS PVP will spike in April and after....what recent events? Well, obviously, the fact that BRAVE moved back into LS, making their new home in Defsunun the top system for ship kills in LS by far since their arrival. The uptick should not be taken as evidence that low security space is in a satisfactory place: it does need iteration, and unfortunately there are simply not enough devs at CCP to iterate on everything that currently needs iteration. Now let's turn to ship kills in null sec, a completely different story...

 That's right, null security space saw more ship kills in March of 2015 than any other month in any year prior in 11 years (expect the anomalous April of 2012). It seems that all null sec needed was not actually a change in sov, but a mere suggestion that sov would be changing, in order to see more activity. CCP's best tool for increasing activity in game, it would seem, is merely suggesting that they will change that area of space. In any case, the activity in null sec during this 4 month period is due in large part to the fighting in Catch, the general "thunderdome" or "farmingdome" of EVE, as well as increasing activity in Fountain and Delve. Null sec, from these numbers, is looking to be in very good shape, and even if "fozziesov" is only a moderate improvement on the current sov system, given the current level of activity in NS, we should continue to see the ship losses and PVP activity skyrocket in April and especially in June/July when the bigger changes come. This should make the summer of 2015 the most active period of PVP in EVE Online's history... Summer is coming, indeed!

Here, finally, is what LS+NS look like combined, an important stat considering that many players (such as most of BRAVE) go back and forth between LS and NS. (I myself have been more active in NS lately in virtue of the amount of the PVP there, so in many cases LS players count as NS players and vice versa):

Combined, the total ship losses suggest that PVP activity in EVE is pretty good. In fact, it is close to all time high numbers, and on the uptick (much more so than in previous years). Simply from this graph, one can tell that there is a lot of excitement about EVE right now that simply wasn't present in March of any other year. Summer is coming indeed.