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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Getting Around a Bit More than Before

Living in a wormhole system with a static into low-sec has had one impact I hadn't really thought about. It impacts where I've been. This is my current systems visited map Aura presents me with when requested.
It's very obvious I was a high-sec carebear for a very long time. That region is fairly well blotted out with red spheres. I never even really got to Minmatar and Amarr space. I lived in a fairly small area.

Now there are the tendrils of low-sec visits slowly accumulated by nearly three months of wormhole dwelling starting to make an appearance. My first appearances in Minmatar and Amarr space are showing as well.

I'd be curious to know what maps look like from other play styles. Perhaps some of you other bloggers would be so kind as to post your map on your blog and then provide a link in the comments to this post. Could we identify your play style from your map? What do you say?

Fly Careful

Monday, October 29, 2012

Re: "Check this kill!"

This will be short and sweet because the day has been crazy, but I at least owe you something.

A Nyx was killed by Fatal Ascension over the weekend. This was already reported by you know who. There was a bit of derision there when he mentioned FA did it I think. Wonder what's up with that.

Well, it's not my place to comment on the reasons for this kill. However, I can share this report from one of the pilots involved in the kill.

"An alliance member called a fleet - they had tackled a Nyx (Supercarrier) in one of our systems. I jumped and ran, then shipped into a maelstrom for DPS. 
We waited for everybody to get there to get on the kilmail. Then the FC said, fire, and we volley-fired the last 12% of his structure in one shot - I did 10,645 damage with that shot. 
Hooah!"

The emphasis is mine. That's your new definition of kill mail whoring.

I do have one question left unanswered though. Was their final volley just enough to take out the last 12% of structure or was it total overkill? I might be able to answer that myself with a couple assumptions. Assumption #1, the damage my friend did was average and representative of the damage done by the other ships (yeah, I know - big assumption.) Assumption #2, there was no hull reinforcement going on beyond the Damage Control II. So, here we go with the equations. Hang on!
10,645 dps x 78 ships = 830,310 damage done
(480,000 structure (Nyx) + (480,000 x .60 from DC II)) x .12 = 92,160 structure remaining
Oh yeah, it was way overkill. They did about 10 times the amount of damage necessary. You know, if I was writing the code at CCP, I think I'd slip in a little bit that allows pods to be insta-popped if the ship has that much extra damage done to it. You know, sort of like damage getting past battered shields and into armor. I mean, talk about breaking an egg with a wrecking ball. Wouldn't it stand to reason with that much extra damage nothing would remain intact on the inside?

Fly Careful

Friday, October 26, 2012

Class 3 Wormhole Profit Potential

Last Monday I gave a rundown on the ISK I've made in the first two months of wormhole life in our Class 3. It was not a straightforward calculation. I'd spent considerable ISK on ships and, since they are all still in the POS, the ISK spent is not really gone. It's just shifted into a less liquid form. After taking that into account, I determined I'd made nearly three quarters of a billion ISK since entering the wormhole.

While I was working on the numbers for that post, I got to wondering what the profit potential of a Class 3 really is. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to know. How much money could I make - or more likely "we make" because I have no delusions of how much I alone can accomplish? It became its own feedback loop in my cerebellum. So even before the blog banter post I started working on the answer. I started with the easiest thing first: anomaly potential.

This is the easiest because the corporation has strict accounting of loot/salvage and all members get the payout email regardless of whether they participated or not. From those emails I was able to get the ISK value, the number of participants and the number of sites cleared. That allowed me to create an income table. This is what I ended up with:
Anomaly Loot and Salvage
Like most (all?) wormhole corporations, we strive to have no anomalies in the hole. Having them around just invites raiders who then get the loot instead of us. It might be fun to tangle with raiders, but that's not a profit earning scenario. To that end, we've run sites a total of 16 times in the past two months. We have cleared out 63 anomalies. The average number of ships we have running them is just under 4.

But the really important number is just behind "total." In two months we've taken just over three billion ISK in Loot. The profit potential of the anomalies spawned by a Class 3 wormhole is approximately 1.5 billion ISK a month. But is that the most profitable endeavor available? That seems to be the common wisdom. I wanted to know for certain. The feedback loop continued.

I've not gone into any magnetometric sites so can't say what they might bring for loot and salvage. I have helped clear one radar site in the the two months of records I have. We got 155 million ISK from that site. That keeps it in line with the best anomalies. I was told it was a bad drop. Knowing that, I'd say it might yield perhaps double an anomaly. That's sheer guesswork but I think it's a sound bet and it doesn't make them more profitable as they spawn much less frequently. The risk to reward isn't there either. Some of those Sleepers scram. Any ship loss while running the site kills the profit completely. They require a battleship to take the DPS dealt.

That leaves the profit potential of the remaining two types of sites to look at. That is a much more difficult task. We need to know what's possible to even begin. Here is the list of possible spawns in our Class 3 taken from EVE Eye:
Class 3 Sites
I have done some ore mining and gas harvesting but I have yet to completely clear a site with the exception of one ladar site. That leaves me with little real data. However, taking the list above and using EVElopedia and Eve Survival, I created a spreadsheet to calculate total potential value of a given site. I used current market prices as a base, rounding down as needed. Here are the two tables I ended up with:
Ladar Site Total Values
Gravimetric Site Total Values
As you can see, the best ladar site brings in just over a half billion ISK if completely harvested. The worst brings in just under two million ISK. That's hardly worth the time. There will also be sleepers in these sites though that might provide a little extra profit. I know from personal experience the Vast Frontier Reservoir has eight (8) cruiser class Sleepers and can bring in around an addition 30 million ISK in loot and salvage with a decent drop.

The real ISK winner though is on the gravimetric table. Completely clearing a Rarified Core Deposit will gross the fleet over two billion ISK - with a B! Even the worst gravimetric brings in almost as much ISK as the best ladar site. There are two catches though. Whereas I can clear a Vast Frontier Reservoir by myself in a couple hours or less, it would take a mining fleet in hulks with an Orca and mining foreman links to clear the Uncommon Core Deposit before it disappears or raiders find the mining fleet. Still, at 2.3 billion a field, those 'roids are definitely worth chewing on. Be careful though. That spawn comes with a Sleeper battleship and it has neut, web and scram. Also included for fun are two cruisers with neut and web. Believe me, they know how to use them too. They will kill you dead, dead, dead unless you can tank the approximate 650 DPS AND not run out of capacitor.

So, the final question is how much per month total could a corporation make in a Class 3 wormhole? That would all depend on how the spawns go, but I would think that, with diligence and at least a half dozen industrialists, a corporation could clear ten billion ISK a month with excellent spawns. A more likely scenario would be three to five billion ISK a month. Hauling it out and refining it in high-sec would bring even more when it came to the ores. How much I can't say right now. I also haven't included PI income. That might add another half billion per capsuleer if they all had maxed skills and plenty of factory slots to make Nanite Repair Paste. Looks like I've got some more spreadsheets in my future.

Fly Careful

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BB40: What makes a Blood Sport Popular?

I've not had anything to really say about the upcoming tournament  Hell, I couldn't even recall its title until I read the BB40 description. About all I know of this tournament is that it was insanely expensive to buy into, it jacked up PLEX prices enormously and now it's not quite so insanely expensive to buy into. Otherwise I wasn't terribly interested in it - and I'm still not.

But CCP really wants this event advertised and they have managed to co-op the Blog Banter for it. Fine, if they want a Blog Banter about it, that's what they'll get. I doubt it's going to be what they had in mind. However, it is what has been weighing on my mind.
BB40: Interstellar Blood Sports
So on with the banter.
Fresh from publishing the community spotlight on the EVE blogosphere and Blog Banters, CCP Phantom has suggested a banter focus on competitive tournaments.
There is no finer spectacle in the universe of EVE Online than the explosive dance of weapon-laden spaceships in combat. The yearly Alliance Tournament is the jewel in EVE Online's eSports crown and the upcoming New Eden Open should deliver the same gladiatorial entertainment showcase.
Given the scope of the sandbox, what part should eSports play in EVE Online and what other formats could provide internet spaceship entertainment for spectators and participants alike?
In August 2011, we had a Blog Banter on how to conduct arena fights in Eve Online. I wrote Chivalry, not Cage Fights in response to that call. Within that post, I mention this:
After each combat, those who witnessed it could award favor or disfavor to the combatants. Rankings would exist and the most favored might not even be those who always win. Even a loser, who fights well and with honor, could earn favor from his/her peers. Both could win! And, just as easily, both could lose. Those who acted despicably would receive disfavor. Only those present could decide.
That first sentence, the one I highlighted, is the key sentence. Within any sport, it is not the athlete that controls the future of the spectacle. It is the audience. The spectators who reveled in Rome's arena kept it going; not the Gladiators who died in it. Manchester United and Arsenal would just be unknown names if not for the fans. Neither the World Cup nor the Super Bowl would happen if not for the fans. The place for eSports in Eve Online isn't to get GFs, it's to allow others to watch a GF - and get something for it.

When it comes to eSports and Eve Online, we are the athletes. We bring the fans. CCP should treat us as such. They need to court the best of us and entice us to cooperate. Our upkeep is high, and we may be arrogant because we are good and know it, but without us there is nothing to cheer for; nothing to take pride in, and nothing to bet on. Do not look to capsuleers to be the fan base. The only time an athlete watches the game is when he needs to get into his opponent's head. Whether collegiate or professional, to the athlete sport is a job not a pastime. CCP needs to look at it, and capsuleers, in that light.

CCP needs to look outside Eve Online for fans. They need people who can't play the game themselves, but would cheer for "their team" and want them to win. Getting people to watch the event will be tough.  Take a lesson from Las Vegas. Dog racing is terribly boring, but watching dogs race is not the primary reason people watch dog racing. It's about the outcome - and the bets placed on that outcome. CCP must incentivize the fans as well as the athletes. Give them a reason to watch. How many billions of dollars are bet on sporting events around the world? Sports betting is the true pastime of sports aficionados, not the games themselves. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive IMO.

And one other thing, watching football does not make anyone want to play football unless they are a child. If CCP thinks eSport tournaments will increase subscriptions I think they need to reevaluate. That's not where they will make their money.

The real money holders are corporate sponsors. Once they've got the athlete and fan issues worked out, CCP can approach corporate sponsors with the marketing opportunities. The fans are the incentive the big money players need to get involved. They are the Holy Grail of marketing demographics. And don't forget the elite athletes either. Why do you think there are so many athletes wearing Nike swooshes and the Under Armor logo (which looks so much like the Ultima Online logo it's weird.) That's where V3 skins could fit into the great scheme of things don't you think?

So where could CCP apply this "incentive program" known as eSport other than the tournament? It could also work with sovereignty. People all across the United States participate in Fantasy Football. Treating the various null-sec alliances as teams and then allowing people to "fantasize" about who'll be on top next week or in a month or in a year could work. Using in-play betting for Faction Warfare fights might be popular. Just about anything with competition within the game could be incentivized. CCP only needs the proper incentives. 

But that's all for CCP to figure out. I've no interest in helping them with it to be honest. I'm not all that certain it could ever work. But if it does work, Eve Online changes forever. I cannot predict where that change will take it. Corporate sponsors have their own agendas. Fans view the game far differently than the athlete. All three have different ideas on what will improve the game because they are only concerned with what improves it for them. Who CCP listens to after changes like this is anyone's guess.

There is also another issue. Such betting may be illegal in some jurisdictions. Perhaps that is why the latest tournament is being held at a time more favorable to Europeans than Americans. In Europe, bookies are regulated;  not criminalized. It is a consideration CCP needs to take into account.

There is only one thing I can predict with certainty out of all this. I won't have anything to do with it. That's not what I want from Eve Online. That doesn't mean I'll leave. If eSports and the possible changes it could bring do not directly change what I like to do, I've no quarrel with it. Otherwise, all bets are off.

Fly Careful

Monday, October 22, 2012

Have you ever Wondered how Lucrative a Class 3 Wormhole Is?

I moved into HBHI's wormhole two months ago. It seems like it was yesterday. Not a day's gone by that I've not taken care of business - whether that was scanning down the day's static connection to low-sec, managing my Nanite Repair Paste production system, mining or running Sleeper anomalies. It's been a very busy two months indeed. So the key question is this: how does it compare to running business in high-sec? And perhaps more pertinent to your intrests, what could you expect to make inside a Class 3 wormhole?

When I ran Mabrick's Mining and Manufacturing [MABMM,] I made a decent amount of ISK. Before the tax changes to PI, I could make a half billion ISK a quarter if I really ground it out and had no unforeseen overhead. In terms of what some industrialists make, it's not all that much. For a single person corporation with other responsibilities, I was satisfied with it. Here is the last quarterly financial report I gave for MABMM. After this, the PI tax rate increase kicked in and profits went down considerably.

So what does the same report look like for the last two months in a Class 3 wormhole? Well, that's a bit harder to put a figure on. For one thing, my new corporate tax structure is completely different. HBHI has a 25% tax rate but it is not based on bounties. There are no bounties for Sleepers. HBHI's tax setting is irrelevant. In fact, for a wormhole corporation the tax mechanism is pretty well totally broken.

How the corporation deals with this is mostly on the honor system and totally manual. HBHI keeps 25% of the value of Sleeper loot and salvage as reported by Aura. We have a formated email report we send to the CEO on how much loot we got and what the breakouts should be (25% to corp, divide the remainder amongst the participants.) It totals all sites run during that operation. He verifies the value of the loot placed in the POS and then pays each participant their share from the corporate wallet. Members get "paid" very quickly. However, the corporation doesn't realize a profit until the loot is hauled out and sold. HBHI assumes all risk should a gank happen - and it has. The system is not perfect but it works well enough that no one is mad about it.

The issue for me and a cash flow report is those payments are recorded in my journal and not transactions. It's hard to get an actual accounting especially for assets (EDIT 22:13 Eve Time: assets inside a POS hanger do not show up on a character's API pull.) With that in mind, here is the balance sheet for my first two months in the hole based on the journal.
Click to Enlarge
Since I've moved into the wormhole, I've actually spent a lot of ISK. This was mostly on ships. I had to replace the Dominix we lost the night I moved into the hole. I purchased a T2 fit Megathron for Sleeper anomalies because the Domi wasn't up to Class 3 anomalies. I also purchased a Proteus and a Nemesis for wormhole defense. I bought a Drake because I wanted one in the hole. As I have yet to lose any of them, they are still assets but are not reflected as such on the above balance sheet. Only their cost is reflected. Their value should cancel their cost until they are destroyed though. In fact, most of the things I bought I still have (ammo and drones being a major exception) so they are all now assets and should be offset.

So you have a better idea of what those assets are, here is my buy and sell accounting sheet. I have totalled assets manually at the bottom.
Click to Enlarge
I have not included the Mackinaw purchase as that was for the corporation and I was compensated. The bottom line is, I have purchased well over a billion ISK in ship hulls and modules since moving into the wormhole. When you remove those assets from my overall balance sheet, my loss becomes a gain. I have made 786,004,226.18 ISK net profit since I left high-sec. That's not bad.

Fly Careful

[EDIT 21:10 Eve Time: Yes, the images are large and hard to read. Click on one, right click on the pop-out image, select open in new tab and then you can enlarge the image as much as you need.]

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rebuttals are Right On

As a blogger, I feel it is not my duty to always be correct. It is my duty to get the community talking about things; thinking about things. With this in mind, I put my Fog of War post, Getting Round to Make Eve more Real, out there for the community to consider.

And consider it they have for which I am greatly pleased. What's more, both TurAmarth and pjharvey have written two very good opinions on the subject on their own blogs. You should go give them a read. It is quite worth your time.

It’s Muggy Out Thar…

Adding to the fog of war

Honorable mention needs to go to Chirality Tisteloin, for first mentioning in her reply the idea of new modules that could create FoW.

FoW is something I was required to study at great length in another RL life (read another profession.) It is a very complicated concept. Not only does it simply exist as a by product of combat, it is also an environment that can be tactically and strategically manipulated to gain an advantage. Thus, what I say and what Tur says and what pj says are all true, from different perspectives. I must say, after reading the responses, that I feel giving players the ability to create FoW is probably more appropriate for Eve Online than stripping out the overview entirely. Still, I truly love the idea of HUD based tactical displays, so bring on the mods CCP!

And to all those FCs out there working their asses off to win engagements, I proffer my sincerest apologies if I have offended   It was not my intent. What you do is a skill no less than any other. Just because I have this (arcane?) vision of combat revolving around the hydrophone operator a la Hunt for Red October as opposed to the radar operators who actually fought the Battle of Britain, it should not for one second make anyone doubt your contributions to our community. Thank you for your dedication no matter whose side you're on. You enrich our game by doing that which most will not. Bravo!

Fly Careful

Friday, October 19, 2012

The End of Single Member Corporations

About a week ago Gamasutra published an article featuring information from a talk CCP senior game designer Matthew Woodward gave at GDC Online. In the talk, he cited three pillars to making a compelling sandbox game that will keep players subscribed and drive revenue. The last is my phrase, not his, but it's what he really means IMO when he states, "If you do this well, people will play your game forever. People will pay for it forever." (emphasis mine)

The three pillars he gives are social, goal-driven and emergent gameplay. We have all heard these words used to describe Eve Online for years now. CCP stepped up using them after the Incarna debacle. It seems to be part and parcel to their realignment after that harsh summer. What does this really mean for us?

And before I continue, I'd like to address a misconception some of the commenters have about the concept of socializing. The lack of socializing is not being antisocial. Being antisocial is still a valid form of socialization. It's just the negative of social in the way black is the inverse of white. The lack of socialization is unsocial. Please keep that in mind as you read on.

Social (or equally antisocial)

This is the most important one for us the player. The reason is, it will drive the other two. In a departure from my perceived dislike of all things Goonswarm, I have to say that they seem to get this pillar in ways a lot of corporations and alliances don't. It's easy to hate Goonswarm because of the havoc they create, but what enables them to do it time and again is their highly social approach to the game. By their own recruitment policies, you do not become a member of Goonswarm without qualifying out of game first. This is clearly stated in their wiki. To quote for those who want the tl;dr,
"GoonWaffe is NOT a publicly recruiting corporation. We are all members of the Something Awful forums, or well-known friends of someone who is a member. To join GoonWaffe you MUST either be a member of the Something Awful forums and have been an active member for at least 3 months, or you must have a sponsor who is a GoonWaffe member of good standing who is willing to vouch for you, meets the above requirement, and has been a member of GoonWaffe for 30 days. If you do not meet the above requirements then you can not join."
Now, there are some really good security reasons to have such a policy I'm sure - but where the rubber meets the road it means their members are already socialized. It becomes part of their attitude toward the game. Instead of asking themselves, "what can I do" they are more inclined to ask "what will we do."

And this isn't just restricted to Goonswarm. Since anyone reading this no doubt reads Jester's Trek, you know Ripard Teg is a member of Rote Kapelle. Those folks definitely "hang." And let's not forget Rixx Javix and the Tuskers, another group that "hangs." And then there is Eve University and Red versus Blue. They are the other side of the social circle in Eve Online - not as selective perhaps but certainly just as socially oriented.

"So what's your point?" you ask. Well, as much as it pains me to say it, because I did it for four years and liked it, don't be a damn unsocial carebear. You can be a carebear, but join an industrial corp. If you are dead set (pun intended) on a personal corporation, join an industrial alliance. Either way, talk with people. Mine with people. Do things with PEOPLE. You'd be surprised what will eventually happen.

Look at what Rote Kapelle is doing in Syndicate. Agree or disagree, they are making Eve Online more fun even for the folks they are attacking. I already see some Faction Warfare pilots starting to go after LP farmers because the LP farmers just don't have the "right stuff." Will the Tuskers decide to do something coordinated about them before the coming nerf? It'd certainly be interesting if they tried. And that leads directly to the other two pillars.

Goals and Emergent Gameplay

As I understand it, Rote Kapelle's goal is to make Syndicate into a roaming paradise again. Or perhaps to simply get more GF. Regardless, this is not a CCP provided goal though I am certain the devs in Iceland are very, very happy. They didn't have to create any content whatsoever for this event. All they needed is for a group of well trained and highly social pilots to decide they would take things into their own gun sights.

Can you say the same thing was not true of Burn Jita? What about the Jita Riots last summer? Or better yet, go read Poetic Stanziel's latest on the ice interdictions. Guess what, the goons are back. It didn't take long for those highly social goons to figure out they weren't nerfed out of the game after all (though I am a bit disappointed it took them this long. *wink* )

These are all examples of player set goals and emergent gameplay completely driven by player socialization.  That is our responsibility folks. If we want Eve Online to be forever, it is completely up to us. CCP can provide the hardware, they can provide the client and they can provide the framework. It is up to us to keep it alive and that won't happen if we are unsocial.

Over the last month, I have been slowly changing my opinion of what CCP is trying to accomplish with their talk of nerfing high-sec. It isn't that they want to drive players out of high-sec. I now believe their true goal is to drive the single player corporation out of the game - or more generally discourage the lone wolf  playstyle. And you know what, I'm not upset about it. As Mr. Woodward says,
"Mining is boring; mining with friends and beer is fun because you can sit there and do nothing and have fun."
Can anyone disagree with this statement? And when CCP does begin to make high-sec more costly for highly trained lone wolf industrialists, will they not band together and take to fleet mining ops for both safety's sake and, more importantly, profit's sake? I do hope so. And like the Goonswarm ice interdictors, they will discover they aren't nerfed out of the game afterall.

Fly Careful

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Getting Round to Make Eve more Real

A week ago CCP karkur posted a dev blog on changes to the targeting system titled, "Stay on Target!" In it he presented this:
Now, if you go back and look at my post No Going Back, I warned everyone the coming UI changes would be dramatically different. I think this qualifies and it's about time. I find nothing as unrealistic in Eve Online as the combat now that they have resolved warping through planets. Now settle down and hear me out because it's true.

Currently, when I am running a Sleeper engagement or when I watch a fleet battle on YouTube, what I do and what I see others doing is selecting targets using the Overview window. CTRL-Click or F1 and Click does the trick quickly and efficiently. There are many things to like about the Overview. I see perfectly well all my "enemies" in the list. I can see their ranges from me precisely. I can exactly see their velocities relative to my ship. I can see them equally well whether they are in my field of view or are behind me. Perfectly, precisely, exactly, equally: we have all become used to managing our violence in this way. Since when have any of these adjectives ever described combat?

And another thing, the Overview is rather like a spreadsheet isn't it? Sortable rows and columns make Eve combat more like balancing the books than a fight. Those FCs with the skills to parse this spreadsheet quickly and efficiently do best. But this isn't really warfighting. It's list management. When you have all the information in front of you and your rules of engagement are clear, all you have to do is apply a pivot table and voila, you're an FC. Does that make you a good leader, or are you simply a better accountant?

Furthermore, perfect intelligence about who you are fighting is terribly unrealistic. In no instance of the military art can I think of any situation where the unknowns did not outway the knowns. War is an uncertain business and to pretend it isn't is to lack a basic understanding of war's fundamental nature. Had the Japanese known the carriers were not in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 they would not have attacked. Had Hitler understood the resilience and determination of the Russian soldier on their native soil, he'd never have abrogated his treaty with Stalin. The entire war would have been very different. Eve Online has always lacked the basic reality known as the fog of war when it comes to combat.

I hope the above picture is the second step introducing the fog of war into Eve Online combat (CCP has already said Dust Bunnies will be able to take down local for brief periods.) I hope they are taking us away from clinical engagements where all threats are seen, immediately assessed, prioritized and blobbed. Can you imagine what a Goonswarm attack would look like if local and the Overview was gone? It would be pandemonium in space! And that is precisely what it should be. Isn't that what we all long for? To be Han Solo taking the Millenium Falcon through the asteroid field while Tie fighters chase us rather than the primary that pops in .23 seconds?

I cannot recount the number of complaints I've read about the application of blob tactics. But why does such a thoughtless tactic work? It's because the spreadsheet and instant local count makes it possible for it to work. When local spikes, the blob FC goes to his spreadsheet, immediately sees the threat, knows the priority targets at once and broadcasts them for all to kill straight away. Perfect battlefield intelligence combined with perfect communications makes this fantasy scenario complete. Combat becomes a simple matter of who can kill whom quickest based in spreadsheet and formula. There is no warrior skill required.

"But Mabrick, what about the engagements where a smaller fleet triumphs?" you ask. Sure, DPS potential and proper fits may come into play and allow a numerically inferior fleet to win. But that is less a statement about the capabilities of the outnumbered pilots, than it is a statement about the poor fitting prowess of the other side. Only in that regard is it not fantasy. It was still done with perfect intelligence and perfect communications.

Whether it is a small fleet on a roam or a capital engagement, allowing the fog of war to creep into the contest will end the fantasy. CCP can't really stop the perfect communications. Not unless they make Teamspeak a bannable violation of the EULA. But they can kill local and the Overview. Doing those two things will make combat far more realistic. It will bring out true combat leaders. Leaders who win through intuition and insight will become the new FCs of choice. A numerically inferior force, properly deployed and committed to the battle in a tactically sound fashion, will mean more than a thousand  Drakes. And in the end, Eve will become more real for it.

Fly careful

Monday, October 15, 2012

No Quarter

"Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you." -Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, before his final battle.

My post last Friday discussed the life of real pirates, or more precisely, the end of their lives. Four of five real pirates I highlighted met early violent ends and only Anne Bonny escaped her death sentence. That was what it was to be a pirate. To live fast and die hard, but do so on your own terms.

It was the life they choose with full knowledge of the consequences. They cared not that it led to a hangman's noose. As the entirety of Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts motto statement explained,
"In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking. No, a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto."
So as I read through the responses to my Friday post, I smiled to see the first comment was from someone who truly groks the pirate mentality. "If say somebody placed an excessively high bounty on my head and it meant I was hunted like a dog, then I'd be extremely happy," was how Miura Bull put it. That is a true pirate right there. Those that complain the new system favors carebears, et al, are not real pirates. They don't really understand the pirate's creed.

But because there is great concern over the possibility of grief play (like most high-sec ganking isn't grief play *rolls eyes*,) we need to know if those concerns have merit. I believe the heart of everyone's angst isn't actually the Bounty System per say, but the transfer of kill rights. Does the transfer of kill rights allow a 30-day grief window? The new Crime Watch system is the system that assigns kill rights, not the Bounty System, so it is there we must start to look for the answer.

When are transferable kill rights obtained? We need to refer to the charts in CCP Masterplan's original CW2 post for when this scenario happens. In his own words,
"Performing an action against another player that gets you a Criminal flag will also award a kill-right to that person." 
I have gone through the original chart and highlighted when kill rights get assigned - red for high-sec and orange for low-sec.
So, the first thing I will point out is the ONLY way to give someone kill rights in low-sec is to shoot at their pod. Sure, a suspect flag gives everyone permission to shoot at you for 15 minutes but that's hardly new. So piracy is alive and well in low-sec and no one need worry about grief play as it is easily avoided. Just don't shoot at pods.

That leaves only high-sec, where kill rights get awarded on the first shot against an illegal target. How do you get around this? Declare war against the target's corporation is the easy way. Is that so much to ask? Or does the fact you show up as red to them at all times somehow cripple your l33t pyrat skilz?

That aside, let's say you do shoot an illegal target in high-sec. Then what? Well, the target puts a bounty on your head (or doesn't? The blogs are not clear on that.) and then places her kill right on the market block. Someone sees you and buys the right. How does that play out exactly? Maybe something like this.

You approach the Uedama gate in the Sivala system. There is a frigate orbiting the gate but you are safe in your PvP battlecruiser. You jump on landing. What you don't know is, as you jumped, the frigate pilot bought the kill rights against you. As you materialize on the Uedama side of the gate, his half dozen friends are waiting for you because he also let them know via Teamspeak you were coming through. Your ship vaporizes around you. If you are lucky, you can get your pod out. You aren't lucky. You wake up in a clone vat far away.

Damn, that sounds exactly like the last time I saw a freighter ganked in Uedama. The only difference is "the buddies" on the other side weren't all CONCORDOKKENED for it. Welcome to Eve Online Mister Bad-dude.

Oh, and that's it. The kill right is expended. Read CCP SoniClover's blog on the new Bounty system carefully.
"Kill rights are bought “on the spot” in space, i.e. if you select a player in space and that player has a kill right on him for sale, you can buy & activate (one action) it right then and there. This immediately puts a Suspect Flag on the target, thus allowing you and others in your vicinity to attack the target. If the target player is killed while under a Suspect flag, then the kill right is ‘spent’. If the target manages to escape and the Suspect flag timer (15 minutes) lapses, the kill right is still available to be purchased (activated) later on. 
Kill rights will continue to have a lifespan of 30 days."
If the kill right is converted to a suspect flag and the suspect is killed, it is over. If no one manages to kill you in 30 days, it is also over. The kill right expires. There is no rinse, lather and repeat for 30 days. One condition or the other - not both. That is the most sensible interpretation of that section. You may still have a bounty on your head, but someone will have to take that bounty and then they have to find you. Surely your skills are enough that you can avoid being found. And if you are found, your fighting prowess will certainly make any attack against you a dicey proposition. Right? You do like PvP don't you?

"Ah, but what's to keep Bounty Hunters from forming fleets to come get me?" you ask. Not commenting on the sheer ego it takes to think you're that special, there is nothing to stop them from doing that. However, let me ask you this. What's to stop you from doing the same thing? And why do you think it's unfair to be hunted by a gang of would be assassins?  Dude, I live in a WH. That happens every damn day. I've also seen it happen many times in Uedama. That's the nature of Eve Online. That's what it's all about; HTFU already. (Damn I love saying that to non-carebears.)

So, having a kill right against you isn't all that bad actually. It certainly isn't the catastrophe that some have portrayed it to be. And I'd like to reassure NoseyGamer. Don't worry about them griefing you out of low-sec. They can put bounties on you, but that doesn't mean you are in any more danger. To quote the post again,
" Bounties have no effect on who can be attacked legally where." 
How is that not like low-sec today? You are already hunted. You are in no more danger just because someone decides to pay good ISK for something that you already face. So what if it makes people actively look for you? Those Bounty Hunters are in just as much danger from real pirates as you are. They die in gate camps as easily as the rest of us. Just keep playing as you are. It'll be no different and other's will soon tire of paying good ISK for something real pirates will do for free.

And lastly, I am very pleased with how CCP has handled the new Bounty Hunting system. I love that players are finally going to have the power to shape our own futures. I love that I will be told every time someone is killed using a kill right I sold. Rather than carebear victims or carebears forced to become what they didn't want to be in the first place, we can fight back with means more amenable to our disposition. In other words, you shoot at me and I'll fight back with the best means at my disposal: ISK. To those who have wronged me, beware. I've never been given quarter by you, you'll not have any from me.

Fly Careful

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fight like a Man

Reading through the Eve Online forums concerning the CW2 and the new Bounty Hunting changes (and not a few blogs,) there are a lot of people exclaiming great concern, nigh on tears of rage, over the possibility of pirates - or just about anyone - being griefed out of the game.

So I ask myself, what would someone have to do to warrant such griefing? They would surely have to upset someone with a fair amount of ISK. It was stated in a comment to my GCC post that no one would dare blow up even one of Greedy Goblin's freighters because it would be chump change for him to immediately put a billion ISK bounty on the pirate's head. Or it could be some person with many, many disciples... um, I mean corporation members who will do anything asked. It's occurred to me that rather than just declare war against a single person carebear corporation, they could just put an insanely high bounty on my head using a temporary alt (no connection established you see and thus no bad publicity *wink*) and grief me forever.

So why should this be so alarming? Eve Players have this mistaken idea that being a pirate or a renegade is some romantic stick-it-to-the-man occupation. They seem to think they should be able to do as they please without consequences they don't like. That piracy is a good life full of women, strong rum and juicy tears.

The reality is, it was a hard life full of deprivation and hardship. The rum was watered down and most lives ended early and violently. Let's have a look at some of history's more famous pirates and see how they fared living such a life.

Edward Teach aka Blackbeard
Eventually cornered by HMS Jane and HMS Ranger. After devastating both Sloops with a broadside, he boarded a seemingly empty HMS Jane only to be surprised by the crew erupting from the hold. During the pitched battle that ensued, Blackbeard was surrounded and killed by no less than five bullets and twenty sword slashes. His headless body was discarded into the water while his bearded head hung as a trophy from HMS Jane's bowsprit so the bounty could be collected.

John Rackham aka Calico Jack
Captured in 1721 by forces sent by the Governor of Jamaica. He was tried for piracy, convicted and hung. His dead body was displayed in public as a warning to all who would be pirates. Anne Bonny is reported to have told him while he was awaiting execution, "if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang'd like a Dog."

Bartholomew Roberts aka Black Bart
He was the most successful pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy. Records state he had 470 vessels from his piracy. He is reported to have said of life, "No, a merry life and a short one shall be my motto." He died at the age of 39, struck in the neck by grape shot fired from HMS Swallow. His crew hastily buried him at sea in accordance with his wishes.

But what about the lady pirates? Did they fare any better?

Anne Bonny
Captured along with Calico Jack. Tried, convicted and sentenced to hang. Along with Mary Read, she "pleaded her belly." The execution was put off until proof of pregnancy could be seen. She seems to have escaped with the assistance of her wealthy father, but the evidence is disputed.

Mary Read
She meets the same end as Anne Bonny except she dies of a fever in prison rather than having a wealthy father who helps her escape.

So, other than Anne Bonny, who had an ace in the hole, both the men and the women died before the natural end of their lives. They had some success, but in the end, their actions brought life ending retribution.
There's that word again. And it is the most appropriate word. The pirates of New Eden have for too long been allowed to do as they wish without any serious consequences to their actions. Real pirates couldn't sail into Kingston harbor unless their cannons were primed and even then they had no chance of sailing out again. They lived on the periphery of civilization where they often had inadequate provisions and always inadequate retirement plans. The only adequate thing was the rum and more than one captain of pirates came to his end because the crew was too drunk to do anything about it.

So, to those who would derive their fun in Eve Online preying on others, watch out who you upset. Either live the life Black Bart subscribed to, or HTFU. No one in New Eden gets a mulligan. All sales are final. And pirates need to understand there are consequences for antisocial behavior. Undocking is permission to PvP. This is just another form of PvP. I for one will risk being griefed to make that abundantly clear to those who would rather hang like a dog.

Fly Careful

Thursday, October 11, 2012

To PLEX, or not to PLEX


In commemoration of the record high PLEX prices.
(with respect to Mr. Shakespeare)

Enter MABRICK

MABRICK
To PLEX, or not to PLEX--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in New Eden to suffer
The dips and crashes of outrageous markets
Or to take losses against a market of trolls
And by underselling end them. To buy, to sell--
No profit--and by a sell to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand unnatural decimals
That sell is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To buy, to sell--
To sell--perchance to reset: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sell at loss what resets may come
When we have sold off this market imbalance,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so low a price.
For who would bear the frauds and scams of contract,
Th' trickster's wrong, the proud trader's contumely
The pangs of despised ransom, CONCORD's delay,
The insolence of local and the spam
That patient merit of th' underseller takes,
When he himself might his profit make
With a decimal? Who would fardels bear,
To jump and warp under a wareful life,
But that the dread of goonswarm at Jita,
The undiscovered country, from whose gank
No profit returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those losses we have
Than warp to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. -- Soft you now,
The fair Aura! -- Nymph, in thy database
Be all my sins remembered.

                              ***

Fly Careful

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

No Going Back

Yesterday Jester asked if anyone else had caught some fairly specific language in CCP Masterplan's blog on the new Crime Watch (CW2) system. The tl;dr is yes, I did. Thank you for the lead in Jester.

So what precisely does "no going back" mean in practical terms? If it is in the CCP playbook, what particular meaning does it have for them? Is this a sign of backsliding or the mantra of a newly refocused and rededicated CCP? What does it mean for us, the players? How will this new philosophy (if you will allow that broad a label) change the game itself? These are questions I've been mumbling to myself since the CW2 post. Here's what I've parsed so far.

As I said last post, I believe CCP when they say they've learned from last year's turmoil. If nothing else, the last two updates have shown a renewed dedication to the nuts and bolts of Eve Online. First with Crucible and then with Inferno, CCP revamped long neglected parts of Eve Online. CCP addressed many long standing player concerns. I think practically anyone can agree with this summation.

The reasons they have done so may not be what we think. There is at least half of me that says these changes were always on the drawing board. That half says they were there because of Dust 514 and the level of integration that CCP has to pull off to make it work. That's just business though and, as I said, only half of me thinks this way. The other half, the half that loves Internet spaceships, will gladly take any improvement and to hell with reasons.

Thus, I believe the meaning to CCP is two fold. One, Dust 514 is coming and there is no stopping it now. They can't go back. New Eden must be ready for this transformation; for the influx of new characters. What is it that the beginning of the original Battlestar Galactica said, "There are those who believe life here began out there?" We are the 'out there.' Dust does not exist unless Eve Online exists. CCP must take care of Eve Online to ensure Dust 514 is not stilborn.

I also think everyone in CCP never wants a repeat of last summer. No one likes to feel as if they've failed. CCP employees are no different than you or I in that respect.They want to win. And I believe they have realized delusions of invincibility are the fastest way to assure that doesn't happen. There is no going back for them on that score - at least for those employees who lived through the summer of rage. It remains to be seen if they can pass that feeling on to new employees. They will have to sooner rather than later. CCP has been doing some hiring lately. The latest opening is for a Studio Manager in Newcastle, U.K. just in case anyone reading this qualifies.

As for us players, I think we will soon learn in detail what "no going back" encompasses about the game we love. We can already see some of the ramifications in CW2 and the revamped, as yet to be revealed, Bounty System. It isn't just the mechanics I'm talking about either. It is the UI - that thing I know all Eve Players love to bash. I once compared the sophistication of the Eve UI with fighter cockpits. I think the analogy still applies as is my sentiment about it. But the UI is something players have clamored for CCP to simplify for years.

I believe we saw the first of the new UI paradigm in Inferno. In Inferno, we saw a reduction in Windows with the new Inventory System. One way to reduce clutter, which has always been a key complaint about the current UI, is to reduce the number of clutter enabling objects. Multiple inventory windows was the obvious place to start. CCP went to the X-Tree vision of the file structure tree. It's isn't original but it is efficient. That design continues with every major OS available today in one form or another because it works.

There are more window reduction efforts afoot. I believe at  its heart, the change in how we view War Declarations starting with Inferno 1.1 as well as how we will see the new Bounty System interface are an attempt to completely remove the need for some windows on the main screen. Players now call them up when needed and put them back on the taskbar... oops, I mean Neocon... when not needed. With a customizable and hide enabled Neocon, this keeps information conveniently a click away removing the need to have even a stub of a window to display it.

The second paradigm shift is more noticeable in Retribution. It is the colorful icon with information pop-up.
Part of this actually slipped into Inferno with the Effects Bar. The action-enabled pop-up on who's targeting you is frankly brilliant. In fact, pop-ups in general are the meat of the change in UI strategy rather than the icons themselves. By this means, only applicable information is shown and only when the player determines it is necessary. The result is an off loading of indicators currently resting in the Overview and shifting them to just-in-time display and on-demand viewing.

I'll go so far as to say that once all these types of information are shifted out of the Overview and onto the HUD, the Overview will become moribund. Don't yell, it'll still be a window you can open, just like you can still clutter your UI with inventory windows if you like. But why would you when the Tactical Display and applicable indicators will do the same thing? Add some vector arrows in different colors (speed and transversal for example) to the tactical display for each ship and that'll cover everything currently in my combat overview. Wouldn't it yours?

But there is a price for this change. The UI as it exists is a deep rooted morasse of old code. CCP Masterplan said they had to rip out the old CW code and write new code. Previously, CCP Arrow described the old Inventory code as having "serious code rot" and said they "refactored" it. Translation: they wrote new code. The same will be true of the rest of the UI. They will have to rip it out and re-write it for the most part - and it will be dramatically different. As Confederate Railroad sang, "When you go that way you can never come back." Love it or hate it, you will have to live with it. What's that old adage? Oh yeah, be careful what you wish for...

EDIT 10OCT12 00:25 EVE TIME: Stay on target! is the new dev blog by CCP karkur concerning UI changes in Retribution. Looks like I was.

Fly Careful


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Afternoon Quickie

Here's a new industry blog I will definitely be keeping my eyes on.

Prosper: An EVE Online Tool Development Blog

Good start Lockefox! Hopefully this will encourage more industry vets (I'm not qualified... yet) to look up from their spreadsheets and share some of their knowledge with us wannabes.

Fly Careful

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mabrick's Link Stew

One of the things that really sets Eve Online apart from all other MMO's I've ever played is the economy. When I first started in the MMO world, I was playing Ultima Online. It was truly a love-hate relationship. I remember spending hours chopping wood and making crossbows so I could earn enough to buy some better armor. It was truly mind numbing game play. It was far worse than mining. At least when you're mining there are beautiful stars and nebula to look at.

So, the first thing I want to share in this Link Stew post is a Washington Post article in which Eve Online figures prominently.

The economics of video games by Brad Plumer.

It is a widely known fact that CCP employs a full time economist to oversee New Eden's economy. His name is  Eyj├│lfur Gu├░mundsson. He even has a staff of eight assistants that produce reams and reams of reports on the day to day activities within New Eden.

What this Washington Post article points out is the Eve economy, though virtual, is so real that economists are practically salivating at a chance to "play games" themselves. With hundreds of thousands of consumers driving the market and practically everything being made, sold and used by those consumers, the Eve Online economy is an excellent testbed for new economic ideas. Games like Eve Online just might be a boon to a field that hasn't seen any appreciably advancements in thinking for the past half century.

But you don't have to take my word that this is an excellent read and worth your time. The BBC News Magazine also shares my opinion. They listed it in their Seven of the week's best reads article.

The next set of links brings back some not so fond memories. Remember the "summer of rage" that culminated with thousands of ships wrecking extreme vandalism on a public monument in Jita? It was over the Incarna release, or as we know it, walking in stations. In came the Captain's Quarters. Out went silly ship spinning. Up went the graphic card temperatures right in lock step with player's ire. It was a tumultuous time. It was a time of upheaval and deep soul searching for CCP and for its player base.

Last month The Verge had a great article on those times featuring some very candid interview quotes from CCP developers. It is much more than a simple stroll down memory lane. It gives a view inside CCP that I've never seen expressed so openly.

At war with fans: 'EVE Online's' fall and rise from infamy by Emily Gera.

We all know the public reaction from CCP and how it went from arrogant to humble. We all know the official line. To paraphrase, it went something like "we lost sight of what was important." That is not what makes me put this article in Link Stew. It's comments like this from CCP Producer Jon Lander,
"With various other games that were released around the same time we were obviously looking at our numbers and going, 'Oh my god; is this idea actually going to transform into a successful business?' And it's tough when you're going around the office and everybody is playing a different game and you're like, 'Come on — gotta have faith; gotta have faith.'"
So you have a champion level MMORPG and your own developers would rather play another company's game? That has to be hard to admit. This one article does more to persuade me that CCP has seen the errors of their ways, and made corrections, than anything I've read or heard them say since Incarna. It did not make me self-satisfied to read Kris Touburg's recollections of going through Something Awful last January and finally seeing good things said about Eve Online, but it was a relief.

And out of all the personal reflections given in this article, my favorite quote is and, I think, will always remain Sveinn Kjarval saying,
"I think, it's kind of healthy to experience a little bit of failure and realize that you're mortal."
It reminds me of a character in a James Bond movie that perhaps didn't get frozen by liquid nitrogen because of his arrogance. If you know the character I refer to you ARE a geek. But before you think all those dark days are behind us and Incarna is dead and buried, think again. It is still alive and it isn't even on life support. CCP continues to actively pursue it though not at a "production" level.

Whatever happened to EVE's "walking in stations" update? by Steve Hogarty

This does not upset me. I said it before and I still feel that having a mobile avatar in Eve Online is not a bad thing. I still remember the discussions pre-Incarna of having virtual bars and casinos where Eve Players could just relax and socialize. If you can't get to Eve Vegas or Fanfest, it's the next best thing to being there isn't it? How's that a bad thing so long as it doesn't interfere with serious Internet spaceships?

And there is an even better possibility. Since I now live in a wormhole system, this possibility really excites me. In fact, just last night I was running one of these...
 ...with Spiralnomad and he asked if we could loot the structure. Alas, I had to tell him it was futile to try. Then I remembered this demo video posted on YouTube and smiled.
Someday...

Fly Careful

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Crime Watchamacallit Solution

Well, we now have the first developer blog for the Retribution update coming this winter. You can read all the details at this blog post by CCP Masterplan. As this affects every player in Eve Online in one way or another, I'm certain all of you have read it already. But if you haven't, please do. You can also read Jester's favorable discussion of the changes. For some reason he seems to know a lot about how Crime Watch (CW) works. Why is that? O.o

I am pleased to see the charts detailing what actions trigger which response. In over four years of playing Eve Online I've never seen such a succinct record of what will get you into trouble with the authorities. Most of what I've learned has been from blogs and in-game events where the consequences were shown first hand but many times not what triggered them in the first place. To say my education was piecemeal is to commit a gross miscalculation of the effectiveness of that educational system.

At least by providing a concrete list of don'ts and their associated penalties, CCP is giving us a tool by which to make more informed decisions. This is a win even if no changes were coming and the spreadsheet only detailed the current convoluted system. Having a document is a big step forward. The gaudy icons help too. To be honest, I'm aghast that CCP didn't have this from the beginning. It seems like such a logical thing for a developer to develop. But that's the past and we won't dwell on it.

Reading through the new system, I definitely see ways players might game it. I'll give it some thought and, if my concerns seem solid enough, I'll visit the official forum and make some suggestions. I encourage all of you to do the same. It is the only way we will get a system that works for all of us - pirate and carebear alike.

However, amongst all the details I do believe I see the downfall of this update. CCP Masterplan picked his own poison. He says,
"If we were making a theme park game where your actions are tightly circumscribed this could be problematic, but thankfully we're making a pretty open-ended sandbox, which gives us developers a lot of confidence that you players will find new ways to do old things pretty quickly."
The emphasis is mine. I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. Us players will find new ways to do the old things quickly. In other words, I have no doubt players will quickly game this new CW system to their advantage. It's still a complicated equation of if-then-else conditions and that makes it vulnerable to gaming. There is a better way.

In the United States, crime has been on the down turn for decades even while police forces have become smaller and smaller. Why has this been? Many attribute it to the use of Neighborhood Watch and other citizen engagement plans. Some time ago, law enforcement realized no matter how many cops there are, they can't be everywhere at once. Those that live in a neighborhood are there all the time. They have far more eyes on the problem than the police department.

The point for Eve Online isn't that in-game crime will decrease if players report it. It isn't that the servers can't be everywhere at once unlike the police. The relevancy is that policing is more efficient and effective when those with the most at stake do the leg work. They have the motivation to make it happen. They are personally involved.

In that vein, I still feel that a player oriented rather than a Big Brother oriented CW is the best way to go. The servers will never understand how we play the game. They will always fail to anticipate the deviousness of the human mind. They will always fail to stop abuse.

So while I don't dislike the three statuses. And I don't dislike most of the penalties. I will dislike any system without links between CW and the new Bounty System that put control of CW into the hands of the players. Eve Online is far bigger than its code. The code is not enough. The sooner CCP embraces that reality the sooner things will really start to improve. We'll have to wait until the Bounty System dev post to find out if that's begun. I have my fingers crossed (but I'm not betting any ISK on it.)

Fly Careful

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

GCC, is it even necessary?

Rixx Javix is a bad dude. And I mean this with respect. He's a bad dude in Eve (aka a pirate) and his blog is bad in that odd modern American idiomatic twist that means good, really good. Today he had this to say about the GCC. Rixx is right, almost any system that doesn't make the pilot just sit and wait around would be better than what transpires today. Even nasty pirates deserve a chance to play their game.

In the MMORG.com article from my last post, they reported a new Crime Watch system built from the ground up. Here is how it will work according to them.
"The new Crimewatch system breaks consequences down to three categories, each marked with a distinct icon in the UI.   
The first level of criminal consequence is the inability to safely log off from the game. Doing so will cause your ship to warp somewhere in the current system and you’ll still be able to be scanned down.   
Committing a ‘misdemeanor’ crime of sorts, say, stealing things from another player’s space canister, will flag you with a second icon that denotes that other players will be able to kill you on sight. 
The third level, reserved for heinous acts such as murder, will bring up a third icon on your UI that denotes that not only can other players kill you, but EVE Online’s NPC police presence, CONCORD, will hunt you down as well. 
Each of the three icons will display information on mouse-over so that players can understand exactly what can or will happen to them and these icons will also show a countdown timer of sorts to let you know exactly how long until that effect expires."
It is the third level that Rixx seems most concerned about, what we know as the GCC timer. He has written about one system that could make it better. He also admits there may be other ways to improve GCC. I don't think any timer based system will make it better though. It might make it more bearable, but not better.

I propose that CCP scrap the entire timer based system all together. In a game where every nanosecond of processor time is important, it just doesn't really make sense to have timer based systems anyway. Still we can't allow nasty pirates to get away with their crimes now can we.

Instead, I recommend that CCP roll the punishment for such heinous crimes straight into the new bounty system. Leave it up to the victim to determine the level of punishment for the pirate. Here is how I think this could work:
In this system, there is no time limit. The victim chooses a range (system, constellation, region) and CONCORD will shoot the pirate on site until the bounty is completely claimed.

The range selection code is already in the game. It would be the same thing as placing buy and/or sell orders. It also limits the area of space where the pirate is wanted to a single region. It gives the pirate someplace to go and continue being a pirate. Since many low-sec systems are on region boundaries, it should not be too much of a pain to "get away." Null-sec and WH space are exempt as is already the case. No muss, no fuss and an equitable system for all.

The only downside I can see is the cost of bringing CONCORD in on the bounty. It would preclude poorer players who may be noobs. To deal with this, I could see the CONCORD surcharge being a percentage of wallet or total asset value. That is something for CCP to work out. Maybe it doesn't even matter, for instance if the surcharge is low cost. Regardless, the CONCORD surcharge has the extra value of being an ISK sink without affecting game play. You could call it a voluntary tax if you like, but it's better than raising taxes on everyone.

Fly Careful

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bountiful Gaming Opportunities

Well, it seems I can dare to say "all" but that isn't the case when it comes to developers working on Dust 514 as opposed to the Eve Online winter expansion. We now know the winter expansion for Eve Online is named Retribution and includes fixes to the bounty and crime watch systems within Eve Online as well as the ship rebalancing and new Destroyers already mentioned. I still maintain that Dust 514 is CCP's winter Jesus Feature, but Eve Online is not a bastard stepchild yet. Hooray!

Of all three things announced in Retribution, the one that intrigued me most and made me ask, "what are they going to do?" is the Bounty System change. It may be difficult to believe and I don't want to strain your brains, but when I was first setting up Mabrick I wanted to be a Bounty Hunter. The idea of bringing "bad guys" to justice in a game that is most like a Hollywood fantasy version of the 19th century American west appealed to me. Then, as I read up on the game and got introduced to the meta game, which I was reading about quite some time before I actually started playing, I realized it just wasn't a viable game play style. I was saddened by this so I became an industrialist. Yeah, I don't always get it either but that's the way it worked out.

So now the question I have is could I become the Bounty Hunter now that I originally wanted to be back then? Evehermit has already expressed some misgivings about the new Bounty System. Given the fact that Goonswarm has already shown a propensity for abusing the new War Declaration System to try and silence meta game opposition, I can say from personal experience that Evehermit's concern is valid. Unfortunately it's hard to draw any conclusions for lack of official details.

The official Retribution web site is completely devoid of anything resembling details. There are no dev blogs on the subject - yet. I'm sure there will be one soon - right Hans? So I went looking for other sources of information. Luckily I found one. I found this article over on MMORPG.com. The information comes from the Retribution press conference. I find it interesting the limited details went to the press before a dev blog told the paying players, but these are strange times for CCP, what with Dust 514 launching this month.

BTW, has anyone seen a denial from CCP on that? I haven't. In fact, I read this over on Dust514.org:
[CCP]CmdrWang: Q: Can you confirm or deny Jack Trettons statement about Dust 514 launching in october?
[CCP]Hellmar: We are doing a lot of exciting things with Sony. This month, DUST is bundled with the new PS3 hardware, with access and some cool items
That is by no interpretation possible a denial. Nor is it confirmation. Hmmm, that's very interesting but I digress. Let's get back to Eve Online and Retribution.

So let's try and address Evehermit's concern about a large wealthy alliance setting bounties on anyone who dares disagree with them. Is there any mention of a mechanism to prevent this? In short order, no, there is not. There is no mention of any sort of limitation on who can place bounties on whom. What it does say is those with bounties should be able to see who is hunting them. This indicates to me that only those who sign up to pursue a bounty will collect on the bounty. That is somewhat of a limiting factor but I'd really like to see CCP set some very specific limits. I think they will. They'd better. I hope one of them is something like, "you can't place a bounty on someone who hasn't done x, y or z to your character/corporation/alliance." That ties the bounty to in game actions versus meta game actions and that is very important. It will preserve the scope and depth of the Eve Online community and protect them from overzealous actions by those who have trouble distinguishing RL from Eve Online.

And speaking about the overzealous, what about preventing the gaming of the Bounty System like happened with the new War Declaration system? I have some serious reservations about  CCP's thinking (according to the article) on that score. CCP seems to think that only paying a fraction of the bounty per ship destroyed will stop the current abuse of having friends take you out for the whole tamale. Well, yes, that will probably stop the abuse as it stands today. However, it plays right into the hands of those who would use the Bounty System to grief others. By requiring a Bounty Hunter to obtain multiple kills on a target to collect the full bounty, they are setting up some poor schmuck (like me) for the rinse, lather, repeat gaming experience. What will prevent Bounty Hunters from station camping a character and repeatedly blowing him up? What's to prevent a gang of Bounty Hunters from doing this? It sure as hell isn't going to be partial payouts. Come on CCP, you have to do better than that sort of thinking. Please don't dwell on fixing what's been wrong about it and not even think about what will be wrong with it. That's what always gets you into trouble. You don't always think these things through. Bring out your evil twins and say, "Ok, game it to death! What would Goonswarm do... or any other alliance with an axe to grind."

Finally, at the bottom of the section on the the new Bounty System, there was one additional detail that really made me do the double eyebrow push up. To quote,
"Down the line, CCP is looking to also add the ability for players to place bounties on particular structures, too."
Does that mean the Bounty System will go hand in hand with the Merc System? That would make a lot of sense. Bounty Hunters are in a sense mercenaries. The only real difference is whether they get paid half up front or not. It also makes me wonder how this is all going to play into the new War Declaration System. I can't help but think they are all interrelated to one degree or another. It would only make sense to run them in similar fashions.  Don't you agree?

Fly Careful