For the best experience use full HD.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Odyssey UI Improvements: An Educated Guess

I guess I couldn't just walk away for a week. I suck at taking a break. However, I read something over on Massively that really got my attention. As you are all probably aware, CCP just announced the next expansion called Odyssey. Most of the coverage has basically been a regurgitation of what CCP said would come with Odyssey. That's nice, but what's the point - to waste photons and electrons? Sorry, I have more respect for my quantum friends than that.

However, after reading Massively's paraphrased comments attributed to John Lander about CCP's thinking processes concerning Odyssey and the future of Eve Online, a picture started forming in my head of what some of the purported features might really look like. Here are four things from the Odyssey web site and Massively I believe are not really separate things but part of a greater vision:
  1. Discovery scanning (Odyssey site)
  2. "Intuitive" navigation (Odyssey site)
  3. A revamp to how the game indicates points of interest (Massively)
  4. You should be exploring and looking for new ways to get things (Massively)
When I see those four items in a list, I see an old problem resolved with a new twist on an old skill using a new interface. I believe we've already seen part of that new interface: route lines going from star to star and hide-able info panels. In reference to the route lines, I read a dev blog about how players might be able to click on a star and go there because the stars will be interactive (some extrapolation required - but not much.) I even believe the term "map panel" was used in the context of an interactive screen control. What's more intuitive than that? You look over your nav map (in our case the monitor screen) and as you focus (for us a mouse over) on a star all pertinent information displays on screen. The next logical step is to right click; set destination.

Let's carry that a bit further. We have already had targeting indicators moved to the dynamic screen as well as changes to the target line-up we all grew up with. Now we see who is targeting us, and with what, right in front of the star field. To target it back we just interact directly with the flashy red circled thing now.

The next step is to place book marks on that screen rather than in some secondary table. They would include everything we just scanned down with the new Discovery scanning system - anomalies and all. They should display as symbols right on the screen in front of us. I don't know if the old system map with scanning spheres will go away: CCP just did a nice iteration on that interface. I would say probably not. What they haven't worked on at all is the d-scan interface. If that's gotten no love, just like the book mark table and overview, perhaps that's what will change. I wouldn't bet against it.

Next, have all the d-scan objects show on the dynamic nav screen... yeah, why not. Get rid of the d-scan table all together and give us a dynamic nav display control right up there next to the hide-able route controls. It would not only let us set our d-scan range, but also what is displayed as well. And while at it, make d-scan an always on service. Why should I have to click a button to run it in the first place? That's hardly intuitive.

If that last was implemented along with the dynamic nav display, the overview would be superfluous. When your entire star field is an overview, you don't need no stinking table - unless you're an FC. That's why they will probably keep it as an option but it won't be the primary way of displaying things in space. Once you get rid of the d-scan table, the book mark list, and the overview, how much screen real estate did you just free up? Lots! How less confusing would it be? Well, to my way of thinking it would be far less confusing than all the tables we currently throw in a new bro's face. TBH, I've been at it 5 years and the overview settings still drive me bat-shit crazy. I have to constantly futz with them and while I do so it takes my attention away from what is going on around me. That's a big no-no in situational awareness 101.

I don't know about you, but the idea of being able to see everything on my screen in real time excites me. Yes, it would be drastically different. Yes, it would be hard for some old farts to get used to. Especially "seeing" those things which are "behind" the ship. But I think it would be easier for new players to learn than the myriad tables and nested controls we now have. A dynamic nav screen with integrated overview and targeting, on the fly controls, and pop-up info panels would certainly qualify as actively indicating points of interest to me.

It would also encourage exploring, which seems to be the Odyssey's raison d'ĂȘtre . I've already seen it with the route lines. How many of you have approached a gate, route lines on, and "seen" the star the gate points at? Then, how many of you have wondered what that star just to the lower right of it is, you know, the really bright one? "That wasn't there last time I came through," you think. Now, what if superimposed on it was a symbol from the Discovery Scanner that you'd never seen before? That's no star! Nor is it a moon. It's a mystery. Would you be interested? Yeah, I thought so.

Fly Careful

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why be a Poor Noob: Follow-up

My first post this month outlined how a new bro could make a half billion ISK a month and still have time to do all the fun things in Eve Online. Basically I told them to train their PI skills and afterwards take 30 minutes or less a day to make their ISK; then go have some fun.

There was cynicism aplenty. I followed up with another post showing how my buddy Kao Jai had done for income his first month of following my advice. He didn't get to half a billion ISK, but he still made a respectable 400 mISK plus!

I then reported on Grimmash taking the PI challenge and blogging about it on his site: Warp to Zero. He did not max his PI skills to either! He wanted to see if he could still make bank. He's struggled with it a bit, and he's certainly not gotten close to Kao Jai's numbers, but after 11 days he was in the green by 36 mISK. Your margins will get better as you gain experience Grimmash so keep up the good business.

This morning Kao Jai updated me on his second month's balance sheet. There are no transactions in this report other than PI expenses and NRP profit.

As you can see, he is down 91 mISK from the month previous. His total profit for the past month was 324 mISK.

That's not what I claimed, so I'll have to admit I was over optimistic on the potential by about 33%. However, 30 minutes of hard work a day pretty much pays for any new bro's weekend PvP habit doesn't it? Still, I over sold it. Sorry you made a healthy profit of about 300k a minute instead of 500k Kao.

That now out of the way, I did find out from Kao Jai why he couldn't make as much this past month. He said it basically resolved to be two things. One, he had to start buying Oxygen off the market to supplement his PI resources. It seems his Reactive Gas planet really sucks, as in barely shows any white bar on the resource profile. He had to devote all the extraction capacity on the planet to Reactive Gas. Since Reactive Gas comes from gas giants and so does Oxygen, he had to start buying Oxygen. He also started using a second Launch Pad so he could move the extractors to the best Reactive Gas spot on the planet. That is a million ISK a move increase in overhead every time a spot depletes.

The second thing that got him was this:
The NRP price bump crested at about 35,000 ISK a unit and then quickly slumped with a thud. That's pretty much par for the course when speculation takes over. Look at that one huge buy just before the last update. I wonder if that speculator managed to get back into the black. Sorry dude, them's the breaks.

So in conclusion, Kao Jai made over 700 mISK in two months and now lives on a private asteroid sipping Quafe and going through exotic dancers faster than the Copacabana. Life certainly does not suck for that new bro.

And also in conclusion, I am taking a week off. I'll not be posting again (in all likelihood) until April 3rd. If anyone reading this is going to Norwescon 36, let me know. I'll buy you a beer.

Fly Careful

Friday, March 22, 2013

Why the CSM Concept is Broken: Part 3 - The Fix

In Part 1 of this series, I established that the three major categories of CSM supporters actually see the role of the CSM in different ways. There is no consensus on the purpose of that role and therefore all three groups express dissatisfaction with the concept.

In Part 2 of this series, I concluded that the dissatisfaction derives from a disconnect between the abstract concept of the CSM being a player-elected body, that meaning all players, and the reality that only a small minority of players actually elects the CSM. Thus, the CSM does not qualify for the adjective "player-elected" nor is it representative of the capsuleer community as a whole. It is in fact a lobbying group with the pinpoint focus and limits of expertise such groups invariably have.

Now the question is what should we collectively do about it? What follows is my suggestion. I have no delusions that they represent the majority opinion, if one even exists. Before I roll out the suggestion though, you need to understand what each of the three categories I've schlepped everyone into wants from "the process," a general term for everything CSM related. I will save you all the analysis. Here is what I concluded each group wants.

CCP wants feedback on their ideas for Eve Online expansions. They want expansions that will grow the business. They don't want to be told how to run their game, though they are not opposed by any stretch of the imagination to good ideas. I think they get plenty of "good" ideas through both the CSM and those who actually participate. But the people giving that feedback are the same 16% or so who vote. They are not the majority of Eve Online players by any stretch of the imagination.

The Players 
Players just want Eve Online to be fun to play. That's an incredibly nebulous desire. What is fun to me is not fun to everyone. We all play Eve Online for different reasons. We all want different things from that experience. About the only thing we share in common is the desire to fly Internet spaceships. Some think the bomb is PvP. I don't. As I told a friend the other day, I don't exist to facilitate anyone's PvP. This was said not as a recipient of PvP, but as a potential participant. I'm still not into that sort of game play. I did it for real for too many years and frankly I'm tired of death and destruction - even virtually. But that's me, not anyone else. In the end, we all just want Eve Online to be fun for us.

The CSM Member
These folks genuinely want to represent the Eve Online player base. They also want to help mold the future of Eve Online. They want to present to CCP good ideas, and help them plan expansions the player base will love. I do not really believe they do this for free trips to Iceland. They would gladly do it over Skype if that was the way of it. But the CSM can't provide good input on things outside their experience. The null-sec representative is not as qualified to speak on high-sec carebear issues as the high-sec carebear representative for example - and vice versa. They each have their own expertise and lobby constituent. And IMO, none of them had the expertise to pass sound judgement on Incarna. It was outside the realm of any Eve player experience. That's why the wave-off never happened and Incarna crashed and burned.

Now before continuing, let's get one thing straight for all those who brought it up. Just because you hold an election doesn't mean you understand what the electorate really wants - or that you know what the elected have in mind. If you voted for a Chancellor who then sent your sons and daughters to war, did you vote for war? Don't forget that Hitler was originally elected democratically  I've had the opportunity to talk to more than a few Germans who lived through Hitler's regime. They did not vote for Hitler because he wanted to start World War II. They voted for him because he promised to end the crushing economic situation that arose with the depression; a situation made even worse by the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler used that promise to increase his military capacity, which is a no-brainer in perfect hindsight. But it also raised the economic prosperity of the German people. That's generally known as stimulus, and it worked well for Germany during the 1930s. The point is very few (I'm certain there were some) who initially voted for Hitler voted for World War II. Just like most who voted for the CSM didn't vote for Incarna.

Also, you can't assume those who voted are a representative sample if they are not a majority. The fact that they all participate when most don't also belies that misconception. To have a representative sample, you have to follow the rules governing statistical analysis. When done right, statistics are a very powerful predictor. They can also propel a person to stardom. Just ask Nate Silver. The current CSM process does not conform to such rigorous requirements. It is not representative - period.

What "the process" lacks is that rigorous statistical requirement. The proof is Incarna. CCP thought it would be awesome and the CSM let it happen. That was a double fail when the general player population had it dropped on them. Through all the review and all the discussion, it was a complete miss with the player base at large. To be sure, there were indications of dissent, but without a mechanism to quantify that dissent and represent it in an unquestionable manner, the only thing CCP really had to make the decision with was an Icelandic gut feel. I personally don't work an entire project based on a gut feel. Yeah, I know they had plenty of game industry feedback that said Incarna was the way to go. Guess what, Eve Online isn't your standard game with your standard herd oriented player. Who knew? Well, actually, there was a way to know but it wasn't through "the process" as currently implemented.

You see where I'm going now don't you? In television land it's called Nielsen Ratings. In politics it's called polling. In marketing it's called focus groups which lead to test markets. Sometimes they go wrong as happened in the Truman election and the Fabreze product, but generally they work and work well. As an aside, if you have not read "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business", read it. You will be fascinated.

Businesses do surveys all the time. My company recently had every employee take a detailed web-based survey on how the company was doing. It was third party. It was anonymous. It had 87% participation from the over 10,000 associates employed in the United States. It told them things the management chain would never have admitted to upper management. I can't talk about specifics. You understand the scope now? But as much as it was negative in many regards, it will make our business much, much stronger so long as the company follows through on the recommendations the survey firm presented.

So finally, here's my suggestion. CCP should use the Eve Online client to poll the player population at large - randomly and according to proper statistical methods. Make sure an professional polling firm is engaged to shape the questions appropriately  CCP can already distinguish real person from multiple characters pretending to be real persons. Their war on bots indicates this to me rather bluntly. They should leverage this ability to create a polling routine within the client. Don't make it optional. Force the player to answer before they play. It's done all the time now. Just go read an article at Christian Science Monitor. They make me answer questions before I get to read the article. Many 'zines give you advertising first and articles second. This keeps their 'zines free. You may, and I stress may, drive a few players away. You will lose far fewer accounts though than because of Incarna. Hell, award ISK or Aurum to those who answer questions. That too is done all the time. Entice them and they will give you feedback.

Then make the CSM process the survey results. Have the CSM quantify and qualify the feedback. Make it part of THEIR presentation to CCP. CCP should not do this internally. Let the CSM apply their experience and expertise as players to those results so CCP gets a player's perspective rather than a developer's perspective of them. The CSM is uniquely qualified to bring that sort of interpretation to the table. Give them some facts and figures to back them up when they say something like, "Incarna's going to be a real flop." It will provide them and CCP with inarguable facts rather than best guesses and unsupported assumptions. Oh, and make sure the raw survey results are published BEFORE the CSM goes to Iceland. Make the Nate Silvers of Eve Online jump for joy. That way everyone knows what the player base really wants before any decisions are made. That would make the term "player-elected" absolutely moot, wouldn't it?

Fly Careful

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why the CSM Concept is Broken: Part 2

In Why the CSM Concept is Broken: Part 1, I outlined the basic disparities between what various involved parties view as the function of the CSM. CCP sees the reason they created the CSM differently than the players see it and the CSM candidates themselves see it differently than the other two. And yet, no one in those three very rough groupings are happy with the reality of the CSM.

To be clear, I don't believe the CSM itself is broken. I don't think the CSM members past or present have done anything inappropriate with one notable exception. I don't think any of the current candidates are or will to anything "bad."  There is no wrong doing on anyone's part and I still plan on voting. It is the concept of the CSM within Eve Online that is broken, not the CSM as a body.

That said, what is broken about this concept? To understand that, we need to understand what the CSM is as it stands today. We must work through the CSM as a reality rather than an abstraction. And, we need to understand that abstraction before we even begin to analyze the reality.

That is not circular logic. All three points of view I wrote about in my last post share a common ideal of what the CSM is. It is the abstraction of the CSM they all agree upon. In fact, the abstraction of the CSM is precisely what CCP says it is.
"The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to represent the views of the players to CCP."
If you ask every employee of CCP, and every CSM candidate, and every person who votes for a CSM candidate, they will all tell you the same thing. The CSM is a player-elected council. As I said in part one, that is what they all agree on. That is also the abstraction everyone holds in their consciousness when discussing CSM related issues.

That is not what we have. What we have is much different than the democratic ideal of players sending representatives to CCP to have a voice in the governance of Eve Online. We don't even get close to that ideal. In order for the reality to match the abstraction, we would have to have a majority of players vote. That has never happened.

In the last election, the voter turnout was only 16.63%. It was the best voter turnout that a CSM election has ever seen. That is less than one in five players of Eve Online. It is nowhere near a majority of the electorate. If less than one in five players are voting, WE DO NOT HAVE A PLAYER-ELECTED COUNCIL.

And the first thing that popped into most of your minds was the word "alt." The voter turnout only seems so low because most players have at least one alt. It is probably more likely that most players have more than one alt. If most players have a main and two alts, then each voter is actually three and therefore we had over 49% participation in the election. That counts as a solid majority in most parliamentary governments in the world today.

That is also a big, fat, red herring. Alts, so long as they are on a separate account, get just as many votes as mains. If a person has five accounts, under the last election's rules, they got five votes. And I am certain that if a player votes with one account they are far more likely than not to vote with all accounts.

In fact, the alt argument works against the abstract concept of what the CSM is. If one player votes three times, and there were only 16.63% of eligible votes cast, then divide by three to get the number of players who really voted. That's less than 6% of all Eve Online players if you assume non-voters are new to the game and only have one account. I believe that is a safe assumption so I am going to use it. That also lines up nicely with voter turnout before CCP started allowing one vote per account rather than person.

So how can we say we have a player-elected council to represent what players want, when as few as one player in five at best, and one in 20 at worst, actually votes? We can't. What do the other four or 19 players want? Nobody knows. They didn't vote. The only thing we can be certain of is that they are NOT represented by the CSM.

So if in reality we don't have a player-elected council, what do we have? We have what every government has when people with insufficient public support seek greater influence on the laws that govern them. We have lobbyists.
But the CSM isn't employed by anyone you argue. Aren't they though? By U.S. tax laws at least, perks are considered compensation. And since when do all lobbyists work for money? Bono lobbies governments around the world to end hunger. Is he paid for that? No, he does it out of a sense of responsibility and compassion. He lobbies for those who can't afford to hire a lobbyist. But he is still a lobbyist. And isn't sending another to plead for what you hold most dear using a lobbyist in its purist form? If you say no, you should go talk to the NRA. The only question that really remains is for whom does the CSM lobby most: CCP or the players?

Now do you believe the CSM concept is broken? It isn't what anyone thinks it is. And though it does function well as a body of lobbyists, it can't truly be considered player-elected when it doesn't represent the vast majority of players. The question is, what's a game company like CCP to do about it? And more importantly to me, what's a player base to do about it? That's part three.

Fly Careful

Monday, March 18, 2013

Why the CSM Concept is Broken: Part 1

When I read about the Council of Stellar Management (CSM,) I can't help but wonder at how dysfunctional everyone thinks it is. There are lots of blogs, dev posts, forum threads and reddit diatribes about Eve Online's CSM. It's even had its own political scandal. And everywhere I look, everyone is unhappy with it it. The general impression seems to be it's broken. Why is that?

Let's start by examining how it's broken. That comes down to what people think the CSM does. Here is CCP's official reason the CSM exists:
"The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to represent the views of the players to CCP."
But no one can really agree on what that means exactly. The definition works for everyone right up to the end of "player-elected council." Then all bets are off. It seems that "represent the views of the players" is wide open for interpretation.

As I see it, there are three basic categories of interpretation for that clause. Those three categories are CCP, the players who are running for CSM, and the players who elect the CSM. Here is my idea of how someone belonging to each of these categories would interpret that last section.

"The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to represent how players might react to certain proposed game changes within Eve Online."
In CCP's view, the CSM is a sounding board for ideas. CCP's own internal decision processes have deemed these ideas possible. After groups of developers submit their "doable" lists within a feature framework CCP management crafted, CCP management picks the dozen or so they like most and presents them to the CSM. From CSM reactions, they then pick the four or six best received ideas - even if the CSM didn't really like any of them very much but thought a few were "okay." CCP soon is working hard on the next development cycle assured that their hard work will be well received because "players" didn't hate it.

CSM Candidate
"The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to represent the views of the Eve Online players who elected it."
That's a bit of double-speak but that's how the candidates see it IMO. The CSM candidates feel they are the Don Quixotes of New Eden. There is much that does not work properly in Eve Online. Many players are subjected to less than optimal game play because of these shortcomings. Each CSM candidate campaigns on promises to fix those broken elements whether they be mining barge buffs, super-capital nerfs or POS management. They appeal to specific aspects of the game that "large" numbers of players feel need "fixed." If they are elected, these newly appointed CSM members will do everything possible to steer CCP in the "proper direction" according to the wishes of those who elected them. They assume they got elected based on the platform they ran on. Therefor, that is exactly what they will try and convince CCP to do.

Players who Elect the CSM
"The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to tell CCP how Eve Online can be more fun for me."
The average elector just wants Eve Online to be more fun for them. That usually revolves around their favorite play style. PvPers want more pew-pew - in general. Carebears want less pew-pew - in general. All players want the stuff they don't like to be easier and less "painful" when they have to do it. For example, most players like the very passive income that comes from Planetary Interaction but all players hate the fact that you have to click a bazillion times to make it work. They want the CSM to tell CCP to give them their ISK for nothing and their clicks for free... ouch, that was a really, really bad pun. But you grok what I mean. The same feelings extend to POS management. And frankly, that's about as detailed as they get. When queried about how a POS should work exactly, they general have no idea. When pressed, they may present some general ideas, but it's really pie in the sky stuff for the most part. "Just make it easier," is a typical ending to that conversation.

Now, when you mix those three interpretations of what the CSM does, you get this little scenario.

CCP: Hey, time to elect the next CSM!
CSM Candidate: Vote for me and I'll make sure CCP follows through on their promise to make POS management modular! I also promise to have CCP revamp small ship balancing for better pew-pew in low-sec.
POS Owners: Modular POSes? That's awesome, I'm voting for you!

When the election is over, our POS candidate has a seat. He gets on an airplane and some hours later sits in a conference room in CCP headquarters.

CCP: We have this great idea on extending DUST 514 mercenaries into all low-sec systems; not just fac-war systems.
CSM Candidate: Before you do that, we need to get the POS problem resolved.
CCP: What problem is that?
CSM Candidate: They are too hard to manage. We need them modularized like you promised to do.
CCP: We promised to look into it; not do it. Here's the video. So we looked into it as promised. It's just not doable. There's too much legacy code involved  We'd have to completely rewrite Eve Online. We just can't do that. Now, about this extension of DUST 514.
CSM Candidate: Okay, I suppose that will make for more pew-pew in low-sec. Can you look at ship re-balancing while you do it?
CCP: That's already being looked into as part of our long term plans.
CSM Candidate: Cool.

After the CSM Candidate goes home and writes the minutes (that's called ownership BTW,) CCP publishes the "official" version a month later.

CCP: The CSM agreed that DUST 514 is so awesome we are going to make all low-sec planets conquerable!
POS Owner: But you promised to fix the POS problem first!
CSM Candidate: They actually only promised to look into it. Here's the video. They did that, but there's too much legacy code they'd have to rewrite and they wouldn't have any time to work on the awesome new DUST 514 expansion. Pew-pew in low-sec will go through the roof!
CCP: We are re-balancing ship types to enhance capsuleer interactions in the newly expanded conflict zones too!

CCP goes forward with their decisions though they are a bit perturbed with the pushy CSM candidate and resolve to make the CSM function better. The CSM candidate feels like one win is better than no wins and at least he got a free trip to Iceland. The player who voted for modular POSes feels betrayed. He may quit or he may not, but he's certainly one step closer to becoming a bitter vet.

And that, in my view, is how the CSM concept is broken. In Part 2, I'll discuss why I think it is broken. I'll give you a hint. It's not because of something someone has done.

Fly Careful

Friday, March 15, 2013

Death Race Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, in Mara DANTUMI, Death Race begins. This event is brought to you by none other than Rixx Javix and The Tuskers. (Sounds like a band doesn't it?) Since the first Death Race, this event has always sparked in me visions of Mad Max in Road Warrior; not that silly movie with a similar name to this event. I don't know why. It just does. Perhaps it is because this is Eve Online and not World of WarpedCraft.

So, I am not Mad Max by any stretch of the imagination. I like my security and profit to much and I'm not ashamed to admit it. However, there is a part of me that becomes very excited when I read about events like Death Race. Though I will probably never race and certainly will never shoot at the racers, I have a great deal of respect for those who do race - not so much for the shooters. My hat's off to them all.

Fortunately for those like me, who cannot and will not be involved, there is a live stream of the event on Twitch T.V. We can all live vicariously through that stream. Thank you Rixx and everyone else involved in bringing this real emergent game play to us.

And yes, I'll have to make a political comment here. Emergent game play does not have a specific agenda. Those who create it should not specifically benefit from it. The emergent game play CCP needs is Death Race, not ice interdiction or miner bumping. Death Race is well rounded game play for both the killer and the carebear. Suicide ganking in any guise is not. Rixx gets nothing from this except satisfaction and perhaps a very, very general boost for his preferred play style of Pirate. But this isn't about boosting pirates. It's about having fun. That is real emergent game play, not the stuff other people peddle as emergent, but is really just a thinly veneered knock-off of their own play style.

But enough of the heavy stuff, let's get on with the race! Now, if only we can talk Kirith Kodachi into loosing his head again...

Fly Carefully - especially you racers.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What if DUST 514 became like Null-sec?

Last night, on my fifth anniversary as a capsuleer, I suffered a horrible nightmare. I dreamed that I was a mercenary in Dust 514. As if that wasn't bad enough, my comrades and I were pinned down and under heavy fire from Goonswarm mercenaries.

We were out numbered and out gunned. The situation was desperate. Ammunition was running low. My armor began to fail as more Goonswarm assault troops landed.

Then, with hope dying all around me in a withering cross-fire, a Goonswarm orbital bombardment fleet arrived. They opened up on us with everything they had.

That's when the slaughter really began.

I'd like to say we died with our boots on, but when you are vaporized from orbit, the boots disintegrate first, along with the rest of your armor, as your flesh is seared in the heat equivalent of a thousand stars. Before oblivion takes you, you learn how to really scream. But that wasn't the worst of it. The nightmare didn't end there. In the way that dreams are, I did not immediately go to a clone vat. My essence remained on the battlefield and I saw the future result of our failure.

Goonswarm took control of most Faction War planets. They gave them to allies and renter corporations as rewards for Goon sanctioned behavior. They milked the planets under their dominion for all the ISK they could wring from them, and came to dominate the PI markets of New Eden. The images of those Goonswarm dominated worlds...

...they haunt me still...

...filling my waking hours with dread...

...wrenching from my soul the last shreds of hope I had left.

For to my utter dismay, all those planets became...

Only then did I wake, drenched in sweat; unsure if it really was a dream - fearing it was a premonition.

Fly Careful

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Challenge Accepted

I've had two posts recently that basically said a newbro can make half a billion ISK a month doing 30 minutes of PI a day. Those posts have garnered a fair amount of healthy skepticism. I can understand that skepticism. After all, 500 million ISK a month is a lot of money.

So, if you really want to know if it is possible, don't take my word for it. Don't take the word of anyone I know. You don't have to. You can get the facts as they happen.

"How?" you ask. By reading Warp to Zero (not generally a good idea to actually do BTW, IMO) by Grimmash. He's taken up a couple carebear related challenges including the PI Challenge!

The second link above will take you to his PI Challenge running post. He is currently on day two of the challenge. He had his doubts at first, but he is quickly learning the ropes. I encourage you to start following his results.

While you're there, check out his 30-day Market Challenge too. Hell, read the whole thing. His writing style is easy and relaxed; a pleasure to peruse as it were. Keep up the excellent work Grimmash!

Fly Careful

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Art of a Good Fight

"For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." - Sun Tzu

This is not the post you think it is. It doesn't discuss any specific encounter or battle. It isn't Rifter versus Rifter or anything even vaguely resembling that. This is a post about good fights though. It's a post about why every fight is a good fight - for someone.

I've recently read some posts about the use of warp-core stabilizers in faction war. You may have as well. In fact, there have been some spin-off posts about the subject. I'd link them but I don't want you to think of this as a spin-off post. It really isn't. It is something I've thought about for years and the latest discussions only served to prompt me into allowing my thoughts to bleed out onto this virtual page.

Good fight, gf for short: what is it exactly? The common definition implies it is combat where either combatant has a roughly equal chance of destroying the other. It's a toss up. It can be one versus one or it can be fleet versus fleet. So long as both sides feel they can win, it's a good fight.

But that's ridiculous. At what point would I ever knowingly want to engage in a fight where I was not assured victory? I don't care that EVE Online is only a game. I don't care that capsuleers are basically immortal. All I care about is winning, or more accurately not losing.

Why isn't that philosophy lauded in New Eden? That's the best philosophy for winning a fight. Don't give the other guy a chance. If you can drop a bomb on him from a safe distance, do it. In fact, as Sun Tzu said, the best victory is the one in which you don't have to fight. Unnecessary risk is just that, unnecessary. So why not congratulate those who manage it - like the guy who, hopelessly outgunned, knew that he was at a disadvantage and planned appropriately to avoid getting squashed? Did not Sun Tzu also advise, "He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious."

Yet those who live to fight another day are put down. Goonswarm gets handed a ration of shit because they blob. Brave Newbies blob, and though they don't get as much shit shoveled their way, I've read some fairly critical stuff about what they do. We can throw e-war users into that pot as well. Since I began playing Eve Online those who use e-war have been reviled. Now there is the warp-core stabilization "controversy."

Look, the guy found a great way to get what he wanted without getting blown up. It's fracking brilliant. And all some can do is lambaste him for not giving the "good fight?" Get real. In the game of winners and losers, the only thing that matters in not waking up in a clone vat. And yet, there is this culture within EVE Online that feels we owe other capsuleers their ideal of a good fight.

No, I don't. I don't owe other capsuleers anything. What they really want is that I validate their ideal of game play while making mine subservient. What they want me to do is play the game their way instead of my way. What a bloody sense of entitlement that requires. They aren't entitled to anything and especially at my expense. In fact, they are entitled to nothing from me whether at my expense or not.

So why do they feel they are? Why do they tell me, sometimes heatedly, that undocking is consent to PvP and then ridicule me when I prevent them from blowing me up? Isn't my avoiding destruction also a PvP victory because it obviated their desired outcome? I'll wager Sun Tzu would think it is.

But time and time again I read posts by those who feel they were "cheated" out of a good fight - or worse yet - a kill mail. Wow, they really need to re-examine their own position. It is really no different than the average carebear feeling they have a right to mine unmolested and without risk in high-sec. Those who are so quick to point out that is not "the nature" of Eve Online, are so quick to cry foul when their own sense of entitlement is thwarted.

Perhaps entitlement is too strong a word, but you really can't deny they feel strongly the game should be played their way. And that just isn't how it works folks no matter how much you may want it to. That way of thinking really is no different than a carebear wanting a no-PvP flag so he won't be popped. You may be opposite sides of the coin, but you're still on the same chunk of metal.

What it all boils down to is we all want to win, but we all define winning differently. I win by not losing assets. Others feel they win by destroying my assets. When they do so, it was a good fight for them. When I thwart them, it's a good fight for me. Would it really harm the game for them to say so? I don't think it would; quite the opposite in fact. Inclusiveness can only make Eve Online stronger.

Fly Careful

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Actual Noob PI Income Data and an Offer

[EDIT 11/11/13 - My friend Kao Jai asked I post this.
"With the upcoming changes to high security space Custom's Offices in the Rubicon expansion currently scheduled for implementation on November 19, 2013, I can no longer recommend PI in Empire space as a viable means of producing income. I must withdraw my offer of assistance to new bros. I am sorry. I myself am abandoning PI. I may even leave the game. I haven't decided yet. Regardless, I can not in good conscience continue to provide seed money and a NRP BPO to anyone. Good luck to you Mabrick! I hope everything RL turns out well. - Kao Jai"
And there you have it. High-sec PI is ruined as far as Kao Jai is concerned. It'll be a sad day indeed if he decides to leave New Eden.]

In my post from last Friday, Why be a Poor Noob?, I stated it was possible for a less than three month old new bro to earn half a billion ISK a month. Here is one of the comments from that post:
I think your estimate of income from PI is a bit high. If you are running 6 planets and getting 250000 R0/planet/day, then your total R0 production is 1.5m/day. After BIF conversion, that is 10000 P1/day. Then P2 at AIF: 625. Finally to P3 at AIF: 93.75 (for most P3s), or 62.5 (a few P3 goods require 3 P2 inputs). Robotics is a solid P3, selling for about 80k ISK. So assuming you make that, the income here is 7.5m per day. This is 52.5m ISK/week -- not shabby, but not quite the 100m you suggest. Still, a whole lot better than mining.  - Von Keigai
Let's bypass all the equations and what-ifs and go to the raw data. I turned Mabrick Mining and Manufacturing [MABMM] over to a good friend named Kao Jai. He started playing EVE Online last spring. He currently has just under 15 million SP. He had some RL stuff come up last year and didn't get to play a lot - just update training really.

When his play time resumed this year, he decided to try the Nanite Repair Paste (NRP) production I raved about while HBHI was in our C3. In fact, I contracted my NRP BPO over to him when HBHI joined Surely You're Joking and moved to the C6. He's the one who provided me the tax data for high-sec NRP production.

I went back to Kao Jai and asked if he'd turn over his first month's NRP production results. He agreed. Now I present those results to you. You be the judge of whether he did or did not make the sort of ISK to which I alluded in my post last Friday.

The player donation was from MABMM's other member for previous purchases. He's even more a noob than Kao Jai. Kao Jai also tells me he is racing to get Destroyers and Battle Cruisers to level V and all racial Cruisers to at least level III for the anticipated ship realignment this spring. In other words, he's had some expenses. But when is that ever not the case? So Kao Jai didn't quite earn half a billion ISK in his first month in the NRP business. But he got over 80% of the way there. He assures me he spent no more than 45 minutes a day doing PI related stuff. Is my claim vidicated?

I don't care. He's not a poor noob by any measure. There was something else Kao Jai and I discussed as well. It was because of this comment on Friday's post:
And you are asking a new player to pony up nearly 30mil ISK after flying without combat skills for 50 days? - splatus
Yes, you have to spend ISK to make ISK. That's a fact of business. And it's more like 50 mISK for a BPO and 30 mISK as start-up cost. It is a lot to ask a new bro to save. I have not forgotten how hard I worked to earn enough ISK for my first Hulk. It is hard work to be an industrialist. So here is the offer and I've talked Kao Jai into making it happen.

If you have less than 15 million skill points and want to give this a try, apply to MABMM. Kao Jai will require an API key for verification purposes, but once he accepts you into MABMM, you will receive a Nanite Repair Paste BPO and a 50 mISK grub stake to get you started. That's a 100 million ISK value that he will expect you to pay back after your first month.

Now you're asking yourself, "What's the catch?" Here it is. Kao Jai will send to me updates on who joins and how they do. If you take the ISK and run, we will advise any other corporation you try to join that you are a corporate thief and not to be trusted. If you do not repay the loan, Kao Jai will kick you from MABMM and I will make fun of you on this blog. If you take the grub stake and are successful, I will laud your accomplishment to all if you like. Or, I will leave you to prosper in obscurity if that is your wish. That's the only catch. Is that such a bad deal?

Fly Careful

Monday, March 4, 2013

Good Fight

Friday night our pipe was terrible. It was the Static system to a C5 to a static C6. We just stopped there. There were no other WH signatures in any of the systems. There were no good Ladar sites. There were no other WH denizens active - or what the alliance likes to call targets. It was looking to be a very boring night. So, we decided to roll the static.

The only issue was none of us were ever in charge of rolling the static before. There was a bit of trepidation about doing it. Especially in ships that might get stranded in the Static should we miscalculate. And by we, I mean the other alliance members because Mabrick wasn't about to volunteer to run that "just pod me know" assignment. However, we got some tutoring and the hole closure went without a hitch and we quickly forgot about the bad pipe.

Probes went out and quickly identified a new static... and a new K162. Where'd that come from? It's never a good thing when you are as deep into Anoikis as we are to have an unannounced K162. A scout quickly ascertained it came from another C6 belonging to none other than our good friends AHARM. Normally AHARM and our prime times are too offset to really get things going. However, diplomatic entreaties were made, some gunboat diplomacy enacted (in that "here we are, come play" sort of way) and soon we had firmly established rules of engagement (RoE:) no podding, no capitals and no bubbles on the hole in the home system (but okay in the hostile hole.)

Let the games begin  SYJ went first. It was an interesting encounter that involved a neuting Domi that was brick tanked to hell. We lost no ships in the initial skirmish. However, several of our ships had to jump back. I'll not give away the reason (to respect the operation security of AHARM's system,) but damn, that's a great home defense fleet. When it was abundantly clear that we could not get the upper hand, we withdrew to our side of the WH. There we waited.

We did not have to wait long. They reshipped and brought it. This time we had the upper hand. We were close to the hole and our DPS was daunting at that range. With some great fleet coordination between neuts and jams and some good FC calls, we managed to tip the scales in our favor, though we popped no ships. They jumped back when it became clear we were "winning," just as SYJ had done minutes earlier.

At that point, we decided to get off the hole. They knew our fleet composition and we were sure they would bring a counter. And, as soon as we hit warp, they were back. They led with a HIC, bubbled the hole, and brought a Vindicator along to supplement their previous logistically well supported T3 fleet.

There was no way we were going to just warp into that. THe FC called for a cloaky scout to get beyond the pull of the bubble. He then positioned the fleet opposite the scout's position and we warped to the scout. Of course our FC called the Vindicator primary as we landed.
But it was an Anoikis stand-off. We closed to just outside bubble range but that was still a hell of a shot with Null ammo and three mag-stabs. Other's had longer range fits but about all we managed to do was kill some Ogre I drones they threw our way. At one point, AHARM tried moving an Anathema behind our logistics for a warp in. Not sure how that pilot made the mistake of getting decloaked but it probably saved us from a nasty surprise. We countered by burning to a different position making the warp-in unusable. Then the fleet caught the scout and put an end to that tactic.

We had continued to primary the Vindicator all the while and evidently something was about to give. Either that or they figured we might reconsider the RoE. Regardless, they soon began jumping back into their home system. But of course, that hole had already seen our T3 fleet go through and back, then our fleet again with prop mods on and then back the same way (hey, the RoE said nothing about not stressing the hole. *wicked grin*) And then their fleet went through it three times total. It was a crap shoot at this point on how much more mass the hole could take.
Not quite enough it turns out. It really sucks to be the rear guard. The hole collapsed just before the HIC was able to drop his bubble and jump himself. His sacrifice earned him a one way ticket to high-sec. Oh, and yeah, I was on that kill mail. I wasn't in blaster range, but a long point is good enough. That's another first for Mabrick.

Good fight AHARM. It was a hoot. Thanks for coming out to play.

Fly Careful

Friday, March 1, 2013

Why be a Poor Noob?

This post is for all those high-sec noobs out there struggling to make ISK. I was once a noob like you. I was once poor, like you. By the standards of some, I am still poor. A few bISK is nothing compared to what Greedy Goblin has ammassed or, I imaging, Blake over on But this post is not to talk about how much ISK I have..

The reason for this post is to tell you point blank how not to be a poor noob. It will take a little commitment on your part and some time. However, this method is easier ISK than ratting, does not require elite PvP skills, and is less boring than mining because it only takes about 30 minutes out of your playing day. Then you can do whatever you like, and you'll have ISK to do it with.

What I 'm talking about is PI. It takes less than two months to train PI to a level sufficient to earn you 100 mISK a week. You can have less than 15 million SP and make this kind of cash. It only takes four of the five PI skills.  Remote sensing is totally unnecessary. And not all of them actually need to be at level V (though it increases ISK if they are.)  With this plan, you can have nearly a half-billion ISK a month flowing into your wallet. Are you interested?

Here is the training plan. These times are based on having Intelligence at 23 and Memory at 22 with no implants. If you can remap and/or buy implants it will go more quickly.
  • Train Planetology to Level IV - 2 days, 18 hours, 33 minutes and 2 seconds
  • Train Command Center Upgrades to Level V - 24 days, 22 hours, 49 minutes and 4 seconds
  • Train Interplanetary Consolidation to Level V - 24 days, 22 hours, 49 minutes and 47 seconds
  • Train Advanced Planetology to Level III - 19 hours, 36 minutes and 26 seconds
Total training time is 53 days, 11 hours, 48 minutes and 19 seconds. If you can install Limited (+2)  implants for Intelligence and Memory, you will reduce this time by a full day. I know 53 days seems like a long time when you are a noob, but it really isn't. Of course, those are 53 days you won't be training combat or other skills. If you like, you can start running PI with lower skills, but you will not make nearly as much ISK. However, ramping up over a six month period is not impossible.

Once you have your skills finished, you will need to find a system with six planets you can use. The more out of the way the system, the less competition you will have for resources. Remember, the planet as a whole generates a pool of resources. The more people who dip resources out of that pool, the fewer resources are left for everyone else. Over time, the resource production capacity of the planet diminishes and you will pull fewer and fewer resources.

That said, a high-sec planet, almost any high-sec planet, can comfortably maintain a 288,000 m3 per 23 hour period extraction rate while conducting level 3 production. One of my favorite products is Robotics. You can do it with three magmatic (lava) planets and three barren planets. It is always in demand. It is a major component of POS fuel blocks. I am also fond of Nanite Repair Paste (NRP) but that requires a 50 mISK BPO and some manufacturing skills. I'd recommend Robotics before NRP for a new bro.

Now, I won't lie to you and tell you it is easy to setup a six planet PI manufacturing system. It takes some time, research and perseverance. You'll need ISK in your wallet to purchase command centers, upgrade them and then buy extractors and facilities to start making stuff. I've done a few blog posts about it over the years. Here is a link that will isolate just my PI posts. That will at least get you started in your research.

As for start-up ISK, you will need to purchase the following for a six planet Robotics setup as I described above.

Item Qty Cost Total
Lava Command Center 3  ISK         85,000.00  ISK         255,000.00
Barren Command Center 3  ISK         85,000.00  ISK         255,000.00
Advanced CC Upgrades 6  ISK   2,100,000.00  ISK   12,600,000.00
Basic Facility Chiral Structures 9  ISK         75,000.00  ISK         675,000.00
Basic Facility Toxic Metals 9  ISK         75,000.00  ISK         675,000.00
Basic Facility Precious Metals 9  ISK         75,000.00  ISK         675,000.00
Basic Facility Reactive Metals 9  ISK         75,000.00  ISK         675,000.00
Advanced Facility Consumer Electronics 9  ISK       250,000.00  ISK      2,250,000.00
Advanced Facility Mecahnical Parts 9  ISK       250,000.00  ISK      2,250,000.00
Advanced Facility Robotics 3  ISK       250,000.00  ISK         750,000.00
Space Port 6  ISK       900,000.00  ISK      5,400,000.00
 Grand Total:   ISK   26,460,000.00

You will also have to pay import/export taxes. Until you make your first sale, you will have to front the cost of these taxes. I've taken the current tax rates straight out of the EVE wiki on PI.
Taxation is dependent on the customs station that the PI goods are being moved through. This was one of the three PI updates from Crucible. If you're in High-Sec, the tax rate is 10%. If you're elsewhere, and the InterBus Customs office hasn't been replaced, the tax rate is 17%. Otherwise, the rate is set by the owner of the Customs Office. The rates go from a base price for each tier of PI goods.
  • Tax % is taken off the material's taxable value.
    • This value is set by CCP and is based off the market values in November 2011
    • Import is always half of export tax
  • The taxable value are the same for all items in the same tier
    • Advanced Commodities: 1,350,000.00 ISK
    • Specialized Commodities: 70,000.00 ISK
    • Refined Commodities: 9,000.00 ISK
    • Basic commodities: 500.00 ISK
    • Planet Resources: 5.00 ISK
The tax price is based on the tax rate of the Customs Office for the taxable value of the materials. I.e. Refined Commodities having a taxable value of 9,000.00 ISK and a Customs Office tax rate of 10% you will pay 900.00 ISK per units. For a tax rate of 17% you will pay 1,530.00 ISK per units.
So in High-sec, basic commodities such as Oxygen will cost 50 isk to export a unit, or 25 isk to import. As these numbers are significantly higher than they used to be, you may need to revisit any older processing plan to make sure it is still profitable. Eliminating a import export stage may be required to remain profitable.

There are too many variables with this so I can't give you a hard figure. However, I would plan on needing at least 5 mISK per day you have to import and export without positive cash flow. I had a friend provide a historical reference for your perusal - his high-sec tax transaction logs for the past week doing an NRP production line. The NRP line also has two tier 3 advanced commodities and one additional tier 2 commodity so the taxes are slightly higher than they would be for the Robotics line.

Date Type  Amount 
2/28/13 0:00 Total  ISK     (4,283,005.50)
2/27/13 0:00 Total  ISK     (4,301,203.00)
2/26/13 0:00 Total  ISK     (4,189,629.50)
2/25/13 0:00 Total  ISK     (4,290,966.50)
2/24/13 0:00 Total  ISK     (4,258,635.50)
2/23/13 0:00 Total  ISK     (4,291,360.00)
2/22/13 0:00 Total  ISK     (4,004,699.00)
Grand Total  ISK   (29,619,499.00)

PI isn't as easy as mining. Mining only needs minimal training, a ship and time to bring in a little ISK. But I'm telling you, it's a long hard grind - no pun intended. With the time you save from making mostly passive ISK from PI, you can do other things. Things that are more fun for you than mining, or mission grinding, or all those other things capsuleers dread. So I ask you, why be a poor noob doing those dreaded things when you can be a rich noob doing what you really like to do?

Fly Careful