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Friday, February 28, 2014

A Thought on Player Built Star-gates

Regardless of what some capsuleers think, my post last Wednesday titled Good or Bad was not an opinion piece. It was not a propaganda piece. All I asked was how people felt about the second map, because that is a very real possibility. It may actually come to pass - or it may not. Regardless give credit where credit is due, Goonswarm deserves some praise for it. Fortunately for me there are plenty enough other people willing to heap it on them. But still, you have to admire what they have built.

And even if the second map never comes to be for whatever reason, I am certain CCP is as astounded by Goonswarm's dominance as everyone else. Who would have thought they would so resoundingly defeat the hot-drop lords at the Battle of B-R5RB? When CCP designed null-sec all those years ago, I can almost guarantee you they believed no single group of capsuleers could ever go so far as Goonswarm has done. And like some of the commentators on my Wednesday post, I am sure CCP is concerned this may break the sandbox. To be a sandbox, freedom of action must remain unconstrained, and no one can say Goonswarm lacks restraint. Looking at it that way, I have to agree with other's when they say the long term prospects for our game are not well served by Goonswarm's ambition, even if it is benevolent and they pull up short to preserve a non-homogeneous null-sec. Victorian style (i.e. polite and agreed upon) conflict in null-sec is not the sandbox CCP envisioned when they created null-sec. It goes counter to the entire EVE Online proposition.

So what's a game developer to do? It's not fair to simply yank away what Goons have labored endlessly to obtain. It is their reward for so much sacrifice. There can be no heavy hand in this. Thus it is widely believed in the community CCP will have to lure them elsewhere to remove their choke hold on sovereignty warfare. So when CCP Seagull spoke of player built star-gates that cost much, much more than a single capsuleer could ever amass, requiring dozens if not hundreds or thousands of capsuleers to cooperate in their construction, people naturally assumed these new types of gates were for Goonswarm's benefit (and others large organizations of course... wink, wink.) These new gates would lead to greener pastures for that storied organization and the rest of us would simply move in on what they vacated voluntarily.

Bullocks. That would only start the whole wretched cycle over again. Goonswarm did not create a broken null-sec, they only actualized it. Star-gates to unknown space do not solve the real issue. Many reading this believe that these gates will lead to undiscovered country, new realms of the galaxy not visited by human kind for ten thousand years. They believe the entire experience will only be an exploration mechanic to put it in the game's terms. But what if we're mistaken about the purpose of player built star-gates, and exploration is not the true reason for their introduction? I am certain that exploration weighs into it, but not just for the sake of exploration and probably not even primarily.

Part of the reason I think this is it will be hard enough to write such a mechanic as player built star-gates into EVE Online. But there is one thing that would be even harder. That is to write the mechanic into the game and then restrict it to only going from known systems to unknown systems. We all know EVE Online does not work this way. That is as much sandbox breaking as null-sec being one large gentleman's club. It is also something that CCP has never done, and I don't mean that because of capabilities. It's not how they roll. When CCP introduced player owned star-bases (POS,) they only restricted them from ultra high security space - and that was more a nod to FLOP limitations than game play. How much worse would Jita be if a POS orbited every moon? And that can be said for many of the ultra high security systems. No POS construction and no PI in hub systems for load balancing reasons. But POS are allowed around any unoccupied moon anywhere else. That is how CCP rolls. That is the nature of the sandbox.

So we need to consider these new player built star-gates in this light. Sure, these gates will span the light years between fringe systems and unexplored space just fine. But isn't it just as likely they could span the distance between already occupied systems as well? Especially since CCP isn't in the habit of restricting new mechanics in wholly artificial ways?

Now consider this: one of the reasons Goonswarm and the CFC at large can hold such large blocks of null-sec is because there are less than a handful of corridors into null-sec. If you hold these corridors like the Spartans held Thermopylae, it matters not how large a fleet your opponent brings. If your opponent has to fly half way around the cluster to get to you, you effectively have interior lines, and every book of war from Sun Tzu's time to ours says that is a very, very good way to win. But what if null-sec was assailable from any reasonably close star system. What if these new gates could form new corridors for non-jump capable ships to avoid the natural bottlenecks of null-sec?

Many of you are right now thinking the gates would take to long to build. They would be attacked and destroyed before any such invasion could ever be launched. But that too is an assumption on all our parts. I have no doubt these new gates will take an extraordinary amount of resources, including time, to build. They will probably take more resources than a Titan, or equal at best. But who says they have to be built in place; from scratch? What if the reality will be they only have to be assembled in place? That's a whole lot different than built in place. Assembly means the components are built elsewhere and then moved into position when complete. Final assembly connotes a timeline of minutes or hours, not days or months. And it also solves the issue of how the far side star-gate gets built. It is built in known space and jumped into the final system. Then capsuleers can assemble the second star-gate of the pair. And those launching such an invasion only have to defend their beachhead until the gates are fully operational... and one half was already completed in space they own.

Now take that one step further. What if the assailant in this scenario starts to build three or four gates at once, all within jump distance of CFC space. Could even Goonswarm and the CFC find and destroy all of them in a matter of hours at most? You know, it's easy to plug a dike when there is only one hole in it. It is much harder when there are many. And many holes will null-sec have when this mechanic changes forever the way war happens in null-sec. It will be as many holes as there are currently jump routes into null-sec. And with the new warp implants, I can't help but think there may be new jump implants coming too. And that could drastically increase the number of possible jump routes.

That concept fixes the null-sec problem. It will no longer be a citadel easily defended. Resources of aggression will have to be spread out to shore up the walls making battles like B-R5BR less likely, or perhaps much more dangerous to contemplate. If the CFC fleet is there, who will be guarding all those potential beachheads? It would be a prime opportunity for other capsuleers who have sovereign ambitions to make their move. That alone should make CFC veteran alliances like FA less willing to CTA everything they've got to support a Goonswarm initiative. I can see how that might increase internal stresses on the coalition. Now, does Goonswarm leadership think this is a serious possibility? I wasn't certain until I read they want every member to train Titan. That pretty much convinced my they do think it is a serious possibility. What else to you think it will take to destroy a player built star-gate if not a Doomsday?

Fly Careful

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day Against the Dove

This bit of News made it all the way out to Rens where I am currently docked.

27.02.2014 14:57 By CCP Falcon

PERIMETER – A spokesman for the Caldari Navy confirmed today that a total of fifty-seven officers have been dishonourably discharged from the Caldari Navy, after a week of legal proceedings that saw a number of arrests relating to incidents during the administration of the Caldari Providence Directorate.

Publicly, it appears that all those involved were relieved of command under the umbrella charge of “actions performed against the best interest of the Caldari State and People”. Sources within the Caldari Navy, meanwhile, claim that actual charges range from dereliction of duty, to gross insubordination, incompetence of command, and operations in breach of the Yulai Convention.

While the Caldari Navy have refused to release any further details regarding the fate of those who were discharged, rumours have begun to circulate regarding a number of former officers who have been sentenced to long term incarceration.

Former 37th Squadron Wing Commander Sami Okuuda is confirmed to be among those who were discharged, and was sighted leaving Perimeter on a civilian transport bound for New Caldari.

Speaking from corporate headquarters after the press statement, Admiral Mininela Erinen, Executive officer of the Caldari Navy, responded to questions about further action, stating that “these proceedings are now closed, along with an era in the Caldari Navy’s history during which those who should have been in a position to command had their hands bound by an administration that should never have been permitted to dictate our military objectives or projection of force.”

The Admiral closed the session by reiterating that “with this final action, the Caldari Navy’s focus returns to its core purpose; protecting and preserving the interests of the Caldari State and its people.”

You can find the original announcement here.

During my first four years or so playing EVE Online, I only paid the briefest attention to lore articles like this. After all, this is a game where players predominantly determine the direction of game play, not the developer. But with CPP Seagull's announced changes within New Eden, I've begun to pay more attention to changes in lore. It is there I think CCP will begin laying the groundwork for what is to come, and I am keen to know what that is much more specifically than is currently revealed. It's probably vain hope to believe I will learn anything consequential, but I'm as much optimist as cynic.

There are several things in this announcement, word usage things of course, that piqued my interest. The end of the second to last and last paragraph especially. It seems to me it implies the Caldari Navy has a desire to accomplish military objectives by projecting force with the purpose of protecting and preserving the interests of the Caldari State. We naturally don't know where they will aim such a projection of force. What is clear is they removed many officers who disagreed with that desire. Anyone out there care to hazard a guess what Caldari Naval Command is so interested in, or do I read this all wrong?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Good or Bad

Okay, let's cut to the chase. This graphic has been making the rounds lately.

[caption id="attachment_1774" align="aligncenter" width="1856"]2014-02-15-CoalitionMap 2014-02-15-CoalitionMap[/caption]

Do you think EVE Online would be better to play or worse to play if the graphic looked like this eventually?

[caption id="attachment_1777" align="aligncenter" width="1856"]Blue Doughnut Map Blue Doughnut Map[/caption]


Monday, February 24, 2014

Taking the Plunge

Long before I started playing MMOs, I played stand alone computer games. The first game I remember playing, and it wasn't a game really, it was a drag racer simulation, ran on the teletype terminal my High School library had courtesy of Willamette Industries. It linked to a Willamette Industries mainframe at their corporate headquarters. The date was 1978 for those who must know. As a freshman I was introduced to this new technology addition at my rural High School with a shrug of indifference from the teachers who showed it to me. They did not understand it nor did they care to try. But I cared. And soon I discovered this simple program that allowed me to put in variables like tire width, and then ran a "race" to see how fast the drag racer would go. I don't remember the fastest racer I ever designed. I only remember most times the tires spun and the the racer went nowhere. Still, it was fun and I spent many a lunch break in that small room listening to the clackity-clack of the teletype as it spewed my results. Top that Ancient Gaming Noob! LOL

The first graphically portrayed computer game I fell in love with was Warp Factor on the Apple IIe. I discovered those ancient devices in the computer science club room at my university. It may have been only simple ASCII graphics, but the game was engrossing nonetheless. When I graduated from university that experience lead me to buy an Apple IIgs with double 5.25" floppy drives so I wouldn't have to do the floppy shuffle. I've not been without a personal gaming computer since.

Once I made the change to an MS-DOS and subsequently a Windows 3.0 based system, the world of computer gaming really opened up. For a variety of reasons, the DOS/Windows environment was more appealing to developers at the dawn of the 90s than the Apple I'd had previously or the Amiga system my good friend and Army bro Tex1986 loved and adored. And on that early DOS/Windows PC I played and fell in love with Wing Commander.

My god, the hours I spent flying against the Kilrathi from the TCS Tiger's Claw. I think that was the first time in my life a non-gamer accused me of being addicted to gaming. I shrugged it off. It's what I did to relax. And of all the Wing Commander  games I played, my favorite was Privateer. And yes, I was a carebear of sorts - a merchant. I didn't want to fight. There is no profit in fighting, and I did so only as a last resort. Mostly I ran trade routes and made money and bought upgrades. I had one hellaciously tanked Orion, that's for certain!

I stopped playing Wing Commander about the time Chris Roberts went on sabbatical from game development. Now he's back. And if you thought I wouldn't want to play in his world again... well, you just didn't have all the facts. Now you know different. And because I do believe in putting my money where my mouth is, I'll let you in on a little secret.

[caption id="attachment_1767" align="aligncenter" width="800"]MISC Freelancer MISC Freelancer[/caption]

Fly Careful

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Incursion Raven

[gallery type="slideshow" link="file" ids="1735,1736,1737,1738" orderby="rand"]

Last week I was going to x up for my first Incursion fleet. Since I plan on running with Union 0f Revolution [U.O.R.] fleets, I need a shield tanked ship.  I have run plenty of shield tanked ships. I've even run them in Incursions before. But that was three and a half years ago when Incursions were a new thing. My ship of choice back then was the double large shield extended Drake with heavy missile launchers.  Before the Drake nerf in the Retribution expansion, that ship was a true beast. Today it is only three quarters of the beast it used to be. But because it was so powerful back then, I never bothered training Caldari battleships. I didn't need to. The Drake could tank like a battleship and still put out respectable PvE damage.

Imagine my surprise when I was looking through the U.O.R. ship fits, decided I really wanted to fly a Raven, and discovered I couldn't. Oops. What's even more humorous is I meet all their training requirements to fly a Basilisk but not the Raven. Chalk that up to my wormhole days. So I spent yesterday training Caldari battleship to level 3. That was fine. I had to work RL anyway. Today I was finally able to load their fit into EveHQ and have a look at it. It was using high meta T1 launchers and T1 target painters. I figured I'd put T2 launchers and painters on since I have no problems fitting T2 modules... usually. Surprise! I discovered I'd not trained T2 launchers past Heavy Assault. The U.O.R. fit uses torpedoes or cruise missiles. Oops - again.

Unfortunately it will take me 19 days to train Torpedo V, so I'll have to use the high meta T1 launchers. I suppose that's okay for now though it hurts my DPS substantially since I can't use T2 ammo. And it grates that faction ammo is considerable more expensive than T2 ammo. But hey, it's not that much more expensive so meh. I'll go with what I can fly. So here's the fit I adopted for Incursion running. I can tell you it's a damn sight cheaper than my Kronos!

[Raven, U0R Incursions Modified]

6x Prototype 'Arbalest' Torpedo Launcher (Caldari Navy Mjolnir Torpedo)
Large S95a Remote Shield Booster

Large Shield Extender II
3x Target Painter II
2x Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
EM Ward Amplifier II

Damage Control II
4x Ballistic Control System II

Large Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I
Large Warhead Rigor Catalyst I
Large Rocket Fuel Cache Partition I

5x Light Armor Maintenance Bot I
5x Light Shield Maintenance Bot I
5x Hobgoblin II

[Statistics - Mabrick]

Effective HP: 77,581 (Eve: 69,550)
Tank Ability: 55.56 DPS
Damage Profile - Sanshas Nation (EM: 59.83%, Ex: 0.00%, Ki: 7.98%, Th: 32.19%)
Shield Resists - EM: 71.52%, Ex: 77.36%, Ki: 72.83%, Th: 69.98%
Armor Resists - EM: 57.50%, Ex: 23.50%, Ki: 36.25%, Th: 53.25%

Capacitor (Lasts 2m 50s)

Volley Damage: 5,321.32
DPS: 766.02

I named her Rhamphosuchus. Now before you go off about the fit not being cap stable, turn off the remote shield booster. That's there as an emergency contingency. The slot is open on the U.O.R. fit and I don't fly ships with empty slots. I decided I'd put an emergency remote shield booster in there just in case something goes horribly wrong while running a Vanguard. It might save a Basilisk or someone's Nightmare. Then it'd be well worth it. When it's not saving someone's bacon, the fit is cap stable at 65% for me. The T2 target painters dropped that 1.5%, but I think it was worth it. It gives me an extra 12k on my painter falloff range. I feel the buffer is a but thin at 77k against Sansha, but it'll work. It's almost as good as the buffer on my pre-Retribution Drake.

Ship fitted, I headed for U.O.R.'s Incursion staging station. It was 15 jumps away, and while the Raven is a beautiful ship, it is definitely a slow boat - so I took the most direct route. The route didn't go through low-sec, but it did go through the Balle .5 corridor where ganks are not uncommon. I was travel fit though, with four warp core stabilizers instead of the Ballistic Control Systems. I wasn't worried. Besides, even if I did get caught the ship really wasn't that expensive for me, though 250 million ISK may be a lot for a new bro. Just make sure you always use a travel fit when going from Incursion to Incursion is what everyone says. I'll add you should avoid habitual gank systems if at all possible. Systems I'll typically avoid (especially when hauling expensive cargo) are Uedama, Hek, Niarja and of course Balle (and it's associated .5 corridor.) This time though I was going straight through.

I'd just gotten to the other side of the .5 corridor when this happened.

[ 2014.02.23 20:32:00 ] Sophia Wong > ah shit, they pop the mom
[ 2014.02.23 20:32:06 ] tataway > wait did they just end the incursion
[ 2014.02.23 20:32:22 ] tataway > .... everytime.... im 1 jump out
[ 2014.02.23 20:33:54 ] Dylan Rhade > back
[ 2014.02.23 20:33:57 ] Dylan Rhade > nvm lol
[ 2014.02.23 20:34:36 ] Serendiipity Hemanseh > Ithink you can take me off the wl now :)
[ 2014.02.23 20:34:43 ] Dux Magnus > to amarr \o/
[ 2014.02.23 20:34:45 ] Dylan Rhade > same here @{
[ 2014.02.23 20:34:58 ] BladeSkater > sry gents
[ 2014.02.23 20:35:03 ] Dylan Rhade > nw :0
[ 2014.02.23 20:35:06 ] Dylan Rhade > :)
[ 2014.02.23 20:35:41 ] Dylan Rhade > there uis another hi sec inc up
[ 2014.02.23 20:35:48 ] Sophia Wong > night people
[ 2014.02.23 20:35:53 ] tataway > night dean
[ 2014.02.23 20:36:10 ] tataway > if theres only one everyone will e there
[ 2014.02.23 20:36:52 ] Dylan Rhade > fair one
[ 2014.02.23 20:37:27 ] tataway > they will most likly pop that too
[ 2014.02.23 20:37:57 ] Serendiipity Hemanseh > I guess so, so i will call it a night, so night all
[ 2014.02.23 20:38:10 ] tataway > night seren
[ 2014.02.23 20:39:26 ] Verona Mendel > wow that sucks

Damn. I guess it just wasn't supposed to happen today. I ended up diverting to Rens, where I will wait for the next fleet op. Hopefully that won't be too long. I'm itching to see how Rhamphosuchus performs. I hope she preforms as well as she looks. She sure is a beautiful ship.

Fly Careful

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Biggest Peeve Against Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

I've been playing Assassin's Creed IV (AC4) for nearly two weeks now. I am 9% through it according to Uplay. I seldom score 100% per memory segment (AC4's rating system for missions.) That's usually because of things like missing the rope with the pistol, killing the hangman instead, and having to fight all the guards in front of the gallows in Nassau while I was "recruiting" a crew. As it turned out, I think the fight was more enjoyable than shooting the rope. I assassinated one guard before shooting the hangman dead. I got to use another guard as a human shield between me and the musket man on the ramparts of the fort above the gallows. And, I had one hell of a good fight with the officer in charge, eventually breaking his defense, blocking his attack and executing a lovely beheading. Well, actually the game don't show the head flying off because I think Ubisoft wanted a better rating than that would have garnered. But it was obvious where my sword blow struck and what would have happened if it had all been realistically portrayed. Actually, if it had been realistic I'd have muffed the assassination, shot the convicted pirate by mistake and been shot dead by the musket man on the rampart while the officer laughed in my face. But this is a game. It's supposed to be unreal.

As you can probably tell, I quite like the combat system in AC4. It's easy to master for someone who's used to Starcraft II macroing, or even League of Legends controls. This is because the interface has to serve console as well as PC players. Consoles just can't be all that complicated. That leads to streamlined user interfaces that are simplistic yet completely functional. This is not something I really mind much at all. I've never been that good of a twitch player. When too many keyboard keys must be punched very quickly. When fighting in AC4, all you really need to do is keep your finger poised over the 'W' (move forward) and 'E' (block) key while tapping the left mouse button to attack.The fact I could type that all out in one sentence, and have it make sense, is evidence of the simplicity. Compare that with an opening build for Starcraft II. If you want to get complicated with AC4, occasionally tap 'F' to use a tool, which in a fight is usually 'fire pistol' or 'throw smoke bomb.' But the really, really easy combat is to sneak up behind guards by using a crowd or just slowly strolling up behind them and then tapping the left mouse button when you see the "assassinate" option light up. Then watch as you execute some smooth move to separate the guard from his duty - permanently.

Naval combat is a bit more tricky. You aim by holding the right mouse button and moving the mouse. You fire by tapping the left mouse button. But at the same time you need to sail your ship with the standard W-S-A-D keys, and sometimes you have to move the entire ship to aim as the cannon have a limited swivel range. The tricky part is tracking where your ship is going while at the same time tracking where the enemy ship is going, so you have just enough swivel in your guns to land a good broadside. That's not a game control problem though, it is a firmware issue with the device between my ears. Still, I've not lost my ship yet and there's something to be said for that. Oh, and did I mention the Spanish gunboats throw out mines? They're lit barrels of gunpowder, and if you hit them they do lots of damage. That's not a very nice thing to do when I'm hard pressed just to stay off the rocks. Of course, that's once again a bio firmware issue, not a game interface issue. Once you get the hang of it, naval combat is as fun as assassinations. I can't wait to have the opportunity to board a ship!

But the lead up to naval combat, the sailing of the ocean blue, is my biggest peeve with the game so far. It's bad enough when I can run all the way across Nassau in a few minutes like some Gulliver in a geography designed for Lilliputians, but at least the buildings and trees and rocks are proportional to my size, and I have to travel at least some distance to get to them. This is not really the case on the open ocean. "Patrolling" ships are everywhere. At any time I can see several of them. It's like Ubisoft took the entire Caribbean and shoved it into a bathtub. It's that crowded with ships. And these ships look like they're right up on you, and you should have to shoot them or perish. But they sail right past without a moments hesitation. It's comes across as entirely fake and totally breaks the suspense of trying to avoid detection.

[caption id="attachment_1728" align="alignright" width="115"]Sea Wolf by Midway Sea Wolf by Midway[/caption]

For example, I was on Abaco Island. The Spanish gunboats sailed right around the island as close as the Jackdaw was anchored. They were so close I could easily see the crew on their decks. They should have at least seen the Jackdaw, if not me on the beach. Yet they just sailed on as if there wasn't a pirate ship anchored right there. When I set sail again I had to shoot at them to get into a fight at all, even when it looked like we were within 100 yards of each other. It reminds me of the cheesy arcade games where the ships move across the screen at various speeds but always only at four or five set "distances," while you try to hit them with a torpedo. They never notice you. They never slow down. They never attack. This is not what I expect from a top rated video game like AC4. What I do expect is something like the venerable Silent Hunter series, where ships were always portrayed with a realistic size at range. And when you sailed an ocean, it really seemed like you were sailing an ocean, not a bathtub. I can only hope AC5 will rectify this absurdity.

But that said, I am still enjoying Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag tremendously, and have no intention of letting one little peeve stop me from playing. Besides, when you do actually engage an enemy ship, relative distances once again return and it is every bit as exciting as you'd want it to be. Because, you know... you don't really want wood splinters in your backside from the near misses.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dear Program Manager...

There are many excellent uses for space planes. For instance, you can use them to get to orbiting space stations....


You can use them to deliver satellites into orbit...


We may even be able to ride a space plane as a tourist one day...


But there is one thing all space planes must do sooner or later. They must land...


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Income Since Rubicon: Final Report

Well, it's done. I've spent three months running Level IV (L4) security missions for the Sister's of EVE (SoE.) The first month I started late and was just getting organized. The second month I was going full tilt, building Stratios and selling them high in the post Rubicon SoE ship scramble. During the third month, as SoE ship prices steadily fell with demand, I blitzed the missions to see if that did indeed make more ISK than doing a full loot and salvage operation.

Last Monday I presented to you the time it took me to blitz all the missions I ran for this third installment. I bagged the last two days of the month because, meh - I am pretty damn tired of running the same L4 missions over and over and over and over. During this last month I also lost my mission running ship - a bastion mode Kronos marauder - and had to replace it. That took a chunk out of my wallet, that's for certain. But when you get over confident, that's what happens.

So now it's time to present my income for this last month of blitz. I am going to give you my gross profit first. That's the fair comparison to my previous two month. I lost my ship due to my own stupidity and it should not weigh against my findings. I am certain that those who encouraged me to blitz the missions to make more ISK will appreciate my doing so. And because I can, I am going to throw all three months up here side by side so you can easily compare. Ready?

[caption id="attachment_22" align="alignleft" width="300"]1st Month Income 1st Month Income[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1459" align="alignleft" width="300"]SoE Missions 2nd Month SoE Missions 2nd Month[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1691" align="alignleft" width="300"]L4 Blitz Gross Profit L4 Blitz Gross Profit[/caption]

So there you have it. I earned enough LP while blitzing to not only build an extra Stratios cruiser, but also one Astero frigate as well! On a gross profit comparison, it does indeed look like blitzing L4 missions will earn you more ISK for the same amount of time invested. And I can be certain of that. I kept my play time to the same amount I always do. About an hour a session when I'm not participating in corporate or alliance operations. When I'm by myself in other words. That's the way I roll. An hour of EVE a day keeps the doctor away. Right?

But showing you my gross profit earnings does not actually tell you how my wallet fared. There was an ISK cost to the blueprint copies (BPCs) I bough to make the ships as well  as a LP cost. There were taxes I had to pay. There was the replacement for the destroyed Kronos. No, the gross figures don't speak well at all about how much ISK a capsuleer can make running L4s. To do that, you have to look at the net. I did not do net calculations for my first two months. However, the costs to me were minimal compared to the last month. And I have those figures. To the right of the next section is what my net profit was for the last month of blitzing L4 missions.

[caption id="attachment_1699" align="alignright" width="334"]L4 Blitz Net Profit L4 Blitz Net Profit[/caption]

That's a completely different picture there. Look at all that red. Of course, the market escrow is mostly the price of the replacement Kronos as well as ammo and a few other things I needed to buy - like a capacitor booster for the replacement. LOL And I surprisingly spent 75 million ISK on the BPCs. Taxes were my next "big" expenditure at over 30 million ISK total. No, it doesn't look good at all.

That is until you take into account the other two month. The months that had low overhead costs, were the BPC cost was half and the taxes not so bad either. Taking it all together, my first month almost offsets my last month; leaving a healthy 800 million ISK to the plus side. Had I not committed a stupidity, I could have easily brought in 2 billion ISK in those three month. And as long as I didn't go mad running the same missions over and over, I could bring in a billion ISK a month in perpetuity. That's some damn good profit.

But is that the best a capsuleer can do in high-sec? I received this email just after I published my second month's income report.

I don't know if you remember me - we talked about the life in a WH some time ago. I see you've been running lv4 missions. Would you be interested in running incursions? They are both more profitable and fun to run. For some time I've been running vanguards with a nice community of experienced incursion players - U0R Incursions. Good, chilled atmosphere + some isk printing.

That right there boys and girls is opportunity knocking. Stay tuned for more reports on making ISK in high-sec. Cha-ching!

Fly Careful

Monday, February 17, 2014

BB53: A Smarter Overview

Today's topic comes from a tweet from @erlendur in a conversation he was having with a pilot about having multiple overview tabs open in separate windows:

So that is the topic this month: The Overview. Is it sufficient? If not how can it be improved? Is there some way to replace it? Does it give too much information, or not enough? Please be creative and specific as the overview currently is the heartbeat of the GUI.

[caption id="attachment_1671" align="alignright" width="297"]BB53 Tweet Thread BB53 Tweet Thread[/caption]

This was part of a longer exchange. I think you need to read the whole exchange to understand what CCP Explorer was getting at. I've placed the whole thread to the right here so you can refer to it. The last tweet from CCP Explorer isn't what I consider the key comment. THe key comment is the previous one, though it's completely contextual and wouldn't spark a blog banter by itself. It was the encouragement to "think outside the box" that was important about this exchange.

The community has talked and talked about the overview for years and... well, I'm frankly tired of hearing it talked about. In all the talk over almost six years, very little has changed. The overview is still that spreadsheet thing that got EVE Online the notorious nickname of spreadsheets in space. I think the one difference in this discussion in particular is that encouragement to think outside the box. To me it says, "if you could start from the beginning and make a tracking system from scratch, what would you want?"

Now, if that's really what CCP Explorer was getting at, I'm in. Let's forget about spreadsheets in space. Let's have something totally different. I'm all for that. So what would I want? I'd want an intelligent, pre-programmed, real-time delivery system for information relevant to me at the moment. The first thing that would need to happen, besides the current overview box getting ripped out of the code, is for Aura to get a lot smarter.

What I really want is an Artificial Intelligence that exercises that intelligence according to rules I specify. Rather than have an overview setup that is nothing more than filters on a list, I want a hierarchy of triggers created by me and constantly evaluated by Aura. They would include settings like, "Notify and display in flashing red on the HUD any criminal that comes within 200 kilometers of my ship." Aura highlights such a ship directly on the screen in a heads up display (HUD.) If the ship is behind or to the side and out of view, there would be a small arrow on the side of the HUD next to an indicator showing what direction the ship is in. The size of the HUD would be set by the pilot. If I wanted, it could fill the entire monitor screen. I could also make it a small area anywhere else. In full screen mode, there would be no lines, no box, nothing to indicate it was actually there until an environmental condition tripped a trigger. In reduced mode, it would take a 3rd person viewpoint showing the space around my ship out to a distance I specify. It would look a lot like the tactical display looks now but be smaller and placed where I could see it at all times, but also see the rest of the screen. It would be most like a three dimensional representation of the direction scanner.

Basically I'm talking about taking the current overview setup dialog and turning it into a set of programmable conditions that would determine what Aura displayed on my screen from moment to moment. The system would allow me to add secondary information to anything displayed on the HUD, much like an air traffic controller's radar screen displays relevant information on inbound aircraft. There would be conditional triggers for this secondary information as well. Just as now, if I target a ship I want to see the shield/armor/structure stats as they currently are. But I also want to "see" the speed, transverse velocity and anything else currently made into a column on the spreadsheet, right there on the target icon and at my discretion. And rather than have the target icon in a static location, I want the option for the target information to show on the HUD as the target itself. It would move when the target moved. And let's not use numbers that are difficult to take in at a glance when there are dozens or even hundreds of potential targets. Let's have a vector line that points in the direction the ship is travelling and is proportional to the ship's speed. Let's make it color coded on a red-shift type of system to indicate traversal. How excellent would that be? The faster the ship is moving the longer the line is. If it is moving away, the line becomes more red. If the ship is approaching, the line is more blue. If the ship is coming right at me or straight away from me the entire tactical icon would tinge blue or red as appropriate. That could appear inside the current red haze targeted indicator, and have a red or blue circle inside it to give an indication of velocity. The size of the circle is analogous to the length as before. At maximum transverse velocity, a white line indicates the ship is running at right angels to my course.

That's what I see the combat HUD looking like. But the HUD would be a multi-configuration display. If I was mining, I could configure the HUD to display mining pertinent information like asteroid distances, richness, ore remaining, etc. AND, if a hostile triggers an alert according to the parameters I specified, the HUD would instantly shift from the mining overlay to the combat overlay. That would get my attention! In essence I am talking about how the current tabs get converted. There would of course be a hot key for switching the HUD from display to display, but there would also be automatic conditions where Aura knows she must alert me to danger. And there would have to be fine control programmed into the options. I wouldn't want to switch to a combat HUD just because some rats show up in the belt. I'd only what Aura to take note if one of them started to shoot me. And notice I said Aura, not that I wanted to take note. Why couldn't I program my AI to automatically launch drones, deal with the rats and recall them - all without bothering me? I mean really, if I was a mining foreman that's what I'd do. Rats don't pose that big a threat to a well prepared mining operation. However, if Rixx Javix showed up I'd want the combat overlay thrown up immediately and sirens to go off all over the ship!

And since I'm trying to think out of the box, let's take some of the EVE: Valkyrie coolness and transfer it to EVE Online. Create a Occulus Rift display for EVE Online. With the color coded HUD in full screen mode, a capsuleer could simply look around him to see all the ships in space arrayed in their actual location relative to his view-point. I get shivers when I think of that experience. Who has to fly a fighter to have a virtual reality experience? Think about the command center on a Minbari War Cruise in the show Babylon V.


Imagine hunting miners with a three-dimensional asteroid belt arrayed around you like that, even if it is a bit of a 3rd person view. There is room in a "make it so" oriented experience for that sort of love, is there not CCP Explorer? It is something CCP should at least consider. After all, it worked for Captain Sheridan.

No doubt though, my preference for a more visual HUD like experience will not appeal to everyone. There are actually some players out there who like the current overview. The only thing they lament is that it takes up valuable screen real estate. That seems to me a contradiction in desires. They want the overview because it gives so much information, but they also want to "see" what's going on around their ship. That's a bit like having your cake and eating it too. But I discovered an interesting feature of Uplay while playing Assassin's Creed IV. With Uplay, you can transfer your West Indies map to a secondary device. For those who like the list of ships, I could see that being offloaded to a secondary device like a tablet of a smartphone. It wouldn't be easy, but CCP integrated Twitch so how about having a look at integrating some of our other devices too? But in the end, the visuals are all up for negotiation though I really think a mini-tactical display and HUD could go a long way toward dispensing with the spreadsheet. Nevertheless, what I really, really want is a more intelligent AI even if all it does is auto-switches tabs. One that I can program with my preferences. And because of that programming, it would automatically know when it has to change without me taking precious seconds when I can least afford them to tell it to change. That is at least a good place to start on all the rest.

Fly Careful

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blitzing Level IV Security Missions

I've spent most of the last month blitzing L4 security missions for the Sisters of EVE (SoE) as any who follow this blog know. I will present my financial results for comparison with my previous two monthly summaries (here and here) on Wednesday when the month is complete. Today I want to present a table of how long it takes to blitz these missions. I recorded data for every mission I've done since January 19th. Now I present the data to you.

[caption id="attachment_1659" align="aligncenter" width="800"]L4 Blitz Data L4 Blitz Data[/caption]

On the left, in green, are the individual missions offered, the number of minutes it took me to complete them and the start and end times for the mission (which I didn't think to do until I'd already run three missions.) The mission started when I clicked accept and ended when I clicked complete. Any ship reconfiguration, blitz research or course setting was done before I clicked accept. On the right, in blue, is a pivot table of the mission and time data. It shows the mission name, the number of times I ran it and the average time to complete the mission. For some of the missions, I'd say those I ran three or four times, the average seems fairly definitive.

Some of these missions were ridiculously easy to blitz. I got the Recon series of missions twice. It's perhaps the easiest 7000+ LP you'll ever earn with an average completion time for all three segments of 17 minutes. Of course the hardest mission to blitz in my opinion is The Blockade. I've already discussed why here. Still, blitzing it does cut in half the amount of time it'd have taken me otherwise. I can confidently say the same for Worlds Collide and Angel Extravaganza, two other "big" missions. There is also Vengeance which I got four times and it was always Blood Raiders. Had the rats been Angel Cartel or Serpentis I could have likely completed the mission faster by getting in close with blasters and brawling. The tank on my Kronos is more than adequate. But blasters against Blood Raiders is tricky when you aren't trying to blitz the mission. It can be deadly when you are. I will have to amend my previous views on blasters versus rails to say, if you are going to blitz that means sniping and you need to use rails. However, if you are going to snipe, I'd also say you shouldn't be using a Gallente ship at all. Get yourself a proper sniping platform. And since blitzing is inherently more dangerous, you shouldn't even consider a Marauder at all. I seldom used Bastion mode while blitzing. You can't stay out of range if you can't move. Reduce your potential loss should you commit a stupidity by flying a well fit T1 sniping battleship like a Maelstrom, Apocalypse or even a sniper fit Rokh.

The question of whether you can make more ISK blitzing L4s as opposed to a full loot and salvage approach remains unanswered until Wednesday. Though I will point out I've run 39 missions so far. I've still two days to go, but I am certainly earning more LP and doing so in less time. In fact, due to some technical issues (see the missions with disconnects) and the fact that I can't take any missions against the Amarr I had to turn down some missions. My standing with the Amarr Empire is lower than my standing with the Blood Raider Covenant; go figure. And to make matters worse, more than half my assets are in Amarr. Declining the anti-Amarr missions ended my mission running on three days. But all that said, I'm still doing 50% more missions by blitzing. And when you look at the average mission time, you can see how someone who can dedicate a solid two hours a day to mission running could easily complete nearly 100 missions a month. That's a lot of dead rats. So when you see the financial results on Wednesday, be sure to factor that into the review.

And now for a bonus. As I was running these missions, I discovered there is no blitz information given on EVE-Survival for Worlds Collide. It turns out Worlds Collide is fairly easy to blitz. To do so, obtain Zbikoki's Hacker Card to get through one of the two locked gates in the initial pocket. You don't have to engage either faction. They will just ignore you as you activate the gate with Zbikoki's Hacker Card. I was lucky in that I had two on hand from my previous two month's of mission running. Once into the second pocket (I did Angels of course because... you know, neuts,) kill all the ships in the pocket to unlock the gate. Once you are into the final pocket, approach the damaged Heron until you draw aggro from the guards (2 BB and 3 CA.) Once they were good and mad, I used my Micro Warp Drive to jump away and snipe them. The other groups will not aggro. I am not sure if that was range related or not, but I'd recommend keeping your distance from them. Once you've killed all the guards, jump back to the Heron, rescue the crew and return to your agent. My average completion time was 47 minutes even though I had to do the third one without the card. The first two with the card had an average completion time of 41 minutes. Cha-ching.

Fly Careful

Friday, February 14, 2014

I've Finally Gone Pirate

For all my EVE bros out there, this doesn't mean I've joined Stay Frosty and moved to Hevrice. What it does mean is I've finally bit the musket ball and started playing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (AC4.) I found the game at half price on Amazon last weekend: $29.99. For that price you get your choice of Playstation 3, Xbox360, Wii, Playstation 4, Xbox One and of course PC, all standard edition. The only catch is you have to be a Prime member to qualify for this pricing. For the PC (and the PS3) you can choose to purchase just the game key. That worked really well for me. I was able to purchase the code for half the price Steam charges for the game, and use it to activate the game on Steam. Really Valve, you need to get more on the ball with your prices if you expect to become the console/gaming leader.

[caption id="attachment_1648" align="alignright" width="280"]I love that the avatar looks way younger than I am! Uplay First Stats Capture[/caption]

Ubisoft, like many other game developers, have their own required log in service named Uplay. I find it in terms of rewards, avatars and general game statistics somewhere between (lots of cool stuff) and Origin (rather lame.) Whereas my account statistics can be somewhat over whelming (and Origin underwhelming) I believe Uplay has hit a happy medium. It's not statistical overload, but it does help you get an idea of how well you've progressed in the game. To the right is what my current Uplay statistics look like. You can customize the avatar and background at the top and display icons for the games and devices you use. Game icons cost points.  For some odd reason, I love that it keeps track of how many kilometers I've traveled.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="151"]Sid Meier's Pirates! Sid Meier's Pirates![/caption]

But enough of the peripheral stuff. Let's get on to the game itself! My first love of pirate titles came with Sid Meier's Pirates! way, way back in the last decade of the last century. That was a fabulously fun game. I don't know how many hours I spent sailing the Spanish main, plundering Curacao and generally being a bad ass. What I can tell you is it was so many hours that I could identify where a treasure was buried anywhere in the Caribbean with just one piece of the total map. It didn't matter how small the coastline and other clues were. I could sail right there and dig it up straight away. I knew the territory that well. Ah, those were days of glory. To say that Assassin's Creed IV has a lot to live up to is committing an understatement.

As you can see above, I've only gotten 4 hours in on this game. It was all in one session mind you, but it is still a far cry from the many days of my life I spent playing Sid Meier's Pirates! I won't make a snap judgement about the comparison. Besides, the technologies involved are so vastly different that I'm not sure any sort of technical comparison is possible. From the very start AC4 is a marvel to look at. It is absolutely beautiful. Even the opening scene, which is a naval battle on rough seas, is staggering in it's beauty. The ships look like you can almost reach out and touch wormy wood. The spray blowing off the ocean is almost cold. The sting in your eye is only psychological trickery, but you will blink.

As for the battle itself, that was exhilarating. Of course, there was no train up for it. Your first training event comes when the man at the wheel is killed and you are told to take it. I admit, I was a bit slow to pickup on the training methodology used by the developers. It's all hands on. I got to the wheel and pressed "E" to interact with it. Then my military training took over. Hands on is muscle memory. Stay out of line of their guns! Cross the 'T'! Take down their sails to limit their mobility! Aim for the waterline to send them to Davy Jones' locker! At this point, I can make a comparison to Sid Meier's Pirates! This naval combat beats that naval combat, and then some, no questions asked. The only thing I found myself wishing for was an Occular Rift setup. In 3D, it would be U N B E L I E V A B L E... or rather so believable I would duck the cannonballs as they flew at me. Just wow.

The other thing I found to be ridiculously enjoyable is the three dimensional nature of the game, not to be confused with 3D. By three dimensional I mean you have to look up. Up is a viable direction and climbing is something Edward Kenny, the main character, does nearly as well as the New World monkeys that surround him in the game. It is fun climbing to high places and diving into Caribbean waters. But the most fun for me is running along the rooftops of Havana, jumping from building to building, while chasing foes. That is a blast and I find myself going to the roof tops as my major way of getting around, because as you can see from my stats above I've made the town guards very angry. But hey, it wasn't me that started the bar brawl. I just put an end to it. ;-)

And the climbing has a practical purpose in the game as well. It allows you to get the lay of the land as it were. In a practical sense, it allows you to map the environment whether it be jungle or city. These perches are marked by a raptor, a hawk of unknown species - at least to me. It sort of looks like a Red Tail Hawk and those are native to the Caribbean year around so could be. Maybe I'll look it up or ask a dev. Anyone know for sure? Anyway, once you attain one of these perches by climbing to it, you can "sync" from there. Then the game launches you into a 360 degree panorama of the area that is simply spectacular. Here, judge for yourself (hawk included.)

[caption id="attachment_1649" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]Getting My Bearings in Havana Getting My Bearings in Havana[/caption]

I find myself syncing three or four times while I'm up there just to take in all the details. It truly is a view to remember. But this isn't what the game graphics look like. The game graphics are good but are obviously game graphics with clipping, et al. The panoramas are more like a fine water color portrait and are more work of art than game graphic. Once synced, the area shows up in detail on the map and you can fast travel across it. In Havana there are eight such perches. I've only done two so far. I can't wait to do the other six.

But as awe inspiring as all this is, the thing that really, really made me sit up and say "what the..." was what I thought was going to be a cut scene after I'd completed my first achievement, Heroes Aren't Born. But instead of a cut scene, I found myself "looking" at a woman with burgundy hair and a decidedly non-eighteenth century room. Shiver me timbers! You see, this is my first foray into Assassin's Creed. I don't read spoilers. I like to come into a new game as a complete noob as it were. And this particular twist in the game really took me by surprise. That's all I'll say about it, as I don't like giving spoilers either. But I think I really like it. I'll have to explore it more, that's for certain. Aye matey, expect to read more about my latest adventure in the weeks to come.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Empire Space is the Foundation of EVE Online

I don't really want to write anything about the battle at B-R5BR. There are more than enough bloggers and journalists writing about that event. I know a few people who fought in it. A couple were even on the winning side. And they had some interesting comments about it. But it's nothing that others haven't said already. So the biggest battle in EVE Online is history as far as I'm concerned. But it's affects on the game are far from over.

I've posted before about the increase in brand recognition CCP is getting from this event. Today I was actually stopped at work and asked by one of my co-workers, "Hey, were you involved in that big battle in that game you play?" He'd heard a story on Oregon Public Broadcasting about it. Yeah, it's filtered that far down into the mainstream media. And CCP is still riding a crest of new subscriptions it seems. Last Sunday when I played, same time as always, there were 54,000+ users online. That's up over 5000 users from the numbers I saw before B-R.  The Google Trend line is also still climbing. The only decrease from what I've wrote about before is new account creation reported by EVE Offline. That's noticeable down, but the daily average is still higher than it was before B-R.

The battle itself, and the influx of new accounts, have lead CCP to do a few things right away to "enhance" the game. They have put a 50 drone cap on drone assignments to other players. Before there was effectively no cap. That was one of the reasons lag was so bad in the systems where these large fights occurred.  Here's how it worked. Hundreds of pilots would show up laden with sentry drones. They'd launch them and then assign their drones to one guy, usually the Fleet Commander, who would then fight the battle. One guy throwing thousands of drones at individual targets evidently causes the servers to go into computational convulsions. I'll spare you the details. But that isn't the only thing CCP has done. This (hover over link for description if you don't want to click) was pinned to the log in screen for like two weeks, and stayed at the top while at least two other items were placed below it. But not before this news item followed it. To me this is an indication CCP is serious about trying to retain these new accounts. I certainly don't blame them.

In fact, I encourage them to take it as far as is necessary to keep the new blood in EVE Online. As much as I'd like to think otherwise, I am not the future of this game. You could call me a bitter vet at this point, but I probably won't be spending time this year coming up with the next great caper. And no one who has played as long as I have is likely to be the future of EVE Online, not even The Mittani. He might even retire considering all the interviews he's done.  The urge for him to go out while on top must be really, really strong. That leaves the future of EVE Online up to these new players. If EVE Online is to make it through the next decade, CCP needs to not only attract them, but more importantly keep them. And in my opinion, B-R5BR may be great for attracting new blood, but's it's probably detrimental to keeping them long term.

Here's how I see it going down. What do you think happens when a new player, who signed up for EVE Online because they too want a $3000 Internet spaceship, finds out it will not only take months and months, but they have to "know the right people" and "earn the privilege?" That they can't just go to Jita and buy one? That's right, they never convert their free account to a paid account. That issue isn't even a learning curve issue. It's more like a dafuq issue.

I believe CCP understands this. So what's a company who desperately wants new players to do? Well, you make certain those new players are encouraged to stick around by offering them fun things to do without getting owned by a more experienced player. This environment needs to be high-sec, because that's where most of them will play. At least that's what CCP should be doing. Unfortunately they keep trying to lure these new players into other regions of space where there is more excitement. But I think my favorite bartender, Shatteredhip Fejardo, who I talked into playing EVE Online last summer, summed up the failure of that strategy pretty well last week. Last week I asked him what he'd been doing in the game. Here's a good summation of the conversation.

"What've you been up to? Have you  done anything exciting?"

"Not really. I want to train up first. I don't want to be owned the first time I venture out. I mean, all those players who have played for years have such a big advantage. Not to mention I can't really afford to lose the ISK."

"What about the 100 million ISK I sent you?"

"I need that for the skill books."

That's the dafuq issue in action. And that "advantage" sentiment is very real. He's not the first noob I've heard talk about it. It's how most new players see games as working, including EVE Online. The only good news in this is that he still has an account and is paying for it. Most people wouldn't bother to spend real money on a game they felt they couldn't play until they "trained up." That's a HUGE problem, as we all should know. And it doesn't matter the truth is more like having skill points to sit in a ship doesn't mean you know how to fly it. The perception is that skill points matter, and perception is everything when it comes to retaining new players. EVE Online has a terrible perception problem. The game is going to have to change if EVE Online is to ever thrive again.

So in this post B-R5BR world, CCP still struggles to keep this fresh blood playing. They are not going to do that by solving TiDi. All that does is increase the chance of another mainstream media event. But we know how the media is. Today's headlines are tomorrow's litter box lining. The next event will have to be even bigger, and I'm not certain that will ever happen. Already two thirds of null-sec is owned by the same coalition. If anything bigger than B-R ever does happen again, it likely will not be for some time. I can almost guarantee it will take longer to happen than for all this new blood to become disenchanted with the hardest MMO in the world. This big event-disenchantment cycle is like being on life support. The ventilator will keep the body alive, but if the brain is dead what's the point?

What I hope CCP will do is consider revamping current high-sec content. I am getting pretty damned bored running the same level IV security missions over and over again. The lower level missions are no better. They haven't changed in the nearly six years I've played. Dafuq? One thing I'd heartily welcome is if CCP figured out a way to make missions that were procedurally generated. It would be grand if no two missions would ever be completely the same. What about a procedural generator that randomly determines what faction you fight, how many gates will need activated, how many ships per gate (waves too?) and what ship mix would be encountered. Wouldn't that be a great improvement? It certainly would keep me on the edge of my chair more. These missions would be scaled to the skill points of the player and never the same. What about throwing in lottery loot drops? Why do we have to go all the way to null-sec to get good loot? I'm not advocating CCP become the loot fairies. I am advocating CCP give new players a reason to log in, and what would be better than dynamic missions with a substantial chance for a really cool armor repairer?

Then there's the other high-sec noob activity: mining. Anything that would make mining less tedious, and therefore less boring, would be a huge plus. In that regard, I could see a little NASA/KSP coming into the equation. Not all the physics stuff , but what about asteroid capture and return? Forget pecking away forever at a 'roid with lasers. Throw a "net" around that hunk of pure profit and haul the whole thing in for a hefty chunk of change all at once. Make laser (precision) mining an endeavor necessary for high end minerals, but take the tedium out of mining in Empire space. Who wants all those errant chunks of asteroid fouling the space lanes anyway? I am certain CONCORD would approve of taking the whole 'roid to a central processing center. The whole endeavor should take less time and get more ISK into noob pockets faster.

And while you're working on making life easier for new players, stop the POCO madness in high-sec. It's a huge discouragement to the players you need most CCP. At one time I thought player owned POCOs would be a good idea. I was wrong. They are a horrible idea for high-sec because no noob I know wants to do it any more. It's the experienced player perception issue again. The experienced players just have all the advantages say noobs I know. You should listen to them CCP and change that perception by putting all players at a guaranteed even footing. What you implemented does the opposite of this. It was not a winning solution, except to those experienced players with the wherewithal to take advantage of it - and the younger players payed the price.

Manufacturing is a difficult nut to simplify, and doing so may be bad for the overall economy. I have no good suggestions for that. It may be something that new players must aspire too do. If enough other things are available to keep new bros engaged and playing, some will eventually become manufacturers. That will work especially well if CCP keeps giving out BPCs for the new implants and such on missions new bros can accomplish. Eventually some of them will ask themselves, "how do I use this thing to make more ISK?" That will suffice for now as anything else must be very carefully thought out.

And it may even be necessary to setup systems that are PvP free so really new bros don't feel so intimidated by more experienced players. And maybe that'd fix the problem with POCOs in high-sec. There wouldn't be any in these noob areas. And before any of you more experienced players start to respond to this with your highly predictable objections just STFU. I don't want to hear it. This isn't about you and it won't hurt your game play one damn bit for there to be safe havens for really new players. These areas would be strictly for pilots less than six months old. It'd be a training ground with no PvP risk. Once they are older than six months, they should be jump cloned out of the region and their ships along with them. Of course, only T1 technology would be available on the market in these areas. Also, new bros could leave of their own choice at any time, but once gone they can never return.

Will any of this happen? I doubt it.  I don't see anyone really advocating for a new-player friendly environment in high-sec. I think the CSM are a swell group of people with the best intentions, but they are far, far removed from their noob days and EVE Online has changed a lot since then. I guess I lack faith they take seriously the concerns I've heard from new players like Shatteredhip Fajardo. Most of them are concentrated on the end game, or game play that supports the end game. They feel new areas of space and expanding the end game will bolster subscriptions and create room for new players. I think they are wrong. That's like building a house without a foundation. Empire space is the foundation of EVE Online, and unless it is overhauled with new players in mind, anything else CCP does will be for naught.

Fly Careful

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Keeping Track of Wasting Time

As I was reading mainstream media coverage of B-R, I came across this comment, "Some people need to get a life." I've heard this before. Many years ago, back when what others thought of my hobby still mattered to me, this statement would make me very defensive. However, over the years I've come to see it for what it is: a statement made out of ignorance. Only those who don't understand the entertainment value of gaming make statements like this. I don't hold it against them. They don't know any better. And I certainly don't pay it any mind any more. I have a full and rewarding life; thank you very much. That's all that needs said to people who don't grok gaming.

Fortunately, people make this comment less and less these days. Over the decades I've watched gaming go from something usually associated with the socially inept, to a mainstream activity that even my mother participates in. Now that's a change I never saw coming. Her introduction to gaming came with the rise of Facebook and the advent of social media. When social media became main stream, gaming came right along with it. And why not? What's more fun than playing a game with friends and family even if they can't be there in person?

Now, I personally have never played a Facebook game. And the only mobile game I've played is Angry Birds. I prefer my games have a bit more substance than your typical flash game offering. But there is one thing those games do that did intrigue me. Your achievements, etc., are shared with those with whom you play, and in the case of Facebook just about everyone else on your friends list. The annoyance factor of that aside, it's not a bad idea. Besides giving you something in common with others, which is the foundation of any social group, it's a good way of keeping track of how well you're doing.

For me it also takes on another purpose. It helps me keep track of how much time I'm "wasting" by playing games. I don't really feel like I'm wasting my time. I just say that because I find the concept humorous. Rather than spend four or five hours watching the Superbowl while drinking beer and eating junk the other weekend, I played Kerbal Space Program. Watching sports on television (not to be confused with actual attendance!) makes less sense to me than my playing KSP makes sense to a Seattle Seahawks fan. To each their own. Anyway, this post is moving away from its intended purpose. That purpose is to discuss how I keep track of wasting time. I'm an analytic person who would rather learn an interesting fact than win a bet. So I've always wanted to know how much time I actually spend playing games and which games I spend the most time on.

[caption id="attachment_1626" align="alignleft" width="300"]KSP Time via Steam KSP Time via Steam[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1627" align="alignright" width="286"]Skyrim Steam Achievements Skyrim Steam Achievements[/caption]

One method I've used in the past is Steam by Valve, Inc. I've had a Steam account for over three years. Steam dutifully tracks how long I've played games purchased through Steam. For example, I know precisely how much time I've spent playing Kerbal Space Program. As you can see to the left, since I first purchased KSP I've played 190 hours. That seems like a lot of time to most people. Indeed, it's nearly five 40-hour work weeks of time. What Steam doesn't show very well is the period of time that 190 hours stretched across. If I'd played 190 hours over the course of a year (8760 hours) it wouldn't be all that much. Of course, you my reader know I've only recently started playing KSP. But Steam gives no indication of that. The only metrics given is how long played and when last played.

That's not completely true though. There is one other metric - achievements. Not all games support achievements, but those that do give you another way to gauge your game play. For example, to the right is my achievements page for Skyrim. I've only managed to earn 13 out of 75 possible achievements. Some of them I may never "earn" as they don't fall inline with my play style. For example, I will likely never earn the Taking Care of Business achievement because I have no interest in joining the thieves guild. Others are simply incompatible with a path I've already chosen. I've already joined the Companions for instance, so that precludes others.

But I can't always use Steam. Some of the games I play I didn't purchase through Steam. EVE Online is the notable one on that score. I started playing EVE Online before I had a Steam account. I could find out how long I've played by checking the API for EVE Online. By doing so I find Mabrick was born on March 23, 2008 at 2:09:00 PM. I also know I've played for a total of 179,427 minutes. That's 2990 hours in 2492 sessions over nearly 6 years. That's 1.2 hours a session on average. But I had to query the API web page to get that information and do the math myself. There are programs that'll do the math for you, but it's not at all straight forward. Nor does it give you a period by period breakdown of the time I play. What if I wanted to know if I played more in December than in November? There's no easy way to know through the EVE Online API.

Valve and CCP are certainly not the only companies to provide this sort of social service for tracking game play. Courtesy of some of the other games I play, I have an Xbox Live account, an Origin's account, a account, a U-play account... the list goes on. It's absolutely ridiculous. Every flipping game company now seems to require you have an online account with them replete with meta-data scrapping and borderline privacy invasion. It's bad enough I have to keep a close watch on Facebook, Google and Microsoft for the old terms of use switcheroo, but now I have to also manage every game company as well? It's enough to discourage anyone.

But through all that, I still want to know how much time I'm spending on game play. And I decided long ago that I can't beat every marketing officer on the planet to keep their greedy hands off my personal information. They'll get it one way or another and it only takes one slip up on my part for it all to be "out there" forever. They have far more resources, and it seems patience, than I have. Now I simply try and manage what they know about me. I'd rather them have the public profile I choose than the one they choose. You know what I mean?

It's another part of the reason why I moved the blog to it's own domain and began to lower some of the walls I'd constructed between my various online selves. Now my Facebook friends get to see my blog posts. My fellow photography enthusiasts know that extends to computer games as well. I mean, the rule of thirds works whether you're looking through a view finder or at a monitor. It is who I am after all. And it was time I identified a game tracking service that might be able to pull in the data I want to see; all in one place, answering the questions I have, regardless of who finds out how much time I spend playing. A service that would inform me across all the games I play, not just the ones they advocate.

That led me to Raptr. Raptr can pull all my Steam information directly from my account. It also has direct access to my Xbox Live account. And with their desktop client, it'll track any time I spend in any of the games I play not covered by those two accounts. And Raptr will present me with the details of my game play on demand. Raptr is what I've been looking for. It isn't perfect. But it has a plethora of reporting options. And for those motivated by achievements, it has it's own achievement system revolving around total time played. To date, Raptr ranks me as elite in three games: Kerbal Space Program, Civilization V and Portal. Did I mention it isn't perfect? The rankings don't have anything to do with actual ability. It's just an indication of time dedicated to the game. And it doesn't really come close to accurately reflecting how much time I've really spent playing EVE Online, only the time I've spent playing while the desktop agent ran. That's been since I created my Raptr account on November 2, 2013.

Here's a screen crop of my Game Collection page so you can see what Raptr offers. There are lots of ways to represent your data according to criteria you select. It has communities to join, shows how you stack up against other players, and lets you connect with people who have common gaming interests with you.  You can also link your Raptr account to your Facebook, Twitter and Twitch account. I've not done that yet, but I'll probably at least give the Twitch linkage a try. Perhaps it'll let me stream at my full resolution. The EVE Online client was so disappointing in that regard. But this post is long enough; I'll have to discuss Raptr streaming capability another day - like when it comes out of beta. LOL Until then, fly careful.

[caption id="attachment_1629" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Raptr Statistics February 9, 2014 Raptr Statistics February 9, 2014[/caption]

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jebediah's Photo Album

It's KSP Friday again. I've been busy this past week putting a refueling station into Kerbin orbit, completing a few more Mun and Minmus missions, and revisiting Duna to train interplanetary skills. There have been successes and failures, but due to my insistence on unmanned missions beyond Minmus, no Kerbal has given his or her life in the doing. Jebediah was not happy about this decision, but he understands the reasons for it. Still, it does an injustice to their accomplishments to just write about it all. That's why I talked Jebediah into allowing me to share a few moments from his personal photo album. They speak far more eloquently than I can. Enjoy!

[gallery type="circle" link="file" ids="1602,1603,1621,1605,1604,1607,1606,1608,1609,1610,1611,1612,1613"]

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's Monumental

Okay, the title of this post has a humorous bent to it. But in all seriousness, the monument CCP is erecting in Reykjavik is nothing short of inspired in my book. I have to admit right up front, the thought of "Mabrick" being etched in granite anywhere in the world really appeals to my ego. I have always been Mabrick. I will always be Mabrick. I am sure having their character names chiseled into granite appeals to many players' ego. Whether they'll admit it or not is a different matter. But personally, I am both pleased and intrigued that CCP has thought to do this. To me it is further evidence they are not your average game producer.

And in case you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, I am talking about this.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="770"]The EVE Universe Monument Worlds Within a World - The EVE Universe Monument[/caption]

To quote the CCP website about the monument,

The monument is an a outdoor sculpture by the artist Sigurður Guðmundsson with help and input from EVE Online‘s own art directors Börkur Eiríksson and Ásgeir Jón Ásgeirsson. It will stand at over five meters tall and will consist of two main elements facing each other through a highly polished stainless steel surface in the middle that reflects and mirrors the elements and the landscape. On the left side of the model stands a dark aluminum structure with a quote from the EVE Universe and on the right a dark granite facial figure representing the players behind the game.

The monument will stand atop a half meter tall metal-plated concrete platform that will have the names of all the “main characters” of all active EVE Online players etched upon it. This list of active, paying players will be captured on March 1st, 2014—no exceptions. In addition, CCP will be honoring EVE Online players who have passed away by adding their names to the monument, as described in the following section.

Under the monument a buried laptop will serve as a time capsule with videos, messages, wishes and more from the players and the development staff. A web-based application will assist in finding specific names on the monument‘s surface. More on the time capsule will be announced at

To be certain, I am not the first EVE blogger to write about this. Wilhelm Arcturus over on The Ancient Gaming Noob has already done a piece on it as has The Verge, which popped up on my alerts as I wrote this post. I am certain more will follow, both reports on the monument and other things from CCP. The battle in B-R was perfect timing for CCP. From my last post we can see how it caused a HUGE upswing in trending for EVE Online. That increased exposure will serve to amplify everything CCP announces from now until Fanfest. It's incredible providence some companies only dream about. It really makes me wish I could attend Fanfest. The irresponsible man in my head says to just do it. The wiser and more practical man in my head reminds me of the winter house damage that needs repaired come spring. Can I afford to do both? Well, perhaps - but the intrapersonal conflict that would cause with my better half is not so easily dismissed.

Since it is unlikely I will be able to see the new monument unveiled in person, perhaps CCP has plans to sell replicas of the monument, names and all, to it's loyal fan base. What about it CCP? Are you going to provide desk sized replicas of it? If you do, please try and use the materials of the actual monument: aluminum, stainless steel and granite. This won't make it cheap, but I'm not looking for cheap. I'm looking for desktop art to put in my nerd cave.  I figure I'd spend a few hundred dollars on such a thing, but the names must be legible - paint me silly if you'd like.

And one last thing about this announcement. I noticed a sentence in the description that had a curious implication attached to it.

At the event, thousands of EVE Online, DUST 514 and EVE: Valkyrie players will witness the dedication in a special ceremony that will include CCP staff, city officials, friends, and family.

What EVE: Valkyrie players? The game hasn't been released. Are you trying to tell us something here CCP? How I wish it could be true. The strong industry rumor right now is Occulus Rift will release this Summer. Can we hope summer begins on May Day this year instead of Midsummer? You bet we can! Carry on CCP, and thank you.

HUGE UPDATE: Occulus to co-publish EVE:Valkyrie as a Rift exclusive title. This is awesome with sauce! (2/5/2014 9:15 EVE Standard Time)

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Unsung Heroes of B-R

This is a bit rambly, but short so bare with me. There are several pictures and they are fresh. Onward! CCP Fozzie sent this tweet out over the weekend.

This definitely caught my attention. It fairly well stopped any arguments I might have wanted to make to comments on my last post concerning the Halloween War. On January 22nd, I said CCP shouldn't apologize when they did nothing wrong. One of the counter arguments to that sentiment, and something several commenters argued passionately, is CCP gets a lot of Marketing out of these large battles. Therefore they not only should apologize, but treat those who participate as some sort of better EVE Online player. That somehow CCP must make the PvP experience better and forget the rest.

There is no denying at this juncture that large battles are important. It's what the game is all about after all. And CCP does reap real world benefits from these huge battles. In his January Junk Drawer, Jester says he's, "been watching the Snapcount data like a hawk hoping that CCP gets a nice boost." I too am eager to see his numbers, but I don't think we have to wait. If we go over to EVE Offline, we can get an idea of the level of new player creation. It looks like this.

[caption id="attachment_1585" align="aligncenter" width="400"]New Player Activity post B-R New Player Activity post B-R[/caption]

It certainly seems like the Halloween War resulted in a lot of new accounts. Just look at that "Past month" chart. I'm certain that rise mirrors the level of main stream media exposure the game's gotten in the past week. And we can see exactly what that exposure looks like thanks to Google Trends. Here is the current trend for EVE Online.

[caption id="attachment_1586" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Google Trend EVE Online post B-R Google Trend EVE Online post B-R[/caption]

I haven't seen a curve like that since I studied General Relativity. The current trend is already substantially higher than any previous spike, and I don't think it's done. I think we can all agree, B-R was definitely good for business.

It would be easy to believe from these charts that events like B-R are so important to the future of EVE Online CCP should always go out of its way to make those who fight these big fights happy. That CCP should give them everything they want. But that would be a mistake. B-R happened because EVE Online is a balanced game, not because someone forgot to pay their bill. There was a lot of industry and carebear sweat involved in making that fight possible. I'd say there was more carebear sweat involved in the making of those Titans than in the losing of them. And who do you think is now racing to replace the lost ships though it will take many months? Carebears. "We make, they play." That's as good a motto as any. For anything like B-R to ever happen again, the carebear play style must be attended to in equal portion to everything else. Above all, EVE Online must remain a balanced game.

I tip my hats to all those null-sec PvPers who fought this battle, or helped in any way to bring it about. Kudos to you for taking EVE Online to the center stage. But let's not forget who allowed you to get there in the first place. Your battles are important, but they don't just happen by accident because someone forgets to pay a bill. The reason you had the assets to take advantage of that mistake was because someone else spent months of their life preparing for it.  They deserve no less praise for that success, and equal dev love, though they may generally be satisfied to remain in the shadows and just make the replacements that go BOOM - again.

Fly Careful

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Deadliest Rat of All

In my opinion, The Blockade is the toughest level IV security mission to blitz. And in the Apanake constellation, it is always Blood Raiders who form the blockade. The mission entails five waves of rats. Each wave consists of elite cruisers and battle wagons. There are frigates and destroyers to be sure, but they are actually outnumbered by the larger ships.

This particular mission is a great mission to not blitz. There are so many battleships bounty and loot payout is about the best there is. I've easily made over 100 million ISK on this mission in the past. With a Micro Jump Drive and a Bastion Module, you land, jump away, go into Bastion mode and pick the rats off as they come screaming at you... stupid rats. Just don't kill the trigger ship for the next wave until you're done with the rest. To quote Jester's Solo L4 Missioning, Part 3 guide,

Blockade, All.
Worth doing: Yes/Complete. Difficulty: Moderate/Hard. Worth salvaging: Yes.
In terms of bounties, the various Blockade missions are some of the most profitable L4s there are. However, all of them are relatively difficult to complete solo, particularly the Blood version which neuts the player ship heavily. The Sansha version can also be difficult (owing to Tracking Disruptors) if it is attempted in a turret boat. The best way to complete this mission is with a friend, keeping in mind that each wave will aggro independently. This mission used to not be worth salvaging due to the time it takes; the Noctis with its long-range tractor beams, however, now makes it worth-while. Aggression management is critical in The Blockade.

I've done this mission quite a bit. Just since my last post-Rubicon income report, I've drawn it three times. And since this is my month of blitzing missions, I have of course blitzed all three. Blitzing The Blockade requires sniping. You cannot brawl this mission. Even I, with my love of blasters, acquiesce to that reality. In a Gallente ship, you have to use rails. Spike is your friend until they get within about 60 km. Then it's Javelin all the way. With a Mobile Tractor Unit, looting and salvaging a non-blitzed mission is easy. There is plenty of time between waves for your unit to keep up. If it hasn't done every wreck by the time you finish, and you've a Kronos with your own tractors like I have, pull wrecks in for it to loot automatically. All you have to do is get the wreck within range and the unit will take the loot for you. That's what I did before, but not since January 19th.

Since the 19th, I've been killing just the trigger ships and leaving the rest of the wave intact. That's how you blitz this mission. You have to kill five battleships in total, and then you can warp out. And with a Micro Jump Drive, that is possible. I've done it three times. But it's dangerous, with a capital D. If you make one mistake, you're done for. If you have all five waves land on you, according to EVE-Survival you will incur 1786 EM and 1742 thermal DPS. No single sub-capital ship can withstand that for short let alone long.

Remember what I said was the weak point of my Kronos fit all those month's ago? It's extremely susceptible to energy neutralizing. And what's the Blood Raider forte? You guessed it, energy neutralizing. Even the EVE Survival page has a warning at the top, underlined for emphasis, "kill all the NOS cruisers/elite cruisers first." But when blitzing you don't do that. You play with fire and stay one jump ahead of the cruisers. Mobility is your friend and savior.

The one thing that is not your friend is the Bastion Module. Sixty seconds is forever when you are under the neuts. And if you've not figured it out by now, I know from personal experience. Yesterday was the third time I've blitzed The Blockade, and my luck ran out. Actually, it wasn't luck that deserted me. It was common sense. I committed the cardinal sin of a mission runner. I got overconfident. That is the deadliest rat of all.

What I did, in retrospect, was pretty damn stupid. I wanted a good blitzing time because, you know, it'd make my blitzing post that much better. So rather than take the time to do three or four micro jumps around the rat ball that had formed by the time the fourth wave appeared, I decided to jump straight across the angry red fleet because the next trigger was on the far side. It'd be a lot faster. I landed 20 kilometers the other site of the Corpus Monsignor that was my target. Then I made my second mistake. I decided I could take him down point blank range quickly enough to get out before the cruisers arrived. That would save time as I wouldn't have to wait for the trigger ship to come back into range once I jumped again.

And that was true enough. I did take it out quickly point blank. But I did the really stupid thing in the process. The DPS was so high while I took down the trigger ship, my True Sansha repairer wasn't keeping up. So I put the ship into bastion mode to double my repair capability. "I'll be in and out of bastion mode before they even notice," I said to myself. And I thought I was okay because the cruisers were still well out of range. I was wrong, and I couldn't jump. Do you know it takes less than 20 seconds for three Blood Raider Elite Cruisers to drain a Kronos' capacitor when it's already below half and having to run an armor repairer full out?

Anyway, that's how I lost my first Kronos. It was overconfidence, pure and simple. I was so certain I could keep avoiding those "dumb" rats I forgot I could be the dumbest rat of all. Keep that in mind when you're out there running missions. We all say uncomplimentary things about the rat AI in EVE Online. But the point of their AI isn't to give use an adrenaline fueled one on one confrontation. It's to make us think tactically and to pay for making poor decisions. It's an exercise in decision making, not twitch maneuvering. That's why I enjoy missions more than one on one PvP. I'm not trying to run solo PvP down here. There are tactical decisions necessary in every second of solo PvP. But I want to relax when I play, so making a decision every 10 seconds is preferable to making a decision every 1 second. That's all. Of course, having all that extra time to think is probably what led me into believing I could pull something off that was pure folly. All I can say is don't get cocky, or you too may end up having to replace a 1.25 billion ISK ship because of your own stupidity.

Fly Careful