Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Micro isn't so micro

As promised, let's talk more about where MMOs seem to be going in the next couple of years, this time focusing on the so-called micro-transaction.

As I've said a couple of times lately, free-to-play games are not free at all.  Sooner or later, the developers that build the game have to be paid.  "If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer," says the famous little graphic before adding "You're the product being sold."  While the graphic references Facebook, it's a truth that applies to any so-called F2P game.  If you're not paying to play real money to play EVE yourself, you are the content that CCP is selling to those of us who are.

The term micro-transaction was originally coined in the late 1990s and was intended to reference very small transactions of money, potentially as low as one penny, on-line.  It wasn't long before "one penny" became "one dollar" or "one pound" or "one euro" or the like.  And for quite a while, game developers were content with small amounts of money per player as long as the volume of players was large enough.  Development costs for games were cheaper then, after all.  But since hitting the mainstream in 2009, micro-transactions are becoming significantly less "micro" every year.

A couple of months ago, speaking at the Free-2-Play Summit, Ngmoco's Ben Cousins talked about what he saw as the past, present and future business models for free-to-play games.  He designated them into versions: 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0.  In the 1.0 model, in-game transactions were limited to cosmetic items and customization.  Game developers working under this model contented themselves with $5 or less per player.

Cousins defines a version 2.0 transaction as a transaction that encourages a player to reduce or eliminate game "unpleasantness."  The idea is to make parts of one's game less enjoyable and more onerous with an eye toward deliberately giving the player incentive to avoid or remove that aspect of the game.  Of course we see this all the time in ad-driven games: you can buy the ad-free version of the game and thereby avoid the "unpleasantness" of the advertising.  That's a relatively minor thing.  If you and I both play Angry Birds and you own the ad-free version and I content myself with the free, ad-supported version, you and I will probably still advance at about the same rate and probably have about the same amount of fun.  My gaming experience will just be slightly more annoying than yours.

What we're seeing in a lot of games, though, is developers pushing the "unpleasantness" into the game itself.  As I've noted recently, the independent EVE player's ability to make ISK is being directly reduced in almost every way.  Nerfs have hit sanctums and havens, drone region true sec, incursion-running, missions, the value of meta4 mods, and the ability to blitz through PvE content of all kinds, whether that's the blocks put on the ability to blitz low-level incursion sites or Titan gun signature radius nerfs to slow down Titan ratting.  I've heard many people in the last few months say some variant of "I'm going to have to go back to buying PLEXes" because EVE PvE is becoming so much less rewarding.

Is it much of a stretch to think that this is a deliberate strategy?

Whether or not you believe that, there's no question that this is the tack that the gaming industry is taking.  The entire concept of "grinding" PvE content is under slow and deliberate attack by game developers, including CCP, encouraging players to skip the grind by paying a few more dollars here and there to avoid unpleasantness.  Under Cousins's 2.0 model, he believes the average player's outlay increases from $5 to $20.

Under version 3.0, unpleasantness is compounded by more positive player incentives like additional features and excitement... more or less straight-forward P2W.  Under this model, Cousins believes the average player's outlay increases from $20 to $60.

As someone sarcastically put it to me a couple of weeks ago, "Free to play doesn't mean free to win."

Now of course, these amounts per player are insignificant for EVE players.  I myself pay subscriptions for three accounts, which means that I'm paying more than $50 per month to play EVE.  But the volume of players that EVE is drawing are also correspondingly low.  EVE has been stuck at the "400,000 or so" subscriber mark for quite a while.  These days, CCP politely declines to state their exact number of subscribers when asked.  Trion Worlds, the maker of what may be the last successful subscription MMO to be launched, RIFT, similarly declines to state their number of subscribers.  It's probably safe to say that they're getting a similar number of subscribers, though.  It's increasingly clear that WoW's subscriber numbers were a fluke that isn't going to be matched any time soon.  If SW:TOR couldn't do it, nobody can.

But game development still costs money.  Big money.  $1 here, $1 there isn't gonna do it any more.

It's accepted that to produce a modern MMO requires $100 million U.S.  At least double that (and possibly as much as triple) was spent on SW:TOR.  But let's stick with $100 million.  A half-million subscribers paying $15 per month over the course of a year will bring in $90 million U.S.  Taking into account support and marketing costs, that means that to build a successful subscription MMO, you need to hold on to those half-million subscribers for two years.  Right around the start of year three, you start to make a profit.  This is why CCP is so keen to get new players to that three year mark.  Not only is that the point where you're unlikely to unsub, that's the point where they actually start making money off you.

Meanwhile six months ago, Riot Games announced that League of Legends passed 11.5 million active players.  Two months ago, Wargaming.net announced that World of Tanks has 20 million registered players.  Further, they state that they have what they believe is one of the highest payment ratios in the industry, "around 25 to 30 percent."  Let's say it's 25%.  And let's say that they're only getting Cousins's $20 per player.  Coincidentally, that's their $100 million U.S. right there... for a game with far less content than EVE.

And I think we all know that they're getting $50 from most of those paying players, not $20.

The industry is also full of stories of subscription games converting to F2P to take advantage of the micro-transactions model.  As Eurogamer put it...
The unavoidable statistic, however, is that games do better once they turn free-to-play. Or so we've been led to believe. DDO doubled its activity; LOTRO tripled its revenue; AOC doubled its revenue; a million new people played DCUO; and Champions Online helped Atari profits rise...
Even if you build a game around a subscription model, that's no guarantee that you'll succeed, or even launch.  38 Studios pumped at least $100 million into Copernicus and were reportedly burning an additional $4 million U.S. per month on development, with another 12 months of development needed before they could launch.  That's $100 million spent out of a $150 million budget and Copernicus will probably never see the light of day.  And even if it had, the increased development cost means that it would have needed at least double EVE's subscriber numbers or four years instead of three to recoup its costs.

Going straight to the F2P model for DUST was a risky play on CCP's part.  But trying to launch it as a subscription title would have been more risky.  With the cost of game development these days, the subscription model just doesn't work any more.  Likewise, charging a fee to download the product would have limited the game's audience.  With a zero cost of admission, this puts CCP in the position of inviting millions of PSN members to try DUST for a few hours.  Inviting a broad beta-test audience is equally smart: it will provide the newborn game with a massive burst of "content" when it launches: hundreds of players who will have the experience to quickly vault to the top of DUST's brackets and provide competition, assistance, and goals for the new players at launch.

And if those new players throw CCP $20 or $50 each trying to catch up, CCP's investment will very rapidly pay off.  And that's why Hilmar was dreamily speculating on the HARPA stage the last day of this year's Fanfest about needing two or even three venues for Fanfest next year.

Tomorrow, I'll wrap up this series of posts with a few random musings.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Let's continue the discussion from yesterday about what we can expect around MMOs over the next couple of years.  I won't finish today, but let's continue to build the frame-work for the discussion.  Warning: more big picture, barely EVE-related stuff ahead.

About three months ago, Syncaine over at Hardcore Casual opined that "the MMO Dark Age is ending".  It's a post that I've been revisiting every couple of weeks since he wrote it trying to formulate my own thoughts on this matter.  I started writing the post that you're reading now around the first week of May as my thoughts started to crystallize, and it's being published on May 30.  Then today -- completely by coincidence! -- I was surprised to see that Syncaine is again riffing on the "MMO Dark Age" ending.

In the first post, he celebrates the slow decay of WoW and the fizzle of SW:TOR.  He then looks forward hopefully to the genre being "an interesting place going forward."  In the second post, he says that the MMO "genre" is actually a small one that was, for a while, flooded with theme park-seeking "tourists" that were artificially increasing its population.

Errr... no.

As I recall, the Chinese had something to say about living in interesting times.  But let's come at the problem from a different direction, namely:

How much should a game cost?

Here in the U.S., we've gotten used to -- after much grumbling and gnashing of teeth over the matter -- a standard price point of $60 U.S. for a brand new AAA game.  Less ambitious titles, such as the typical XBox Live purchase, generally run about $15 U.S.  And the casual gamers are willing to put $5 U.S. or less into an iPhone or Android game, and often only as little as $2 U.S.  Our expectation of content is then set in alignment with those price points.  From a $60 AAA title, we expect 25 or 30 hours of game-play.  From a $15 title, we expect perhaps six hours.  And from our $2-$5 throw-away purchase, we expect to get through a boring train ride or the like.

As I've said on this blog lots of times, we're buying entertainment for our dollars.  A $60 AAA title that has only eight or ten hours of game-play (I'm looking at you, God of War 3) is therefore considered "too short" and is often dinged as a sub-par game for that reason alone.  Meanwhile, a AAA title that has a hundred or more hours of game-play (fus roh dah, Skyrim!) gets bonus points for this.  It's even likely that we'll consider it a "better game" for this reason.  Only if a short game is remarkably good or remarkably cheap will a short game be considered excellent.  Portal is the measuring stick we use for that, which is why people were unconsciously disappointed at its sequel... even though it was quite good!

Now in this way, gaming is already the cheapest entertainment around.  In my town, a movie costs $5 per hour and my cable TV service costs me around $6 per hour for the amount that I watch it.  Live entertainment costs far more per hour, as do virtually all indoor and outdoor leisure activities.  Most of us listen to a $2 downloaded song several dozen if not several hundred times, making them equally cheap.  Our non-gaming hobbies can run $10 per hour or more.

Meanwhile, games are costing us about $2 per hour.

And yet we all bitch that games are too expensive.  Some of us refuse to pay even that and pirate games to get them for free.

Yesterday, I had several people point out to me that my first post in this series was obviously about 38 Studios crashing last week, likely taking "Project Copernicus" (their intended Kingdom of Amalur MMO) with it.  That was only partially true.  As I said, I've been thinking on this topic for several weeks now.  When the situation with 38 becomes more clear, I'll probably have more to say about that specifically.  But Copernicus did have one aspect to it that prompted me to finally finish writing, editing, and publishing this series of posts.  It was almost certainly the very last game that will be developed for which the business plan was built around a $15-per-month subscription cycle.

Because if a $60, $15, or $2 game costs us $2 per hour, subscription MMOs cost us maybe a quarter of that per hour.  A half-dollar.  Per hour.  No wonder we all like them.  ;-)

But gaming companies are quickly coming to the realization that they can't live on that amount of money and still develop the games that all of us expect.  You might say that EVE is living on that 50 cents per hour, but it really isn't.  Because CCP is not only getting our 50 cents per hour, it's also getting PLEX money from those that want to buy that super-capital ship now now now only to see it die in a fire a few hours, days, or weeks later.  The fact that many of us routinely set $20 bills on fire in EVE is the only thing that's making the subscription model work on the very low number of paid accounts that CCP has access to.

Amusingly, even BioWare seems to have come to this conclusion pretty quickly.  Not long after SW:TOR was released, you could see them marketing it here and there in an unusual way.  "Want to play Star Wars The Old Republic 3, 4, or 5?  That's what we put into SW:TOR," they said.  The implication was clear: subscribe to our game for four months (so we can make our $60) and during that time get the 30-100 hours of content that you would have expected from a Star Wars The Old Republic 3, 4, and 5.  And that seems to be the direction that SW:TOR is going long-term.  It can't seem to break out of having about a million and a half subscribers.  People who played the game at launch get bored, unsub, and are replaced by new players curious about what they're missing.  BioWare seems to have given up on trying to live on $15 per month.  They're trying to live on $60 per player.

Anyone who needs proof that game developers can't live on your 50 cents per hour only need look at DUST 514.  CCP had the opportunity there to start a second $15 per month subscription game.  They said "no thanks."  And CCP has theoretically been living and succeeding on $15 per hour for almost ten years.  Except that like I said, they really haven't.  And they have no interest in doing so.

Which brings all of us to micro-transactions and the so-called "free to play" games.  Many of them are being built on the model of trying to extract $60 of your money before you get bored with them and move on.  But I'll have more -- lots more! -- to say on that topic tomorrow.

Fit of the Week: Ratter Nemesis

Let's stick to PvE for one more week for the FOTW.

[Nemesis, Ratter]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II

Limited 1MN MicroWarpdrive I
DDO Photometry Tracking Disruptor I, Tracking Speed Disruption Script
Parallel Weapon Navigation Transmitter
F-b10 Nominal Capacitor Regenerator

Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Prototype 'Arbalest' Torpedo Launcher, Inferno Torpedo
Prototype 'Arbalest' Torpedo Launcher, Inferno Torpedo
Prototype 'Arbalest' Torpedo Launcher, Inferno Torpedo
[empty high slot]

Small Bay Loading Accelerator I
Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I

You see a lot of this type of ship wandering around Syndicate and neighboring regions, hunting for Serpentis rats.  While the Hound is the overall DPS champion among bombers, its explosive torp bonus is only good against Angel and Thukker rats.  Every other type of rat has very high explosive resists.  Serpentis rats have their lowest resist against Thermal damage, which makes the Nemesis and its Inferno torps the best choice.  But even outside of Serpentis space, if you can fire only one type of damage at a rat, Thermal is the best type.  It's the second-lowest resist for virtually every type of rat except those that best take explosive damage.

As a result, in Syndicate and elsewhere you'll see (or not see, as the case may be) a lot of Nemeses(1) moving from belt to belt, looking for a single battleship to kill before moving on to the next system.  When you have the temerity to shoot people in low-sec (or high-sec), you lose Security Status.  Killing most ships in low-sec, for instance, earns you about a -2.4% Security Status hit.(2)  You earn Security Status each 15 minute "tick" by the highest-bounty ship that you kill, per system, during that tick.  If you are involved in killing a rat battleship, you get about +0.2% Security Status back.

Let's assume you are worried about your Security Status.  That means for every low-sec ship kill you indulge in, you are sentenced to killing or participate in killing 12 rat battleships.  Podding someone or participating in high-sec kills inflicts a longer sentence of ratting.

Since you are motivated to kill battleships in as many systems as possible per tick, that rewards high DPS, high warp speed, and high align speed for scouting from belt to belt.  That makes a cloaky bomber near-ideal.  Strategic cruisers and the new tier 3 BCs are also fine choices, but those ships align and warp more slowly.  If you want to undock in your home system, go to a belt and kill a rat every 15 minutes, that's the way to go.  But if you want to get your sentence over with quickly or have a lot of Security Status to build up, a Nemesis or other bomber allows you to quickly zip from belt to belt, and from system to system, over a couple of hour ratting session.

And as of Inferno, the Nemesis looks pretty bad-ass, too.  ;-)

The fitting couldn't be much more basic or focused.  Meta torp launchers, dual BCSs, and rigs provide the DPS, which will be 425 to 485 depending on skill level.  DPS projects out to 56km range, which means you can stay outside of the effective range of the Serpentis you'll mostly be hunting.  Still, a tracking disruptor will reduce DPS from anything that manages to stray too close.  A cheap Target Painter will ensure you apply the full DPS of your torps.  If you go with meta4 versions of these mods, you can wedge on a Sensor Booster but honestly, I don't find that necessary.  I'd rather have the extra cap to run my MWD occasionally and so fit a cheap Cap Recharger.

Overall, that means seven out of ten mods on this ship are themselves rat loot which makes the ship a cheap loss if you do get caught.  But the cloak will make you nigh-uncatchable to most gangs within system, and obviously increases your survivability against gate camps you may encounter.

As you rat, you will be expected to provide intel.  Jump into a system to find ten in Local off the gate?  As you warp around, see if you can identify their ship types and location.  You might even want to take a break from ratting to do it.  ;-)  Once you have this information, you can provide a potential friendly gang with eyes on these targets until a response fleet arrives.  If you're feeling particularly brave or stupid (or both), you can even decloak, fling in a few torpedoes yourself, or assist with a TP or TD.  Just don't get anywhere near the enemy and keep your transversal way up because this bomber can be pretty easily popped by a single well-aimed volley.

And once the excitement is over, go back to ratting.  Ratting is so enjoyable, after all...

Rat safe!

All Fits of the Week are intended as general guidelines only.  You may not have the skills needed for this exact fit.  If you do not, feel free to adjust the fit to suit to meet your skills, including using meta 3 guns and "best named" defenses and e-war.  Ships can also be adjusted to use faction or dead-space modules depending on the budget of the pilot flying it.  Each FOTW is intended as a general guide to introduce you to concepts that will help you fit and to fly that particular type of ship more aggressively and well.

(1) Why yes, that is the proper plural.
(2) A number which varies hugely based on at least a half-dozen factors, but that's about the average.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A smaller piece of a bigger pie

This week on Jester's Trek, I'm going to go back to the style of some of my more old school posts when I was running for CSM early in 2011.  Instead of picking something specific and getting really focused on it, I'm going to paint more of a big picture.  I'm not going to worry too much about specifics... though some of you may recognize the specifics that prompted this series of posts.  If you don't, and you have specifics that you like, feel free to read them into what I write.  Those specifics may or may not even be EVE-related.  But I am going to talk more about the generalities of the MMO market and where I see things going in the next 18 months or so.

Ready?  Here we go.

One of the fundamental rules of starting a large successful business is the idea of owning "a smaller piece of a bigger pie".  I'm going to explain this idea in some detail because it's going to be an important pillar of a lot of the posts this week.  If you're already familiar with the idea, you can skip ahead a couple of paragraphs.

Greed has killed far more companies than it has saved.  When you have a really good idea for a product or a service, it's quite tempting to say "this is my idea, I own it, and I want to be paid millions of dollars for it."  Paradoxically though, if you try to hold on to the idea too firmly and try to make money on it too forcefully, you will end up making no money at all.  When you start a new business with a big new idea, that's all you have: the idea.  That's what you have to go out and sell to potential investors and co-founders of your business.  Invariably, those investors and co-founders are going to want to own a piece of your dream.  The question that will eventually come up: how much of your dream do you give away so that your dream will become a profitable reality?

When you own the initial idea, you own 100% of a coin-sized pie.  You want to grow that pie to the size of a dinner table.  Greed will drive you to want to continue to own 100% of that table-sized pie.  But if you try, you're going to have a hard time growing that pie beyond its original size.  You may well end up at the end of the process continuing to own 100%... of a coin-sized pie.  Hard as it may be to grasp, owning 10% of a table-sized pie is far preferable to that.  You own a smaller piece of a bigger pie.

Arguably, no entrepreneur implemented this idea better than Bob Metcalfe, founder of 3Com Corporation.  When Bob Metcalfe founded 3Com in 1979, he owned 100% of an idea: manufacture Ethernet cards.  The idea in and of itself was worthless: Bob owned 100% of nothing.  He and a partner recruited two co-workers from his previous company.  Then he started seeking financing for his idea.  Then he recruited a professional manager to run his company.  By 1981, he owned 21% of a million dollar company.  He continued to recruit smart people, parsing out small pieces of his dream to each new addition as his company grew.  He got other people invested in his dream.

By 1990, Bob Metcalfe owned a few percent of a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  He went from owning all of something worth nothing, to owning a tiny fraction of something worth a fortune.

When founding a business, it pays not to be too greedy.  Since then, a lot of smart people have followed this model straight to enormous fame and riches.  I'm sure you can think of a few examples.

What does all of this have to do with EVE?  Maybe, not much.  Maybe, everything.  As I'm going to be talking about this week, with the slow collapse of World of Warcraft and with SW:TOR pretty much officially a fizzle, the MMO market is likely to become a lot more crowded in the next year or two with a lot more niche games.  There's going to be a lot more room for success.  There's going to be a lot more room for failure.

A month or so ago, the Forbes gaming industry writer published an interview that he conducted with Hilmar P├ętursson.  The interview has been passed around quite a bit.  But there's a really intriguing part of it that seems to have been missed.  We all know that that DUST 514 and EVE will be "connected" somehow, though we don't know exactly how.  But that wasn't always the plan.  In the interview, Hilmar says...
Initially we were not going to connect them. We were actually thinking about time shifting it so that DUST 514 would take place during a different time period in the EVE Universe. Yet that didn’t sound cool enough, so eventually we came to the idea of having EVE and DUST be two games in the same universe.
And isn't that interesting.

Because just making another Team Fortress 2, or Global Agenda, or FireFall, or Tribes, strikes me as going for a pretty tiny piece of a fairly small pie.  So for all of you out there that think CCP is going to be content with a DUST 514 isolated from EVE?  Ain't gonna happen.  CCP has already considered that, and rejected it.  And it's a good thing they have because if they accepted that, then DUST 514 would have been a failure before it even came out.  There's far too much competition in that space.  By the end of 2012, "free-to-play" FPSMMOs are going to be a dime a dozen, and all of them are going to be looking to capitalize on micro-transactions.  In that field, DUST will quickly get lost, particularly since it's launching as a console-only game.

But let's talk more about that tomorrow.

For now, the only choice DUST 514 has is to differentiate itself, and this is done partially through the EVE connection.  But more importantly, by making the impact of the instant-on PvP also have a persistent impact on the game-world itself, CCP can make DUST 514 more meaningful and go for a larger piece of the MMO pie.  It's the meta-game that makes EVE so popular, after all.  As I've said before, CCP will be looking to catch lightning in a bottle twice by replicating that aspect into DUST.  The more the fights have lasting meaning, the more likely that is to be successful.

The major thing CCP has on its side is time and patience.  Those of you that are hoping for DUST 514 to fail often forget that EVE Online itself survived its first three years with only 100,000 paid subscriptions.  It seems likely that DUST's business model will allow for the same slow, steady growth that EVE had.  When David Reid was interviewed by Digital Spy earlier in the year, he said:
There's a risk of getting the economy wrong. The EVE Online economy has been built for years, and people have a pretty good sense of what it takes to earn an ISK, how much time you need to spend mining or trading in the game to make money.

What could happen is somehow in Dust we do something wrong, and you can earn ISK at a faster pace and there's something unintended there and we accidentally have some hyperinflation in our economy.
And that isn't the only danger.  The space CCP is going for is not exactly devoid of competition either...

Yeah, I'm getting too specific.  I'll stop.  Tomorrow, let's talk micro-transactions and how they're going to play into this new batch of MMOs.  And how greed might kill them.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Quote of the Week: Taking EVE too seriously

I'm gonna do a theme QOTW this week, because it was too hard to pick just one.  Instead, I'm going to do a theme: "people who take EVE too seriously."

Our first candidate is a response to the Alliance Tournament X drama that I wrote about last week.  Writing about that drama, Tyrus Tenebros on FHC says:
I guess if the tournament has turned in to who can produce the most tears through metagaming, I'm going to say so far we're looking at CCP Victor.

Hydra cries more than a ganked hulk pilot.
And if you read the EVE Online forum threads I linked last week, you know this to be true.  But if you want to see even more examples, look no farther than the Intigo and Duncan posts on the FHC thread in question.  Because there's lots and lots to be found.  So, they're my first candidates for people who take EVE too seriously.

My second candidate for people who take EVE too seriously is Oddball Six.  Oddball managed to lose a Hulk and a pod in Hulkageddon yesterday.  The Hulk was a terribad fit.  The pod was a +5 implant pod with all the trimmings.  Oddball could have taken the least interest in EVE's meta game enough to stay informed about Hulkageddon and staying docked during it.  Oddball could have been actually sitting by his keyboard so as to avoid losing his pod when his ship was destroyed.  Oddball could have even been philosophical about his loss and gone on with his life.  He chose none of those options.  Instead, he wrote a small novel badly arguing for his play-style at the expense of all other play-styles.  Among the :words: of the novel was this interesting quote...
I petition CCP to consider the policy and natural violations that the inaction to date represent, and also suggest a system of natural Consequences which may be of use in curbing such competitions like 'hulkageddon' - or at least limit them to the low- and null-sec systems where they belong.
Uhhh... OK.  Oddball seems to argue that Hulkageddon is somehow a violation of the EULA/TOS and then argues for the removal of high-sec ganking from the game.

Funnily enough, my third candidate for people who take EVE too seriously is Oddball's killer, Kaeda Maxwell.  Now of course, in the discussion between gankers and ganked, I'm going to take the position of the gankers every time.  Managing risk and occasionally getting blown up when you fail to do that or are simply unlucky is part of EVE and if you don't want to deal with it, there are other MMOs out there.  Still, I'm not sure Oddball's rant deserved a step-by-step explanation of how he died and a justification for it.  But in case you're interested in such things, Kaeda obviously took a great deal of time to provide it.
You don't however see me going onto the forums and writing some wall of text quoting the EULA to try and get CCP to remove mining from the sandbox because I don't consider it fun or entertaining, I'd appreciate it if you'd at least consider providing us 'griefers' the same courtesy.
That's probably more thought than Oddball's post deserves, but it's quite fun to read Kaeda's defense of the "griefer" play-style.  Kaeda's an extremely infrequent blogger, but the last few posts have gone into quite a lot of detail backing the points in the EVE-O post if you're interested...

Finally, I'd be remiss in a post about "taking EVE too seriously" if I didn't point to this interesting article at IGN.  It's a terrific outsider's perspective on the insane asylum that we're all spending so much time in.  Amusingly, the author manages to make pretty much every EVE player sound insane.  Even more amusingly, CCP roundly promoted the piece on Twitter and  Facebook, and it'll probably be pointed to in the next EVE Newsletter even though it makes all of us sound insane!  Writing about Fanfest, the author says...
Once a day, the CEO of CCP Hilmar Petursson stands up and gives keynote speeches in front of this massive audience, addressing players about the forthcoming changes and improvements to the game and the future vision of the company, and (almost) everything he says is met with eruptions of delighted cheering. At one point, during one of these presentations, people were literally cheering an image of a floating rock.
Emphasis mine.  So the fourth candidate for "people who take EVE too seriously" is all the rest of us.  ;-)

And yeah, I include myself.  How could I not?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Emorage Assistant to the Kill of the Week

Courtesy of one of my old alliance-mates in LAWN, I bring you a step-by-step guide to losing nine billion ISK.

Step one: rat in a ridiculously, ludicrously over-pimped Machariel.

Step two: fail to pay attention to Pure Blind's excellent intel channel.  Seriously, I spent a lot of time in PB and the intel you get in this channel couldn't be much better.  I find it really difficult to believe that it's degraded that much, particularly since when I roam there with Rote Kapelle occasionally, everyone else seems to dock up without any problems.

Step three: fail to pay attention to Local and get tackled, probably by a Dramiel.  This is not a particularly good Mach fit, but it arguably aligns faster than a Dramiel these days.  It certainly aligns faster than anything else in that gang.  To say there's no excuse for getting tackled like this is understating the case by a good bit.  But even if you are tackled, those are (tech2!) Medium Shield bots in the drone bay where the EC drones should have been.  That's a pretty glorious amount of dumb right there.

Step four: die in ridiculously, ludicrously over-pimped Machariel.  3.5 billion ISK gone.  Note that Sabre on the kill.  He'll become important in a moment.  Fortunately for the Mach pilot, though, he wasn't really on his game for this first kill because the pilot should have lost his pod, too.

Step five: emorage.

Step six: fail to note that you've died to NCdot, who these days arguably have more super-caps than sub-caps.

Step seven: undock in ridiculously over-pimped Archon.  Support over-pimped Archon with ridiculously over-pimped Chimera with one Tech1 Armored Warfare Link, no Capital Armor reppers, and only one Capital Energy Transfer.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure you can see where this is going, but stay with me.

Step eight: talk friend into undocking in Scorpion with all red jammers because most of their DPS is Minmatar.

Step nine: aggress on and kill annoying Kitsune.

Step ten: get hot-dropped on by nine super-caps.

Step eleven: die in ridiculously over-pimped Chimera.  Two billion ISK gone.  Die in ridiculously over-pimped Archon.  2.5 billion ISK gone.  Hear about friend dying in Scorpion.

Step twelve: concentrate on getting Archon pod away.  Lose Chimera Crystal pod which you use in your ratting Tengu (and which you had no business undocking in for this) to Sabre.  One billion ISK gone.

Step thirteen: when in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.

Step fourteen: begin progression down the five stages of grief.

Step fifteen: have allied pilot ask "Is the op over?"  "I have seventeen mil.  Can I help?"

Congratulations to NCdot!  That's quite a fourteen minutes you had there.  ;-)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Comment of the Week: Difference of opinion

COTW this week goes to Raivi, well-known Pandemic Legion member, who explains why CCP took the approach they did on how they handled PL vis a vis SniggWaffe for the AT:
I just want to address the situation around PL and YOUR VOTES DONT COUNT (Sniggwaffe) and clarify the details.

The Sniggwaffe team is not actually a PL B team, we never tested against them, we never used them to test or build tactics. They were run by a completely seperate set of people with no intel sharing.

They also did their testing completely seperately with no interaction with PL. That part could be confirmed by CCP using sisi logs.

The reason they were banned is the same reason that RvB wasn't allowed to enter two teams. The executor of their alliance is an alt of a PL member, which tied the teams too closely together for the tournament staff to allow. If CCP had offered to allow us to merge the teams we would have turned them down since the Waffles are a completely seperate team and we wouldn't trust them with our intel or setups.

We accept that the nature of alliance ownership meant that CCP felt they could not allow both teams to compete. The fact that there was absolutely no other evidence of collution seems to be why CCP chose a different ruling in our case than in Hydra's.

Hope that clarifies things a bit, if you have any questions feel free to let me know.
That explains it far better than CCP did.  Thanks, Raivi!

Kill of the week: Really big Falcon

First, it would be wrong of me not to briefly mention an alliance-mate:

That had the honor of being the most expensive pod-kill in New Eden last week, something we teased claire about quite a bit.  Occasionally, Rote Kapelle's effiency goes too high, and we have to have someone lose something frightfully expensive to balance it back below 75%.  claire was elected and did a fine job of it.

With that said, let's get to the real KOTW this week:

About twice a week, someone sends me a kill-mail of someone doing something heroically stupid.  I don't usually select these as the KOTW for two reasons: first, I try to use KOTWs as teaching experiences so that you can avoid appearing here.  ;-)  Second, it makes me feel bad to immortalize true stupidity.  Some people are just bad at this game or haven't taken the time to learn this game, and I don't want to make fun of them just for that.

However, there are exceptions.

There are literally only three things on this KM that belong there: the two CCC rigs, and the Capital Energy Transfer Array.  Every single other thing in and on this carrier had absolutely no business being in or on this carrier.  Now, there is a video of this carrier kill, and it's from the carrier pilot's perspective.  The pilot didn't even try to use any of those jammers.  ;-)  In addition, the character is five years old and spent some time in SniggWaffe.  Because of that, it's pretty certain that this loss was a troll from someone's alt.  The character in question has a kill in a Noctis, after all.

But seriously... does that matter?  It still deserves the "honor" of being KOTW...  Congrats on losing your really big Falcon, Kiersyn VanRhuel.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Killer app

If you're a Star Trek fan at all, a book that is pretty much required reading is The Making of Star Trek, by Stephen Whitfield.  Published in 1986, it is a behind-the-scenes overview of Trek from its very beginnings roughly through the release of the first movie.  Filled with internal memorandum, interviews, budgets, schedules, and commentary, it's a fascinating insight into the beginnings of this series.

This week, I'm reminded of a quote in this book.  Before the TV series debuted, an early science adviser to the Star Trek producers was sent a number of draft scripts and asked to provide scientific comments and suggestions on how to make the series appear more realistic or use more realistic language.  The science adviser provided this information, but opened his letter with an amusing comment.  I don't have the exact quote in front of me, but the gist of the quote was "I can see already that my association with you is going to cost me $400, because when your TV series debuts, I will need to buy a new color television set..."

I could say much the same thing to the producers of DUST 514 in regards to the Playstation 3 console.  I didn't own a PS3 until I was sent a DUST 514 beta code.  So, testing DUST has already cost me about $220 U.S.  Maybe I'll buy a copy of Little Big Planet too.  ;-)

So, yes, I'm currently testing DUST 514.

And that's just about the last thing that I'm going to say about DUST 514 game play until I'm released from the rather restrictive NDA.  I say this so my regular readers will understand why I'm not talking about DUST 514 more.  Hell, I'm informed that very technically, just revealing the fact that I'm testing DUST is in itself breaching the NDA.  Given that so many people have made this fact public about themselves and given how many people have revealed it on Twitter and IRC, I think I'll take the small risk involved.

Per the NDA, I'm not allowed to make my impressions of the game public, nor am I allowed to talk about the game's feature set, except so far as to repeat things that have already been made public by others.  Again in a rather circular technicality, I'm technically not allowed to repeat things revealed by others if those others reveal things that were not already public.  I might dance around this one from time to time, too: if someone else writes a blog about their impressions of DUST game-play and I agree with those impressions, I might link to such a blog... but I won't comment on it.  ;-)

But there are a few things about the game that I do feel completely comfortable telling you.  Call this stuff public knowledge.

First, if you're like me and you have never played a PS3 FPS, the controls on the PS3 will take a lot of getting used to.  The button you believe should fire your weapon doesn't.  The button that does fire your weapon is somewhat inconvenient.  I'm told that Killzone 3 is a good game to use as "practice" to get more familiar with the PS3 controller.  As an Xbox 360 gamer, this is going to put me at quite a disadvantage during my DUST testing, I suspect.

Everything you think you know about using an analog controller against people who are clearly using a mouse and keyboard as their controller is probably completely accurate.  I'm sure there are a few people that are better with an analog controller than KBM (I know one such person personally, for instance).  But for the rest of us...

No matter how good a pilot you are, if you're flying an Ibis, you almost certainly can't solo someone flying a battle cruiser.  So there's (a) not much point in trying, and (b) not much point in getting annoyed if you die if you do try.

My DUST 514 character is not named Ripard Teg, nor any variant of any of my EVE character names.  I did this specifically so that people wouldn't seek me out on the battlefield and try to kill me just because they want to shoot Ripard Teg in the face.  Sorry about that.  ;-)

And finally, free to play games aren't.  Not really, anyway.  It's best if you keep that in mind.

And for now... that's all I have to say about DUST 514.  I will continue to comment on the game from an outsider's perspective, or when talking about how it's going to interface with EVE, or how it will affect CCP at a company level.  But for the time being, don't expect any opinions from me about game play or anything related to the beta.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A GM told me I could

There's a fantastic tactic used by children.  They ask mommy if they can do something.  If she says no, they go ask daddy.  Maybe they'll get an answer that they like better.  There's an even better tactic that often produces better results.  They don't ask either of them if they can do something.  They just go do it.  Then, when the child is caught and asked why they did it, their response is "I don't know!"  And when punished for it, they go have themselves a giant sulk, even though they almost certainly knew that what they were doing was wrong.

Did I say these tactics are used by children?  I misspoke.  They're tactics used by the childish.

In the first major bit of drama associated with Alliance Tournament X, three teams have been banned from competition.  You can read all about it in this forum post by CCP Sreegs.  Here's the money quote:
It was widely known after the finals last year that Hydra Reloaded and Outbreak. had worked together as a single unit in order to game the competition.  They are both individually highly competitive teams and when they are working in their own interests they are among the best. Unfortunately Hydra and Outbreak are working from the same playbook as last year, practicing together in a single corporation on the test server in a single wormhole.
In short, the two teams were testing their combined theories against each other, sharing their theory-crafting and their fleet compositions.  Similarly, Pandemic Legion's "B team" also got themselves banned from competition.  PL's "A team" survives presumably because the team captain was only using the "B team" as puppets to test their comps, but presumably weren't sharing the theory behind those comps or practice locations.

Not at all unexpectedly, Duncan Tanner and Garmon almost immediately started bitching, and their bitching took a common form.  Here's Duncan's version:
Perhaps you should have answered our multiple petitions and e-mails asking whether we were allowed to test together before we even started testing?

Oh except for the one petition where we got a response from a senior GM who said teams COULD practice together.
And here's Garmon's:
While we were spending hundreds of hours preparing, we got the all clear 11 days after our first e-mail through a petition. So we were under the impression that we were doing nothing wrong, if we had known what we were doing was wrong, we would have not tested together.

Only, here's the important bit.  Here's the e-mail that Garmon sent to CCP Loxy regarding their petitions:
Hello CCP Loxy,

We are putting a lot of effort in our tournament run this year. However we are very concerned that we might be breaking CCP's interpretations of certain rules without being aware of it. We want to follow the rules completely and contribute to making it an event that the Eve community appreciates and looks forward to.

We have described our intentions to CCP in our previous e-mail and we would like to know as soon as possible if what we are doing is alright. Specifically the rules are vague about how much collaboration constitues an A and B team situation. We suspect that there is no issue with testing against another team since multiple other hopeful entrants have been practicing together on SiSi this year. Again, however, we want to be sure.

If we could get a response as soon as possible it would put all of our minds at ease.

Hydra Reloaded

However we are very concerned that we might be breaking CCP's interpretations of certain rules without being aware of it.

We are very concerned that we might be breaking certain rules.

We are breaking rules.

Short version: the Hydra/Outbreak team knew what they were doing was wrong, so they passed the buck with "multiple petitions and e-mails" until they found a Senior GM that would cover for them.

Mommy wouldn't tell me what I was doing was wrong (even though I knew it was wrong), so I asked daddy.

Needless to say, I'm not shedding any tears for Hydra or Outbreak here.  "A GM told me I could" is perhaps the worst possible defense when you're in this situation.  Aperture Harmonics had GM sanction to take certain in-game actions too, even though they almost certainly knew those actions were wrong.  But they asked "multiple" GMs about it, too, until they found one that said what they were doing was OK.  And when the time came to pay the piper, that GM sanction had about as much effect as a paper shield against a flame-thrower.  And AHARM had to know that this would be the case when the time came.  But they convinced themselves that everything would be OK.

And I'm sure Hydra and Outbreak did, too.  I'm glad they've learned otherwise.

EDIT (24/May/2012): One more thing.  Don't let your emotions get in the way on this one.  I know a lot of people like Garmon, but I feel pretty certain he went into what he was doing with eyes wide open.  If both Hydra and Outbreak had entered and one of them was eliminated due to bad luck, it's clear the other would have picked up all the theories and fleet comps (and probably, more than one pilot flying an in-alliance alt) from the other.  That's specifically what the rules were designed to prevent.  Keep that in mind before you start flaming me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FOTW: Incursion Shield Apoc Navy Issue

I haven't done an incursion ship in a while, so let's do one of those.  These days, in the incursion HQ fleets, snipers are very trendy.  And given the length some of those HQ fleets take to run a site, it can be advantageous to limit your ammo expenses.  That means lasers.  The Nightmare is an obvious choice but nearly as good is a well-fit and -flown Apocalypse Navy Issue:

[Apocalypse Navy Issue, Shield Sniper]
Damage Control II
True Sansha Power Diagnostic System
Power Diagnostic System II
Tracking Enhancer II
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
Heat Sink II

Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
EM Ward Field II
Sensor Booster II, Targeting Range Script

Tachyon Beam Laser II, Imperial Navy Standard L
Tachyon Beam Laser II, Imperial Navy Standard L
Tachyon Beam Laser II, Imperial Navy Standard L
Tachyon Beam Laser II, Imperial Navy Standard L
Tachyon Beam Laser II, Imperial Navy Standard L
Tachyon Beam Laser II, Imperial Navy Standard L
Tachyon Beam Laser II, Imperial Navy Standard L
Tachyon Beam Laser II, Imperial Navy Standard L

Large Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer II
Large Core Defense Field Extender I
Large Core Defense Field Extender I

Hobgoblin II x5
Ogre II x2
Hammerhead II x2
Hobgoblin II x1

A shield Apoc?  It actually makes more sense than you think.  Though the armor buffer is thick, the Apoc gets no particular bonuses to armor resists so there's nothing stopping you from shield tanking it.  Use the standard shield tank from my Incursion guide and it meets the minimums very handily with 70% resists across the board and 17000 shield HP when receiving fleet bonuses.  With fleet resists, it goes higher still.  That's quite sufficient for any HQ site even under higher Sansha influence.  If you're concerned about the tank, buff it a bit more by replacing one of the T2 invuls for a single faction or C-type Invul.  That will push your resists past 75%, a number many dedicated shield boats will envy.

That leaves you with seven non-tank low slots, which will make your Apoc very happy.  To fit the Tachyon Beam Lasers you'll need as a sniper, you'll need two Power Diagnostic Systems.  Make one of them a faction PDS or use a 1% power grid implant to make the guns fit.  As a pair of bonuses, the PDSs both increase your buffer past 18000 shield HP and increase your capacitor.  The remaining five lows can be used for any combination of Heat Sinks, faction Heat Sinks, and Tracking Enhancers you like.  The fit I recommend strikes a good balance between DPS and cost.  The Sebo will be required to boost the Apoc's targeting range past the 140 kilometers that an incursion sniper is expected to operate at.

DPS ranges from about 525 at full sniper range to 600 at 100 kilometers or so to 800+ at 50 kilometers.  Carry Aurora, Standard, and Multifrequency crystals for those three ranges, respectively.  If you want a 75km crystal, you can carry some Xrays as well.  Finally, carry some Gleam for 850 DPS at close range.  These numbers are equal or superior to most other sniper ships, notably all but the most high skill point missile snipers.  And like all gunships and unlike missile ships, your DPS lands instantly.

Using this ship properly is about managing capacitor.  Whenever possible, use the Standard crystals.  Not only do these offer the best long-range DPS, you will be completely cap stable while firing Standards.  If you're asked to fire at closer or longer range, however, you're going to have to be more careful about cap.  First, this ship should be flown with a 'Squire' Energy Management EM implant of at least the 3% variety.  Snipers only draw Sansha aggro rarely.  As a result, if you're watchful, you can manage cap by keeping one or more hardeners inactive and activate them as your ship is yellow-boxed.  Do not wait for red boxes!  This will allow you to dedicate more cap to your guns.

Group your guns in either two groups or three groups.  If you are aggro'ed by a large percentage of Sansha ships, as you activate your hardeners, feel free to shut off one or more gun groups.  This will both allow you to concentrate capacitor on your hardeners, and the reduced DPS coming from your ship will encourage the Sansha ships to attack elsewhere.  Once they do, you can again cautiously deactivate a hardener and put your cap back into guns.  Of course, you can solve the problem more permanently by either begging for cap from the Logistics pilots periodically or simply replacing one of your five damage/tracking mods with a single Capacitor Power Relay.  You can also supplement a bit with Synth Mindflood boosters if you like.

If you're running HQ sites for The Valhalla Project public channel, 98% of the time you'll launch five Hobgoblin IIs and Assist them to the "drone bunny" in the site.  This person's job is to use the drones assigned to him to quickly destroy frigate threats.  The remaining five drones you're carrying are for special situations in three of the HQ sites described below.

In addition to plenty of spare crystals, carry an Experimental 100MN Afterburner and a Signal Amplifier II in your cargo bay.  There are three types of HQ sites and the mom site that you will run in this ship.  For the True Creation Research Center (TCRC), Nation Rebirth Facility (NRF), and the mom site, you'll use the fitting above.  For the True Power Provisional Headquarters (TPPH), you'll be instructed to fit an Afterburner.  Replace your Sebo with the Experimental version.  You probably won't have the grid to fit the Tech 2 version, but it's not needed in any case.  The Experimental version will push your ship at 300+m/s, which is plenty for this site.  There's also a minimum of true sniper targets in the TPPH, so you don't really need the Sebo.  If you do find it's a problem, replace one of your damage/tracking mods temporarily with the Signal Amp.

In the TPPH, TCRC, and mom site, you'll be attacking a large stationary target.  This will be the mom itself in the third site, a large Sansha battle tower in the other two.  This is why you brought the heavier drones and the Gleam crystals.  If you are in a position to approach this station or the mom at a range of 25km or closer, go ahead and switch to the Gleam ammo.  If you're asked to put drones on the mom or station, swap out your flight of Hob2s for the mixed drone group, which does about 100 more DPS.

Gun snipers are currently very welcome additions to incursion fleets.  The laser boat allows you to participate in this activity without spending a larger percentage of your gain on ammo.  Like all laser boats, cap management is the trickiest part.  But if you carefully manage that, you'll have a long-range incursion boat to be proud of.

Incursion safe!

All Fits of the Week are intended as general guidelines only.  You may not have the skills needed for this exact fit.  If you do not, feel free to adjust the fit to suit to meet your skills, including using meta 3 guns and "best named" defenses and e-war.  Ships can also be adjusted to use faction or dead-space modules depending on the budget of the pilot flying it.  Each FOTW is intended as a general guide to introduce you to concepts that will help you fit and to fly that particular type of ship more aggressively and well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Would you like some vanilla with your vanilla?

Just a quickie.

Here's the new Inferno trailer:

Is it just me, or is this the most boring trailer ever done for an EVE expansion?  Good Heavens the EVE trailer guys have lost their mojo.  Now granted, I was not a big fan of the "I was there" trailer or the "Awakening" trailer.  And I said as much.  Both felt ridiculously over-acted and over-wrought to me, and neither of them did a particularly good job of selling the game.

Which is... you know... kind of the point of a trailer.

And I wasn't alone in my opinion of those two trailers: they were roundly lambasted by the EVE player base.  But like Kevin Smith losing all of his confidence after helming two losers out of three in four years, the criticism seems to have impacted the guys making these trailers.  They've pretty much folded in on themselves.  And as a result, all the trailers since those two have been vanilla.  Unobjectionable.  Fact-based.  Straight-forward.

Boring.  Good voice acting and music lately, but still boring.

Now I'm kind of wishing I hadn't been so hard on "I was there" and "Awakening".  ;-)

Guys, I don't expect "Butterfly Effect" or the Dominion trailer every time.  We know you're gonna win some and lose some.  We accept that.  But let's stop with the boring, OK?  Take a lesson from EVE players: just because you take a risk and get popped doesn't mean you stop taking risks.

A big pile of stuff with a cover on it

OK, let me start by saying something obvious.  If you've been reading my stuff for more than a few days, you know that if I don't like something, I don't keep it a secret.  When people do something that I like, I am very public and generous with my praise.  When people do something that I don't like, I'm equally forthright with my opinion and why I hold that opinion.  I'm not shy about telling people at any level in this game that I think that they are being dumb or short-sighted.

Know what?  The new inventory system doesn't qualify.

Is it perfect?  No, it definitely is not.  As a matter of fact, what we have with EVE's inventory system is something that has advanced from 1998 to 2002 in terms of UI functionality.  We've gone from Diablo (the first one) to Windows XP.  An unsearchable big pile of stuff has given way to a semi-searchable hierarchical tree view.  You are a well-informed EVE player and you knew this was coming.  I've blogged about it a couple of times, and encouraged all of you to get used to it on Singularity so you'd be used to it when it hit Tranquility.

And you did that, right?  ...Right?

OK, you probably didn't.  But that's OK.  Because chances are that you're already familiar with the hierarchical tree view because you use one every day to organize your files in your OS, whatever it is.  Folders within folders has been the structure that all of us have become familiar with for sorting virtual objects.  EVE has joined that parade, and that is a good thing.

Let me repeat that for those who are too busy screaming at CCP to hear me: that is a good thing.  So, please stop whining and please stop yelling.  You're hurting my ears.(1)  The old inventory system isn't coming back, and good riddance to it.  You were warned that this change was coming, and not all change is bad.  I'll grant you that this change is not start to finish awesome, but the good things about it far outweigh the bad things about it.  I don't ask people to HTFU often, but this is one of those times.  HTFU.

Change is scary.  I understand.  Here, have a cookie.  Now sit down and look at what's been gained.

Let's start with what you didn't lose.  If you insist on the ability to have fourteen different item windows open, you can still do that.  Click the Inventory button.  Find something that you want to open in a separate window like the old days, like your Ships window.  Shift-click on "Ships".  There it is.  Want the cargo hold of your Sleipnir?  Shift-click on the Sleipnir underneath Ships.  Want to drag ammo from Items to the Sleipnir cargo hold?  Click on Items, click and drag from there to the Sleipnir cargo hold.  Done.  Easy.  Don't you feel better?  You haven't lost anything.

And you've gained a ton of new features.  Again, a hierarchical tree view isn't ideal.  It's still a half-decade or more behind the times, and I don't think I'll personally be giving up JEVEAssets just yet.  Still, the drag-and-drop functionality is very well implemented.  Access to both personal items and corp items is streamlined, and I love the fact that containers are basically now being treated as sub-folders.  That was very well done.  Rote Kapelle has started training for AT10, and one of my duties has been fitting out dozens and dozens of ships.  The combination of the new inventory system and the recent new feature that lets you drag ship fittings into the Market Quickbar has allowed me to fit literally hundreds of ships in an hour or less.

How?  Filters.  The filters in this new inventory system are excellent, and can only get better.  Rigging 20 ships at a time?  Filter out everything but the rigs.  Use the "Fit" button to load up the other fittings, but with the uncluttered rigs filter, I only see the rigs that need to be dragged onto each ship's fitting to fit them.  When I run out of rigs, I immediately switch to an ammo filter.  Now I can very rapidly shift-drag and drop ammo into a large number of new ships.  I'll probably end up writing a guide for the Inventory filter system, because it's pretty bad-ass.

Again, the new inventory system is not perfect.  Multi-touch didn't come to operating systems en masse until 2007, true, but EVE still doesn't have "multi-drag" yet for dragging blocks of several different types of ammo into a ship or several blocks of stuff to sell to the market.

But it's pretty clear now that stuff like this is coming.  The UI team is thinking about their game in terms of the new millennium instead of the old one.

So get off their backs, OK everyone?  The new inventory system takes some getting used to.  I understand that.  But we're smart people and we'll figure it out.  Change is not automatically bad and this is a very good change.  Well done to Team Game of Drones for its implementation!  Keep the faith, guys.  You've done good work here.

In the meantime, though, do please put our active ship back on the Ships pane in addition to the top left of the hierarchical tree.  Please?  Thanks so much.

(1) And you're delaying the AT10 slot lottery, which is worse.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quote of the week: Play another game

The quote of the week this time around comes from Alekseyev Karrde, a member of CSM7.  Over the weekend, this CSM had their first "town hall meeting" with players.  Instead of a direct conversation with players via Teamspeak as was done during the first CSM6 "fireside chat", the CSM was broadcasting live on EVE Radio.  Questions were accepted via EVE mail and within an in-game channel.  Overall, this was a good technical compromise, but probably should be regarded as a process failure.  As I said at the time, the CSM6 first firechat chat was chaotic.

This was just anarchy.

There was very little rhyme or reason or structure to the thing, unfortunately.  Now, part of this is perhaps because I missed the first 20 minutes of the meeting.  The CSM apparently doesn't like people who live within 500 miles of the Pacific Ocean any more than CCP does, because it was scheduled for 1700 EVE time.  So if there were opening remarks or structured dialogue as part of this thing, I missed that.  By the time I got on, the meeting consisted of random, mostly badly-worded questions being chosen by someone who clearly didn't have a good feel for the sorts of questions that the CSM should and should not be asked.  Compared to the fine job that DJ FunkyBacon did with The Mittani/Riverini debate on EVE Radio during the elections, this was a farce.

Pro tip for next time: if the question is silly, hard to understand, unreasonable, or is not something the CSM can address... don't ask it!

Cough.  Anyway, good thing about the part of the meeting I heard was that most CSM members got a say about topics that interested them.  In particular, when asked such a badly-worded unreasonable question about high-sec war-decs, Seleene immediately bounced the question to Alekseyev Karrde, who as part of Noir. makes his EVE living on high-sec war-decs.  Reworded to something semi-relevant, the question was basically "What do you say to high-sec players who simply want to opt out of war-decs because PvP has no interest for them whatsoever?"  Aleks's answer:
You have to deal with it... or stay docked... or play another game.
Er... yeah.  I immediately joked in the in-game channel that "CSM member encourages high-sec EVE players to stop playing EVE" and he clarified his statement with this:
[17:51:27] Alekseyev Karrde > Some players have unrealistic expectactions of safety in EVE.  My constituants know that and wont miss people that quit because they face the cold dark reality of New Eden
Sic throughout.  Take it for what it's worth, but keep in mind that Aleks's "constituants" are probably people that like high-sec war-decs.  ;-)  But that's the quote of the week.

By the end of the meeting, anarchy and pointlessness had taken over to such a degree that the "moderator" -- and Dear Heaven, do I hesitate to dignify whomever was running this thing with that title -- read a question from Darius III.  Yes, that Darius III.  The one that's on CSM7.  The one that should have been answering questions, not asking them.  When asked why he wasn't in a position to answer questions himself live, Darius stated that "he wasn't invited."  This statement drew mocking insulting commentary from the rest of the CSM.

At that point, I shut down EVE Radio and left to do something productive.

If it isn't clear enough, the members of CSM7 are not impressing me so far.  The fact that most of the CSM members got a chance to speak?  That's a good thing, compared to CSM6.  The fact that they're having town hall meetings, and I hope that they will indeed be plural?  Also a good thing.  The rest of this first town hall meeting?  It was a disaster, in my opinion.  Let's hope CSM7's performance at the May/June Summit is better than this, and let's hope future town halls are handled with a lot more professionalism.

EDIT (22/May/2012): Two step informs me that the recording of this town hall is available at http://www.eve-radio.com/csmtownhall .  Thanks for the link!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I've been continuing to keep an eye on the current situation with the incursion nerf.  Things are happening fast over there.  As I've said a few times, when I need a quick injection of ISK for a project(1), I often turn to incursions myself.  As a result, I spent much of Wednesday and Thursday in shield Assault and HQ fleets.  As it turns out, this provided me a really good close-up look at how the community is handling the Sansha influence nerf that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

In a word, it's awful.  Completely awful.

Just to recap (skip the next two paras if you know this stuff or remember it from two weeks ago): when an incursion launches in a new system (state: Established), an influence bar is created which measures the impact being had on capsuleer damage and resists.  As I said in the post two weeks ago, these two numbers are very important.  Higher Sansha influence greatly increases the chances of ships dying even while under lots and lots of reps.  Higher Sansha influence also greatly reduces player DPS.  The result of this is two-fold: there tend to be more Sansha ships on the field for longer (further increasing the stress on the Logistics pilots) and sites take longer (reducing player income).

In the past, players could very rapidly reduce the Sansha influence bar to zero and didn't have any difficulty keeping it there.  This would essentially negate these two penalties.  Any (incorrect) stories you've heard about "risk-free ISK" from incursions stems from that.

It's very clear now that CCP nerfed Sansha influence, making it rise much more quickly.  This has created a vicious circle:
  • Sansha influence in an incursed constellation rises; thus,
  • higher Sansha influence makes it harder to run Vanguards; thus,
  • fewer players run Vanguards; thus,
  • the Sansha influence remains very high; thus,
  • any more difficult sites are much more dangerous or are just flat-out impossible; thus,
  • Sansha influence in an incursed constellation rises.
I've heard from people who are letting their accounts lapse until CCP addresses this.  The good news is that the GMs, at least, seem open to adjusting it.  I had a good conversation with DaiseyCutter and some of the other incursion community leadership.  They remain cautiously positive that CCP is listening to their concerns.  Of course, GMs are not devs and there's no telling what the devs think about this yet.  And of course, incursion-runners letting their accounts lapse just adds to the vicious circle.

Those players that are trying to stick with it are left with the consequences: fewer players running Vanguard sites means that the Sansha influence does not drop.  As I said a couple of weeks ago, just to keep the influence from rising... just to keep it stable, you need at least roughly four or five Vanguard fleets and one Assault fleet running.  An additional Assault fleet plus one HQ fleet will then let you drop the Sansha influence about 5-6% per hour.  That means it takes between 16 and 20 hours of continuous incursion-running by about 150 people to bring the influence to 0%.

The current communities can't do it.

As I said, I spent much of Wednesday and Thursday in incursion fleets all day both days.  For most of that time, the influence hovered in the 65-85% range.  In that range, the most difficult HQ site takes an hour to run.  An entire hour.  And in that time, the 40 people involved make about 30 million ISK.  Any LP rewards and a portion of that ISK are consumed by the simply massive amount of ammunition that's expended to complete the site.  I'm sure there are plenty of you out there gloating about this as you read it.  But you simply have to admit that there's no way CCP intended the sites to be this difficult or to take this amount of time.

And then the clock resets the next day and you have to start over again.

The fleets struggle all day to bring the influence down, and most days, they fail.  I saw long stretches that the influence never dropped below 80%.  And I personally witnessed at least a dozen ships destroyed over those two days.  God help you if your Logistics pilots start to panic, because if they do, that panic is contagious.  In one particularly awful site, the panic spread across much of the Logistics wing resulting in four Logi ships, a Nightmare, and a Vindicator being destroyed.

Anyone want to continue to say that incursions are risk-free ISK?  If so, I invite you to bring a Vindicator into one of the sites.  See for yourself.  No, I don't invite you.  I dare you.

But as I said a couple of weeks ago, if you do, you're going to have to link up with the incursion communities to do it.  The idea of independently running incursions is dead dead dead, at least for now.  As I write this, there are two high-sec incursions.  The shield and armor fleets have united to take on the one in Minmatar space (more on that in a second).  It's influence has been yo-yo'ing all day.  The other is in Amarr space and the influence hasn't moved from 100%... nor will it.

For now, uniting the communities is an experiment that's being run.  The shield and armor communities no longer have the numbers or the ability to drive down Sansha influence separately in two high-sec incursions.  As a result, they're being forced into an uneasy partnership and are attacking one high-sec incursion at a time.  On Thursday and Friday, the shield community struggled continuously for 30 hours to bring Sansha influence in the "first" Amarr incursion to 100% and held it there for a few minutes, long enough to spawn the mom.  Then they nearly immediately formed a fleet to kill the mom while the influence was high enough to make that a doable proposition.

And then the entire shield community moved to Minmatar space where the armor community was struggling to get the Sansha influence there out of the high 80s.

For the moment, this seems to be how things are going to go.  It's not going to matter for a while how many high-sec incursions there are at any given time.  Whether it's one or three, for the time being, all of the incursion runners are going to stick with one and ignore the others.  They don't have much other choice.  The caravan of the heavens is still out there, but now there's only one.

You might ask how much I made over my two days of incursion running, and it's a totally fair question.  The answer is 438 million ISK, minus the cost of my ammunition, which ran about 25 million, plus a few lost T2 drones and some repairs and paste for my Logi ship.  So just over 400 million in two days... over 14 hours of incursion running.  Put another way, I made about 28 million ISK/hour that I put into it.  And people wonder why players are giving this income method up.

(1) I finally got around to buying myself a Black Ops battleship this week.  Redeemer, if you're curious.

Kill of the week: Count all your DPS

Kill of the week this week is courtesy of a TEST Alliance ratter:

It's tempting when going into a PvP situation to discount all of the DPS that might be on your side.  Often "the DPS that might be on your side" doesn't have to come from your guns, or even an ally's guns.  For example, it's very common in low-sec to force a fight near gates.  The aggressor in such a fight will most often draw gate gun aggro.  Though that DPS is somewhat random, it can turn the tide of a close fight in the favor of the person who isn't drawing that gate gun fire.  And of course in a 1v1 engagement, gate gun aggro is as good or better than a second ship on your side.

Similarly, it's quite common for those experienced in PvE in various types of sites to draw a fight in a situation where they can draw rat damage onto their side.  Many fights happen in wormhole sleeper sites, in faction warfare sites, and occasionally in incursion sites where one side or the other takes advantage of their unique knowledge in this area.  I've heard of several fights in wormhole sites, for instance, where those caught working a WH site deliberately trip additional waves of sleepers to go after their attackers.

But nowhere else does this apply as well as it does when ganking ratters.

On paper, an Anathema has zero chance of defeating a Tengu in a 1v1 engagement if the Tengu pilot is awake.  In practice, if the Anathema catches the Tengu already on the brink of being overwhelmed by rat DPS in a sanctum or haven, the Anathema can tip a precarious balance that the Tengu is managing.  That's what happened in this case.  F-88PJ, deep in Fountain, is a common ratting system with a -0.90 true security status.  As a result, this Tengu was almost certainly at some critical point in a haven or sanctum.  All the Anathema had to do at that point is keep the Tengu from running away and apply just a tiny bit more DPS tuned in the direction the Tengu isn't tanking.  This particular Tengu is heavily tanked against Kinetic and Thermal damage, but has no tank against EM damage.  It also has virtually no buffer; this fit is pretty much a glass cannon with only the minimum shield booster that would do the job in such a site.

A point, a little bit of laser DPS, and suddenly the Tengu is faced with a lot of bad choices.  Try to kill the Anathema with heavy missiles?  A tricky proposition because of the CovOps small sig.  Try to reduce the incoming rat DPS to a more manageable level?  This is also a possibility, albeit a risky one if the Anathema catches the spawn at exactly the right moment.  Beg for a ransom?  Somehow, I doubt that would have worked in this case...

All that said, ratters often operate on the edge like this, and it doesn't take much additional DPS to push them over the cliff.  This Anathema pilot was smart, realized it, and took advantage at just the right time to get himself an epic kill mail.  Nice job, Womyn Power!  But there's several female EVE players here that want to have a word with you.  ;-)

I missed a spot

Yep, I screwed up.  And I will repeat my ability to be an anomaly on the Internet by freely admitting it.  ;-)

In yesterday's post about the Target Breaker module, I missed the fact that the chance of the Target Breaker working is going to be dependent on the number of people that have you locked.  I then talked about a theoretical example of a 30v100 fleet fight using them.  In that example, I assumed equal chances of the two sides getting locks broken.  That's a total screw-up on my part.

That said, it doesn't matter all that much.

Let's stick with my example.  Only this time, we'll give the 100-ship fleet a 75% chance of getting their locks broken.  Meanwhile, we'll give the 30-ship fleet a 25% chance of getting their locks broken.  Again, we'll assume it takes five seconds to lock and destroy a target.  At the end of that time, again, 12 ships will have been locked.  The 100-ship fleet will destroy three ships and nine will get away.  The 30-ship fleet will destroy nine ships and three will get away.  The end result at the end of the first minute is the same: 18 ships will be on field facing 88 ships.  But there are nine ships from the 30-ship gang still out there, so let's extend this fight another minute.

During the second minute, the three escaped ships from the 100-ship gang return, increasing their gang size back to 91.  The nine escaped ships from the 30-ship gang return, increasing their gang size back to 27.  In the second minute, nine more ships from the large gang are destroyed and three are driven off.  Three more ships from the small gang are destroyed and nine are driven off.  At the end of the second minute, 15 ships remain on field from the 30-ship gang... facing 79 ships from the 100-ship gang.  The ratio of this fight at the end of the second minute is 5.27:1.  Even giving the smaller fleet a massive advantage to their Target Breaker chance, the larger gang is still shrinking much less quickly than the small gang.

In short, even though more ships from the smaller gang will be escaping, this proposed Target Breaker module is not going to change the dynamics of fighting a blob at all.  The only change will be that more ships from the smaller gang escape being destroyed by the blob.

But let's talk about something else I missed.  Let's say the percentage chance of the Target Breaker working was set to 1% per the number of ships that have you locked.  So the 30-ship gang's Target Breaker has a 100% chance of working when facing a 100-ship blob.  Weirdly, the larger blob still has the advantage.

They can break their 100-ship gang into three 30-ship wings.  And once they've done that, they can start attacking the other fleet's ships three ships at a time instead of one at a time.  There hasn't been that much motivation to do this sort of thing in EVE Online to date because it would add a lot of confusion.  But very occasionally, Rote Kapelle likes to split our fleets in two and then send the two smaller fleets in opposite directions through Syndicate.  The two fleets use separate comms and the two FCs check in with each other from time to time.  If either smaller fleet finds a target that they can't deal with, then the two fleets merge up and "form Voltron" to deal with the larger fleet.

Theoretically, there's nothing stopping the 100-ship fleet from splitting in the same way and assigning wing commanders and separate target callers... but staying together.  Again, there hasn't been any incentive to do this yet.  But this kind of Target Breaker module would create some incentive to do it.  A 100-ship fleet wastes a lot of DPS over-killing targets when attacking a smaller fleet.  This kind of split DPS would actually increase the DPS out of the 100-ship fleet.  Smaller fleets trying to take them on would actually be worse off than we are now.

So... yeah.  I missed a spot.  But I stick to my main point: anyone who sees the Target Breaker module as a way to attack blobs... nope.  It's a mod that -- if anything -- is going to make it easier for blobs to kill you.

Thanks for all of the comments on the previous post!

Well, that's about the same

So, I've had a good long while to think about this.  It's time to bring out Malcanis's Law: "Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of 'new players', that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players."  Jester's first Corollary to Malcanis's Law states "Any mechanics change to sovereignty will ultimately benefit larger alliances at the expense of smaller alliances."

As of today, there's going to be a second Corollary to Malcanis's Law, which will state "Any mechanics change that is proposed to reduce blobbing will ultimately reward blobbing."

Which brings us to this dev blog and this new module:
MagSheath Target Breaker I - Mid slot. A module that has a chance of breaking the lock of ships targeting you, the chance increases the more ships target you at one time. Also breaks your locks. Reduces scan resolution significantly as a downside. Only one can be fitted at a time and the can not be fitted to capital ships.

It's been interesting to watch people bowing and scraping in the direction of this module as an "anti-blobbing" module.  Corelin over at Mad Haberdashers, who is usually a pretty level-headed guy, practically writes a lyric poem in praise of the idea.

The problem is that it ain't gonna work, for a variety of reasons.  Let's start with the most basic ones and work up to the really esoteric ones.

First things first: we have no idea how common or rare these things are going to be.  Per the dev blog, we know that there are not going to be BPOs for this module.  It will be a BPC that drops from exploration sites, with between 3- and 50-run copies.  We can safely assume that initially, these mods are going to be extremely expensive.  Ironically, at first, you're going to see these things fitted to the ships that already stay as far away from blobs as possible.  Hulks, cloaky and non-cloaky transport ships, and cloaky T3s in low-sec will be the first beneficiaries of the Target Breaker module.  Later on, you'll see them fitted to solo PvP ships.  An overwhelmed triple-rep Myrmidon or the like will align to a station, fire off this mod... and if it works, warp away.

Unless the BPCs are pretty damn common, at no point can I see a situation where you're going to fit these things en masse to a large number of ships.  Know why?  Rumor has it that the mod also comes with a drawback of an 80% reduction in scan resolution.  That means things are going to take five times longer to lock.  Hulks, haulers, and cloaky T3s don't care about this, and full-on Bushido solo PvP boats care about it only slightly more.  But fit a mod to 30 fleet ships that reduces scan res that much?  No.

The next reason you're not going to see this in fleet fights is because it's chance-based.  Now, unless I've missed it, we haven't seen what the chance of this thing even working is going to be.  I'm sure that's one of the things that CCP will be balancing in the coming weeks and months.  CCP enjoys them their chance-based EWAR, but for the purposes of a mod whose sole reason to be fit is escape and evasion, it being chance-based is a little silly.  Again, Hulks, haulers, and cloaky T3s aren't going to care about this because a 25% or a 33% or a 50% chance of saving one's ship is better than a 0% chance.  There's no reason for them not to fit the thing.

For the purposes of the rest of this discussion, let's say the chance is 33%: if you fire this thing off, there's a 33% chance that you're going to lose your locks and everyone is going to lose their lock on you.

That brings us to the next problem with this module in a fleet fight.  In a fleet fight, the ability for friendlies to lock you is often key to your survival.  It's called a Logistics ship, and it's probably the only thing that allowed you to live long enough to press that Target Breaker function key in the first place.  Initially, we're going to have tons of people who use this module who are going to panic and forget the iron-clad rule of how to use this module: align first.  If you're not aligned when this thing goes off successfully, you're still gonna die.  It doesn't take that long to re-lock you.  ;-)

OK, let's get more esoteric.  Let's say for a moment that the 80% scan-res drawback were removed, and the module became as common as dirt.  Now can we fit them to the ships in a 30-man gang and use it to fight off a 100-man gang?  Nope, you still can't.  Hang on, because this is going to get a little complicated.

Let's say you've got a 30-man gang and you're fighting a 100-man gang.  Let's further say that all 130 ships have a Target Breaker mod fitted.  Obviously this works to the advantage of the 30-man gang, right?  Each of their primaries can align, and the moment they're red-boxed, they fire off the Target Breaker and there's a 33% chance that they get away clean.

While that's true, the problem is that it's going to work more to the advantage of the bigger gang.  Every time the 100-man gang calls a primary, they're going to have a 66% chance of blowing their primary up, reducing the 30-man gang's DPS by 1/30th of their fleet.  On the flip-side, every time the 30-man gang calls a primary, they're going to have a 66% chance of blowing their primary up, reducing the 100-man gang's DPS by 1/100th of their fleet.

Let's say it takes five seconds for both fleets to lock and destroy a primary.  It doesn't, of course: the 100-man gang is probably going to have a large DPS advantage.  But for the purposes of this discussion, let's say both sides destroy ships equally fast because things only get worse for the smaller gang if they don't.  Over the first 60 seconds, each fleet locks 12 targets.  Four of the targets on each side get away.  Eight of the targets on each side are destroyed.  The 30-man gang is now 18 ships, four of whom are warped off grid.  The 100-man gang is now 88 ships, four of whom are warped off grid.  The larger gang's 3.33:1 advantage has increased to 4.89:1 in the first minute.

In short, there's no difference between this situation and what we have today... other than a few more ships are going to escape destruction.

Someone explain to me how ships escaping destruction in a large fleet fight is a good thing.  ;-)

So, no.  As long as the Target Breaker mod is rare, it's going to be a rich man's toy for their expensive industrials of various types.  But if it becomes common enough to be used in fleet fights, it's going to be far more advantageous to blobs than it will be to groups trying to fight blobs.  Jester's Second Corollary to Malcanis's Law is in full effect here.

So let's hope that it stays rare and we get some other idea to address EVE's blob problem.