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...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kill of the Week: The world's worst cologne

This week's Kill of the Week is an entire battle:

Goonswarm found itself in an interesting political predicament this week.  The NC is hard-pressed in its battle in Vale of the Silent by the DRF and their allies, notably Pandemic Legion.  Those that see "the NC" as a monolithic entity that includes Goonswarm would no doubt find ways to ignore the fact that Goonswarm has been staying out of the fight to date, despite not being deployed elsewhere.  However, getting directly involved in the war would put the Goons in the position of fighting either the DRF or PL directly, and both have been traditional allies or friends of the Goons in the past.

As a result, while Stainwagon and their allies have been hitting the southern Drone Russian infrastructure in the back, Goonswarm also decided to attack DRF infrastructure by invading Cobalt Edge and taking on DRF pet Intrepid Crossing.  It's a clever move, politically, because it keeps Goons out of direct confrontation with the Russians and it puts them up against IRC, which like the Goons have a traditionally strong US timezone presence.

The battle that I linked was one of the opening salvos of this campaign, and was a more or less traditional shield BC roam into IRC territory.  The system where the battle took place, VY-866, is the gateway to IRC holdings in Cobalt Edge.  I happened to hear about it because one of the people involved was a former member of my corp.  Remember how I mentioned that a member of my corp quit because he was planning on joining an alliance that held "better space"?  Yeah.  Few alliances hold better space than Goonswarm.

The battle itself is interesting because the FC ran into this large IRC fleet as they were entering Cobalt Edge, and avoided the camp because it was too many ships to comfortably take on in a shield BC fleet.  However, IRC has regional intel channels every bit as good as any other large sov-holding alliance, and that intel channel was able to clear systems ahead of the roaming Goonswarm gang.  Instead of engaging it deep within their own space, IRC seems to have called everyone in nearby systems to join the blob and keep the Goon gang from escaping.  As a result, this relatively large Goonswarm fleet roamed throughout CE without getting any kills.

And instead of logging off and waiting for part of the IRC gang at their exit gate to disperse, the Goon FC seems to have decided "what the hell?" and Leroy'ed the fleet right through the IRC camp to get some kills, which by that time included two triage carriers.

A lot of FCs, when denied kills, will become more and more frustrated to the point where they will do just about anything -- even something silly -- to ensure that the gang comes home with at least a few kills.

As the movie Singles correctly points out, desperation is the world's worst cologne.  ;-)

Postscript: the Goons returned to Cobalt Edge the next evening and did a bit better.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The difficulty factor

My commentary about the PL Thundercat fit the other day drew a few wry comments from Pandemic Legion members on kugu and other forums.  My favorite described it as "charming, but sad", heh.  It also drew an absolute ton of comments on the blog itself, 23 as of the time that I'm writing this, many quite insightful.  Kamphamster, in particular, did a great job of laying down all the different factors that make PL successful in just about everything they do: their player skill and SPs, their FCs, intelligence network, tactics and theory-crafting, and fleet doctrine and consistency of ship-fittings.

It underlines a point I made in another post a week back, that I want to expand on somewhat.

Think of any video game that you've ever played, other than EVE.  Mass EffectCall of DutyStarCraft.  Even World of Warcraft.  I'll use Bioshock as my own example in this blog post, since just about everyone I know has played it.  But you can pick any other video game that you like.

When you first start playing Bioshock, you're given a wrench in game, and soon after, a very basic lightning attack.  The first creatures you come across are aggressive, stupid, and ridiculously easy to kill sub-humans called "Splicers".  You collect additional special attacks and additional weapons, including automatic weapons and shotguns.  In Bioshock, how to use these items and how to expand your character's abilities is explained to you in very clever in-game ways; in other games, you have manuals.  Your abilities make your character tougher and tougher, but the creatures that you're facing become tougher at a faster rate.  It's now a race, between the escalating difficulty of your opponents, and your ability to quickly and creatively combine the various abilities, weapons, and defenses that you've pulled together.  Before long, you're using these weapons and abilities to fight the toughest creatures in the game, Big Daddies.  The final few fights against these creatures are ridiculously tough, putting you into a situation where you are alone, having to escort an ally that is much weaker than you.  Then you are thrown into a final boss fight which is usually the toughest fight in the game, requiring all of your skills, abilities, weapons, and creativity.

It is that race between the abilities of your opponents and the ability of your in-game avatar that characterizes virtually every modern video game.  Even in games like Portal or Braid, where there are few or no external opponents, the environment itself slowly escalates in difficulty and the same race between your creativity in using your abilities, and the difficulty of the environment applies.  Video games get progressively more difficult the further into them you get.  It's a rule that we've all come to accept.

Except in EVE.

We all joke about the learning cliff in EVE, but the learning cliff exists because unlike every other video game in the known universe, EVE front-loads all of the difficulty.

In effect, EVE welcomes you to the game, hands you a wrench... and then almost immediately expects you to kill a Big Daddy with it.  Your initial few months in the game are the hardest EVE play experience you'll ever have.  The longer you play EVE, the easier the game gets.  And this applies every bit as much to EVE's PvP component as it does to its PvE component.

When most EVE players begin to get into PvP, they're usually doing it as part of an Empire corp's war-dec.  The war-dec will probably have been imposed on them by a pirate or merc corp living in Empire, and this enemy corp probably glories in preying on inexperienced Empire players.  The ship fittings available to this new PvPer are sub-optimal, if not downright awful, either because of lack of fitting skills or lack of knowledge of decent ship fits.  The FCs available to this new player are terrible, usually giving awful orders if they're giving orders at all... many Empire corp FCs freeze up mid-battle.  Their fleet doctrine is non-existent, their spy network is non-existent.  It is, in short, the most difficult PvP experience imaginable, not only compounded by the new PvPer's lack of experience, but probably creating bad habits in the new PvPer due to the lack of all of the things that Kamphamster reminds us that PL (for instance) excels at.

Our brand new PvPer and his Empire corp gets their asses kicked again and again and again, because he's facing PvP fights well outside of his skills or abilities.  The game is slowly getting easier, but it still almost impossibly hard.

Later, our newbie PvPer joins a faction warfare corp, wormhole corp, pirate corp, or the like.  In this corp, he is probably introduced to better ship fittings and tactics.  He probably gets his first experience with good FCs and decent fleet doctrine.  Things are still very difficult for him, because many of the ship-types being requested, he can't fly due to lack of SPs.  Many of the fittings for the ship types he can fly are out of his reach for the same reason, or because they are outside of his budget.  Even if he does have the ship type needed and the fitting desired, often he'll make rookie mistakes due to lack of experience.  But as he does gain experience, he starts losing the people around him.  The best FC in the corp is enticed to join Noir. or Rote Kapelle and leaves the corp.  Experienced players he was leaning on for support get disgusted with EVE and quit.

Soon, our newer PvPer is pressed into the role of being an FC himself... and fails utterly.  He lacks the skills and experience to FC properly.  Because of the departures of key personnel, his corp now lacks the proper fleet doctrines and discipline.  People are showing up to fleets bringing whatever they want.  The game is slowly getting easier, but it's still very, very hard.

Assuming our PvPer has the perseverence to stick out this ridiculously backward difficulty curve and reaches the very top of the PvP game, he'll himself be recruited by an outfit like PL.  He now has access to players as professional as himself as fleet-mates.  He has tons of great FCs to follow -- the best FCs in the game, in fact -- plus excellent ship-fittings, tactics, and fleet doctrines.  He also finally has the skill points he needs to fly all of the needed fits, and the ISK to purchase these fits.  His FCs even have access to enemy fleet doctrines, plans, and communications.

And who are the opponents of these elite PvPers?  There's no boss fight for them.  Instead, they're fighting players much worse at this game than they are, using worse fleet doctrines, worse fits, and without the discipline to be any kind of challenge at all.  And unsurprisingly, they wipe the floor repeatedly with these inferior opponents.

In short, EVE begins by handing you a wrench and telling you to kill a Big Daddy.  And ends by handing you every plasmid and heavy weapon in the game... and telling you to kill a stupid, overly aggressive Splicer.

This probably makes sense in some dark corner of Nordic Icelandic mythology somewhere.  Maybe.

Equal pay for equal risk

So, to follow up on the Sanctum/Haven nerf topic from a few weeks back.

As I've said several times before, my own alliance lives in Pure Blind.  The quality of the sites that can be run by ratters is defined by the Military index for each system in a region.  The higher the Military index, the better the quality of the sites.  Previous to the nerf, it was possible for each Military index 5 system (the highest rating) to receive two Sanctums and two Havens, both worth 25-35 million ISK each.  Upgrading a system is done through a series of modules that must be installed in the system's Infrastructure Hub.  The first few are small, but the last has to be brought in by freighter.  Each level of upgrade requires that sufficient ratting be done in the system to make the upgrade installable.  Alliances were therefore highly motivated to draw additional members to rat in these systems to increase this amount to the point where the expensive upgrades could be installed.  It costs 750 million ISK to buy these upgrades, per upgraded system, and once installed, you can't uninstall the upgrades.

Once the system is at Military index 5, people must continue to rat in the systems in order to maintain that index.  If they do not, the index falls and the highest end sites are no longer available until ratting is again picked up.  Since the lowest true-sec systems (which Pure Blind is full of) now receive only a single Haven, there are no longer enough sites to support the amount of ratting needed to maintain Military index 5.

As a result, ratting has virtually ceased in Pure Blind and military indices are falling like meteors.  As of this writing, there are three systems left in the entire region that still have Military index 5.  Providence has more: four.  For comparison, half the constellations in Feythabolis have more, per constellation.

This does leave a number of systems at Military index 4.  At this index, you receive three sites called Hubs, worth 8-10 million ISK each.  For my own entertainment the last two nights, I decided to compare the income a 0.0 resident can make running Hubs with the income an Empire resident can make running L4 missions.

Not surprisingly, the mission-runner won.

I kept the conditions of the test as equal as possible.  For my 0.0 ratting, I used three toons: one in a carrier (1200 DPS), and two in ratting-fit Tengus (725 DPS each), for a total of 2450 DPS.  For my L4 missioning, I also used three toons: one in a Nightmare (1050 DPS), one in a Machariel (1000 DPS), and one in a Raven Navy Issue (about 650 DPS), for a total of 2700 DPS.  In both cases, I ran flat out for five "ticks" of 20 minutes each: one hour and forty minutes.  It is my belief that the system-to-system jumping needed to run missions more than balanced out the higher DPS of the mission group -- the ratters merely had to warp from site to site, not jump between systems.  The ratters also did not have to dock at station frequently the way the missioners did.

In both cases, I did not attempt to salvage the sites.  I simply cleared them and moved on (turning in the missions as needed).  I declined only one mission, against rogue drones, and accepted several sub-optimal missions.  I did not receive any particularly exceptional missions, nor any Couriers, nor did I receive any Storyline missions during the test.

At the end of five ticks of 0.0 ratting, I received ticks of between 7.5 and 11 million ISK for two toons (the carrier was off-grid), for a total of 82 million ISK.  At the end of five ticks of L4 missioning, I received ticks of between 3 and 6.5 million ISK for three toons, for a total of 85 million ISK.  I also received approximately 25,000 LP, worth an additional 20-25 million ISK.  This is a total of between 105 and 110 million ISK.  Had I accepted only optimal missions, I have no doubt I would have increased this total.

While missioning, I never left 0.8 systems.  The ISK I made was essentially risk-free.

While ratting in 0.0, I was under threat of having my two ratting Tengus destroyed by roaming PvP gangs. 

...except that with the ratters gone, Pure Blind has become a remarkably quiet place to live.  During the entire 100 minutes I was ratting, only seven reports of hostiles were made in the Pure Blind regional intel channel.

Still, not exactly equal pay for equal risk.  The Mittani will be pleased that his favorite bugaboo is back for him to rant at.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fit of the Week: 4 LST Scimitar

[Scimitar, 4 LST]
Damage Control II
Capacitor Power Relay II
Capacitor Power Relay II
Capacitor Power Relay II

10MN Afterburner II
Invulnerability Field II
Invulnerability Field II
Cap Recharger II
Large Shield Extender II

Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter

Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Ancillary Current Router I

Warrior II x5
Light Armor Maintenance Bot I x4

I think I'll do support ships as FOTWs for the next couple of weeks.  With that in mind, I present one of my favorite Scimitar fits.  Scimitars have a truly silly amount of CPU, so you can be really creative about how you fit them.  They're quite versatile.  This Scimi version is the increasingly popular "4 LST" version, mounting four Large Shield Transporters.  In this case, I've mated the four LSTs with a really strong sig/shield tank.  My favorite Guardian fit has a sig radius of 70 meters in the right hands -- about the size of a freakin' thumb-tack.  This Scimi isn't very much bigger, at 90 meters, and that's with an LSE fitted!  Double Invulns plus the DC give this Scimi strong resistances across the board.

The Afterburner keeps sig radius low, allows you to maintain a lot of transversal velocity, and avoids the capacitor issues that a MWD fit introduces.  This way of fitting a Scimi would make it a perfect mate to the Thundercat Tengu fit I posted a few days ago, as well as alpha Maelstroms, or even sniper BC/HAC fleets (if anyone's still running those).  For a true roaming brawler BC gang, though, you'll probably need a MWD Scimi (a future FOTW, or you can take off one of the LSTs, put on your MWD, and go from there, hint hint).

Three Cap Power Relays in the lows plus the single Cap Recharger keep this fit cap-stable at Logistics V, even with every repper and active mod running.  And most interesting of all, this Scimi fit is not only useful for PvP, it's just as useful -- maybe even more useful -- in PvE.  Feel free to bring this fit into a wormhole, incursion, 10/10 site, or tough L4 mission (like the bonus room of Angel Extravaganza).  I myself have flown this fit in C5 WH sites and been primaried by a full Sleeper BS wave without having the tank break, though of course I had another logi in close proximity to assist.

A flight of light drones is your PvP kill-mail whoring option if you want one.  If you don't care about whoring, carry five Hornet EC-300s as a GTFO option instead.  Every Scimi should carry a partial flight of armor rep drones, though, to keep your tackler's armor repped up after big fights.  For PvE, your drones can clear frigates while you concentrate on reps on the heavy DPS ships.  Keep the light armor rep drones to keep your own drones repaired.

If you expect to encounter jamming, you can remove either the second Invuln or the Cap Recharger and replace it with an ECCM mod.  If you choose the Invuln, your tank will be quite a bit thinner (particularly to kinetic damage).  If you choose the Cap Recharger, you will no longer be cap-stable with all four LSTs running continuously but will still be cap-stable with three and can pulse the fourth.

Scimitars are the best of the logi options for small-gang PvP roaming, and you'll never be turned away from a fleet while flying them.  Better still, virtually every reputable PvP corp will reimburse your Scimitar loss to encourage you to keep flying them.  They're also incredibly useful for incursion-running corps and WH corps.  As a result, they're a terrific low-risk, high-value option for members looking to build a positive rep with a new corp or alliance.

Fly useful.  ;-)

Comment of the Week: Well-organized

A comment by an anonymous poster highlights the key difference between the NC and their enemies:
From a Industrial & PVP corp in a pet alliance of the DRF, with director roles and political insight:

I don't know if the NC are ready to failscade. I have no knowledge of the HC stress or morale of the average grunt.

I do know that we've been running daily raids on industrial lines, ratting space and mining space, disrupting their industrial base, for the last 3 months.

I do know that we've been producing capital ships (Dreads/Carriers) for the last three months and selling them consistently to SLORDR (Solar Legion of Red Death Raiden) for typically between 2-5% less than market, and that they are in turn taking these capital ships, breaking them down and reproducing them into supercaps, at an unbelievable rate.

The only way the NC could break SLORDR would be to break the industrial pet alliance base that is housed deep in drone regions. They've tried. But SLORDR recognizes this, and as soon as it's reported that there are more than 30-40 reds in a region, I start seeing SLORDR home defence capital ship pilots logging on and popping up in a few specific systems that are within jump range of key industrial systems and those reds high-tail it out of the regions.

I won't name names or systems/regions. Smart people can figure that out on their own with a cloki.

All told, this is something that's been planned out months in advance with pet alliances being asked to do very specific things. The whole thing is just extremely well organized.
Emphasis mine.

Thank you for the excellent comment, Anonymous!  ;-)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An impossible situation

Today, it's time for a short history lesson, where Jester Makes History Fun.  Are you seated comfortably?  Then I'll begin.

In late summer 1942 at the height of World War II, the German Army began what is widely regarded as one of the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare, the Battle of Stalingrad.  The attack was led by the German Sixth Army, under the command of General Friedrich Paulus.  The attack was initially very successful and at points, the Sixth Army held more than 90% of Stalingrad.  However, autumn 1942 set in with the city still hanging on in bloody house-to-house fighting.  The Soviet Army launched a counter-offensive in November 1942, and the combination of the counter-attack and the Soviet winter began slowly crushing Paulus and the Sixth Army.

The Sixth Army was completely encircled by January, and Paulus requested permission to abandon Stalingrad and break out of the encirclement... and was refused.  An attempt to relieve Paulus's Army failed.  On January 8th and on the 25th, the Soviet commanding General offered Paulus very generous terms of surrender, noting (correctly) that Paulus was in an impossible situation, crushed between the encircling army and the still Soviet-held city.  There was no chance for Paulus to succeed.  His army didn't even have winter clothing.  On both occasions, he again asked for permission to surrender for the sake of his remaining men, and was refused.

The bloody fighting went on and on, killing hundreds of thousands of people.  By 1943 January 30, Paulus informed Hitler that his position was hours from collapse.  Hitler responded by promoting the bulk of Paulus's officers by radio to stiffen morale, and promoting Paulus himself to Field Marshal.  No German Field Marshal had ever surrendered or been captured alive.  If Paulus surrendered or was captured, he would shame Germany's military history.  The implication was clear: Paulus was to commit suicide to prevent this.

Yes, that means that Adolph Hitler is the modern inventor of the "kill urself" meme.  Only he meant it quite literally.  This presented Field Marshal Paulus with quite a problem, particularly since he was also a Catholic.

Is it bad to laugh at the personal and professional difficulties of a man who died before most of us were born?  Probably.  But I'll give you a special dispensation usable for this case only.  Go ahead and laugh.

Paulus refused to commit suicide and to Hitler's disgust, he surrendered the very next day, January 31st.  The remaining Sixth Army surrendered two days later, on February 2nd.  Upon learning of Paulus's surrender, Hitler flew into a rage.  To his staff, he very publicly compared Paulus (unfavorably) to the thousands of Germans who committed suicide every year "even without being in such a position" as Paulus was.  The Russians held Stalingrad and recaptured the surrounding area.

Friedrich Paulus survived the war in a Soviet prison camp as a vocal opponent of the Nazis, and acted as a witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials.  He was released in 1953 and died four years later.

What does this have to do with EVE Online?

Nothing at all.  Nothing whatsoever.

A hearty congratulations to Fidelas Constans and Controlled Chaos on being promoted from guests to full members of the NC!  It's unfortunate that the fights in ZLZ and 7-K didn't go better.  But being encircled by 40 Titans and almost 150 Super-carriers with no super-caps on your own side whatsoever is what you might call an impossible situation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quote of the Week: Not invented here

I'm a big fan of snark, and this week's Quote of the Week, from Herschel Yamamoto on Failheap Challenge, contains a ton of it:
I don't give a shit if they download their engine from the Matrix. Their job is to give us as much cool content as they can per unit dev time, not to sperg about doing something the hard way. You can bore a tunnel with a spoon, and it's really hard, but that doesn't make you a better person for doing it, it makes you a goddamn retard. CCP has the same problem. Given the choice between 72000 hours on Evegategate and a man-week on integrating VBulletin, they always choose to do it the hard way for no good reason. Don't defend not-invented-here :psyccp: stupidity.
Despite being directly mentioned, the topic at hand wasn't the forum mess.  It was the Captain's Quarters test on Duality.  It's clear that everything in it was built pretty much from scratch by CCP.

I spent a good bit of time kicking the CQ around over the weekend, and there's some very good news here: CQ doesn't appear to break anything that we've become used to.  The 30 second and 60 second timers that I mentioned in my blog entry last week are intact.  Despite being "non-optimized" code, the balcony environment seems to load slightly faster than the current hangar environment.  And your menu is right there where you expect it to be.  You can look at your toon while you select the Fittings, Items, or Ships buttons, or the Station Information window for your agents, do what you have to do, and get un-docked again in a twinkling.

So a definite tip of the hat to CCP there.  Rage avoided.  ;-)

The rest, though?  I'm going to have to agree with Herschel.  There's nothing revolutionary or ground-breaking here.  Certainly, there is not enough to justify the effort, time, and money that's been put into it.  CCP is indeed digging a tunnel with spoons, and it shows.  There were so many bugs in the display and function, that I simply couldn't list them all.  Even more than that, the functionality is... clunky.  And I don't think it's because of non-optimized code.  I think the final version is also going to feel clunky, too.  The CQ comes off as a fourth-year CompSci student's attempt to recreate the Unreal engine.  It works.  It would even get a good grade on the final.  But it would leave a true pro tsk'ing at the student's many mistakes and foibles.

And it would leave the other CompSci students grinning and wondering why the nerdy kid spent 650 hours on his project to get an "A" when they spent 120 hours on theirs to get the same "A".

Herschel brings up the expression: not-invented-here.  NIH, it's called, or Not Invented Here Disease.  Those afflicted with this disease will go to the ends of the earth to reinvent the wheel when it's completely unnecessary.  They can't stand to have other people's work in their masterpiece.  CCP has NIH disease in a big, big way.  The forums show this off, of course, and now CQ, but so does the massive amount of work they're doing right now to implement security around the API.  There are licensable products that would let CCP skip all this work, but Heaven forfend they actually use them.

And given how CCP's reinvention of the wheel tends to be second-string work, this leaves me with real fears about their new version of user authentication using those hardware security tokens they distributed at Fanfest.  Are they reinventing the wheel there, too?

It truly makes me wonder how much further along Incarna would be if CCP had just licensed the Unreal engine and started building Incarna off that three years ago.  Had CCP stuck to writing code for their game instead of writing code for the underlying engine of the game, would we be walking in stations already?

I'll probably have more to say about this broader topic in a week or so, because it's important, but I want to collect my thoughts a little.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thundercats are go!

A few days ago on the 20th, apparently mostly through luck, a Maelstrom fleet made up mostly of Mostly Harmless captured the Holy Grail.

They got their asses kicked doing it, but they did it.

As I mentioned, the DRF has again hired Pandemic Legion to attack the NC in Geminate.  The NC fleets were all set to see a brand new set of Hellcat fleets and afterburner Zealots.  But no, apparently while they've been down south in Delve, PL has come up with something new: a Tengu fit that they've christened the Thundercat.  Now I was under the impression that PL had nothing but disdain for missile ships.

Yeah, they've gotten over that.

NC fleets had been seeing fleets of Tengus, supported by insane numbers of Scimitars, with Claymore and Vulture command ships in close support.  The combination of the Claymore speed and sig radius links combined with the Vulture shield resist and shield rep links, were making these Tengus all but un-killable.  The NC fleets could see they were operating on AB rather than MWD, but that and the fact that they were firing missiles appeared to be these Tengu's only weaknesses.  Their resists and EHP were insanely high.  And because the NC couldn't kill one, they couldn't take it apart and see how the fitting worked.

Well, this MH Maelstrom fleet managed to kill not one, but three of them, and in so doing, captured the Holy Grail.  Two of the Tengus were basic fits.  One was... and this is the only word that fits... elite.  Here's the basic fit: 

[Tengu, Thundercat Basic]
Damage Control II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II

Large F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
10MN Afterburner II
Explosion Dampening Field II
Photon Scattering Field II
Photon Scattering Field II
Invulnerability Field II

Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile

Medium Core Defence Field Extender I
Medium Core Defence Field Extender I
Medium Core Defence Field Extender I

Tengu Defensive - Supplemental Screening
Tengu Electronics - Dissolution Sequencer
Tengu Engineering - Augmented Capacitor Reservoir
Tengu Offensive - Accelerated Ejection Bay
Tengu Propulsion - Fuel Catalyst

Here's the elite fit:

[Tengu, Thundercat Elite]
Damage Control II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II

Republic Fleet Large Shield Extender
Shadow Serpentis 10MN Afterburner
Dread Guristas Explosion Dampening Field
Photon Scattering Field II
Photon Scattering Field II
Invulnerability Field II

Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile

Medium Core Defence Field Extender II
Medium Core Defence Field Extender II
Medium Core Defence Field Extender II

Tengu Defensive - Supplemental Screening
Tengu Electronics - Dissolution Sequencer
Tengu Engineering - Augmented Capacitor Reservoir
Tengu Offensive - Accelerated Ejection Bay
Tengu Propulsion - Fuel Catalyst

Don't even bother trying to get into the Elite fit unless you either have a PG implant in slot six, or you have Level V skill pretty much every support skill, including Shield Upgrades.  With the fittings captured, theory-crafting around the Thundercat could begin, and has been a source of a lot of analysis from everyone in the NC that has the slightest interest in ship fittings.

Those that have been reading for more than a week know that includes me.  ;-)

I am completely in awe of these fits.  They have no holes, no exploitable weaknesses... nothing.  The only real downside to them other than their relatively slow speed is the insane number of skill points you need to fly them.  But of course, PL doesn't have this problem, do they?  Nor do they have problems producing as many perfectly-skilled Claymore and Vulture command ship pilots as are needed.  Nor do they have problems producing as many perfectly-skilled Scimitar logistics pilots as are needed.  Nor do they have problems coming up with the 550 to 800 million ISK that each ship costs.  Other corps... other alliances have these problems.  Not Pandemic Legion.

With both of those command ships in place, the Thundercat does 550 kinetic DPS, moves at 700m/s without overheating, has a sig radius of 150m, is cap-stable, and has 84%+ resists right across the board.  The Elite version has 23,000+ shield HP.  The Basic version has 19,000.  All of this is ignoring any implants or boosters that might be used.  And PL is clearly using Scimitar watch-lists and having their Scimitars lock up every Tengu on those watch lists before they even get into a fight.  No need for attacked pilots to broadcast for reps; the Scimis just wait for something on their watch list to start flashing red and immediately apply their four reppers to it.

I'm completely in love with these fits.  A fleet of children... a fleet of complete PvP noobs... could get into this ship and win battles, as long as those child noobs had 50 million SP each and could follow an FC's orders.

So this presents a major problem: how in the name of Heaven do you kill them in large numbers?

Reciprocity (look it up)

I'll make this quick.

Other than Goonswarm, who are the biggest, most frequent, most successful invaders of other people's space in the history of EVE Online?

That'd be the DRF: the Drone Russian Federation.  There are very few regions of EVE Online that the DRF hasn't tried invading, and they've succeeded in a lot of them.  They hold -- far and away -- the biggest piece of the EVE pie.  Sure, the NC looks big, particularly if you add Goons and Test, but that's because the NC/CF holds regions which are wide-open areas of empty space with very few systems in them.

I mean, have a look!  The Russians hold space in 17 regions, from Geminate in the far north to Feythabolis in the far south.  And most of those regions are very tightly packed with systems.  Virtually every one of those regions, they took by force from someone else, almost always using their vast bankroll to hire Pandemic Legion or some other alliance to help.  Other than wormhole space, those systems have the lowest population density in EVE Online.  They're not bothering to exploit what they've already taken.  At this point, the DRF is invading people for the sheer joy of invading people.  Given the number of times Russia itself has been invaded in its history, the irony here is palpable.

In the last three years, meanwhile, the NC has launched one aggressive invasion that I know of, against these very same Russians.

And yet the NC are the assholes of EVE.

Yeah, yeah, carebear-stagnation-LOLfit-blob-lag-blah-blah-blah.  Save it.  ;-)  If you're fighting the NC, you're almost certainly coming into NC space to do it.  Hate to break it to you, but that doesn't make the NC the asshole here.  ;-)

Nobody ever seems to remember afterward when the Russians invade and conquer someone new.  I guess you don't remember unless it happens to you.  I myself have been on the receiving end of two DRF invasions... three if you count the current Geminate campaign.  So when some FHC posters began raging over Stainwagon's opening attacks on PL and DRF interests, I had to have myself a good laugh.  "Why are you helping the NC?!?!" some of the more amusing posts in this thread are basically saying.  Because obviously, the only reason to attack the DRF is to help the NC.  Obviously.  Obviously, the DRF has done nothing to warrant such an invasion.  :eyeroll:  A good post from a guy with a decent memory summed it up admirably in a mere 25 words or so:
The NC did not attack-A- and ROL a year ago, not to mention hiring PL and enlisting the Initiative in their efforts now did they? *Boggle*
Yes.  This.

What was the line in the EVE Forever video: "Your choice... always comes back around."?  Something like that?  Yeah.  It's nice to see on the rare occasion when it actually does.

Godspeed, Stainwagon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kill of the Week: Deployment can

Speaking of PvPers being pack-rats, let's look at our Kill of the Week:

Say hello to your average NC Titan.  Again, I'm not going to debate the merits of a DC or lack of DC on an Avatar.  Don't care.  ;-)  And yes, a Titan of all things should have fitted T2 Trimarks.  It's an obvious miss.  Don't care about that, either.

What I do care about is the cargo hold, and what was in it, and where this kill happened.

Here's a video of the kill:

PvPers are pack-rats, as I mentioned in my last blog post.  And when you capture big piles of loot, you tend to carry it around with you on deployments, so that you can fit it to PvP ships if you get one of yours blown up, someone lends you one that is improperly fit, or so forth.  Pretty much every PvPer in a large corp has a Giant Secure Container tagged as a "deployment can" with these spare mods.  You move your deployment can in when the war starts, and when it ends, you move it back out again.

The war between the NC and DRF/NC./Ev0ke/PL/et. al. is in Geminate, which means most of the NC corps that have deployed have done so to Vale of the Silent, where this kill happened.  I haven't had much to say about this war because I've only been peripherally involved.  Russians (and hell, even their U.S. renters, a lot of times) are long asleep by the time I can even log into the game, so I haven't had the opportunity to be on any ops out there.  But the momentum is swaying back and forth, as additional reinforcements for both sides deploy into the combat zone.

Kalorn from PL wrote a short BR of this Titan kill.  Propaganda aside, was this particular Titan deploying in, or out?  Couldn't tell you.  Still, one of the comments on the KB sums it up best:
Another NC Jump Freighter down
Oh wai~
In other news, having your capital ship inside a POS whose password is public is a bad idea.  Hell, having your sub-cap there is increasingly becoming a bad idea.  The KOTW this week was almost a Guardian that PL managed to bump out of a POS's shields, despite the fact that the Guardian (a ludicrously small target to bump) was orbiting the POS!

The underwear index

Let's talk about recessions a little bit.  First, fair warning: I am not an economist.  I have a basic college-level Economics training.  My professional life mostly revolves around helping companies deal with the results of a recession, not analyzing one from within.  Still, I've learned a thing or two about this subject over the years, so let's apply it to our favorite past-time: EVE.  Those of you who are economists, please forgive the silly little simplifications in this blog entry unless they lead me to real error, in which case, please correct me in the comments.

Recessions are generally defined as two or more quarters of reduced GDP: Gross Domestic Product.  A quarter is three months.  GDP, put simply, is the total economic output of a system... a country, usually.  But let's simplify.  Say you own a lemonade stand.  Every day, you sell 25 cups of lemonade per day.  Then for three days in a row, it's cloudy.  You only sell 15 cups per day.  On the fourth day, the sun comes back out and you're back up to 25 cups a day.  That's a "V-shaped recession."  Your output slumped, but it was temporary and short, and you're back on track.  Say you try to sell lemonade in the winter.  For that whole period, your output is reduced.  Now that's a "U-shaped recession."  The dip was longer, and it took longer to recover from.

Sometimes, you get an "L-shaped recession."  You sold 25 cups of lemonade per day because there were 40 families living within walking distance of your lemonade stand.  Except this summer, 10 of those families moved away because their houses were foreclosed on.  Now you only have 30 families living within walking distance of you.  You're now only selling 20 cups of lemonade per day, and it looks like that's how things are going to go for the foreseeable future.  That's an "L-shaped recession" and represents a "new normal"... a lower standard of living for you because of permanently reduced output.  A "W-shaped recession", or "double dip" recession, happens when you get two factors at once impacting you, causing output to oscillate up and down.  You sold 25 cups of lemonade per day, but then it was cloudy, causing you to sell 20.  Then the weather cleared and you were back up to 25... but then five families moved away because they don't like cloudy weather, and so you're back down to 22.

When geneticists want to study the effects of something in biology over the course of many generations, they use fruit flies.  Why?  Because fruit flies are small, and easy to care for.  But more importantly, it's also because they have very short life-spans: about a month.  You can track something across 25 generations very quickly using fruit flies, in only a two-year research project.  In the same way, the EVE economy operates very rapidly compared to the real-world economy.  Whole economic trends rise, plateau, and fall in only a few months time.  For example, ship types come into favor, are used hugely across the world of EVE, then fall out of favor and disuse, often in a period of time lasting only three or four months.  Dr EyjoG likes to put out Quarterly Economic Newsletters, because quarterly benchmarks are traditional in the real-world economy.  But  a "quarter" in EVE is really only about two weeks long.  The QENs are really looking at the EVE economy in 18-month slices.  You can see this when they look at mineral prices, and the trend for one month in the quarter is wildly different from the very next month.  That's really a full year going by in EVE economy time.

Real-world recessions generally happen because people lose their jobs and stop spending money.  Recessions tend to be self-reinforcing because as people stop spending money, companies that are hurting for business start letting people go.  These newly-unemployed people then stop spending their money.  This causes even more companies to struggle, and to let people go.  Pretty soon, you're in a vicious circle that can be hard to get out of.  As people stop buying stuff, demand for stuff slackens.  Companies respond by lowering prices, but even at these reduced prices, you see decreased sales volumes.  This reduces GDP and causes the recession to continue.

In today's economy, it's trendy to talk about the "underwear index."  The theory goes like this: even in a full-on recession, people need to keep buying food.  So while food sales will generally be unaffected by a recession, items that aren't necessities will see reduced sales volumes.  Alan Greenspan pointed out that men tend to ignore the condition of their underwear unless it's pretty freakin' bad, and if they don't need new underwear, they don't buy it.  He theorized that as you saw sales volumes in men's underwear going up, you could point to that as a pretty good indicator that things were starting to pick up, even in a recession.  On the reverse end, he further pointed out that when men stop buying underwear and you see a sales dip, even when the economy seems healthy, you know you're at the start of a recession.  It's a fun little theory, and it seems to track well with real life.

Now of course, in EVE, we don't need food.  And we (currently) don't need underwear.  What we're building, buying, and selling are ships.  Ships don't need food or underwear, either.

But they do need ammo and other charges.  No matter what you're doing in EVE, you're probably spending ammo or charges to do it.  That's our food equivalent.  What's underwear?  I believe rigs are EVE's underwear.  Stay with me for a second.

When a PvPer blows up an enemy's ship, or a ratter kills a rat, all sorts of items drop.  Sometimes, the collector of this loot hoards it, sometimes they fit these items to their own ships, sometimes they sell these mods or melt them down.  But one of the key items that never drops are rigs.  Completed rigs never drop as loot.  Rigs aren't useful for compression, either.  A rig takes up way more space then the salvage components that it's made from.  There's only one thing you can do with a rig: mount it on a ship.  So while mods can be bought and sold for melting, and so can ships, rigs never can.  Every time a rig is sold, that represents a ship that's going to be built and fitted in the near future.

That means that rigs should be a good economic indicator of ship-building in EVE: that's EVE's underwear index.  Therefore, a slump in the sale of rigs should represent a slump in ship-building.  As demand for rigs falls, we should see prices slacken as well.  These might be good indicators of a coming recession in EVE's economy.  So... is that happening?

A week or so ago, I mentioned my theory that we're starting to see down-stream effects from the elimination of havens and sanctums.  That patch hit with Incursion 1.4, on April 6.  Here's the price in Jita over the last 30 days of a Small Projectile Burst Aerator I, a very common PvP rig:

Can't see the curve?  Let's take a look at the same rig in a smaller market over the same date range, like Rens:

Beautiful curve, don't you think?  A real-world economist would love to get a curve that clear-cut for a research paper.  Check out the dates at the top.  Remember: the full effects of the sanctum nerf were known several days before it hit.  I could post a half-dozen more PvP rig types, but feel free to check for yourself.  The prices of rigs are currently dropping, and demand is off.

The next thing you need to build a ship are mods.  Now, PvPers are pack-rats.  There isn't a PvPer I know that doesn't have a stock of looted mods somewhere: piles and piles of Large Shield Extenders, shield and armor hardeners, armor plates of various sizes, Damage Controls, points and scrams... the list goes on.  The thing you invariably don't loot enough of, though, are guns.  You almost always have to buy at least a few guns to fit out a new PvP ship.  After that, you can usually finish out the fitting with your purchased rigs and your can of looted mods.  So, are the prices of guns dropping?

Here's 425mm Autocannon IIs in Jita, one of the most popular PvP weapons:

That curve is trailing rigs by about 9 days.  Again, look at the green bars denoting volume, too.  Other guns are starting to show similar curves.  Prices of rigs are off, and demand is starting to slacken.  Prices of guns are just starting to fall, and so is demand for them.  Ammo is still fine, because everyone needs ammo.

So does this mean EVE is headed for a recession?  The data doesn't support that conclusion... yet.  This is only one "EVE quarter" worth of data.  You need at least two quarters worth of reduced GDP to declare a recession.  But these curves definitely bear watching.  A good mod to start keeping an eye on is probably the Invulnerability Field II.  After guns, this is a mod that PvPers run out of pretty quickly, and ratters, wormhole specialists, and incursion-runners need them, too.  If we start to see the demand for and price of Invuls start to fall, then I'll start to worry.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The best EVE Online players

As I've mentioned a couple of times on this blog, I've been spending a lot of time in Empire lately.  Mostly, I'm working on my notes for the third part of the Solo L4 Missioning guide.  I've been reminding myself what a few of the more obscure L4s are like, and learning how the L4 loot nerf affected some of them that I haven't run since that nerf took effect.  I've also received and run several of the new Storyline missions that CCP inserted into the rotation a few patches ago.  I've been strongly reminded of the long period of time that I was a full-time missioner myself as my main income source, and the time I spent guiding newbies through making a few tens of millions of ISK by running them.

Simultaneously, I'm having a running argument with some of the regulars on Failheap Challenge about this topic.  There are some there that still seem to believe that post-nerf, everyone in Empire running L4 missions is making billions of ISK per week, risk-free.  I think I've posted enough links to kill-mails of ganked mission ships for people who read my blog to know how I feel about THAT.  The conversation there is really annoying me because I can clearly recall all of the Harbingers, Drakes, Myrmidons, and even T1 cruisers that people would bring into L4 missions when I would run a weekly L4 mission group in Sturmgrenadier.  Either they didn't have the ISK for anything better, or they didn't have the SP for anything better.  A few of the people in that thread have a realistic idea of what L4 missioning is like in today's EVE, but most are stuck in the past, pre-nerf.

Simultaneous to THAT, all of my mains have now passed 40 million SP.  Ripard has passed 50 million.  Some of my alts are passing or have passed 10 million SP.  It doesn't seem that long ago that it was my mains reaching that benchmark.  But now, there's virtually no type of ship I can't fly, no fitting I can't make work, no mod I don't have level 4 or level 5 skill in using.  This made me smile the other day during one L4 when I tried to launch a flight of Valkyrie IIs from my alt's Raven for an Angels mission, and was reminded by the game that particular alt can't use Valk IIs.  I had just thrown them into the drone bay automatically.  But even though I now have what once seemed a huge number of SP, I can still remember what it's like to have very few.

A lot of EVE players lose that ability, but I have not, and hopefully, will not.

Watching my alt in that T1 Raven struggle through some of these L4s for the guide, when I could bring in my Nightmare pilot or my Machariel pilot and make quick short work of them, has helped me remember.

Who is the better EVE player:
  • the player that can wipe out a L4 in five minutes flat with a Nightmare or Machariel or Golem using T2 or faction ammo, with tens of millions of SP in spaceship command, gunnery, missiles, and engineering; or,
  • the player with 10 million SP total that struggles through it in his T1 fit Raven, 3% shield and 5% capacitor away from having to warp out of the mission, who perseveres and succeeds anyway?
Cartoonist Bob Thaves once famously said about Fred Astaire: "Sure he was great, but don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, backwards and in high heels."

Competitive diving is scored by multiplying two factors: a rating of the difficulty of the dive, and a rating based on how well three judges felt the dive was executed, on a scale from 0 to 10.  Higher numbers are better.  A forward 2.5 somersault dive, for instance, averages 2.4 difficulty rating.  If you score 7s on it from three judges, your total score is 16.8 points.  A forward one somersault dive averages 1.5 difficulty.  Even if you do it perfectly, the best you're going to score, ever, is 15 points.  The more difficult dive, even executed in only an average way, is worth more in diving than a simple dive executed flawlessly.

I'll grant you that there are certainly some EVE players out there who mission all day long, who have no interest in any of EVE's social aspects, who just want to buy that officer fit Golem and make it better and better and better.  Every MMO is full of such people, trapped in infinite loops.  They buy better gear so that they can do PvE more efficiently so that they can make in-game money so that they can buy better gear so that they can do PvE more efficiently.  Every MMO is full of such people.  They're flawlessly executing very simple dives, day after day.  It's fine... but not very impressive.

But I personally think that most people doing L4s are just doing them to make the ISK they need to buy skill books and ships to take the next step in the game, whatever "next step" means for them, whether it be incursions or PvP or wormholes or whatever.  And sometimes, they're having to warp off, or they get ganked, or they do something stupid and get their mission ship blown up.

And as long as they learn from their mistakes, I think that makes them the better EVE players.

If you're doing this right now, even if you're struggling at it: you are one of the best players in EVE Online.  Keep at it!  In what must be a display of Nordic irony, and unlike pretty much any other computer game in the known universe, EVE is a game that gets easier and easier the longer you play it.

Your perseverence will be rewarded.  The very same toon that can barely keep a P2 PI chain running in high-sec will be flooded with an embarrassment of riches with that very same chain in 0.0.  The same toon that has to warp out of an L4 with ten million SP will smite it when he has 20.  The fitting that is out of your reach today will make whatever you're trying to do much easier when you can fit it tomorrow.  The same trade process that allows you to turn five million ISK into 10 million ISK will probably still work to convert one billion into two billion, and will net you much larger gains with the same effort.  The 1v1 PvP fight that you keep losing because the other guy out-SPs you by a factor of five to one becomes a much more even fight once you catch up a little.

I think the same concept applies to fleet combat PvP, but that's probably a subject for another blog post.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fit of the Week: Special Boy

[Keres, Special Boy]
Damage Control II
Signal Amplifier II
Micro Auxiliary Power Core I

Catalyzed Cold-Gas I Arcjet Thrusters
Warp Disruptor II
Warp Disruptor II
V-M15 Braced Multispectral Shield Matrix
Medium Shield Extender II

250mm Light Artillery Cannon II, Tremor S
[empty high slot]

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Core Defence Field Extender I

Hobgoblin II x1
Hobgoblin II x1

The dice roll this morning came up "Gallente" plus "small gang PvP".  To say that this combination is becoming a lost art is something of an understatement.  I'll grant you, there are a lot of Myrms out there, tons of Arazus, and whole fleets of Proteus T3s.  And I've already done one fast gang tackler, the Taranis.  But I'm in an Empire mood at the moment, so instead of those (and one of each of those will likely be FOTWs at some point), I'm going to share a goofy little Empire war-dec fit, the "Special Boy" Keres.

You can't use bubbles in Empire war-decs, and Empire corp pilots that can fly a tackling Arazu or Proteus are pretty hard to come by.  But the skills for this little ship are routine.  Electronic Attack Frigates need only Electronics Upgrades V trained, and chances are pretty good even your corp's miners have trained that one because it's also a prerequisite for Covert Ops ships.  And while probers are certainly useful, often your corp's carebear players aren't the best scanners, either.  So, if they've trained for the Helios, tell them to spend three days training Electronic Attack Ships up to level IV, then train Propulsion Jamming to IV, then get into one of these.

The gun or guns you fit into the high slot are completely incidental... almost irrelevant.  Hell, find a gun in your rat loot that fits and mount that.  The critical items are in the mids, lows, and rigs.  Your carebears are shield-tankers, by and large, and so this Keres is a shield-tanking Keres.  The MAPC only requires Energy Upgrades II.  The SigAmp is covered by Electronics Upgrades V.  Everything else is both routine and cheap.  There are combat cruisers that cost more than this little tackler, way more.  And most of them require many more skill points, too.  ;-)

This little guy has two jobs.  First, it's one of the easiest ships to get into and fly that is also a superb decloaker.  A know a lot of corps out there have pored over that decloaking guide.  Here's a ship to plug into that guide that doesn't require the skill points of an Inty.  Or alternately, of course, it's a great PvP tackler.  It can sit far behind your heavier DPS ships and tackle two targets at a time.  Get two or three of these ships in your small gangs.

F1 and F2 on this ship become those two Warp Disruptors.  With EAF4 trained, those points reach out more than 33 kilometers.  If you've got a good fleet booster pilot in your fleet somewhere running the Interdiction Maneuvers gang-link (critical for high-sec war-decs) or if the pilot in this ship actually trains over-heating, they reach more than 40... maybe more than 50.  Scram range, if you trade one of the points out for a scram, is over 12, or between 15 and 20km if you have boosts or overheating.  This is a frigate, remember.  :-)  The SigAmp not only greatly speeds locking, it also allows the Keres to lock six targets at long range with Targeting IV, maybe even 8 or 9 if your pilot has also trained Multitasking.

In Empire war-decs, virtually every fight happens on a gate.  So, train your new tackler pilot to burn off the gate as fast as his little legs will carry him, hopefully staying out of weapon range of the other guy's ships.  This works particularly well if enemy corp is using brawler battle-cruisers like Hurricanes (and many Empire war-dec corps do).  As the rest of the fleet burns off the gate to catch the war targets, the Special Boys stay 10-20 kilometers behind everyone else, pointing two targets at a time.  Train them to call out their points!  Train them to run away if they get yellow- or red-boxed!  The Special Boy can out-run all but the most determined Inty pilot.  They can shoot their one little gun at the primary if they want.  They can even get creative and launch their drone, or assign their drone to a friendly.  But their main goal is to keep as many enemy ships as possible tackled.  Even with this going on, the hostiles might not notice or care about the little frigates out there keeping them from running away until it's too late.  The Keres isn't the most common boat.  ;-)

Anyway, you get the idea.  This is a fun little throw-away ship to fly, it performs a valuable service to an Empire small-gang, and requires very few skill points or PvP'ing skill.  It's a great starter PvP ship.  Don't bother taking it into low-sec or 0.0, though.  In those cases, or if the corp that war-decs you is using HACs, this ship is a flying coffin.  But HACs are still pretty rare in Empire, so as long as you don't have to deal with them, this is a fantastic little ship.

You could even use it in your own aggressive Empire war-decs, if your corp is into that sort of thing.  ;-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Captain's eighths

Here we go.  In about 12 hours from now as I write this, at long last, we're going to have our first look at Walking in Stations.

The key line in his forum post?
  • The look, feel, and general impressions on the Captain's Quarters as a replacement for the current hangar-view
Emphasis mine.

Oh sure.  CCP Tanis and the other members of the dev team will say that this is isn't "Walking in Stations."  It's just the first tiny bit.  It's one Captain's Quarters, on one station, on a test server, with no other environments completed or possibly even started.  The total distance you'll be able to walk might be a whole dozen steps.  But at the end of the day, there are only three numbers that are going to matter to the Captain's Quarters.  All three numbers measure time:
  • FOUR YEARS.  This is how long, in most estimates, CCP has been working on this.
  • THIRTY SECONDS.  This is the amount of time that it takes a mission runner to dock, complete an active mission, request a new one, accept it, change out hardeners, and undock in his mission ship while waiting out the first session timer.
  • SIXTY SECONDS.  This is the amount of time that it takes a PvPer to dock, wait out the first session timer, then drag a new ship to fly on top of the old ship, then click the undock button, then wait out the second session timer before appearing in space, ready to fight.
These are the only numbers that matter to the Captain's Quarters.  If these numbers have changed, how good the Captain's Quarters are won't matter.  If it takes missioners longer than 30 seconds to get undocked for their next mission, or God forbid, it takes PvPers on home defense longer than 60 seconds to reship after being killed, expect howls of rage on that forum thread that's going to make the 150 pages of rage over the sanctum nerf look tame.

Make no mistake: CCP is betting their company on those three numbers.

If you have to (::takes a deep breath::) undock, wait for the catwalk to load, walk down the catwalk, wait for a door to open, wait for the CQ environment to load, walk into the CQ, walk to a screen, bring up a user interface, select your mission agent or ship, wait through several more interfaces, click a Submit button, walk back across the room, wait for a door to open, wait for the catwalk environment to load, walk down the catwalk, and then look up at your ship to reboard?

Yeah.  If that happens, God help the Incarna team.  TeaDaze's ghost will appear and eviscerate them body and soul, and Tea isn't even dead.  ;-)

Out in New York, there's a new Broadway musical you've probably heard of: Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.

Traditionally, musicals on Broadway have several preview showings before they officially open.  These preview performances are intended to work out the kinks in the production, let the actors get used to performing in front of audiences, let the director identify and correct gaps in the marks, and so forth.  These previews are held without critics weighing in on the production in public.  The New York press patiently waits for the preview period to end, and only when Opening Night comes do the reviews start to appear.

Spider-Man is going a bit differently.  ;-)  It was supposed to open in November 2010.  Preview performances began.  They were widely panned on the Internet.  Changes were made to the production, then more changes.  Opening Night was delayed, then delayed again.  Then delayed again.  Yet more preview performances were scheduled.  There have been more than 100 of these now.  Finally, the New York press gave up.  Scathing reviews began appearing.  It still hasn't officially opened.  It won't officially open until June.

The producers of the show were outraged when the press reviews began appearing.  "We're still in previews!" they cried.  "When are you going to get out of previews?" the press replied calmly and reasonably.  The public's opinion of the show was already hardening thanks to the instant gratification Internet era.  The mainstream Broadway press was in serious danger of being made completely irrelevant.  And with so many preview performances, critics and potential customers weren't prepared to give the show's producers any more slack.  To be frank, they weren't going to wait around for seven months.

This is the position that CCP now finds itself in.

And they don't get to say "we're still in previews!" because everyone knows CCP has been working on this thing for four years.

They've only got one chance to get it right, and if CCP hasn't kept an eye on those thirty seconds and those sixty seconds, then whatever they have been keeping an eye on for the last four years isn't going to matter.

More on this topic in a day or two, after I've tried it out, but I've got my fingers crossed.  ;-)  I really want this to succeed.  As I've said already, EVE needs it.

Planetary distraction

To follow up on my PI posts from the other day, I finally got a set-up together that doesn't seem too fail:
  • Planet 1 (Gas): ECUs/BIFs/AIFs producing 10/hour of Coolant.
  • Planet 2 (Barren): ECUs/BIFs/AIFs producing 10/hour of Mech Parts.
  • Planet 3 (Barren): ECUs/BIFs/AIFs producing 10/hour of Mech Parts.  These get routed to...
  • Planet 4 (Lava): ECUs/BIFs/AIFs producing 10/hour of Consumer Electronics.  These plus the Mech Parts from planet three go into an AIF producing 3/hour of Robotics.
  • Planet 5 (Plasma): ECUs/BIFs/AIFs producing 10/hour of Enriched Uranium.
All Command Centers are upgraded four levels (don't have the skill for five), and all of them are at 98% or more grid.  I'm continuing to use 23 hour cycles by default, shifting to faster cycles on those occasions when I have the time to micro-manage it a little.

I still say whomever came up with the user interface needs to be taken outside and have the fail beaten out of him.  :-P  It's bad.  Comically bad.  Epically, heroically bad.  It's like someone specifically set out to design the least intuitive, least friendly interface possible.  And I'm told that the interface for POS reactions is worse.  I've never done POS alchemy, but I can't even imagine.

Happily, I didn't have to rebuild as much of my initial matrix as I was afraid I would.  It's not optimal in terms of power use, but it's low-maintenance and low logistics for the month or so that I'm going to let it run.  Once I primed the pump on planet 4 with a big cache of starter Mech Parts, I shouldn't have to visit the planets in person more than three times all month.  As output product gets produced, looks like I can remotely boost it into space to the customs office and forget about it until I'm ready to pick it up.  I'm finding I can get 10k-12k raw materials/hour in high-sec, which gets routed to 4 BIFs, then to 2 AIFs.  Downside is that in high-sec, 12k appears to be the reasonable maximum for production off one planet.  Hopefully, my system will work even better when I move it to 0.0.

So, overall: 10 EU/hour, 3 Robotics/hour, 10 Coolant/hour, 10 Mech Parts/hour.  280 million a month * about 80-85% efficiency expected = 224-238 million/month if I kept this system running as it is now, if my math is accurate.

I'm no longer producing every type of POS fuel, though.  No Oxygen.  Couldn't fit one more ECU and BIF to fit on the Gas planet, and still have sufficient heads to pull the raw materials for the Coolant.  I can make it work on a 0.0 planet on SiSi, but the extraction rate on high-sec planets is just too poor.

I'll have more to say about it in a day or two, but I'm coming to a realization that the best players in EVE aren't living in 0.0.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Quote of the Week: Show me on the doll

Some context for this quote is in order.  Over the weekend, some alliance-mates and I were chit-chatting about various aspects of the game.  Someone brought up faction warfare, and asked if anyone knew what it was about and how it worked.  I've done a bit of FW, so I explained how it worked for a minute or so, going into some of the good (LP for PvP!) and the bad (pretty much everything else!).  I gave my opinion that FW was a good idea, but riddled by sloppy execution and lack of iteration.  Then, I finished up by saying "like so many other parts of the game, CCP released it with great fanfare, and hasn't touched it since."

To which one of my alliance-mates replied...
No, they just touch all the things that people like, and make them worse.
...a comment that got a lot of laughs.  ;-)  The comment was flippant and off-hand, but the more I think about it, the more I think there's a lot of truth to it.  Other than rockets, can anyone remember any existing in-game feature that CCP has buffed since the release of Dominion 1.1 in January 2010?  Ratting space is worse, sleepers are much tougher, mission loot got the crap nerfed out of it, drone alloys were savaged... I can't think of anything that's been buffed.  Of course, the Noctis and PI have both been introduced in the last 18 months, but those were new features, not existing ones.

There were a lot of buffs to existing in-game features in Dominion 1.1... but I think the devs would like to have some of those undone.  ;-)

Anyone think of an in-game buff since January 2010 that I'm forgetting?  Or has every major change CCP has made to existing in-game mechanics been negative since that time?

Comment of the week: Constituency

I just started a new regular feature.  We'll see if I get enough comments to keep it up.  ;-)  But Bob's comment on my short post yesterday about American-style politics in EVE is a thing of beauty:
Ideally, when you elect someone to office, that person has an obligation to fairly represent all members of their constituency, regardless of how they voted. My city does not have party representation for seats on city council. We vote for people based on our thoughts on who would best represent us. Now that they're in office, we have a reasonable expectation that our councilor will listen to us should we bring a concern or issue to their attention, and address it fairly considering other interests of the constituency, without considering whether we voted for them or not. Ideally.

I'd like the CSM to be a council like that, where those of us who aren't full-time null sec residents can have our concerns considered and represented fairly by the council. Past councils made an attempt at this by taking issues raised through the Assembly Hall and assessing them and prioritising them and bringing them up to CCP. The current council appears to have no such interest. We have the top of the council and the bottom of the alternates both stating categorically that they have no obligations to any one who didn't vote for them. Since no one on the CSM is commenting otherwise, and given this council is so set on a "united front", it stands to reason that this attitude is shared across the council.

Before the councilors get too involved in representing a constituency of only those that voted for them, consider this: they don't have a constituency. The Mittani has spoken of business realities, well here's one to consider: 85.75% of the eligible accounts don't even consider the CSM worth voting for. That's 85% of CCP's subscription income. The 9 CSM councilors got 56% of the votes cast, so they represent only 8% of CCP's subscription income. If money talks, and in business it certainly does, a CSM claiming to only represent those that voted for them hasn't much to say.

If the CSM and CCP want better voter turnout in the future, they need to show the 86% who don't think the CSM matters that they're wrong. The attitude that the council members only represent their buddies that voted for them won't do that. Rather it reinforces the idea that the CSM is really the CSIM - Council of Specific Interest of the Moment.

(For the record, I voted during CSM6. The ideal of the CSM is worthy.)
Check out that third paragraph.  I hadn't thought of it that way, but it is 100% right on the money.  No wonder CCP Hammer thinks of CSM members as mavens, and representative only of that "player type".  Well said, Bob!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Down-stream effects

In my real-life business, we spend a lot of time talking about "down-stream effects."  The concept isn't hard to understand.  If someone shits in the river, it's only the people down-stream that are affected.  The people up-stream are fine.

Put into a more real-world sense, take gasoline.  There are five major steps to making gasoline: exploration, production, refining, distribution, and sale to the customer.  If the explorers can't find oil, then every step in the process becomes more expensive and everyone down-stream suffers.  However, if a major refinery explodes or is taken off-line, that only affects the people on the distribution and sales ends.  The explorers and producers are unaffected.  The oil that the refineries get is still relatively inexpensive.  But the gas stations, and therefore you and I, have to pay for the increased costs of refining.  Take it one more step up-stream: chaos in the middle east causes problems with the production step.  Now the refiners are down-stream also, and are hit by increased costs.  Those are real world down-stream effects.

A good friend of mine in-game left his 0.0 corporation a few days ago.  He's going back to high-sec and he asked for my assistance moving some of his ships.  He's a good guy, but not a very experienced PvPer.  He's still making rookie mistakes that cost him ships, and he admits this.  Still, he was having fun with it and the rookie mistakes weren't hurting him too much.  Like me, he lives in California.  After everyone else in his corp went to bed, he could run havens and sanctums for an hour or so to recoup his losses.

The system he was doing this in was -0.14 truesec.  He's tried belt-ratting and hubs, but his income is no longer keeping up with his losses.  He doesn't want to leave 0.0, but feels like he doesn't have any choice.

Another EVE player and friend of mine also recently left my corp.  He's a quite good PvPer, and extremely aggressive... overly aggressive, I'd say.  He gets great kills, but he also gets somewhat embarrassing losses... let's just say he flies expensive ships.  Come to think of it, I can't recall ever seeing him in a non-expensive ship.  Yep, just checked.  He's got 200 more kills than I do, but he's got more of each of HAC, Recon, and battleship losses than I have losses total.  ;-)  He also relied on ratting for income.  He's out of my corp.  So far as I've been able to determine, he's stopped playing EVE entirely, at least for the moment.  He implied to me that he's going to be joining a corp with "better space."

Ratting money didn't go to the big 0.0 alliances.  It went to the line PvPers, who immediately pumped that ISK into ships and mods, got them blown up, and then ratted to get more ISK to pump into yet more ships and mods.  It feels like that isn't happening right now.  A lot of good PvPers I know are suddenly a lot more risk-adverse.  It's suddenly become much tougher to replace that 150 million ISK Sleipnir.

I hardly rat at all; almost never, in fact.  What I do, though, is production.  I serve one large and one small market, both adjacent to PvP-friendly areas.  And in the last two weeks, I've taken a huge hit on my income.  My products aren't selling.  I've checked with other production-specialist players whose opinion I trust, and they tell me the same thing.  Sales are down right across the board.  This impacts my suppliers further down-stream.  I produce a lot of T1 and T2 items, including both mods and rigs.  To make these items, I buy thousands of units of refined moon goo; tens of thousands of units of zydrine, megacyte, and morphite; and tens of thousands of pieces of T1 and T2 salvage.

At least, normally I do.

I do this with four of my alts.  Two alts are market alts.  One has 45 trade slots, the other has 57.  Two alts are used for production; both have nine manufacturing slots.  Over the last year or so, a pattern has emerged and stayed very consistent.  Between my two production alts, I'm used to having one or two slots free each for special needs.  The other 16 or so manufacturing slots go into producing items for sale on the market.  For my market alts, both of them have five or six slots devoted to buying raw materials, and between five and 10 open slots at any given time representing sold items that I have to reproduce and get back onto the market.  Again, I've been doing this for about a year and it's my main income source.

Today, right now as I type this, both of my production alts have six open manufacturing slots.  Each.  Even more worrisome, between the 102 trade slots between my two market alts, one slot is free.  One slot is being used for buying.  The other one hundred slots have items for sale.  And they are selling... but at a pace roughly one third slower than they have been selling for the last year.  Six items I produce jump out: I make all six types of anchorable bubbles, particularly T2 bubbles.  I've only sold three T2 bubbles in the last week, and not many more T1s.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, my stocks of raw materials are full.  I don't need to buy anything right now.  I know for a fact that there's a guy out there somewhere who makes runs of Intact Armor Plates to one of the two markets I frequent, knowing that I'll buy them.  He and I have never talked.  He doesn't know me; I don't know him.  But he must think I've quit EVE because the number of Intact Armor Plates in that market is going up instead of down.  ;-)

Hell, I'm even producing runs of items that haven't sold out yet, in anticipation of the time when they will sell.

That's the first time I've done that, ever.

Now granted, late March and April are New Eden's least busy time.  The sanctum nerf might not have a thing to do with it.  One data point is not a trend.  This could all just be coincidence.  Once finals are over and the thousands of students that play EVE get back, things might return to normal.

But it sure feels like someone shit in the river up-stream of me.

Assistant to the Quote of the Week

American-style politics?  In my EVE?
I guess this is where I say "too bad". You didn't vote for me. You don't get a say in how I do things. Sorry if that pisses you off, but that is the way things work.
Nope, not The Mittani.  This time, it was two step.  The guy didn't even get a full seat and he's playing the "we won, you lost, STFU" card.  ;-)  Does this mean that Trebor's the only person that represents me, since he got one of my votes?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Onward Mittens Soldiers

So, I attended the CSM Fireside Chat today.

EDIT (16/Apr/2001) EVE Report seems to be first out of the gate with a recording.

For people like myself that have been following CSM6's activities, and particularly those of The Mittani's in interviews and on Failheap, there was virtually no new information.  Mittens opened the meeting with about a 10 minute speech on the goals of the CSM, the limitations they're operating under, and a few words on the first "spotlight issue", time dilation as a means of fighting lag.  The rest of the meeting -- two hours or more worth, I lost track -- was an extended Q&A.  However, most of the questions were pretty predictable, and covered the range of issues that Mittens has already covered during his initial three interviews.  Mittens repeated his positions from those interviews, often word-for-word or phrase-for-phrase.

Still, for those that haven't been following along, this was all good information and good to cover.  The turn-out was surprisingly small, though: only a few hundred people.  Mittens pointed out (correctly) that this will likely improve as the visibility of both the Fireside Chats and the CSM in general improves.

Mittens also got to expand a bit on what's planned to be the second spotlight issue: ship balancing and iteration.  The key phrase around this issue is clearly going to be "A Warship Is Not A Punchline" (I can almost see it on a bumper sticker on the back of a Rupture).  However, it's a valuable issue to focus on.  I've already written my feelings on this issue, and there's no need to repeat them.

The Q&A, in general, came off as The Mittani Show (he did 90% or more of the talking), and a lot of people noticed.  It was brought up repeatedly in the in-game chat channel that ran side-by-side with the Chat, and directly or indirectly referenced in two of the questions.  Mittens and a few other CSM members were quick to point out that the entire CSM is in essential agreement on the points they were talking about.  Given that the approach is going to be directed toward spotlight issues, as a suggestion: it might be a good idea to let one of the other CSM members take each of the new spotlight issues in turn and act as primary presenters during the Fireside Chats, and as a result, get some time in the sun.  Mittens taking the lead on lag is fine; he's the logical choice, in fact.  But Seleene would be a perfect choice for the ship balancing spotlight, for instance, since that's a signature issue of his.

Mittens tried to make the case again that the lag issue is a not only a 0.0 issue, but high-sec issue, and tried a new approach to convince people.  This time, he said that larger fleet battles in EVE would lead to more publicity, more people trying the game for the first time, and therefore, more players (and therefore more ISK) for everyone.  Even speaking as a 0.0 resident, I think that's way too far to stretch.  I suspect more than one full-time Empire resident laughed out loud.  Probably better to stick to just acknowledging this first issue is a 0.0 issue, and that future issues will be broader.

One item that came up that was new is that Mittens said he's trying out the new-and-improved new player missions for the first time by setting up a throw-away alt account.  I'm gonna go out on a limb and take a small amount of credit for that one.  I trolled him ten days or so back and said that while I agreed that Goons and TEST have a lot of experience with a new player's life in New Eden, Mittens himself had zero.  Maybe it's a coincidence, or just maybe he took that comment to heart.

Incarna came up only very briefly, and only as a "way to increase the immersion of the EVE experience" or some-such, which is missing what I believe is the goal of the Incarna team by a couple of light-years.  In particular, Mittens said that he was a bit disgusted being reminded that a new EVE player's first experience flying spaceships are the Ibis, Reaper, and so forth.  He said that he's going to pester the art team to come up with better-looking, "cooler" first ships for players to fly.  As I said, I suspect the Incarna team is thinking well beyond that, that the first experience new players are going to have with EVE will be looking at their toon in a crowded bazaar somewhere, without a spaceship in sight.

Overall, though, I was pleased.  I'm still not sure the approach of CSM6 is going to get any traction: Mittens and Co. very much have to prove to me they can do what they say they can do.  But I think the issues they're looking at are the right ones.  Many questions focused on ancillary issues facing EVE Online, and Mittens and other CSM members pointed out that while, yes, that issue should probably be looked at, no, it was not as critical an issue as the ones they're going to focus on.  That's the right answer.  So it just remains to be seen if CSM6 can communicate these issues to CCP in a way that gets them worked on.

I'm kind of doubly-pleased, though...  For those that understand U.S. politics, I'm kind of in the position of being a very rich businessman who votes for Democrats... but benefits when Republicans are in power.  If CSM6 succeeds, that's good for me: the issues they're focusing on are the ones that I'd want focused on.  If they fail, ironically, that's also good for me (assuming I want to run again next year).

Other, shorter notes:
  • Mittens really needs to stop referring to "EVE Online, the terrible game."  It just isn't funny any more, IMO.
  • Mittens (and some of the 0.0 question-askers) continue to demonstrate that they have no clue about the reality of living full-time and trying to make money in high-sec, rather than just visiting to buy and sell things.  Par for the course.
  • Trzzbk handled sorting out and asking the player's questions, which struck me as a mistake.  He came off as annoying, and made a couple of jokes that -- while fine for a Goon setting -- were inappropriate for this one.  Would have been better to have a full or alt CSM member to do this job.
  • Every single member of the CSM present had their name prefaced by "[CSM]" in their Mumble names, except one.  Guess which one.
  • Mittens flat-out called two questions "retarded", and used the same word to reference people not present two other times.  He was openly dismissive of a third question that he probably should have taken seriously, around botting and RMT.  Ironically, he handed this question off to UAxDeath, who had an amusing moment poking fun at his own alliance's reputation.
  • He didn't, that I noticed, bang on his "if-you-didn't-vote-for-me,-I-don't-represent-you" drum for a change, which was nice.
  • There was, for me, a highly amusing and ironic moment when Seleene (and Trebor, I believe) advocated for a higher voter turn-out in the CSM7 elections.  I suspect Mittens muted his microphone while they were talking about it so that he could giggle without being heard.
  • It was not announced, that I heard, who the Vice Chair, Secretary, or Vice Secretary are.
  • EDIT (16/Apr/2011): One additional note.  All CSM full members were there.  Three CSM alternates appeared to be missing: prom, Elise, and Darius III.
Mittens closed the meeting with one more appeal to EVE players to support the CSM by talking up their spotlight issues as they are made public.  Wasn't exactly orders to immediately go out and camp 6VDT, but the impression I got was about the same.  ;-)

Overall, the Fireside Chat was interesting to listen to, valuable, and a great approach to engaging the larger EVE player community.  Hopefully, they will continue on a regular schedule!  I'll post a link to the recording when it's made available.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kill of the Week: Presumed innocent

Kill of the Week this week is just fun:

For those not keeping up on the latest 0.0 news, the DRF has again hired Pandemic Legion to go after the Northern Coalation, this time in Geminate rather than Pure Blind and Venal.  Reports say the deal was worth 600 billion ISK to PL.  Guess the Russians are quite happy with all the new high-end sites the recent 0.0 nerf gave them.  They're again losing renters from the lower-value constellations, but the one thing that EVE history shows is that there's generally no lack of people willing to rent 0.0 space.  So I suspect those lost renters will be replaced and the DRF will come out ahead.

Anyway, if you've looked at the kill, you might be surprised to find that it's a PL pilot killing a DRF pilot.  fpshacker, the offending PL pilot, is quite a good solo and small-gang PvP pilot, in a variety of small ship types.  He hardly ever joins large gangs, and never flies Abaddons, Zealots or Guardians.  He joined Pandemic Legion about eight months ago, but that didn't seem to stop him all that much from one of his favorite past-times: solo-ing Russians.

And apparently forgot that doing so while you've been hired by those very same Russians is a bad idea.  ;-)

All kinds of comedy kicked off from there:
  • First, everyone seems to know, understand, and accept that Aleks Koko, the Russian pilot whose ship was destroyed, was botting.  That wasn't the first Domi Navy Issue that Aleks lost this week.  It wasn't even the first DNI that he lost this week, in R3P0-Z.  His own allies and corp-mates don't bother denying that he was botting.  Everyone knows it: he was botting.  As far as I can tell, you can travel to R3P0-Z right now if you wish and find him in there still at it.  If he was banned even for 24 hours, nobody seems to know or care.
  • Second, PL not only kicked fpshacker out, they declared him an awoxer!  For the record, you're an awoxer when you shoot blues.  Shadoo's post on kugu around this is quite amusing.  Not only does he lead the awoxer charge, but he goes on to casually state that there's no reason to get excited about botters because "I've yet to see an alliance in EVE without some".  Hee!  OK, Shadoo, thanks for the info.  Follow-up question: I assume that includes PL?  ;-)
  • Third and finally, the DRF responded to the the attack on Aleks by temporarily resetting standings with PL!  This, briefly, made PL and the DRF kill-on-sight to each other.  So, not only is the DRF defending the botter, they're willing to risk open hostilities with PL to prevent further attacks on their botters.
So, unless I'm missing something, that -- effectively -- openly makes botting and defending botting a DRF position.  And Pandemic Legion is openly defending that position through their own statements and actions.

I've already chosen my Quote of the Week for next week, but if I hadn't, this would be it:
Now that we killed all those former Atlas block alliances, the Russians and their renter alliances moved in. Detroid, Insmother, SP and Cache are macro havens. Thats (sic) all that is out there. You could fly through in pod and never see anything but macros.
That's fpshacker, stating a truth that everyone connected to EVE -- except the devs -- seems to realize.  "SP" is Scalding Pass, my old stomping grounds.

Here's the EVE News 24 coverage of the issue.

So... yeah.  This week's KOTW wasn't hard to pick at all.  ;-)

Yahtzee: "Massive waste of time"

So.  A new day, a new attack on PI.  I wouldn't be messing with this Skinner Box at all, except that my corp asked everyone to help.  So, I'm helping.

I decide on a new approach.  Instead of making the corp-requested items, I'm going to practice first by spending a month or so making POS fuel for a medium faction tower that one of my alts has in high-sec.  There seem to be a fair number of guides that at least attempt to be devoted to POS fuel, which should save me at least some pain.  Doing this in high-sec will allow me to concentrate on the process rather than having to do it while looking over my shoulder.  And I know that the system where the POS is, plus the system next door, between them have every planet type available.  Up to this point, I've been quite content buying POS fuel, but the temporary production of it will be a much easier metric of success, and a lower bar, logistics-wise.  After I get the hang of the basics, I can try something more complicated.

I've been pointed at the EVE University video guides for POS fuel several times.  Here's Part 1 and Part 2.  I've found these to be very useful on the back end, but useless for actually learning the ins and outs of the actual user interface.  The basic idea of PI seems very simple: quite literally, 1+1=2 over and over again.  That part couldn't be simpler.  Hell, in real life, making an arrow is one shaft, one arrowhead, and four feathers.  ;-)  But EVE's implementation of this simplistic idea probably couldn't be more complex.  Once again, when it comes to a UI, CCP fails utterly.  Thus, the splitting headaches that I was getting last night.

I decide to do this as simply as possible.  The EVE University guide says it's possible to produce POS fuel using only three planets, but doesn't bother explaining how.  But I know from listening to corp-mates that Mechanical Parts will be the bottle-neck.  That makes me a bit nervous, so I decide to start with something easier.  I know I can make both Oxygen and Coolant on a storm planet and that Oxygen will be very easy, so I start there.  I've got a few good storm planets to choose from.  From my attempts last night, I know there's a large Noble Gas pocket on one of them, next to an equally large Ionic Solutions deposit.  Will I get lucky and find an Aqueous Liquids deposit in the same area?  Turns out I will, and do.

Meanwhile, I'm bitching on our corp forums and Teamspeak, asking for advice.  One of my alliance-mates chines in: "the first few set-ups are horrible."  Someone else says "you can spend all the time you want doing this today, but tomorrow you'll realize you did it wrong."  This isn't comforting.  Someone else confirms it: "Doesn't matter what I tell you to do.  You'll still do it wrong the first few times and have to start over."  A couple of others chime in that they didn't bother re-doing it; they realized their first set-ups were fail but couldn't be bothered to redo them.  I'm getting the distinct impression that PI is not beloved.  Except by one guy, who calls us all names and says he's making 600 million ISK a month with two toons.  Teamspeak lights up: "How?"  "What are you making?"  "What kinds of set-ups?"  He shuts up and doesn't say anything else.  Oh yeah, very helpful advice, what?  ;-)

I do get bits and pieces of good advice, though, such as linking everything to the space port, forgetting about storage units for basic set-ups, and keeping the links as short as possible.  All of this has been confirmed in the various guides and tutorials I've read or watched, so that's good.  The storm planet set-up goes swimmingly.  I only need five or so of each type of extractor to get the quantities I want, and I wedge everything around the spaceport with no problems.  I'm thrown when two of the initial links give me error messages.  The links are congested, the game tells me, without condescending to let me know how to fix this.  "Upgrade your links," says Google, without condescending to explain how.  My headache is back.  I try clicking on the links, but because of the advice I was given about set-up, the links are very short.  I keep clicking the spaceport or the extraction control unit when I'm trying to click the link.  My headache gets worse: I'm being simultaneously rewarded and punished for keeping the links short.  This is so very, very EVE.  I finally figure out that I can double-click the links inside the interface for either item that connects them.

Weirdly, for the Coolant production chain, when I set the extractor times and kick off the job, I'm told I'll get about 12000 units/hour of the P0 materials.  But when I click on the actual Extraction Control Units, it shows half this, and then it shows half again when their 15-minute cycles actually start.  Weird.  Still, unlike last night, the ECUs seem to be doing their jobs.  I realize one of my mistakes last night was not clicking the little "Submit" button when I want things to happen.  I'd been treating it like ship fitting: once it's on the interface, it's installed, right?  That definitely is not the case with PI.  Nice consistency there, CCP.  I click Submit after each major step is done this time.  I keep having to transfer ISK to my alt.  This stuff doesn't seem expensive at first, but the numbers add up fast.

Link all three ECUs to the space port, then take more mouse clicks than is needed to launch a space shuttle to actually get things routed.  Then dozens more mouse clicks, in exactly the right order, to get the four Basic Industry Facilities and one Advanced Facility in place.  Make one mistake and you have to start that step over.  This apparently qualifies as "fewer mouse clicks" in the updated version of PI.  I hate to think about what it was like before.  One of the guides on my corp's forums says to daisy chain either pairs or quads of Basic Industry Facilities in a line leading away from the space port.  I can't for the life of me figure out how to do this.  Game keeps giving me an error message when I try.  Post a question on the forums asking how.  For now, just pairs of BIFs handling Water and Electrolytes fit around the space port.

Still, it's soon up and running.  A little rough, a little ugly, but apparently doing what it's supposed to be doing.  I've pushed the lever hard enough, and after a few minutes, food pellets start obligingly appearing in the space port.

Basic (and ultimately fail) Mech Parts production planet.

I repeat the process in the same way for Mechanical Parts on a barren planet, then frown.  The math doesn't seem to be working on the barren planet, but I can't put my finger on why.  I set that problem aside for the moment.  I only have one plasma planet.  Should I make EU on it, or devote it to Robotics?  The various guides I've been reading don't give me any clues.  Can I devote the plasma planet to EU, make Consumer Electronics on a lava planet, and then ship Mechanical Parts there to build the Robotics?  This seems to have possibilities, and I rush ahead in that direction.  EU production on the Plasma planet is soon up, as is Consumer Electronics production on the Lava planet.

Those of you who have way more experience than me in this who are already saying "UR DOIN IT WRONG" can shut up now, thanks.  :-P

I have some spare grid and CPU head-room on the lava planet, so I set up the Advanced facility to make the Robotics there.  And happily, I already have some Consumer Electronics and Mechanical Parts, so I can "prime the pump" and get the lava planet making Robotics right away.  I have Consumer Electronics because it's a component in several T2 invention processes.  Guess the researchers watch TV while they invent things.  ;-)  I haul 500 of each to the lava planet and export them down to the space port, feeling fairly clever.  The Advanced facility sucks in the Consumer Electronics right away, but won't take the Mechanical Parts.  Using the Routing interface on the space port to get them there doesn't work.  I start to swear, then eventually figure out that I can use the Storage interface to do it instead.

Good, check the math.  It's going to eat 10 units of both Consumer Electronics and Mechanical Parts per hour, so 500 of each is more than two days supply... and then I realize.

I need 10 units of Mechanical Parts per hour just to feed the Robotics production chain, much less feed the POS, which wants three per hour.  13 total.  Am I making that much on my one barren planet?  Quickly pull it back up in the Planet Management interface.  Nope, not even close.  I've only got one Advanced facility on the barren planet making Mechanical parts.  That's five per hour.  Can I double this planet's output?  The extractors can manage it.  But try as I might, I can't fit four more BIFs.  I certainly can't fit six more.  I've got Command Center Upgrades IV, and I'll be damned if I'm spending 18 days training it to V.  You already have 770,000 SP and you're lucky to get that, PI.

Then, it strikes me, and I'm horrified.  I can probably MINE enough raw materials for the needed Mechanical Parts on one barren planet if I devote it to that, but I'm going to have to concentrate on mining it there, then manually move the Noble and Base metals to a second planet to actually PRODUCE the Mech Parts somewhere else, like the lava planet or perhaps a second barren.  This is what the EU guide meant, but didn't explain.

A new, stronger, and entirely unpleasant headache hits me and starts to pound.

I'm going to have to tear down most of what I just spent the past three hours building and start again with a completely different strategy.  To make this work and be efficient at it, I need to concentrate on mining on my barren and plasma planet, then manually haul stuff from both of them to a third planet to do the actual production chains.  Most of the time and ISK I've devoted to this so far has been wasted.

My corp- and alliance-mates were right, damn them.

The title of this blog post is a reference to the Zero Punctuation review of EVE Online, which is a must-see for any EVE player, and a perfect description of trying to learn PI.