Tuesday 28 December 2010

WoW: why I love pugging

If obstinacy is the incest-made cousin of stupidity I participated in a cracker.

It was normal Deadmines and I was boldly tanking with my level 17 Paladin. With such high stakes, drama would seem inevitable and it duly ensued.

We killed the first boss and he dropped a shield with Strength and Stamina on. I rolled Need and so did one of the dps, a Warrior. I won but pedant that I am I voiced the opinion that dps should not Need on tank loot. No reply.

Onwards boldly onwards we trod, vanquishing the second boss with me casually checking the vote kick timer as we went and one of our dps heading off to pastures new when he won the resultant staff. The Foereaper 5000 having been so expertly despatched I initiated a vote kick for "Ninjaing tank loot" (Unusually direct for me I usually get people kicked for "molesting gerbils" or "playing one-handed"). It failed so I waited a moment and tried again, this time suggesting that he had been cruel to parrots. It failed again.

A party member pointed out that the offending Warrior was his nephew. I valiantly stood my ground explaining that it was poor form to queue as a dps, play as dps and need on tank loot. I realise this is a debatable point but debatable points are there to be debated and this was my way of debating it. I consider myself a master debator and have in fact been called something very similar to "master debator" on a number of occasions.

Adamant as they were that little Yakaz, bless his cotton hooves, was not to be kicked I suggested they kick me instead then. They indignantly told me to leave rather than make any such concession, for some people the delicate art of negotiation is a foreign and strange art. It was suggested that people like me are ruining WoW. I refuted this, saying that ordinarily I am a pleasure to play with and that I was merely responding to an attempt to ninja tank loot.

They pressed on with 3 people after I had Declined to recruit a replacement dps for the person who left. They defiantly bragged that Yakaz could tank, they didn't need me.

They died. Repeatedly. Amusingly the Priest admitted to not having learned the Ress spell yet. In the spirit of making them aware of what might have been I pointed out that I had learned my Ress spell. Smugly.

They then proceeded to entertain me by wiping or partially wiping on every trash pack. In the course of this they generated two greens which I was able to Need unopposed, while crowing about my new acquisition each time.

Becoming frustrated the uncle attempted dialogue again. He asked why I hadn't left yet. I replied I'm having enormous fun and I'm getting free greens while playing Eve on the other computer. Why would I leave? He replied that he's having the most fun he has had all day. I suggested that I might contribute such an entertaining and amusing incident to the annals of the Something Awful forums. Not to be out-done he declared an intention to lambast me on the WoW EU forums. Good stuff, see what fun these little spats can be everyone?

They wiped another couple of times and alas I fear, the sense of fun may have withered on the vine. He rather testily told me I was a child, acting like this because of an 11 year old needing on lowbie stuff. I forbore to say something snippy about the irony of using the word "child" as an insult while playing with his 11 year old nephew and instead replied:
"It's actually mature to teach children the correct way to behave towards other people."
"which I guess you haven't realised yet."
Him: "u r so lame"
Me: "I'm awesome."
Me: "Really."
Me: "You said yourself it's the most fun you've had all day."

At this point he called me a noob and him and his nephew left. With just me and the healer remaining I asked if he wanted to finish and I promised to play properly. We got 3 random dps - or wait, perhaps not so random. Although the uncle had been kept away by the karmic gods of battlenet the nephew was one of our dps.

We finished the run flawlessly and Ripsnarl dropped a blue one hander. I Needed and the nephew, a prot warrior, rolled last. I awaited his roll with some interest it truly would have been poetic had he Needed and won. Instead he actually passed and I got it which I thought showed considerable class and I hope in my small way I contributed to that exemplary behaviour. The Karmic forces of Bnet had not finished toying with us however because then we killed Cookie, he dropped a one hander for which I passed and my new protege Needed and won.

In the words of the immortal George Formby: it's turned out nice again int it?

Saturday 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Eve: Another contest for the artists

Heads up all you creative types for another Eve art contest. This time they want you to design a T-Shirt.

With $750 cash as first prize if you're talented enough to be in the running it's worth a shot. Closes Christmas Eve, best of luck.

I must say I really like this pattern of harnessing community talent. I hope they have a contest for writers soon though. I can't paint for toffee.

Monday 20 December 2010

WoW: Drawn back in...

Somewhat to my surprise (but possibly not to anyone else's) I find myself playing WoW again. I really thought I was finished with this game.

Part of the reason was getting a bit bored with other options. Eve I will love for years but much of what I do in Eve is about setting things in motion then logging off. EQ2 palled after I levelled out of the populated levels. I like EQ2 and I believe it beats WoW on many points (housing, assist mechanics, mentoring) and of course it's fresh to me where WoW was somewhat stale. But level 60 is a horrible place to be. You're a long way past the busy 20s-30s where dungeon groups pop all the time and you feel a long way from the populated level 90 end game. I'll wander back at some point. In fact I've periodically left then returned to EQ2 over the last 6 years even when I had to sub, I'll certainly be back now my characters are sitting there free.

So, what drew me back to WoW? Partly it was the blogs I read and the podcasts I listen to. There's a lot of buzz and Cataclysm has gone down very well with most people. They've done a good job. The blog that broke the camel's back was Stylish Corpse where Ysharros admitted that having decided to not play WoW she'd succumbed so I thought if she can, so can I.

My old account is foobar. I've forgotten what email address I used 6 years ago when I made the account. It's also almost certainly been hacked. To get my account back I would have to undergo a probably arduous recovery progress which would involve sending them photocopies of my ID and so on which I really don't want to do. I am very uncomfortable with the whole RealId direction anyway and despite my incessant cheapskating (or perhaps because of it) I'm actually not short of money to waste on games so I just decided to make a new account with less personal information, a more anonymous version of my name and a throwaway email. In the long term I don't want to be locked out of functionality for privacy concerns. Of course it does mean Blizzard directly profited from me out of its evil scheme with Facebook to monetise our personal information which is a tad annoying. I predict we're moving into an era where everyone online is called John Smith online. If that seems unduly paranoid bear in mind that after our recent student riots hear in the UK the police chief hinted darkly at long term damage to demonstrators' future careers. Big Brother is watching anyway, no need to hand him the keys.

So I made a trial account and started a troll. The 1-5 starter area is new and beautifully done. They've done a really nice job with the new lowbie zones (troll and gnome), so much so that the old zones (eg Tauren, Orc and NElf) seem very bland to someone who's already played them.

And that seems to be the essential problem for questing in Cataclysm from the viewpoint of a veteran. The new stuff is great but there are large chunks of the old and it doesn't compare well. To be fair they've pruned heavily but after playing the wonderful riding shotgun quest to get to the Crossroads it's a bit of a let down to get the 4 zevra hooves, 5 fungal spores, and swim to the bottom of the Forgotten Pools gunk that I've done a thousand times. If only those Pools really were forgotten.

A big change is in the availability of options to the questing though. I'm loving LFD pugs. Maybe I'll burn out but after a long break from WoW I'm finding both good groups and bad groups tremendous fun. Most groups have been good but I've met some spectacularly awful players. I tanked a RFC run where a druid in bear form with ress sickness kept using Growl to take aggro off me. Warriors are needing on cloth, hunters are ninjaing maces it's hilarious. My personal favourite was a SFK run I healed. The dps zerged in before the tank was ready so being a careful and aggro averse healer I kept the tank full while not healing the dps. (Otherwise it's easy to out-threat a dps and get attacked for spamming heals). One dps warrior took great offence to not being healed. Both me and the tank simply stopped healing him or ressing him and continued the run. It was a wierd parallel game of 4 of us doing the instance slickly and professionally with barely a hitch while every 5 minutes or so Rudeboy would catch us up, dps for a couple of pulls, rip aggro and die then start running again. He must have died and corpse ran back to us about 8 times (and of course ended the instance dead on the floor). It was delightful to feel I was educating a new player in why you don't swear at healers in caps the moment you meet them.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Eve: Don't forget to stop learning Learning skills

Patchday is today and many of us have been preparing for the patch by learning Learning skills. Don't forget to change your queue this morning to something that isn't a learning skill before the patch hits. Otherwise you'll be learning nothing until you manage to log on past the post-patch server blips because you can't learn a skill that doesn't any longer exist!

Friday 3 December 2010

Eve: Design a starship contest

A quick heads up for everyone that Eve is running a Design a Starship Contest. Prizes are pretty good - as well as a bag of swag which includes an ipad you get $900 for first place, $750 for second place, and $500 for third place.

Perhaps even nicer the winner's ship will become part of Eve. Considering the recent ship designs have been of really high quality - the Noctis/Primae, the beautiful Scorpion reskin - it means you will be in illustrious company if your design is chosen.

Personally I won't take part, my art skills are terrible. Well I might because every entry brings a gift from CCP but it will be a terrible entry.

But I really applaud this move - it's good for the fans, it's good for the sponsor (Deviantart.com) and it's good for CCP. It's good for the fans because it's interesting rewarding and exciting. Even non-participants like me will watch the contest with interest and cheer on any of my friends who take part. It's good for the sponsor because it's very high visibility marketing for a relatively cheap cost. The prizes are generous but I don't think they will cost even a small fraction of a Mr T ad while being every bit as memorable and considerably less dorky. (Yes, I did call Mr T dorky. This is probably related to the fact he doesn't know where I live). And it's good for CCP because the fans' excitement will spill over into the corporate culture and it's nice to have something to talk about that is positive. Plus it will keep the staff artists sharp, I'm sure there will be some fabulously high quality entries.

Eve being Eve I'm just waiting for someone to start scamming - I wonder how many newbies will buy a "shortlisted ship design" for iskies in Jita.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Eve: Incursion

A new Eve patch rolled out yesterday with a number of interesting developments.

The Noctis

There's a new salvage ship called the Noctis. Production of this rather superb if niche vessel is up to the players.

The first stage of the process was the procurement of blueprints. Fittingly for a ship made by Outer Rim Exploration (ORE) the blueprints spawn deep in nullsec. So a race occurred where players rushed to buy the BPO, fly it through nullsec and sell it for a fat profit in high security space.

Next was a matter of churning out the new ships to an impatient waiting market yesterday. At first the prices were insane with buy orders for hundreds of millions of isk. Those may have been manipulations (someone puts a stupidly high order up for a short while at the beginning then takes it down before there's any danger of someone actually selling him a ship). Then prices settled to about 140 million isk and have been steadily dropping since. They are now down to 56 million isk. (For reference my industrialist with PE 3, ie not very good skills, can make one for 49 million isk worth of mats). These are Jita prices, some people may have had better results in more obscure locations.

I got involved in the excitement but frankly I'd have done better to run missions in terms of money made. I bought a BPO for 600m isk, made half a dozen ships which I was able to sell at inflated prices but I hadn't prepared. I should have had the minerals at an industrial facility ready to roll. Instead I spent most of my play time yesterday buying and hauling minerals when I really ought to have been ready to milk the inflated prices by producing immediately. Still, we live and learn and I enjoyed it. I'll also get to fly a ship I made which is cool.

As for the ship itself it is likely to have several interesting effects on the game.

First it changes the balance between blitzing and looting. There is a point in a mission runners life when it becomes better to chain missions and get them done super fast rather than methodically loot and salvage everything you kill. This is known as blitzing.

As you progress as a mission runner you get quicker at beating missions but you don't get much quicker at looting. This means that at some point between being a newbie who takes 2 hours to beat a mission and a pro who beats them in about 10 minutes it stops being worth spending 10 minutes looting for about 10 million isk worth of loot.

The introduction of a ship that's super efficient at salvaging means it's now much better to loot rather than blitz. Those 10 minutes have become 3 minutes. For all but the most elite it will make sense to loot, even though the sudden glut of salvage from all the people doing this will depress the market.

Another interesting aspect is the murky profession of ninja salvaging. Up till now it's been possible for a bold ninja salvager to cherry pick people's wrecks, even if there's a friendly salvager on grid because they use fast ships. The Noctis has about 56 km range on its tractor beams and faster salvage cycle so it's very likely to beat the traditional fast frigate used by ninjas. In other words a battleship + noctis team can operate without worrying too much about a ninja on grid, the Noctis will collect loot so fast the ninja will get very little. The ninjas may resort to using Noctis themselves but that would lose them the advantages of their nippy little frigates which are very good at provoking, then escaping.

Learning skills

CCP are finally getting rid of the much reviled learning skills. I suspect the release of Perpetuum, a game that copied 90% of Eve but omitted this horrible mechanic, may have influenced their decision.

For the time being it's a good idea to switch to a learning skill if you possibly can. This is because you can learn at a very fast rate if you're optimised for the learning skill and then re-assign those points into something you would learn slowly.

For example one of my characters is mapped for PER/WIL. I've got him learning Clarity 5, a PER/WIL skill. He won't actually finish learning the skill, I'm just doing it to rack up points to re-assign. When the learning skill is removed I'll dump these points in something he won't learn optimally. As he's PER/WIL and will go INT/MEM next remap some CHA based skills would be a good place to spend my points. So I'm getting 2475 skill points per hour learning Clarity which I will spend on Social skills. If I learned the Social skills now I'd get 1650 skill points per hour.

For reference Learning skills are based on the following stats:

Learning, Eidetic Memory and all low level learning skills - MEM/INT
Logic - INT/MEM
Clarity - PER/WIL
Focus - WIL/CHA
Presence - CHA/PER

Sunday 28 November 2010

EQ2E: Good fix to the problems when downgrading your account

SOE has fixed the problem I reported that hit players who downgraded from subscriber to non-subscriber leaving only characters visible to which they had no access.

There is a Shop Now button in the centre of the log on screen. It offers a pared down version of the cash shop. You can buy character classes, race packs (of 3 races), silver membership, and additional character slots.

It's a sensible fix to the issue. Good job, SOE.

Monday 22 November 2010

EQ2E: $5 off Gold subs

SOE are following up their weekend of free Gold level subscription with a discount on Gold subscriptions, detailed here. It's $5 off the price but only if you upgrade by 30/11/10.

The free to play model of this game is emerging as considerably more subtle and sophisticated than first appeared. When Extended launched the blogosphere looked at Lotro's matrix and EQ2E's matrix and overwhelmingly came down in favour of Lotro. I agreed, in fact the only reason I picked EQ2 was because I much prefer it as a game and quite simply I want to play it more. If I'd felt more drawn to playing Lotro I would have been swayed by a more attractive matrix.

However, it's not just about the matrices. It's about the deals.

There's a lot of very clever marketing psychology going into the EQ2E business model. In fact it's directly drawn from Cialdini's very influential book Influence, where the world got one of its first glimpses into the underbelly of compliance psychology. This weekend has seen many of Cialdini's principles evoked:

- the free sample evokes Reciprocity. Hey these guys are being nice to you, why not give a little back?

- a spike in concurrency as people race to try the freebie evokes Social Proof. 50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong!

- the limited time for the $5 off offer evokes Scarcity as does the weekend length of the freebie. Gotta grab it now before you miss out, guys!

- free to play in general evokes the Consistency principle. Of course it's a great game - my time's too valuable to waste on second rate games!

- the process of MMOs in general and EQ2 in particular encourage the Liking principle. I'm a bit bored but I have such a great guild I feel I have to log in. (It's notable that unlike current WoW where people are often rather bitter about pugs EQ2E has a very positive and enjoyable pugging culture).

It seems that EQ2E has now slipped under the radar of bloggers and games journalists. No one at F13 is talking about it, the only blogs that mention it are those written by people actively playing, the press seems to have moved on. I think its numbers though, both the number of people playing and the amount of money the game makes are going to be surprisingly high. Their problem (challenge if you prefer) is getting people to try it. But once it's on the hard drive it is going to be very hard for people to lose interest. Even if a new shiny comes along like SWTOR or Rift people are still going to be tempted back for these special offer weekends. It's really innovative and clever marketing.

Saturday 20 November 2010

EQ2E: Free Gold upgrade this weekend

From SOE's site:

More features, more content and more fun! Free, for this weekend only
(11/19/10-11/21/10), all EverQuest II Extended accounts will be entitled to all
the perks of the $14.99 Gold Membership. That’s full access to seven character
slots, spell tiers, equipment grades, six bag slots, unlimited coin limitations,
eight shared bank slots, 75 journal quests and more!

There are a few quite odd aspects to this. First, it's been announced quietly and with very little notice. I keep an eye on the EQ2E forums and I've only just found out about it after the weekend has already started. There was no notice when I last logged in to the game a couple of days ago.

Next it has the potential for chaos. Sure, you can make new characters. However I don't think they've solved the problem I talked about before where if you're not subbed and the most recently played characters require a SC purchase you can't log in and because you can't log in you can't buy the character. So whatever you do don't jump at the chance of trying alts out and leave your account full of Froglock Paladins - you won't be able to log in when you revert to Bronze or Silver. (The workaround is to make sure your most recently logged in character, or second most recently logged in character is free or of a race and class you've already bought - you won't be able to buy it after your account downgrades but as long as there's a legal character displaying to log in with you can get into the game where you'll be able to buy races/classes/extra character slots).

The Gold upgrade offers three things which are of long-term benefit:

- you can upgrade spells to Master. Normally you can only upgrade spells to Master if you are Gold but if you upgrade them during the free Gold weekend they will stay as Masters after you revert to being a non-subscriber.

- you can use the broker. Fill up a couple of boxes with junk for sale and when you revert to non-subscriber it will stay on the broker listed for sale. As a non-subscriber you can't add to what you are selling but stuff you've listed will continue to be available. Every week or two you can check to see if there's some cash to collect.

- the other very useful thing is that you can tweak your AA slider. So if you want to have more punch than a character of your level would normally have set the slider to 100% and blast through some experience-rich content. Or if you want to accelerate your levels and don't mind being AA-light set it to 0% and grind some exp.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

EQ2E: 50% off or more off Station Cash

This coming week will be a very good time for the shrewd to try Everquest 2 Extended. Whether you're idly curious and don't mind spending a little to satisfy that curiosity, whether you're already trying it and have been thinking of spending but haven't yet or whether, like me, you've spent a little and are really enjoying it the upcoming deal is by far the best time to splash your cash and probably won't get repeated for a while.

There's 50% off Station Cash (the currency needed to buy just about anything) and daily deals. These effectively double dip so you can buy currency cheap but then also buy shop stuff cheap for a greater than 50% saving over standard.

Details are here.

My suggestion for casual players is spend $12.50 for $25 dollars worth of Station Cash. Plan on buying
- upgrade to Silver status (1000)
- race of choice (750 or free if you want to play Human, Barbarian, Erudite or Half-Elf). I reviewed the free races here.
- class of choice (750 or there are 8 free ones - I'll try to get a review of the free classes up later this week).

Now don't unlock anything immediately, play a freebie to start out. Just buy some cash then check the deals each day to see if what you want is discounted. If you got enough currency left over buying a guild for your alts is a good workaround for the storage limitations. (More fun though to keep your main in with other people). Buying an extra character slot is also a good long term choice, taking your 3 slot silver account up to 4.

Additionally you can add 250 Station Cash to your account by logging into Free Realms once. (It downloaded in about 5 mins for me).

So all told for $12.50 (£7.79) you'll get at least $27.50 into the paywall, more if they discount things you want to buy. That means you turn a game which is really good but almost cripplingly limiting in its basic version to a game which is really rather splendid and can sit on your hard disk for years as a very playable option.

The deal runs from 3rd-9th November. That encompasses both my birthday and Guy Fawkes Night so in the spirit of freedom:

Monday 25 October 2010

EQ2E: A bewitching seasonal event

In MMOland Halloween has started and EQ2 offers several events. You can look them up on ZAM but I'd suggest not doing so at first.

The reason is that we are presented with an instance full of mystery and suspense that is utterly delightful to play "as the designers intended". A haunted house.

I spent a very happy very old school half hour in the Haunted House running around stuck, in a manner that used to be standard in old school adventure games. My friend, with whom I was on Skype, got stuck at the same point for 4 hours. Good old-fashioned non-optimised gameplay.

Here are reviews of it from Player Versus Developer and Yeebo Fernbottom's MMO Love In.

Monday 18 October 2010

EQ2E: More SOE Marketing nonsense

I'm thoroughly enjoying EQ2 but their Marketing department continues to marr the enjoyment.

This time it's a Catch 22 situation created inadvertently by the ongoing design of the business model.

I had purchased a month's Gold sub on an account. As this account allowed me to create all the non-free classes I made several. I also purchased a substantial amount of Station Cash so that I could unlock them once my account reverted to Bronze.

After a month my account reverted to Bronze. I couldn't log in because the characters displaying were not free. I couldn't buy them, despite having plenty of Station Cash on the account, because the shop is inside the game and I couldn't log in. So I couldn't log in and because I couldn't log in I couldn't unlock what I needed to to be able to log in. Catch 22.

I posted on the forum, Smokejumper, Senior Producer of the game, posted to say I could fix it by subbing to Gold or by using some website. I couldn't find this website. Nor could the very expert Zam community manager for EQ2. Nor could the Senior Moderator for SOE. It didn't exist.

Ha ha, it gets worse.

I decided to pay for another month of Gold so I could at least get into the game and buy the classes. However when I entered the game and checked the SC shop character classes are not for sale - presumably it wasn't anticipated Gold level subscribers would need them.

I petitioned it and I got some half-arsed answer that there wasn't a problem since I was Gold now. Believe you me I sure as hell won't be Gold in a month's time.

It's a super game and I'm enjoying it but their Marketing nounce wouldn't fill a gnat's thimble. If I get too hacked off I could go and try Lotro for free - or could I? Nope, Codemasters still haven't released it in Europe. That particular debacle has lasted so long now that it's hard for people interested in European Lotro to have faith that Codemasters will ever get their act together - after all, they eventually passed the DDO ball back to Turbine after a year of dropping it.

Is it any wonder Blizzard is top dog? Sony, test out your systems as if you were customers yourselves. You can't keep asking people to endure account management hell just to play your titles. Codemasters, hire a minimum wage 17 year old with a GCSE in German to translate Lotro so you can get the game out. Or just push it out in English with an apology to speakers of other languages.

Thursday 7 October 2010

EQ2E: A five year plan

I've been building my EQ2E accounts with a view to having the ability to play it while not paying for the game.

My original idea was based around 3 silver accounts which would give me 9 character slots, enough to pick up one of every crafter. It's also enough to pick up most of the classes as per EQ2's original definition of class.

EQ2 originally had 4 archetypes split into 3 classes each. Then each class split into 2 subclasses for a total of 24.

In my opinion there are few classes where it's worth playing both subclasses. They're too similar. Even ones that sound rather different actually play pretty similar. For instance you'd think Ranger and Assassin are ranged and melee - but they're not, to dps effectively at end game on a Ranger you need to stand in melee range so you can use both melee and ranged attacks. And the Assassin has a number of powerful ranged arts.

Another aspect of using 3 silver accounts is that race packs come as a set of 3. 3 character slots + 1 race pack gives you the option to roll 3 different non-free races on your silver account.

In addition I've set up a private guild to get around space and gold storage limitations.

So here's the plan for 3 accounts worth of characters:

Account #1
Human (Free) Inquisitor (Free) Provisioner
Barbarian (Free) Berserker (Free) Woodworker
Erudite (Free) Wizard (Free) Alchemist

Account #2
(Sarnak, Troll, Dark Elf race pack purchased, 3 character classes to be purchased.)
Sarnak Fury Sage
Troll Shadowknight Tailor
Dark Elf Assassin Jeweller

Account #3
(Ogre, Ratonga, Iksar race pack purchased, Dirge purchased, other classes to be purchased)
Ratonga Dirge
open, will make this one an Armourer

I also have some Bronze mules, mainly as a way of sorting inventory.

I've decided to omit two of the crafter professions from my scheme. Weaponsmith makes very little that Woodworker doesn't cover. There are wooden versions of most types of weapon - Mage staff, Priest hammer, one handed Fighter, two-handed Fighter, etc. And Carpenter is mainly for the home decorators, for people like Saylah who have an artistic eye and a love of design.

Regarding the classes I have
Fighter: Warrior Crusader (Brawler is the missing one)
Priest: Druid Cleric (Shaman is the missing one)
Scout: Predator Bard (Rogue is the missing one)
Mage: Sorceror (Summoner and Enchanter are missing)

I've got two open slots so quite easy to round out the selection if I decide I'd like to try something I haven't got.

So how much will all this cost?

I inherited 1100 Station Cash on my old EQ2 account and have dipped into Free Realms on the others, you get 250 for setting foot in the game.

Total SC cost =

One Guild Charter @ 1000
3 upgrades to Silver @ 1000 each = 3000
2 race packs @ 750 each = 1500
4 character unlocks @ 750 each = 3000

Total 8500

Additional cost
1 copy of Sentinel's Fate for £4.95

So after the free points it's costing me about £58. If I find myself in the position of wanting to raid I'll probably go Gold for as long as I'm actively raiding for another £9 per month.

That's a pretty good deal for 5 years of EQ2. If I had wanted to I could have gone to EQ2 Live and had less restrictions but those same 5 years would cost me almost 10 times as much (about £540).

And I've actually spent a little more than the plan as I tried Gold for a month in the process of figuring everything out.

There's a truism that people who spend money in a free to play game spend more than if they had just subbed.

I also like just having it there if I want it. I don't have to argue with my conscience about whether I'm allowed to try Minecraft or free Lotro when it would be wasting my EQ2 sub to do so. I'm finding subs these days to be something of a straightjacket.

I planned this and implemented a lot of this before the recent announcement that you can buy extra character slots. I think if I were starting now I'd do a 7 slot Silver account with private guild. Slightly more expensive but any upgrades such as Sentinel's Fate or Gold would apply to all characters.

Thursday 30 September 2010

EQ2E: Sentinel's Fate expansion almost free on Direct 2 Drive

Direct 2 Drive are selling the Sentinel's Fate expansion for £4.95 today ($4.95 in the US). Even with the horrible exchange rate it's a really good deal. Usual price is £29.95.

The deal includes approx £4 of Station Cash which makes it cost just 95p for the expansion.

Sentinel's Fate is necessary to unlock the deepest AA abilities and to access the 80-90 areas and to level past 80.

Wednesday 29 September 2010


Ghostcrawler, Lead Systems Designer for WoW, has sparked a blogoclysm with his comments about efficiency:

"Posts like this make me very sad. You're portraying yourself to be at the mercy of uninformed yet tyrannical raid leaders who are quick to judge your performance based on perceived "tells." I know you need some basis to evaluate potential recruits or even pug members. But I do wish there was some way to turn around this virtual phobia of inefficiency -- this terror of being WRONG -- that we have managed to instill in our player base. I honestly think it's one of the greatest challenges facing the game."

No Prisoners No Mercy take it with their inimitable Chicago style. Tobold suggests solving the issue by rock paper scissors design. Gronthe is sceptical about developers accepting the blame. And Larisa seems worried.

Let me explain why players do this, why it's a design element that can be solved by game designers and why WoW is unlikely to address the issue successfully.

Why do players do this?

When putting together a pug raid there are a limited selection of data elements upon which to assess people.

Sometimes you can judge people by their name. I'm a firm believer that people who call themselves Aggromagnet or Wipejunkie are always being utterly unironic and should never be invited into a pug.

Sometimes you can have a short conversation which shows the player to be a veteran raider who understands his class.

You can judge people by gems and enchants.

But by far the easiest is to judge people by automated processes: gearscore is one method. From time to time talent checker mods have been written by players such as this one:

Scrub - Raidmember talent scanner (was TalentShow)
Some conversations in EJIRC led me to write a mod with the purpose of scanning and analyzing raidmembers' talent specs. Also being bored at work.

Hence, Scrub. Simple little mod designed to:

-Scan the talents of all raid members within range
-Display raidmembers talent triplet and dominant spec in a compact fashion
-Redflag talent builds that are clearly bad for raiding (<11 assassination for rogues, no instant attack for warriors, etc.) -Yellowflag talent builds that warrant a closer look (>23 disc, hemo, etc - things that may not be total fail, but are atypical)

Now raid leaders do not go out, generally speaking, with a glowing ambition to make the world a better place for everyone. They specifically want to succeed and with the maximum efficiency.

By looking at talent specs a raid leader does not just spot that you missed 1% of your maximum potential - he also sees that you don't know or don't care how to play the game in a cookie cutter way.

Building a pug raid is an applied sociological discipline. Like most sociology it fails for individual cases but can be pretty accurate for large numbers of players.

If you have a non-maxxed spec you may be less likely to know the optimal rotation. Less likely to use food. Less likely to use flasks. Less likely to have prepared by watching bosskillers or tankspot videos. Less likely to have done the fight before. Less experienced as a raider.

There are exceptions but the correlation between players who min/max by picking cookie cutter talents and players who min/max on consumables, players who have moved into min/maxing as a result of many raids' worth of experience is high.

That's why you won't get raid groups if your spec is 1% sub-par. Because most players whose spec is 1% sub-par do 50% less dps than the guy with the cookie cutter spec.

How do developers design around this?

Crowds of players function differently according to community size. That's why in less popular games you often find nicer, more tolerant people. And people are less polite when they perceive anonymity and a lack of repercussions. Not only is WoW the most popular MMO but it has designed in a reduction of community over its life. Cross-server dungeons and battlegrounds. Less world pvp. Faster travel. All of these elements are quality of life improvements that have side effects of reducing community.

In other games you see different behaviour. In AoC pug raids are really popular and take 2 of each class. 12 classes, 2 spots each. This is because most loot is class specific and the community prefers to share the loot evenly. This mirrors behaviour in Vanilla WoW - the class raids to UBRS. If loot is focussed on classes and raid size approximates the number of classes or a multiple then you get class raids.

In EQ2 raids are built around group utility. 2-4 tanks, 6+ healers, 4-5 enchanters, 4-5 bards, rest dps. This means on average, of the 4 archetypes you get:
3 Fighters
7 Priests
7 Scouts (4-5 of them Bards)
7 Mages (4-5 of them Enchanters)
It's a lot more uneven than AoC and has more issues with classes being fun to play but being unable to get raid spots or conversely being horrible to level but highly sought after for raids.

Much as I'm enjoying EQ2 at the moment from a design perspective AoC is ahead of the others. 2 of each kind has worked well since Noah built his ark.

Both EQ2 and AoC have a much higher standard of player behaviour and civility. People will stick it out through wipes, politely tolerate afks, are considerate with loot. The players are parts of small communities where getting a reputation as a dick means you don't get to raid. (You can take paid server transfers or name changes but it's very much a last resort).

It's not just the size of the raiding community. WoW has tried to keep its raid community small by not allowing cross server raids. But it's an experiment that hasn't worked. The process of community is gradual and is built up of little incidents and perceptions - by making 99% of the pre-raid game either cross server or solo WoW is finding itself without strong communities.

I believe that WoW's designers simply weren't expecting this. Players' notions of themselves as part of communities are established before they reach raid level and don't change even though logically the same issues of reputation, blacklisting and guild finding exist. It doesn't matter that there may be only 4 good raid guilds on your server and that all the leaders talk to each other about trouble-makers. Players have already set their behavioural norms in relation to other players before they apply to raid guilds.

Why WoW won't fix this

WoW won't fix this because the measures that have fragmented their community are hugely popular quality of life changes. They can't put these back in their boxes without severely alienating their player base.

LFD, instancing, epic flying mounts, instant travel are features WoW is stuck with. It's not Elitist Jerks who make casual raiding horrible, it's fundamental design decisions that almost all players applaud.

The solution, should you feel frustrated, is to try a different MMO which has raids in. EQ2, Lotro and DDO are free to play now. AoC as mentioned has excellent raid composition by design. Vanguard might be quite interesting if and when it goes f2p, I don't think it will be much fun before that as soloing to max level was pretty horrible.

Monday 27 September 2010

EQ2E: new trading site


It's new and so far a little empty. Go post some content and let's get this up and successful.

(I'm not connected, just appreciate the service).

EQ2E: Overview of the character races: 1 - The Free races

One of the things people seem to particularly aspire to when they start playing EQ2E is an unusual race. To some extent this is a perfectly normal and healthy desire to distinguish yourself from other people, basic individualism. But part of the perception comes, I think, from a notion that if you pay for it it must be better and that's simply not true.

I won't offer too much advice here in relation to aesthetics. You know what you like better than anyone else. Want to be a big hulking Ogre? Want to be an annoying giggling fairy?

The stereotypes in the lore are a little exaggerated. Fairies are very flighty. Gnomes are extraordinarily obsessed with complexity. It's very noticeable compared to WoW where there isn't really a distinctive Orcish voice. If you see quest text in WoW you wouldn't know the race of the quest giver. In EQ2 you quite possibly would.

Another factor to consider is illusions. If you want to play a fairy you can roll a Warden. At level 35 you gain the ability to transform yourslef into a giggling fairy that squeals while fighting. The guy I played with stuck doggedly with fairy form until he got me to complain about the high-pitched squeals and then, with some relief, turned back into a human.

Here's some analysis of the powers of each race, judged by their 3-4 starting traditions plus the extra ones you can develop your character with every 10 levels. A non-analytical list can be found here. Racial stats can be found here. Later in the game your stat numbers will be so high that it won't matter what you started as but early on the Ogre being 20 Strength points higher than a fairy is going to be noticeable on a fighter.

The Free Races


Humans are the best crafters. They can pick up 3 abilities that boost all crafting, one ability that boosts all crafting except tinkering and adorning and one ability that boosts transmuting. They get an innate ability to harvest faster. They get an innate ability that reduces the aggro radius of a mob, very handy when an aggressive mob is camping a rock you want to harvest. They can Call to town more often and pick up a 5% run speed boost and a sprint boost. If you are planning to build a stable of crafters you could do a lot worse than start out with a human. They are extremely effective harvesters in addition to being the best at actually crafting.

Otherwise their abilities aren't especially good. An ability like "increases Disruption and Defence by 5" isn't good because the classes that need a lot of defence don't use much disruption and the classes that use disruption don't want to be tanking. So, as might be expected, their combat traditions are mediocre because the race is so heavily oriented towards crafting and harvesting.

All of their starting stats are 20, meaning they are a little worse at any given career than a race that is more suited. Stat traditions are Strength and Intelligence allowing you to push those stats a little if you play a Fighter or a Mage.

Half Elf

The big advantage this race has is Tracking. Tracking is a great skill in a game where most of the time you're asking yourself "is that boss up?". Not only can you determine whether the boss is up but you can set a glowy orange line to it. All Scouts get tracking so this advantage is only useful if you are not playing a Scout.

The other innate traditions are pants. Sorry.

The progression based traditions are mediocre.

The stats favour Scouts and Mages. Traditions allow you to improve Strength or Intelligence.

I'd only really recommend this race if you don't want to buy a race but want Tracking on a non-Scout, possibly a Mage.


The outstanding Mage class. If you paid for a race to play a Mage you probably erred. They look horrible, they're not suited to any other class except as a gimmick but they make amazing Mages.

Starting Int is 30, they can take more Int as a stat tradition, their combat traditions offer things like Disruption and Subjugation (nuking and rooting) rather than Disruption and Defence. In other words buffs that complement each other rather than the pairs that only help one type of character (the standard Disruption package is Disruption and Defence ie nuking and tanking which no one really needs both of). Some of the traditions are simply better, eg +20% drink duration where other races only get +10% for the same investment.

They get pretty good starter traditions. 3 of them help your mobility - a teleport to a friend on a 12 hour cooldown (great for level 1 bank alts btw, no need to run across the zone to the bank), a falling speed reduction which helps with those cliff-leaping shortcuts and underwater breathing. The other is a vision which allows you to spot Mages and Healers. That is useful in pvp or if you are charming mobs (Coercer class).

Their good starting stats are Int and Wis, both of which can be boosted by race traditions. So in addition to being outstanding Mages they also make pretty good caster clerics (Templars, Defilers and Furies).


Innate traditions are +5% movement, improved sprint and a short duration buff that makes you immune to stun. Useful for anyone, the stun immunity is especially nice for tanks.

Progress based traditions suit tanks. Skilled Defender and Blocking Expertise are extremely nice for tanking.

Starting stats include high Strength and Stamina. Wisdom is slightly below average. Traditions allow you to improve Wisdom and Stamina. This makes them suited to playing Fighters. Wisdom (boosts resistances) and Stamina (boosts hit points) are solid tank stats.


The free races offer a great harvester/crafter race, a great Mage race and an excellent tank race. If you want to play a Priest then Erudite is a decent pick for a caster Priest. The main deficit is Scout. The only free race with above average Agility is Half Elf and their traditions are pretty mediocre. You could of course make your Scout your main harvester/crafter and pick Human. Scouts are excellent harvesters because they get stealth and fast movement.

Note that class traditions can be reset at an Acheivement Counsellor NPC. It's a very viable strategy to take movement and crafter traditions to start out then respec to combat ones for end-game raiding.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

EQ2E: Quote of the day

"It has to be EQ2X because an abbreviation can't start with a vowel."

Wednesday 15 September 2010

EQ2E: 2 weeks' progress

If it's been a quiet fortnight here on the blog that's not been for lack of game-playing. EQ2E has sucked me in, vortex-like, to its huge and complex world. It's even drawn in a couple of my friends.

There's a lot of flaws with the business model. It's one of the more brutal paywalls - very soon you are slapped hard with restrictions that have frustrated many people. Froobs have loot tantalisingly dangled before them like broke kids outside a sweet shop, noses pressed to the glass. Nor is it perfect from a developers' point of view - they've very clearly given away too much content. Buy Sentinel's Fate cheaply online and you've got everything. You can even buy it second hand, unlocking all content without giving SOE a penny.

In fact Smokejumper (the Senior Producer) admitted today that they've gone overboard with the content. It limits what they can do with the more bitterly contested elements of the business model because they're locked in to the force people to upgrade model rather than Lotro's system of options.

It doesn't matter.

The game rocks and like most MMOs it shows best when busy. A buzzing game is a fun game and if you like MMOs and aren't too wedded to one you should be playing one or more of the very busy main AAA MMOs that will be buzzing this Autumn: F2P EQ2, F2P Lotro, or WoW: Cataclysm. You'll have more fun than you would in a half-empty game.

I started off as a Berserker with the notion of soloing. That lasted until level 5 when I remembered Fighters were horrible with regard to downtime (actually that's mainly fixed now). I made an Inquisitor and as a starting character it's probably the best of the 8 free classes. Inquisitor is like an old school AD&D melee cleric. Plate mail, solid damage, almost unkillable. In addition to being a solid EQ2 class in general it has a particular resilience to the vicissitudes of the cash shop. Its main attacks are Alternate Advancment abilities (which Bronze players can max out) which replace spells (which Bronze players are severely restricted in).

He's now level 34 and a member of The Bronze Age, a guild which allows no Gold or Platinum players (although you're allowed to have other subbed accounts, just can't join the guild with them).

Then a friend joined and we started duoing rather obsessively. We blasted a pair of mages up to 20-something over the double exp weekend, tried out a Guardian/Inquistor pair and then, after doing a couple of dungeons, my friend decided he really wanted to sub. Seeing legendary loot drop and not being able to use it was too much for the poor snowflake!

Our latest incarnations are a Troll Shadowknight (me) and a High Elf Defiler. We both picked for imbaness. Shadowknights are currently the flavour of the month, very overpowered and function well without good gear. The Troll makes him really look the part - he's big, he talks loud, he grunts a lot, he blocks a doorway when he stands in it. He is what people expect in a tank and he's very easy for other people to keep track of. The Defiler is a shortage class at end game mainly because they're horrible to solo level. Of course since we're duoing that's a non-issue and they're really good and they look cool. High Elf is the strongest healer race which meant he had to do the betrayal quest. It was interesting but it's not really something most people would want to do if they didn't have to.

We've done a lot of crafting and agreed today to restrict the crafting and concentrate on adventuring plus one craft each (I have 4 level 30+ crafters already!). We have a guild set up which is just for us 2 and is basically for storage. In due course it will become a large building for him to decorate in macabre ways as well as a crafting centre and a teleport hub.

So against my expectations I'm subbing to EQ2 again. It's actually the fourth time I've started a subcription to this game. Maybe it will be fourth time lucky.

Monday 6 September 2010

EQ2E: storage workarounds

There's been quite a lot of concern about the limited amount of storage in the game. Here are some workarounds.

1) Upgrade to Silver. For a one-off $10 payment you go from 2 bag slots, 2 bank slots and 2 house vault slots to 3 bag slots, 3 bank slots, 2 shared banks slots (extremely useful for transferring items) and the 2 house vault slots. As Silver brings other benefits too it's worth it if you're going to spend some time in EQ2E.

2) Get really big bags. The biggest bags are, I think, 44 slots (T9 rare). These are available for Station Cash but you can also get them from player crafters in game. 150 Station Cash ($1.50) gets you 10 goes on the Broker, or you can look for bags on the broker just to see who made them and send that person a tell.

3) Boxes are just as good as bags. Boxes are now weightless meaning they are functionally identical to bags and the same size as the equivalent crafted bag.

4) Make your bags/boxes. Any T2 Outfitter or Craftsman can make 12 slotters using common materials or 16 slotters with a rare. A Carpenter or a Tailor can make much bigger ones.

5) Make mule accounts. There's no limit to how many accounts you can have so doing things like making 9 accounts for harvestables, one for each Tier is perfectly feasible. To mule you either need a friend to hold the items for you or to multibox.

6) Use your mules' Overflow. When a character's inventory fills up excess items go into overflow. A character is quite limited while he has items in overflow - he can't craft or harvest - but that doesn't matter on a mule. There doesn't seem to be a limit as far as I could see, I could keep trading items to him (so multibox or a friend's help is required).

7) Use your guild, donating is better than deleting.

8) Make a guild for your alt. It costs $10 for a guild charter and you need a silver account so a total of $20 has to be spent for you to do this. You only need this on one account, your legions of mules can stay Bronze and completely free while joining your private guild. You can store a lot in a guild. Unlimited cash to start with. There is a guild bank, it's basically 4 extra bags that grow as the guild grows. If you get your alt's guild to 30 you can put in guild hall amenities. These include automated harvesting bots that go out and harvest for you and a massive harvestables storage unit (150 types, up to 20K in each stack). There's an ongoing rent for a guild hall, I don't know how hard it is to keep up with if you have a high level character but I suspect it's not very hard.

9) Get a bigger house. House vault in bigger houses can be up to 6 slots (but the rent is higher).

10) Transmuting is both useful and saves a lot of space. (WoW players will know the concept as disenchanting).

11) Cash can (currently) be stored as high level fuel which is both expensive and sells back to NPC vendors for the same price that it costs. This may get altered by the developers but simply invest in some other commodity (eg rare harvestables or master level spells). In fact by "storing" your cash in commodities that trade on the player market you should be able to turn a decent profit, buying Masters when no one is interested in them and selling them on at a premium.

Sunday 5 September 2010

EQ2E: 2 mages are more fun than a sackful of kittens

A friend phoned today to see how I was and got persuaded to try EQ2E. We rolled mages.

Now the idea of a glass cannon is that you trade risk for reward in terms of dying more than most classes but killing faster. However in pairs mages mitigate their disadvantage in a number of ways
- the mobs die faster so you can fight things you couldn't solo.
- the mobs take more damage on their way to you so you deal a higher proportion of your damage while not being hit
- less spell stuttering
- if you are stuttered your friend will rip aggro so you can complete your cast in peace. This is automatic, simply a consequence of game mechanics.

Mages are very good at beating up large numbers of weak creatures and handle tougher or higher level creatures disproportionately badly. Most classes are in no danger from a mob a couple of levels higher but a mage is always vulnerable. Your tank is damage, if you mess up your line of sight or overpull or get unlucky with resists you quickly move out of the comfort zone.

Now what was so significant about today was that it's one of EQ2's rare double exp weekends. This pushed our mages far ahead of the curve. Normally if you start a mage you'd be fighting white and yellow con mobs (equal or slightly higher). Because of the double exp, enhanced by the free claimable exp potions given out we were mainly fighting blue and green con mobs. 2 mages nuking a weaker non-elite mob usually kill it before it reaches us, or certainly before we were in any danger.

We started out as all mages do with just a couple of nukes. Then when we got our root spells I would use root to control the fight. That lasted until about level 10. By level 10 we were hitting so hard there was no point shackling. In fact on some mobs if my friend got 2 nukes in while I got one Shackle the mob was dead before I could cast a damage spell.

At level 14 we got our Grandmaster spell. Now we had been overpowered with Apprentice level spells. Grandmaster took us to god-mode. Grandmaster is almost double the damage of Apprentice. We both took the area of effect nuke as our Grandmaster selection. So now we had super-hard hitting close range AOE with a built-in heavy penalty to resistibility.

This is where things became a blast.

We flew though areas pulling large packs of mobs. We got sent to a very tiny dungeon. Although tiny it was quite crowded. We vaped it in less than 3 seconds the first time then in about a second the next time (except the boss who survived the AOE long enough to require another couple of nukes). We pulled the entire orc invasion at Cragged Spine (except one lucky soul I managed to miss) to a big crowd and blew their socks off. Must have been about a dozen, all dead in 2 hits. Some poor sod was there soloing them. Well we did leave him one, so I guess things could have been worse for him.

As we finished the discussion turned to instances. It was only when I explained that Bronze accounts don't see chat that I realised I hadn't seen chat - we'd been so busy it hadn't occurred to me to even think about the other people who are playing the same MMO. I just hadn't noticed the silence.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

EQ2E is going to be huge

We make a lot of technical terms, features, design choices and so on but most MMO players want something very simple.

We want to have fun in a place that’s buzzing.

I think Eq2E is going to be huge, well it’s already huge with 16 concurrent instances of Halas reported over the weekend. I think it’s on course for Eberron Unlimited style results of 500% growth. What’s particularly fascinating is that the free server is packed full of people who have a current sub and can play the unlimited game but have hopped over for the buzz.

EQ2E has attracted a lot of criticism for its F2P matrix. Compared to the Lotro matrix that inspired it it seems unnecessarily harsh.

The EQ2E matrix is designed to drive players into subscriptions whereas the Lotro matrix is designed to drive players into cash shop purchases, with subscriptions as an option.

Weirdly once you adjust to the limitations (no mail, no broker, etc) you can actually play EQ2E for free for longer than Lotro. In Lotro after you outlevel the starter areas you must buy additional areas to continue. In EQ2E you can level all the way to 80 without spending anything.

I think that EQ2E will end up defeating its apparent purpose. In the end all that matters in MMOs is popularity. If you don't care if other people are around you're an atypical MMO player.

EQ2E is going to be really popular. People want to come play. And a key thing - it has the newbie fawcet that Sandra Powers talked about here. Everquest 2 is arguably the best free diku out there.

EQ2 Live is going to decline. It's lost its newbie hose. It's lost some of its players to Eq2E (and may lose a few to free lotro, to SWTOR, to WoW: Cataclysm). It can no longer replace losses. It doesn't take much for a raid to go from Just Enough People to Not Quite Enough people as I know from bitter experience in WoW. And once you start canceling raids because of non-participation you're doomed.

Now this is where SOE's restrictive matrix is actually really clever. SOE has always been a company that bends over backwards to accommodate players. Unlike Blizzard they tend to give in to player demands and whines. By starting off from a harsh position they can give in on various elements of the F2P matrix as players complain and as the EQ2E population and revenues grow. This is inevitable, it's how SOE work.

In fact it's already happening. The servers are currently down while a new feature is patched in. Restricted classes, originally entirely unavailable unless you transferred in off Live, are being made available for Station Cash. Forum noise will eventually get more restrictions lifted so that over time EQ2E gradually develops a F2P matrix that looks like Lotro's. And their reputation for listening to player concerns will be upheld and the Live players (who will lose by this) don't have a dramatic point of nerfage to rally around. Instead over the next few years people on Live will gradually move over.

And EQ2E will do extremely well. Traditionally most of us have recommended WoW as the place to start for new MMO players. There will be no point buying WoW when you can instead start with free Everquest 2 or Lotro. The newbie hose has been hijacked.

And all those high level players? Well the reason people love to raid is at heart about looking awesome. If you're in a game with tons of new people joining and going "wow, where did you get your stuff?" you get a good feeling. Jonathan Baron's classic article on why people play MMOs is as true as ever: it's all about shame and glory.

Sunday 29 August 2010

EQ2E: First impressions

I fired up EQ2E and was favourably impressed.

I have rather been holding off on trying EQ2E. The business model seems off-putting and I'm paying for Age of Conan until September. I thought about it today and I realised that although I rather like AoC it doesn't compete with other games and so I'll probably never subscribe. Therefore anything I do in AoC is kinda wasted because after September I'll be forever locked out of that content. For a casual game subs don't make much sense to me.

I am interested in 4 diku style games all of which I see as broadly similar. Purely on preference I would rank them:
1. WoW
2. EQ2
3. AoC
4. Lotro
In terms of the appeal of the business model I would rank them:
1. Lotro
2. EQ2E
3. AoC
4. WoW

In particular as I'm mainly playing single player games, strategy games and Eve and am also much busier with non-game activities a sub simply isn't justified. So I may well up playing Lotro as my main diku even though it's my least favourite simply because of the business model.

EQ2E downloads super fast these days. They really have done a great job on the streaming client.

The theme tune always touches me, I love the main EQ2 theme and it makes me feel like I've come home when I return to EQ2.

There's only about 4 races available but it includes Barbarian, Erudite and Human so 4 of the best. All neutral races. The only race that isn't there that I used to rather favour is Sarnak, the over-powered dragonmen of Timourous Deep. They've rejigged the racial abilities so my Barbarian has +5% speed and an improvement to Sprint which are awesome.

I went with Barbarian Berserker. Probably one of the worst characters to get a raid spot with but I don't care because I'm not expecting to raid. The choices were:
Guardian or Berserker
Templar or Inquisitor
Wizard or Warlock
Swashbuckler ot Brigand

All very solid picks, I'm not going to pine for the unavailable ones. Not like they're making us all play Monks or what have you.

I started in New Halas, a tundra region. It's rather like starter areas everywhere, it feels more generic than the wonderful Timorous Deep (which of course is still available).

The AA tree has the Shadow Odyssey AAs available, the first time I've seen that. So tons of choice there.

I have limited bag space but that's partially offset by them giving you ginormous bags. At level 4 I have a 24 slot bag (that I started with), a 12 slot harvesting bag (from the crafter trainer), and a 36 slot bank box (from the crafter trainer). So talk to the crafter trainer even if you don't want to craft.

Combat is fun. EQ2 combat is generally slower than most dikus but the Berserker is on the more violent end of the scale.

Overall I really like it. I loaded it up with the intention of playing for free but I can see myself spending $10 for the one-off upgrade. I think Lotro has a much friendlier F2P system because you can gradually earn cash shop points by simply playing and because the one off payment also gets you points. But I prefer EQ2 as a game.

With F2P there really is nothing to lose as long as you have good impulse control. This will definitely sit on my hard drive for years now. I may even sub at times to do some raiding knowing that unlike WoW when that sub lapses it's not all lost, I can still access my characters.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Warhammer 40K Online: design strategy

The Orks have begun trundling the titanium-armoured hype wagon down the hill and the community is pessimistic.

Lum is disgusted. Syncaine agrees. Warhammer 40K Online.net decided they were walking a legal tightrope and re-branded just in case Games Workshop decided to cease and desist order them. Kotaku are impressed by the hype video. Personally I thought it looked astonishingly like sci fi WoW, you could even recognise the WoW Troll and Forsaken models as well as the WoW helicopter. I also suspect it's time new MMOs stopped using the phrase "Next Generation MMO", it's become industry code now for WoW-clone. There's another video out too. In it you see heroic sci fi people killing Patchwerk and the deployment of WoW-style Harleys. In an attempt to pop one of Lum's blood vessels they boast that you'll be able to play space marines - you won't. Guess the guys making the hype don't talk a great deal to the guys making the game.

The basic problem is that while any sensible gamer would start from the premise that Warhammer Online sucked donkey balls and work towards not re-making that, these guys seem to consider themselves the inheritors of the great online Warhammer tradition of cloning WoW badly.

Maybe it was an interview question: “in your opinion is Warhammer Online the finest MMO ever made?” and if you laughed you didn’t get hired.

Sunday 15 August 2010

MMOs: reflections on the word "hype"

Hyperbole is the art of exaggeration for effect. As wikipedia has it:

Hyperbole (pronounced /haɪˈpɜrbəli/,[1] from ancient Greek ὑπερβολή 'exaggeration'), is a rhetorical device in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.

Hyperboles are figures of speech that are exaggerated in order to create emphasis or effect. Hyperbole is a literary device often used in poetry, and is frequently encountered in casual speech. An example of hyperbole is: "The bag weighed a ton".[2] Hyperbole helps to make the point that the bag was very heavy although it is not probable that it would actually weigh a ton. On occasion, newspapers and other media use hyperbole when speaking of an accident, to increase the impact of the story. This is more often found in tabloid newspapers, which often exaggerate accounts of events to appeal to a wider audience.

In geometry a hyperbola is a curve. Viewed with the edges down it starts low, rises to a peak, then goes low again.

In MMO hype is also a curve. There are rumours that a secret MMO project is planned, vague speculation on whether it will be a wow clone or a shooter, then excitement rises to a peak as awesome trailers are released and old game functionality is re-explained as if it were something new and special. Then the game comes out, you crash 4 times a night and people who can bunny hop well own you.

Don't believe the hype is simply wisdom. Hype is not there to be believed. It's a rhetorical effect, a trigonometric pattern that ends with anti-climax.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Eve: the future of PI

The current state of affairs

PI can be seen at the moment as an industry producing for 3 main markets:
- the POS fuel market
- scientists and industrialists putting up new POSes
- Nullsec wars.

At the moment the buzz is about POS fuel. Coolant has spiked as have Electrolytes. Either a great deal of this particular POS fuel is being used up or people are speculating. As there hasn't been a comparable jump in the other fuels used for POSes I think it's just clever speculation. All over Jita there are vast hangars crammed full of coolant waiting for the price to hit 30K, 40K or some such.

There are several reasons why speculating in coolant is canny. First most POS-owners are relying on diminishing stockpiles bought when it was a NPC good. Those will run out. Also war-based PI demand is seasonal and spikey. When commanders start dropping 10 SBUs per day all of PI will get really expensive then will collapse again. So even if the market were to flood with coolant it's likely that anyone left with a large overstock could clear it at some future date during a war. Coolant is produced on gas and storm planets and the producers are quickly learning not to set up on gas planets.

All the same I think now you've missed the bubble on coolant if you're looking to speculate. Other POS fuels will be more lucrative.

Regarding the other two elements they're rather dormant. Not many scientists are putting up POSes in the face of rising fuel costs and shrinking profits and war consumption is minimal and largely met by stockpiles.

The short term future

The future is WAR! Nullsec alliances, bored of stand-downs and ratting will brave the lagmonster and get busy during the later part of August and the whole of September. There won't be constraints caused by key personnel being away on holiday. There's lots of money and not much to do with it. Eve will surge out of its summer slump with an explosion of violence.

It's just possible that this will be facilitated by improvements in fleet battle lag. CCP Hammer mentioned they have several fixes in mind that they would deploy between Tyrannis and the Winter expansion. I'm not holding my breath.

War is wonderful for PI producers. All those buildings being blown up. You even have to deploy special one-use buildings to contest sovereignty.

Another factor that will help PI profits is boredom. A lot of people got all excited over the new feature, trained 10 alts to each run 5 or 6 planets and then discovered the clickfest became horrible at that scale. Some of these people are burning out at the moment.

However the big question mark over PI as a way of making money is how well the macroers do at it. Many people will try to cheat in this way and on the face of it the system looks open to it. I really have no idea as to whether there are working PI macros already but it's likely they will figure it out soon.

The longer term

We know of a couple of planned changes that CCP have said are coming.

Links between players are coming. That's actually really good. An industrial corp that cooperates could set up substantial production cities.

The dreaded clickfest of turning all your harvesters on is set to become a "thinkfest" instead. So for example instead of double-clicking each harvester twice you might have to complete a short game of Minesweeper to enable the Turn All Harvesters on for a planet. This not only makes doing PI a bit more fun but would seem to make macroing much harder.

Another thing that may happen is the extension of planetary industry to more product types. There are several Trade Good categories which as yet have no in-game use. One of them (Carbon) even has had a Production Information tab mistakenly added. Most likely they were considering it for PI during the Tyrannis build and forgot to change it back. Obviously if this is announced then get those region-wide buy orders up and stock up on these while the NPCs sell them.

The massive change with be DUST514. DUST will allow Eve players to contract console gamers to kill opponents' planetary set ups. Here's some guesses about the shape of the coming system:

- security levels will match Eve, in other words High Sec PI will be pretty safe, Low Sec something of a free-for-all and NullSec will be driven by space-holding alliances.

- generally at any given time it's unlikely that your PI will be lost

- they will take a fairly major effort to destroy and will be able to be defended. I expect some kind of SBU mechanic which will allow Eve players to frantically muster defensive forces to save their planet before the timer runs down.

- WH PI will be something of a loophole. While corporations could attack other WH corps on the planets I don't think these guys indulge in the same bitter long-term wars that people like BoB and the Goons do. Because of this I think WH PI will give awesome yields while seeing little console conflict - certainly the best place to extract.

Monday 9 August 2010

Eve: an exchange of views with CCP

Short version: I persuaded CCP to give me some element of compensation for the rather exploitative but also very careless loss of my Caldari Navy Raven I blogged about recently. I thought they handled it very well and that the final resolution was fair - I'm a little out of pocket but I was dumb and they've replaced the ship.

I think what makes this story particularly remarkable is the speed of response. The whole exchange happened in less than a week. One message I received about 3 minutes after I'd sent mine - now that's efficient.

I think this story also shows what you can get if you ask nicely.

Here's the story in messages:

My first message in a petition to CCP Customer Support:

A player named Van Orth entered my mission and salvaged a wreck. He was in a Vigil. I aggressed him but he warped away.

I docked up and went afk for 30 minutes. When I came back the agression timer was still live. I waited a while but it stayed between 7 and 9 minutes. Whenever it got to 7 minutes it would jump back to 9 minutes.

I was doing nothing except sitting in the station. Van Orth was using an exploit to keep resetting the agression timer.

Eventually I undocked and got killed by Van Orth. Just before he killed me he offered me a ransom opportunity. For 150m he said he'd let me live.

I would like Van Orth to be banned from Eve for cheating. I would like reimbursement for the Caldari Navy Raven, it's fit and the 150m ransom, all of which were lost because of this exploit.

CCP's response:


EVE is a PvP game and all game mechanics are designed around that concept to include agent missions and the items therein. Nothing is secure in Eve, players are expected to either defend or lose anything they have to other players.

It is part of the normal game mechanics for other players to enter that agent mission and take the items within and salvage the wrecks if they so desire. Players have the ability to defend their ship, the items they feel is important to them, are willing to risk their ship and possibly have concord intervention.

If player steals from a wreck you can shoot the player without CONCORD intervention, however this does not apply to the salvaging as the player will not be criminally flagged, as salvage is not considered to be your property until you have actually salvaged it. At this time, it is not harassment or griefing for other players to take those items but normal game mechanics.
Please read the following link found on the EVE wiki:


If you have any further issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us again.

Best regards,
GM *******
EVE Online Customer Support

My follow up:

Thanks for getting back to me.

I have no issues with Eve being a pvp game or with players entering my missions. My issue is specifically about being killed while flagged under a FIFTEEN MINUTE aggression counter over an hour after I aggressed. The player kept the counter live using an exploit.

Please escalate this issue to a Senior GM as this is something broken in the game that needs to be fixed. A fifteen minute timer is (obviously) intended to last fifteen minutes, not over an hour.

Their response:


As you were running a mission site, you may have left wrecks and perhaps drones behind.

After having gained aggression from your attack on the player in defence of your wrecks this player was able to then shoot anything you left behind in order to extend the aggression. I can only suggest that when docking up you unclaim ownership of your wrecks, cans and drones in the area before retreating to avoid people using them against you.

In this instance the player in question appears to be making use of normal game mechanics and as such we will be unable to intervene.

If you still wish to request escalation after this explanation then let me know.

GM *****
EVE Online Customer Support Team

My next line of debate:

Thanks again for getting back to me so quickly..

I would like to escalate this please because there seems to be a very clear gap between intended functionality and actual functionality.

The player extending the timer by shooting the wrecks doesn't make any sense. How is this me aggressing him?

It's clearly supposed to last 15 minutes, it's clearly exploitable and I would like reimbursement for my losses. I no longer wish action to be taken against the other player as the situation is rather muddled but I do think it's unfair that I'm so deeply out of pocket due to being killed over an hour after I started a FIFTEEN MINUTE timer.


Their response:


At your request I will escalate this petition where it will be handled by a Senior GM in due time. Thankyou for your patience.

GM *****
EVE Online Customer Support Team

My reply:

Thank you very much.

The Senior GM's verdict:

Hi, senior GM ****** here.

After a review of this case, discussion with the GMs investigating it and considerable deliberation we have come to the conclusion to grant reimbursement here in this petition. You will have received an EVE mail notification with full details of the actual reimbursement.

This certainly looks odd although we can not implicate Van Orth in anything directly. Please do not consider this resolution as anything against this character.

If you encounter this gain I strongly encourage you not to undock and rather contact us through a petition, such as Agent Mission In Progress or Exploits, whichever is applicable to you. This permits us to limit or eliminate penalties against you and investigate this in more detail.

If you have any further questions or concerns then please do not hesitate to ask.

Best regards,
Senior GM ******
EVE Online Customer Support Team

This was accompanied by a brand new Caldari Navy Raven in my ships hangar and a rather nice role playing Eve Mail (which I seem to have reflexively deleted already, sorry!.

My reply

Woot! Many thanks for the CNR!

I'm still out of pocket but that's fair enough as my loss was partly my fault.

I really appreciate your prompt helpful responses and professionalism.

Thanks again and best wishes!

My P.S.

PS. I'm happy for this to now be closed.

Their reply:

Glad to hear the issue has been resolved. If you have any further questions regarding this issue or if you require any help in the future then please do not hesitate to contact us again. This petition is now closed.

Best regards,
Senior GM ******
EVE Online Customer Support Team

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Eve: Stupid, stupid, stupid

I guess I was tired last night. Or my brain had melted in the London heat. Or something.

A ninja pops up in my mission. Piddly little mission called Duo of Death.

I usually just wait out ninjas. Stop shooting, keep an eye on my ship to make sure it doesn't die, and read a book. One battleship left. So I wait.

Having salvaged the wreck (which does not agress me) he then stole from the wreck and for some stupid, stupid reason I reflexively opened fire on that blinky red target. From eye to finger without passing brain along the way.

OK, I reacted well. I didn't pause to finish off my last ship I legged it home and docked. 15 minutes timer. OK, no big deal, I read my book for a while.

About 40 minutes later I came back. Strange, still 8 minutes on the timer. OK, I know better than to rush out with a timer on, I stayed in dock and read forums. It kept jumping back to 9 minutes whenever it hit 7 minutes. Odd.

After about 20 minutes of this I decided to risk a quick sortie to the mission. In my lovely Caldari Navy Raven with faction shield booster.

You know what happened, right? I mean I know what happened and I would have known what happened next even if I didn't know what happened next.

A Tengu. Waiting. At my acceleration gate.

I gave it a shot once I realised I was warp scrambled and discovered the awesome might of the low signature radius, one of the best pvp stats in the game. With 7 cruise missiles, close to maxxed missile skills and 5 Warrior IIs on him I wasn't more than scratching him. I think at best I got him down to 97% shield left.

He opened a chat window and offered a ransom for 150 million. I paid. I didn't trust him but I paid because it would have been a bargain to escape at that price. Naturally he didn't honour the ransom. I managed to get my pod clear with my expensive internal jewelry collection.

I petitioned it. I accept that Eve is a pvp game I accept that I played into his hands etc. I petioned it because I do not accept that a 15 minute aggression timer can last over an hour with me "re-aggressing" by being afk, docked, doing nothing.

It was a couple of hours after this that I realised how deeply Eve has got its hooks into me. The thought of quitting had crossed my mind then I realised I'm simply not going to care about what happens in a different game. Warsong Gulch? Grind to 80 and run some raids on some jack-in-the-box boss who pops up again a week after you kill him for you to have another go?

I liquidated an investment and replaced the CNR. Did I mention I was fairly rich? I also discovered that Dread Guristas XL Shield Boosters have the same stats as Caldari Navy XL Shield Boosters except price - they're 20 mill cheaper. I saved some money putting the ship together getting most of the fittings on overnight Buy Orders and the ship itself on a Want to Buy contract.

The guy who ganked me had finished my mission for me and left the mission completion item on a contract to me for 1 isk (this time I checked for traps very carefully).

When I got home tonight I had a message from a GM. Standard cut n paste "Eve is a pvp game" blah blah blah. Told him I love pvp but a FIFTEEN MINUTE timer lasting over an hour is a bug. Because, fifteen minute timers should last, you know, fifteen minutes. Otherwise they'd be called something else.

It doesn't matter whether they throw me a bone on the petition. I'm in. I'm hooked. CNR 2 ready to go. And once I get my Curse some high sec ganker is going to find life in Eve deeply unpleasant.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Eve: My little lizard

I picked up another new toy, something of the opposite extreme to my last fit.

The Gila is a pirate ship which I purchased for 130 million isk in Jita. It's basically a drone version of the Drake.

I bought it partly because I couldn't take my Drake into a complex I wanted to run (cruisers and below). Partly because I love passive shield tanking and wanted to try out another passive shield tank ship. And partly because I'm playing two versions of Eve and want to be able to do virtually nothing on my second screen while still obliterating my mission.

I've just flown it down to where my friend who has just started Eve is running missions. We tried a couple of level 3s earlier and the second was really scary with his tank.

I'm in a level 3 as I type and it's hilarious to watch. My drones are obliterating everything, my passive shield tank is at 89% with the Invulnerability Field switched off.

This is my fit for laid back missioning/looting. If I wanted a more intense play style I could put missile launchers in the high slots.

Gila (Guristas Cruiser)

2 Small Tractor Beam Is
2 Salvager Is
Drone Link Augmentor I

Drone Navigation Computer I
10 MN Afterburner II
Invulnerability Field II
3 Large Shield Extender IIs

4 Shield Power Relays

3 Medium Core Defence Field Purger Is

The mighty passive shield recharges 215 hit points per second, starts at 13838 hit points total and takes 160 seconds to fully recharge from empty. Resists are 23/38/54/62 with the invulnerability field off or 44/56/67/72 . Effective hit points are 23 913 or 30786 with the invulnerability field.

I've discovered I need one missile launcher. I'll drop the drone range thingy for it. Otherwise the only way I can wake packs is by bumping them. My tactic for level 3s so far has been bump into one mob from every pack not yet woken up then tank the entire room while typing a blog post. My drones finished killing everything 2 paragraphs ago.

To my immense amusement I even attracted a tourist. Some guy in an Ishtar flew into my mission to watch me for a bit.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Eve: Introducing The Newbie's Best Friend

My best friend started playing Eve this week after years of reluctance. I would love him to stick with it this time and I happened across a wonderful ship fit.

I've taken him through much of what Eve offers - we invaded Providence with Hydra, we hunted pirates in low sec, and we've done level 4 missions with him chasing frigates for me.

What he likes most is doing his own missions and I came across an absolutely wonderful fit to play with him:

The Hoover

Punisher (Amarr Frigate)

Small Remote Armour Repairer
Small Energy Transfer Array I
2 Salvager Is

1 MN Afterburner I
Cap Recharger I

Small Armour Repairer I
2 Cap Power Relay Is
Biggest Armour plate that would fit in whatever's left

No rigs, no drones

You can use meta 1-2s instead of the vanilla modules. They are usually both cheaper and better.

It's underpowered and needs very low skills which makes it perfect for playing with a new person. After all he doesn't want to watch you kill things, he wants to be helped with his stuff.

It gives just enough healing to see a new person in a cruiser through some of the tougher level 2s like The Blockade.

I'm upgrading to an Exqueror in preparation for more challenging content but it's been a great ship to play with a friend who's just started. I loot and occasionally heal or give him energy, he kills. I even heal his drones sometimes. It softens the learning curve without simply overpowering it.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Eve: PI Economics, part 5 The Market

PI has been in full swing for just over a month now and we are starting to see trends emerging.

P0 - Raw Materials

On the face of it there should be no point exporting these off-planet. You pay 300 isk export fees per 3000 units. There is nothing to do with these except turn them into P1. If you transform those units into P1 you only pay 15.2 isk to export the same resources. Additionally P0 are approximately 4 times as bulky. And then the buyer has to import those units and process them.

Despite that there is a brisk trade in these resources. Looking at one of the most sought after, Autotrophs, in The Forge we see that prices started high. On the first day they traded for 830 isk, dropping quickly to around 11, and now they've settled at about 3.

At the moment in the Forge if you want money for 3000 autotrophs you could sell them to the highest Buy Order for 4 isk each (at a low sec system). That would give you 11700 isk after export fees. If you transformed them into P1 you could sell the 20 P1 Industrial Fibres for 310.11 isk each. 6187 isk profit after export fees. Even just going by the high sec price it's better to sell these as autotrophs than to refine them.

This means it's much better to put down extractors and a spaceport and not do any processing unless hauling is a very significant factor. For instance I run my extraction in a nullsec system and it's rather dangerous making trade runs. It's worth my while processing.

But if you're extracting in High Sec or you're part of a corp which exports from nullsec to highsec using Jump Freighters you're probably better off putting down loads of extractors and not processing.

Currently the 5 highest P0 sell orders in the Forge region are:
Non-CS crystals 4.46 isk
Felsic magma 4.05 isk
Autotrophs 4 isk
Noble metals 4 isk
Planktic colonies 3.4 isk

Now that's particularly interesting because you would expect the top 5 to be the 5 that only spawn on one planet type. That's not what's happening.

What I don't know is whether this is a temporary blip or a long-term situation. It does seem somewhat crazy that the raw materials market is so high when the only thing you can do with these materials is process them into P1.

However if you're setting up an extraction colony and you can cope with all the hauling selling P0 to the market is probably the best money in PI right now.

To give you some idea how much hauling might be involved, my PI in nullsec could support 5 planets with about 20 extractors per planet each producing 6000 per hour for 15 hours each day. That's 90 000 cubic meters per day with three five hour cycles. In my blockade runner that's almost exactly 5 full loads. There and back. 10 trips past the gate camps from hell per day - too much for me!

P1 - Processed Materials

In general these are worth more than the P2s they make. There are exceptions. It is particularly true that where the P2 is a former NPC good large stockpiles of which exist it's just not worth processing P1 into P2.

The advantage of selling P1 to the market is that they are rather less bulky that P0. For those of us who don't want to have to haul large volumes processing into P1 cuts cargo sizes to about a quarter.

You also have less extractors if you're making P1 than if you're making P0 - a somewhat backhanded advantage that you don't have to make so many trips because you don't produce as much.

It also is likely that the P0 market will falter - it's too good at the moment. However nothing is set in stone and because the P0 market is counter-intuitive it may continue to do well as everyone and his brother gets into PI by whacking down both extractors and processors without checking profits.

The top 5 P1 sell orders in The Forge are:
Biomass 576.15 isk
Precious metals 490.18 isk
Electrolytes 410.23 isk
Proteins 410 isk
Chiral structures 401.04 isk

I suspect that these prices are mainly determined by demand. Demand for P1s is driven by what P2s people want to make from them (and to a small extent demand for Oxygen is driven by its use as a POS fuel). So demand for Biomass is high because it goes into Genetically Enhanced Livestock, Supertensile Plastics and Viral Agents. Only the first one used to be a NPC good and all are pricey P2s, currently around 9-10K isk.

So if you're interested in setting up some PI to sell P1s to the market Biomass is probably pretty good. I don't think it's just a blip that it's at the top, it's useful and it's not affected much by pre-existing P2 stockpiles.

P2 - Refined Commodities

These are rather undervalued by the market. This means that at the moment it's a bad idea to make P2 and a good idea to buy it either to hold it as speculation or to process it into something higher up the chain.

There are a number of reasons for this

- many P2s are goods that existed before PI and players bought up large quantities cheaply before the patch.

- P2 is the obvious way for beginners to set up their colonies. Most can be produced on a single planet. And beginners will generally assume (wrongly for the time being) that processing adds value.

- making P2 is attractive because volume reduces to about a quarter at both the preceding steps but the volume reduction is much less significant after. Quoting the Eve Uni wiki: "One processed batch turns 30 m³ of a P0 material into 7.6 m³ of a P1 material, resulting in a reduction to 25% of original volume. One processed batch turns a combined 30.4 m³ of two P1 materials into 7.5 m³ of a P2 material, again resulting in reduction to approximately 25% of original volume."

- a P1 can make a variety of different products, the most valuable of which will influence the P1 price. P2s are less flexible.

The top 3 P2s as determined by my secret profit-calculating formula are, as of yesterday:
Supertensile Plastics 7069.1 isk profit over the value of the P1 components
Polyramids 4360.79 isk profit
Coolant 3815.85 isk profit

2 things to note - this does not include import nor export fees and Supertensile Plastics have dropped sharply today. Every other P2 when I took my data yesterday was not worth making, better to just sell the P1s.

(I didn't even calculate the ratio between P0 value and P2 value - I'd be surprised if any P0 material is worth turning into P2).

P3 - Specialised Commodities

This is rather mixed. Of the 21 P3 products 6 make a loss over their P2 components. The largest loss yesterday was Planetary Vehicles. They sold for just 9,000 isk yesterday despite requiring 71,000 isk worth of P2s to make each. I hope none of you are making them!

The reason Planetary Vehicles are so bad is because of large pre-existing stockpiles. It's a very good item to buy, either for speculation or because you want to make P4. They do occasionally still drop in missions. PI loot in missions isn't that common but vehicles I remember as being one of the more common drops when PI does drop. Still the amount of these generated by missions will be tiny, a drop in the ocean.

The 5 most profitable yesterday (export/import fees not included) were;
Smartfab units 24,056 isk profit
Vaccines 18,663 isk profit
Industrial Explosives 16,429 isk profit
Neocoms 16,374 isk profit
Synthetic Synapses 15,488 isk profit

The following items were loss-making:
Data chips, Guidance Systems, Hermetic membranes, Planetary Vehicles, Robotics, Transcranial Microcontrollers

Data chips and Hermetic Membranes are on the list I think because of a rise in their input P2s. They are made of 4 of the most expensive P2s. This means those two are likely to go up in price. The other 4 are stockpiled former NPC goods.

P4s - Advanced Commodities

All of these make profit over their input P3s and P1s. However the P4 market as a whole is deflating because more and more of us are bringing our P4 facilities online.

Demand is, I've argued earlier, linked to nullsec wars and nullsec stockpiles. When people start blowing up each others' SBUs and POSes in earnest I expect to see a spike in this market and a general upsurge in the PI market at all levels.

For now though my P4 maker is having a somewhat sleepy time. I try to keep all 8 on sale all the time, restocking when I sell out.

Let me digress to explain a little about using the Market in Eve. When traders first get an interest in the market they usually start playing the 0.01 isk undercutting game. It's a natural first step that maximises both volume and profit margin. Deep undercutting reduces profits without necessarily increasing volume and not undercutting reduces volume. It's a sound strategy.

However the problem with the 0.01 isk strategy is it uses a lot of YOUR time. Time better spent doing something else. Which brings me to the crest of the wave strategy.

The crest of the wave strategy is a reflection that you don't need to always be the cheapest - you just need to be the cheapest once, for long enough that your items sell. So if widgets vary in price between 35 and 41 and you sell your widgets for 40 you might not sell any today but you will sell them at some point in the fluctuation. Most goods have a weekly fluctuation, you can usually shift stuff. So my crest of the wave strategy is to undercut by 0.01 isk once then just chill until my goods sell. They might sell immediately in which case I'll stock my factories with materials again. They might not sell for a few weeks which indicates the market is depressed and it's probably not worth building more. If I don't sell by the end of the month I cancel my orders, relist at 0.01 isk under the cheapest and resume the crest of the wave approach.

I get higher profit per sale than the 0.01 isk strategy, do a lot less work and am alerted if there is high demand. It does mean that my factories sit idle a lot of the time but there's no maintenance cost or depreciation - they last forever for free.

It does mean that when the market is declining, as the P4 market is at the moment I don't do much business. I have to replace about one order for about 24 P4 items per day. Of course if the market booms I'll be busy.

The top 3 most profitable P4s as of yesterday were:
Self-Harmonising Power Cores 1,055,508 isk profit
Broadcast Nodes 929,632.8 isk profit
Wetware mainframe 888,000 isk profit

Profit margins have been dropping fast though, it's likely that people will realise how good this is soon and the profit will become negligible until the next big war.

Copyright: I realise a number of people may want to copy all or part of this. That's fine, I put it in the public domain. Please link back to this blog though and don't pass it off as your own work. Cheers!