Friday, 11 May 2012

Eve: claiming my corner

You may have noticed that this blog has been quite quiet for a week or so. Sometimes that's a sign, in a blogger, of a general lack of enthusiasm for gaming.

Sometimes the game just grabs you by the hand, whirls you out onto the dance floor and won't let go.

A chain of events that really goes back 3 years to when I first tried Eve has led me to a week like that. It started when I first read about Eve and realised that it was possible to pay for one's sub if one did well at the economic side of the game. That got me interested in Eve's economy and ever since I've been mixing an economic playstyle with an explorer playstyle. I've experimented with almost everything from null sec (both sov and small gang), piracy, invention, trading, hauling, mining, exploration all the way through to going to a pub and having a beer with Eve players and devs. And I've made quite a lot of isk along the way.

It was quite natural that when a new economic minigame was introduced, Planetary Interaction, I got into it in quite a big way. I started in a quiet low sec system, lost a hauler or two to gate camps, realised that null sec was about the same danger for more planet goo, moved to a quiet Great Wildlands system. Then I realised that whatever I did I'd have to get through the Empire gauntlet so I may as well move my operation to the gateway system.

I operated there in a pvp permanent hotspot for many moons then naturally graduated to ninja PI in a wormhole. Wormholes are all 1.0 true sec which makes them considerably richer than regular null sec for PI. It's also a lot easier to escape with a cloaky hauler through an entrance that maybe no one else realises even exists than it is to escape through a null sec to Empire choke point. (Although I've become reasonably adroit at steering a cloaky T1 hauler doing 12 m/s through a gate camp). I've been doing wormhole ninja PI for almost a year in a couple of different homes, having to move in December when player-owned customs offices were introduced and I lost a dispute over customs rights.

Then 2 weeks ago someone put up a customs office in my then PI hole. OK, time to relocate. But this time it was different. This time I found an empty wormhole.

The hole is a class 1 with a nullsec static. In other words it's a quiet little low level hole that most people won't be terribly interested in and which won't receive a great many visitors. Its static leads to nullsec which has very low population density and, generally, a population who aren't very interested in seeking adventure through the holes as they live in a place where adventure comes naturally.

I moved in.

It has taken me about two weeks to get established starting with finding the hole, deciding to live there, researching what I would need to build a base, buying the starbase modules on Buy Orders (I hate Buy It Nows), finding a hole to high sec, getting a few ships in before the entrance got camped by a Cloaky Loki piloted by a ferocious German with a magnificent blond handlebar moustache and a trusty stealth bomber side-kick. I then made a couple of trips through the long route from the nullsec static (45 jumps from Jita) but got a little discouraged that one of my haulers got caught by the normally rather desultory Solar Wing gatecamp guarding the drone regions. Still, one tech 1 hauler full of stront wasn't too bad a price for getting most of my stuff inside. Finally someone explored their way into my system from a wormhole with a high sec static. I waited 10 hours for them to not be around any more then convoyed a load more stuff in.

I then built my POS. It's a large Caldari POS with lots of Ewar, some guns, and some field control stuff like scrams and webs. I've also got some utility buildings like hangars up. While nothing in Eve is ever quite safe this is about as safe as any player structure could be. To attack it you need to get a decent sized fleet in with plenty of ammo. Into a low level hole where the entrance collapses behind you after you move in a dozen battlecruisers. No battleships or capitals can be brought in. A putative pos-bashing fleet would need to keep everyone healed through the guns while being warp scrambled and ECM jammed. And that would put it into reinforced. They would then either have to stay there two days to wait out the timer or leave a prober. The timer is set for the most awkward time possible for the majority of times zones. Leaving a prober would mean they have to come back through some random hole anywhere in null sec – they might have to go 40 jumps into Goonspace or some such to get to me. And just to put the cherry on top I'm training up some of my guys to be able to control the spacebase guns so when it comes out of reinforced I'll be able to give them a warm reception.

The main danger to it is me getting bored of Eve and letting the fuel run out.

Now although the hole is very remote it does get visitors from time to time and these visitors leave doorways. Some of these doorways lead to wormholes with high sec statics (ie a guaranteed wormhole to high sec) or are actually a doorway straight to high sec. So while generally I'm remote I do have nice safe routes out from time to time.

How remote?

Well I can monitor how secluded I am by scanning. In fact I can get a quick impression just by one Deep Space Probe scan. Signatures in a wormhole appear in a sequence like this:
Except wormholes made by visitors. They break the sequence, being labelled something like FGH. So if I do a deep scan and there are two out of sequence signatures I've probably got 2 visiting holes that will last 4-16 hours from when they were made. If I want to go shopping I'll check them out, otherwise I'll just log off and do something else. When there are no holes, and probably no visitors, I creep out the way toys creep out of the toybox at night when the lights are out and everyone's snuggled safely in bed.

The sites I've been running so far are anomalies, which are straightforward combat sites, and I also did a radar site. I've only found one radar site and one magnetometric site and one of my visitors ran the mag site while I was hiding in the toybox. I have about 8 grav sites and 10 ladar sites though so I'm training up gas cloud harvesting and I shipped in a Hulk. (Actually I tried to fly my hulk in but it bounced off the hole, too fat to squeeze through, so I took it back to a station, repackaged it and carried it in inside a hauler).

Oh and the PI! This place really is PI heaven. I have laboriously set up a network of PI alts honeycombing the planets. I have my own POCOs up – no tax for me! Even if a hauler or two gets ganked I should be able to export enough P2s to pay for my accounts leaving all my other business ventures as pure profit.

So what's next? Well with Diablo 3 starting soon I have a short term project and a long term project.

The short term project is to set up a pvp fleet. My lead ship will be a Falcon, one of the most hated ships in Eve. This ship appears out of nowhere and ECM jams one or several ships. In addition to being designed to attack from a cloaked state it's one of the strongest ECM ships in the game. It seems particularly suited to flying top cover for my carebear ships as its jamming will allow a Hulk or something to escape from a tackle. Backing it up, for when I have someone carebearing in my hole I aim to both have some pvp ships at the pos, mostly battlecruisers but I'll also have a low skill point tackler or two outside D scan range logged off. So if there's someone running a site I can log on my tackler frigates, jump them with the Falcon then warp in some frigate backup and possibly log someone on at the POS to get a battlecruiser. That's a lot stealthier than simply logging on in a battlecruiser at the POS which will appear on their D-scan.

The long term project is to bonus the Hulk miners. First I aim to build an Orca using a Large Ship Assembly Array, a bpc bought off contract and some imported capital ship components. But ultimately I'd like to construct the mighty Rorqual, king of carebear ships which would not only allow me to mine in perfectly bonused Hulks and Skiffs but will also double as a pretty decent POS repairer if needed. All that's fairly uncertain of course, by this time next month maybe someone will have kicked me out. I think the odds are in my favour though, and I certainly have one of the safest places to mine in Eve during Hulkaggeddon.

So that's why I've been quiet this month – it's been a ton of work, a great deal of fun and I want it all set up and tranquil ready to go into Eve hibernation mode when Diablo 3 comes out next week.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Dominus closes down

I was very excited about Prime: Battle for Dominus, or Dominus as it was later known. Via Keen and Graev we've news it's closed down.

Dominus drew from Star Wars Galaxies much missed resource and crafting system and Dark Age of Camelot's superb realm v realm pvp system. It updated those games with a new setting and promised to be a truly excellent game. I had a little look at the beta a few months ago but it was pretty empty then.

I guess any MMO project is relentlessly hard work - to compete with the likes of SWTOR and WoW you need to get so many things right. While part of me likes to think I'd support any game that reflects how I feel games should be made rather than the rather bland gratification trolley MMOs have become I have to be honest and admit bugs, crashes, empty half-done content, probably isn't acceptable any more. I have so many games that I'm really enjoying, so many new titles I'd love to try when they come out and several games that I always wanted to try but never got around to. So I have to admit if they had shoved it out the door half-done I wouldn't have been loyal to it.

I wish the staff at Pitch Black all the best. The vision, the community interfacing, the game ideas, the lore were all absolutely first rate.