Monday 25 February 2013

Eve: first day back in null sec

I've joined up with some of my old friends from Li3. It's something of an improvement over the old days - it's the same hero pvpers without all the bullshit admin people messing things up.

I spotted a rare beast indeed:

The Mittani in a Vulture - oddly apt!

After a while we organised a fleet to counter them. We took foxcats (navy apocs) against their eagles which seems a little like overkill to me so props to the Goons for staying around for the good fight.

I didn't get on the killmail as I was flying a logi. I did manage to loot slightly under 100 million worth of various modules and ammo from all the wrecks.

I must admit I don't get the Eagle doctrine. The ship is bonused twice over for optimal range, suggesting it's really a sniper. But they brawl with them. I suspect it's not meant to be a serious doctrine at all, just an excuse to sing 'murica 'murica drunkenly over comms and post pictures of eagles with the stars and stripes as background. Props again if so.

So Eve Online. A game where you meet interesting people and kill them.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Eve: Beware of the pizza

TEST gets routinely harassed by an alliance called Confederation of Pizza which I think might be the Eve guild of the 4chan forums.

These chaps managed to insert a character called Papajohn Dominos into an HBC corp where he proceeded to awox (that is kill friendlies). It was a flawless infiltration with no one suspecting he might be a member of the enemy alliance.

He killed a tengu, a paladin and a crane worth a total of 1.5 billion isk.

The director who recruited him had this to say:

God if I'd known papajohns was a pizza shop 

Well played, Pizza!
Update: having been kicked (for awoxing), I'm delighted to say he's successfully applied to another corp in the HBC. He is currently a card-carrying member of Unclaimed Well played sir! Will check his killboard later with interest.

Eve: CCP releases Ret 1.1 video for today's patch

These guys really do make the best developer videos.


Eve: drama llamas

Most amused to note that my volatile thin-skinned former Alliance leader has fallen out with his current coalition and taken his ball to the CFC.

Jadecougar: visionary CEO? He thinks so.

Best wishes to the long-suffering grunts of Li3. Hope not too much gets blown up in your migration.

Edit: ha ha it's now on Soundcloud. "You're one of the most retarded people I've ever met" Awesome!

Monday 18 February 2013

Eve: Nanite Repair Paste commodity market

One thing I didn't cover in my last post on PI was the imminent increase in demand for Nanite Repair Paste. Tomorrow's patch introduces this module:

  • The new Ancillary Armor Repairer (AAR) module has been added to the game to provide more options for active armor tanking.
  • The AAR always uses the same cap as a normal (T1/T2/Named) Armor Repper.
  • When not loaded with Nanite Repair Paste, the AAR has 3/4 the rep amount as a T1 Armor Repairer.
  • When loaded with Nanite Repair Paste, the AAR triples the rep amount (repairs 2.25x a T1 repairer when loaded).
  • The AAR has the same cycle time and fittings as T1 reps.
  • The Small AAR uses 1 paste per cycle, Medium AAR 4 and Large AAR 8. The AAR can hold 8 cycles worth of paste at a time. Reload time is 1 minute just like an ASB, but the longer cycle time of armor reps means it goes longer between reloads.
  • Limited to one per ship.

Thar she blows!
Well that explains some of the recent spike in PI materials.

So let's have a little look at the components and how much they're up over 3 months:
Data chips +49%
Gel-Matrix Biopaste +110%
Nanites +129%

So a strong increase indeed.

Is it sustainable?

Well I think we're going to see a lot more paste used. The new modules obviously use it but there's a second subtler effect. Generally when people pvp they don't bother carrying paste, taking boosters and so on. However if it's in the cargo anyway to fuel the AAR people will use it to repair overheat burn.

Ultimately, as with POS fuel, the market will adjust so that these materials are produced in the quantity that the new market will demand. People will switch over to produce them. But for the medium term I think there may very well be a shortfall. So we will probably see a very small decrease in price after the patch because there's always speculators who cash out immediately but then we may see a sustained increase in price for the mid-term.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Eve: some peculiar market speculation

Among my many diverse operations in Eve one of the things I do is some high end PI manufacturing near Jita. I buy P2s at Jita, move them one jump, run them up to P4 and take them back.

It's become a little trickier recently to fill my buy orders.

P2 prices across the board are slowly spiking. Try checking Market > Manufacture & Research > Planetary Materials > Refined Commodities and check the three month graph product by product. There's three in decline but the vast majority are showing a strong upward trend. The three that have declined can be attributed to the inelasticity of PI production. In my own case (which is probably typical) I've picked my commodities and won't change unless I move or unless a commodity seems to have hit rock bottom and settled there. So people were probably overproducing those anomalous ones before and it's been taking three months+ for the market to adjust since we all keep churning it out regardless of Jita fluctuations because redoing it all it a huge hassle.

So my point is that most of these are going up and we can see this as a general trend in planetary products. But why? It seems, based on current game mechanics to be an odd pick. Planetary materials get used consistently by POS operation and increase when a lot of POSes are deployed or replaced. We know that we are currently in a sov grind lull - it was specifically given as a reason for the CFC and HBC to not fight each other. No one, we're told, wants to grind sov.

So that means this upsurge is either because people who feel safe are dropping more POSes (perhaps to run reactions) or it's a speculative bubble. The first is a definite possibility with Mynna pimping do-it-yourself moon goo processing on the Not enough on its own though to explain the major movement in the commodities though (after all most people in a position to do this were already aware of alchemy and reaction profits).

It's also possible we have a spike in wormhole occupancy although I know no particular reason in the last few months why that might be so.

But my guess is that most of it is coming from a guess that DUST will somehow magically use lots of planet goo. I've already said that my opinion is that this is not coming soon which makes it particularly interesting - it's (if I'm right) ill-informed speculation. People are backing the wrong horse! So the price is going up simply because people are guessing (almost certainly wrongly) that it is about to become really really sought after to make DUST weapons with. And the value is actually going down because there's a lot of it in the economy, more than is being blown up in null sec sov wars.

Expect a crash.

In fact what may well happen is PI spikes, PI crashes, speculators collect rock bottom failed speculator planet goo, null explodes into war (because it's unlikely that the current stalemate will last more than a few months). Which even leads me to imagine that it's possibly an engineered crash - the market's slowly being led higher, some big null player will cash out at the top and stock up at the bottom just in time for a new Great Null War.

Monday 11 February 2013

Eve: a new tactic in high sec griefing

Suicide ganking pods is becoming a thing. An enterprising player called ST0NER SMURF has been suicide ganking pods in high sec and has sought sponsorship. He has impressed two members of the Goon economic cartel: trillionaires Aryth and Mynna. Aryth as it happens had 15000 fitted Thrashers lying around that he had no particular use for and donated some to the cause.

ST0NER SMURF started in October last year and since then has racked up an impressive 1436 kills, almost all of which are suicide ganks of pods in highsec. There are others including this guy with 817 kills, again mostly pods.

They have an intel channel up, a killboard and a variety of sophisticated countermeasures to protect themselves against enraged victims.

And it's growing in popularity: in Stoner's words - "there are alot new podders around, bad news for me as the hunt takes longer ;o"

As gankings go this is probably one of the easiest to avoid - always use a noobship or shuttle if you're just travelling around, especially in Jita or near Niarja.

Fly inside something o7

Thursday 7 February 2013

Eve: London pubmeet on Saturday

Those nice pirates from Veto have arranged another London pubmeet. Details are in this thread.

I'm going and I'd love to see any of you there. If you're new to Eve then meeting people in person is a very good way to hit the ground running.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Eve: BB44 Local - a marxist perspective

Somewhat late I've decided to weigh in on Blog Banter 44, so ably organised by Seismic Stan, which is about the use of the Local chat channel as a source of intel in Eve.

For anyone not familiar with Eve pvp the chat channel is an important method of seeing who is in the system as it displays all present (except in wormhole space where the rules are different). So even if somebody slips in cloaked or emerges from a hidden wormhole everyone in the system gains instant omniscient awareness of their presence. It's counter-immersive and seen by many players as an unfair way for people to escape incoming enemies.

I'm going to talk about it from a marxist perspective but first I'll explain the term marxist for the non-academics out there. Marx's economic theories revolutionised the study of history by explaining events as consequences of economies rather than decisions made by people in power. So for example where before Marx historians believed that Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries because he fell out with the pope, after Marx historians saw that he dissolved them because of sheep. Changes in agriculture saw enclosed pastures filled with grazing sheep become the most profitable method. That's a very land-hungry method of farming though so the Crown needed land and the land-rich tax-exempt monasteries were inevitable targets.

In Britain it's always about the sheep.

So the term marxist, as used by academics is simply the same concept as the phrase "follow the money" used by journalists. This leads to no end of confusion when academics use the term and non-academics jump to the conclusion that we are thereby a bunch of pinko unamerican commie leftos. It's just a technique, a slant for examining problems.

It is a particularly useful way of examining the problem of Local chat functionality in Eve Online.

The Eve game design trades players isk for inattention. Inattention is good in a pvp game because killer players like to blow other people up and its much harder to blow people up who are paying attention. All sorts of economic activities are repetitive, offer little feedback to the player, require very few clicks per minute and best of all have the player sitting in a fragile tin box that can't fit effective weapons or tank. The Eve economy creates an ecosystem where many players act as wildebeest in order to earn cash. That's great for the Eve lions.

It also makes the losses much easier to bear for the wildebeest. My miner got blown up in the wormhole - well it's ok I wasn't paying attention (I woulda totally kicked his arse had I not been watching the footy). My afk autopiloting Badger full of implants got blown up at Jita - never mind the other 99 trips got through and I only paid 1 isk each for those implants on my regional buy order. My ratting ship got blown up while I was alt tabbed watching a movie - grr mumble mumble, must do more ratting to replace it.

The design for inattention mitigates the pain of losing ships because we can buy new ones with cash we earn by playing semi-afk watching a movie. It's not like we sweated for those ships.

Design for inattention doesn't decrease the gloating superiority of the gankers because we (yes. I'm a ganker too!) always fondly imagine it's our skill and cleverness that is ruining the other guy's day and because no matter how he sugar coats it "didn't want that ship anyway" never really rings true.

Take away Local and you kill that.

Now not only are you killing the pvp fun but more importantly (to us marxist game designers) you're killng the economy. People won't rat or mine if they expect to get blown up if there's any kind of reasonable alternative. (And there is - high sec).

But wait hang on, you say, people rat and mine in wormholes!

Wormholes are pretty empty, far less crowded than any other space. You can gain a good picture as a wormhole inhabitant of how exposed you are by checking the sigs - in my old hole if I hadn't popped the static and there wasn't a wormhole other than the static I was 100% safe to fly around in haulers or mining ships. In 8 months this only failed once and that's when a K162 opened while I was watching footy while afk mining. Also wormhole pilots are that minority of Eve who do pay attention while doing their carebearing (except when the footy's on) and mash D scan. Mashing D scan is pretty horrible and most people won't want to do it for hours.

So this is what will happen if you take away Local.

- virtually all botting will stop except in high sec. While this is a good thing this will have a big effect on the Eve economy because demand will be more or less unchanged while supply is significantly curtailed.

- all lazymode movie-watching farming will stop except in high sec. Ratting mining in dangerous space will be done by attentive careful players - the careless ones will lose more isk than they make.

- prices of ships and modules will skyrocket. Moon goo market will collapse as mercoxit becomes the chokepoint for ship and module production, not Tech.

- ordinary players will have to spend a lot more time mining and ratting and a lot less time pvping. After all pvp means ship loss and the ore those ships are made of has to come from somewhere. If the movie-watching carebears are now watching their movies without simultaneously playing Eve someone else will have to do the mining instead.

- a plex will buy less because ships will become so expensive. Right now a plex buys you about 10 hours of lazy farmer/bot time. When you're buying active attentive player time you're buying more valuable labour so you'll have to pay more for it.

- we'll also see people who plex many accounts unsub some of them because they can't run 10 accounts at once in the more dangerous universe.

The business case is this:

- no new players will be attracted (I mean come on, try Eve, now with cheating-free chat isn't great publicity).

-people who play eve because it let's them be lazy/watch movies at the same time will unsub some or all of their accounts.

- pvpers who find the ships have become too damn dear for the fun they give will quit.

- more work will be imposed on the emotional volatile and bitter pvp players who will promptly riot. Mittens will lead a goon exodus to the Land of Milk and Tanks.

- less people will buy plex with real money from CCP meaning they get less revenue.

- less people will run numerous alts meaning less revenue.

In the recent Lost in Conversation one of the CSM members (Trebor perhaps) said that the most effective way to sell an idea to CCP was by presenting the business case. Good luck selling them this one!

Sunday 3 February 2013

The DUST-Eve economy

Back when Planetary Interaction was introduced to Eve it was billed as an aspect of DUST, an industrial resource for Eve players control of which would be decided by DUST players.

CCP Omen stated:
A lot of work lies ahead in guiding Planetary Interaction towards our ultimate design goal through staged releases and connecting it to CCP's upcoming game, DUST 514. As you may or may not have heard, Planetary Interaction will constitute the main intersection of these two games, something we refer to as the "DUST 514 link," bridging them into one even-more-massive EVE universe.

It's now 2013 and, frankly, that intersection seems a very long way away.

DUST514 has its own development logic and to get the game ready for the very polished shooter market the team has focused very much on DUST as a pvp game and very little on DUST as an offshoot of Eve's economy.

Planetary Interaction has bloomed in Eve since CCP Omen's statement and is now a far more integral part of the economy than I supect the developers anticipated back in 2010. Bluntly if everyone in Eve who has a PI setup sees it invaded and interdicted by console gamers there'll be riots at Jita again.

So while I still expect to see this one day it won't happen any time soon. Not this year, possibly not even next year.

So far the interaction between the two games is minor and strategic. Faction Warfare zone control can be mildly helped by what's happening on the ground or hindered by it. This feature isn't really pushed very hard in DUST so most players simply won't be aware it's an option unless chased down by Eve Faction Warfare organisers (enablers is the new buzzword I believe). A good account of this happening is given here but this is currently exceptional. Most FW progression happens without anyone bothering about what DUST players are doing. Also it doesn't help you win, it just reduces the grind. If one side brings 30 Battlecruisers and the other side brings 20, the blob will win, all DUST players can do is drag out the process.

In addition to that strategic benefit Eve players can also blow up ground forces in DUST by aiding an orbital bombardment but that's currently just a gimmick. It takes a lot of arranging and will rarely matter much to the fight. Unaided orbital strikes seem to kill everyone anyway so getting someone to fly 30 jumps just to kill them a bit harder is a waste of effort.

Back to the economy: the first thing that needs to happen is alignment of the currencies. In DUST I have 4 million isk which is enough for many many armour restocks. Powerful gear like tanks cost 200k - 1m.

In Eve a million isk won't buy you a bottle of fizzy drink.

So at first there will be an exchange rate between the Eve isk and the DUST isk so Eve billionaires like me don't dominate by throwing tank armies at every match. Developers have stated the ultimate goal is to bring the currencies into synch.

Also AUR (aurum), Eve's secondary currency, is out of synch. 2500 Eve AUR costs £12.99. 40000 DUST AUR costs £14.99. So these either need to never be tradeable or there also needs to be an EVE Aur: DUST Aur exchange rate.

There's an additional problem with bringing AUR into synch. AUR is the cash shop currency and is heavily used in DUST. Skill gain boosts and "gold" weapons are very popular items. Now in Eve AUR is much less used and they've given Eve players a lot as Christmas presents etc. My Eve accounts all have some AUR on, between 9500 and 2000. Even at the rather harsh exchange rate we have now that's a lot of stuff Eve players can buy in DUST. There are also AUR tokens so enterprising Eve players will be able to change isk to AUR and vice versa. In other words someone space rich could be able to get DUST cash shop items using Eve money.

Now I'll turn to the problems with production of ground force equipment. The most elegant design might be for these items to be manufactured in Eve using planetary goods. That would give us a cycle:

PLANET GOO (Eve PI managers) --------->
ARMS and ARMOUR (Eve manufacturers)---------->
MARKET (Eve and DUST traders and speculators)------->
DUST battles (Arms and armour gets destroyed, Planets get defended or conquered) --------->
PLANET GOO (farmed by the planet's new owner)

That's the elegant way to do it, the DUST players protect and assist the people who arm them in a mutually beneficial arrangement. You could have weapons made of asteroid ore but that wouldn't bring the game communities together.

Getting there (if that's the goal) is going to be hard. DUST currently has a fixed price market for goods. Bringing in the Eve players could see a price hike that makes it hard for DUST players, especially late adopters to buy gear effectively meaning that they would need to spend AUR for blueprints (or simply stop playing once they've run out of money). There are crappy free suits you can use but then you really are cannon fodder, even more so once the DUST population ages a bit and the new guys are up against maxxed out opponents. There really needs to be the equivalent of Eve's rifter heros - low skill new players who can be extremely useful in a fight between the big boys and there's simply no role for rubbish players. Worse, as DUST battles are decided on kills that "blueberry" (as they call new people in DUST) who has got 0 kills and 10 deaths is costing the veterans victory and money. We'll probably see players starting to get hostile towards the new and under-powered because of this design.

What's more you can get militia blueprints that allow you to make infinite low quality items forever. They cost AUR but many of us have these and can run off free suits for ourselves whenever we want to save up cash. While these are only a little better than the free starter suits it does undermine the player-run economy aspect.

As for Eve the planets are in something of a mess with regard to the invading DUST hordes. There are four types of space: high sec, low sec, null sec and wormhole space. Wormholes are supposed to be obscure and hard to find so it's a bit unimmersive if hordes of soldiers suddenly land on a planet in one. Null sec is controlled space guarded at choke points by player gate camps so it seems a bit unfair if DUST mercs can magically teleport 20 jumps past the frontier to the rich carebear zones. Low sec seems a natural place for someone turning up and kicking in your shit but it's not ideal to go further down the path of low sec being harsher than null sec. High sec is supposed to be safe space - so are the farms on high sec planets going to be immune? CCP could make them vulnerable to war decs but that doesn't make sense because one high sec planet might be farmed from people from dozens of different corps - who would get the planet if one of those corps were war decced and defeated?

In addition significant disruption of planetary commodities would cause chaos in the Eve economy, especially for POS owners. And guess what's happening over the next two years? - a POS revamp. I'm half hoping that null sec planets will all burn and I'll be able to smuggle out Coolant from my wormhole and sell it at exorbitant rates.

If there's one thing about Eve that's always true - it pays to be adaptable and I'm sure the integration of Eve's economy with DUST514's will see a lot of re-positioning among us traders.

Friday 1 February 2013

Wizardry Online: First impressions

I dipped into Wizardry Online today and found it rather charming. It's an old school game, what '90s MMOs might have been had they been based on AD&D rather than Ultima. It's well put together and the occasional Asianisms are amusing rather than jarring.

Many elements are very basic - character classes are the original dungeon foursome, races are standard except for the addition of what seems to be a race of 8 year old children.

The initial experience focuses quite heavily on the death experience with dire warnings that you might die and lose your character/get robbed of all your stuff. But dying is well worth it as you get this amazing Omenesque scene of chanting and spellcasting when you're brought back to life.

The structure is similar to Guild Wars 1 or DDO - a town hub from which you get teleported to dungeons.

Dungeons are mazy and you don't get an auto-map. I think you have to find pieces of the map and that fills it in for you. I found one piece in the first area.

I didn't get very far. I got beaten down by zombies once then when I went back I got murdered by a player and gave up for the day. I think the harshness will keep it very niche - you absolutely will get ganked by an unkillable player opponent while still in your starter gear in the first dungeon. Still for those of us perverse enough to plough through I think it could be a very enjoyable game experience and utterly different from yet another WoW-like.

I'll probably try to find some sort of guild before I go back in though - it's a scary game to solo in!