September 22, 2016

Fire up that Booster

The new boosting changes are coming, the mechanics of which have been well discussed elsewhere.  I have a booster alt who has been pretty limited use and which I won't really be doing anything with under the new booster mechanics.  The question of what to do with him has more options now that it did before, thanks to skill extractor/injector.  Let's take a look at what he can do and then consider my options.

Consider Phlebas

No, that's not his name, though someone has already been there.  So what does this booster alt do?  Well, he's a bit more trained than boosting.  He has 28.6M+ skill point from me wanting him to fulfill the roles of Proteus booster (training Amarr now), backup ratter (drone skills up to T2 Sentry), and PI alt.
That Spaceship Command includes Command Ships 5, Gallente Battlecruiser 5, as well as middling Proteus flying skills.

Sell him on the Market

Once upon a time this would have been the only option.  See if someone else wants this combination of skills.  Generally I understand that focused alts sell better, and this one is split kinda three ways.  Looking at the Character Bazaar it looks like he'd go for maybe ~18B ISK at best, but the establish lowball buyers pricing at below extraction value (more like 14B).  I'm not sure how much little things like the implants in his head factor into the bazaar.  There are enough variables involved that I probably won't know until I try to sell him.  On the plus side, the fact that he has reasonable core and drone skills may make him much more useful for anyone who does want an active booster fleet alt.  There's also the 2 plex transfer fee, so that means my best case value after fees is maybe 16B.

Brain Melting for fun and profit

The alt has 28.6M skill points, which means we can extract 23.5M SP or 47 injectors.  Looking at Jita prices (a few days before this post will make it out) the delta between an (empty) extractor and a (full) injector is approximately 335M ISK.  That makes it 15.8B worth.  Not surprisingly, this is pretty much the same as the post-fee Bazaar value above.

A nice touch here is that I don't have to lose the full utility of the alt.  Just extracting the Leadership skills would be around 5B (like Kirith did, always a good act to follow).  Leadership plus Command Ship 5 and the Battlecruiser skills is perhaps 8B.  I could choose what to keep and what to take out, and then take out more later.  Since Cybernetics 5 is required for the Mindlink, he's positioned to be a SP farm alt, though I hear the profitability has crashed there (perhaps due to booster alts across New Eden being melted down?).

Outside of the ISK value, I can take those injectors over to another alt.  That'd likely be my indy alt, since my main (Jakob) is well into the top range of reduced returns.

September 5, 2016

Eve Podcast Roundup, Summer 2016

It was a quiet month for me in Eve, but not because of No Man's Sky which lost out for time disappointingly quickly.  It certainly hasn't been quiet recently in the Eve meta, with lots of big announcements coming from CCP in the form of the Booster changes and Alpha Clones.  I haven't really been away from the Eve meta, both as a contributor (CZM on Alpha Clones, CZ article on PVE), and as a consumer - primarily of podcasts.  I figured it was time for another roundup of the podcasting world, as we've had a number new ones begin and old ones fade away.  Full disclosure: as noted above I'm on the Crossing Zebras staff.  It turns out that CZ has become the home for many of the active podcasts out there, though I've found my way to some others as well.

Talking In Stations - Recommended

Since this is led by Matterall, the first thing to get out there is that this isn't a Imperium-centric podcast, and apparently the recorded podcast isn't even being hosted by TMC, though you can watch the live feed on TMC's twitch.  I hesitate to call this a talk-show format, as Matterall keeps the agenda moving pretty well with a few exceptions when he is personally wrapped up in the topic.  The first couple times I listened there was a lot of post-World War Bee discussion that verged on whining, but there's a lot more beyond that.  It's a sign of a good Eve-meta podcast when you get a good range of guests on the show, and Talking in Stations brings in people such as Ashterothi, Jin'taan, and Tiberius Stargazer regularly.  I see the next one I haven't listened to has Elise Randolph as well - I think he's been a guest on every podcast I've listened to in the past two weeks.  Elise, are you running for CSM or something?

The JEFFRAIDER Show - Mixed Recommendation

I've come to think that the ideal cast size for a podcast is three or four.  At that point the audience can identify the speaker by voice, the guests don't talk over each other as much, and it's less likely to devolve into shouts and insults.  This is why I never got into Podside and other podcasts of their ilk.  When the Jeffraider (sorry, JEFFRAIDER!) show is good then there's a smaller group, they dig into something, and you hear a good of very experienced players (yes, primarily PL) talk about how they'll be using a new mechanic or situation.  When the show isn't so great you have something like episode 30, where you start with six-seven people, then two drop and two more join and you can't keep track of the voices and it turns into a bit of a bro-fest.  In the midst of all that there's still that good, experienced player talk but you have to get through a lot to get there.  You can see that in the summaries too, such as episode 29 which is summarized as "We talked about: literally fuckin' everything."  Thanks, that's a great summary.  So if the talk show format is your thing, then this is a pretty good example.  It's staying on my subscription list, but I won't mind if I miss some.

After Hours with Rixx Javix - Recommended

Rixx Javix is one of the great personalities of the Eve meta, best known for his artwork and his Eveoganda blog.  His After Hours will Rixx Javix is a new podcast that is also hosted on CZ.  This is not a eve-meta talk show, nor a focused mechanics breakdown, or any of the other things you're used to in an Eve podcast.  This is a straight translation of the late night one-on-one interview format, complete with a lounge music intro and Rixx's perfectly matched voice.  Interviews are primarily with the personalities and "creatives" as he likes to term them.  If other podcasts tend to be shouty, energetic and hyped then this podcast is all about chilling out.  So, in the words of Rixx himself: "Grab a cold drink, light a cigar, and let's talk."

On Grid - Recommended

With Hydrostatic Podcast apparently faded away, Ashterothi has moved on to make a new podcast called On Grid with Elise Randolph and Mike Azariah that has a more focused approach to the topic, though not a tight as Hydrostatic was.  Ash's intro piece sounds a bit bombastic, but ignore that and get into it and you've got three very knowledgeable people from different parts of Eve that can give you a really insightful take on current events.  Two episodes in they've covered the two big recent breaking stories (alpha clones, fleet boosts) so the real challenge will be reaching for longevity and consistently hitting topics this interesting even if there isn't a new devblog out.  Definitely add it to your podcast device of choice.

Declarations of War - Strongly Recommended

Now hosted by CZ also, Declarations of War still maintains it's own website.  I miss that DoW is no longer the voice of the mercenary in Eve now that Alek is no longer running Noir, but this is still one of the strongest and longest-running podcasts in the Eve meta.  Co-hosts have come and gone (miss you NinjaTurtle and Ali Aras) but the general theme of EVE PvP (primarily nullsec-centric warfare) carries on.  If you are only going to listen to a few podcasts about Eve then Declarations of War needs to be on your list.

NeoCom Podcast - Tentative Recommendation

The NeoCom started out as a bright and energetic podcast with all of the positive energy that befits coming from the Brave Newbies / Hero Coalition side of Eve.  I always will have a great love for podcasts like this, just like the old Fly Reckless podcasts.  There's been a lot of changeover at the NeoCom and perhaps that too parallels the rise and fall of the Brave/HERO cohort in Eve.  Kira and Proto are no longer leading the podcast, but instead two streamers I'm not particularly familiar with: Manic Velocity and Elinari Rhodan.  We'll see if The Tinfoil Factory will reappear as well (one of my favorite spinoffs).  Hopefully the new crew will hit their stride and we'll see this podcast re-emerge.

Down The Pipe - Recommended

You've probably noticed that most podcasts are focused on nullsec, which is why Down the Pipe is important as the only wormhole-focused podcast I know of.  Led by Longinus Spear and his cohost Bronya Boga, this podcast has always been about getting the good fights for Bob's wormholey glory.  The podcast has faded in and out over the years, but it seems to be back up again - though episode 62 was in July, so maybe I'm being overly optimistic.  If Spear can keep this going, and you have any interest in wormhole space, then tune in.  My favorite is probably the closing segment "storytime" where the guests go over a good fight they had since the previous podcast.

Broadcasts from the Ninveah - Recommended

On hiatus now, we'll see if Kirith Kodachi's real life lets him get back into recording this unique podcast.  It is a meta-meta of Eve, since it is driven by Kirith's take on blogs that he has read and is recommending.  Over the past year it has also featured Kirith's two young sons, one of whom was giving Eve a shot.

Other Podcasts:

* Eve Prosper: This is probably the most narrowly focused podcast out there, as it is all about Eve markets.  Lockefox has made a name for himself here, which is I'm sure part of why we haven't seen more Hydrostatic podcast.  If you're a market/industry player you should be listening to this.  Me... not so much.
* High Drag: High Drag has gone quiet for a while (since May).  I'm hoping we'll see it come back.  I'd like to hear more of the small-gang, solo PvP kind of point of view.
* Hydrostatic Podcast: I think with the hosts now split off to On Grid and Eve-Prosper we may not see Hydrostatic come back, though the fact that they've been publishing "Know Your Lore" might indicate that at least Phyridean isn't giving up yet.

August 14, 2016

Reflections on Eve from No Man's Sky

“Are you cheating on No Man’s Sky with Eve?”, asks my wife as she sees glances over to the computer as I jump a gate.  It’s a reasonable question.  My son and I got through the PC launch problems Friday night and took turns putting a decent number of hours in.  No 24/7 marathons here, and my son is equally interested in catching up on episodes of “One Piece” as playing.  No Man’s Sky is definitely the new hotness though.  So why am I logging into Eve?

The answer isn’t quite comfortable for me - it feels as much like obligation as entertainment.  I have market orders that need updating, PI that needs to be moved about, and manufacturing jobs that have completed and replaced by new ones.  That’s not exactly the same as “let’s see what’s on that next planet” that No Man’s Sky offers.  The Eve activities have the feeling of obligation because they are means to an end - an end that isn’t here quite yet.  In some of those cases, there are people expecting me to run those manufacturing jobs, so I don’t want to let them down.  The market orders and PI are to make ISK that I can use in the future for ships.  All that sounds like great training for some simulation that means to teach kids about responsibility and planning for the future.  But is it fun?

Yes, it’s an argument that the Eve community has had many times.  Other games come along and Eve players give them a try, but in the trope we all know the players come back to Eve.  There’s a novelty to the new game. To carry my wife’s joking analogy along, it’s the flirting fun of that new relationship that puts the sparkle in the eye.  That novelty wears away and then it’s back to the tried and true, the more deeply engaging, where the longevity sits.  (Note: don’t carry this too far - Eve is far less likely than your spouse to throw you out for straying.)

No Man’s Sky fits this well with its theme of discovery and exploration.  The game teased the audience pre-release with a sense of wonder.  While we have an activity we call “exploration” in Eve, it’s hard to get that sense of wonder.  It’s hard for CCP to generate wonder when their cool new thing is visible on Sisi weeks ahead of launch, if not leaked of the Chaos server before that.  By the time it gets the Tranquility anyone who is clued in knows all the tricks.  Ghost sites?  Sleeper redoubts?  Mapped with optimal strategy from the get-go, which means that CCP has to balance it for perfect player knowledge, so if you intentionally keep yourself ignorant you’re probably going to get nuked.

The community has been talking about procedurally generated PVE sites for years - since I started playing at least.  I’ve opined before about the idea of the “new space” on the other side of player-build jumpgates being procedurally generated, with a new batch of NPCs driven by the latest AI routines.  We’re seeing serious discussion amongst CSMs and even hard-core PVPers that a reboot of Eve PVE is needed.  CCP has seen many possible rival internet spaceship games come and go, so I’m not saying they should be threatened by No Man’s Sky, but there is something to learn from it.

I expect my next log-in of real duration to Eve will be in response to a fleet ping (most recent ones in my corp seem to be for the EU TZ or out-of-school US types.)  When I look back, I hope it won’t be because of a feeling of obligation rather than excitement.

July 30, 2016

Eve hotdropped my vacation

Like many Eve players, I was away for quite a bit this month on vacation.  Unexpectedly though, Eve caught up with me.  I guess you really can't escape the spaceships!

About three years ago I was on vacation with extended family and watching AT videos on my iPad.  My nephew was very interested and had lots of questions, but after my sister asked me a bit about what Eve was like she said "No."  He had enough distractions going on to add Eve, which was almost certainly a good call at the time.

Fast forward to this July out on the Outer Banks and my nephew unfolds his laptop and says "Guess what, I've been playing Eve the past few months."  He had moved pretty quickly into Signal Cartel and was running wormhole sites in a Tengu.  When not in the wormhole, he had been running incursions.  In short, he had immediately moved to two areas of the game that I hadn't actually experienced yet.  It's a testament to how much Eve offers that this little coincidence is probably not all that rare amongst two randomly chosen players.

So we ended up chatting a good bit about Eve during the vacation.  The WiFi where we were staying was a bit shaky the first couple days, which convinced him he didn't actually want to undock and go wormhole diving while there.  Instead he spent downtime playing around with EFT and asking questions as we rotated through the ship browser.  He's a bright kid, so I'm not really surprised that he's taken in so much over a relatively short time.

Now that I'm back home that's increased my interest in wormhole diving for PVE.  I've used wormholes to get to null to try ratting there for the bounties and the sec status, or to cut to other areas of low where a solo Gallente pilot might find a different kind of fight than in the warzone.  Looking around the other day I found a hole to a C13, so remembering Longinus Spear's backpacking blogs I fitted up a Confessor and gave it a try for an hour or so.  That blog was apparently before the nerf pass on the Confessor, but the idea held up well even without bling.  I was pretty surprised at the value pulled in drops and salvage - yeah salvaging, that's something I haven't done in a long time.

Wormhole living isn't suddenly going to pull me away from my home in Gallente FW, but it is a nice sideline.  Profit isn't bad either, and I continue to need more income streams if I'm going to actually be flying capitals down the road.  All the more things that can open up in Eve - sometimes even when you're on vacation.

July 4, 2016

Summer Blahs and New Temptations

A couple bloggers have mentioned Eve things slowing down for them.  I expect that a lot of us are in that boat.  Schedules change as the kids get out of school and are staying up later, vacations kick in (I'll be out for a week in a bit), and other obligations come along (I have in-laws visiting the past week).  This blog was written over three days and four sittings, when normally I kick out a blog in one or two.  all those things can easily cut into Eve time.   It's understandable for us to ask if there is something more.

I read a lot of opinions on people not being thrilled with the Shadow of the Serpent event.  I have barely even logged in since it started, and I haven't tried any of the challenges, so I don't have any first hand opinion.  I wrote a piece for Crossing Zebras about the structure of the rewards before it started, though I'm glad to see now that it's out that it is a bit of a hybrid between the approaches I mentioned.  Getting the right structure is important for motivating players, and I think what they did was actually a good mix.  Unfortunately, the rewards behind the structure are underwhelming for people, particularly when compared to the Thrill of the Hunt SP-fest that was just terminated.  But I can't say that the event's apparent failure to engage the Eve community is part of me not getting undocked more.

It's certainly not the content generated by my corp.  Rapid Withdrawal has been racking up the kills, including getting in on some big fights through blues to local pirates.  One of our FCs and content generators, Nate Atol, is on the Top 10 killer list on zkillboard right now.  Our new alliance, Pen Is Out, is almost certainly going to start showing on the Alliance lists as soon as it has existed long enough for the kills to mount up.  On the other hand, I won't be surprised if starting practice for an Alliance Tournament team means we'll see a sudden drop of kill stats for our top pilots.  So there's plenty of content for me there if could just get free from guests and such when the quite frequent pings go out.

The more immediate threat to my Eve time is Path of Exile, which I played and then put away.  When my son was looking for something to do with his extra free time, I figured maybe he was ready for some modern murder hobo hero action.  Showing him how it worked got me playing again of course - I never had finished the story and now we're both racing through it on my Steam account.  Maybe someday I'll try introducing him to Eve, but I know it may be a one-shot thing - if he gets turned off by the complexity then it may not be something I can try again next year.

My Eve time is probably lucky that No Man's Sky got delayed from June to August.  I expected that would be the big game-time pull.  Well, it still will be I hope, it's just that now it will overlap more with the end of summer vacation and thus another set of schedule changes.  I expect my son and I will dive into it, and since both of us will be playing that will make it all the more appealing for me to spend time on rather than Eve.

Click for link to Tiger Ears wonderful WH resources - wish she still played and blogged

So when I get time again I think I'm going to try throwing myself into something different.  Maybe a concentrated effort on solo pvp, but the downside of the massive content-fest that is our FW zone is that you're up against some tough odds solo.  Another option that I'm finding appealing is fitting up a Stratios and start wandering through wormholes without limiting myself in having to find my way back every play session.  It's not too hard to have a PVP fit that can do some PVE (granted, not the big anoms) or that you can mobile-depot refit to.  The Stratios is better than my cloaky Proteus for not needing ammo (technically) between lasers, neuts and drones.  I'll have to hit up pyfa and try out some options.

Beautiful image by zombietychus via Reddit - click for original

In the end, this is the beauty and the longevity of Eve.  Other games may come and go.  Right now I hear plenty of comments of people playing Overwatch or Stellaris.  Then they're back to Eve again, either in the same kind of game as before or maybe something new.

June 18, 2016

BB76: The Field Marshal upon Yonder Hill

BB76 - Why should Eve persist in an Iron Age model for command, rather than moving up a millennia or so to a more Napoleonic model of command.  Let's give our FCs a steed from which they can command from a distance.

Blog Banter 76 asks:

At fanfest CCP Fozzie proposed a potential new ship class. Let's call it the fleet commander's flagship for now. This is to try and prevent "FC Headshotting" where the opposing fleet knows who the FC is and alpha's them off the field leaving the rest of the fleet in confusion and disarray. Fozzie mentioned a ship with a great tank but no offensive abilities. Is this a good idea? Is FC head-shotting a legitimate tactic? If CCP do go down the route of a "flagship" how might this work? Also is a new ship the answer or is there another way of giving an FC the ability not to be assassinated 12 seconds into the fight without letting players exploit it?

Eve's Mask of Command

Military history fans will have read "The Mask of Command" by John Keegan.  If not you should add that to the stack by your bedside immediately.  This post is not about that book, but from a small bit that I remember from the decades ago that I read it.  He describes the change in the role of command over the centuries, notably from the warband leader ("Heroic Leader") who is first amongst the charging ranks to the field marshal sitting on a horse on a hill with a telescope ("Anti-Heroic Leader"), and eventually to generals in a city far away getting reports from the front lines ("Post-Heroic Leader").

Our Eve FCs are very much in the first class, with the huge disadvantage that Keegan talks about - they can get killed right in that first charge.  In melee the leader's troops can be inspired to follow and surround their leader to protect them.  Keegan talks about Alexander the Great personally scaling the wall of a city he was seiging, forcing his troops to follow him or he would be lost.  But in Eve as we know the only way to protect an individual is to keep reps on them.  That still leaves them vulnerable to alpha - Eve's equivalent of an arrow or bullet right to the face.

This implies there are two ways to protect an FC.  The one talked about most is making an "alpha-proof" tank of a ship with enough buffer/resists for reps to land.  Perhaps an ultra-Absolution kind of ship, or one with a special module similar to the new Capital Emergency Hull Energisers that also shuts down offensive capability.  Lore wise this could be interesting to build out of the recent Amarr experience with getting alpha'd by Drifters, which of course as with all Eve things would be immediately copied by all factions.

The second way I don't hear people talking about - put the FC in the place of the field marshal watching everything through field glasses.  Keegan's example for this case was Wellington, and as depicted above you can think of this leader as very near the battle but above the scrum.  Carriers already fulfill some of the needs for such a Napoleonic leader, such as the ability to lock targets over extreme ranges.  So is an answer perhaps for this new "Grid Command" ship to be a cruiser hull with super-long lock ranges, a high number of simultaneous targets, EWAR resistance/invulnerability, and probably a good speed and sensor strength.  If your FC is so valuable that you are willing to give up their ability to contribute dps, then why have them in the middle of the scrum anyway?

CCP would still have to worry about abuse of such a ship of course - but that's true of any new ship hull.  it would be cool for some of the ship's new abilities to only exist (or be enhanced) when in fleet command positions - perhaps brain in the box makes this possible. Having such a tie would also reduce abuse since it inherently limits how many people in a fleet could exploit the ship in the inevitable, creative way that Eve players do.

So if CCP Fozzie was to ask my opinion, that's the direction I would point him in.  Eve FCs should move past the Iron Age commander and at least up to the Napoleonic era. :)

Side note - the AIs are taking over the spam

I have moderation turned on after some spam posts.  I had this comment pop up on an old post.  The artificially generated posts (Markov chains or whatever the latest hotness is) are getting good enough that for a brief moment I was really trying to parse it as if it was written by a non-English native speaker.  Unlike usual there was no hyperlink embedded for the advertising - that was done in the "poster's" URL, so you wouldn't see it unless you tried to find out who this poster was.  The second sentence is definitely more successful in picking up from Eve phrases.

"This is very considerably some sort of assurance connected with way as an alternative to whatever massive, in addition to many pleasant keyword phrases including suffering on the excess weight connected with its very own awesomeness. When i recognize of which Empire living space is usually a realistic beginning point having many stuff witout a doubt constantly in place, although I however hope we were looking at wanting to create the concept of this sailing factions to be a beginning point."

May 19, 2016

Dread-ing Training

After Eve Vegas when the capital balance changes were first announced, I decided to make the leap and slotted in Advanced Spaceship Command to get into a capital ship. There are a lot of expensive schoolbooks involved and very long training cycles, as I noted in my blog at the time. I was looking forward to being able to get into a Moros that would have utility in lowsec beyond POS takedowns.  That was on 31 October, so I'm all done and a capital pilot now, right?  Not exactly.

Since then I have deprioritized some of this capital training as we learned more about the capital rebalance and what it really means in practice. High angle weapons don't have quite the punch against subcapital targets as we might have hoped. That's still a very expensive ship to put on the line to try to blap subcapitals with given the DPS numbers. (Though I'm amused to hear of MBC HAW Titans on the Saranen undock)

I know I didn't show the full fit (it wasn't good, don't worry) but that 3.3B for fittings is notable (and I didn't go as shiny as many I'm sure).  As I talked to local capital pilots and got advice on slave implant sets for the traditional buffer tanking approach.  We'll see if the new active-tank pirate implants end up making the scene for smaller engagements (oh, and that means Capital Repair Systems skill). In any case, that means another couple billion ISK. My wallet will definitely need reinforcement long before I can undock such a capital ship, given a guideline of being able to immediately replace any ship (and pod) that I undock. In other parts of Eve players could rationalize buying a carrier knowing that they could use it for high-value ratting to help pay the cost of that same carrier. That is not exactly advisable in low sec, and definitely not in a dreadnought.  The carrier meta does look very interesting, though it is an even longer and more expensive training cycle.

But what has really derailed my plans though is the ongoing use and value of battleships in both PVP and PVE. When I started down the capital training road I only had Gallente Battleship V. While the Dominix is a quite serviceable battleship for fleet use, the king of the PVP subcap mountain today is the Machariel.  Like most of the PVP focused corps around lowsec, RDRAW has a Machariel doctrine, which makes Minmatar Battleship V seem like a good value train.  On a side note, I went to slap a T2 Heavy Neut on my Machariel and realized that I'd never trained that to V either - since until the neut rebalance there wasn't any reason to use T2 neuts.  So that's another couple days of training.

On the PVE side the Rattlesnake is the undisputed moneymaker whether you're running L5 missions or hopping through a WH to hit nullsec anoms. Fortunately this also uses Gallente Battleship for offense, though the Caldari Battleship V seems very appealing for that extra bit of resists.  In my case that also meant polishing up some missile skills.  All to get the ISK that could make it possible to get that even bigger ship.  Hmm, this is starting to sound like a trap, isn't it?

Really all of these are the classic trade off of more short-term pay off compared to a very long-term payoff. Capitals are not something that I see regularly in my current line of work. Battleships are.  The capital skills will remain in the queue but have gotten pushed back by those 30 day battleship trains. At least for not I'm not tempted by the distractions of Marauder or Black Ops...

So I can technically sit in a Moros now, but I haven't spent for the hull and don't see that happening soon.  I don't regret putting in that big train for advanced spaceship command but it doesn't look like I'll be putting it to use quite as early as I might have hoped.  Instead I'll follow along and see how things develop for capital ships both in the wider universe of Eve and in the part of space in which I now reside.