October 31, 2015

Capitals and Citadels

I've been absorbing everything I can from Eve Vegas and the recent o7 show, and I've been getting really excited.  Despite a pretty crazy couple of weeks I managed to get undocked, in a few fights, and even found some Gauntlets and grabbed a Blood Raider Cerebral Accelerator for my main and for my alt.  But the big news recently has certainly been about Capitals and Citadels.

I think I can sum up my opinion on the recent Capital news pretty succinctly:

 My plan previously had been to make Jakob a near-perfect sub-Battleship pilot.  My missile skills definitely trail my turret and drone skills, but I already had all the sub-BS T1 hull types to V and most of the T2 hulls as well.  Recently I'd moved up and started training the battleship hulls and the large turret systems I didn't already have into the T2 weapon zone.  But capitals are a big step.

There are the skill books whose cost is measured in the 100s of millions, training levels in the double-digits, training plans measured in months, and ship hulls that are measured in the billions.  More than all of that is that this will be a new world of operations for me.  There is research I'll need to do and people I'll need to talk to.  Some is on the prep side: "What level of Jump Drive Operation is really needed for near-home space operations?".  Some of it is operational: "Okay, walk me through decision making on siege cycles."  This is all a different level from moving from a Vexor to a VNI to an Ishtar.

The coming Capital changes will make any immediate discussions of fits irrelevant.  By the time I have the skills to get into a Moros (and the ISK to fit one and afford to lose it) I expect we'll be well into that stage, but I can wait on that.  So why start this training now instead of finishing off "perfection" on the sub-cap level?

Part of that is the new "high-angle batteries" which will make dreads useful for battles in lowsec that don't involve shooting POSs or previously-dropped triage carriers.  For better or worse, we're going to see more dreads in the Gal/Cal warzone I think.  That means that Aideron is going to need more capital pilots.  (As an aside it also means that my HIC training should become more valuable as well.)

The other part is that there are going to be Citadels in the warzone, and that means those Citadels will need killing in the more traditional role of dreadnoughts.  It will probably be a while until POSs are removed from the game, but I expect we'll see Citadels about pretty quickly.  For faction war this particularly means that flipping a system will not dislodge the enemy as much as before.  POSs in the past could continue the fight and provide resupply, but Citadels will mean an organization could continue full-fledged operations from docking and repair to market stocking.

October 22, 2015

SP changes: Shaking up the Gerontocracy of Eve

The Eve meta is still processing the Dev Blog "Exploring the Character Bazaar & Skill Trading."  There's been a lot of good discussion out there (and a lot of brainless posting and posturing), but I think the older players in particular just haven't quite gotten what this means to new(er) players.  As was commented on The Tinfoil Factory, Eve is a gerontocracy where power accrues to players simply for having been subscribed longer than others.  The changes we're talking about now dare to shake that up and thus undermine the advantages of older players.  Given that, perhaps it's not a surprise that people have taken a very cautiously named blog and run to their pitchforks, assuming it's a feature about to roll out.  This is all particularly interesting when combined with the new Blood Raider Cerebral Accelerator.

Pay To Win

Let's get this one out of the way first.  The suggestion here is that if I have a friend (let's call him Adam) started playing Eve two years before me, then it is somehow Pay to Win if I am given a way to catch up to him in skill points.  Let me say that another way: simply pulling up even to an older player is considered Pay to Win?  This isn't golden ammo, this isn't using a credit card to get an advantage in PVP that can only be countered by another credit card.  This is younger players being able to catch up to older players.  I can see why the older players might consider that threatening, but that's clearly not Pay To Win.  We don't even need to break out the existing Character Bazaar topic to see that, right?

Options for New Players

In the Dev Blog, we see Team Size Matters floating a concept with a very steep curve of diminishing returns.  This is clearly set up to get players into the 50M to 80M SP range, with only a truly massive level of expenditure making this worthwhile for those over 80M SP.  As someone who is sitting at just under 80M SP, I think this is a good limit.  We have prominent examples of Kil2 and Gorski Car who both starting playing Eve and went to the character bazaar in order to get a character with competent PVP skills.  This gives other players that option without the much more dramatic step of buying an entire character

I hear a number of comments in the meta about how people want to maintain the emotional connection to their character.  This mechanism allows players build up the character that they've been playing, rather than have to discard it.  If anything, people who want that person connection should be thrilled at this new mechanism, if only they can think on this from the perspective of a newer player.

As a new player, you don't have any other options to get skilled up.  In other games where skills accrue from your actions, you could be a really intense player and grind out the levels or skills.  In Eve, there is nothing you can do but pay your monthly fee.  In fact, maybe the best way to get started in Eve is to buy six months of subscription, line up your training queue, and then don't log in except to add in a skill you just cleared the prereqs for.  Is that really what we want to tell a person who is considering playing Eve and wants to get in and be able to compete in at least cruiser-level PVP?

Options for Older Players

At the same time, what if you're an older player who has trained your main into a space coffin and you're feeling trapped?  This mechanism means you could sell that Titan, extract those supercapital skills, free yourself from that obligation and fund yourself for capital and down PVP for a long time.  Get back to enjoying Eve, which is what the game should be all about.  This is also true for older players who don't see any skills that they really want to train anymore, not wanting to get into that space coffin.  We're hitting that for a lot of older players.  Does it make more sense that they should train skills that they will never use?  Is that a decision that adds to the game?

I agree that there may be a lot of supercap toons that are unsubscribed now which might be re-upped for the sole purpose of stripping them down for SP.  The market could be flooding with people taking advantage of this to cash out.  I don't see that as a bad thing at all.  If people aren't having fun with those characters, there is no advantage to the player, to CCP, or to the Eve community to have them sitting around unsubscribed.  I'm sure that a lot of people would not cry if there was a sudden drop in the total number of super-capable hotdroppers in New Eden either.  Maybe Eve would be a healthier place for that.  (Now of course we'll see what Eve Vegas brings for capital and supercap rebalance of course)  I don't buy the "protect players from themselves" flavor of these arguments.  Eve is Not a Nanny State.

Blood Raiders on the coattails

One must wonder if the Dev Blog on skill trading was intentionally positioned to start the controversial fire right before the Blood Raider event was started up.  Against the backdrop of the SP Trading, I haven't seen a single person (even on reddit) claim that the Blood Raider Cerebral Accelerators were "Pay to Win."  But why not?  After all, this allows the same catch-up mechanism as skill trading by breaking out the credit card.

There is an important difference in that this approach is not instantaneous.  Even doubling your learning speed 24/7 still means that I'd need a full year just to catch up to someone two years ahead of me.  This is not a solution to the "I need all the skills to fly T2 tank and guns in PVP" problem.  But is this an intermediate solution?  If people are not okay with instant skill injection, would they be okay with the injected skills being applied over time?  Consider a mechanism where I inject one TSP of 500K SP and thus double my rate of learning until they are gone.  Consider if stacking was allowed so if I really want I can inject 9 TSPs and learn at 10x rate for a while.  Now an would-be Kil2 can speed through the core fitting skills while getting into frigate PVP, quickly moving into the cruiser range but without jumping in one credit card transaction.

One way or another it's going to be a brave new world out there.  With any change like this, there are going to be people who resist it either by general conservatism or because it undermines their personal advantage.  If Eve is going to thrive for the next decade, I think we need bring in mechanisms like this.

October 9, 2015

PLEX v Aurum

So a short one today about the relative value of PLEX and Aurum for a very specific purpose.  Before that though, I think it's been clearly shown that I was way too excited about the possibility that the kill markers on the ships indicated something deeper in Eve.  Ah well, mark it up to an overabundance of optimism about the future perhaps.

So, on to PLEX and Aurum.

For me there are two possible uses for these cash-buyable things: training time and raw ISK.  I sub my account in the normal fashion, so when I'm looking for training time I mean the Multiple Pilot Training Certificate.  Let's start there.

Multiple Pilot Training Certificate

1 PLEX will get me a month for $19.95 USD.  Pretty straightforward.
3500 Aurum will get me a month, purchasable as a package of 4035 Aurum for $20.00 USD.

I'll wave fondly at the $0.05 USD and call those the same.  So my money is better spent on Aurum since I'll end up with 535 Aurum left over.  That's not even enough to get you a frigate skin, btw, so what would I do with that.  Well, the obvious answer is that if I buy enough, and those ratios hold, then in seven purchases I'll get an extra month, right?

Well, no.

6 PLEX will run me $104.97 USD - in Aurum equivalents for the MPTC this is 21000 Aurum.
21200 Aurum will run me $100.00 USD.

Hmm, that 535 advantage for Aurum vanished.  PLEX is discounted by 12.3% when you buy five of them, but for the same amount of Aurum you only get a discount of 4.8%


So right now a PLEX is running at buy-side 1.188B and sell-side 1.200B ISK.  That's the easy part.

Let's take a sample cool skin, the Astero Sanctuary skin.  Everybody wants one, right?

The skin costs 1540 Aurum, so that's 2.62 of them per basic $20 package.  Yes, I'm handwaving that fraction right now.  The skin goes for 624 sell / 485 buy right now.  On both the buy and sell side that's a better value than PLEX, though the range is a lot bigger between buy and sell and it assume you can make use of that fraction.  If you just sold 2 instead of the 2.62 you would still be a hair ahead on the sell price at 1.248B ISK.  You should expect that this might indicate that it won't be quite as predictable what final price you'll get after you battle the 0.01ers in Jita.  But pretty clear win for Aurum, right?

Let's look back at those $100 packages.
PLEXx6 = buy 7.20B, sell 7.128B
Aurum = buy 8.59B, sell 6.68B

And that Aurum is actually you selling 13.76 Astero skins, so it assumes you can efficiently find a set of comparable skins that won't leave you with an inventory of unsellable Aurum.  Granted, even if you only sold 13 Astero skins at sell price it would be better than the sell price of PLEX.

So it's an interesting world.  For my simple original question of getting another month for my alt, the Aurum market looks interesting.  I get what I want and have a bit of Aurum that eventually I'll use for something I'm sure.  But if you're a speculator looking at the mass market, it's not quite as clear.  If you're confident that you can get the sell price then you can get 119% of the ISK using Aurum.  If you've got $100 you want to plunk into Eve, then I wish you the best of luck.  I'm sure CCP is cheering you on too.

October 2, 2015

More Fuel for the Eve Hype Train

CCP came back from summer vacations and opened up the throttle on the communication and the hype.  The real test, as always, will be the delivery but there are some obvious and not-so-obvious major news items in the latest flurry of communication.

First off, big points to CCP Seagull for these video blog entries.  Close-up, looking straight into the camera, earnest and every bit the leader that I think many of us were so impressed with when she first hit the stage.

Secondly, the team is laying it all on the line with the Eve Updates page.  Not just items for next release, or even the release after that.  We have teasers to pique your interest clear out to Fanfest.  The risk here is that anything that is even mildly delayed will stir up every little rotten pit of negativity in the community.  This is a change from the previous approach of having rapid patches which can get announced mere weeks before the work hits the servers.

Is this a sign that CCP is being responsive, or that they're very deeply worried, or both?

Solid Responses
"We heard you" might be the theme from the capital rebalances to the careful steps around the use of Entosis links vis-a-vis citadels.  Right up front is the change to the Jump Fatigue limits.  We'll see if this means that big players will reach out farther, willing to make big strikes on the weekends knowing they can reset again by the next weekend.  Structure changes for nullsec includes the passive wind-down of attacked nodes if the attackers don't stick with it.  This seems like a good change to slow down trolling without inhibiting true attackers.

Crimson Harvest?  The return of the Drifters is a fix for the briefly-implemented invasion of the Throne Worlds that I personally hope will have the potential to spread across New Eden if left unchecked.  But the Crimson Harvest - a new Blood Raider incursion?

Sneaky Fundamental Eve Changes
So kill marks on your ship for each final blow that this particular hull has scored - cool right?  But this feels like something far more fundamental has just slipped in.  In the past we've often talked about how each ship is very generic in being an entry in the database.  The only thing really different was the name that was assigned to it.  Now there is also an integer value which not only is driven by other game mechanics, but which feeds through and changes the behavior of the rendering of the skin.  Similarly we have reports of how dust and debris will accumulate on ships based on usages, or rust if they sit in hangar.  I think these are potentially signs of something deeper going on in the implementation of Eve, something which allows each database entry to be a bit more distinct.  We'll see - maybe this is just a bit extension of the uniqueness of the ship name or maybe it is something more.

I didn't even cover all of the things.  D-scan on the probe window?  Ice mining frigates?  Players who are of a positive mindset will climb on the hype train, and those who are deeply embittered will find a way for each new thing to represent disappointment to them.  Find what you love about the game and I think you'll find something to love in all of these announcements.