A Scientist's Life in Eve

Building better Worlds – redefining industry in Eve?

by on Apr.23, 2014, under Eve online

CCP have released the second of a series of six Dev blogs on how industry will be changing in the Summer Patch.  They’ve already covered reprocessing and how that’s going to change, which generally will be a good thing, meaning that in Eve, when you take your Smart Phone apart, you won’t somehow magically end up with a room full of tritanium and megacyte.

You can read the second Dev Blog here.

To start off with, it contains some fairly superfluous changes, such as rearranging the market groups for materials and components, which if you have looked at or used these market groups in their current form, you won’t really disagree with the changes as they make good sense, although it’s a shame that the standard and advanced capital components aren’t next to each other.

Stopping the damage is, again, a fairly easy to swallow section.  Previously, when making a T2 ship or module, you might in theory only need 1 whole R.A.M. to make a 10 run BPC of something that did 10% damage per run, however the 10 run BPC would actually need 10 R.A.M.’s to be present that each had at least 10% damage left on them to use.  Very annoying for somebody like me who always tries to run things exactly to the numbers.  This, for me, is a very good change, much like when CCP changed fuel blocks by multiplying them by 10 to avoid fractions in a world of integers.

Also, removing an unnecessary column of data in Eve is always welcome when your screen is so covered with windows that you can’t see the brilliant custom paint jobs available for ships.

Extra materials – thank you CCP.  This was always very much a “work-around” and I’m glad they’ve bitten the bullet and gone for the removal.  Again, unnecessary data being stripped out of the equation to make things easier is a welcome piece of news, and as it’s tied into the reprocessing changes, it’s really not going to be too much of a problem to get used to, although it does mean many changes will be needed in some code and on some spreadsheets.  On this occasion, I actually don’t mind at all.

Now from this point onwards, CCP suddenly tread on potentially dangerous ground.

Removing slots from NPC stations is an interesting approach, particularly as the skills are very much tied into that way of operating.  I can see the logic of trying to spread out the industry a bit by causing competition, but it does raise some potential issues.

Say that you’re part of a big industrial corp that uses hi-sec POS for research, invention and manufacturing.  This is important as you have your BPO set safely locked down at a station so they can’t be taken.  This is necessary as, for some reason, CCP deem it necessary for you to be able to “take” the BPO in the corporate interface sense in order to do anything with it.  It’s not a problem though, as you have Scientific Networking and Supply Chain Management trained, so you can set the job running at one of the corp’s science and industrial slots located at the POS.

CCP’s upcoming changes mean that you won’t be able to do this any more.  You’ll either have to have the BPO’s unlocked so you can fly them to the POS module you want to complete the action at (dude – where’s my BPO set gone? Oh, it was stolen because they were all unlocked), or you have to make a copy first in order to take the copy to the POS (oh look, my POS researching my new set of battleship BPO’s just got blown up, there goes xx billion ISK).

Wait I hear you scream at me, CCP are changing copy time so that it takes less time to copy than to manufacture.  Great, so guess which slots will be the most contested, and therefore the most expensive, to use in NPC stations???

An example of the way I would make a T2 cruiser if I were in hi-sec now.  I’d copy the locked down BPO remotely at a mobile lab anchored at a POS, I’d collect the BPC’s and then invent them remotely from a station at probably the same mobile lab.  I’d then collect the T2 BPC’s and, when a T1 ship has been made at the NPC station and all components have been made at a component assembly array at a POS (using locked down BPO’s), I’d then move things out to…. oh, no…. I’d then make the T2 cruiser in a slot at the NPC station because if I made it at a POS the only option I have is an assembly array that charges me 10% extra materials to make.  Fail.

In total, I’ve used locked down BPO’s to make copies for inventions, to make a T1 ship and the T2 components.  With CCP’s new model, I’d need to either use a (probably) highly contested copy slot at the station to copy the ship BPO for copies to invent from, and unless I want to use the much slower station slots to make the components, I’d need to use the station copy slot to make copies of the component BPO’s.

OK, I could just take the component BPO’s to the component assembly array, but that means they have to be unlocked, which leaves them open to theft.  Even if it was only me in the corp, it still means that they are open to being lost if my POS was destroyed.  OK, maybe not a huge ISK loss, but do I really need to have multiple sets of component BPO’s researched to cover that eventuality so that if I did lose a POS I could continue production without having to wait for component BPO’s to research again?

Now currently I manufacture in an Amarr Factory Outpost in null sec, and use mobile labs at POS to copy, research, invent and reverse engineer from. This only amplifies the problem for me, as unless you want to build something, the Amarr Outpost is pretty terrible at anything else.  Say we put a Caldari Research Outpost in a nearby system.  Great, however now we have BPO’s being researched and copied in one system, and then if we need to use those to build from we really have to copy them as we’re not going to unlock and transport them through space.

With the truly terrible corporate interface currently in place, there will be a lot of CEO’s or Directors having to vote on things to move them to the appropriate Outpost, assuming that the Corp even has access to one in the first place.

I know that CCP haven’t released details of how non-NPC installations (i.e. Outposts and POS modules) will be handled, but as with the cost increment system, I imagine that it will be based around the same mechanic, but a time effect.  TiDi for manufacturing could be on the way! Yay! Wait… what?

My first guess is that CCP will set it so that if (using an un-upgraded Amarr Factory Outpost which currently has 50 slots to build with) 50 identical jobs are put into production at the same time, they will take 100% of the time you would expect, and so the Outpost owner will get 100% of the charges they’ve set.  If, however, another 50 of the same job was simultaneously put into production 10 minutes later, they might take 200% of the expected time.  As the Outpost owner charges by the hour (isn’t that the Minmatar Outpost?), they will now get 200% of the fee they would have expected for those jobs.

The first 50 jobs might take 1 day to make, and the second 50 jobs would then take 2 days to make. Ironically, if the people had co-ordinated, then they could have put the second set of 50 in after the first set had finished, completing all 100 jobs in the same amount of time, and costing less ISK.  Maybe this is where CCP are heading with the “Teams” idea?  Currently, this situation would mirror the second outcome, as the second set of 50 jobs would just stack and start after the first set.

Another question is whether CCP really understand how hi-sec industry works.  The manufacturers tend to be “hopeless noob carebears who are too scared to undock”, and if another corporation war-decs them with the intention of taking down a hi-sec POS, they are usually a large, well-organised PvP corp. Does this mean we’ll want to defend our POS more… well… probably not as it would still be against a large well-organised PvP corp.

Also, seriously CCP, hi-sec POS without needing standing? Imagine if Goonswarm decided to spend 200 billion (a not too silly price), to put a small Caldari POS on every single hi-sec moon in The Forge region.  With the current failed mechanics, all they’d need to do is have enough fuel in each to get them through a downtime, and enough Stront in to ensure that they go into reinforced mode.  Suddenly they’ve interdicted POS deployment in the region where Jita is.  If you want to anchor a POS in The Forge now, you have to either: war-dec Goons and try to blow up the POS; pay somebody else to do this for you; or contact a friendly Goonswarm representative who will let you rent the moon from them at a very reasonable ISK cost per month.  Fail to pay it and they’ll war-dec you and come and blow up your POS, or pay somebody else to do it.

Risk = ISK I hear you cry.  OK, but how much risk? Already CCP have made it so that grav sites in null sec don’t need to be scanned anymore. They’ve made interceptors not affected by bubbles on gates. They’ve (sensibly and as it should be imho) made smaller ships enter and exit warp more quickly than bigger ships. That’s quite a lot of risk of quite a lot of ISK. It’s already possible (as many Outpost users have found out in the past) to lose everything in an Outpost.  You could be barred from docking by the Outpost owner if it’s not you. You could have your Outpost attacked and hell-camped with bubbles and a 23.5/7 guard (as recently happened courtesy of Goons), which means that you would lose your BPO collection. Risk = ISK, and when you manufacture in null sec you understand the risks, as I do.  I have a lot of ISK tied up in BPO’s in an Outpost, and I fully understand the risk of having them there.

Glimpse of new Industry UI – looks very nice. I hope that the actual implementation is as easy and quick to use as the new interface looks.  Due to previous comments by CCP, I’m assuming that BPC’s still won’t be able to be stacked, and this raises the issue that if CCP are realistically pushing industrialists towards using copies instead of originals, will they change that or have [are] they writing a nice interface to allow us to batch jobs together? They’re promising (well, not actually promising) fewer mouse clicks and a pleasing experience. I’ll be counting the clicks on SiSi when the test is released.

CCP need to seriously consider the impact of some points, particularly the change of use of the Scientific Networking and Supply Change Management skills. This really is a game changer, and if you’re living in null sec could easily make industry even more of a pain than it is now and actually drive more industry from null sec out to hi-sec.

Bring on the next Dev blog please.

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Manufacturing in Null Sec

by on Apr.07, 2014, under Eve online

So I have moved my blueprint set to null-sec and set up my invention and production line.  Currently I’m completing around 120 inventions a day to work through my backlog of 10,000 BPC’s.  I could quite easily do many more inventions, but I don’t really want to be logging on multiple times each day just to click my mouse 488 times per 60 inventions, and that’s not including the time taken to log each character in and get to the right hanger.

My first problem is production slots.  Yes I know that CCP updated the Outposts, and that the Amarr Outpost has 50 production slots available for normal manufacturing (excluding the 20 which are only for drug manufacturing).  The problem is that I have 7 characters with 10 slots each that I would usually keep busy.  I’m already 20 slots short and that’s not accounting for other corporation production efforts that would need slots reserved.

What can I do about this?  The first thing I’ve done is arrange with our landlords to have a Foundation Upgrade Platform and Amarr Basic Factory Upgrade brought in to add an additional 20 slots to the Outpost.  That still only leaves 70 slots available with me wanting to use 70 slots.  The cost of doing the basic upgrade is not inconsequential, and the cost of the second level upgrade to give a further 40 slots is also rather expensive, with the Upgrade Platform alone costing over 7 billion ISK, let alone the 1.8 billion for the Factory Upgrade, 900 million for a second Basic upgrade, and then all of the materials needed to put inside the upgrades to deploy them.

I think I’ll leave those for a little bit and maybe rely on doing some of my manufacturing in a POS assembly array.  Still, it unfortunately demonstrates how lacking the Outposts still are.  Even after spending all that ISK on an Outpost and possibly the basic and standard upgrades, you would only have enough manufacturing slots to keep a couple of industrialists in business.

I’ve just purchased around 6 billion in materials to be brought in to move onto the next manufacturing cycle.  Currently I’m finishing building some T2 propulsion modules and T2 electronic warfare modules.  The next cycle will see me move onto just over 8,000 “tanking” modules (think armour and shield).  I’m also planning to throw in some T3 hulls and subsystems and T2 ships.

The logistics cost of moving the basic materials in is something I have had to take into account, as your own freighter in hi-sec is just your time, whereas jump fuel or an alliance courier service have tangible costs.  Moving T2 modules back isn’t really much of a cost, as they are usually substantially smaller than their component parts.  Hulls, however, are a completely different matter, and I’m going to have to look at that more seriously, as the profit margin on hulls generally tends to be significantly lower than on modules, and the transport costs will increase that profit gap further, potentially to the point where it will actually result in making the production of a particular hull economically pointless in null sec when compared to hi-sec.

Another serious consideration with the upcoming summer update, will be mineral compression.  Currently I use mineral compression to bring in things that I’m short of, like Mexallon for example.  When the update hits, I presume I’ll be able to purchase blocks of compressed mexallon, that somebody has made at a POS module in hi-sec, and have those shipped out.  In one sense it could be better as I’ll be able to choose to import only what I want, but in other ways it will once again hit my profits as I doubt that the compressed blocks will be as efficiently compressed as the current mineral compression modules, and so will result in higher import costs.

CCP – from FanFest 2012 you made it clear that you wanted null sec to be made up of smaller alliances who were net exporters of things rather than net importers, and yet on the face of things you’re not really supporting this for the smaller entities who depend on much smaller logistics networks and so need to move as much as possible in as small a space as possible.

On the other hand, when I take my mobile telephone to pieces, I don’t end up with a small room full of pieces unless I was to spread them thinly over the floor, and so when a 425mm Railgun I is taken apart, it shouldn’t really give me nearly 30 times the volume of minerals back.

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A challenge to the CCP devs

by on Mar.25, 2014, under Eve online

After talking with my CEO last night, we decided that I should issue a challenge to the CCP devs.

A little background very quickly.  During last week and over the weekend, I decided that enough was enough.  CCP have stated both directly (2 Fanfest’s ago… I was there and heard it first hand) and indirectly (updates and changes to outposts, asteroid composition, and shortly refining reprocessing) that they want null sec to be able to be largely self-dependent for industry, and that things like T2 ships should be made in null sec and brought to hi-sec to sell instead everybody making things in hi-sec and taking them to Jita to be sold to the null sec horde.

What did I do?  No, I didn’t quit Eve (and even if I had, you can’t haz my stuf).  I closed down my hi-sec operations, with the exception of a Jita sales alt, and moved everything I have – characters, blueprints, ships, equipment and materials – out to be with the main null sec corporation in the drone lands.

The last bit of background – CCP have, and continue to make, some very nice tweaks, alterations, changes and additions to the UI which is making our daily lives in the pod goo easier, more informative, and prettier.  The Eve client even has built in Twitch integration now so we can share our experience with the gaming world and beyond.

So what’s the challenge to the CCP devs?

My challenge to the devs is to stream live on Twitch TV the following:

  1. Put 500 blueprint originals, locked down, and 5,000 blueprint copies (500 per can in 10 cans) into a hi-sec station of your choice
  2. With the CEO of the corp having all shares, unlock all the BPOs
  3. Set up courier contracts so you can fit all items into one ship (Orca / Freighter / Jump Freighter – your choice, but must be one ship)
  4. Unpack and set-up BPCs in correct cans
  5. With the CEO of the corp having all shares, lock down the BPOs

We’ll ignore the need for a 6th step of doing the sanctionable actions for the BPOs as that takes around 24 hours to take effect – let’s take that as read.

OK – how about upping the challenge?  Repeat steps 1 to 5 above, but have 3 live streams.  This time there will be the CEO and 2 Directors.  The CEO has 40% of the shares and the 2 Directors have 30% each.  If you don’t want to do 3 simultaneous streams, do them one after the other.

Why am I asking CCP Devs to stream dull carebear activities when a Dev roam would be much more exciting?  I agree, the Dev roam would be better, but I believe that CCP Devs should actually do the things that we, the players, do.  CCP Devs should spend time playing the different parts of the game to see how it works.  I also believe that they should specifically play parts of the game they DO NOT work on, as often they might ask the stupid question that leads to a brilliant change to the playing experience.

Remember when CCP Soundwave decided to try living in wormhole space for a while?  Very quickly after that corporate bookmarks suddenly appeared because he realised what a complete pain it was for pilot to make personal bookmarks and put them in a can to share with other corp members.

Perhaps if CCP Devs accept my challenge they might realise how they could make some simple changes to improve these interfaces.  Here’s one simple idea – on the voting page, simply list the votes with a nice looking checkbox for you to vote either approve or reject (or if not/un clicked, not vote at all).  Then have a confirm all votes button at the bottom.

The contract part is something different, with limits on numbers of things in a contract probably being some complex database thing that is linked to 25 other complicated database things that they need to change all at the same time, but maybe it’s just a number they can change somewhere to increase the maximum per contract.

I’m not even going to talk about the worst interface in Eve, the corporation interface, as I know that CCP are aware of how bad that is and how it needs a complete overhaul.

So CCP – are you up to the challenge?

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Pirates in Jita – trying to take the law into my own hands

by on Mar.14, 2014, under Eve online

She sat there in her captains quarters, drumming her fingers with boredom watching the various numbers on the screen as they constantly changed.  Jita was a boring place to be sometimes.  At first she had thought it was an important promotion… an exciting opportunity to be grasped with both hands.  It was only after the first two weeks of being here she realised it was a desk job.

She was past the stage of being furious.  Her, a capsuleer, stuck in an office trading all sorts of things ranging from simple commodities all the way up to huge battleships.  The pay was OK, but all she had was her standard issue Reaper to fly.  Sure, whenever the boss came to visit, she arrived in a massive Orca Industrial Command Ship, or sometimes even in a terrifying Damnation Command Ship.

Still, the Reaper could get her from A to B, the only problem being that she was never asked to go to B. Ever.

It was at that moment that her screen cleared and her boss appeared on the monitor.  “Girl, ” (she inwardly winced, she always called her that, never her actual name, just “girl”), “I have a job for you to do, and it could be dangerous.”.

Meili sat bolt upright at this news, her attention suddenly completely focused on the moment.  Her boss continued, “Two small frigates have been spotted on Jita undock, I believe they are posing as Jovians, but their ships are clearly not of Jovian origin and therefore they must be imposters.  I’m sending you an image to your display now.”

She stared at the camera capture of the vessel.  It was sleek, with a red flashing light on the top. One thing was for sure, it certainly wasn’t Jovian. Her boss’s voice snapped her back to reality.

“You are to undock, challenge them and ask for proof of their identity and licence to operate as Concord sanctioned law enforcement officers.  If they refuse to provide proof, or if the proof is deemed to be fraudulent, you are to engage and destroy them without hesitation.”

With that, the screen flicked back to the trading details, and the conversation was over.

What the… she stared blankly at her neocomm. She was to use her Reaper, not one of the powerful cruisers in the corporate hanger… her Reaper.

As the undocking process completed, her camera drones deployed. Her overview highlighted the offending pair of frigates, and one of them flashed right in front of her as she plotted a path through the usual mess that was the Jita undock.

“Attention, the pilots identifying themselves as CCP Guard and CCP Logibro, you are required to provide proof of your identity and your Concord licence to operate as law enforcement in this area immediately.”

Her voice was shaking a little, and hopefully they hadn’t picked that up.  It was clear to her that her Reaper would not be a match for these ships, she couldn’t even keep up with them.  This was not looking good.

“Shut up ginger.” was the curt reply.

OK, she had to follow orders.

“You have 10 seconds to comply, otherwise I will be forced to destroy your vessel.”

She counted down in her head, very slowly, certainly far slower than the pod’s clock was counting the seconds.

No reply. She swore, or at least the equivalent considering she was immersed in pod goo protecting her from the torturous forces even her tiny Reaper was trying to apply to her body as it ducked and dived, weaving a complex path through the dozens of ships around the undock area.

“Time’s up.” she warned them.  She briefly considered the foolishness of giving them a warning that she was about to fire on them, but all things considered, she thought it largely irrelevant whether they were warned or not; she simply didn’t stand a chance against one of them, let alone both.

She willed the Reaper to fire upon the first target, CCP Guard.

Meili Ling opened her eyes and tried to breathe.  She couldn’t breathe and fell to her knees on the floor and coughed all the gunk from her lungs.  The Clone Technician came over and offered his hand to help her to her feet.  Naked and covered in the cloning goo, she made a mental note to formally complain to the Station Chief as the Cloning Technician’s eyes roamed across her body.

Shaking her head she pushed him away and gave him a look clearly indicating that he should leave, and quickly.  As he scampered to the door she walked into the shower cubicle and started to formulate the report she would file.

_____________

Yes, CCP Guard and CCP Logibro were in special edition Comets at the Jita undock just before downtime today.  As a respectable New Eden Citizen, I felt obliged to challenge them to prove their identity, as they were not flying Jovian ships and therefore were likely to be imposters.  Unfortunately, upon firing upon them, I was instantly popped and podded.

Hopefully somebody else stepped into my place and avenged me :)

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A touch of colour

by on Mar.13, 2014, under Eve online

Well, I couldn’t resist it:

Special Edition Incursus

That’s me next to my Incursus Aliastra Edition.

What am I going to do with it?  I’m going to give it to an alt to use as a cyno ship.

Next up for me has to be the Abaddon Kador Edition. It looks incredible and will be a beautiful ship to fly for missions.

Good job CCP. Good job.

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The AURsome cost of Dust 514 – time for a rebalance?

by on Mar.12, 2014, under Dust 514

Following from a comment on my last post, my usual Dust squad-mate ran some numbers for playing Dust 514 using Aurum only through CCP’s “micro-transactions” sales model.

Before we start down this road where there will no doubt be lots of counter-arguments etc., please note that this is for a proto suit roughly equivalent to the sort of suit I might use in a battle.  It’s  also worth reiterating that to play Dust this way, I would have to compromise the suit options I use as some of the modules and equipment I run on other suits is simply not available in Aurum versions, hence I would have to restrict my gameplay options by paying real money to use Aurum suits. In reality, the below loadout is already gimped, as I use a prototype normal heavy suit which has 2 high slots and 3 low slots, allowing me to use 2 damage modifiers… you can’t buy these with AUR, so we have to use a Sentinel suit which has a 1/4 layout. Not quite pay-to-win after all… is it.

OK, the numbers for buying Aurum (AUR):

  • 200,000 AUR is USD 99.99
  • 100,000 AUR is USD 49.99
  • 40,000 AUR is USD 19.99

Using a prototype Forge Gun loadout as follows:

  • ‘Impact’ Heavy damage modifier 30 Aurum per unit x1
  • ‘Obelisk’ Complex Armor Repairer 40 AUR per unit x2
  • ‘Hercules’ Complex Armor Plates 40AUR per unit x2
  • ‘Grimlock’  Guristas Assault Forge Gun 50 AUR per unit x1
  • ‘Spitfire’ Six Kin Submachine Gun 25 AUR per unit x1
  • Hacked EX-0 AV Grenade 20 AUR per unit x1

This works out at 390 AUR per suit.  Now, suppose you lose on average 4 suits a game, around 20 minutes a battle – that’s about an hour and a half of game play a day.  Suppose across the week you do this 5 days each week (allowing for playing longer some days and not at all others), then you’ve just spent 39,000 AUR, or just short of the USD 20 mark. For a week.

But wait, there’s more!

We’ve forgotten to add boosters, because everybody uses boosters… right?  In fact, this weekend CCP are doing an event to try and get 1 million clones killed and so give out 1 million SP to everybody who took part… and had an active booster plugged in and working at the time.

So, for boosters, the cost is:

  • Passive Booster (30 – Day) 14,000 AUR per unit
  • Active Booster (30 – Day) 14,000 AUR per unit
  • Faction Booster (racial type) (30 – Day) 4,000 AUR per unit

So, we’ve just added 32,000 AUR for the month, or another USD 15 worth of AUR.

Total is therefore:

  • 39,000 AUR x4 weeks = 156,000 AUR
  • 32,000 AUR x1 month = 32,000 AUR
  • TOTAL = 188,000 AUR for a month’s gameplay at prototype level

That translates to USD 94 for the month.  Erm…. what???

Oh, and that’s only for one suit so if you want other suit options then it may be cheaper / more expensive depending on the slots that the suit has.

I’ve no illusions that this is just a very black and white example, but it sort of answers the USD 15 per month question.

Full credit has to go to my squad-mate for these numbers, however I won’t mention his name as both of us already seem to get our own individual orbital strikes sometimes, and I’d rather not do anything to increase the frequency of that!

 

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Jita to Jita, Pod Goo to Pod Goo, Dust to Dust

by on Mar.10, 2014, under Dust 514, Eve online

A simple question – what makes you come back to your PC, console, tablet or smart-phone, pick it up and play a particular game?

Well, a little of my gaming past, present and (thoughts on my) future.

Firstly, what devices do I use for gaming?  Unlike some of my in game associates, I don’t have 84 inch LCD widescreen TV’s or server racks running lots and lots of clients at the same time.

For PC gaming I use an Alienware M17x 17 inch laptop:

Alienware M17x

On this very beautiful and (well it was 2 years ago when I got it) powerful piece of sleek computer goodness, I play Eve and World of Tanks (occasionally)

For Dust, I obviously use a Sony Playstation 3 (although I’d quite like to try Battlefield 4 on a brand new Playstation 4 if anybody was feeling particularly generous!).

As for other devices, I have an iPad 4 32GB and a Samsung Galaxy 3 smart phone.  On the iPad and Samsung Galaxy I play various things ranging from The Sims Freeplay through to Hungry Shark, Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga and Flappy Bird.

Before I get to my main point (which is actually about Dust 514 by the way), I’m going to ramble a bit off piste (sort of), and talk about other games I play on the iPad, Samsung Galaxy and PC.

Of the games I play, I’ve ended up paying something for almost all of them (with the exception of Hungry Shark and Flappy Bird).  For The Sims, I’ve purchased some Life Points and Social Points so my kids could buy decorations for the houses they were designing.  For Angry Birds I purchased the game so the annoying adverts would go away. For Candy Crush Saga I have to admit I purchased 5 extra moves once on a really annoying level I’d been stuck on for days. For WoT I’ve purchased gold a few times to personalise my tanks and get the 100% crew training on new tanks.

What I’m trying to say here is not that I have lots of money and spend it on games – in fact neither is at all true.  What I’m trying to say is that I’m probably a fairly typical 30-something gamer who has some spare money (or doesn’t, and spends it anyway hoping he won’t get into too much trouble) and is prepared to spend it on accelerating my progress in a game or on premium items.  This is how the free-to-play games work, whether you agree with them or not.

If you stand back and look at the various free-to-play games, it’s actually a pretty fine balance. You have to make the game playable without needing to buy things with real money, but you also need to make sure that spending real money won’t be game-breaking.

Take two games at opposite ends of the spectrum as an example – The Sims Freeplay and World of Tanks.  To be honest, with both of them I could quite happily spend no money at all.  I don’t play them all the time, I can earn the in-game currency easily enough… but not so easily that I don’t consider spending real money.  Yet… I spent some money to make my tanks look “cooler” and to make my driver able to train so he can make the tank turn quicker.  I spent some money so I could build the high school more quickly and so my daughter could put the Japanese set into her house.

Eve is a very different beast – over the course of my playing history I’ve used real money to purchase PLEX (from an authorised seller of course – I use Eve Time Codes).  I’ve used the plex to convert to ISK so I could accelerate a project I was working on personally, but really I could have just waited and still played and enjoyed the game how I wanted without getting PLEX and then spending the ISK to expand into a different area.

So that just leaves Dust 514.

Where do I start.  Oh wait, I’ve actually almost finished really.

I started playing Dust 514 while it was still in Beta.  Pretty much the first thing I did was spend some real money to buy some AUR and get boosters so I could speed up my experience and ISK gains.  Up until now I’ve always made sure that I had enough AUR to buy 30 day Active and Passive boosters.  I play Dust most, if not every, weekday, and sometimes on the weekends too.  In fact, I play Dust 514 more than any other game with the exception of Eve.

I’m now at a critical stage though.  In Eve it’s easy enough to find ways to make ISK so that you can keep going and compete in some way, whether it’s the pure “leet” PvP’ers who fly the Riftah because it’s the only pure way to shoot people in honourable 1v1 fights in lo-sec, or the hi-sec miner or mission runner, all the way up to the person who uses a Titan or Super Carrier to rat “just because it’s quicker”.

In the other games such as Eve, The Sims Freeplay, World of Tanks and Candy Crush Saga, there is really no need to spend real money if you don’t want to. You choose to spend the money because you want to accelerate some part of the gameplay.  In Dust, however, how do you actually make ISK effectively?

I play Dust with a friend who I know from Eve. We have great fun, but regularly we come across games where, because of CCP’s match-making system affectionately known as “Scotty”, we have three choices: we sit back and snipe; we use cheap (or BPO) suits; we run in with full proto gear.  The last option is the only real way to compete in that particular front-line environment, but also results in the probable loss of 4 or 5 suits each probably costing over 150k ISK.  The first option is usually good for our KDR, but with some maps it’s actually not much fun at all sniping due to the layout and position of the capture points.  The second option is inevitably terrible for our KDR but if you’re careful you can sometimes get a few kills.  The third option is the only way to compete.

Herein lies the problem.  CCP, unlike many (most) MMO games, have made their game play mechanics such that if it gets blown up then, well, it’s gone.  In WoT I can go into a battle and get one shot killed really early on in the game.  When the game ends my tank is back and the only thing I’ve lost is… well actually unless I was using Gold Ammo or consumables, I should still have slightly more silver than I started the game with.

Dust is different, if I take the first option and sit back and snipe on a rubbish map for snipers, I might get 120k ISK for example (yeah, I usually get more on good maps, but we’ll get to that in a minute).  That’s actually covers less than one proto suit.  If I take the second option, I might little or no ISK, but the payout at the end probably won’t be that different, and I actually don’t enjoy getting killed 10+ times in a game.

This is the real killer – if I take the third option and do well, I mean really well, I might get around 250k to 350k ISK.  However, say I lost 4 suits, I’d have lost around 300k ISK worth of suits, and my payout is… actually it’s terrible (or crap as we British often say).  The worst outcome is that I lose those suits and don’t do very well, in which case I’m really in trouble.

This, for me (and my squad mate), is the real problem.  To make serious ISK we need our corp to be involved in Planetary Conquest, and to actually share the rewards with us minions.  To get into PC can be a bit of an “old boys network”.  Because the matchmaking system isn’t based on what suit and equipment we’re going to use, but on our profile, we get matched against people who mostly seem to use prototype gear.

OK – we can use AUR to play, but this is where Dust has varied from the paths the other games have taken.  With WoT I can play as a Tier IV medium tank and am almost always against very similar tier tanks – I don’t find myself in a game against all Tier 8+ tanks.  With Dust, I don’t have a “use Advanced or lower” match-making system to be part of.

Also, the rewards don’t scale.  When I’m running proto gear and win, why do I only get 300k, I should be getting 500k or even 750k.  Eve was founded on the principle of risk = ISK.  If I risk a bling fit Strategic Cruiser, I might be able to take on more than I should and win gloriously, but I also might lose big too, and I have to be prepared for that.  With Dust 514, if I risk my proto suit against the enemy, I still  risk losing some of the suits, but at the end my reward is…. erm…

So my decision now is what do I do with Dust.

I like Dust 514.

I enjoy playing Dust 514.

I’ve spent money on Dust 514.

I have just spent some money to get some AUR to plug in a 30 day passive booster, and I played some quite good games today (which didn’t cover my losses).  I do not have an active booster and will not be buying one right now.  I also won’t be using AUR to buy myself some suits, guns and equipment, as the cost of a proto suit is not something I’d like to invest in, knowing that people tend to focus on AUR suits more than normal suits, given the choice.

I know, I’ll just go to the store and convert AUR into ISK in the store, like you can with WoT… oh… where is the menu…

I could transfer some of my Eve Industry riches to my Dust character… but I can’t.  The only option is to actually go to an in-game currency exchange service (as found on the forums), where the rate can be as much as 10:1, so 1 billion ISK would get me 100 million ISK in Dust.  Sounds like a lot?  Try using well fit vehicles like a tank or Assault Dropship and try again.

CCP – I play Eve and Dust.  You get money from me for both.  Yet in Dust I feel the mechanics for ISK generation are not very well balanced.

In Eve, the idea of ship skinning is great – I will be spending some of my stashed up AUR to make some of my ships look different, and I also understand why they’re doing things how they are.

The Mining Rokh – now available with mercoxit coloured cammo!

This is probably the first time CCP have got micro-transactions right, and I completely congratulate them for it.  However, then you get another UI dev blog.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good and definitely freshens up the interface as it rightly needs to be, and yet today I put in 20 reverse engineering jobs, 90 invention jobs and 40 new manufacturing jobs which probably involved me clicking my left mouse button several hundred times and moving the mouse about 2km in distance.  My colleague in Eve is facilitating some blueprint activities and has just had to vote on a fair number of blueprint locks / unlocks.  Sadly this is a family friendly blog and I therefore cannot print what he would have been saying about the unfortunate interface while doing it.

Hmmm on balance this probably should have somehow been two blog posts, but it isn’t.

TLDR;

  • Dust 514 matchmaking system is terrible
  • Dust 514 ISK rewards for public matches is terrible
  • Eve industry interface is terrible
  • Mining Rokh’s are going to return with Rubicon 1.3!
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Pirates Pirating Pirates

by on Feb.27, 2014, under Eve online

So today I logged on into the lo-sec system I have some POS based in and, as I always do, hit dscan while I’m warping back to the POS.  I always do this to see if there’s a wreck or new POS or… wait… a Small Mobile Siphon has appeared on dscan.

Hmmm.

I immediately re-warp and check my POS where I’m extracting some fairly lo-grade materials from to see if I’m the target, and then I check the POS of one of my neighbours who is extracting a higher grade material.  Sure enough, there’s the mobile siphon unit.

The unit stealing materials from the small Amarr POS

I check the contents of the unit and, a very quick calculation later, shows that it’s been up for 6 hours.  After looking at another of the neighbours’ POS, I find another unit quietly stealing materials just like the one at the first POS.

Now the interesting situation here is that my neighbours are, essentially, pirates.  As Simon Baker said in an episode of “The Mentalist” that broadcast a couple of days ago in the UK “I don’t judge”.  However, in this case I tend to buy the output from the moons from them, and so the pirate stealing from the pirates was essentially reducing the amount of product available for me to use, and therefore I did the only decent thing and contacted the pirates so they were aware and could arrange for removal of the offending anchored objects, de-pirating of the moon goo, and repeated podding of the individual when they returned to collect the materials.

This made me consider again the practicality and usefulness of these units, and to be honest I had to wonder if CCP were slightly grasping at straws when they came up with these modules – trying to find a way to be able to take something from the industrialists in lieu of coming up with a better idea.  I can see the idea behind it… if the POS isn’t visited regularly then it can be plundered.  Very good, however they still haven’t addressed more important issues such as abandoned POS not being able to be hacked after a period of time or even degrading, or the afk cloaking ship being undetectable. Yeah yeah, I’ve heard the arguments, it’s not a problem it’s a feature, however I thought that CCP wanted people at keyboards, yet you can sit in a system afk and disrupt operations, but not be found.  Sure, prepare a fleet to guard the mining operation.  Then somebody like Pandemic Legion drop 25 Redeemers on top of you.  You had how many people defending… 2?  5?  Ok.  Your next defense is…..?

Sorry, personal bug bear that they haven’t used the second destroyer models yet to make a T2 hunter ship that can use special probes to find and disrupt cloaked ships (sort of anti-cloak depth charges).  Imagine the Star Trek method where the cloak emits some sort of Tetrion-Alpha Particle Asymmetrical Signature (or TAPAs for short). The T2 destroyers could fire probes that let them narrow down where the TAPAs are, and then the T2 Hunter could warp to the location and use Co-triaxion Optical Oscillating Krypton charges (or COOK charges) which they would fire.  By using these charges to COOK the TAPAs, they could decloak the cloaky afk person who is probably at work or at school and anywhere except at their keyboard, and then kill and pod them.

Anyway, massive diversion there, but anyway… TLDR is that I saw one of those siphon units today for the first time.

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Workflows, websites, and projects

by on Feb.14, 2014, under Eve online

Currently I’ve just been ploughing ahead through my Tech I I BPC stores, as well as busily inventing from my Tech I BPC catalogue and improving the ME and PE of my BPO collection.  However, once again this has proved to be a bit dangerous, as I ended up with less than 1 million ISK in my trading wallet with fuel blocks to make and moon goo to buy to keep reactions going.  Oops.

To resolve this, I’m now starting to plan out some workflows for my industrial characters so I can hopefully avoid things like this in the future.  I currently have available to use 70 science slots which can be used for inventing, copying and improving the ME and PE of my BPO stock.  10 of those slots can be used for Reverse Engineering too if desired.  For manufacturing, I also have 70 slots for producing T1 ships and modules or T2 modules.  Of those 70 slots, 20 can be used for making capitals (including 10 slots that could be used to make Super Carriers or Titans… I wish… any offers?!?!?!), 30 can be used for making T2 ships, and 10 slots can be used for making T3 hulls and subsystems.  The only area currently missing is Outpost Construction, although it is in one of the toon’s skill plan on Evemon.

So… in theory that allows for quite a complicated production workflow if I wanted… and yep – I do want it.  I am, therefore, scrawling out ideas on a sheet of paper as well as using Excel spreadsheeets for calculating margins and transport costs.  I’m planning on doing a bit of everything, and as I have around 10,000 BPC’s to invent from at the moment (who knew that sitting there copying stuff would end up with that much in the filing cabinet?), I’m going to invest all of my resources into invention for now until stocks get low on specific things, and even then I’ll only divert a handful of slots to copying things.

As for website stuff, I’ve now successfully implemented PHP scripts to capture the Eve Market Data Relay information and store some of it in a MySQL database.  On the same server I’ve also installed the Eve Static Database.  I’ve also managed to get Yapeal installed and a PHP script written to use that to nicely talk to CCP’s Eve API and allow me to automatically approve and ban registered users based on whether they are in the corp on whose website they have registered – this is designed to cut down the work required by a website admin for an Eve corp’s website.

I’ve also written this specifically for easy use by an alliance, as you can register multiple corporations for a website, and then it will auto-approve or ban users based on all of the registered corporations.  It also means that if a corp is booted, then all that an alliance leader would need to do is disapprove that corp on the website and then all users would be auto-booted.

My next steps will be to add some specific Eve functionality to the website framework as well as trying to work out how to make a nice front-end interface for administering corporations and individual users access rights etc.  To do the first part I’m hoping to implement the Google Visualization system so that the graphs can “look pretty”.  As for the second part, it will involve me creating a “proper” Joomla module I think, so a bit more reading for me to do there.

As to projects… well Project Polygon is going to utilise my website framework, but that’s as much as I’m going to say about that for now.  I’m hoping that a friend may be able to convince his new alliance to be guinea pigs, but if not then I have another idea, although that will be a more challenging sell and probably a step beyond where I want to be at this stage of testing.

As for Project Purple.  That is slowly taking shape, and I’ve worked out some basics but, because of my laziness in not setting up my production workflows as detailed above, the billion ISK that I think I want to throw at the project isn’t available for me to play with right now, although that should change in the next week or two assuming I can stop hitting the “buy” button in Jita!

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Production, Destruction and API

by on Feb.06, 2014, under Eve online

CCP have produced a very interesting Dev Blog, which I would encourage everybody to read.  The crux of this is a very interesting diagram:

What is very nice is that one of the systems on the production diagram is one of the systems we have been producing in :)

The concern is that this just points the gankers to where the larger indy corps are operating. There are another couple of graphs in the dev blog that give more detail, but essentially production ran at 3 trillion ISK per day and destruction at only 1.3 trillion ISK per day – those numbers speak for themselves.

Anyway – kudos to CCP for releasing some very nice information to look at – more of the same please!

As to API information, one of my projects is running along nicely.  So far I have a test website connecting to a database resource I have set up.  This resource pulls information from the Eve Market Data Relay, as well as having the Eve Static Database uploaded for direct querying.  In addition I have also written my first bit of PHP that interfaces with the Joomla! Content Management System and uses the Yapeal system for querying the Eve API in a nice way.  This has allowed my (almost certainly very badly written) PHP code to automatically approve or block users to the website based on whether they are in that corporation or not.  I’m going to look at amending it further to allow setting up an Alliance website.

For now, though, I’m going to start adding functionality to the website to use the information that Yapeal is caching for the users and corporation.

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