Friday, October 24, 2014

Preparing For Phoebe Isn't Just For The Big Guys

Although the average concurrent user numbers on Tranquility are down year-over-year, those still logging in are busily preparing for the release of Phoebe on 4 November.  The null sec powers are on the move, with Pandemic Legion selling off half its holdings in the Drone Regions, the CFC consolidating its forces to the north-west corner of the galactic map, and Nulli Secunda rumored to have its eye on Delve.  But those looking toward the future are not just limited to members of the null sec powers.  CCP Seagull has stated on numerous occasions that she also wants to create content for solo players as well as those in thousand-pilot alliances.  For Phoebe, at least, her design team has succeeded as I find myself wrapped up in preparing for the next release as well.

One thing I have to consider are the bomber changes.  Although I fly in low sec, I've flown a Hound for two years.  Lately I have signature tanked the ship, but that is getting nerfed in favor of a shield buff.  I may have to shift to a new ship to provide overwatch when I dual-box with my Procurer pilot.  Do I finally build the Stratios?  Or do I switch to a Force Recon ship?  I can fly the ships from all four factions.  I love my cloaky ships, and since I finish up training the last of the medium weapon tech 2 skills to 4 on Monday, I'll feel more comfortable with my weapons choices.  Oh, did I mention that I have Force Recon 5 scheduled to finish training by Thanksgiving in the U.S.?

Second, the new exploration content.  CCP is advertising that to probe out those sites will require maximum skills.  From the most recent design trends, that probably includes needed skill hardwiring as well.  I already have the faction probes from the Wildfire level 4 epic arc.  Will I need tech 2 rigs on my Cheetah?  I maxed out my probing skills long ago, so at least I don't have to worry about that.  Time to grind out some loyalty points if I don't have some lying around.

Next comes the Higgs Anchor.  Anyone reading the blog this week knows I'm excited about the new rig.  I'm back in business mining in a Procurer.  The Prospect is fun, but I really like the mining barge.  In relation to that, I'm looking at another faction grind involving mining missions.  I finished up training Mining Connections V on my industrial character so getting the loyalty points for mining implants will go so much faster.  I probably need to go on Singularity to see the materials required for building the rig.  I may already have the parts sitting in a hangar somewhere.

The invention changes will also require some thought.  I need to reevaluate my datacore needs and visit my agents over the next two weekends. Thankfully, the dev blog thoughtfully provided a table outlining the changes.  Thanks CCP Ytterbium!

With all of these changes, especially the new exploration sites, I'm busily grinding out the loyalty points necessary to keep my store stocked with faction ammunition.  I have to keep that income stream running while I develop a new one based on exploration and reinvigorate my old mining activity.  Do I sound busy?  I am.  And as much as I've complained about changes in the past, I'm happy with this release, even if my trusty Hound is getting nerfed.  I think players will eventually use three words to describe their play in Phoebe: adapt, survive, and thrive.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Super Belts: A View From A Small Fish

Before the week ends and EVE Vegas becomes a distant memory, I just wanted to comment on CCP Rise's intriguing idea of just having one super-sized asteroid belt in a system instead of several smaller ones like currently exists in New Eden.    Perhaps having one big belt, like exists in our own solar system, would make EVE more realistic, but from the perspective of this small fish in the EVE PvP ecosystem, I'm not a big fan of the idea.

In the grand scheme of things in EVE, I'm the tiny yellow fish feeding off the plankton, except in my case the plankton is the ore in the asteroid belts.  As such, my gameplay partially consists of frustrating the bigger fish and leaving them hungry.  One of the tactics I use is searching out belts that are out of d-scan range of all the gates in a system.  I've found in low sec, most pilots on a roam won't bother to check the belts that are off the beaten path.  Between that and mining in factional warfare space, I manage to mine with neutrals in system (aka everyone else except EVE University) fairly successfully.

Creating one big belt, while having the attraction of bringing players together, has the drawback of putting all the small fish in one place for the predators of New Eden.  Instead of PvPers having to go to a lot of mom and pop stores looking for an item, we would instead see a Wal-Mart pop up in every system.  On the face of it, that sounds like a great idea, right?  If so, try thinking like a small fish.

Small fish, if they have their way, don't want to wind up as someone's breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I know, I know, hard to believe, but true.  As such, we don't want to put ourselves in too much danger.  PvPers would call us "risk adverse".  Ha!  Whatever makes them feel good.  But in low sec, would only have to check one asteroid belt instead of eight lead to more visits to belts by roaming gangs or less?  I'd predict more.

I know that if I have a high chance of encountering a ship in a belt that I would just stop going to that belt.  I had that happen to me with Kronos.  I had a pilot hunting me who would show up  whenever I tried ice mining.  Guess what?  I stopped ice mining and found something else to do.  Think that might happen with super-belts?  Maybe not.  CCP was nice enough to create the Higgs Anchor, so I might stick around.  But I think you would see some falloff.  In low sec, I wouldn't be surprised to see the share of ore mined in low sec drop from 0.4% down to 0.2%.

I'll briefly mention one other item that could hurt some of the bigger fish as well.  I have set up bookmarks in several constellations in Great Wildlands in preparation for doing a little mercoxit mining in my Prospect.  I discovered that having a lot of asteroid belts to warp to is helpful in avoiding bubble camps.  Asteroid belts, combined with bookmarks around the gates, helps get around those obstacles.  Do we really want to see less celestials to warp to in order to avoid bubbles?

Those are my thoughts on the concept of super belts.  Perhaps we need the challenge to shake things up.  But I think CCP should think about the effect on us small fish.  After all, without the small fish hanging around, what are the big fish going to eat?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Higgs Anchor Rig

Watching the EVE Vegas stream on Sunday, I now wish I had flown out to Sin City this weekend.  After all, how many players of any game get to hear from a game developer that they were the inspiration for an in-game item?  But enough about me.  EVE Online is serious business and I don't have time for the space smugness of those who command the massive super capital fleets that have conquered the sand box to the point CCP is revamping the rules of null sec.  My little fleet of low sec mining barges has just received a new tool and I aim to use it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 21 October 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 19 October 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft57.58,969+35.9
23Star Wars: The Old Republic9.81.535+2.7
32Guild Wars 28.61,345-11.6
47EVE Online4.5699+32.4
64Final Fantasy XIV3.5549-18.8
99Lord of the Rings Online2.0314+6.1
11--APB: Reloaded1.5230-5.7
12--Star Trek Online1.2191+117.0
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,590

This weekend witnessed a huge increase in the amount of time the Xfire community spent logged into its twelve most popular games.  The 15.1% increase in hours played Sunday was led by World of Warcraft (+2371 hours) while the game experiencing the biggest decline was Guild Wars 2 (-176 hours).

The Tide Rises - Last week, Blizzard announced that World of Warcraft gained 600,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2014.  If Xfire members are any indication, they all logged in this weekend to play patch 6.0.2, The Iron Tide.  In addition, Blizzard is offering all previous expansions, including Mists of Pandaria, free to all current subscribers.  With a deal like this, a 35.9% increase in playtime by the Xfire community is understandable.

A Change Near The Top - For the first time since 19 August 2012, Star Wars: The Old Republic sits in the number 2 spot in The Digital Dozen.  Since Guild Wars 2 burst on the scene in August 2012, the ArenaNet product had always scored higher that its Bioware competition.  Until this week.  But has TOR pulled in front for good?  Guild Wars 2 launches its Halloween event today, will resume Living World Season 2 on 4 November, and run the Wintersday holiday starting on 16 December.  But in the lead-up to the Shadow of Revan expansion for TOR, Bioware is offering a 12X experience boost to subscribers who preoder the expansion.

Delta RisingStar Trek Online makes its first appearance on the list since 18 August 2014 on the strength of the game's second expansion, Delta Rising.  The expansion, released last Tuesday, raises the level cap to 60 with a new zone, the Delta Quadrant, available to those who have reached level 50.

Monday, October 20, 2014

When CCP Seagull Talks, People Listen

"In the Phoebe release, we're making some of the biggest changes we've made to EVE in years. And those changes are just the start.  In November, December, and the whole of 2015, we're going to bring some pretty drastic changes to EVE Online.  All of them with the ambition to strengthen everything that is unique and amazing about EVE and to make your experience with EVE better."

- CCP Seagull, EVE Vegas 2014

Andie Nordgren (aka CCP Seagull), the executive producer for EVE Online, is not a flamboyant speaker like Sony Online Entertainment's Dave Georgenson.  But that's okay.  Georgenson, the director of development for the EverQuest franchise, is trying to make and popularize two new games, EverQuest Next and Landmark.  Nordgren's task is far more difficult.  She is attempting to modernize an 11-year-old game so that new players are not immediately turned off while at the same time reinvigorating the passions of veteran players with improved features and new gameplay.  Given CCP's history of unfinished and uniterated upon features, a voice of authority who doesn't overpromise is what EVE needs at this point in time.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

RMT In Null Sec This Week

Over the past two days information has emerged concerning illicit RMT activites in null sec.  I'm not really surprised that information like this would leak out.  In the past I've posted about corps or alliances renting space in null sec as well as an illicit RMTer named elusif who was kicked out of the Goons' comms for advertising his goods.  So I figure I need to at least mention the latest allegations that, for a change, I didn't dig up on my own.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Time To Make New Things

For the past few months I've run a group of planetary interaction colonies in the business of making nanite repair paste.  A very useful product, but in terms of profit, not the best choice.  Then again, I often make sub-optimal choices in EVE Online where making ISK is concerned.  But I've discovered something: I want to spend my time doing other things.

I think the main thing I did wrong was use my main characters to run the operation.  That pretty much tied them down to one area.  But I have two other characters that can run planetary interaction as well.  But I think I'm tired of trying to run that many colonies.  In the future, I'll only have one character run colonies.  I don't really need more than five, right?

I won't stop making nanite repair paste right away.  I still have weeks worth of tier 1 products that built up because I wasn't too efficient in making sure in the early days to make sure I was always checking my colonies.  I figure I have a six week supply for some of the products, so I'll probably stop sometime around Thanksgiving.  The U.S. one, not the Canadian one that just past.

One nice thing about continuing to make repair paste for a few more weeks is that I have time to sit down and figure out what I should make next.  I should probably make things that I'll use in my production runs.  Of course, since I don't make that much stuff for sale, I can then sell the excess on the market.  The question then becomes: what tech 2 items do I want to make?  I'm still trying to figure that one out.

One reason I've delayed making any decisions is the upcoming changes to invention and construction coming in Phoebus.  CCP Ytterbium's dev blog on the changes has me adjusting my skills plans and rethinking my data core farm.  A casual producer in low sec like me can't rely on bidding for teams to stay competitive.  I need to concentrate on building a good data core farm to keep costs down.

Another reason is waiting for CCP to figure out the changes to long distance travel.  CCP Greyscale posted some modifications to the effects on jump freighters, but as null sec industry grows that CCP intends to nerf the distances to fall more in-line with the original proposal.  So should I even begin tech 2 production or should I get back into exploration once Phoebus hits and concentrate on making rigs and other items I find blueprints for, like ancillary shield boosters?  I don't want to get into a business and then see materials shortages.  Heck, in the future, faction equipment might actually rival tech 2 in terms of affordability.  Or does that just mean I should get into tech 2 production more than currently?

I know this post has wandered a bit.  But that's the beauty of EVE.  Moving one piece of the puzzle often affects other things.  Boredom with making nanite repair paste has led to a reexamination of a lot of other areas of my industrial activities.  The changes I make will then lead to hours of new play in EVE as I discover what else EVE has to offer.  That's a lot cheaper than going out and buying a new video game.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 14 October 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 12 October 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft48.76,598+4.3
22Guild Wars 211.21.521-25.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic11.01,495+5.8
45Final Fantasy XIV5.0676-4.1
76EVE Online3.9528-17.5
910Lord of the Rings Online2.2296-2.0
12--Planetside 21.8246+7.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 13,550
On Sunday, the Xfire community saw the amount of time it spent playing its favorite MMORPGs fall by 4.6%.  The decline was led by Guild Wars 2 (-529 hours) while World of Warcraft (+271 hours) saw the biggest increase in time played over the previous Sunday.  APB: Reloaded fell out of The Digital Dozen after a two week stay, replaced by Planetside 2.

The Giant Is Awakening:  Blizzard is building up to the release of the Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft next month with the release today of the pre-patch, The Iron Tide.  The first new content patch since the release of The Siege of Orgrimmar in September 2013, I expect to see the numbers for WoW start to swell again.  On Sunday, the first indications of that growth were shown, as WoW recorded its highest Digital Dozen score since 21 October 2012.

An eSports Decline?  I'm not really sure why Guild Wars 2 suffered such a drastic fall in the Xfire community's time spent playing the game.  One possible explanation is that the North American Tournament of Glory Finals were held on Sunday.  Perhaps many people were glued to the action.  Perhaps more were drawn to the Twitch stream to wind a precursor weapon or a Mini Llama.  Whatever the reason, I'm interested to see if Xfire community returns to the game next week.

A Festival Decline?  I'm used to events like Blizzard's BlizzCon and CCP's Fanfest exciting players so that the number of hours played by the Xfire community increases.  But following Jagex's RuneFest 2014, held on Saturday, the amount of hours logged in the game fell by one-third.  We're the players just traveling and/or hungover?  We'll see if the engagement level returns next week.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why I Am A Low Sec Carebear

I had a good time playing EVE this weekend.  I did a lot of distribution missions and a few storyline missions on the alt I use to farm Caldari loyalty points.  For a six day stretch, I compiled 140,000 LP and 145 million ISK.  A pittance compared to a null sec resident ratting in an Ishtar, but I don't have to worry about running out of loyalty points like I did the week before.

I also had some adventures while mining.  While out mining kernite in my Procurer, I ran into one of the Mordu's NPC frigates.  Between the mining barge and the Hound I was dual-boxing, I had almost stripped the shields off the tough little rat when two pilots in faction ships landed on grid.  I departed empty handed, down one tech 2 drone.  I also took my Prospect out and managed to mine some spodumain until I was chased out by a rapidly growing flock of rats.  I then tried to mine in a small bistot site, but an Amarrian factional warfare pilot flying a Thorax didn't like that and chased me out.

Sound exciting?  Well, that's the life of a low sec carebear.  Or, at least, this low sec carebear when I get a free weekend.  Bob knows I don't fly in low for the ISK.  Since I also am alone in my corp, I don't fly in dangerous space to play with friends.  So why do I play a niche play style in a niche area of a niche MMORPG?

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Stealth Bomber Nerf Due To ISBoxer?

In CCP Greyscale's dev blog last week on the long distance travel changes, he also mentioned that stealth bombers would receive a rebalance pass in Phoebe.  Apparently, as part of that rebalance, cloaked ships will once again decloak each other if they get too close.  At least, players are reporting that is currently the case on the Singularity test shard.

A lot of players have complained about the effectiveness of bombers in null security space in the current meta.  From the reading I've done, the stealth bomber has dictated that null sec fleet doctrines abandon shield tanked battleships and use almost exclusively armor tanked battleships.  Another article written by a member of Goonswarm Federation stated that the CFC switched from its Maelstrom-based Alphafleet to Megathrons because...
"The hull is armor tanked. This is key; ISboxer and cloaking changes made it possible for a single player to do a perfect bombing run with as many accounts as bomb mechanics allow. This alone caused the shift from the Maelstroms of Alphafleet to Megathrons; the smaller signature radius of armor tanked ships gives them much greater survivability against bombs."
These are just two examples of the articles and tweets I've read from people far more knowledgeable than I about null sec PvP pointing out how ISBoxer-controlled stealth bombers are bad for PvP in EVE.  But CCP has made its decision on ISBoxer and has included its ruling in its Third Party Policies document.  As I stated back in August, if CCP is going to allow the use of ISBoxer, then the devs need to balance the game around players using that software.  I even wrote that CCP needed to reverse the change made in Crucible to not have cloaked ships decloak other ships.

No, I'm not taking credit for this change.  Members of the CSM have also spoken out about the use of ISBoxer.  On the forums, players seem to continuously start threads calling for the banning of ISBoxer.  And, in all honesty, taking my advice on PvP is usually a bad bet.  But I've seen enough to know that the use of such advanced multi-boxing software can distort the design intentions of the developers.

Honestly, I'm not sure that CCP has the resources to begin an effort to ban ISBoxer from EVE as NCSoft has done from Guild Wars 2 and Wildstar.  But if they don't, then the next logical step is to limit the damage that ISBoxer use does to EVE.  Making cloaked ships decloak each other is a good start.