Friday, July 25, 2014

The Worst Swordsman

Last night I watched Ashterothi, a co-host on the High Drag and Hydrostatic Podcasts, stream his initial experiences in industry after Crius.  By the time I got home, he was doing mission 6 of the industry tutorial.  When he tweeted that he knew less about industry than the newest newb, he wasn't kidding.

I learned a couple of tricks with the new UI that I hadn't known about, mostly because I already have all of my blueprints in stations and he wanted to start playing with his new BPOs right away.  Also because I have so many minerals in my factory station and a new character doesn't have a lot.  He mentioned on the stream that he wanted to discuss the UI on High Drag to another co-host, Random McNally, and I'll be checking for when the podcast comes out.  I think that should fall sometime in the second week of August.

After the stream ended, I was reminded of a quote from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court:
"The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him."
I get the feeling that CCP has just put the sword of industry into the hands of a lot of people who have never heard of opportunity costs and believe that minerals you mine yourself are free.  I'm not saying that Ashterothi is that type, since one of the co-hosts on the Hydrostatic Podcast is Lockefox, who will educate him as necessary.  And if Lockefox doesn't do it, I expect Random will.  But a lot of the complexity of industry in EVE was fighting the old UI.  I just wonder how many people will try industry out now that the UI makes the task so much simpler.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Return To Datacore Farming

Yesterday was the first time I was excited about getting home from work and playing EVE Online in a very long time.  Does having an industry UI I don't have to fight with make that big of a difference?  Yes!

I know that Crius launched with a lot of bugs.  Yes, the UI not updating correctly once a job was delivered was irritating, but that was fixed this morning (I hope).  But last night was more about updating my long neglected datacore farm.  I want to make a Prospect and need the Gallente Spaceship Engineering datacores.  So I needed to drop a level 2 research agent in Metropolis and hire a level 3 one in Essence.

In EVE, one does not simply fire an agent long distance.  That's because the agent will keep any datacores (or the research points used to buy the datacores) once told to go away.  The agents aren't very helpful once told to go away.  They just stop talking until you apologize or fly away.  But if you apologize, they still keep the research points.  Research agents are petty like that.

All told, my trip took 43 jumps and collected 45 datacores.  Not that cost effective, but gave me an excuse to really open up the speed on my warp speed rigged Prowler.  The two things I love in EVE are speed and stealth and the blockade runner has both.  I had three nanos in the lows which cut down on the align time, but was just a bit of overkill.  I hear CCP created a new module for the lows that boosts warp speed even more.  I should probably look into getting one.

My flying for the night wasn't over.  I had 100,000 rounds of tech 2 ammo to deliver to Molden Heath.  Did I mention I love flying with small cargoes?  I know I'm supposed to min/max everything, but EVE is such a beautiful game that a chance to just fly and watch the planets pass by is too good to pass up.  Besides, I was kind of excited because this was the first time I was putting tech 2 ammo on the market.

With production costs up in the air due to the industry changes, I double-checked my calculations to make sure I wasn't dropping a zero.  Nope.  Not only that, but I was competitive, putting up a price that I thought was fair.  Okay, maybe I charged more than Jita prices, but for one of the ammo types I was actually offering a price lower than that found in both Rens and Hek on Wednesday.  Quite frankly, I worry more about prices in the trade hubs of the Republic than I do some distant cesspool of scum and villainy in the Caldari State.

Of course, I ended the night picking out blueprints to research and copy.  Since I'm interested in making a Prospect, I took my researched Venture BPO and set up to make 5 30-run copies.  When doing invention, I like the number 5 for some reason.  The only disappointing thing is that I'm still doing industry stuff on one character.  I have 4 with training!  I guess the good news is I have more to look forward to tonight.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Industry UI For The 21st Century

I know the title of the post will annoy roleplayers who will insist we are in the 2nd century (or 23rd millennium, depending on how one counts these things), but I'm glad that CCP has updated EVE Online's industry user interface to compete with games developed in the 21st century.

The old industry UI harkened back to the time in which EVE was developed.  Many may not realize that CCP was formed back in 1997 and its first successful product was the board game Hættuspil.  Back when EVE Online was conceptualized and developed, Everquest was the king of the MMO world, using third party sites was frowned upon by both developers and many gamers, and presenting information in table form was not only acceptable, but what many gamers had grown up with.  Is it any surprise that with the amount of information needed to play the sci-fi game that EVE quickly earned a reputation as "spreadsheets in space"?

But times change.  I don't play a lot of Wildstar, but one thing I like about the game is the crafting user interface.  Everything is nicely laid out, with the information presented in an accessible format.  I was able to get into making items quickly.  I'm glad to say that after playing with the new industry UI last night that CCP has taken that clunky late 20th century UI and created a new one that compares favorably, if not surpasses, one from the latest AAA MMORPG.

Making Tech 2 Ammo

First is the manufacturing UI.  I like it.  No more having to flip between two windows.  I can select my blueprint, see what materials I need if I don't have enough, and see what I will output.  I can even change the number of runs and watch the materials needed change on the fly.  The interface is really convenient as I can read off the materials used on the screen, enter them into my spreadsheet that stores the amount I spent purchasing the materials, and quickly calculate the price.  I can then figure out how much to charge.  The above example is for tech 2 ammunition.  Remember I said I planned on doubling down on low sec Monday?  The graphic above was the first batch of Barrage S I'm producing in a low sec station.

Searching For Researched BPOs

One thing that used to drive me crazy was getting my researched and non-researched blueprints mixed up.  Just because I'm a casual industrialist doesn't mean I want to waste material by building something with the wrong blueprint.  That should never happen again.  The UI shows how much, if any, a blueprint is researched.  As the graphic above shows, I did pretty well with my material efficiency research, but horribly with time efficiency research.  With the new UI, I can easily tell which blueprints need some research love.

Finding Station Activity Levels

One concern I had with the new industry system and the removal of industry slots was how to determine if a station is really busy or seldom used.  Turns out that the information is displayed graphically in the "Facilities" tab.  The information doesn't give numbers, but a tooltip will pop up that displays a bar that shows the system cost index.  The shorter the bar, the less the service costs.  I think each notch on the bar is 10%, but I'm getting old so I'm perhaps reading the display incorrectly.  But I like the display as a way to quickly tell the favorable and unfavorable stations apart.

Testing Invention Outcomes

One of the nice features of the system is that one can experiment with outcomes, even if a player doesn't have all the items.  In the above example, the UI lists the possible decryptors and meta items that can influence the success and output of an invention job.  No more having to find a third party site to get the information.  Just play around and when I find a combination I like, just click on the "Start" button.  Of course, in the example above I'm running the maximum amount of jobs my skills allow, so I'll have to wait until a job finishes.  Did I mention the UI remembers the inputs if you accidentally close the UI?  Or if you need to wait for a job to finish?  That is very nice.

The industry changes only went live yesterday, so the jury is still out on how the whole industrial revamp will eventually turn out.  But I really like the UI changes that came out with Crius.  I wish we had this five years ago when I first started playing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 22 July 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 20 July 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft43.18,116+25.3
22Guild Wars 213.52,538+23.9
33Star Wars: The Old Republic8.61,620+18.2
44Final Fantasy XIV6.61,234+15.9
66EVE Online4.2795-5.1
1012Lord of the Rings Online2.7512+73.0
129Elder Scrolls Online1.7324-25.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 18,826

Sunday saw the Xfire community return to playing its favorite MMORPGs following the end of the World Cup.  The 20.7% increase in the time spent logged into these games was lead by World of Warcraft (+1641 hours) while only two games, Elder Scrolls Online (-113 hours) and EVE Online (-43 hours) saw a decline in interest.  Neverwinter fell off the list, replaced by RIFT.

The World Cup Effect - I've made a lot out of the decline of the decline in the Xfire numbers this year, but now that the World Cup is over, did the numbers bounce back?  The answer is a resounding yes.  Sunday witnessed Xfire members spending 20.7% more time playing MMORPGs than the weekend before.  Comparing Sunday with 8 June, the last Sunday before the beginning of the World Cup, also finds a favorable comparison.  From that date, the amount of time the Xfire community spent logged into its favorite MMORPGs only declined by 1%.  Compared to the huge declines earlier this year, that is a victory.

But What Happened In WoW? - A big question I was unable to answer concerns the king of MMORPGs, World of Warcraft.  I was unable to find a reason for the 25.3% increase in playtime.  The increase appears driven by the amount of time playing WoW.  Players spent 5.8 hours logged in.  Did players watch so much World Cup that they were catching up on lost time?

Are ESO Players Steamed? - Despite having a reported 772,374 subscribers in June, Elder Scrolls Online is at the bottom of the Digital Dozen this week.  Is this just another sign of the weakness of Xfire?  On Thursday, Zenimax made ESO available for sale on Steam.  I always figured the numbers would drop once ESO was released for console, but I never considered that Bethesda would release the game on Steam.  I guess that many players who play their games through Steam wouldn't bother to put on another tracking source like Xfire or Raptr.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tear Fueled Ambition

Normally, the only tears I'm associated with are those I collect from botters and those engaging in buying and selling virtual currency.

ISK buyer tears
But the amount of tears on the forums and in the comment sections of the blogs I read are getting a bit much.  I guess I could take the complainers at face value and believe that a casual manufacturer like me is doomed and that I need to find something else to do in EVE.  Then again, I find it hard to take the complaints of people who will have it so good compared to me after Crius is deployed yesterday very seriously.

Really, folks in high sec, don't expect much sympathy from someone in low sec.  High sec industrialists will have access to teams, which should give them an advantage over a casual low sec manufacturer like myself.  The only advantage I'll have over the high sec industrialist is their belief that low sec players are just in the game for them to exploit, which should still allow a member of the Cult of Reasonable Prices to operate in low sec markets. 

Well, that and the fact I'm willing to bust through a gate camp or two.  Just remember, high sec industrialists.  Forget anything I've written about PvP in low sec declining.  Listen to people like Niden and FunkyBacon.   That post Rixx made about his video card dying?  IT'S A TRAP!!! If you jump into low sec, you will die. Niden, Funky, and Rixx are waiting for you on the other side of that gate.  If they aren't, then someone from one of their alliances is.  Better to just not come into low sec at all.

All right, that last paragraph was a little over the top.  But I think I made my point.  I and low sec carebears like me have to evade and escape from people like Niden, Funky, and Rixx in order to operate.  That right there limits my effectiveness compared to the high sec industrialist.  Teams and having CONCORD protect high sec POS just add to the attraction of operating in high sec.

I seriously considered moving back to high sec.  Quite frankly, with the changes coming tomorrow, staying in low sec is pretty stupid.  But a low sec base is more convenient for my faction ammunition business.  Most of the cost of that is the time I take acquiring loyalty points, not manufacturing. 

With all of the tears flowing from high sec, I figure I'll do something really stupid.  That's right, I'm going to double-down on low.  Can a casual industrialist not only survive, but thrive, in low sec operating against the high sec industrialists and all of the advantages they'll enjoy once Crius goes live.  The only way to really know is to try, right?

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Butterfly Effect In EVE: Bloggers And Data

I realize that Friday's traditionally are reserved for flaming other bloggers, not praising them.  But Gevlon did a nice piece of quantitative analysis today using data from the past 18 months from Dotlan and came up with some interesting conclusions.  I would say that even Goons wouldn't argue too much with the post.  Of course, Goons are Goons and the post was written by Gevlon, so insults would fly.  That's just the nature of EVE at this point.

That got me to thinking about how Gevlon came to write that post.  He credits my Wednesday post for giving him the idea, but I started gathering data in response to a post by Sven over at EVE Lost and Found, "The State of EVE – Some Player Activity Statistics".  I thought he may have uncovered some data (I didn't realize Dotlan stored data back to 2010) that would validate a theory I have.  Turns out he didn't, but I learned something.  And a hat tip to Sugar Kyle for pointing out his blog to me.  I've added it to my blogroll.

He, in turn, was inspired to write his post due to the reaction to my post using the average concurrent users mark to note historical events in New Eden from the launch of Retribution up to the launch of Kronos.  I think the doom and gloom was getting to him.  Interestingly enough, though, he credits my post explaining how to pull the average concurrent user information from EVE Offline as the true start.  What really makes things interesting is that I wrote that piece partly in response to another post of Gevlon's, although I had considered posting the instructions for some time.  Gevlon's post just spurred me to action.  Gevlon then took the instructions and updated his post with some more cool analytic work in a way I hadn't considered before.

Just to allay fears that Gevlon and I sit in a little echo chamber discussing the merits of quantitative vs qualitative analysis, I should bring Niden into this post.  Niden's post took ideas from Sven's post (i.e. the ships killed projection for low sec in 2014 is pretty obvious) and pruned them down to concentrating on PvP.  Niden tends to focus on PvP, while I try to look at all aspects of low sec.  Then again, I'm a carebear living in low sec, so that's where my biases lay.  But I think that both Niden and I agree that low sec is a more lively place than before.  I think we just analyze the data differently.  Also, I'm a bit leery of using projections as no one really knows when CCP will choose to shake up the ant farm.

I probably should conclude this post with a chart I came up with when Blog Banter 52 was still a thing back in January.  Just because the ACU is declining doesn't mean I think subscriptions are also.

I have other reasons to believe that.  Just relying on the ACU?  Kind of weak.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stories I'd Like To Read

One reason I've stuck around EVE Online as long as I have is the sheer scope of the game.  Even playing for almost five years, I still don't know a lot of the game.  That wealth of content available is a reason why players who finally "get" EVE stick around so long.  People who get tired of one type of game play don't have to leave their friends behind; they just find another aspect of the game.  A great example is those tired of the null sec sov grind moving to low sec for a different style of play.

With so many possibilities offered to players, the stories available to write about are equally numerous.  Whether the story involves doing research and analysis or just going out and writing about experiences playing the game, EVE has something for just about everyone.  Except elves.  No elves here.  Sorry.1

I do some writing about EVE, but I don't have time to delve into all of the subjects I'd like.  I was thinking about this last night as Wildstar kept lagging on me and my ghost was stuck in the netherworld.  What stories about EVE would I like to see the news sites or other bloggers cover? 

What about Sean Decker? - On 2 July of last year, Sean Decker was hired by CCP as the new Senior Vice President of Product Development.  Think he's had a busy year?  We always seem to read about CCP when they have problems.  But the one year anniversary of his hire seems like a good time to reflect back on what's happened with CCP and figure out if the company as a whole is in better shape.  Is the doom and gloom we keep hearing about really warranted?  Or is CCP just like a freighter that takes a long time to align and warp off in the right direction?

The High Sec Moon Rush - I know that people have written and posted about the upcoming rush to acquire moons in 0.8 and 0.9 systems in high sec once Crius launches next week.  But I'd love to see pieces analyzing who really made the move.  Are any big corporations or alliances trying to stake a claim on a constellation?  Or will ownership of these new high sec POS trickle down to the little guy?

Also, I'd love to read the stories of the people building and using POS for the first time.  Their hopes and dreams followed by the reality of actually running a POS.  Crius is supposed to open up industry to newer players and I'd love to read if CCP's design goals are working.

Of course, EVE does have a problem with abandoned POS.  Hopefully someone will document the stories (and business arrangements) of those who see a profit in serving as the clean up crew as well.

The Low Sec Moon Rush - Land (or in EVE's case, moon) grabs aren't just reserved for high sec.  The empires are also losing control in low sec, with a seemingly minor math change opening up the moons in 0.4 systems for exploitation.  Stories have circulated about the great null sec alliances have already grabbed up all the good moons already.

Is that really true?  I'm guessing yes, although I don't know how many resources such an effort takes.  Perhaps someone will write about the effort to scan down all of these moons.  Or just the moons in a single system.  Even better, I hope someone writes about going out and setting up a moon mining operation for the first time.  Analysis pieces are great, but actually reading about someone's experiences are good too.

I also don't think I've read about how the issue of power projection affects low sec in any great detail.  I think a lot of low sec residents just take it for granted that the big null sec alliances will come in with their huge cap fleets and take what they want.  I'd love to read the argument that power projection isn't just a concern for null sec.

Of course, people may have already written about some of these issues and I just missed the articles and blog posts.  Then again, perhaps conditions have changed and some of these articles need updating.  I just see a few big subjects coming up just waiting for someone to write about them.  Perhaps out of all of this we'll see emerge the next big EVE blogger.  And if someone is already writing about these things, let me know in the comments.  I really want to read those stories.


1.  Not sorry.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Game Of Graphs: What's Happening In Low Sec?

EVE players are known for their love of graphs and charts.  My post from last Monday that used a graph of the average concurrent users matched up with in-game events proved pretty popular and created some discussions.  But one of the talking points I've read in a couple of places leaves me a bit puzzled.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 15 July 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 13 July 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft41.56,475-6.0
22Guild Wars 213.12,049+0.8
33Star Wars: The Old Republic8.81,371-25.5
45Final Fantasy XIV6.81,065+2.6
66EVE Online5.4838+0.5
911Elder Scrolls Online2.8437+41.0
12--Lord of the Rings Online1.9296+24.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,600

The final match of the World Cup saw the Xfire community turn to their television screens one last time until 2018.  On Sunday, its members spent 6.4% fewer hours playing MMORPGs than the week before.  Star Wars: The Old Republic witnessed the biggest decline (-469 hours) while Elder Scrolls Online witnessed a resurgence, leading all games with increased playtime with 127 hours.  Vindictus ended its two-week run in the Digital Dozen, replaced by Lord of the Rings Online.

TOR Is Not Dying - Despite leading all games on the list with a 469 hour drop in time played by Xfire members, a 25.5% decline is not a sign that Star Wars: The Old Republic fans are finally turning away from the game.  A decline like Sunday's is natural following a double XP event like the one Bioware held from 1-7 July.  The next expansion, Galactic Strongholds, is expected to launch this October, with subscriber early access beginning on 19 August.

Wildstar Is Not Dying - Despite the number of hours Xfire members spend playing Wildstar declining every week since launch, Wildstar is not dying.  Other sites like Raptr are not showing this behavior.  However, the decline is another example that MMORPGs have difficulty maintaining their initial audience.  The question now remains whether Carbine's planned monthly content patches will eventually stop the decline while the game is still on the list.

ESO Is Not Dying - Despite the huge percentage gain this week, the raw number of hour increase in the Xfire community's play time (+127 hours) wasn't that big this week.  But an increase in time 3 months after launch with no obvious cause is possibly a good sign.  Has Elder Scrolls Online finally reached its base number of players?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lowering The Fear Factor

Sometimes real life gets in the way of playing games.  That's bad for a game like Wildstar, in which player advancement depends on playing the game.  Not so bad for an EVE player because CCP set up a skill system that doesn't require playing to advance your character or, perhaps more importantly, characters.  Given the nature of EVE, that also allows for time to watch a little of what's happening in the EVE community.

I guess the big news is The Mittani is back to writing, and not just his inspiring speeches to his alliance.  In his typical fashion, he stirred the pot Saturday by calling for protected newbie starting areas and eliminating high sec awoxxing.  A lot of players in the comments went one step further than a protected zone and thought of making the tutorial a computer simulation.  That fits in with the lore, but I don't think accomplishes one of The Mittani's (and CCP's goals) with the New Player Experience.  That goal is to take some of the fear of losing a ship or a pod away from new players.

Now, fear of loss is a wonderful thing in EVE.  I think that fear contributes to the adrenalin rush that players experience in PvP.  Has anyone experienced that type of rush in any other video game?  I know I haven't.  After a fight in which I actually walked away with a kill mail, I was shaking for 10 minutes afterwards.  Sometimes I still get a touch of the shakes after busting through a gate camp or escaping from someone who thought my Procurer was an easy kill.

But, fear of loss is bad when a player gives into that fear and won't venture into dangerous space.  I have no problem with a player making a rational choice, like choosing to run level 4 security missions in high sec instead of low.  Then again, if a player has a blockade runner, especially after warp speed changes in Rubicon and rebalance pass in Kronos, is doing level 4 distribution missions in high sec instead of low, that possibly is fear coming through.  Then again, I did take the time to create instaundock bookmarks for stations in several constellations, so maybe I'm the one who's crazy after all.

I think, though, that most people look at the issue of fear in whether players will join in PvP.  A lot of players don't want to lose something that they've worked hard to acquire.  In most games, dying at the hands of an NPC or another player only means repair costs, not a loss of gear.  A player will only lose the gear when it is no longer valuable through either selling it or a mechanic like transmutation or salvaging.  To a player used to playing other MMORPGs, losing gear and getting nothing in return not only hurts, but is weird.

Looking at The Mittani's proposal, a player would get a taste of loss.  Lose a ship?  No big deal.  Get podded?  So what?  In both cases, the player was rewarded, not punished.  Sometimes dying isn't so bad.  And if the player managed to kill another player's ship or pod, then that's a success too.  But if that happened in a simulator, a big part of the experience, loss, goes away.

Eliminating high sec awoxxing is also about the fear of loss.  But instead of addressing the fear of loss in a new player, the target is the fear of loss residing in the mind of a corporation CEO.  With greater responsibility comes the chance of greater loss.  Does a high sec CEO want to risk allowing an awoxxer into his corporation and wind up with a friend losing his Orca, Tengu, or blinged out Vindicator?  Safer just to not allow that new player into the corporation at all.  After all, awoxxers will create a clean account to get around any background checks.  And if someone is going to propose a change that hurts espionage in EVE, I highly doubt the former head of the Goonswarm Intelligence Agency is the one to do so. 

The change I think The Mittani has in mind is simple.  Make CONCORD intercede in high sec if a corpmate makes an agressive action. I do see a problem with that, however.  The old tactic of webbing a corpmate's freighter for faster travel would go away.  Would that also make MiniLuv's freighter ganking operations go smoother?  I don't know.  Besides, I'm sure other methods exist to eliminate the practice.

Looking at the details, however, I don't think was The Mittani's purpose in his article.  I think he just wanted to set goals.  How the goals become reality in EVE is up to CCP.  Assuming, of course, that CCP agrees.