Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The CCP Peligro Full Employment Patch Of 2016

I planned on writing a little bit about the efforts of CSM Watch's coverage of this year's CSM election now that the deadline for applying is over. Perhaps tomorrow or Friday. I have RMT news to cover.

For those unaware of the latest news in EVE Online, CCP released a patch yesterday that included the new skill point trading mechanics. I do not have data from Tuesday, but apparently everyone and their brother decided to buy skill injectors. Of course, skill injectors are rather expensive, costing a little more than half a PLEX each. I guess that explains why in the first 6 hours of today 3,098 PLEX were sold in Jita.

Why is that figure for the amount of PLEX sold so amazing? Because before this week, the most PLEX ever sold in a single day in The Forge, the home region of New Eden's largest trade hub, was 6,161. Based on the start of today, I expect, once yesterday's totals appear either in the market interface or on the CREST API feed, that the record recorded on 1 November 2013 shattered into a billion pieces.

Now, to bring up an interesting factoid about the PLEX record. The record was set when an EVE gambling site, SOMERblink, conducted a liquidation sale in response to CCP closing the loophole that allowed the gambling site's operator to launder at least $150,000 in ISK during a 3 year period.

Why bring up illicit RMT? Because business is very good for the ISK sellers. The sales volumes at Player Auctions, the illicit RMT site I monitor, are at an unprecedented level, at least in my experience. So far in the first nine days of February, I tracked over 780 billion ISK sold, with over 220 billion ISK in sales yesterday. That is a lot of skill injectors.

Once I get more figures, I will write a comprehensive blog post. But for now, just remember that players aren't the only ones excited about the new skill injectors. I will make a prediction. Expect to see a ban wave sometime before Fanfest. With this much dirty ISK moving around, I believe quite a few people will receive a polite letter from CCP Peligro informing them that they won a vacation from EVE Online for a week. Or perhaps, even permanently.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Skill Point Trading: The Numbers Are In

On Friday, CCP revealed the Aurum cost of the skill extractors needed to create skill injectors. Aurum is EVE Online's cash shop currency used to buy items like clothing and ship skins. Many players screamed about the costs of the extractors. But before I go into the numbers, I want to express my displeasure about a related topic.

To my knowledge, CCP released the news via a tweet. Not a dev blog. Not as a news item. Not in the patch notes. Via a tweet. If I am wrong, someone please point me to the place on CCP's infrastructure where CCP first posted the price. I hope I am wrong, because right now I'm a bit disgusted with CCP over that tweet. If someone really did think that releasing the news via tweet was a good idea, that person should feel bad and banned from eating dessert for a month.

Now for a look at the numbers. I think sticker shock took hold when I realized that the price for a single extractor was 999 AUR. My initial conversion to U.S. dollars came up with a price of $5.55. Even looking at the purchase rate when buying a $20 packet of Aurum gave me a price of $4.95. Then the realization hit me. CCP based their pricing strategy on the price of a single PLEX. CCP sells single PLEX for $19.95 and the price of 4 extractors, which can hold 2 million skill points, is $19.80. I should point out that a character with +5 learning implants can train 2700 skill points per hour, or 1,944,000 skill points every 30 days. Since one PLEX equals 30 days of training, CCP came out fairly close to equating the price of game time to the additional immediate skill point gain.

My observation, however, was just a first impression. I then approached the issue from the perspective of a farmer. What are a farmer's requirements skill extractor requirements for a six month period? The answer I came up with is that an account can generate enough skill points to fill up 23 injectors. One could spend $95 in Aurum (1 $50 pack, 2 $20 packs, and a $5 pack) to purchase the injectors. The cost is actually $92.21 if two 10-pack extractors and three single extractors are purchased, so the farmer will have some Aurum left over.

At this point in my calculations, the numbers came up with something extraordinary. Converting 30 days of training, acquired at the maximum rate using +5 learning implants, into skill injectors, cost $14.95. By some strange coincidence, the price CCP charges for a basic one month subscription is ... $14.95. Nice going CCP.

Of course, using real money to purchase the skill extractors defeats the whole reason for the farm. The cost conscious farmer will need to farm enough ISK to purchase 6 PLEX, or already have enough ISK on hand already, to farm skill points from a clone for six months. Of course, the number of PLEX needed is actually 5.4, so the farmer will have 2005 Aurum left over after six months.

So is the cost of 30 days of training actually 0.9 PLEX? No. The farmer also has to pay another PLEX to pay for the subscription. After all, the purpose of the farm is to not pay real life money. Let someone else do that. So the cost of running the farm and creating skill injectors is 1.9 PLEX per month. Since the farmer can fill 23 skill injectors in six months, the production cost per injector is .496 PLEX per month. If the cost of PLEX is 1.2 billion ISK, that makes the production cost of each injector a little under 595 million ISK. Including taxes and fees, I would just assume the production cost is 600 million ISK per injector.

Does anyone really think EVE players will sell items at cost? Perhaps those who think mined minerals are free, but players who set up operations like the farm I envision don't think like that. I would expect a 20% to 25% mark-up, for a final price of 720-750 million ISK per skill point injector.

I do want to point out my assumption is based on a PLEX price of 1.2 billion ISK. Watching the market this weekend, I am not sure the price will stay that low. Will we see PLEX rise to 1.4 billion or perhaps 1.5 billion ISK in the near future? I'm not an expert. I'd say bug this guy instead.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Things Are Getting Interesting In Thera

I really need to take a break from doing the CSM coverage. The work is interesting, but activity is starting to pick up in Signal Cartel.

First, we marked our first birthday with a day-long party. Where was I? That's right, doing election stuff. I don't want to say we're a little different, but let's fact it, we are. One of the events included Hug-dropping unsuspecting ratters and miners. What's a hug drop? Someone made a "PvP" video, which is below.

It's Hug-Drop O'Clock

For those unfamiliar with Signal Cartel and our alliance, Eve-Scout Enclave, we sometimes are described as space hippies. We have our credo, which means accepting that losses happen and to just have fun. But also treat everyone with respect. The whole idea is that we are a service corporation serving the game by maintaining, a board we keep updated with a list of connections into and out of Thera, the only wormhole currently with stations. As such, we attempt to maintain a neutral and non-threatening stance towards all, even those who wardec us.

On Monday, an email from Chance Ravinne, a member of the current Council of Stellar Management, found itself on EVE Skunk. For those who don't know, people try to read each others mail in EVE. The old method was to insert spies into an enemy corporation. For a few years now, though, EVE Skunk has provided that type of intelligence for free. Here is the contents:

Delivery Agents,

As our alliance nears 600 pilots(!!!), we as an organization face challenges and opportunities we have not previously ever had to consider.

-How can we hope to deny gloating rights to the unscrupulous Marmite warmongers along trade hubs we frequent?
-How can we fully take advantantage of the massive delivery capabilities of our combined fleet?
-What can we do, as a growing organization, to serve the community of New Eden?
-What can the corporation's executives do to better supply our delivery agents?

These are no small matters, and ones that must be approached with caution lest we lose our identity as a politically neutral covert ops delivery corporation. And yet, we must address them, or we become nothing more than a few hundred pilots with the same letters in the brackets following our names.

Taking all of these matters into consideration, I believe the answer to these questions is Thera.
SETTING UP SHOPMany of our pilots have sought to buy, store, and move assets from stations without having to deal with wardec corps who take advantage of hisec mechanics to make our deliveries exceedingly difficult. We've also had issues forming up for fabulous opportunities; after all not every Rattlesnake ratting target will be within 20 jumps of Jita or Amarr!

So starting immediately, WINGSPAN executive operations will be based out of Thera. This means that for all scheduled operations, with minor exceptions, you can expect Thera will be the starting system.

No need to join fleet first or ask "how many jumps is X from staging system?" The answer is "Zero, because it's in Thera."

WINGSPAN will also be establishing offices in Thera stations, with the long-term goal of storing ammunition, speciality ships, boosters, and other high-demand products for immediate access.

TAKING OUT THE TRASHNow for the unacquainted, Thera was founded as a special type of wormhole system: an enormous region with dozens of wormhole connections, as well as stations (yes, stations) owned by the Sisters of EVE. Upon its discovery, it was thought Thera would become a "new Jita," a trade and transit hub for wormhole explorers like us.

But Thera has been besmirched by groups of players who sought to terrorize locals (including the local Signal Cartel, whose explorers provide invaluable information to Tripwire on routes in and out of Thera's many connections). These malicious and highly unprofessional gankers (many of them are 15 years old!) have rendered Thera inhospitable to civilized pilots.

Chief among these groups is V0LTA, a 130-boy corporation who have dominated Thera uncontested. They've worked with AQUILA INC, a smiliarly minded organization. Using brute force they've subdued smaller groups, but have never faced an equal or larger organization, let alone one as persistent, dogged, and cloaky as WINGSPAN.

I respect V0LTA's work as a ganking corporation. I respect it so much that I am personally ordering INFINITE TORPEDOES, DRONES, AND CHARGES BE DELIVERED TO THEM for as long as it takes for them to accept our gifts as an early retirement package.

For the purposes of this mission, I am setting Signal Cartel to Neutral (+0) as their scanning services will make our operations 100x easier. I therefore ask that Signal pilots not be fired upon within Thera, though feel free to send them as many torpedoes as you'd like the second they're out of that system!

Saria and our FCs will, I'm sure, provide more information to follow regarding operations details.

A BETTER TOMORROWEstablishing a foothold in Thera and clearing it of other delivery organizations will accomplish many worthwhile goals for WINGSPAN as an organization.

First, by providing content in the form of the elimination of Thera's worst bottom feeders. We can help Thera can become the spooky superhighway it was always meant to be, and we will have unlimited wormhole chains at our desposal to explore.

For the enterprising salespeople among us, the market of Thera will prove lucrative. Sell scan probes at 300% markup! Or perhaps be the nice guy/gal and contract bombers to your WINGSPAN colleagues. Or hell, do both!

It should also be noted that Boosters can be found in great supply in Thera, on account of #NoRulesInWspace.

Finally, I believe basing scheduled operations out of Thera will give our less experienced pilots (and certainly the veterans too) a much deeper knowledge of wormhole space, astrometrics, and WHAT A MARKET HUB IS LIKE WHEN MARMITE ISN'T ON EVERY UNDOCK. Sure there will be 100 cloaked Proteuses there, but half of them will be ours!

AS YOU LIKE IT As with all WINGSPAN corporate initiatives, your participation is completely voluntary. You remain free as a delivery professional to operate from wherever you like. I only ask that you consider the benefits outlined above before striking this path from your possibility. Working together, we can make WINGSPAN a better corporation; we can make Thera a better system. And we can make our pilots better prepared to handle their quotidian task of finding new customers throughout wormhole space.

With that said, I'd like to thank everyone who participates, in advance, for their help. I look forward to joining you in these important delivery matters!

Chance Ravinne // WINGSPANTT 
"The Guy Who Is Somehow In Charge"

Of course, our local PvP corporations, known collectively as the Therabois, soon read the leaked EVE-mail and published their own response:

View post on

So we will soon see WINGSPAN Delivery Service vs. the Therabois, with Signal Cartel flying around trying to maintain an up-to-date listing of all the wormholes leading into and out of Thera. I also imagine we shall see some other corporations, or even alliances, try to honorably third party some of the fights. And to make things interesting we will fly with snowballs and fireworks in our holds. After all, we wouldn't want to hurt anyone.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Guesstimating The Cost Of Skill Point Injectors

Whether we like the feature or not, skill trading is coming to EVE Online on 9 February. The time for debate is long past, so I will put on my prognosticator's hat and and attempt to determine the cost players will pay in order to advance their characters more quickly. The figure I came up with is 500 million to 600 million ISK. How did I come up with that price range? Time to show my work.

First, the professional ghouls with their clone farms have to cover the subscription price. I imagine those running the farms will PLEX their accounts. What is the cost of a PLEX? Currently, the price is hovering around 1.2 billion ISK. I expect that the price of PLEX will increase as skill point injectors become more popular, but for now 1.2 billion ISK is a fairly round number.

Next, how many skill points can a clone generate in a 30-day period? Assuming I know how to use EveMon properly, a character with +5 learning implants can generate 2,700 skill points in an hour, or 1,944,000 in a month. With each skill point injector holding 500,000 skill points, that means a single account can generate a total of 3.888 skill injectors per month. For simplicities sake, let's round the number up to 4 skill injectors.

To merely cover the subscription price, the skill point injector manufacturer must charge at least 300 million ISK per injector. If the clone farmer is thinking long term, then substitute the actual figure of 3.888 skill injectors and the total to cover the subscription cost is 308.6 million ISK.

But wait, the farmer also has to purchase the skill extractor from the cash shop. Once again, the clone farmer will not want to spend real life cash, so will purchase a second PLEX. The conversion rate of PLEX to Aurum is 3,500 AUR per PLEX.

Now for the 64 million ISK question. How much will CCP charge for the skill extractor? As of the time I write this post, CCP has not said. My someone educated guess is between $2-$3 USD. If I were setting the odds, I would put the over/under at $2.50 USD per skill extractor.

Why $2.50? Because I believe that CCP is targeting the player with between 5 million and 50 million skill points. CCP will want to charge the player for the amount of training time saved by purchasing and using skill injectors. The number of skill points gained per injector use is below:

  • < 5 million total skillpoints = 500,000 skillpoints per injector
  • 5 million – 50 million total skillpoints = 400,000 skillpoints per injector
  • 50 million – 80 million total skillpoints = 300,000 skillpoints per injector
  • > 80 million skillpoints = 150k skillpoints per injector
Since a player in the target skill point range would need to purchase 5 injectors, that means manufacturers would need to spend $12.50 USD in order to create enough injectors to supply a one month supply of skill points. Looking at the subscription price chart, a three-month sub costs $12.95 per month and a six-month sub costs $11.95 per month.

Now for the key. How much aurum can one buy for $2.50? The below graphic from the account management page gives a clue:

Aurum prices in USD
I figure the price from the $5 amount, or 450 AUR. If purchasing PLEX in-game to convert to aurum, that means a clone farmer can get 7.78 skill extractors per PLEX. For the sake of the math, I will round the figure up to 8. So the monthly manufacturing costs per clone must include additional half a PLEX, or 600 million ISK, to cover the purchase of aurum. That brings the total monthly production cost per account to 1.8 billion ISK, or 450 million ISK per skill injector.

Will the traffickers of skill injectors sell their products at cost? Hardly. But what is a good mark up? I think 33%, which brings the total up to 600 million ISK per skill injector. Since one account can create 4 skill injectors per month, that means two accounts should just about generate enough ISK to purchase one PLEX in order to pay for someone's main account.

I personally won't enter the skill injector market. Besides the thought that extracting skills from clones is icky, I am not sure if the demand for skill points will really bear a 600 million ISK price. Personally, I do not believe so. CCP would do better with a $2 USD, or 360 AUR, price point. The only problem with that price is that some illicit RMTers may try their hands at clone farming. Still, I think the big RMT operations won't bother with the low profit margins involved with skill point training. Of course, I'm probably wrong. At least I won't have long to wait to find out.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Almost Done

Last night I finally reached level 35 in the free-to-play game from Aeria, Dragomon Hunter. I plan on writing a review of the game, but getting to the maximum level of 50 would take way too long. I think playing for three months is long enough.

One reason for starting the writing process is that I would like to start playing more EVE Online. Most, if not all, of my EVE time is devoted to covering the CSM 11 elections coming up later this month. In addition to recording analysis shows with the CSM Watch team like I did last year, I also do research for the individual interviews. But I haven't even spent time probing down exits in Thera lately, although I do play with Evemon and update my skill plans since I need to start training tech 2 battleship weapons soon. After six years, I can finally fly a Raven. But truthfully, who would want to?

A funny thing happened while playing Dragomon Hunter. While grinding away doing daily quests in order to care and feed the dragomon on my ranch and craft new armor, I started to feel the desire to do the same in EVE. When I write the review of the game, I probably will do a lot of comparisons between EVE and Dragomon Hunter. The cute, anime-style game has a lot more in common with the dark, sci-fi PvP-centric game that I thought when I first started playing back at the end of October.

I don't want to start up my planetary interaction colonies again, but I don't feel daunted at the prospect of doing small, industry-related tasks required to build items anymore. I may even try to figure out how to sell various implants that one can't find in the factional warfare loyalty point stores. Also, now that I have two alts that nearly have maximum exploration skills along with my main, I can locate my characters around New Eden in order to find the best exploration sites. Of course, I will need to keep one located close to my industrial base to keep an eye on production.

Of course, I do still have to write the review and finish up the CSM coverage before engaging in EVE full-bore once again. But I am slowly putting together a plan for flying and building in New Eden again. Oh, and to stick it to a few of the candidates currently running for CSM, I'll do so in low sec, if I don't spend even more time flying in wormholes. Because, really, who wants to live in null sec?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Skill Point Training Is Confirmed

Yesterday CCP Rise published a dev blog confirming the introduction of skill trading in EVE Online. Not much changed compared to the original proposal except that those with over 50 million skill points will gain a greater benefit from using a skill injector. The new scale is:
  • < 5 million total skillpoints = 500,000 skillpoints per injector
  • 5 million – 50 million total skillpoints = 400,000 skillpoints per injector
  • 50 million – 80 million total skillpoints = 300,000 skillpoints per injector
  • > 80 million skillpoints = 150k skillpoints per injector
I wrote about the proposal when CCP first floated the idea and my opinions have not changed. But since CCP is implementing the idea in February, as a semi-average EVE player I need to adapt to the change. Admittedly, that means doing absolutely nothing, as my characters have well over 80 million skill points and I can't see purchasing skill points. Truthfully, outside of the collector's edition, I have never purchased PLEX either. But a Twitter conversation with Ned Thomas and my alliance executor Johnny Spunk led to a tweet that made me think.

Ned put out a post on his blog discussing his thoughts on skill point trading. I chimed in with my earlier post that contained an example of how a new character could apply 2 million points toward becoming a better explorer. Johnny then tweeted the following:

I realize that exploration is a bit different (and more lucrative) than other professions, but I hope new pilots don't just rush out and buy a PLEX or two in order to get higher skills. What I hope happens is that our pilots in Signal Cartel go out and earn ISK through exploration, then purchase the skill injector packages. If a pilot can earn the ISK with lower level skills, then the additional skills will just enhance the experience.

Then again, if our pilots are spending their ISK on skills so they can jump into covert ops frigates faster, what will happen to the Astero market? If we stop losing so many of the Sisters' frigates, the drastic drop in demand could crash the market.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quick Note About The Latest IWANTISK Ban Wave

Just a quick note, because I am not feeling well and I still have research to do for the CSM Wire interviews currently scheduled. I WANT ISK was hit last week with another wave of bans among its bankers. What seems clear is that 12 bankers received permanent bans for conducting real money trading (RMT).

I wanted to avoid the situation, as SpaceMonkey's Alliance and I WANT ISK are currently at war with each other over alleged embezzlement of alliance funds by an I WANT ISK banker and the scamming of I WANT ISK bankers by SMA. But with the emergence of a soundcloud from the  I WANT ISK VOIP channel, things do not look good for I WANT ISK. The situation is so bad I even read the Reddit post on the subject.

Let me conclude with this thought. Three I WANT ISK bankers "won EVE" due to RMT last year and the website was blacklisted for three weeks from the in-game browser. Something is seriously wrong with the structure of how the I WANT ISK operation is set up. In my opinion, if CCP is not going to pull the plug on I WANT ISK's operation, then players should just stay away from the site. I know that players can make a lot of ISK by working at the site as a banker, but are permanent bans really worth the risk?

Monday, January 11, 2016

The CSM 11 Election: The Dev Blog

On Friday, CCP Leeloo ended all question about the short-term future of the Council of Stellar Management, releasing a dev blog outlining the upcoming election. Of special note to me is the following:
  • January 15th, 2016 – Candidacy period begins
  • February 9th, 2016 – Candidacy period ends, background checks begin
  • February 29th, 2016 – Voting period begins
  • March 25th, 2016 – Voting ends
  • April 21st, 2016 – Results are announced at Fanfest 2016
That's right, people can start submitting their applications to run starting on Friday. Since CCP updated the CSM White Paper with all the rules and regulations, I figure I will just copy and paste the qualifications for running below:
  • To become an eligible candidate for election to the CSM, a player must be 18 years of age or older, unless the legal age of majority in their home country is higher than 18, in which case the minimum age is the age of majority.
  • To become an eligible candidate, a player must have an EVE Online account that has been active for at least three months (90 days).
  • CCP employees, ISD volunteers, CCP interns, CCP affiliates, CCP strategic partners or employees of other gaming companies/games/gaming media and family members of CCP are all ineligible to run for the CSM. In cases were an active CSM delegate becomes involved in any of the above activities they must resign from the Council.
  • To become an eligible candidate a player must consent to provide their personal information to CCP. A CSM candidate can publish their personal information to the player base at their own discretion. On the application page field “Country” is visible publicly. The remaining information is visible only to CCP Staff and other CSM members and is held in full confidence unless a CSM candidate chooses to reveal it.
  • To become an eligible CSM candidate player must not have any records of serious breach of the EULA, TOS and\or forum rules. The player’s account will be submitted for a security background check. If any violations are revealed, the candidate will be removed from the election process.
  • All CSM candidates must ensure that their personal information and contact email address is up to date in account management before declaring their intent to run as a candidate for the CSM.
  • To become an eligible CSM candidate, player must provide a copy of a valid, internationally recognized identity document to CCP. This is required to confirm identity of the candidate and to prove the ability to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement and travel to CCP’s office in Reykjavik, Iceland should a CSM delegate be selected to attend the CSM Summit.
  • If, due to candidate’s real-life circumstances or medical conditions, they are not able to physically attend any of the CSM summits or other CCP or player hosted conventions – we don’t require them to.
  • Participation in all CSM activities is entirely voluntary. However, complete inactivity will lead to the removal from the Council.
CCP Leeloo listed the following major changes to this year's election rules in the dev blog:
  • Age restriction has been lowered to 18 years. After trying this out during the last election, we’ve decided to keep the age restriction at a lower mark of 18 years. This provides more opportunities for our younger players who wish to try out a little bit more of space politics and contribute to the development process of EVE Online J
  • Privacy. Again, after seeing the feedback from the candidates and voters after CSM10 election, we decided to remove the requirement of sharing your real life name publicly if you wish to run for the Council seat. We feel like this is an unnecessary requirement and we would rather let people decide if they want to share their real life information publicly or not.
  • 4 permanent attendee seats. We are increasing the number of permanent seats for the Council because we want voters to have more power over who should attend the summits. As we now bring up to 10 members of the Council to each summit, this is a fairer split.
  • Replacement mechanism. It’s been a while since we first tried replacing resigned or removed CSM delegates. Now this process has been formalized and is included in a whitepaper. The reasons behind this are very simple. By leaving an empty chair on the Council we are not utilizing the full potential of STV based voting. Besides, having more delegates equals more feedback, so running short is not always the best option. This lets us re-use all votes that were cast during the election. So please pay attention when you vote.
Reading the White Paper, I did notice one other change that I guess CCP considers minor.

Games media need not apply

CCP added employees of game media companies (and I assume freelance games journalists) to the list of people who cannot serve on the CSM. I can understand CCP's rationale to putting the language in the White Paper. Not only is CCP working on the first wave of virtual reality games, but the Reykjavik facility will soon host the development of a new game. One of the last things CCP needs is for a games journalist to overhear some talk about CCP's future business plans in the cafeteria.

I will go into more detail in the upcoming days about the CSM election. I will add a plug for an effort I am contributing to again this year. The Cap Stable crew is once again going to interview as many of the candidates as possible. For anyone who is running for a CSM seat, I would recommend visiting CSM Watch and reading the post on how to sign up for an interview

Friday, January 8, 2016

What's New In Reykjavik?

CCP sent out a tweet yesterday looking for artists for the new game it plans on producing in the Reykjavik office. Yes, if CCP's career page is any guide, CCP is hiring people to work on new games in both Reykjavik and London. I don't have enough information to guess at what is planned in the still non-existent office in London, but looking at the new project in Iceland might interest some folks.

First, let's take a look at the open Senior Producer position. I found the description of the ideal candidate telling:

  • Extensive industry experience with multiple titles and large scale operations 8+ years preferred
  • A track record of delivering multiple high quality entertainment experiences
  • Significant experience of delivering excellent business results games and in an ongoing ‘Product as a service’ model

We know that the project actually is a game, since the senior producer's responsibilities include "Lead the team to develop the creative and overall vision for the game" and "Deliver a high quality game." The "'Product as a service' model" definitely indicates an online game, although I am not sure if the game would follow the subscription model. I feel more confident that the game will have frequent updates, probably along the lines of EVE Online's five-week release cycle.

The 3D Character Animator position either gives out some really revealing information or some misinformation. The unsurprising part is that CCP is looking for someone with experience working in Unreal Engine 4. CCP has made the switch to Unreal Engine 4 for its virtual reality games, so I expect all of its future games to use the engine. What I find fascinating is the description of the position:
"CCP Games is searching for an super skilled 3D Character Animator to build out the visual direction for our new games project. The ideal candidate has experience animating both human and non-humanoid characters. A strong knowledge of animation and rigging, as well as a great grasp of body movement principles, anticipation, timing, spacing, forward / inverse kinematics, and other facets of 2D and 3D animation are highly desirable. We are looking for someone capable of working in a team of highly motivated and driven individuals, animating creatures and characters for both science fiction and fantasy settings." [emphasis mine]
Is CCP attempting to branch out of the EVE universe once again? If CCP wants to expand, the company has no choice. The EVE universe is a safe space, but one has to venture out into the wider world in order to enjoy the huge success I believe Hilmar seeks. The one important piece of the puzzle is I don't know whether the new project in Reykjavik is a virtual reality game or a new MMORPG. Or perhaps CCP is finally porting over DUST 514 to the PC and really plans to enhance the game with wildlife and vegetation. Okay, scratch that last possibility. I tend to lean away from the VR game as CCP's main VR studio is in Newcastle while its VR Labs group is based in Atlanta. But is CCP really looking at launching another MMO? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Low Sec Ice Mining: The Endurance

I mentioned last week I wanted to return to mining in low sec. Someone then suggested I should try ice mining in a shattered wormhole with an Endurance, the new Expedition-class frigate introduced in the December release. An intriguing idea. First, however, I wanted to do a comparison with my trusty Procurer to find out just how well the Endurance performs.

First Try At An Endurance Fit
The stats above are buffed with the stats of flying in a squad, with the squad booster giving max stats. That's because Wandering Rose, in addition to flying industrial and mining ships, also flies Claymores. When mining, Wandering Rose usually sits in the barge, with Rosewalker in overwatch in a Hound in case a NPC battleship wanders into the belt. But for those with two accounts, all that is really needed is an alt in a rookie ship fitted with a Prototype Cloaking Device I flying around somewhere in the system to get the bonus.

The Endurance is a nice little ship with the following bonuses:
Mining Frigate bonuses (per skill level):
  • 5% bonus to Ore Mining yield
  • 5% reduction in Ice Harvesting duration
Expedition Frigates bonuses (per skill level):
  • 4% bonus to all shield resistances
  • 5% reduction in Ice Harvesting duration
Role bonus:
  • 50% reduction in Cloaking Devices CPU requirement
  • 300% bonus to Ore Mining yield
  • 50% reduction in Ice Harvesting duration
  • Cloak reactivation delay and targeting delay reduced to 5 seconds
  • No penalty to ship max velocity when using Cloaking Devices
Did I mention that Wandering Rose has all the skills trained to level 5 and the only reason she does not have Mastery V in the Endurance is because she only has Propulsion Jamming trained to 4? So these are pretty much max numbers barring a command ship or an Orca begins giving boosts.

Because my fit is designed for low sec, I put in the expected fit in the high slots:
  • Ice Mining Laser II
  • Improved Cloaking Device II
  • Festival Launcher (with snowballs)
If heading for a shattered wormhole, or even null sec, I would replace the Festival Launcher with a Sisters Core Probe Launcher. The Festival Launcher is just present because of the tight fit and I didn't want to leave a slot empty. Honest.

The low slots are also pretty much as expected:
  • Ice Harvester Upgrade II
  • Ice Harvester Upgrade II
  • Warp Core Stabilizer II
The two Ice Harvester Upgrade II modules are present to maximize my ice mining yield. At least one WCS is expected, but I chose the tech 2 variant in order to increase my targeting range just a little bit. Since the Endurance can launch 3 light drones, the extra range might come in handy for targeting purposes. Also, the upgrade from tech 1 to tech 2 only adds around 2% to the cost of the ship. But if the ship fits the Sisters probe launcher, the WCS has to downgrade to a Warp Core Stabilizer I.

The mid slots might come as a bit of a surprise:
  • Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
  • Small Azeotropic Restrained Shield Extender
  • Small Azeotropic Restrained Shield Extender
  • 1MN Y-S8 Compact Afterburner
The ship is afterburner fit due to the fitting requirements. Also, in low sec, most ships will fit scrams due to stabbed farmers, so fitting a prop mod that an attacker can't shut down makes sense. But why, you may ask, fit the meta shield extenders? The way I plan to fly the Endurance is to speed/sig tank. The Small Azeotropic Restrained Shield Extender does not increase the ship's signature. 

In the rig slots, I fit two Small Low Friction Nozzle Joints I. I like fast align times and fitting two ensures a sub-3 second align time even when not flying in a gang. Another option for the rigs is to fit a single Small Low Friction Nozzle Joints II and then plug a EM-705 skill wiring into my head in order to free up a rig slot. Just remember that is for a max skill pilot. Newer pilots may want to keep the two tech 1 rigs and the cheaper EM-703 implant. Remember, this fit is for low sec, not wormholes. If going into a wormhole, I would replace the second agility rig with a Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I.

In the drone bay, the Endurance can store 6 light drones and launch 3 at a time. So in the fit above, I included 3 Hobgoblin IIs and 3 Hornet EC-300s.

Finally, I don't really think much about the implants, although I do like the WS-615 warp drive speed implant. By increasing the ship's warp speed to 6.32 AU/second, the ship can outrun anything chasing it except an interceptor. Of course, that's assuming a covert ops frigate is not in hot pursuit.

Basically, the game plan for flying solo is simple. Orbit the ice. If an NPC frigate shows up, launch the Hobgoblins. If an NPC cruiser or larger shows up, try to speed and sig tank. And if a player shows up, cloak up or warp off. If tackled, launch the ECM drones and hope for a lucky jam.

But what about the mining yield? The total comes out to 17.3 m3/second, or 1038 m3/minute. Add in an IH-1005 implant and the numbers go up to 18.3 m3/second, or 1098 m3/minute. Not bad really. But will the Endurance replace my trusty Procurer? Possibly. I discovered that in order to beat the Endurance's ice mining yield, I needed a better Procurer fit.

Revised Procurer Ice Mining Fit
Even with a dedicated ice mining fit, the output without an implant is only 18.5 m3/second (1100 m3/minute), which is not much more than the maximum yield I could get from an Endurance. The question is, does the Endurance's speed advantage and higher capacity ore hold make up for the Procurer's higher yield? Playing with the numbers on a notepad, I think the two come out just about even. The question then becomes, do I really want to put that implant in my head?

I should add one major downside to flying the Endurance in low sec. If a gang on a roam sees you on the directional scanner, they will go straight for the ice belt. No need to look around. In a Procurer, who knows where the ship is. The Endurance definitely requires more attention.

I will probably pick up an Endurance, just to fly around. But use the ship seriously in low sec? I'm not sold on the idea. The ship is possibly better suited to fly in the shattered wormholes.