Friday, June 28, 2013

The New Role

Some people have commented on my new fascination with industry.  I wrote in passing that the changes in Odyssey pushed me into this area but I didn't explain why.  I still have a week and a half to go in my experiment but now's a good to look at my decision.

The most important part was the turning of data and relic sites into pure ISK sinks.  Before Odyssey I met my limited cash needs by the bounties I received on rats I killed while either mining or in the exploration sites.  I then collected all the shiny things I gathered and put them in a box for a rainy day.  While the removal of those rats wasn't that big, if I wanted to make ISK from exploration I needed to start selling things.

Once I decided I needed to sell on the market, I then had to decide what kind of player I was.  Was I someone who came in, took all the resources, dump them on the market and then go off to die in glorious balls of fire?  Sounds kind of boring except for the exploding part.  Unfortunately I'm allergic to glorious balls of fire.  I need to petition that some day.

So what's interesting?  Making things.  Gathering resources in order to make things makes some of the tedium more bearable.  Going out and finding my own blueprints, which seem pretty plentiful in Odyssey, is fun.

The complexity of the system is also interesting.  Think of all the things that go into an industrial operation.  Having the proper skills like Accounting and Production Efficiency.  Having the best standings not only in the station you manufacture in but also in the station you sell in as well.  Researching blueprints to reduce wasted materials even further.  Moving the product to market, which can get exciting in low sec.  And I won't get started on tech 2 production because that takes the whole process to another level.

So the result is I am now a low sec carebear with a focus on industry.   I still run around doing most of the things I did before.  I just added a few extra things on my to do list when I log in.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Little Blue Munchkin

With the recent fighting in Fountain between the CFC and TEST (plus almost everyone else), the meme of the "Big Blue Donut" is rapidly falling out of favor.  But the recent changes in Odyssey are encouraging people out into low sec and I'm having to brush up on my diplomatic skills as my area of operations is turning into a donut hole of blueness.

Donut holes are tasty too




A small 60-70 pilot alliance arrived in my constellation a couple of weeks ago and set up shop in my nice sleepy low sec system.  That kind of put a crimp on some of my operations, especially mining, until the alliance leader contacted me over the weekend and we negotiated a non-agression pact.  The negotiations amounted to him asking if I was interested and me replying, "sure, how do I set an alliance blue?"

For me, the choice was simple.  The new power in the system was bluing everyone up and if I joined in I'd get to operate in a good location.  Even if the alliance didn't honor the pact, the most I figured to lose was a Procurer, and that's more than paid for itself over the past month of use.

Looking at the situation from the alliance's point of view, I can understand why setting the locals blue is a good thing.  The alliance is small enough that if the long-term residents really got pissed off we could cause some trouble.  I'm pretty sure the leader is looking to secure his flanks against the small fry so he can stay focused on the major players.  I mean, I don't have to worry about getting hot dropped by Pandemic Legion, but he does.

I guess I should add that the alliance doesn't seem like a combat-adverse bunch.  One of its pilots teamed up with the resident FW pilot to go fight an Amarr militia pilot that cruised into the system.  Sounded like all three had fun making internet spaceships explode. 

Also, while they like to make things, at least one corporation doesn't like mining.  I did see a pilot from the executor corp mining in a Skiff, but another appoached me about putting up some of my excess on the local market.  I actually might do that if I get that far ahead of my own needs.  Right now I'm struggling to build up a surplus of pyerite.  Currently that's my production bottleneck.

One funny thing is that I wound up arranging a NAP with the local 3-man faction warfare corp.  We've shared the system for months but just didn't talk much.  He actually told me he felt rude that he hadn't offered before now that the alliance was coming in bluing everyone.

Rude?  I'd say prudent.  When you're a small fish, getting the attention of others more aggressive or more capable than you is a bad thing.  So we just swim around not drawing attention.  When the alliance moved in, I didn't want to draw attention to myself so I just moved my mining operations completely to a neighboring system that has an ice belt.  I surprised some people when I emerged last night in a Procurer.  All they'd seen me in up until that time, if they'd seen me at all, were cloaky ships.  Getting spotted in a Hound leaves a different impression than getting spotted in a mining barge.

My diplomatic activities extended past the Blue Munchkin when I blued up another corp.  Trying to hide and make myself look tough from that corp wouldn't work as the diplomat I'm in contact with reads the blog.  They're a good trip away but I cruise through his area every once in a while when I'm tending my datacore farm.  That relationship could prove interesting.


So Odyssey has provided something unexpected into my world: diplomacy.  Now we'll find out if I'm good at it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 25 June 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 16 June 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.9 18,890+2.9
22Guild Wars 215.77,237-3.7
33Star Wars: The Old Republic12.15,581+23.9
44EVE Online5.52,535-0.3
55Neverwinter5.22,381-0.5
66RIFT4.72,163-7.1
77Aion3.61,655-10.5
88Tera3.31,522+2.2
99Planetside 22.71,250-7.1
1010Lord of the Rings Online2.41,108+1.7
1111Star Trek Online2.0940-3.4
1212APB: Reloaded2.0928-1.5
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 46,190

Sunday proved an unusually stable week where playtime for the most popular MMORPGs by the Xfire community.  In a week that saw only a 1.9% increase in time from the week before, no game changed position on the list from the Sunday before.

Summer Is Not A Tech Issue - Last week I wrote that I believed that some technical difficulties due to a very large playtime drop.  This week's rise of only 1.9% shows that perhaps the Xfire community actually goes outside when the weather is nice.

What SOE Can Do We Can Do Better - SOE is famous for holding double XP weekends over holiday weekends.  EA/Bioware is taking the concept one step further and holding three consecutive double XP weekends.  The first one, held last weekend, saw an increase of 23.9% in playtime by the Xfire community.  In the past when EA/Bioware held a giveaway event it was at the end of the quarter and needed to shore up sagging subscription numbers.  But that's not happening now, because the events are happening at the end of June... which happens to be the end of the financial quarter.  Yikes!

Calm Before The Storm - Two weeks ago, RIFT went free-to-play.  Last week Neverwinter officially launched.  Next week is Aion's turn as the Aion: Dark Betrayal launches tomorrow.  The game has slowly slipped down the list from a solid 4th to this week's 7th.  I expect that trend to turn around next Sunday.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Figuring Out My Profit

As I start moving into semi-serious production in EVE Online, I thought I'd look at something relevant to all crafting in MMORPGs: figuring out what to charge for the items players make.  Some players figure they are only making items to level their crafting skills, so they go out, gather up some raw materials, and then price the items under everyone else.  These are the players who think that anything they harvest is free.  Others use extensive spreadsheets to keep track of everything to get the maximum amount of profit.  From my experience all the serious crafters/market players in all games do this.

So how do I do approach this?  I kind of combine the two approaches.  First, I look at the prices in Heimatar (Rens) and Metropolis (Hek) for some idea of what items are selling for.  I then look at the prices in Molden Heath and try to price accordingly.  I do some quick calculations to figure out that I will make a profit and then start manufacturing and selling.  So I see my wallet slowly go up, but I didn't really know why until I started doing the research for this post.  I then was pleasantly surprised when I could actually trace the money back to the individual activites I do.

For my example I chose a relatively simple item to produce, 25,000 rounds of Republic Fusion M.


Mining - First, I need to acquire all of the minerals to make the Fusion M rounds.  So I go out to the asteroid belts in low sec and mine them.  Of course, I could easily do so in high sec, but I'm stubborn.  Here is a breakdown of the minerals required and the average price in the closest trade hub (Hek) when I made my last batch:

Mexallon - 250 units @ 35.77 ISK
Pyerite - 78,750 units @ 12.23 ISK
Tritanium - 59,520 units @ 4.98 ISK

Total - 1,293,947.50 ISK
Mineral price per round - 51.76 ISK

A couple of things to note.  I'm using a BPO that is not researched so I could reduce the amount of minerals needed.  Also, I think the prices dropped.  If I had paid on the market for the minerals, the amount in my wallet would decrease.  But because I mine and refine my own ore, I am just moving too much ISK from one pocket to another.

Manufacturing - Just manufacturing the regular Fusion M rounds is cheap at 5,864.94 ISK.  This raises the final production cost of one round of Fusion M for this example to 51.99 ISK.

The big cost that explains why faction ammunition is so expensive is the loyalty point store.  Once the rounds are made I transport the inexpensive rounds to the station and purchase the good stuff.  For 25,000 rounds I spend 8 million ISK and 8,000 loyalty points.  So how much is a loyalty point worth?  I'm not sure, but for all the faction ammunition sales I've made so far I figure 1 LP = 1,000 ISK.

Where do I get my LP?  From doing distribution missions.  Some may think that's silly, but I found a pair of level 4 agents that like to give out destinations an average of 2 jumps away.  With the average LP and rewards, a conversion rate of 1 to 1,000 means I'm making over 400,000 ISK per jump when doing a distribution mission.  And I don't have to pay for ammunition either.

But what does that mean for the price of my product?  I have to pay 8 million ISK to an NPC corporation and then I calculate 8 million ISK in the LP to ISK conversion when purchasing the faction ammo from the store.  The cost of producing one round is:

Minerals: 51.76 ISK
Manufacturing: 0.23 ISK
Purchase of ammo (ISK): 320 ISK
Purchase of ammo (LP): 320 ISK

So the total cost of producing one round is 691.99 ISK.  But that is not the break even point.  I have to add in transaction taxes and broker's fees.  The transaction tax is straightforward.  I've trained Accounting to V and pay a 0.75% tax on every sale.  The broker's fee depends on 3 factors within my control: my Broker Relations level (5), the standing with the faction (8.98) and the standings with the NPC corp that owns the station (8.22).  If I've done the math correctly, that comes out to 0.22%.  So in order to break even, I need to charge 698.77 ISK.  Anything over that means I'm making a profit.

At this point, the people who believe that minerals (and loyalty points) are free are telling me I don't know how to do math because I'm receiving money for those items, not paying them.  They would argue that at my "break even" point I make 371.76 ISK per round.   Fair enough.  But I'd explain that those are the labor costs of producing that type of ammunition.  Or, in other words, "My time ain't free."

Of course, I'm pretty sure the spreadsheet warriors sitting on their mountains of ISK would tell me my time is a lot more valuable than that.  That's probably true as well and perhaps as I learn the business I'll make more ISK.  But I'm also having fun making things.  I'm back to my EQ2 days when I was one of the biggest suppliers of arrows on my server.  That was interesting.  EVE is even more interesting because I'm doing all of these activities in low sec, where I have to interact with people and figure out who wants to peacefully co-exist and who wants to blow me up into a cloud of pixels.

So that's the cost of producing a fairly simple item in EVE Online.  I think the same principles apply accross all MMORPGs.  Some games have bad economies where crafting is a pure money sink and not worth the time.  Fortunately EVE is different and I can turn a profit for some modest effort.  I just need to figure out what the profit is.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Mammoth Kerfluffle

I've come to believe that where Minmatar ships are concerned, the Art Department and the EVE player base really don't see eye-to-eye.  First was last year's decision to remove the frill from the Vagabond because, "the Vagabond is a Thukker version of the Stabber, but with Brutor sails attached (rather badly, with intersecting polygons) to the bridge area that make the ship look a bit silly."  That resulted in protests involving the shooting of innocent structures accompanied by much mockery, even on social media, until the beloved appendages were returned, although changed to reflect the Art Department's sense of style.

Fast forward six months after the return of the frill and the Art Department comes into conflict with the players again.  Well, that's really not fair.  CCP Rise was trying to decide which Minmatar ship should fill the role of the maximum cargo, paper thin tank tech 1 industrial.  Since the Wreathe clearly fit the role of smaller, more agile ship, the choice came down to the Hoarder and Mammoth. Personally, I would have looked at the lore to make my decision.  Here are the descriptions of the Hoarder and Mammoth.
Hoarder - "The Hoarder is the second in line of the Minmatar industrial ships, it's not as strong as the Mammoth but its cargo space is very large for its price. It's perfect for operation in peaceful areas or when it has strong escort."

Mammoth - "The Mammoth is the biggest and the strongest industrial ship of the Minmatar Republic. It was designed with aid from the Gallente Federation, making the Mammoth both large and powerful yet also nimble and technologically advanced. A very good buy."
Okay, on second thought I can see where CCP Rise had a dilemma.  The biggest cargo ship is the one with the paper-thin tank.  That implies that the ship will operate in peaceful areas or when it has a strong escort.  But the Mammoth is the biggest and strongest industrial ship.  Hmmm.  If the ship is the strongest, that goes against the theory that the ship that can carry the biggest cargoes are the weakest.  But biggest ship also implies biggest cargo capacity.  So CCP Rise, the nice guy that he is, decided to ask the Art Department what they prefer.  Wanting to help make your co-workers jobs easier is a good thing.  But, d'oh!

Once again, the Art Departement's sense of style clashed with players desires.  Forget the fact that many pilots had a lot of ISK invested in their ships.  A lot of pilots just liked the look of the blend of Minmatar and Gallente technology.  As one pilot put it, "Seriously, I skilled up to get the Mammoth just so I could go to the nicer parts of space and not be called a 'sanitation engineer'."

I still think the outrage wouldn't have grown so great except for two facts.  First, the new role, at least in my eyes, wasn't clearly defined.  The second was a massive 21.8% nerf to the maximum cargo capacity.  Add in the buffs to the Hoarder and the previous red-headed stepchild of Minmatar industrials would have 39.5% more cargo capacity than the Mammoth.

To put the matter into better perspective, let's look at the number of Giant Secure Containers each of the ships could carry under the original proposal.  Giant Secure Containers are used when carrying bulk cargo like minerals, ice and planetary interaction products as each one adds 900 m3 to the effective cargo capacity.
  • Wreathe - 6
  • Mammoth - 7
  • Hoarder - 12
And to add insult to injury, the align time for the Mammoth without skills was 14.3 and the Hoarder 14.5.  Wow!  Both ships had an effective align time of 15 seconds.  But it gets better.  With the Hoarder receiving a 5% agility gain per level of Minmatar Industrial and the Mammoth receiving a 5% max velocity bonus, the Hoarder would actually align faster.  Given the results of the proposal, I began referring to the change as an extinction level event.
Yesterday CCP Rise announced that due to public demand that the Mammoth would return to its role as the Minmatar tech 1 industrial with the largest cargo capacity.  I'm actually kind of sad about that because that means that the ship will lose one high slot.  I liked the ship having two.  But, those are the breaks.

Okay, I've criticized enough.  I should now state what I would have done.  The first is to have left the cargo capacity of the Mammoth alone.  Going back to bulk cargo hauling, here's the number of Giant Secure Containers each ship could hold:
  • Wreathe - 6
  • Mammoth - 9
  • Hoarder - 12
Notice the even steps between ships?  I think that works.  But the most important part is the vision of each ship's role.  If I were CCP Noizy, here's how I would have explained the changes instead of implying the Art Department made me do it.

Hoarder - The Hoarder is traditionally considered a vulnerable ship that could only operate in peaceful areas or under heavy guard.  This vision coincides with our vision of the maximum cargo hauler/paper-thin tank ship so that seems a logical progression.  The Hoarder also only has one high slot, which is another characteristic of the new class of maximum cargo haulers.

Mammoth - The Mammoth is traditionally the strongest Minmatar industrial ship.  In addition, the Mammoth is the hull for the tech 2 deep space transport Mastodon.  We felt that turning the Mammoth into a ship with a paper-thin tank would not properly honor the traditional role of the Mammoth.  Instead, we have made the Mammoth more agile with tougher defenses to allow the ship to survive in more hostile environments, particularly wormhole space.  While the Hoarder carries a lot more cargo, with its two high slots the Mammoth can fit both a cloak and a probe launcher.

/CCP Noizy logs off

Admittedly I did not take into account the Wreathe, so perhaps this proposal is unbalanced.  But I would actually like something that works like this.  If the Hoarder turns into what I described for the Mammoth, I might just build myself a Hoarder.  Did I mention I have a researched BPO and all the materials already?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Staying Responsible


By now some of you reading this post have read CCP Rise's forum post on the proposed changes to tech 1 industrial ships.  I've wanted to write a post about the changes to the Mammoth but I didn't know if the stats in the post were correct.  Why would I think they were incorrect?  Because unlike the other main industrial ships, the extra ships (Mammoth, Iteron II, Iteron III, Iteron IV) did not have the changes in stats listed.  CCP Fozzie only confirmed a couple of hours ago that the stats were correct.  I've done a little EFT carebear work on the numbers, but I didn't have enough time to write a responsible post on the subject this morning.

Why stay responsible?  Wouldn't throwing some bombs hoping that some of the splash damage hit something bring in more traffic?  Perhaps.  But I really hate having to retract statements because I posted too hastily.  The Nosy Gamer isn't a breaking news site.  The only times I'm the first to post about something is that no one else is interested in the subject.  Trying to change that leads to errors, which leads to retractions.  I hate making retractions.

Another reason is credibility.  A blogger is only as credible as the information in his/her posts.  Having critics state I don't understand the information I post about is a lot better than having people think I'm irresponsible and just making things up.  I feel this is particularly important when the subject moves to botting and RMT.  I can't always provide links to the sources of my information.  For example, the administrators of botting forums keep the best content viewable by members only.  I can't image why.

So I'll hold off until tomorrow before posting about what I think about the changes to the Mammoth.  The extra time will allow me to either make some pretty tables.  Also, I can give CCP Rise and friends some time to adjust the numbers, although I have the feeling that I won't wake up tomorrow and see any changes.  And if presenting my side of the story responsibly with all the facts as I see them takes until Monday, I'll take the time to try to get the story right.

Edit: Right after posting this, CCP Rise issued this Tweet.

Sometimes blogging responsibly pays off.  Now I can post about something more pleasant tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An Unexpected Mining Bonus

Long time readers of the blog know that the Angel Cartel and I don't get along.  Mostly, I blow them up and they die.  Mostly.  I guess they got tired of the dying part because a couple of days ago they brought in some ringers.  That's right, clone soldiers.

I was minding my own business, doing a little ice mining in a 0.2 security system.  Nothing special, Wandering Rose just running down the belt staying aligned in her Procurer sucking up ice while Rosewalker provided squad bonuses and overwatch in his Hound.  To my surprise in warps a single Angel cruiser.  I don't know what rank this clone soldier was, but flying the Angel colors just meant one thing; he'd picked a good day to die.

Once he started the attack, Wandering Rose launched a flight of Hobgoblin IIs and found out one of the reasons for his arrogance.  I'd heard that these clone soldiers flew a new type of ship and I witnessed first hand how tough they were as he just shrugged off the damage.  Seeing the futility of the effort, and the fact that the Procurer was webbed and not scrammed, Wandering Rose warped to the station and docked.

Rosewalker was in a bit of a bind.  He was sitting about 35 km from the clone soldier.  Having witnessed the defenses of the new cruiser, the stories about how these clone soldiers ate stealth bombers for breakfast made him want to put a little distance between himself and the Angel.  Instead of slowboating, he decided to warp to a nearby asteroid belt and then warp back at range.

Image my surprise when he arrived and found another clone soldier camping the belt.  The Angel Cartel were looking for me and laid a trap!  The only problem with the plan is that by casting a wide net they had invited defeat in detail.  I couldn't turn down the invitation, could I?

I then found out what I suspected.  These clone soldiers aren't so tough.  Perhaps if they had stuck together the outcome would have changed, but individually fighting them is like shooting fish in a barrel.  I decloak at 60 km, turn on the sensor dampener, turn on the target painter, and maintain range while spitting out torpedoes.  Easy.  I then looted the wreck and found a tag that Aura told me was worth 105 million ISK.

Of course, I still had the original clone soldier to take care of.  So I warped back to the ice site and acquired another tag.  Felt like taking a 5-year-old's lunch money, really, but hey, he made the choice to fly with the Angel Cartel.

I found out why Aura thought the tag was worth 105 million ISK.  Someone had purchased a shipload of tags over the weekend and the prices had not recovered.  The true price in Metropolis really fell in the 60-90 million range.  So I flew to the nearest DED station and put them up for sale for 75 million ISK each.  I felt better about my decision as the market computer told me I was selling over the market average.  After the interruption I finished my ice mining session.

Within 12 hours the tags sold.  After taxes and fees, I received 148+ million ISK for just a few minutes of work.  When I first heard the proposals at Fanfest I figured that asteroid mining was going to die but that ice mining would benefit.  After all, tag rats would only appear in belts, not anomalies.  The fact that I managed to get one in an ore site was a bit unexpected.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 18 June 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 9 June 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 40.5 18,359-11.6
22Guild Wars 216.67,512-5.4
33Star Wars: The Old Republic9.94,505-15.9
44EVE Online5.62,542-18.6
55Neverwinter5.32,393-15.6
69RIFT5.12,328+69.9
76Aion4.11,849-23.4
87Tera3.31,489-25.4
98Planetside 22.91,345-3.0
10--Lord of the Rings Online2.41,090+5.7
1112Star Trek Online2.1973-8.7
1211APB: Reloaded2.1942-12.0
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 45,327

On Sunday Xfire possibly had difficulty recording the time spent by the community playing MMORPGs.  The total time declined by 10.1%, with 7 games suffering declines over 10%.  The games leading the decline were Tera (-25.4%) and Aion (-23.4%) while RIFT was the big mover up with an increase of 69.9%.

F2P Launch - Trion officially launched the free-to-play version of RIFT last Wednesday.  As is usually the case the popularity of the game rose dramatically as players rushed to try the game.  However, the game only made it to the number 6 slot on the list, which does not bode well for its long term health.  Of course, with the game so closely tied to Raptr, the numbers on Xfire are probably lower than reality.

Left Behind - As RIFT rose, two other fantasy F2P games, Tera and Aion, fell over 20% each.  While the apparent technical difficulties affected most games, the fact that Tera and Aion led the pack indicates that a lot of players decided to go sightseeing in RIFT.  The question is how long will those players stay away.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Different Approach

Tomorrow marks the two week point of Odyssey and the preliminary numbers show me one fact: my old low sec lifestyle in Eve is over.  Amazingly though, belt mining is still a viable option.  The problem is exploration.  The payoff is just not there anymore.  I like the mini-game, but I hear that CCP thinks the payout is too great, so exploration will provide even worse rewards than I'm getting now.  I need to come up with a different way to pay the bills.

The most likely way of making a living will involve mining.  Now, due to the changes made to gravimetric sites, munching rocks in the new ore sites in a Procurer is just too dangerous and not worth the risk.  But since Tags4Sec hasn't really impacted my belt mining activity so I still head out to the belts about as much as I did previously.  The only time I've entered a non-ice ore site is a quick trip to w-space to pick up some arkonor.  I can get the rest of the minerals I need in the quantities I need from the belts.  I've moved some Ventures into my home station just in case I feel brave.  With the increased frequency of the ore sites showing up in low sec lately I might start feeling brave enough to risk one of the cheap mining frigates.

Ice, on the other hand, is something I found I can mine fairly safely.  With the changes I can fill up the hold of a Procurer in about 10 minutes.  I just need to stay aligned, which isn't that hard if everything lines up right.  I just start at one end of the belt and slowly work my way down to the other.  In 10 minutes I travel about 54 km, so I just have to pay attention and switch targets when appropriate.  The trick is to not get close to the warp-in point to the site and keep your hand over the warp button in case a cloaky sneaks up.  For the more paranoid, fill the lows with warp core stabilizers and that should help reduce the risk further.  That extends the time in the belt and decreases the range of the ice harvester, but something to think about.

While I currently sell refined ice products on the market, I like to build things with my minerals.  So far ammunition has filled that niche.  But I will need to come up with something else.  I'm thinking about invention and tech 2 production of modules.  I've got one item in mind and have started setting up datacore mining operations to supply the invention process.  I'm also grinding some more standings to get access to some level 4 Boundless Creation research agents.  Right now I only have one pilot with the access and I really need two. 

The first blueprint copies come off the production line today.  I don't expect to make a lot of money but I think I'll learn something about the process.  Previously my invention/tech 2 production efforts were aimed at providing myself tech 2 ships.  Now I'll just try to find a small niche and make a few million ISK a month.

I also need to do something that has always scared me: low sec planetary interaction.  I don't need that much product for my personal needs so I can sell the excess in Rens or Hek.  I just need to figure out what my needs are first.

I realize that perhaps I haven't given the expansion enough time to establish itself.  A fair criticism, which is why I'm holding off on a full examination of Odyssey until my data collection effort ends in early July.  But I see the trends and don't want to wait another three weeks to move on with my progress in the game.  I see the direction things are going so I'm going to go with the flow.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Prowler Math

On Wednesday Ripard Teg decided to pick blockade runners as the subject of his Fit of the Week.  As I spend a lot of time in a Prowler, I was interested in his opinions.  My ship follows all of his basic principles his first one. 
"Your rigs are two Cargohold Optimizations.  If you put anything else there, you will eventually be sorry that you did.  Yes, I know, putting Polycarbs or Low Frictions here is awesome.  Resist.  Sooner or later, you'll need the extra cargo room."
I currently have a Low Friction Nozzle Joints and a Polycarbon Engine Housing fit.  Back when I did my research on blockade runner fits I read that fitting Cargohold Optimizations was for carebears and would get a ship killed.  But since Ripard usually knows what he's talking about, I decided to do a little math.

First, exactly what are the differences in cargo capacity between someone going for maximum align time and someone desiring maximum cargo capacity?  The below table shows the cargo capacity  a Prowler has when fit with the two rig combinations and the number of Expanded Cargohold IIs.

Expanded
Cargohold II
Low Friction Nozzle Joints/
Polycarbon Engine Housing
2 x Cargohold
Optimization
040635373
151806850
266048734

The numbers are interesting, but what does that really mean?  To compare what the extra cargo capacity costs in terms of align time, I took the data I gathered from all the distribution missions I ran in low sec from 1 May to 13 June, put them in bands by cargo requirements, and came up with the following table.

Mission
Cargo
% of
missions
Low Friction Nozzle Joints/
Polycarbon Engine Housing
2 x Cargohold
Optimization
0.1-400035.6%3.43.7
4800-500041.6%3.73.7
5400-600022.8%4.24.3
7200-8000NANA5.1


Interesting.  For 41.6% of the missions I did in low sec, I would have had the same align time if I had used a Prowler fit with Cargohold Optimization rigs as with the more agile combination.  That also assumes that I religiously fit for max align times (i.e. fit my ship with the maximum number of Nanofiber Internal Structure IIs every time I dock).  I don't.  Through experience I learned that I can bust through a gate camp just as well if I have one Expanded Cargohold II fit as if I have nanos in both low slots.  I opt for the quickness of getting in and out of the station over getting that .3 second alignment time advantage.  With the game evaluating time in one second increments anyway, does that .3 really make a difference?  I haven't noticed.

In other words, after doing the math, I really don't experience a difference for 77.2% of the distribution missions I do.  The other 22.8%?  The difference is 0.1 seconds.  Seriously?

The only thing the math shows is that at the higher end, the align times are 5.1.  Knocking that under 5 seconds would make a noticeable difference.  I could spend the money on a +5 implant, or I could resort to using fleet boosts.  I found this in the Evelopedia...
"A Squadron Commander will grant his leadership bonuses to all members of his squadron, including himself."
I already do this when I mine and run security missions.  Why not distribution missions? Both my main pilots have trained to fly command ships and have Skirmish Warfare trained to V.  I just have to set the pilot actually running the mission as the squad commander and the align times look like the table below.

Mission
Cargo
% of
missions
Low Friction Nozzle Joints/
Polycarbon Engine Housing
2 x Cargohold
Optimization
0.1-400035.6%3.13.4
4800-500041.6%3.33.4
5400-600022.8%3.83.9
7200-8000NANA4.6

Sub 4 second align times on all the distribution missions I currently run and under 5 seconds when doing the larger missions.  Not bad.  I should add in the benefits when doing the storyline mission "Materials for War".  At level 4, the ore required takes up 9600m3 of space.  I have to make two trips in my current configuration.  With a maximum cargo capacity setup and using Giant Secure Containers, I can reduce that down to one.

EDIT: This only works if you have another pilot in system.  But nice for dual-boxing or in a fleet.

I have two Medium Cargohold Optimization Is building now and can update my ship the next time I log in.  I really can't argue with math.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Odyssey - Living Up To The Name

CCP named the summer 2013 expansion for EVE Online Odyssey because the theme of the expansion is exploration.  Admittedly, high school was over 30 years ago, but I remember Homer's The Odyssey as the story of a Greek king who had an unexpectedly long journey going home, sometimes facing great danger, after the fall of Troy.  On that level, at least for me, Odyssey is succeeding.

Unlike many, I like the mechanics of the new exploration system.  The changes to make the probing system appeal to Asian gamers is nice as only having to use the mouse to probe relieves some stress from my left hand.  In addition to getting up there in years, I'm still suffering the effects from years of playing the EverQuest 2 crafting mini-game.  I also like the new hacking mini-game.  Sure, I warped out of a relic site last night trailing flame courtesy of The Marmite Collective, but that pressure just adds to the fun.

I think where CCP fell down is that the system is less exploration and more shopping.  I now think of the exploration sites as data and relic stores.  When I jump into a system, I automatically see the billboards for all the stores tempting me to visit.  I see this a lot since I have a level 2 research agent I visit every day to run research missions for.  What normally is a 10 minute journey sometimes turns into an odyssey of an hour (sometimes two!) because I just can't resist dropping probes and seeing what bargains I can find.  I can usually find a store to visit in a few minutes of searching.  And like Odysseus, I sometimes survive the encounter by the skin of my teeth.

I should add that probing also finds combat and gas sites.  Yes, I finally found a gas site after a year of exploring.  I guess they don't spawn in faction warfare systems.  Like that ancient Greek king, I am seeing new things in my travels since the launch of Odyssey.  But I wouldn't call it exploration.  I'm just stumbling upon them in my travels, just like Odysseus stumbled across the Cyclops.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Erlendur on Jita


No, the title of the post is not a reference to the system in Metropolis.  The Erlendur in question is Dr. Erlendur S. ├×orsteinsson (Thorsteinsson), the Software Director of the EVE Universe and EVE Online. As you can tell by his job title he knows a thing or twenty about how the software that makes up EVE works. Recently he left the safety of Twitter and the Tweetfleet and braved the wilds of the official EVE Online forums to answer questions about the population cap in Jita under his nom de plume CCP Explorer.  I figure that since the official EVE forums is one of the few places that even the NSA fears to tread that I'd extract some of his answers to questions and produce a little virtual Q and A that kind of makes sense.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 11 June 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 9 June 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 41.2 20,778-0.3
22Guild Wars 215.87,944-3.3
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.65,345+5.7
412EVE Online6.23,121+250.7
54Neverwinter5.62,836-26.6
65Aion4.82,414-0.9
76Tera4.01,996-11.1
88Planetside 22.71,386+5.8
97RIFT2.71,370-8.8
1010Need For Speed World2.11,081-3.1
1111APB: Reloaded2.11,071-2.0
12--Star Trek Online2.11,066+5230.0
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 50,417

The gaming habits of the Xfire community apparently are settling down at the beginning of the summer as players only increased the time they spent playing the 12 most popular MMORPGs by 1.1% Sunday over the previous week.  The big gainers in playtime were Star Trek Online (+5230%) and EVE Online (+250.7%) while games experiencing the biggest declines were Neverwinter (-26.6%), Lord of the Rings Online (-19.2%) and Tera (-11.1%).

Technical Difficulties - Usually when one of the top MMORPGs has an expansion, the numbers automatically rise.  Not for Cryptic's first expansion for Star Trek Online.  The launch of the game's first expansion, The Legacy of Romulus, saw the numbers plummet to near zero.  Apparently Xfire has the issues detecting when the new version of Star Trek is running and the game made its first appearance on The Digitial Dozen since 3 March.

Back Bigger Than Ever - EVE Online rebounded strongly one week after shutting down due to a DDoS attack.  The effort was helped by the launch of the Odyssey expansion a week ago along with some promotions designed to get players back into the game.  The game's 6.2 score is its highest ever and the number of hours played the largest since late February. The actual concurrency numbers on the main Tranquility server of 61,580 was the fourth highest in EVE's 10-year history.

It IS Still In Beta - Neverwinter experienced a -26.6% decline in time played a few days after Perfect World announced a massive and gameplay update.  The F2P game is still officially in beta, with a launch date of 20 June.  Are players slowing down not wanting to burn themselves out before the official launch?  Or are players upset over their classes receiving nerfs?  We'll see in a couple of weeks.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Is 60,000 The New 50,000?

Yesterday saw EVE Online's Tranquility shard hit a peak concurrent user (PCU) mark of 61,580 at 19:01 EVE time.  No events like the 10th anniversary celebration or Alliance Tournament contests were going on.  Just an expansion and some fighting out in Fountain or Delve or some place out in bubble space.

PCU Numbers From Eve-Offline.net

For those wondering, the PCU record for Tranquility is 65,303 set during last month's 10 anniversary celebration.  How frequent of an event is exceeding 60,000?  Yesterday was only the 7th recorded time.

5 May 2013.....65,303
23 Jan 2011.....63,170
30 Jan 2011.....62,333
9 Jun 2013.....61,580
6 Feb 2011.....60,782
3 Mar 2013.....60,476
6 Jun 2010.....60,453

Notice the list is getting long?  More importantly, three of the seven times the PCU exceeded 60,000 occurred this year.  Of course, 2011 also saw three days exceed 60,000.  But back in 2011 not only did the numbers decline but the War on Bots began in earnest in February 2011.  The same occurred earlier this year.  The PCU numbers were growing but two days after the number was reached in March Team Security introduced a new bot detection method that knocked the concurrency numbers way down.

So does Team Security have something up their sleeves to keep the numbers down?  If not, I expect we'll continue to see the PCU top 60,000 on Sundays.  Well, at least as long as the fighting continues in null sec anyway.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Odyssey Odds And Ends

We're heading into the first weekend of Odyssey and I thought I'd just jot down a few odds and ends I'm thinking about going based on my experiences so far.

Exploration - I ran another relic site last night for 6.3 million.  Two of the eight spawns were bugged though.  I don't know if that was because the system cores were 50/10.  The cans whose cores were rated 70/10 worked fine.  Of course, I heard reports of instability on TQ around the same time, so who knows what actually happened.  For those interested, I spent 25 minutes running the site.  I'm at the point with the new probe system that I can scan down a site in less than 3 minutes.  The system still feels awkward when I'm resizing the probe ranges so I expect to improve on that performance in the future.

Jonny Pew has videos up on his first impressions of relic and data sites in low sec.  I watched the one on data sites and it was pretty good.  Then again, I like Jonny's work in general.

Low sec sales - After a pause at the beginning of the week I'm starting to see sales again.  I'm looking to expand my product line to include liquid oxygen.  I hear that's pretty popular.

Datacores - I'm currently deciding which agents to deal with.  I know that I'll have to sell the datacores in high sec, but for purposes of the low sec experiment as long as the agents are based in low sec systems that will count.  That does eliminate a level 4 agent, but since I set the rules on this experiment, I'd just cheat myself if I broke them.  I'll just have to keep track of the ones obtained from the datacore farming from the ones obtained through exploration.  Hopefully I'll have the operation up and running sometime this weekend.

Ice Mining - I've gone out ice mining twice this week, piling up 31,000 m3 of ice.  The first location of the anomaly was nice, 24+ AU from the star gates.  By this time the ore site should have respawned.  I wonder if the location is static or if the site moves around the system.

Even at my minimum level mining I have a lot of product to move.  I'll try to sell the liquid oxygen in Molden Heath.  The other products I may package together with the datacores and sell in Rens.

Concurrent users - For the first time I'm witnessing daily PCU numbers over 50,000 on non-holiday weekdays when I visit Eve-Offline.  So far each day's PCU since the expansion has exceeded 53,000.  Before the expansion, 50,000 was only exceeded on the weekends.  Is that bots, an influx of multiboxers from WoW, or could Odyssey rival the success of Retribution?  Looks like the subject for a post in a couple of weeks after the numbers firm up a bit.

Bots - Since I'm known for my coverage of the War on Bots, I have some sad news.  No tears.  I didn't really expect any, but I think a lot of people were hoping.  While I don't have access to the forum, I'm sure all the Red Guard users got hit with a $25 upgrade fee.  And I wonder if some of the changes in PvE combat are affecting some ratting bots.  I'll look more over the weekend but I didn't see any unified inventory sized event hit the botting forums this year.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cleaning Up The Odyssey Spew

Yesterday I just gave some first impressions of Odyssey.  Today I look at handling one of the most villified aspects of hacking: the can spew after a successful hack.  I don't know if I'm handling the situation correctly, but so far the system is working for me.

First, you need to position your ship correctly before the hack attempt.  I'm finding that a position 2,200 - 2,500 meters from the container is good.  For my exploration runs I've actually swapped out the MWD in my Cheetah for an afterburner.  I don't need speed, I need delicate ship handling.  I also slowly inch my way into position.  By having my speed set to 1/4 or less this actually helps during the cleanup.  Of course, my Cheetah does 563m/second without afterburners, so those in slower ships may not have to worry so much.

The next step is to perform the hack.  For those having difficulties I recommend CSM 8 member Ali Aras' hacking guide on TheMittani.com.  A guide written by a real-life woman?  I know, I know, people think women can't figure out complicated stuff.  Don't be fooled!  In EVE, if a woman starts acting like a bubble-head, start looking for the scam.

All right.  The hack is successful.  Don't panic!  First, if you have not already done so, scroll the view from your ship out.  This slows down the speed in which the cans fly across the screen.  Once that's done, the time has come to quickly collect the cans.  But which ones?  Neural-Boost.com posted some research yesterday on this question. 

In data sites, pick the Parts containers first because the hold decrypters and datacores.  Next, pick Data containers because they hold blueprints and skill books.  The page then states there is really no preference, but I would suggest an order of material > equipment > scraps.

In relic sites, both the Material and Parts containers hold tech 1 and tech 2 salvage.  Parts gets a slight edge because those containers hold Electronics parts while the Material containers hold carbon.  After that comes the Data containers that may hold Spatial Atunement Units needed to create the new tech 2 scanning upgrade modules.  After that comes equipment and scraps.

Just remember that the mini-tractor beam that hauls in the cans does have a limited range.  White cans mean they are out of range.  Part of the reason for setting a slow speed in approaching the container is so you can slowly chase down a can.  They don't move that fast and you don't want to chase down one can only to overfly the rest.  Also, when a can starts flashing, that means the can is about to disappear.  If you have a choice between two cans, choose the blinky one first.

I hope this proves helpful.  Last night I ran a relic site and pulled in 11.3 million ISK.  Not great, but better than the 3 million I pulled in from a relic site on launch day as I was figuring all of this out.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

First Day In Odyssey

Yesterday was launch day in Odyssey and I think it went well.  The downtime ended well before the scheduled time and the download was exceedingly quick.  I was able to get home at a decent hour and jump right into the game.  Here are my first impressions from what I did.

Probing - Of course, after checking my market orders, the first thing I did was jump into my trusty Cheetah and start probing down sites.  I think CCP did an excellent job of adapting the probe system for the Asian market as I didn't have to use the keyboard once.  I tried, but found my time spent more efficiently just using the mouse.  Amazingly, the system works just using a mouse.

Of course, I should add I have spent a lot of time exploring and have the skills to prove it:

Astrometrics V
Astrometric Acquisition IV
Astrometric Pinpointing IV
Astrometric Rangefinding IV

I think after all the changes are added up I actually gained 5% in scan probe scan time, maximum scan deviation, and scan probe strength.  Thanks CCP!

With the new system, the probes come out all at once, which saves time.  Then the sites come out in a pattern (I use the pinpoint one) which saves time.  Then the sites are already localized in red spheres, which saves even more time.

Actually manipulating the probes is easier once you forget the western need to use the keyboard.  Just move the probe icon to where you want to center your search.  Then select one of the edges of the search bubbles and move it to the size of the area you want to search.  Simple.  The only thing I need to do is develop the muscle memory to do that faster and I'm set.

Hacking - Admittedly I did play with the system on Singularity, but the game is pretty straight forward.  I only failed two hacks.  But remember, I was using a Cheetah with tech two version of the data and relic analyzers and I have both Hacking and Codebreaking trained to 5.  The only thing that gave me problems were the restoration nodes that granted more power to all the firewalls over time.  I finally learned not to chick on all the shiny things until absolutely needed.  The shiny things are data caches that show up as white dots.  They contain both good and bad things.  I figured out not to click on them until I didn't have a choice.

I do have to say that after the first day the rewards were disappointing.  I ran four sites and collected 37 million ISK in drops.  I think before Odyssey I was collecting around 15 million ISK in drops, bounties and salvage per site.  On the bright side, I did manage to run 4 sites, which I didn't do pre-Odyssey.  Because rats don't spawn, I don't have to worry about combat and salvage so I'm free to wander around farther afield looking for sites.  I actually didn't have to wander far as our new overlords in the Amarr militia and doing a good job of scaring the non-hardcore carebears away.

For the hacking, I'm hoping that everyone will hear the feature is not worth the effort and leave all the sites to me.  I actually find the hacking game fun and as everyone knows, I'm not really playing EVE to maximize profits.  I mean, I live in low sec.

Refining - After doing my exploration I was going to go belt mining.  Then I realized I had Dark Ochre and Gneiss that I had saved to refine.  With the changes to the mineral content in the high end ores, I decided to find out if I needed to mine for tritanium.  I didn't.  Let's just say that after refining that plus some Veldspar variants I mined plus some drone goo I collected I wound up with 2.6 million units of trit.  Enough to satisfy my manufacturing needs for a couple of weeks as long as I don't try to manufacture cruise missiles.  If ore sites pop frequently in low sec, I can see the veldspar rocks getting mighty big in the belts.

Ice Mining - With my regular mineral needs met, I decided to go ice mining.  I do have to say the new sensor overlay is nice and I don't mind having to find the ice site in space instead of going through a right-click menu tree.  So I warped in and mined 1 1/2 loads of ice.  I only stopped when I saw Shalee Lianne drop probes.  I lost one Procurer to In Exile. last month and don't want them to think I'm an easy target they can farm.  So since I was already aligned to a station, I waited a few seconds for the module to finish and then warped off and docked.

I wound up with 18 blocks of Glare Crust and 1 block of Glacial Mass.  Not too bad for 20 minutes of work.  I probably should put some rigs on my ice mining Procurer, but I'm in the habit of moving it around low sec and I'd rather repackage it and use the Prowler for moves than to risk gate camps.  I'll also need to look at the market in Molden Heath to see if the ice products will sell or if I need to go to Hek or Rens to sell my wares.  I may have a new line of products to sell this month.

Conclusion - So far I'm finding the new game mechanics interesting.  I think they will appear to the Asian gamer, but more importantly, I like the mouse-only system too.  Unlike moving in space, players can still use the keyboard, but really, why bother unless you are doing some of the complex stuff for PvP?  Last night was fairly quiet, but I expect that to change this weekend.  So for now, I'm having fun, which is the purpose of playing a game.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Digital Dozen: 4 June 2013

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 2 June 2013.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played +/- %
11World of Warcraft 41.8 20,840+3.5
22Guild Wars 216.58,218-1.7
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.25,064-6.0
44Neverwinter7.83,864-18.3
56Aion4.92,437+10.7
67Tera4.52,245+5.7
710RIFT3.01,502+18.9
88Planetside 22.61,310-24.2
99Lord of the Rings Online2.61,276-3.8
10--Need For Speed World2.21,116+30.1
1111APB: Reloaded2.21,093-1.5
125EVE Online1.8890-64.0
 
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 49,855

Sunday saw a 4% decline in the amount of time spent by the Xfire community playing the 12 most popular MMORPGs as determined by the community.  The decline was led by EVE Online (-64%), Planetside 2 (-24.2%) and Neverwinter (-18.3%).  Games experiencing significant boosts in interest were Need For World Speed (+30%), RIFT (+18.9%) and Aion (+10.7%).

Down But Not Out - Most of this week's decline is due to the DDoS attack experienced by EVE Online over the weekend.  While CCP took the servers down as a precaution, players managed to play long enough to keep EVE from dropping completely out of the Digital Dozen.  EVE remains one of four games (World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Aion are the others) that have remained on the list since its inception in February 2012.  Expect the numbers to jump next week as the next expansion, Odyssey, launches today.

Climbing Out Of The Hole - RIFT continues to build momentum towards its free-to-play launch on 12 June.  This week's 18.9% increase was aided by a promotion inviting those who had previously purchased the game to come back and play for a weekend.  Judging by the crowds in the starter areas the F2P launch could get crowded.

Coming Back To Earth - EVE was not the only sci-fi themed game to experience a big drop in the time the Xfire community spend playing it on Sunday.  Planetside 2's hours played dropped 24.8% following the double-XP Memorial Day weekend.  Unlike EVE, though, the drop brings the game back to reality and last Sunday's numbers probably won't occur again until the Independence Day weekend in the U.S.


Monday, June 3, 2013

May In Low Sec

With Odyssey launching Tuesday, I'm halfway through my project of comparing my low sec experience pre- and post-expansion.  I have altered the parameters because I abandoned my plan to go to high sec and do a level 4 epic arc series.  I just couldn't make myself go to high sec, which is good since Tranquility suffered a DDoS attack this weekend.  So instead, I will compare five weeks before launch to five weeks after launch.  And while the weekend's server issues should have suppressed my profits, I did manage to do a 5/10 complex and get 167 million ISK in drops and bounties, even though I couldn't take down the final boss.

So how did I play EVE in May?  Except for the 10th anniversary celebration when CCP broke into the sandbox and had a contest for killing the most ships, I conducted all my activity in low sec.  Well, unless a mission took me to high sec or the shortest path took me into high, but I don't include that.  Here is the breakdown of the activities: