Friday, October 31, 2014

EVE Players Like Long Queues

Players of MMORPGs usually hate long queues.  Long queues to log into a game at launch.  Long queues in the group finder.  Long queues for battlegrounds.  Players just hate long queues.  With the launch of Phoebus on Tuesday, CCP will present EVE players with two new long queues.  And the players love it.

The first queue is the skill queue.  A lot of people are turned off by EVE's time-based skills learning system.  But I love the feature.  Of course, I have had some struggles.  I had to juggle my plan when I used to travel to Bulgaria on business and didn't have access to the game.  As a less than a year old player, I didn't have many skills that I could train for the two weeks that I stayed my first time.  And my last trip was three weeks.

But that changes Tuesday.  In Phoebe, the rule that a player cannot insert skills into the skills learning queue if the queue is longer than 24 hours goes away.  The new limits are a maximum of 50 skills that cannot extend for more than 10 years.  Also, a player cannot insert a skill if the prerequisites are not already trained.

Now, don't panic everyone.  CCP is not planning on shutting down Tranquility in 10 years (that we know of).  Instead, the dev blog states, "These limits are being maintained for safety as this significant change to the skill-training system goes live, and are not set in stone."

Order Subject To Change
I plan on taking advantage of the feature fairly quickly.  I'll use Wandering Rose, my CEO character.  She's trained to fly Minmatar command ships, achieved Mastery V in all Industrial and Transport Ships, and has learned every Resource Processing skill to level V except for Scrap Metal Processing and Mercoxit Processing.  I plan on finishing up Mercoxit Processing to 5, then work on getting the racial encryption and science skills to their maximum levels.  That plan will take me into January 2016.

My skill plan for once aligns nicely with another long queue CCP plans to add with their invention changes.  In Crius, CCP got rid of the bad queues when industry slots were eliminated from stations.  Now, CCP is adding the ability to queue invention jobs.  Okay, technically the change is not a queue.  But CCP Ytterbium did use the word in the dev blog, so I'm using it too.  He wrote:
"Since the Crius release in July, invention only consumes one blueprint copy run at a time. As such we are adding the possibility for Phoebe to queue those runs on a similar manner with Manufacturing runs."
I really like the possibility.  I like running my invention jobs 5 at-a-time for an item and then seeing the results of the random number generator.  Now I will just run 5 jobs off the same blueprint and research more items simultaneously.  I'm sure serious inventors will install a lot more jobs.

The New Invention Formula
I should explain why I intend to spend all of 2015 researching the science skills on a character.  The invention changes also include a revamped invention chance formula.  With my current skills, my invention chance is the base % chance for success multiplied by 1.367.  After the training completes, that will increase to the base % chance for success multiplied by 1.458.  So for instance, when inventing Barrage ammunition, my chance for success will increase from 46.5% to 49.6%.  When inventing Prospects, my chance for success increases from 41% to 43.7%.  Is taking up that much training time worth the gains?  Depends on how involved I get into tech 2 production.  But Wandering Rose is my CEO character, which means not really getting involved in combat except for providing boosts in missions when flying a Claymore or Slepnir.

So those are the queue changes.  Only in the EVE sandbox are longer queues cheered.  But who ever said that EVE players are your normal type of gamer?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The CSM 9 Summer Summit Minutes: Team Security

The CSM 9 Summer Summit minutues were released yesterday.  All 146 pages of them.  The news sites, bloggers, and podcasters will cover the minutes for days, if not weeks.  But I don't think the coverage will last weeks due to the effect the release of Phoebe is having on the null sec map already.  As usual, I'll comment on the security portion of the minutes.  For some reason, a lot of people want to know what I think.

First, the session was highly redacted.  Then again, I didn't expect anything less, although CCP apparently is showing more trust in the CSM and showing more sensitive information.  CCP is conducting a shadow war against the illicit RMTers who sell ISK and items and the botting, hacking, and exploiting that degrade the game play experience of players.  Here is the segment of the minutes of the subjects that interest me the most:
CCP Bugartist: Security topics within CCP [...] Make sure we will improve the quality of code of every single line of code we produce. The same for processes [...] that’s what we do on a strategic level. Some samples on the following slides [...]. And also technology [...].

CCP Bugartist: More to product and game security [...] Botting, cheating, RMTing [...]. Massive amounts of data [...], data analytics [...].

CCP Bugartist: When there is a mass theft of credit cards [...] We improved [...]. So there is a lot of stuff we are working on to make accounts more secure, I will show some details [...] And there is the housekeeping we are working on [...] You will see some numbers later which are [...] Any questions? Okay, let’s talk about EVE Online universe account security. Overall [...] We also really want to have better account security, which is for example [...]

Corbexx: What about authentication keys?

CCP Bugartist: You’re talking about multifactor authentication, in the second phase [...] So we have multiple options [...] All of this will be totally opt in [...] Any questions regarding account security?

Sion Kumitomo: Having an option for multifactor authentication would be fabulous and awesome.

CCP Bugartist: Multifactor will definitely help to reduce the amount of hacked accounts. One thing for example [...] The user should control how they log into the game. So that’s why we would like the user to select how they log in, it should be an option you can choose. Of course it might change the prioritization of [...]

CCP Peligro: The guy who hacks your account is usually involved in RMT, so that’s something we want to catch too.

Multi-factor authentication is probably an area I need to explore more in-depth on the blog.  Of course, I had a bad experience with Wildstar, which chose to add the option after early access launched.  But if CCP does add in multi-factor authentication, I suggest everyone immediately use it as soon as the feature is released.  I painfully discovered that hackers will put their own authentication on the account if possible in order to lock the owner of the account out.  Then again, I do use Google Authenticator, so I'm not a skeptic, just wary of how a company implements the feature on a long running service like an MMORPG.

The big issue, or at least the one that has the most in the minutes, was ISBoxer.  Here is the section where CCP Peligro gave an overview of ISBoxer:

CCP Peligro: This is more or less CCP’s stance on multiboxing, if you filed a ticket asking if you can multibox, in a nutshell it says that CCP will never sanction or authorize use of a third party program because we don’t have control over the feature set. That’s why there might be some confusion because there is a sort of grey area. We will action on it if […] This is the stance outlined on the third party policy page on our website. So this is the amount of accounts we have flagged […] ISboxers will frequently contact us because it is a grey area […] We have stats on what ISboxers are doing […] but there’s no standard ISboxer. Peligro's edit: Refer to
The interesting part of this entry is that CCP is keeping track of the use of ISBoxer.  I'd love to get my hands on the numbers, as I've wondered about the effects of the software for some time.

The four members of the CSM who spoke out about the use of ISBoxer were Xander Phoena, Ali Aras, Mike Azariah, and Sugar Kyle.  Xander's concerns were based on whether ISBoxer violated the EULA and trying to clarify the matter once and for all.  Ali concentrated on the use for stealth bombing and input duplication.  Mike concentrated on the effects on incursion running and the wording of the EULA.  And Sugar Kyle focused not only on the perception that CCP is not enforcing its own rules, but wondered if CCP had the capability of enforcing those rules.  Xander may have spelled out the main problem with the use of ISBoxer:
Xander Phoena: The problem is that if I lose my Vindicator to ten guys then fair enough they trained for it and deserve it, but if I lose it to one guy flying ten ships perfectly than I haven’t made nearly the same level of mistake and it required infinitely less skill on their part. There’s a perception that I’ve been cheated out of my Vindicator.
That perception is bad for EVE, recruiting new players, and retaining existing ones.

I found another segment by CCP Peligro interesting:
CCP Peligro: Yes, but the blanket OK is something that I doubt we'll do. We don't have any control of third-party programs and it would be irresponsible of us to sanction use of something we didn't make. There are also concerns with regards to liability. The software is used for all kinds of nefarious things, not just multi-boxing. We’re banning RMT’s and botters because that’s more detrimental to the game world. Client Modification is another big thing, and ISBoxer in particular is a powerful framework for this purpose.
Team Security is prioritizing its work based on the impact on New Eden, and ISBoxer is not as damaging as RMTers and botters.  However, I'm glad to see that I'm not that far off when stating that ISBoxer is considered client modification.

The one takaway from the minutes I have concerning ISBoxer is that Team Security is tracking the usage of the multi-boxing software.  I know that Team Security is a small team and I want to see them using their resources in the most effective manner.  If I have a choice of having multi-factor authentication or banning ISBoxer, I'd rather have multi-factor authentication.

Those are some quick thoughts on the minutes.  Getting any information on the shadow war between Team Security and the illicit RMTers and their allies is always difficult.  I could have wished for more information, but that's not really realistic.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

If You Like Your Ratting Stealth Bomber... can keep it.  At least that's the message I got out of CCP Fozzie's latest post in the stealth bomber revamp thread.  Of course, I play in low sec and others may have a different take on the latest news, so I'll post it here in its entirety.
"Hey everyone. Here are our latest updates to the plan.

"Firstly and most significantly, the change to decloaking mechanics has been put on hold indefinitely. We are going to take some more time to work on the best way to have ships interact with cloakies and it's very possible that our eventual changes will be significantly different than what we talked about earlier. For now, cloaked ships will not decloak each other.

"We're also going to be removing some of the earlier increase in signature radius and shifting it to a penalty on the bomb launcher itself. The T1 bomb launcher will add +10m signature radius and the T2 will add 12m.

"We're increasing the capacity of the T2 bomb launcher to 300m3.

"The Focused Void Bomb will have an explosion radius of 5000m, 1000m more than originally proposed.

"Both the new bomb and new interdiction probe will be made available exclusively in the Syndicate LP store.

"The new interdiction probe will be delayed slightly as we've run into some graphical issues with it that we'll need more time to properly fix.

"We've sourced a lot of these changes from this thread, thanks to everyone who has been providing feedback."
So what does this mean?  First, rolling back the change to cloaking mechanics will probably make players in wormholes happy.  Also, keeping the mechanics as is on Tranquility will make some people who were looking forward to not having to sig tank their ships in null sec sad.
The shift in signature radius from the ship's hull to the bomb launchers is what inspired the title for this post.  Basically, the signature change is now directed specifically at stealth bombers who want to bomb.  Those who just want to use the ships to rat with (or PvP in using torpedoes) will not get hit with the change.  However, I don't see a reduction in the proposed hit points.  So my Hound may wind up with a buff after all is said and done.

The next two changes, in capacity for the Tech 2 bomb launcher and increase in Focused Void Bomb explosion radius, are designed to make the bomber's lives easier.  I'm assuming that when CCP takes something away, they also try to give something back, even if the two are not equivalent in impact.  Don't take the last sentence as a judgment on the changes, however.  I don't really know enough to tell.

Making the new bomb and new interdiction probe available only from the Syndicate LP store is a move to bolster another loyalty point store.  From taking a quick scan through the products, placing the items here probably was the logical decision.

One thing that wasn't mentioned was the elephant in the thread, ISBoxer.  From reading the thread, apparently the changes would hit regular player groups more than users of the Lavish Software product.  According to the stealth bomber pilots in the thread, the changes would give ISBoxer users an even greater advantage over players who don't use the software.  If so, then give credit to CCP for reverting the decloaking change and trying to balance the game around the software.  Because as long as CCP allows players to use ISBoxer, the company has a responsibility to not make players feel they need to pay money to another company in order to play its game.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 28 October 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 26 October 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft55.08,742-2.5
22Star Wars: The Old Republic10.31,633+6.4
33Guild Wars 29.71,548+15.1
44EVE Online5.0801+14.6
56Final Fantasy XIV4.6730+33.0
109Lord of the Rings Online1.6248-21.0
1111APB: Reloaded1.5239+3.9
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 15,882

Sunday saw another uptick in the amount of time the Xfire community spent logged into its favorite MMORPGs.  The 1.9% increase in hours played compared to the previous Sunday was led by Guild Wars 2 (+203 hour) while World of Warcraft (-227 hours) led all games that experienced a decline in game play.

A Holiday Event - Guild Wars 2 experienced the largest increase in hours played Sunday following the release of Blood and Madness on 21 October.  The Mad King returns for two weeks in the annual autumn event along with Bloody Prince Edrick.

A Pre-Patch Scramble - Square Enix' latest patch for Final Fantasy XIV, 2.4, was scheduled to take 25 hours to deploy on Monday.  I just have to wonder if that helped increase activity on Sunday as players knew they couldn't play on Monday.

A Nightmare of an Expansion - RIFT made its first appearance on the list since late July based on its latest expansion, Nightmare Tide.  The expansion, released 22 October, raises the level cap to 65, adds three new zones and allows players to visit the Plane of Water, adds 6 new dungeons and a raid, plus adds a minion system and an expanded mentoring system.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Mastering" The Wreathe

When I started playing EVE Online in 2009, the game had many ships for hauling cargo, but only two, the Mammoth and the Iteron Mark V, were really viable ships in the long term, with the Gallente industrial the obvious best-in-class.  The type of mission a player received from an agent (combat, courier, or mining) in those ancient times was chance-based and depended on EVE's random number generator.  Back then, Wandering Rose supported Rosewalker's stay in the constantly war-dec'd EVE University by transporting in her Mammoth what later became planetary interaction products between NPCs, buying low and selling high.  An activity that in many games is considered a bannable exploit was a feature, not a bug.

Times changed, mostly for the better.  In Incursion patch 1.5 released in May 2011, the number of agent divisions was simplified from twenty down to three: Security, Distribution, and Mining.  Better yet, the RNG was removed from the process and the type of mission handed out is now related to the agent's division.  Distribution missions now offered players the fastest way to increase NPC corporation and faction standings needed for things like access to better mission agents, the installation and purchase of jump clones, and lowest NPC taxes and fees when selling items on the market.  I have taken advantage of this over the years to obtain the best refine rates in every low sec system in which I routinely operate in Minmatar space.  I still use distribution missions to obtain the loyalty points I need to run my faction ammunition business.  But before I obtained the skills to fly a Prowler, the Minmatar blockade runner, I was stuck flying the lumbering Mammoth due to the cargohold requirements of level 4 missions.

The era of limited practical choice of tech 1 haulers ended with Odyssey 1.1 in September 2013 when the industrial ships received a rebalance pass that not only gave the ships different roles, but created specialized ships as well.  Now, the tech 1 version of my beloved Prowler was actually useful for the way I play.  Sadly, once you've gone blockade runner, you'll never go back.

Looking at the Wreathe, especially following the warp speed changes in Rubicon, I see the ship I wanted as a new player back in 2009 and again following the mission revamp in 2011.  While I don't plan to fly the ship personally, I think taking a close look at the Wreathe's potential, especially when combined with the Mastery system in the Interbus Ship Identification System (ISIS) that was released in Rubicon, is worth a few words.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Preparing For Phoebe Isn't Just For The Big Guys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Super Belts: A View From A Small Fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Higgs Anchor Rig

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 21 October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

When CCP Seagull Talks, People Listen

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

- CCP Seagull, EVE Vegas 2014

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

RMT In Null Sec This Week

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Time To Make New Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 14 October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why I Am A Low Sec Carebear

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

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

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Stealth Bomber Nerf Due To ISBoxer?

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Now Kotaku Is In Bed With Botters and RMTers

The GamerGate controversy started off with a games journalist sleeping with an indie game developer.  That morphed into a scandal in which gamers began questioning the integrity of games journalism in general.  I won't go into the details, but a segment of games journalists were staggering until the recent controversy involving the release of a new game, Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor.  YouTube, which many gamers are granting more credibility than the gaming web sites, now had its own ethical issues to deal with.  Mainly, that in order to get a pre-release copy of the game, YouTubers had to do some questionable things.

Interestingly, Kotaku chose to have Nathan Grayson, a journalist at the center of the sex scandal, write an article about the new scandal.  But as Kotaku moved to take the high ground, they decided to step on one of my main concerns: botting and RMT.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Phoebemania Is Contageous

Hard to believe that only a week has passed since CCP Greyscale published his dev blog detailing the teleportation nerfs coming to EVE Online in the Phoebe release in November.  Controversy is swirling around the EVE community, with the threadnaught on the forums reaching over 380 pages and 7600 posts.  Members of the CSM have gone public claiming that CCP did not adequately inform them of the details of the proposed changes.  One member of CSM actually wound up leaving his corp over the changes.  Members of Pandemic Legion, one of the heaviest users of supercaptials in the game, are publicly stating their support for the changes on podcasts, EN24, and in talks with new players in Eve UniversityOthers are critical of the changes.  But in an unscientific Twitter poll, the majority support the changes.

In short, the changes in power projection that will occur in EVE have energized those who live in null sec, for better or for worse.  But not just null sec.  I've found I've caught a second wind and have played a lot more over the past few days than I have in a long time.  I spent a large chunk of time this weekend doing mining missions in order to get the loyalty points I need for top-of-the-line mining and refining implants.  I also spent all of my Caldari loyalty points stocking up on faction missiles and spent the last two nights building my cache.

But why am I excited?  Because I see that localization of trade is a real possibility.  With the nerf to jump freighter travel, I think a demand will emerge for locally manufactured goods.  Okay, perhaps that is overstating the case.  But locally manufactured goods will definitely become more profitable if transporting goods from the manufacturing centers around Jita.

I do have to worry about getting rare supplies myself, like tech 2 materials.  But perhaps we'll see more materials sold in Amarr and Dodixie due to the increased travel difficulties.  Or maybe not.  That's what makes the changes coming in Phoebe so exciting.  No one really knows what is going to happen.  Part of the fun is trying to figure out the trends and take advantage of them.  So for now, I'll preparing.  Hopefully the economic dislocations coming will make life a lot more interesting.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Digital Dozen: 7 October 2014

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 5 October 2014.  For more details about the methodology, click here.  Historical data can be found here.

RankPrev WeekGameScoreHours Played+/- %
11World of Warcraft44.66,327+2.8
22Guild Wars 214.42,050+21.0
33Star Wars: The Old Republic10.01,413+2.0
56Final Fantasy XIV5.0705-0.3
65EVE Online4.5640-10.4
108Lord of the Rings Online2.1302-32.9
1212APB: Reloaded1.8257+16.8
Total Digital Dozen Hours: 14,199

Sunday saw the Xfire community spent more time playing its favorite MMORPGs than the week before.  The 4% increase in play time was led by Guild Wars 2 (+356 hours) while Lord of the Rings Online (-148 hours) saw the biggest drop in interest.

Where's the beef?  When I saw the big jump in play time recorded for Guild Wars 2, I knew that ArenaNet had released another patch.  But after looking at the patch notes, I wondered what the big draw was for players.  I only saw a bunch of bug fixes and UI improvements along with new items in the cash shop.  I wonder if I missed something.

A speed bump.  Patch 14.2 released for Lord of the Rings Online two weeks ago and the increase in playtime by Xfire members has already dissipated.  I don't know if the patch was that skimpy, or if the new content just wasn't engaging.

ArcheAge hits 2 million.  Last week, Trion CEO Scott Hartsman published a letter announcing that ArcheAge now has over 2 million registered accounts, not counting the over 100,000 bots that were banned.  But the growing numbers of players apparently don't include new Xfire members as the community saw the amount of time spent logged into the fantasy sandbox decline by 1.6% compared to the previous Sunday.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Look Back To The Future Of Null Sec

Perhaps the single dev blog that influenced the way I play EVE Online was written by CCP Greyscale.  Published on 15 August 2011, "Nullsec Development: Design Goals" convinced me that CCP planned to nerf high sec and if I planned to play EVE for years instead of months, I needed to get out of high sec.  The following sentence got my full attention:
"Our current proposal is that hisec is for volume T1 goods, lowsec will be for meta/faction gear eventually, nullsec is for T2, and wormholes are for T3"
I knew I didn't want to go to null sec or live in a wormhole, so that meant moving to low sec, where I fly today.  The goals were not set in stone and were published over three years ago.  But I thought that with another CCP Greyscale dev blog, "Long-Distance Travel Changes Inbound," causing such a ruckus (and threadnaught) last week, that traveling back to the Summer of Rage might lend some insight on the rationale behind the contents of last week's dev blog.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Be Careful What You Ask For

"Preface: this is a big change. Yes, the way you play now is, as it relates to things touched by these changes and to varying degrees, no longer going to be viable. If that wasn't the case, these changes wouldn't be worth making in the first place.

"This isn't a business-as-usual tuning pass, this is redefining what jump drives are *for* in this game."

Yesterday, CCP published one of the most significant dev blogs concerning EVE Online in a long time.  The issue addressed involves force projection.  On 25 September, an article on covering the first episode of CCP's new Twitch show, "o7", briefly described the issue:
"Force projection has been hotly discussed over the last year, and it appears CCP agrees with the most common criticism: that big gangs of capital and supercapital ships can travel too far and too quickly. Smaller groups of players have been afraid to engage, knowing that a supercapital hammer could be dropped on them from a galaxy away. Greyscale and Nullarbor intend to slow down long-distance travel, with nerfs planned for long range use of jump drives (short range use should be relatively unimpacted)."

"Without a dev blog detailing exactly how the long-distance jump drive shift will work, we can only speculate, but it certainly sounds like what many players have been lobbying for."
According to the story, the dev blog was due out the second week of October.  Instead, CCP Greyscale's published the information on the first day of the month instead.  This move caused some consternation from at least one member of the Council of Stellar Management, Sion Kumitomo, who sent the following tweet:
I can't help but wonder if the posting of the dev blog was accelerated in response to the publication of "The Null Deal" on 28 September.  The document, signed by alliance leaders controlling approximately 90% of sovereign null sec, laid out three principles they wanted CCP to incorporate in a null sec revamp.  The principles included some sort of occupancy-based system for determining sovereignty, each region possessing NPC-controlled systems, and the value of null sec systems increased across the board in order to support an increased player density.  That last sounded like the alliance leaders assumed that some sort of force projection nerf would occur.

I found one part of the manifesto particularly alarming.  Nine of the fourteen members of CSM 9 signed the document.  With the summer summit concluding only 9 days previously, did that mean that the Council of Stellar Management was not confident in the plans CCP had devised for revamping null sec?  Perhaps one or more devs felt the same way and accelerated their plans in order to try to minimize the influence of the null sec power brokers and their Null Deal.  Or perhaps because the majority of the CSM signed the document, CCP Greyscale decided to go straight to the player base.
"Decided it was better to get feedback from players as early as possible, rather than trying to spot all the awkward cases ourselves and release a blog at the last minute. So far, it seems to be working."
In the dev blog itself, CCP Greyscale indicated that the systems CCP is looking at some sort of occupancy-based sovereignty system in phase 2 of the null sec revamp.
"It is during this phase that we expect to make greater progress towards smaller and more diverse Nullsec holdings. It is too early to go into great detail about what these changes will contain, but currently most of our conceptual prototyping has loosely fallen into categories that could be described as “occupancy-based” systems and more “freeform” systems that decentralize sov to focus more on control of the individual pieces of infrastructure. As we continue this investigation we will be working closely with the CSM and following all appropriate player feedback."
However, in the comments, CCP Greyscale doesn't come across as a fan of the "NPC systems in every region" plan:
"Staging in hostile space is definitely a thing we want to look at, although not for this release. If we can find a solution that doesn't involve proliferating NPC space that would probably be more optimal, as it would require us to give players the tools to solve this themselves rather than solving it for them."
I haven't included any analysis of the plan in this post because the plans, even in their incomplete state, are too complex to write about on a weekday night.  Any analysis I do perform will have an Empire slant as I don't know very much about null sec.  But with the threadnaught having reached 130 pages and 2589 posts as of 6:10am EVE time, I figure I needed to at least provide a little background on some of the issues we will probably hear about over the next few days.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Modules And Ship Fittings

For some reason, downloading the Oceanus patch took a lot longer than usual.  Maybe something was happening with Comcast as Twitch was also working pretty spotty last night as well.  But whatever the reason, I didn't get to do much more than update my planetary interaction colonies last night.

Oceanus doesn't really hold a lot of interest for me.  I don't speak French, so the French localization doesn't affect me, except maybe bring in more people to shoot at me.  I don't normally go into wormholes, so I won't see the new graphics.  And while the new cloaking graphics look really cool, I'm not sure I play with my graphics turned up high enough to really see the effect.  I'll find out when I actually get to undock tonight.

The thing that really has me interested is the beginning of the Module Tiericide effort.  CCP wants to eliminate "vendor trash" and make everything that drops from NPCs useful.  The concept of vendor trash doesn't work well in EVE because the items go on the market and only players, not NPCs, buy the items.  As CCP nerfed the reprocessing of items from 100% of mineral value down to 55%, that means a lot of items would eventually start clogging up the stations.  The clutter might even bring Scotty out to complain about the situation.

In Oceanus, Module Tiericide hit the fitting modules, scanning modules and light missile launchers.  I don't really know much about light missile launchers as I usually fit either torpedoes or festival launchers on my ships, so I won't touch on those.  But looking at the modules I do use, I noticed a trend.  For the meta 1 to meta 4 modules that CCP is consolidating, the CPU requirements don't appear to increase.  So modules should not go off-line due to that.  The modules may go off-line due to reduced effectiveness of the modules themselves, but I think CCP tried to keep any player rework for modules to a minimum.  I hope so, because I really don't want to have to keep checking my ship fits every five weeks.  Then again, I probably should, depending on what I see in the patch notes.

I guess I should add this happy observation I made that will absolutely piss off gankers once they find out.  The meta 1-4 survey scanners got buffed!  That's right, CCP showed the miners some love and increased the range of the modules to 20 km.  I don't think miners will complain that the module duration was increased for most of the modules up to 4.5 seconds.  Tech 2 manufacturers will probably complain about the reduced advantage that the tech 2 module will provide, but that's a different story.

With the constant revision of modules changing fits, CCP needed to find a way to easily import fits from third-party applications like EFT and pyfa into the fitting screen.  Happily, the UI team came through.  I found the steps for importing a fit from pyfa very easy.

1.  With the fit you wish to import showing, select Edit > To Clipboard.
2.  Open the fitting window in EVE and select "Browse".
3.  In the Fitting Management window, click the "Import from clipboard" button.
4.  In the window that appears with your fit, click the "Save" button.

So easy I was able to copy a fit my first attempt.  Part of the reason that people think I'm good with computers and software is that I make every mistake possible when learning, which means I know how to fix things for other people when they make the same mistakes.  But the process for copying my fit was so simple I wasn't able to make a mistake.

I'm sure I missed a few things about Oceanus, like the changes in the notification system, new burner missions, and new items in the cash shop.  But right now, as I begin to really look into theory crafting and fitting my ships properly, Module Tiericide and copying fittings into EVE are what really have me excited about Oceanus.