Monday, January 25, 2016

Almost Done

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Skill Point Training Is Confirmed

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quick Note About The Latest IWANTISK Ban Wave

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

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

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

Monday, January 11, 2016

The CSM 11 Election: The Dev Blog

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

Games media need not apply

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

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

Friday, January 8, 2016

What's New In Reykjavik?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Low Sec Ice Mining: The Endurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 1, 2016

Gaming New Year's Resolutions For 2016

Happy New Year everyone! Today is the day we usually make resolutions that we never keep about what we will do during the upcoming year. While I was making some resolutions this year in real life (like losing weight), I also decided to make some involving gaming.

I'll start with non-EVE game related subjects. The first one is to get up to level 40 in Dragomon Hunter and write a review on the game. Okay, maybe this doesn't really count, as writing a Dragomon Hunter review is a project I have worked on for the last two months. I currently sit at level 30 but haven't unlocked access to the skill masteries yet. Hopefully I will finish by the end of February. The game is currently in open beta and I would like to write the review before the came does a full launch.

The next involves virtual reality games. As horrible as I am at EVE: Valkyrie, I want to explore the virtual reality systems due out this year. I purchased a Samsung S6 Edge Plus and a Gear VR last year and am enjoying the experience so far. Oh, and for those who want to bash me for spending so much money, my previous phone was an iPhone 4. I really did need an upgrade. However, I discovered I need a chair that swivels 360 degrees, so my experiences are limited. I also have a computer that meets the recommended spec for the Oculus Rift, so depending on the cost, I might pick one of those up as well.

Now for the EVE resolutions. Playing Dragomon Hunter has me wanting to return to doing some of the grindy stuff in EVE again. Like mining. I wonder how low sec mining has changed with the greatly expanded size of grids. I should find out. I might even use Thera as a transit point to go out and ninja some null sec ore, ice, or gas.

I also want to expand my exploration a bit and start running combat sites. So for 2016 I want to come up with two fits, or perhaps I should say packages of fits. The first is for the Stratios. Currently I'm looking at Markus Vulpine's "Deep Space" Stratios fit as an option for extended operations. I may want to find multiple fits and use a mobile depot for switching between them. The second is for a tech 3 strategic cruiser. I hear the Tengu is good, although Mynxee has had good results using a Loki for exploration. Well, when she doesn't run into Apollo Tyrannos, that is.

Not much of a list, but one that should keep me busy in 2016. Last year wasn't a particularly good year for me and I lost some of the enthusiasm for gaming that I had before. But I think with new technology plus a refreshed view of an old classic I might get my game on again.