Eve is a beautiful game

I haven’t been writing but I have been playing. It appears a big chunk of the playerbase has gotten their war on. I’m not actively participating due to time issues and no affiliation with a particular coalition, although with NPSI groups running fleets I may just get into some pvp soon. The best I’ve managed in the time allowed is buy and sell some pixel goods to help both sides with their war effort. Booster sales are up too.

As an outside observer my favorite aspect of these large wars, and the subsequent coverage of them, is the recording of fleet fights. Several streamers on Twitch have taken the helm in trying to locate and record as much of the fighting in real time as possible as well as recorded footage put up on YouTube. Gameplay wise it’s not the best but there is something mesmerizing about the mating dance of colored boxes that occurs when fleets clash. I’ll often leave a stream running in the background with some ambient music while trading. The movement of ships is almost like a fish tank or fire in how it can create a thoughtful comfort.

Politics wise I think the war is good for the game. Interest is up and the propaganda alone has been worth the wait. It feels like a bunch of Davids taking down the last big Goliath coalition. When the dust settles I think the Imperium will merely be cut down to size in relation to the current political landscape in null and will survive. Personally I think Eve is at its best when two superpowers are at odds so I’m not sure what to think about a post WWB nullsec. Balkanized null has its place but this war has shown how sexy Eve is when ensnared in a total war situation.

My copy of Empires of Eve has arrived and I’m excited to check it out. I will post some thoughts once I am done.

-Zen

Calling out Sugar Kyle on booster contraband status

I struggle with writing anything coherent about things I don’t care about much, or have little stake in. However, there are a couple niche areas of the game that I value very highly. For the past year that now includes all things boosters (combat drugs, not the off grid kind). The harvesting, production and black market sales of these in game items, and the fact that a game has mechanics to allow for virtual “dealing” has increased my immersion and enjoyment of Eve Online. It’s a career path in Eve that is deceptively easy to get into, but has great depth once you progress through it. Backroom chats, covert mining, complex (unintuitive) lowsec production, PvE and diplomacy all play a role. It also makes use of the contract system beyond alliance pre-fit ships and firesales. Harvesting materials even gives a tangible reason for pilots to venture out into nullsec for something other than a sov grind (#contentcreation).

In my last post before letting this blog fade away, Fanfest had just occurred. I noticed in a lowsec roundtable recap that booster contraband status was mentioned as being something that should be changed, specifically removing contraband status outright. At the time a few corp mates and I approached Sugar Kyle to point out that there would be collateral damage if contraband status is removed and boosters are easily moved around. A dialogue was briefly opened and discussion occurred before fading away during the summer lull. Bigger things such as Aegis sov were still being hammered out.

As seen in this post it appears removing contraband status for boosters is still on Sugar Kyle’s to-do list. I’d like to publicly reopen the discussion on changing these mechanics and voice my opposition to the removal of contraband status.

I want to preemptively state that any readers thinking that I’m arguing from a position of self preservation and fighting change are absolutely correct. However, boosters aren’t exactly big business when factoring in overhead and removing contraband status would mean more sales and more money to current sellers. Anyone in booster production knows that selling product is the big bottleneck in the business. This post by Charlinda Akheteru, a newcomer to booster production, illustrates the struggles of finding customers for a new producer on the market.

While I’m arguing against removing contraband status, I do welcome a change of mechanics. Many ideas have been floated around in the past: the ability for players to act as customs agents, more complex AI on customs NPCs (addition of Drifter chasing AI), cargo bay scan strength mechanic to add fitting decisions for ships wanting to move contraband (and the removal of complete scan immunity on blockade runners), a more dynamic and complex fining mechanic that doesn’t pull from the regional market and allows the use of force to escape customs officers. Anything that’s a change to the system is preferable to gutting the contraband mechanic with no replacement.

The current system as it stands is not very sexy, but it does one thing correctly. It has spurred the creation of a black market of items that are often, but not exclusively, bought and sold through face to face interaction between buyers and sellers without the buffer of market orders in NPC stations. I simply cannot support the homogenization of boosters into the general market simply so players can buy and use them as easily as ammunition, no matter how lucrative it could make boosters.

The argument that the current mechanics are broken or unusable doesn’t hold water. There are whole corps that have made a living selling boosters black market style. The biggest crime of the mechanics is that they are opaque, vaguely defined and hard to understand. That pretty much explains the vast majority of Eve, and is something that can be changed without scrapping the mechanics.

Sugar Kyle is one of my favorite personalities within the community and has been a great CSM. I’m not thrilled to be so vehemently opposed to a cause that she has championed but I truly believe she is missing the mark here. The short term gain of ‘boosters for everyone!’ is negated by the dispersing of niche communities and markets that are healthy for the game. Communities that I have been a part of for a year and have vested interest in keeping healthy.

-Zenshift

PS- Any reader that has a comment about this please feel free to evemail the character Zenshift in game. If you’re interested in purchasing boosters, join Narcotics channel in game.

 

 

 

 

 

Se7en Months

Well, it has been a little over 7(!) months since I last made a post about Eve. I’m sure all one of my readers thought this blog had long since died. That one person would be correct. However, I’m a little bit like herpes… I keep coming back when you least expect it.

My absence from writing has not been due to quitting the game. I’ve continued to play Eve, mostly in a trading the most lazy way possible kind of style. Booster demand declined and then increased sharply in the last couple of months so I also did some dealing on the side. You won’t find doom and gloom posting about the decline of the login numbers here but the summer lull did feel stronger and lasted longer than in previous years. It’s a damn shame but I’ve seen the player count crest over 30k in recent weeks so perhaps that a sign things are bouncing back.

We’ve all had some time to digest Eve Vegas and the long awaited reveal of Citadels and the capital rebalance. The details were too thin for me to pop anything more than a nerd semi as I watched the VoDs but things do look promising. I find it funny that my dream of running a player owned market may one day be a reality. Also, 700bil for an XL bpo so save your pennies.

RvB closed, sort of. That’s a shame although I suspect it will be revived. Several have stated this is a further sign of the troubled times the Eve community finds itself in. I attribute it more to the existence of large scale null newbie training entities, consolidating NPSI communities and simply that the RvB concept had a shelf life that has expired. Either way, RIP… for now

My track record doesn’t show it but I enjoy writing about Eve. I’ll catch ya’ll soon.

-Zen

Loss and Legality

You’re sitting in your trusty Golem. Multiple scrams and webs from the pirate gang that has just landed are preventing you from making an escape. Backup is on the way but the shield boosts aren’t going to hold. Even faction fit, your tank is breaking. I know what you’re thinking; “why, oh why, didn’t I take the blue pill?” 

Combat Boosters – don’t get caught in space without them

I haven’t been particularly busy in EVE. Despite limited playtime, I’ve had a string of poor decisions and mistakes lead to significant (for me) losses in the past few days. I’ll chalk it up to being punch drunk from all the information hitting the players from Fanfest coverage. I’ll also say I was being stupid and EVE punishes stupidity. Harshly. And effectively.

The first loss was an easily preventable death to a lowsec chokepoint smartbomb camp. I was deep in lowsec with a trader and indy character and hopped into an unfit Venture to make my way back to highsec. The route was clear most of the way but as soon as I hit a chokepoint system I should have exercised more caution. It was Friday after all. Instead I ignored sanity and bumbled my way to the next gate. As soon as I saw the Rokhs on grid I knew that was it. About 5 seconds later my character was waking up in a fresh clone, minus a full HG Ascendancy set and handful of high end indy implants. About 3.5 billion ISK gone up in smoke, in one of the dumbest ways possible.

I took the loss in stride, linked the killmail in corp to chuckling and a few winces and moved on to my next bout of stupidity. This second loss is quite tame in comparison, only 1.4 million ISK. It occurred on a highsec gate in a 0.5 system. The last gate before I was safely in lowsec (weird thought I know) and I wouldn’t have to worry about being caught with my cargo of Strong Blue Pill Boosters. Relaxing too soon, I misclicked, looked away from the screen and gave the local customs official long enough to get a scan off. As the warning screen came up, prompting me to take the fine, I worried if this was going to completely ruin my courier contract. Thankfully the mechanics for fines pull from regional market data. There was no Strong Blue Pill on the market so the decision was easy; take a 1.4 million ISK fine and fly the last two jumps to finish the deal.

Obviously, being caught dead to rights like that, I should have had a much tougher decision on my hands. Either taking a massive fine or lose the Boosters the boosters and start the whole deal over, essentially giving away stock for free. The customs and contraband system in EVE is unfinished and clunky. Quite frankly it barely functions at all and it’s embarrassing to admit I got caught.

Since reading Sugar Kyle’s non-FW Lowsec Roundtable transcript (say that 5 times fast) and in light of this recent run in with the mechanic, I have been thinking about some of the statements made. The biggest thing that stood out to me was the proposal for removing the legality system and contraband status until something new is thought up. I’ve actually spoken to Sugar briefly on this subject in the past as it’s something she is wanting to take on as part of her platform for lowsec.

Unfortunately, I completely disagree with removing contraband status “just because” and leaving Boosters to be just like 100,000 other in-game items, hauled with freighters around highsec with no consequences. While it’s not a particularly interesting set of mechanics and feels unfinished, what the current system does right is promoting a niche black market, adding some variation to the game. It would be a shame to see that niche whitewashed and Boosters become yet another commodity seeded from Jita with jump freighters, alongside cruise missiles, drones and, occasionally, an exotic dancer or two.

Overheat Your Sov Strip Miner IIs

It looks like I am fashionably late to the discussion regarding the much anticipated sovereignty revamp. To be fair, I don’t have much of a stake in these changes, other than hoping for a system that promotes a healthy game. As far as the specific mechanics go, my thoughts are neutral.  After reading through the Dev Blog I will admit the way this new system is being piggy-backed onto the current Dominion mechanics left me feeling underwhelmed. The fact that we the players will still be talking about TCUs and IHUBs and station flipping after June was disappointing, if only on a psychological level.

That said, I think the system should be implemented as-is, possibly with a few tweaks. I’ve seen a lot of good arguments praising the current design and no solid counter arguments other than the rampant speculating and alarm-ism that come from trolls or sincere players cursed with an irritating personality. Something needs to shake the game up and I think with these new mechanics CCP will hit the right note for nullsec warfare and space conquest, even though it’s not perfect. No system will be perfect and what is currently outlined looks like a solid foundation to build off of. So I say let’s see how the chips fall after June and wait for the carrots in sov space to be added.

Freeport Mode

The one mechanic that really caught my eye was the 48 hour freeport mode that stations will switch to if a defender loses a “round” of sov warfare. Not everyone is thrilled with this mechanic and it’s understandable why. Stations will now present a thorn in the side of anyone holding space, particularly large swathes of it. Every single one is a possible foothold for an attacker, and source of third party harassment, during the freeport status and possible battle following the 48 hour window. This, combined with the vulnerability of station services to being offlined 23/7, means that stations are now a constant juicy target for attackers and are no longer as secure a staging point for alliances or coalitions. They are still very important but I do hope these new mechanics are a first step toward the option to destroy them outright.

Third Party Logistics

What the freeport mechanic got me thinking about was something that I’ve wanted in EVE for a while now; a meaningful way to participate in nullsec markets as a third party. While I don’t believe every station should be a mandatory freeport and respect an alliance’s desire to be as self sufficient as possible, relying on their own members, I’ve always wanted a viable way to set up shop in hostile space. A POS module or mechanic that allows market functionality in a system would be cool. Hell, I’d even save up for a Titan if I could anchor it and people could dock and buy things from the cargo bay. If a third party in an area’s market is seen as a threat and driven off, fair enough. If it’s tolerated, even better. Perhaps a third party market could even change the landscape of a region, becoming a player seeded resource that is a potential target for invaders wanting to destabilize a region.

A battle raging around a small entity’s market might be too idealistic but I can’t help getting excited about the potential. In fact, the freeport mode is a small step in that direction. Booster sales are currently done in NPC stations via the contract system. After June hits, it will be viable to run contracts to stations during their freeport countdown, for attackers or defenders. It probably won’t happen often but since the release of Thera, I can attest to the fact that running boosters into a hostile, active system with a dockable station is both interesting gameplay and worth the effort. If the option is now available to offer a courier service into the heart of a nullsec battleground,  that alone makes me excited for June.

 

Player vs Emotions

A couple days ago I was twiddling my thumbs in Amarr looking for something to do when I happened upon a 10MN AB Breacher I fit up long ago. I always enjoy functional fits with oversize prop mods; this Breacher being dual medium ancillary shield booster fit with light missiles, a defensive scram and a couple hobgoblins. I don’t pvp often so I like to fit cowardly, with a lot of GTFO potential.

On a whim I decided to head out to the Fabai constellation in Aridia to see what trouble I could stir up. Another booster production corporation hangs out there and my hope was to maybe catch someone scanning or flying around in a Venture. Or something. Killmails are not a particularly juicy carrot to me so after about 10 minutes flying around Aridia not finding much undocked, I found myself getting bored. It was late US tz in a less than optimal solo frig pvp area. I hadn’t planned this out at all.

Delve was just a jump away, maybe I could find something to do there? At the very least I could take the pod express back to Amarr. Being in an empty clone, I was content to die horribly. What other games call ‘fast travel’ EVE calls an avoidable loss. So, keeping up with the terrible pvper on a terrible solo roam theme, I jumped unscouted into 1-SMEB.

The locals were quite welcoming. 5-7 ships camping the gate. It looked like mostly Svipuls, the new Minmatar destroyer with a name that I can’t pronounce. I didn’t stick around long though to be sure, as I hoped to avoid being bubbled on the gate. If that had happened I would have been dead before having a chance to type a ‘o7’ in local. Much to my relief the camp must have been dictorless, as I was able to warp away to a nearby planet. I then warped to the sun to get my bearings. 40+ in local with a few frigs on scan. I decided to warp to the station to see if anything was happening.

I warped at 100km just in time to see a Raven warp in and dock up. Almost immediately after that an Algos undocked and started burning for me. I burned away from the station toward an arbitrary celestial. Not surprisingly there are cloakies on grid and the Algos got a warp in about 15km away. I activated my AB as he landed, locked me and dropped drones. At this point, my plan was to just kite this Algos, shoot his drones and see who else shows up.

For about 5 minutes the Algos and I danced around. He warped off a couple times and got solid warp ins 2-3 times. In response, I kited away and shot his drones. After a lull in the “action” I see the Raven from before undock and warp out to where we’re messing around. My pvp IQ is low so suddenly having to kite around two ships was already starting to feel overwhelming. The Algos warped off and didn’t return and I chuckled as the lone Raven locked me from 100km and started firing cruise missiles at me… in a Breacher… going 2.3k.

Just as I was thinking I should warp off a third party entered the scene. Apparently the locals weren’t the only ones with cloakies on grid. A CFC harpy gang gets a warp in right on top of the hapless Raven and begin burning him down. I noted that I had played the part of inadvertent bait well and I now had two options: 1) I could continue to kite at 100km and then avoid the harpies or 2) I could banzai charge in and do… something.  Three guesses as to which I chose. Again, I didn’t really plan this out.

I pulsed the AB to realign into the fight and charged head-on into the gang of frigs swarming the Raven. I had hoped being in a Breacher I would be largely ignored until the Raven popped but I wasn’t so lucky. A Maulus locked and damped me and I counter lock him, fired my light missiles and set up an orbit. About 20 seconds later the Raven popped and the frigs all begin locking me. For a few moments I was left to contemplate the trail of mistakes that led to this moment… me doomed to die to a CFC gang who dunked a Raven I had no intention of engaging. I should have launched my drones, I could have easily locked the Raven and gotten on the mail, the tunnel vision on a Maulus when the Raven popped around 2,000 meters from me. This list goes on. A couple seconds after being red-boxed I found myself back in Amarr.

So there it is. An 800 word story about a roam that resulted in a handful of nothing. No killmails. No overcoming the odds. No bringing solo back. Many would call it failure. I found the whole thing hilarious and a shining example of why I enjoy EVE so much. It was an interesting chain of events that occurred after I decided to try an activity I rarely participate in. Perhaps next time I’ll get on the killmail.

Opportunities Knock

Today CCP Rise published a Dev Blog introducing Opportunities, a new system in EVE that players starting out will interact with in order to better introduce them to the game. The new player experience (NPE) has been a buzz-phrase for those discussing EVE, especially CSM X candidates. It has been common knowledge that the current tutorial and career agent systems aren’t very good and EVE’s player growth has been low. This is something CCP has stated that they are working on and it appears Opportunities are are the fruit of that labor.

Rise noted some recent improvements made to the game have been leading up to the addition of a new system devoted to the NPE. Tooltip changes, the notification system and even the new map (currently in live beta testing) have all paved the way to this new way of teaching new players the basics of EVE Online.

For now, I have mixed feelings regarding Opportunities. I feel this is a few steps in the right direction, but what’s being presented as the initial release is about 5 steps in a 1,000 step journey. The goals are for Opportunities to be non-linear and not tied to any single NPC spawn or system. I think this is a good thing although for the extreme basics of learning the game, there is an optimal path. Obviously a new player needs to learn the basics of moving around in EVE before trying to jump into killing their first NPC. Hopefully Opportunities will do a good job of nudging players in the right order of mechanics in their first few hours of gameplay.

The initial release of Opportunities is going to be very limited and passes new players like a baton right into the career agent system that is so dry and linear it drives people away en masse. I ran the current tutorial system half a year ago on a fresh character and I almost unsubscribed my accounts (… ok not really but it wasn’t a good experience). There is also a lot of concern about no incentive or reward for completing Opportunities. It’s great to teach new players the nuts and bolts of EVE’s core game mechanics but I think it’s also critical for them to feel like they are progressing. Knowledge of game mechanics is an important progression in EVE however I am hopeful that the Opportunity system is able to give players progression in skills (in the form of skillbooks, vouchers or even raw SP) as well as progression in ISK to help them on their way.

One thing I found interesting are the New Player Landmarks that will be added to starter systems. These sites will contain rapidly spawning NPCs to kill and asteroids to mine that aren’t tied to a mission or in a scripted tutorial. They sound like the COSMOS storyline sites in that they are public locations where the NPCs drop loot that’s unimportant outside of a niche (COSMOS items for specific missions or civilian modules and blueprints for new players) and the NPCs rapidly respawn. Outside of traveling and mining, it’s rare in high sec to simply bump into someone else is space doing the same thing you are. Missions are pockets in space dedicated to the individual running them so PVE is often not only solo, but an isolated activity. These Landmarks are a good effort to get the newest players bumping into one another in space as quickly as possible.

Overall I’m cautiously optimistic about the Opportunity system. The initial version is quite limited compared to what is needed. There are promises of expanding the scope of the system to provide weeks worth of content for new players. Ideally these new players will be presented good goals while learning the game and aren’t funneled into an arbitrary New Eden bucket list (I must visit the Eve Gate, I must jump through 50 different systems, I must fire a small pulse laser I at a battleship rat in Omist with 3 people in local). I’m hopeful that this system can get new players on the path to feeling immersed and engaged in EVE without simply chasing breadcrumbs handed to them by game devs. The current Opportunities Demo up for release isn’t enough to be sure.