Tuesday, June 30, 2015

FozzieSov Predictions – T-Minus 14 Days

FozzieSov is due to launch on July 14, one week after the Aegis update.  With it will come a complete re-working of the way sovereignty works, focusing more on individual reinforcement actions and (hopefully) small gang capture actions.  I’ve talked about FozzieSov here and here.  I’ve expressed the concern that null-sec won’t be worth the cost of holding it.  FozzieSov is in a better place now than it was originally, but like the fleet warp changes, it still has its problems.

After doing a lot of listening and thinking, here are my predictions about changes we’re going to see directly as a result of FozzieSov (and not including other changes happening around the same time).

Prediction #1: Concurrent user counts depend on FozzieSov’s success.

This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but Eve logged-in player counts are going to be in a world of hurt if FozzieSov is seen as a giant mistake.  A huge factor affecting this perception is going to be how – and how quickly – CCP adjusts null-sec income and “worth”.  As of now, we’ve seen absolutely nothing about CCP’s strategies on how they intend on adjusting null-sec value to overcome the headaches null-sec alliances are going to have to cope with.  If they can respond quickly and effectively, this can herald the beginning of a golden age for a balkanized null-sec.  If it fails, they’ll destroy any interest in null-sec and it’ll become even less occupied than it is now.  The implications of this result would be staggering and massive.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Brave: The Failure of Democracy

So, clearly, nothing at all is happening with Brave.  Oh, except for that whole democracy thing falling through entirely.

Mind you, I’m not trying to kick them while they’re down.  Far from it.  Brave, Eve Uni, PRF, Test… these groups do good with trying to deepen new player immersion in Eve.  And that’s a very good thing.  For the longest time, Brave, however, suffered from “The Modern Sickness”, which affects nearly everything built in the 20th century.  That sickness, of course, is the foolish belief that democracy is the solution for everything, in all cases and situations.

Uh oh, here we go…

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It’s Time for an In-Game Timer Board

When FozzieSov hits in a couple weeks, each null alliance could find themselves with potentially multiple timers for each of multiple systems.  We’ll have a significant amount of contesting to do, and very quickly, we’re going to find ourselves overwhelmed with data.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the folks who live in the space that brought you weaponized boredom are going to quickly translate sov contests into weaponized timer overload.  A 50-man fleet interested in seizing a constellation is best served by spreading those 50 pilots out across all capture points with the hope that some of them will succeed in pushing them into reinforcement.

And, more likely than not, many of them will succeed.  For a small alliance owning sov, both preventing reinforcement and contesting it will be an incredibly difficult task, as you could have 50 capture nodes spawn from 10 successful entosis reinforcements out of those 50.  That’s a lot of items coming out of reinforcement, all at different times.

Now, managing these timers is no problem for an alliance like Razor, who has a very slick op timer organized by date/time with countdowns and trackers of whether the timer is defensive or offensive.  RP (a corp, not an alliance) has one for all of our events, as well.  But both rely on out-of-game web services, which cost real dollars to maintain.  And, let’s face it, to compete, alliances NEED to have a timer board to allow line members to track what’s happening and be online at the right times.  For people to log in and participate in your fleet, they need to know a fleet is happening.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Order 66

Let me share something about Eve content enablers that ties into the fleet warp changes that have me so worked up.

Science fiction is filled with the truly exceptional.  Whether it’s the Mageborn in Melanie Rawn’s series, or the original 100 in Red/Green/Blue Mars, or mutants in X-Men, or the leroni in Darkover.  Or the Starks in ASoIaF.  And pretty generally, the key purpose of a group of outstanding individuals like this is to die.

Watching Star Wars as a kid, I remember the anxiety I felt not knowing if the Jedi were going to go extinct entirely.  I was 18 when the prequel movies came out, and it wasn’t until I was 20 or 21 that I got to see the Jedi in action in Attack of the Clones (it pains me to even write that title, so bad…).

For, you see, the Jedi were truly skilled, capable of doing amazing things, with the ability to shape worlds.  They were the best that universe had to offer, and they were a group you could get behind.  In AotC and Revenge of the Sith, you got to see the Jedi in action, leading troops and accomplishing great things.  The Clone Wars cartoon series showed more of their abilities.  It made you really like the individual Jedi, even as you lost faith that the Jedi Order was worthy to be the defender of any society.

The details of the Clone Wars in the Star Wars universe really bothered me for a long time.  You basically had droids and clones fighting it out – two of the most worthless groups of people in the universe.  For me, I couldn’t care less about all the losses I saw on the screen.  Nothing unique and valuable was being lost.  Droids were walking pieces of garbage, and clones were grown from a vat for that very purpose, and had even been genetically modified to be mentally obedient.  Death was, to me, a preferable state to a tendency towards slavish obedience.  Besides, they could always grow more.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Concurrent Users

Over the last couple days, I’ve been tossing around the fact that in USTZ prime time, I’ve noticed (what I believe to be) an alarmingly low number of logged in players.  Rob K challenged me on this, so I want to defend my concerns.  So, let’s dive in.

First of all, I’m going to use USTZ numbers as my baseline, since that’s the one that matters to me.  I don’t care if the EUTZ is strong if the USTZ consists of me flying around by myself.  If that happens, Eve becomes a EUTZ game permanently.

I’ve spoken many times about the importance of encouraging players to pursue in-game actions that generate a bunch of interactions with other players.  Like a ping-pong ball being thrown into a room full of mouse-traps, you want one spark to set off a cacophony of activity.  It’s awesome to see someone actually toss a ball in, then watch as trap after trap springs in a chaotic eruption.  Eve is that room, and the players are those mousetraps: mousetraps with a desire to be part of a big collection of interactions (ie. something bigger) and the ability to walk out if they’re not interested.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Do You Have a Space Pixel Problem?

Ed. Note: This post is written by Valeria Bovinus, my wife. I've edited for readability, but not content. You can find her other posts here.

The night I realized Tal had a problem was an evening like any other in the Dex/Bovinius household. Our dear children, were snuggly nestled in their beds after their nightly reenactment of the classic bedtime story, “Go the Fu** to Sleep.” Tal was on his computer and I was on mine when he said, “Look I bought a new Chimera.”

This immediately snapped me out of trying to buy clothes without a Disney picture on it for my children and into the world of space pixels, for I’m the wife who knows too much about Eve. Since (fortunately or unfortunately) I can recognize ship classes from their names, this comment set off warning bells.
Me: “Why do you need another carrier?”
Talvorian: “To move my stuff to a new staging system.”

He used a lot of words to explain what ships he was keeping with him, which were meant for low-sec, and a bunch of contingencies and situations.  It was exhausting to listen to.

When I countered that he had too much stuff and that moving doesn’t seem fun, he said, ‘”This is Eve.” But I have more fun organizing a sock drawer than he is having now. If everyone is doing this, no wonder subscriptions are dropping!  You folks have managed to turn space fighting into a chore.  It was at this point I realized he has a space pixel problem.

To help other players (and their wives), I’ve identified a space hoarding grading system:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Trying to Be Positive

So, I’m pretty seriously against the new fleet warp changes.  And while I don’t like them, my friend Turamarth is a big proponent of, “Don’t just complain, offer solutions!”  So here are two solutions.

To refresh everyone, CCP said that their goal with the fleet warp changes was to more deeply tie fleet success to the individual actions of all the fleet’s pilots.  In particular, their goal is to limit the effectiveness of bomber fleets.  Well, the proposal Fozzie shared is pretty much guaranteed NOT to accomplish that.  And I question whether that’s even a good idea.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume the validity of that premise: our goal is to better entwine fleet success to the actions of individual pilots, and that changing fleet warp is the way to do it.  How should we do it to be successful?

Monday, June 15, 2015

“Accept Fleet Warp.” Not So Fast…

With CCP’s announcement that they’ll be limiting the ability of FCs and probers to warp fleets to only those destinations that fleet members could reach themselves, I’ve been thinking a lot about why this idea frustrates me so much.  And I think I have a couple answers to it.

Players and commentators have said CCP is trying to force players to think for themselves more, and to take a more active role in fleet battles.  The narrative expressed by these players is that CCP is upset about “F1 fleets” and wants to engage players more in large fleet fights.

Unfortunately, while this is a pretty theory, I have a hard time believing this is really CCP’s goal.  This change only has the effect of limiting overall tactical options without having any effect at all on player involvement.  CCP didn’t make the change so that individual fleet members have to actively and intentionally warp to, say, a probe scan result.  No, this change will permit no one to warp to the probe scan result except the prober.  This is a downright removal of warping fleets on top of an enemy fleet.

(Side note: yes, this is eliminating the option entirely.  The window for landing on an enemy fleet is frustratingly narrow, and the delay it takes for a prober to warp cloaked towards an enemy fleet, maneuver into position to allow his fleet to warp to him, then for the FC to initiate warp is ruinous and cuts out 90% of fleet warping opportunities.  Previously, a friendly fleet could be in warp about 12 seconds after probes hit dscan.  Now, the length will be closer to 30 seconds.  This is a stab to the heart of on-grid maneuvering as well; sell your Tornados now.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

When Selling a Character (with Shameless Plug)...

I'm currently selling one of my characters.  I figured I'd dispense with being coy and just link the sale thread (I'll remove the Eve-board link when the sale is complete, to help out the new owner).  However, this is really just context for the real point.

One of the rules within the Eve Character Bazaar is that you cannot "bump" your post more than once a day.  Posts that have recent replies appear closer to the top than posts which do not, and by limiting every original poster (OP) to one "bump" post, the ISD team is trying to keep things fair.  And that makes sense... if every character for sale posts every 10 minutes, it would be impossible for buyers to navigate the forum.

But CCP never states what, exactly, a "bump" is.  When I hear "bump", I think of a post by the OP meant primarily to push the post back to the top of the heap.  But what about when you receive some bids via Evemail and others in the forum thread?  In my case, I posted each of the bids in different posts (they came in at different times) so they would appear in sequence to show the bid progression.

In my mind, these posts weren't bumps, since I was providing critical information to keep bidders informed about the current high bid and how many bidders were involved.  I was, in effect, a proxy for the Evemail bids.  Without alerting the other bidders of the bids they're competing against, I'd be wasting their time by letting them operate on old information.  It was the same role as an auctioneer announcing online bids competing with in-person bidders, for instance.

Apparently, this is a big no-no, and my thread was locked.  And that's fine, but the situation could have easily been avoided if the rules were clear about what constitutes a "bump".  If the rule is, in fact, that the OP can only post once per day regardless of content, then they should clearly state so to save everyone's time.

In communication, specificity is everything.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Lessons: The Trap of Overconfidence

Over the past several weeks, I’ve engaged in a lot of different kinds of fights, both solo and small gang.  Some have been successful.  Some have not.  Fitting lessons aside, they haven’t really been particularly enlightening.

But yesterday, Repercussus took out a beam Confessor Fleet that included about 8 Confessors, a Svipul, and a few other assorted ships, mostly assault frigs.  As we were on the way back, we happened across a Sleipnir sitting on the gate.  Now, my first reaction was that this guy was probably dual xl-ASB fit and hoping to pick off a few of us, then let his agro timer die before jumping through the gate.  I have to imagine this was in our FC’s mind as well.

We had three logi as we started attacking this command ship.  Naturally, we all had gate gun fire, as the dirty pirates we are.  But our logi was doing a tremendous job (thanks to Tattoos for all his hard work).  Though the call was made to orbit at range to stay out of web range, I remember from experience that even with a web, a 425mm Sleipnir has trouble attacking a fast ship orbiting tightly.  220mm guns would pose some problems, but folks generally don’t fit 220s on battlecruisers unless they know definitively what they’ll be fighting.  And as I pulled into my tight orbit, the dps ceased entirely.

As we applied damage and killed his drones, we noticed that he was, in fact, dual xl-ASB fit.  We knew the window where we could begin working seriously towards damaging him would present itself eventually, but the Sleipnir was only half-way through his ASB charges when a Raven joined him.  A quick check told us he was from the same corp as the Sleipnir, and we changed targets to shoot the Raven, whose tank isn’t as strong as a Sleipnir’s.

But the Raven was ASB-fit too… from the looks of it, dual-ASB, as well.  The difference in tank was immediately noticeable: we had his armor to 10% when his ASB reload completed and he began to rep again.  Though we were looking at another long waiting game of applying damage we knew would be topped off again, we could finish him off the next time his charges ran out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A PLEX Sale For the People (and CCP)

I’m no market guru, but I’ve been noticing the price of PLEX rise in the last few weeks (currently around 900 mil).  And as a person that prefers to pay for my subscription with PLEX, that’s annoying.  CCP has obviously taken note, as well.  I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that they put PLEX on sale at Amazon.

In fact, it seems PLEX is always on sale.  And prices for PLEX have been very high for the past several months.  Coincidence?

Segue: Market speculators have very deep pockets, and are willing to use them to keep the price of PLEX artificially inflated.  When PLEX drops below a price they deem dangerously low, they immediately begin buying up all the PLEX they can at the lower rate to buoy it again.  Over the next few months, they sell off their stock of PLEX at the higher rate as the market stabilizes, as a sort of unofficial cartel effect (though I don’t doubt that some of the major players are in communication, these decisions are largely individual).  As a result, the PLEX price dips only until they can react, at which point it recovers again.

While CCP has stated that they don’t have a target PLEX price in mind, they do step in at various points to lower the price.  They tend to run PLEX sales to narrow the gap between the price of PLEX and the subscription price… quite frequently recently as the price has ticked upwards.  More rarely, they’ll dip into their store of confiscated PLEX from banned accounts and introduce it into the market (CCP doesn’t destroy this PLEX; to do so would be to undercut faith in the value of a PLEX transaction with CCP) to boost the supply.

While they may not want to hit a golden price target, for PLEX, it does appear as if they DO have an affordability target.  When PLEX is perceived to be too high, players will choose to unsub instead of purchase a PLEX.  And this is something CCP is not interested in seeing.  High PLEX prices may be good for sellers, but they can crowd buyers out of playing the game.  And that damages the core product: the players who are CCP’s content.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Eve 101: How to Join a Corporation

Joining a player corporation in Eve is the best way to deepen your engagement with the game and become a long-term player.  It gives you access to a community of players, learning opportunities, and forms of content unavailable to the solo player.  When you join a player corporation, you gain access to another source of content.

But joining a corporation isn’t as easy as everyone makes it out to be.  Joining isn’t automatic, and usually involves a rigorous interview and consideration process.  Eve corporations aren’t like guilds in WoW.  Being part of an Eve corporation put you in a position to do serious damage to that corporation if you choose to, and Eve’s sandbox environment means corporations have no recourse to rogue members.  Every major corporation has had its share of spies, awoxers, thieves, and traitors over time, and has adapted to weed out those undesirables from the recruitment process.

For any alliance that owns assets in space or provides discounted or free ships, fittings, or contracts, it’s better to pass on a candidate than let in a spy.  In fact, it’s better to pass on three candidates than let one spy in.  That said, honest, genuine interest shines through.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I’ll Learn to Live With It

Well, Carnyx is live.  And with another release comes yet another slew of things we all have to relearn.  This time, we need to learn all about the new names for a bunch of old favorite modules, and try to figure out why a mobile depot is attacking me.

After a while, the novelty of new patches starts to become outweighed by the work it takes to just play the game.  New module names and stats means I need to check all my fittings and adjust them accordingly.

For instance, it took me a moment to reorient myself to the 5mn, 50mn, and 500mn MWD name changes, which really make a lot of sense.  But I always flew with meta-4 MWDs, so now I have to go back and change all of my MWD-fit ships to T2.  That’s a hauling job, albeit an easy one, as well as a close review of each fitting to see if I have enough grid and CPU to fit them.  Yet another tweak that can render an individual fit worthless and, unless I catch it in the first pass (which is never 100%), can result in me being unable to use that ship on a given night.

I largely fly with T2 modules; the exceptions are the usual ones: neuts, energy vampires, scrams, tracking disruptors, sensor dampeners, and jammers, all of which provide better overheating with equal stats to T2.  And none of those have been touched yet.  Yes, I’m aware I’m going to likely be having a rough summer as those categories come around.

Then there are the icons.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lessons: A Moment of Humility

Few things in life are as difficult as admitting that you made a mistake.  Sure, admitting that you made one mistake isn’t so bad.  You apologize and move on.  But what about when you were doing something without realizing it over a period of weeks or months, that slighted a friend and ally?  That’s a lot harder.

There’s a pilot in my corporation who has a PvP record I admire.  He can cite all of the match-ups and counter-strategies a person should use against every possible scenario.  He can fly well in almost any situation, and he collects a large number of kills as a result.  I’ve heard of a lot of good PvPers, but translating “good PvP” into specific thought processes, actions, and fitting decisions… that’s harder.  This player was pretty much an archetype of a “good PvPer” for all these reasons.  He claims “Eve isn’t that hard”, but while flying well is a matter of practicing knowable, good habits and applying them situationally, doing so in real combat situations is incredibly difficult.  It’s because it’s so hard that I consider him to be so capable.

But, in studying at how he does what he does to gain those skills myself, I was trying to explain why he was so good.  And my final conclusion came down to, “He plays all the time; of course he has so many kills.”

That, my friends, is a bad conclusion.  It offers an easy – and incorrect – excuse that I was using to be lazy.  It gives me an “out”: I can’t play more than a couple hours a day, so naturally I can’t hit those same heights.

But more than that, it insults him, by claiming that his achievements are the result of nothing more than stubbornness and “being there”.  It completely overlooks the good habits, skills, and knowledge that lead to success.  And that’s a huge disservice to him.  And I didn’t even see that I was doing that.