Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sneaky Devs and Pesky Patch Notes

So, the patch notes for Parallax are out.  It’s a fairly light patch, with a lot of fixes and user interface changes.  I honestly don’t see much that excites me.  Go ahead and read the notes if you’re interested in the minutiae.

But there were two changes that actually made me gasp as I was reading through the preparing the kids for Halloween.

The first is one CCP apparently can’t do much about.  The new code they’re rolling out over the next few patches includes some adjustments in how various calculations are performed.  One of those changes is to how bonuses are applied.  As a result:
Fleet bonuses from the skills Leadership, Skirmish Warfare, and Information Warfare are now stacking penalized together with bonuses from other sources like modules. Attention: This change only impacts the targeting speed bonus from the Leadership skill, the agility bonus from the Skirmish Warfare skill, and targeting range bonus from the Information Warfare skill. The bonuses provided by the warfare link modules have not changed.
No, this isn’t a first step in adjusting off-grid boosters to only apply when on-grid, and it only affects the effects of leadership skills themselves, not warfare links.  But it does influence the way some bonuses are applied, and that in itself is interesting.  I’m also intrigued that it was referenced as a throwaway line in the patch notes, with no real attention drawn to it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Fallacy of the N+1 Problem

When CCP announced the capital changes, two thoughts struck me immediately.  The first was delight at the prospect of supercapitals being more vulnerable through losing their ewar immunity.  As it currently stands, blobs of supercapitals are incredibly difficult to pin down and fight, particularly in lowsec.  So difficult, in fact, that they’re a broken fleet concept, far too strong.

The second thought was that Archon blobs would be a thing of the past.  A split between damage dealing and repair abilities, coupled with the requirement for the new capital priests being in triage – and unable to receive incoming reps – means capital fleets will face the same choices and vulnerabilities as subcaps, albeit with a larger tank and greater consequences.

Both of these mean, I hope, that supercap and capital fights are more likely to result in some kills for each side, a critical factor affecting the enjoyment level of all parties.  It’s no fun having your entire fleet dunked without even a single kill to show for it.  I suspect we’ve seen the end of that for capital fights.

However, one thought that pointedly did not pop into my mind was, “This is a solution to the N+1 problem!”  Part of that reason is because it clearly isn’t.  The other part is because there is no “N+1 Problem”… not as folks tend to think of it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Other “Stuff”

This is just a quick note before a longer post detailing some commentary stemming from the capital rebalance.  I was away for the weekend, and was really feeling the lack of a laptop that can sustain an Eve client.  I read a lot of the news coming out of Vegas on my phone… great for reading, not so great for taking notes.

I very nearly went to Eve Vegas this year.  Ultimately, we decided to pursue buying a house instead.  But, listening to the fun folks were having was very much a bittersweet experience of what could have been.  We’re eyeing Fanfest 2017, though.  Fingers crossed.  You may have the opportunity to tell me exactly what you think in person!

In the past couple days, I bought, outfitted, then sold again a couple Thanatoses (unrelated to the capital rebalance details, though).  I tried something with them, but changed my mind and sold them for a slight profit.  I’ve run a good number of Blood Raider sites to loot enough accelerators to keep my skill training boosted.  And I tallied my earnings from market trading, albeit primarily through PLEX trading: 3.6 billion profit and one PLEX for my account off of a 28 PLEX principle.  Not bad.

And, in so doing, I’ve actually found a little enjoyment for something I never thought I would… PvE.  Those Blood Raider sites really are a lot of fun, particularly when someone drops on you.  Is it just me, or have pilots who typically don’t PvP been finding themselves fighting other players in those sites?

I haven’t been able to do a lot of PvP, with most of my couple hours a day clogged up with the “stuff” you need to do to enable your PvP and keep the cash flow positive.  The things we do for enjoyment…

Friday, October 23, 2015

Capital Ship Rebalance Notes from Eve Keynote

I'm just about ready to take the weekend off to visit family back in Pittsburgh, but before I went, I wanted to share some news about the capital rebalance from Eve Vegas.  It looks like the Eve keynote contained some interesting tidbits, which will be expanded upon during the capital session tomorrow.  What we know right now, encapsulated in a Reddit post and subsequent YouTube video is:
  • New capitals that specialize in logistics, with limited combat capabilities,
  • Even titans will be able to dock in XL citadels.
  • Refitting mid-combat will not be possible while you have a weapons timer.
  • Supercarriers will lose their immunity to electronic warfare.
  • Special weapons, Sickle-class doomsdays, which will swath through space attacking all ships in a single vector.
  • Another doomsday, tentatively called the Hand of God, which can teleport ships away from the battle field into a random spot in the same solar system; it simultaneously warp disrupts capitals.
  • All capitals will receive fleet hangars and fitting services.
  • Titans will be getting more variety of abilities.
  • All sorts of new capital-sized modules, including shield extenders, armor plates, neuts ranging from T1, to meta, to faction, to T2 varieties.
  • Additional weapon modules that specifically target subcaps, called the high angle weapon batteries (better tracking than typical capital modules).
  • Existing capital weapons will be rebalanced to be useless against subcaps.
  • Capital remote repairs will only be effective when they're in triage.
  • Fighters are going to be replaced with squadrons, which will be unable to be repaired (because they're squadrons of ships, hp is measured in remaining members; "you can't rep what's dead").
Here's what we can assume:
  • Dreads will experience the least changes; they are characterized as having traditional weapon systems, as they do now.
  • Carriers may lose their remote rep bonuses, and could double-down on the fighter bonus.  The new logistics capitals mean they'll likely lose much, if not all, of their logistics capabilities.
  • We'll each have a new capital skill to train for each race (taken with the skill sink being introduced, means CCP's following a hybrid "train more" and "sink sp" approach).
So let's get into the analysis of what are, admittedly, sparse details.  But the details CCP has provided are enough to be tantalizing.

While I'm not going to be selling any assets or hedging any bets until the capital speech, some of these changes are well overdue, and great changes.  Carriers being both fighter boats and logistics in one left them heavily overpowered, and the idea that these two strengths will be separated is tremendous.  Now, CCP just needs to add an SMA-heavy capital with no offensive capability at all to be a space taxi (I'm talking 5 million m3 space baby!).

Likewise, refitting mid-fight took a lot of the risk out of flying capitals.  Limiting this ability so that once you commit, you're locked in for the same length of time as aggro on a gate... under those circumstances, a minute is a lifetime.  Firing choices have consequences now.  When you engage an enemy fleet, you've got what you've got, and have to live with your choices, just like every other pilot in space.

And, finally, supercarriers - in fact all ships - losing ewar immunity...  IT'S ABOUT TIME!  Fighting supers required a single ship type in all cases - hictors - and that struck me as very much being against Eve's mantra of offering pilots choices.  Ever since I heard about that ability, I thought to myself, "That's stupid."  They already had the ability to fly a whole mess of fighters, and had all sorts of interesting bonuses and huge swaths of hp.  Ewar immunity was just too much.

I'm eagerly anticipating news of tomorrow's speech, even though I'll be reading for it on my phone. I'm liking the variety of gameplay options these changes suggest.  I can see the evidence of a lot of different thought tracks leading to this.  From what I've seen, CCP is concerned about giving each capital a good role, new abilities, and new vulnerabilities to offset them.

Things are looking very good for capitals, based on these initial plans!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

We've All Got Blood Fever!

So, over the past couple days, I've been working on my revenue stream a bit more.  I'm all set now, and to my delight, I discover a whole new set of activities to engage in: Blood Raider hunting!

I've said before how delighted I am about all the lore work being done by CCP.  I love the story of Eve, and I'm definitely experiencing a deeper level of engagement because of the attention they're paying to it.

And now, we have some more fun activities to do.

I'm finding that the temporary Blood Raider Gauntlet sites are an enjoyable activity in lowsec.  In many ways, it's exactly the kind of variety i was asking for in high-sec (the sites also spawn in high-sec, as well).  Right now, the loot is actually quite expensive, though I suspect the price will drop as more people become aware of the kinds of fits you can use and they saturate their own characters with these injected boosters.

In particular, I'm really enjoying how this temporary opportunity presents a mix of PvP and PvE opportunities.  Every site I've been in has been challenged at some point- either by a friendly or a hostile.  You have to be on your guard when running these sites, for you should expect company.  And that's just good fun, all around!

In the interests of ruining that market, allow me to share the fit that I've used successfully:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Strip It Down and Sell It for Parts

I’m going to start by focusing on the positive.  I’m sitting on 27 PLEX, and after about a week of the price sitting at 1.2 bil, they’ve crept up 20 mil in the past couple hours.  More importantly, we’re seeing spread compression – the buy and sell prices getting closer – as both continue to rise, suggesting that the price will only continue to increase.  Indicators are great for my profits!

"We can take it out as easily as we can put it in!"

The reason, of course, is the Exploring the Character Bazaar and Skill Trading dev blog.  In a nutshell, CCP is announcing a new NEX store item that will allow players to extract 500,000 sp from their characters and sell it, as a unit, on the market.  Effectively, this allows players to trade sp to each other, drawing down their character’s stock in exchange for isk.

This, in and of itself, isn’t bad.  Players have been asking for a means of eliminating sp for skills they don’t use (though, admittedly, this attitude tends to be a result of vestigial thinking back from when clone levels existed).  But added to this sp transfer is diminishing return.

Once your character has more than 5 million sp – a paltry sum equaling around three months of training – injecting transneural skill packets results in the reduction of the amount of sp you actually gain.  This loss is 20% for up to 50 million total sp, and becomes increasingly onerous as your total sp increases.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pyrrhic Victory

What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Before reading this post, I’d like you to consider something for me.  Why do you PvP?  What do you measure as success?  In two months, what does improvement look like for you?  What satisfaction do you derive from it?

What is your goal with your PvP?  Do you simply want to “kill all the things”, no matter the means?  Do you remember certain fights more fondly than others?  Are you in it for statistics only – kill/death ratios, efficiency, total kill amounts, total value killed, etc? 

What do you want?

I can’t answer that for you, but when you look at yourself honestly, you’ll come to it yourself.  Lying to yourself won’t help… in fact, it’ll cause cognitive dissonance that might cause you to waste large amounts of time on in-game experiences you don’t find valuable.  There really isn’t a wrong answer.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I Actually Used a Target Spectrum Breaker!

In the past year, CCP has released a lot of new modules.  I really haven’t been interested in sov warfare since Aegis – the wind has been knocked out of the conquest sails entirely – and I rarely fly anything larger than a cruiser these days.  That may change with the battlecruiser rebalance, but I’ll likely dip my toe in to test their new agility first, as that was my biggest problem with them.

There are some striking differences between life in the Imperium and life in an independent alliance.  Most noticeable is the difference in content.  With no sov to babysit through tedious timers and no “strategic rating fleets” – yes, this is a thing – the activities the alliance does are all centered around PvP.  And that PvP tends to involve rolling large to make up for a lack of numbers.  Our fleets tend to top out around 50 people, but those 50 people are using every bit of their sp and expensive doctrines to overcome any lack of numbers.

Forty Machariels can put out some serious damage.  And within that expense comes another sort of pleasure.  It’s liberating to flying a Machariel instead of a Caracal, and feeling the urgency in every action to preserve your ship.  The more expensive you roll, the more powerfully you feel the dopamine rush as you head into battle.

I can’t stress enough how much more enjoyable it is to fly into a fight with a thin margin for error.  You can’t do that when your ship is nearly worthless (bloc doctrines) or you have 300 other allies going into battle with you.  Being the scrappy one is tougher, and the victories are much sweeter as a result.  I’m heartily enjoying it. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Scaling Fatigue?

Yesterday, I was reading an article by Kyle Aparthos over at TMC talking about local mobility in Eve.  His comments coalesced around some of my own opinions about jump fatigue and mobility.  On the one hand, I absolutely agree that capital fleets should not be able to jump across the galaxy at a moment's notice to participate in fights the way they did before fatigue.

But, on the other hand, it doesn't make much sense for a capital to be stuck in one system for at least 5 minutes or - if you're doing it right - 50 minutes to clear your fatigue.  That seems a bit ridiculous if you just want to jump to a nearby system.  Fatigue was meant to reduce the effective projection of capital forces, not to destroy the tactical advantage of jump drives entirely.

Let's get one thing straight... it is tactically unfeasible for capitals to take gates to defend a whole constellation under fire.  One set of bubbles can clog a capital fleet for 15-20 minutes, and when dealing with defense mechanics in place, that eliminates the value of capitals to attack multiple aggressing fleets.  Small entities are effectively hamstrung to having to deploy their limited capitals in only one system, perhaps two, during a reinforcement cycle.  That utterly defeats the purpose of the system in regards to allowing smaller entities to defend against larger ones.

So, long-range travel and force projection, bad.  Local force projection, good.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why You Should Train Mechanics V

There are certain skills in Eve that you absolutely must train if you're interested in PvP.  These skills are different from those that you should train, like Sharpshooter V or Trajectory Analysis V.  No, there are certain skills that you absolutely must train to attain even a basic modicum of positive experience with PvP.  These are the skills like Weapon Upgrades V,  your capacitor, powergrid, and CPU skills, and the base shield, armor, and hull skills.

One of those is Mechanics V.  "But, Tal... hull is so incredibly unimportant... if you're in structure, you're already dead!

Not so, my friends.  Not so.

A lot of people have survived with 1% structure before, so this situation isn't remarkable, but rather demonstrative.  That 1% means the difference between repairing to get kills later in the night and having to take the long trek home in a pod, after which you may not go back out.  1% can mean the difference between a night of fun and a boring and uneventful slog back to reship.

In Eve, we live in the spaces between one-percents.  Squeeze out every bit of base hp, capacitor, CPU, powergrid, and dps you can for those skills that affect all ships equally.  Your crew will thank you when they don't die in the cold vacuum of space.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Station Trading - Initial Learnings

I have a business trip this week, so I’ll be doing little playing of Eve.  And this past weekend, I’ve been spending a lot of time with the family before I have to go.  Fortunately, I’ll have plenty of time to write.

One thing I did have time to fit in, other than some time in an Oneiros on a fleet this weekend, was my initial station trading.  I started with 20 bil, and set up about 40 buy orders to stock myself with some some fodder with a good buy/sell split.

I started buying a wide range of faction modules, ships, and subsystems I’ve used in the past and whose value I have a good handle on.  My buy orders started filling pretty well, and I learned one cardinal rule of station trading: be careful picking items that have a very low number of sales per day.  I got myself into a few items that had only a couple dozen resolved trades per day, and while the buy/sell split was very good, I had to babysit them to constantly refresh the sell price.  With one trade an hour, I didn’t have the luxury of being the third – or even second – best option on the table.  High-grade implants fit into that category as well, and I was stuck with four High-Grade Snake Deltas for nearly the whole week. 

Lesson learned: I’m going to stick to items that sell at least a hundred units a day.