Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Local Channel - Finally, CCP breaks the silence

For years now a debate has been seen across the EVE community around the local channel and it's use as a source of intel.  Some people have argued that it's automatic and infallible nature is too powerful and it needs to be reduced or removed, while others have argued that it provides necessary intel for the game.  My opinion on the matter is in no way undisclosed.  I believe it should be left as is.
With that in mind, you can expect this post to be somewhat biased, as it's my views on the situation.

The Debate
To this debate there are two "sides" but 3 main schools of thought.  I'm going to refer to the sides as Pro-Local and Anti-Local for clarity.
On the Anti-Local side, the general consensus is that local providing instant, accurate intel is too powerful.  As soon as a player arrives in a system, they are visible on local chat, so any defender in the system can react to their arrival.  This is where they split into two schools of thought.  One is that local should be either completely removed or delayed (like in a wormhole, where you only show up if you speak).  The other is that it should be reduced (for example only showing counts of player by standing, or not displaying cloakers) or replaced with a system that requires effort on the defenders part(such as intel structures, scout ships with scan modules or a d-scan like interface).  There are also many mixes between the ideas reducing and replacing, way too many to cover here.

On the Pro-Local side, the thoughts are that local is required to keep balance, removing local would increase risk too heavily, or simply that the removal of local is pointless.

CCP Swoops In
Throughout this debate, CCP have remained remarkably silent.  They have not said anything official, and few CCP employees have given out their personal thoughts on the matter.  Until now.  CCP Fozzie has answered the question during an interview (article can be found here).
The interesting part is this:
Will there ever be a way to avoid showing up in local?
Potentially. It's not something that is going to be an easy solution, but I can say that we don't like the fact that local chat is so powerful as an intelligence tool as well as a chat but replacing it is something that's going to be a pretty large project because it is such a valuable way of gaining intelligence right now. We don't want to take it away without providing some other way to find out with some other act of gameplay who is in the system with you -- or at least some of the people that are in the system with you. So, we don't think it'd be a good thing to just tear it out and not put anything back in to replace it but we also aren't fully happy with the way it is right now. It is something that we would definitely like to change.

Unfortunately (for me) this shows that CCP are on the Anti-Local side of the debate.  As you can imagine, the Pro-Local side are pretty disappointed, and the Anti-Local side are rightly declaring victory, but what does it really mean?

Will Local Change?
This is the real question, and the answer is: probably.  CCP obviously have the intention to change it as can be read above, then further to this Malcanis (a CSM member) has posted the following on the EVE forums:
This discussion will get a little more entertaining in a few weeks time.
He's followed it up with a couple of other teaser posts, but they pretty much boil down to this.  So it sounds like there's already something in the works, and in a few weeks, perhaps there will be an indication of this.

But will it really have an impact?  Will it be what the Anti-Local guys want?  I'm not so sure.  Nullsec is where any change to this would hit the heaviest, as PVE operations are pretty much a requirement to hold sov.  Without them it's incredibly difficult to source everything you need, especially Titans and Supers.  Renters would also struggle, which again would hard sov holders pretty hard.

With nullsec generating a considerable amount of revenue though subscriptions, as well as often being the area responsible for pushing EVE into international news, I imagine CCP will be fairly delicate with any changes they make.  I'd be quite surprised if it was much beyond what we currently get, but with structures or modules to support it.

Unanswered Questions
With so many different ideas fow what could be implemented and with no official word on potential solutions at this time, there's a lot of guesswork going on, and there's a lot that simply can't be considered until we have some idea about what CCP are planning.  There are still many questions though, and the main two from my point of view are below.

Any effort-based or isk-based system will be easier for larger groups to absorb than smaller groups.  So if a change is put in place, will this widen the gap between the large coalitions and smaller groups?  I don't see how it could be worked so it doesn't.  No matter what amount of extra work you put across, a larger group is always going to find it easier to spread the burden than a smaller group.

And, for me, the most important question: Why?  Why is this change even required?  If they do put in a replacement to local, at best, it will require some amount of effort or isk to get back to exactly what we have now, and at worst it will leave us disadvantaged all round.  So what are the benefits?  I really can't think of any.

Many Anti-Local players seem to be under the impression that a change to local will mean they can suddenly wizz around null ganking left right and centre in an unstoppable whirlwind of death.  I honestly can't see that happening though.  No matter what system is put in place, PVE players will adapt and learn to master that system until they achieve a similar level of security to what they can achieve now, and if that's impossible to do, they'll simply pack up shop and move on.

To me, the whole change seems like a pointless addition of a time/isk sink (depending on how they do it) with no real gameplay benefits.  In the meantime, other features which are long overdue for a review and would greatly improve overall game experience are left untouched.  Sov mechanics and POS permissions to name a couple.

The Conclusion
Really though, there can be only one conclusion at this point.  There's simply not enough information released right now to take any accurate interpretation away from this.  Hopefully, CCP will release information soon enough to really stir up the debate and hopefully they'll include the community in finding a solution at the very least.  Until then there's just going to be a whole lot of conjecture (much like this post), but it sure will be a fun ride regardless.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Solitude - Building a Hub

For a considerable amount of time now I've had a dream. A goal I have strived for outside of my nullsec lifestyle. That goal is the installation of a full market hub in solitude. It's always been something mulling over in the back of my mind and I've always though that some day I would realise that dream, but I've never taken the plunge.

An Idea Revitalised
A few days ago however an old friend of mine interested in exploration was speaking to me about where to explore and casually I mentioned Solitude, which he thought sounded perfect. That really brought the idea forward in my mind. Then the a day later, in the MD forum, a player named Hythlodaus posted a thread directed at Solitude traders and manufacturers to work toward fairer pricing structures in Solitude. And that was it, I was hooked in. A Solitude hub must be made!

A Plan is Born
Working out what would need to be done and how to achieve it is an ongoing process but I had to begin at the beginning.  Now first things first, I had to decide where to make this hub.  The idea is to create a hub about the size of Hek.  This means an overall amount of around 2 Trillion isk will need to be invested in this station, which is a hefty amount, probably impossible for a solo trader, but more on that later.

Looking around the region I chose to settle in Maire, as it's fairly central to the high sec systems. Specifically I chose the station Maire V - Moon 2 - Quafe Company Factory. Partially I chose this because Quafe is awesome, and partially I chose it because the market in that station was small, giving me the additional challenge of competing with the other stations trading in Solitude.

I decided to devote 2 character slots to the cause, one an old spare alt with a couple of million SP, and the other a brand new alt. I created a corporation and called it Solitude Trading. The name not being taken hinted even further how much of a task this would be. I shipped my two alts out there and started laying down the groundwork, getting logistics in place, setting up an office and beginning to gather blueprints and stock.  I've begun to set up PI across both characters and will expand on that going forward.

A Call to Arms (or ledgers)
With the target of a 2T isk market, it's clear that a single player is going to take a considerable amount of time to build this hub.  More than that though, it will be further held back by the slow moving market due to the low population in Solitude.  With limited spare liquidity, limited imported stock from standard high sec, slow sales and no competitors, it will be a long trek indeed.

And that's where I call on all of you for help.  Almost anything will be of help.  If you have a spare trader, set up shop in the hub, competition breeds a healthy market.  If you have a missioner, miner or ratter, set that up in Solitude and help the population grow.  If you are an explorer, Solitude is definitely for you.  The number of exploration sites and wormholes seems to be considerably higher than anywhere else in high sec.  Failing all of that, isk and item donations to my alt, Tim Timpson of Solitude trading will be welcomed.  100% of all donations will go to stocking the market at as low a margin as I can push without stifling the possibility of competition.

The Celebration
To celebrate the forming of a new hub, I'd also like to host an in-game event in Solitude.  This will likely be next month, or early in the new year (edit: now put on hold until further notice).  The idea of this event will be to celebrate the opening of the hub, and bring people from all around into Solitude.  Competitions and prizes will be planned, with prizes being ships and items based in Solitude and eligibility for them requiring the participant to be in solitude.  Any ideas towards any of this would also be very welcome and can be mailed to Tim Timpson.

To coincide with the celebration I'd also like to get a poster made.  In my head I've got this idea of an old fashioned circus poster style thing, but with EVE stuff, but faded and tinged with sepia tones with the announcement of the opening of solitude, the station: Maire V - Moon 2 - Quafe Company Factory, and room to a to be determined date.  So if you're an artist and would be happy to design this, it would be much appreciated.

For anyone that decides to help, you have my thanks.  I'll be posting about the progress of this venture in this blog, and going forward will be setting up a page to contain the details.  I'll detail the names of anyone that's pledged to help in any way on that list, so if you don't want your name listed, please let me know.

Thanks all for taking the time to give this a read, and I hope to see you in Solitude shortly.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Bringing down an RMT empire

It's hard to miss the recent mass uprising against Somer Blink.  Nearly every blog has covered it and a new thread pops up on the EVE-O forums pretty much hourly.  If you're not aware, here's a quick rundown and an update on where we are now.

CCP and Somer
With EVE Vegas, CCP wanted to give out ships to the community.  Rather than do so though any system they set up, they went to a group within the community, Somer Blink.  Somer Blink is an EVE gambling site, where players can take part in microlotteries.  CCP chose to allow Somer to distribute the prizes alongside their lotteries.  Now this alone is not such a bad thing, groups within EVE have participated in events before and Somer did put their own isk into EVE Vegas.

The problem arose however when some members of the community question why they needed to sign up for a Somer account to be eligible for the prizes, and questions around the legitimacy of Somer, with CCP posting a claim Somer that are proven by history to be legit.

Now I'm going to be clear.  I've never been a fan of Somer, and I've always been a believer that they have been running scams, shills and RMT in the background.  So with this I could fully understand why there were complaints.  Here were CCP claiming Somer have always been legit, with no evidence to suggest this was really the case.  At this point the community started pushing pretty hard on Somer and CCP for clarification on what appeared to be an official endorsement.

From rumour to realism
With the community practically in a frenzy and CCP running damage control full steam, more and more rumours of Somer RMTing and scamming were appearing.  And this is where it turned.  Under this level of scrutiny, people suddenly started to realise that Somer have in fact been openly RMTing.  On their site, they link to Markee Dragon for players to purchase GTCs with themselves as an affiliate (see image).

Attached to the purchase, they offer credit for their site which can easily be converted back to isk, and in return they receive their affiliate fee.  Now all of the blogs have broken this down in one way or another, but FunkyBacon has a description with a handy picture which you can see here.

Following the announcement of Somer's RMT scandal, the community started to call on CCP to clarify the legality of the scheme.  With no action being taken and no announcements being made, people started to replicate it.  And that brings us up to now.

CCP seems to react
One of the players starting up their own scheme in protest was Katarina Reid.  She set up a shattered crystal affiliate link, and began to offer isk rewards for buying ETC through her link. This began on 24th October, and up until now she has made $660 though affiliation.  She kept a thread open on the EVE-O forums, which you can see here.  By keeping the thread up to date with her profit, she quite literally threw it in CCPs face, demanding action be taken.  And that action appears to have started.
Today (29/10/13) Katarina posted in one of the theads about this subject on the EVE-O forums with the following:
Not sure if im allowed to link the letter given to resellers but it says to stop players trading ingame items for cash. ETC + bonus items may not be direclty or indirectly traded by the buyer for isk. EULA says cant sell ingame stuff for cash. 10 days for reseller to stop it or else.
And that appears to be that.  As of this moment CCP have not officially come forward to state anything, but it appears that they have made the decision to put an end to this particular type of venture.  Now sure enough, CCP could be shutting down all other attempts to do this, but leaving Somer open for business, but that's highly unlikely.  With the community so unstable, it would be a bad move to further push the community away.  As far as we can see, Somer have 10 days to cease RMT activity, or they will be forced to stop.  I eagerly await the CCP response.

The aftermath
Now going forward, if Somer has to comply, this is a pretty big hit to Somer's income.  Even the most conservative of estimates puts Somer at around $4000/month from affiliate fees, so that's a pretty big hit.  You also have to look at how Somer will be feeling after that hit.  The community has pushed for this change, so it's likely Somer will hold a certain level of resentment towards the community for doing so.  Whether blinks will continue to run and whether Somer will continue to pay out is anyone's guess.

Personally, if I had a balance with Somer I'd play it safe by playing my credit to isk as efficiently as possibly, and cashing out.  If Somer get stopped or choose to stop, there are no rules that force them to cash out players outstanding balances, and with the high number of accounts they have registered, it's unlikely they will be willing to.
So my advice? Cash out, now.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Heating up Ice Mining

With the Odyssey expansion came the resource rebalancing.  This was a shake up of mining in general making some parts easier, some parts harder and generally spreading it out to give a better balance between the high end and low end.  Notably, gravimetric sites which previously required scanning can now be warped to without scanning, null sec space generates higher levels of ore the lower the sec status of the system goes, and high sec ice mining was overhauled.
This post is about the high sec ice mining.

How it was pre-Odyssey
Prior to Odyssey, ice mining was simple.  You travelled to one of the ice belts local to you, easily located on dotlan, and you started to chew though the near-infinite ice asteroids.  These would take thousands of man hours to empty, and they respawned daily.  I've never heard of one being cleared.
Due to the sheer size of the rocks, and the fact that ice is the only source of fuel for a POS, mining ice fields in large numbers for hours on end was quite a profitable venture for an activity that could be performed near AFK.  You could dump a bunch of miners and a hauler in a belt and mine ice all day long while playing a console game or getting on with some work.

The Odyssey shake up
With Odyssey, CCP decided that they wanted to reduce the amount of ice available in high sec to around 80% of the ice that is needed by players, enforcing a requirement for players to seek out ice outside of high sec.  They also wanted to speed up ice mining, reducing cycle times to make a little more bearable for the active player.
To do this they replaced all ice belts with anomalies accessible from the probe scanner without probes, like the new style gravimetric sites in null.  To balance out the regions, they also removed ice belts from a few systems.  The new sites are considerably smaller, offering only a couple of thousand ice blocks.  These can be mined out in a few hours by a relatively small group (or as recently shown, destroyed in under 20 minutes by a 100 man multiboxed mining fleet).  Once completely empty, they trigger a timer and are respawned exactly 4 hours later, in the same system but in a different location.

The problem
Now don't get me wrong, ice mining is an absolute dream compared to what it was, and the changes made are a vast improvement over the old system.  But there is a new problem, and that is competition.  Prior to Odyssey there was no competition as there was no limit to ice.  If 100 people turned up and started to mine ice alongside you, you would still never run out of ice to mine, and that was bad!  Competition is a good thing!  It allows for healthy fluctuations in pricing, and allows some people to profit and others to lose out.  Competition is good for EVE and it's economy.
So with the new system competition has been added, and that's good, but what behaviour is that competition rewarding?  Due to the way the ice belts respawn, in the same system, exactly 4 hours after completion, the people that are most rewarded are the people that can be there when the belt is cleared, then alarm clock for 4 hours later (or bots, who can watch the system and instantly warp to the site when it appears).
Now is this really the type of miner that should be rewarded?  Surely the miners that should be rewarded are the ones willing to put the work in to mining, not just the time, but that are willing to make mining their EVE career.

The solution
And that's where the idea for a solution comes in.  And it's fairly simple.  Randomise the respawn locations.  Rather than making ice sites appear in set systems, allow them to respawn in any 0.5-0.7 system in the region of space the ice is linked to.  So you mine out a Caldari ice site and 4 hours later, the belt respawns in a random system in Caldari space.  This simple change would mean miners would be rewarded not for sitting in a single system munching through ice, but instead for hunting it down.  It's great to make a whole heap of isk from an opportunity handed to you on a silver platter, and I write this post while mining ice in a fresh site, but it really is way too easy to be seriously competitive.
Note that other changes could also be implemented alongside this.  With belts being random, the volume and quality of ice could be varied based on security status, with 0.7s receiving fewer asteroids while 0.5s receive a couple of rare ice asteroids.  This would not only produce more benefits for mining in the riskier space but it would naturally form variations in supply, where some days sites in may not appear in a 0.5 at all, while on other days they may only appear there.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

EVE Meta Evolution - The siege bomber

Since the fountain war, I've seen many people putting the siege bomber (a bombless bomber, designed to shoot structures) in a bad light.  To most, the use of a siege bomber is a sign of poverty and is bad for morale.  I don't believe that to be true.  I think the siege bomber is a remarkable meta evolution, and should be considered a staple of any structure grinding alliance.  Aside from their benefits below, they look pretty amazing when you see a full fleet in action.

But what about dreadnoughts?
It's true, that for sieging structures, the dreadnought s the ideal ship. A good dreadnought can put out around 14,000 dps, while a siege bomber puts out around 700 DPS.   This means a dreadnought is the equivalent of at least 20 bombers.  But dreadnoughts do have some drawbacks.

Firstly, to reach their DPS, a dreadnought must use a siege module.  This locks the dreadnought in place for 5 minutes, making it unable to move, warp or jump.  This puts the fleet at risk.  A group of sieged dreadnoughts is a pretty juicy target for groups like PL or BL who can drop capital fleets on them with ease.  A fleet of dreadnoughts alone would not survive that encounter so they would require a subpcap fleet and a capital fleet on standby in case they run into trouble.  It's likely you wouldn't get a chance to form up mid battle, so this means gathering a subcap fleet, sitting them on a titan, just in case.  You want to talk morale?  Try dumping a fleet itching for PvP on a titan, then packing it up if nobody attacks the dreadnought fleet after hours of sitting around while the dreadnoughts are grinding structures lightyears away.

There is of course the subject of cost which falls into the same category.  10 dreads is going to set you back at least 20b, while a fleet of 200 bombers is only 8b.  Combined with the fact that bombers can scatter at the first sign of trouble and cloak up, it makes a fleet of dreadnoughts a lot more appealing to aggressors than a fleet of siege bombers.

A dreadnought fleet also requires a good FC, who can take responsibility for leading capitals and react appropriately to incoming enemies and intel.  Throwing a new FC into leading a dreadnought fleet is a sure-fire way to get them dunked.
Conversely, nearly anyone can lead a bomber fleet, and it's a good way to train your FCs in a real scenario rather than a training ground.  All of the normal procedures need to be followed and the group is large, but since a siege fleet is not capable of combat, scattering and cloaking is all that is required should the fleet come under attack.

Finally, a siege bomber takes nearly no skills.  Anyone can train into a siege bomber in fairly short time, and all you need to do is lock the given target and cycle your launchers, then scatter if told to.

Are siege bombers all that good?
They can be, and I'm of the strong opinion that they should be used wherever possible.  The downside to them is that they are not always possible.  Towers must be declawed (have all guns and ECM taken out) prior to a siege fleet engaging, since a siege bomber is unable to tank the guns even for a short time.  They also can't be used if you are going to have opposition, as they are unable to fight and would need to flee when engaged.

They do also need their own support fleet, however it's considerably smaller.  You need a black ops battleship and a covert cyno pilot to bridge you to your destination (you can take gates if you want, but you MUST scout well, as a pipebomb will vaporise your siege bombers) as well as a couple of covert ops haulers: one to bring fuel for the battleship and another to bring torpedos (you will use a LOT of them).

Hopefully this post goes some way to explaining the rationale behind the siege bomber fleet and highlights the benefits of it over capital fleets.

If you want to try in out for yourself, you just need a bomber, with a cloak, torpedo launchers, ballistic control systems and damage rigs.  Yep, it's that simple.  Here's a basic fit you can tweak to your hearts content.

[Hound, Siege Bomber Blank]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
[empty med slot]
[empty med slot]

Torpedo Launcher II, Nova Rage Torpedo
Torpedo Launcher II, Nova Rage Torpedo
Torpedo Launcher II, Nova Rage Torpedo
Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
[empty high slot]

Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I
Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I

Enjoy the sieging!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Alternative Approach - The Yield Tank

It's been a while since my last post.  I really do need to start posting a bit more often.
Today's post is based around the recent miner ganking going on in high sec.  Following directly on from the goons ice interdiction, Gevlon Goblin has started up a ganking corp based around solo (or dualbox) ganking.  The stated idea of this (which I'm not entirely convinced is the case, but that's another discussion) is to educate miners.  The idea is teach miners to fly tanked ships, more specifically to fly procurers and skiffs, since anything else can easily be ganked.  Even with maximum tank, the most amount of T2 catalysts it takes to drop a barge or exhumer is ~4.  That is to kill a max tanked Mackinaw in a 1.0 security system.

I have an alternate solution to ganking for the efficient miner however.  The ship I put forward as the tanked mining barge is in fact, the Covetor.  The weakest defended mining barge.

Am I insane?
Very possibly, but hear me out.  First consider a efficient miners objectives.  An efficient miner needs to pull in the most amount of yield over time.  Consider the stats of the mining barges.  With max skills, and a T2 Orca boost the following are the yields and isk/hour.  Red is ore (based on scordite) and Blue is Ice (based on amarr ice).
As you can see, based on these yields, the Covetor yields 3.6m more per hour than a Procurer.  Now the basis behind Yield Tanking is simple.  If you can make more isk in any given period while losing a Covetor, than you can mining in a Procurer, it's better to go with a yield fit Covetor.  With the stats above, in 10.8 hours, the Covetor makes the same as the procure PLUS it's own cost.  This means if you get ganked every 10.8 hours of mining, you are as efficient mining in a Covetor.

If you get ganked less than every 10.8 hours, you are even more efficient.  For example, after 20 hours of mining, a Procurer would have made 920m, while a Covetor would have made 1.1b, which is 180m more.  So if you get ganked once every 20 hours, using a Procurer would actually be costing you 140m in yield, that you could have had by simply losing a Covetor.

But still, don't get ganked
This is all well and good, but you do still need to ensure you don't get ganked too often.  If you get ganked more than every 10.8 hours you are losing out.  If you have no Orca boosts, or are lower skilled, it will also be longer than 10.8 hours, though if you are an efficiency driven miner, you should be aiming to max out your yield and get Orca support.
You can work out your own time between ganks by working out your isk/hour in a Procurer and a Covetor, then doing this: CostOfCovetor / (CovetorYield - ProcurerYield)

To avoid ganks, take the simple precautions.  If someone is getting too close to you, move away, don't provide them a warp in.  Don't mine from belt entry points, and add known gankers to your contact with a -10 standing, then swap to a procurer short term or move systems if they enter local.  Your aim should always be to avoid getting ganked where possible, while maintaining an efficient yield.  Getting ganked still cuts into you profit, just not as much as constantly using a Procurer.  It also encourages a ganker to return.  You can also keep a tanked cruiser in your Orca, and if you are about to get ganked, swap into that.  and TANK YOUR ORCA.  That cannot be stressed enough. A DC2 is a huge boost to the EHP of an Orca, no matter how much that extra space from an expanded cargohold appeals to you.

The headache of implant ownership
Since you are not planning on surviving if you do get caught offguard, don't sit around with billions of isk of implants in your head.  If they destroy your ship, they will try to pod you too.  If they succeed your implants are gone.  So if you are not 100% sure you can warp your pod out, don't have expensive implants.  With my miners, the only time they need implants is while they are levelling up.  For this reason during their training I keep them nice and safe in a tanked procurer, then swap them out to the yield fit Covetor upon completion of their training.  My miners have other characters on the accounts which will be training anyway once the miners are max yield, so there's no need to keep implants in.  The only one that's mildly useful is the mining yield boosts, but honestly, if you are going to stick an expensive implant in, you should be in a Procurer, in which case it's pointless to have because you've just cut your yield back down.

Simple enough?
The reason this all sounds dead simple is because it is.  Avoiding gankers is not a difficult task, as there really aren't that many of them.  Sure, the occasional one gets you (though to this date, my miners have not been the victims of a gank), but as long as it is occasional, you can be safe in the knowledge that you are better off with your cheap as chips, yield fit Covetor.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Goon Rental and the Null Sec Problem

By now you should have heard that the CFC will be starting up a sov null rental program, and if not, now you have. To a lot of people this has come as a surprise, as the CFC has been against renters for as long as can be remembered. In fact earlier this year, the idea of Goonswarm stating up a rental program was so ludicrous that it was presented as a April Fools day joke on TheMittani.com.

So why the sudden change?
Empty Null
The most populated system here has 12 pilots
The short answer here is that moon income is no longer viable to keep the CFC afloat if they wish to continue with extra curricular activities such as Burn Jita. The slightly longer answer is that sov null is a broken mechanic and needs work. As it currently stands, the primary money maker in null is moon goo. Moon goo is used for T2 production and its the source of T2 materials. This means it's always going to be something that is needed as long as T2 items remain in use. Guaranteed stable(ish) income. The problem with moon goo comes from the sheer number of moons you need to use to make it viable and the spread those moons have across the universe. Large null sec alliances need to hold onto vast amounts of space, with thousands of moons just to securely extract from the few hundred moons they need for isk generation. This is where the biggest parts of the null sov problem lies.

Renting as a Solution
Primarily the problem with null sec is that it is empty. It's vast amount of space used for moon goo extraction and nothing more. Renting out the space is an easy way for a null sec alliance to make money from their empty space which is otherwise unused. Smaller entities (generally corps) are able to pay for the space, which they would not be able to defend alone. By renting from an entity like the CFC, they put themselves under a shield of the CFC's income. The CFC is encouraged to protect the smaller entity to protect it's own income, while the smaller entity can make that income and more from the use of the space. It's a win-win situation for all involved and a pretty effective solution to the problem of null sec emptiness. The problem is it's pretty much the only effective solution available, which makes it feel forced. This is a bad thing for a sandbox MMO.

Alternative Solutions
The primary aim of a null sov fix should be to encourage a greater number of players to use it. This means that the current null blocks would need to lose space to allow areas for new groups to thrive. I feel that in order for this to work, two things would need to happen
1. Sov space would need to be harder to hold the more you have. A kind of diminishing returns on holding space. Increasing the cost of sov the more sov you hold would be one way of achieving this.
2. Owned space would need to have more uses. There should be more ways of using the space than ratting, mining and moon goo extraction.
When thinking about this, I realised that there is something I do solo that would be more beneficial to do in null sec but is currently logistically impossible. Industry.

Null sec Industry
Industry is a great thing. Stations have very limited slots for research and manufacture (primarily research) and so once you move into higher levels of production the need to run a POS is encountered. This can be done in null sec, but has it's own problems. In order to manufacture in a POS you need the rights to use the manufacture queues in all POSes owned by the corporation. This means you need to be careful as to who you allow to use these. Given access to the industry queues a misbehaving member can cancel jobs and potentially steal items and blueprints. Conversely, as an older player, I have a lot of BPOs. Putting these into a corp runs the risk that the corp drops me and keeps the BPOs.

Having been on the receiving end of a rogue corporation director, and losing billions in BPOs and items, I understandably am not too eager to go taking my personal assets out of my own hands and putting them at risk with a corporation. So to combat this, I run a high sec production corporation which does all of my industry for me. All I need to do is ship the material from hub to POS, keep my BPOs in a corporation hangar in a nearby station and run jobs to my hearts content. But this got me thinking. What if this was possible in null on an individual level. If individual members of a corp could be given their own POS, and run jobs from their own hangar rather than a corporate hangar, there would be another use for all that space. Alone, I would fuel and run at least 2 moons on full steam if the risk of BPO loss to the corp was removed.

All of this could be easily possible if the POS rights were updated. Rather than having to give over generic POS rights to a members, giving all rights on a single POS to a member, making that POS effectively theirs would make this possible. At the moment this is only possible through making a sub-corp within the alliance. This combined with a diminish return on sov holding would pack more people into a smaller area in null, and make the space much more useful.

Other Solutions
The solution presented here is just one of many possible solutions to the null sec population problem. It meant to be more of a "food for thought" solution that an actual workable solution to give an idea of one of the many ways that sov space could be made more desirable to more players, and more importantly to a variety of players with differing play-styles. I welcome your comments on what you think would make null sec more desirable.

Null sec players: you have a working knowledge of null as it currently is. What would you do, or what would you like to encourage more use of the space held by your alliances?

Other players: What would null sec need to offer to make it more desirable to you? What hurdles do you think it currently has that makes it less appealing than the space you are currently in?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Goon Doomsday - Complete failure, or a successful scam?

Yesterday was the day of more than one war for the Goons.  One was the final battle in the fountain war, for the shield timer of 6VDT-H.  The other was announced as a full high sec invasion of the home system of the Goonswarm Federation, VFK-IV where the Mittanigrad station lies.  This post is about the latter.

A 3 month old player, Harry Forever, who has appointed himself "King HighSec" took to the forum on 18th June to officially declare war on the goons.  He then followed that up on 3rd July by arranging the Goon Doomsday event on 28th July  The plan was simple.  Gather up every high sec player they could muster and throw everything they had at VFK-IV.  The aim of this was to cause chaos in the heart of the Goonswarm Federation causing them to failure cascade and collapse.  It was and interesting proposal, and it gathered quite a bit of activity on the EVE-O forums.  The idea evolved and prizes for best goon kill and most goon kills and the like were considered.  Donations ensued and the prize bank looked pretty appetising for any high sec newbie.  Considering all that was required was to fly a 10m Catalyst down to Deklein and try to gun down some goons in groups for the chance to win a Tengu or a Navy Issue Drake, it all seemed pretty good.  People were posting suggestions and ideas, and even the goons themselves were posting ideas to help the newbies be more effective.

The Problems
There were many problems throughout this event.  First and foremost what the organiser. Harry knows very little about the game, and is completely unwilling to learn.  Any attempts to provide him with help or educate him results in him immediately insulting the other party, then adding them to the blocklist.
There then is the problem of planning.  No plan was put in place to help the high sec players get down there.  Individual high sec players were expected to set VFK as their destination and get themselves down there.  This caused a bit f a problem as the main target audience for this event was high sec newbies and they are unlikely to attempt the journey though bubbled gates to null sec.
Next was the preparation.  Rather than hold off until the last day, Harry spent a lot of time down there beforehand.  This not only dulled the effect of the event when it finally came to pass, but meant that the time that could have been spent recruiting and preparing for the event was lost.  Ideally, ships should have been set up in a nearby NPC null station, reducing down time for the high seccers.
And finally there was execution.  The execution was destined to fail due to the cascading failures from planning and preparation.  Numbers were light, attacks were sporadic, and downtime was long.

The Scam
From near the start of the event, Harry was collecting donations to be given out to participants for various different achievements throughout the event.  All of the donations had to be contracted to Harry, and Harry would be making all decisions about who received what prize and for what reason.  The better prizes in the end god handed to the guys Harry hang around with the most for reasons not originally mentioned in the original event post.  The strangest of these was when Harry gave himself the most expensive prize, a Tengu, to himself for "smacktalking".  Most event leaders would exclude themselves from any prize draw to prevent bias.  Not in this case.  That said, while I'd love to believe this was all an elaborate scam from the beginning as that would be the EVE way, in this case I think this was just Harry taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to him at the end.

Overall, the event claimed the lives of a few cyno ships (which would have self destructed anyway) and a couple of guys that chose to engage.  The biggest brawl involved a CFC Cynabal, Hurricane and Rattlesnake vs a Raven, a Tornado and a Thorax all belonging to Caldari Strike Force.  The CFC lost the hurricane while the CSF fleet was completely destroyed.  Not a bad trade-off from the CFC perspective.

So the whole event was a bit of a disappointment.  I'm CFC, sure, but it still would have been fun to have a big fleet to deal with.  Since the idea they were initially talking about was in essence the same techniques originally used by the Goons, fighting by quantity rather than quality.  A strange technique to say the least, but very entertaining.  But when you lack both quality and quantity, it's not very exciting to say the least.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Fountain - The war rages on

DISCLAIMER: While I am a part of the CFC, I am making these comments alone and giving no inside information.  I do not speak officially on behalf of the CFC, all comments are my own.  I aim for this information to be as impartial as possible but this may not be the case given my exposure to the CFC side of the war.

If you play EVE and you've been even remotely awake lately, you will have heard that there is a war going on in fountain.
Just about everybody has a bit to say about it, so why not me eh?  Being involved in this war is pretty exciting.  This is the first time I've been involved in the combat side of a major war, and it's interesting to say the least.

Who is involved in this war?
Nearly everyone.  Officially it's the ClusterFuck Coalition (Goons & Friends) vs Test Alliance Please Ignore. Test have secured PL and the N3 coalition as allies for the war.  There are a lot of other alliances involved, and nearly all of them are helping TEST (because everyone hates goons as we all know).

Why is this war happening?
This war is the result of the moon changes that came in from the Odyssey expansion.  Moons provide materials which can be harvested by a POS, which come in categories.  These are R4, R8, R16, R32 and R64.  Prior to Odyssey, one R32 material was the king of all moon materials.  Everyone wanted it.  That is Technetium.  The Odyssey Expansion added more R64 moons across the universe, and added more reactions for R64 materials making them more useful for production and reducing the use of Technetium.  As you can imagine, this paradigm shift resulted in the price of technetium crashing, and the price of the R64s (Dysprosium, Neodymium, Promethium, Thulium) increasing.
Here's a graph to show you the Jita average prices from the end of march until now. Technetium is red.

As you can see that's a pretty big price drop.

Before the changes, the CFC were sitting on the majority of technetium moons.  This allowed them to build up quite a large amount of ISK which they could use to do the things they enjoyed, like Hulkageddon and Burn Jita.  These are pretty costly ventures and were always subsidised by the mass of Technetium.  With the prices sinking an alternate form of income was required, and naturally this was R64 minerals.  Fountain contains a lot of R64 minerals, and so the CFC declared war.

What has happened so far?
Initially the CFC managed to get a good footing in Fountain.  Part of this was due to Sort Dragon handing 5 systems across to the CFC, and part of it was due to TEST already being engaged in a lot of PVP being unprepared for an assault on Fountain.  While in the official announcement Mittani stated it would be a long war, and not a walk in the park, a lot of CFC members thought TEST would pose little threat and would be crushed in weeks.  While this may have been true if it were just TEST this was not the case, as TEST managed to secure new allies, even from enemies they were fighting with only days before.

This is where the war got interesting.  Suddenly about a week and half into the war, the fights became real, with both sides pushing to bring pilots into the field.  This turned the invasion into a proper war, and it will be months before we will see meaningful progress on either side.  Who will win?  Nobody knows, and anyone that claims to is either crazy or not very bright.  Both sides really want to win, and for the most part that dedication to fight is all that is needed to fuel the war machine.

In addition to everything else going on, on July 1st, an old director from S2N Citizens (Renter alliance for Nulli Secunda, a part of N3) logged on as an active director, stole ~400B is ISK, and disbanded the alliance.  Now 400B is a drop in the ocean to a coalition the size of N3, but by disbanding the alliance, all of their renter sovereignty was lost, which lost then 219 systems and around 40 stations.  This would normally be an absolutely crippling blow and caused N3 to have to temporarily pull from the war.  Amazingly, they took it all in their stride and with help from TEST and PL, managed to recover all critical systems in under 24 hours.  This allowed them to redeploy to fountain, to continue fighting the war, with a small group still working to stabilise the lost systems.  This will have an effect on their income for a while as it has no doubt damaged renter confidence, and all the systems will now be level 0, but with the sovereignty restored, it should be a minor inconvenience.

Being in the war can be pretty fun.  There are a lot of opportunities to get out and get into fights, and for the most part, both sides are delivering pretty good fights.  One thing this has shown me however is that Time Dilation is painful.  For those that don't know, Time Dilation is where the servers slow down everything when there are too many people playing on a single node for the servers to handle.  The slowdown gives the server time to process everything that's happening.
Most of the bigger flights are pushing the time dilation factor down to 10%, which basically means something that used to take 10 seconds now takes 100 seconds.  When you scale this up to the fight, a fight that would be 30 minutes long is now 5 hours.  It rarely works out to be that extreme for the whole fight, but they can feel like they are dragging at times (mainly when trying to warp out, feels like forever).

That's all super exciting, but I want to see it!
If you want to see the war for yourself, Mad Ani is trying to bring the war to the masses by streaming it on twitch in HD 1080, and it's really worth watching. Bigger battles he records for viewing later too.  When I'm not fighting in the war, I'm usually watching the stream (including now).  You can see it here: http://www.twitch.tv/mad_ani