Sunday, June 30, 2013

Odyssey Exploration for Newbies

Jester has a post up ruminating upon the idea that maybe exploration is a feature that breaks "Malcanis' Law", which states that "Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of 'new players', that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players."  I think exploration is great for newbies to make money with.  So, let's discuss it.

"Exploration" is what I am calling the profession of moving around in a light ship, scanning for data and relic sites to hack.  

Note that before Odyssey, exploration used to be a somewhat different mini profession, where you moved around looking for (mainly) combat sites, with (maybe) radar (data) or mag (relic) sites as modest add-ons.  True newbs might concentrate only on the radar and mag sites, but these did not pay very well, at least in highsec, and outside of highsec, there were rat guards that made running such sites impossible without substantial DPS -- and if you had guns, the combat sites paid better.  (These days, there must be players out looking for combat sites and their rewards, but I am not sure what to call them.)

So: exploration.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ganking and Grilling

After a bunch of routine housekeeping, I noticed aliens in my wspace system killing sleepers.  It was just me logged on from my corp, whereas they had five Tengus and two Drakes.  I am in my exploring Buzzard.  So, the immediate question is: what do I do?  To complicate matters, it is about 5:00PM.  I am grilling outside tonight, so I need to start cooking pretty soon.

I try to bookmark all four of the combat anomalies, which since I have been sitting there, are all still on my scanner list.  However, I can't bookmark two of them.  Hmm, evidently those are the ones they've already hit.  OK, I'll just warp there... nope.  Curse you CCP!  Why did you change this?  But I get two of them bookmarked.

After some thought, I decide to get in Artemis, my cloaky Tengu.  I change ships and immediately warp out to a safe spot.  Well, they should have seen that on dscan or via a cloaked scout watching me and the tower... but did they?  I cannot know.  Let's see if they slip up.  There is no reason why a gang of 7 characters ever needs to be vulnerable to one Tengu.  On the other hand, they may be sloppy about salvaging.  Already there are enough wrecks that I expect them to salvage using a Noctis.  The question is, do they escort it?

About this time all the ships disappear except one Tengu.  Probably an offgrid booster.  I am tempted to look for it using combat probes, but there really is not time for a hunt, and I am not sure I can actually get a 100% on a proper booster in any case.  I expect they have moved on to the anomaly which is in the outer planet of my system, out of dscan range.  I warp to it at 100, and sure enough.  Here they are killing sleepers.  I drive the opposite direction until I am at about 150 km from them.  I make a perch.  Then I watch them chew sleepers for a bit.

They finish the site.  Will they salvage now?  No, looks like not.  They warp and disappear from dscan.  After I wait a little while, hoping for a Noctis, I decided it isn't coming; this is consistent with the fact that the wrecks in the inner system were not salvaged when last I saw.  Should I loot some wrecks myself?  I could, I suppose, but that might tip them off and would be pretty involved for someone who's supposed to be prepping corn for the grill.  I do take the opportunity to uncloak and load Scourge Rage heavy assault missiles instead of what I had loaded.

Then I fly to the last anom at 100, and there they are.  I really do have to AFK for a while now, so I make a kind of bad perch, then warp back to my first, better perch.  Then I sigh and leave the computer.  Real Life strikes just when you don't need it.

I fire up the grill, get the meat ready, chop up broccoli for steaming, and get corn ready to grill.  I stick food on the grill and I have a minute or two... so I wander back up to my office to see what is shaking.  The enemy has had 20 minutes free of my attention.

I am lucky today.  My timing is perfect.  There is a lone Noctis on grid with me, 160km off, about half-done salvaging the wrecks.  D-scan says: nobody around but us.  OK, go time.  Hands shaking.  I warp to 10 from a wreck that he is driving towards.  I end up about 15 km from him; I turn and approach.  At about 10 I uncloak.  Hands really, really shaking.  This is ridiculous -- I can barely click a mouse on a button.  OK, I get the lock started and start trying to click my warp disruptor and painter and launchers.  My assault missiles start hitting him.  I am almost on top of him.

I start clicking d-scan.  First time, still clear.  But now I see a Tengu.  He's into armor.  Go!  I see four Tengus, uh oh.  Will they make it in time?  I clear the structure, Noctis goes boom.  I never even saw the pod; I am too busy clicking the wreck and looting it.  I get the loot.  I try to get free.  The four Tengus land on grid, right on top of me and the wreck.  I need something to warp to fast; I hit the sun and warp-to.  I try to cloak.  I don't know if they started to lock or not; it was too fast.  I am out, and cloaked.

Did I mention I am lucky today?  Really lucky?  I look at the loot I scooped... wow.  200m+.  (It turns out all the melted nanoribbons dropped, as well as most of the blue loot.)

Now I am landing on the sun, and what is here?  A pod.  The Noctis pilot.  Probably cannot catch him.  I land, and am uncloaked.  I fear the Tengus and immediately warp to my tower.  I try to lock the pod anyway, just on the off-chance it works, and I do manage to lock him.  Click on missiles?  I warp.  Oh well, I am too spazzed out to seriously contemplate taking the chance.  Keep your pod, Mr. Too Slow.  I warp and cloak.

Landing on my tower, I am uncloaked.  As fast as I can, I dump the loot in the loot can, and then warp out, cloaked, to the second perch.  We'll see if lightning strikes twice.

I have to cook again.  First, though, I really need a beer.

After dinner 45 minutes later, I get a spare moment.  Curious, I head to my computer to see what is up.  My grid has been salvaged.  Too bad.  No ships or wrecks on dscan.  I scan down their wormhole, and fly to it.  Interesting, it's currently highly disrupted.  Oh well, so much for that.

A bit later I notice that the number of sigs has dropped from 4 to 3.  Did they close it?  I warp over: yes, it is gone.

Lessons learned: first, I am a terrible PVPer because I react too strongly to it.  I suppose this goes away with exposure, but wow.  I have not gotten adrenaline so much as that before in PVP.  My hands were literally shaking 3 inches back and forth, uncontrollably.

Second, escort your Noctis.  (My corp does.)  Those Tengus came pretty fast; I would guess they were sitting on my system's side of their wormhole.  But that is not fast enough.  Or at least, not fast enough given the Noctis fitting... if you are going to hang out a Noctis out on its own, it needs maximum tank.  Do not rely on being able to warp out in time: you will be busy clicking on wrecks and looting wrecks and running salvagers and tractor beams.  You will not be paying close attention to dscan and even overview.

If you are going to salvage in one sweep after running sites, I don't see much use for a cloak on your Noctis. So the fit could be improved quite a bit there.

Third, if you are going to stick a Noctis out there unescorted, get your ECM drones out so that at least you have a chance of getting a jam.  One jam might have saved this guy, if the Tengus were spidering (I could not tell).  It would have at least meant that I would have lost my Tengu, assuming they had a point.

Finally, don't rush.  The total loot that the Noctis had on board was around 350m.  That's much more than one one C4 anom's worth: I would guess it was three anoms, probably salvaged in the order they were run.  With just one extra warp per anom, most of that loot could have been safely jetcanned next to the wormhole for a Tengu to grab and safeguard.  More generally, even if you are salvaging truly by yourself, make a safespot somewhere in the system, and anchor a small can there to put loot in.  Then if you get killed, you only lose the loot from the site you were doing, not all the sites.

Housekeeping in Off Hours

Had a full day of EVE yesterday.  Got on a lot earlier than normal because the Boy was busy playing outside with the neighbor kids.  So I was on by myself, typical.

Lots to do: scanned down my C4 (4 anoms, 1 ore anom (bleck), four sigs (all old and previously bookmarked in corp)).  And then the neighboring C3.  The C3 has a lowsec static.  One tower with nobody home.  A lot of anoms, 20 or so, and nine sigs, mostly gas.  Last two sigs I look at are the static and also a second wormhole connecting up from another lowsec system.  In my experience, kspace people almost never come into wspace from lowsec or null: if they are there to begin with, they are not hunting wormholes.  So it looked good for later exploitation once my corpies got online.  But that was going to be a few hours.

I trigger all the gas sigs to get their sleepers coming.  Then I do real life for a while.  Coming back a bit later, I take a PVE Tengu into C3 and kill all the little sleepers in the basic gas sites.  Then I come back and salvage in a salvage Venture.  My thinking here is to set up gassing, later, if no corpmates show up tonight.  And also make a little money.  As it happened, not a single nanoribbon in salvage, so basically not worth it.

Dotlan map showing jumps in 24 hours.  Gankers like traffic.
With nothing much to do but time to play, I did some housekeeping chores.  Since I wanted some stuff from the world, and one of the lowsec exits was relatively close to Jita (12 jumps, or 9 on a more direct route through lowsec), I grabbed all the small valuable stuff we had in our loot container in my Buzzard and went for it.  1.2 billion on a tissue paper ship: exciting.  There was a huge camp at Tara, but I was going the other way so nyah.  (Went back the longer way.)  There was one thrilling moment when I drive up to the Jita gate in Niyabainen and got rejected.  Big traffic jam there.  Instead of sitting there trying to get in, with who knows what oggers cargo scanning me, I detoured to New Caldari to try again.  Still rejected, and another big jam; I flew off to Aokannitoh to one of the stations that buys blue loot, and sold it.  This lightened my load by some 600m ISK, and also allowed me to route around to Ichuki, one of the less-used Jita entrances.  I got rejected there too, a few times, but made it in pretty fast.  Whew.  

Once in Jita I traded all my stuff to my trade alt, getting back various stuff in return to go back to wspace.  In particular, wanted a pair of +3 implants for my PI alt because I have been waiting to get dual training going.  (Was on a trip recently and was not sure I would be able to play at all, so I had delayed turning on dual training for both my accounts.)  Also wanted a set of implants for myself: a cheap optimization for heavy missile damage as is appropriate for someone who expends most of his firepower in a PVE Tengu.  Grabbed this stuff and headed back.  This went without incident, so I logged off to log my PI alt.  Fussed with EVEMon to get a skill plan ready.  Got the new implants in and dual training started.

Then relogged my main and sat around at my POS, while I started selling things and buying things with my trade alt in Jita.  Gotta decide for each type of object whether to sell to a buy order or do a sell order.  Then there was a whole list of new stuff to buy for the wspace POS: new ships (the new Navy Scorpions with the newly buffed cruise missiles are great value for the money); the fitting for the scorps; more heavy missiles; some new Iteron Vs.  All in all a billion in new hulls and a half billion in new fittings and missiles.

About this time it is getting close to time for me to fire up the grill out in real life, and start cooking dinner.  Just as I am getting ready to leave the computer, I notice something odd: there's a new sig in my system.  I hit the dscan and, uh oh.  Sleeper wrecks.  Wait, am I in my own system?  Yeah... scroll down... Tengus.  Lots of 'em.  And two Drakes, too.  Well.  Seems we have visitors...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hacking in Odyssey

The day Odyssey came out, my wspace system got a highsec static via its static C3.  I went down looking for a radar site (now a "data" site), or a mag (now "relic").  And on the first try, I found one!  I had a little more scanning and bookmarking to do.  Came back and.... nothing there but some asteroids.  Someone had run it in few minutes it took me to get back in a Heron.

I'm going in!
Last night our kspace static plopped down in lowsec, in Black Rise.  So again I scanned from my Tengu and found a data site.  This time, I came back in a Buzzard (wanted the cloak), and I got to it first.  Indeed it appears factional warfare space is a great place for a Odyssey hacker.  Lots of people moving around but none of them were interested in me.  I never saw any probes but my own in ~2 hours of scanning and hacking.  I suppose they were all too busy looking for buttons to spin or PVP in small ships.

Anyway, after the first site I jumped one hop and found a system with 4 data sites and 1 relic site.  Since each site had 5 cans or so (8 IIRC in the relic), I got a substantial number of hacking minigame attempts in.  Ali Aras wrote up a very good overview on how the new game works at TheMittani.  Go read that if you are interested in learning.

I rather enjoyed the minigame.  It is a normal EVE window and does not take over your screen -- you can still dscan fine, although you need to remember to do that.  The game itself is not that hard and the strategy seems pretty basic.  Try to expand your network of explored nodes.  Grab utilities ASAP.  Hold off on exploring Data Caches until you've explored around them (in case they turn out to be firewall nodes, although I found a lot more of them were utilities than nasties.)  Don't attack any nasty nodes (firewalls, antivirus) until you have to.  (The one exception is Restoration Nodes, which you should almost always attack immediately.)  My success rate was pretty high; I'd guess I succeeded on about 80% of the cans.  This was with mediocre skills on my part -- Hacking III, but in a Buzzard w/ Covert Ops IV, and the Buzzard had two rigs Small Memetic Algorithm rigs.

I disliked the loot spew pretty strongly.  Just like 98% of all other players.  It is very "unrealistic" -- I complained about that to CCP on the forums last week (based on info from sisi).  As released, it is still clicky and fussy.  You have to be zoomed in near enough to differentiate items from each other (since you are looking for only some of the can types).  But zoom in too much and they move so fast they are hard to click on.  Also it appears to be the case that being close to the cans matters, since the "tractor" effect (which is not a tractor beam!  Just a tractor beam!) takes longer for distant cans and time is short.  So this means you also have to fly your ship to stay near cans.  This also was fussy and annoying.

The sense of losing my loot was pretty strong.  I was getting maybe half of it.  About halfway through the night I was joined by an alliance mate.  He just scooped loot, and this helped.  With two of us we got probably 90% of the loot.  Partly this is because I think he was better than me at piloting, flying around towards the loot.  Incidentally, my friend also had a codebreaker and he did one can.  I found this out by trying the same can, and it turns out that only one analyzer at a time can be activated on a can.  That's right -- if someone beats you to a can, you can't hack until he gives up.

I think that I could improve my play a lot on loot-spew gathering.  In particular I noted that when you mouse over some cans, you sometimes get a little preview of what is in it shown near your HUD.  (Maybe the ones I did not get this for were empty?  Or I just did not hover long enough on a moving object?  (Arghh!!)  Dunno.)  So it may be possible to mouse over and ignore a good part of the spew.  OTOH it may just be that I was not doing it right somehow.  The time was very short and I was frantically busy trying to control the UI.

I was disappointed when I got to the last site, which was the one relic site.  I had an analyzer (oops -- "relic analyzer"), and was eager to open the minigame and see something different.  But it was not different, practically at all.  Other than having less coherency (due to the fact that I had rigged by Buzzard with the rigs that are for data hacking), the game was identical.  There were "firewalls", etc., in my relic.  The loot was different (and at least for me, crap -- this is after all Gurista space and Guristas have crap salvage).  That was about the extent of the difference.  I expect CCP will iterate on this.  At least make some different themed art and give the firewalls different names.

I am going to try to explore some with a cargo scanner to attempt to make the spew more tractable.