Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Fly Looks Funny

Alone again.  The corpies have gone, so it is just me today in wspace.  I'm going exploring, so I get in my exploration Buzzard.  I named it Spyglass.  I scan down our wormhole, and fly to it.  What's up, static?

Staticmapper says C3a has a lowsec static.  OK, I can work with that.  But first, I check the local system for anything interesting.  Usually there is nothing, but you never find anything if you don't look.

There's a dead tower on d-scan.  Nothing else.  Unoccupied?  I can't sell it -- my babysitter is busy.  But there are several planets out of range.  Flying out there finds a live tower.  Nobody is home.

I launch probes.  Scanning finds a second wormhole from C4, but I don't investigate.  I find a lot of gas which I ignore.  Eventually I find the lowsec static, and I hop out, into Amarr/Minmatar factional warfare.  This is unfortunate, because there are a fair number of pilots present.  I fly around the local area, gate to gate to gate.  Lowsec is perfectly safe with a stealth cloak, at least if you stay cloaked.  But you cannot stay cloaked while doing exploration.  Some pilots use dscan and their wits to avoid being blown up, but I don't.  I just make a policy to never be uncloaked for more than 10 seconds outside of highsec, unless there is nobody in the system with me.  This certainly cuts down on my being ganked, and I think in the long run is superior for me given that getting killed when you are based in wspace is a bigger deal than getting killed when based in kspace.  But it does reduce the opportunity for profit.

All my hops are futile.  This area is strangely bereft of sites, and too populated.  The few empty systems have no sites.  The few systems with multiple sites also have multiple people, who don't seem to be moving much.

OK, forget it.  I'm calling it an early night.  I head back to my wormhole: jump, warp, jump, warp.  And back into C3a.

I dscan as a matter of routine, expecting nothing.  But there's a Myrmidon on dscan.  And four Garde Is.  What's this?  No sleeper wrecks.  Is he just starting a combat site?

I spin around the dscan.  First I look at all of the anoms, but he is not there.  And I try a mining site too, just in case.  Not there.  What is he doing?  Sitting at a wormhole?   No, not at either wormhole.  OK, let's look at planets... not there, not there, not there.  Finally I look at the last planet in range, he is there.  Why?  Ah.  The dead tower.

It makes some sense.  He is bashing the dead tower, or more likely, some anchored part there that may contain something of value.  I did not fly to it earlier.  Maybe it has POS parts that are worth something.  I fly to the first moon at 100, preparing to zoom in and dscan all the moons to locate the tower.  But as luck has it, this is the moon with the stick.  I am sitting 180 from the Myrm and the tower, and his Gardes.  

I warp to the tower at 30 to get a better look.  And I see what I thought I saw at 180: this tower has plenty of guns and ECMs anchored, but it has no container-parts.  No parts that might possibly drop anything of value.  And indeed: the Gardes are shooting the tower itself.  And not only that: the Myrmidon is not shooting.  He is not using lasers.  Just his Gardes.

My first thought is that I have a cloaky T3 just a hop away.  Or a Manticore.  Or maybe even not a cloaky... could I get him with a Drake?  But waaaaait just a second here.

I have shot structures in wormholes.  In my first wormhole there were two COs that I took out; I did it in a Vexor with lasers and drones.  I did it overnight, AFK, in a bare jump-clone.  I left myself logged in, firing, all night; the kills happened before downtime.  But sticks have massive hitpoints, many more than COs do.  So, there is no realistic way this guy in the Myrm is doing anything here.  Or else, he's an idiot.

I sit for a while, watching him.  I figure: if he is really trying what he looks like, then he's not going anywhere for the next, oh, 3 or 4 days.  So there is plenty of time, unless someone else wanders in to gank him.

Is he an idiot?  Maybe he is just really naive.  I look at the pilot's history: he dates from 2010.  So, the chance that he is naive is pretty near zero.  And I recall my own wormhole, still sitting there after an hour, as well as the other one from some other C4.  These make it even less likely that even the most naive player would be out bashing structure.

I sit for a while more, still watching.

It's got to be bait.  But there's one more thing to check on: is he local or not?  So, I note his corp, and I am about to warp out to the outer system where the live POS is, to see who owns it.  Right then, he pulls drones, then turns and warps.  Where to?  I go to the outer planet as planned, and sure enough, he's there at the POS.

OK, now I know it was a fishing expedition.  I wonder what would have happened had I brought a ship.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Wspace for Sale

It's a short night for me.  I've been out in the real world climbing at my gym.  Let's see what wspace holds tonight.

I log in and our system is nicely trimmed.  Two days ago we smashed all the anoms and sigs, netting 900m in blue loot and salvage.  Now our system is nice and quiet, with just two sigs and four anoms.  The two sigs are a gas site already scanned down yesterday, and our static.  Two of the anoms are ore sites: bleck.  Two combat anoms have returned.  Since the wormhole is almost certainly closed, it's a good time for PI, which I have a small amount of to do.  I do that.  Now, time to roam.

I warp to the static, bookmark the wormhole, and pop into C3a.  Eight sigs, and about 20 anoms.  Hmm.  Initial dscan shows one tower without force field.  There is one planet out of range; I'll look at it in a moment.  But first I look up the system on static mapper: J235330.  OK, it has a nullsec static.  And nothing has happened here for two days.

Now I warp to the outer planet to find the expected occupants.  Will anyone be active?  Maybe I can get a kill.  But no -- no sticks here at all.  The one stick I saw initially is all there is, and it is offline.

I had better check out that one stick.  If it is fully loaded with modules, then its owners might have just let it run out of fuel, and may be back.  If it's just a stick, not.  So, I spin the dscan around and locate it near a planet with two moons.  I fly to #1, no luck.  So #2 is it.  There's the tower.  This one has a few guns still anchored near it, but nowhere near enough to make me think the owner is coming back.

Hmm.  I think this system is good enough to sell.  I have a low skill alt just for this sort of thing.  So I log him, move him in, make a safespot where he can see the whole system on dscan (handy that), and log off.  Then I go to and create an entry.  What shall I charge?

Well, that's hard.  On the minus side is the nullsec static -- that makes it difficult to get stuff in and out.  So historically wspace systems like this are in relatively low demand.  But this is now, post Odyssey.  I think nullsec statics are considerably more valuable now than they used to be, because I go out and explore in nullsec all the time.  It's a great solo moneymaker.  So I feel this system would be a good home for a small corp if they liked to explore.

I check the PI: is it any good?  Yes, it is.  You can make POS fuel and some P4s.  So, that's another thing on the positive side of the ledger.

Now I look at wormhole sales for the prices of any other similar systems.  There is just one other C3/nullsec for sale right now, for 300m.  And mine is better than his, so, 350m it is.  It's very easy to put wormholes up for sale on wormholesales, and I do it.  Here's the ad.

Anyone want to get into wspace?  Contact me.

UPDATE: the system is no longer for sale.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

No Concord in Deadspace

It is my opinion that there is too much ISK in highsec relative to its risk.  So, among my other preoccupations in EVE is thinking about ways to nerf highsec.  However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this.  

Fundamentally the problem is that ISK:risk is too high in highsec.  The ratio can be decreased in two ways: lowering ISK, or increasing risk.  One of these is right for EVE: increasing risk.  And there is only one right way to increase risk: increasing the possibility and practicability of PVP.  Why is PVP necessary?  Because it any canned pattern will be learned and optimized against.  For example, making "harder" rats does nothing for risk; it just raises the bar of entry.  This is why I criticized James 315, who notoriously proposed to "nerf highsec PVE into oblivion".  His proposal was basically to reduce ISK while keeping risk constant.  Doing this would certainly adjust the ratio but it would reduce highsec to a desert.  Highsec is and should be a perfectly viable and fun game area in and of itself.

So how do we increase risk in highsec?  Well, see the title.  Much highsec ISK generation takes place in deadspace.  Thus, one way to increase risk on much of highsec's PVE is to remove Concord protection from deadspace.  

Attacking anyone in deadspace would still incur the normal security hit and Criminal flag, and killrights if he was successful.  Concording would still occur if the criminal leaves the deadspace pocket; therefore he is stuck there for 15 minutes while the Criminal timer runs.  The criminal would be freely attackable by anyone who comes in, including the original victim coming back in his PVP ship.  

Lorewise, it makes plenty of sense.  Players can't warp in to deadspace.  Therefore, neither should Concord.  (I remember being afraid of deadspace as a newb for a closely related reason: I did not realize I could warp out.  It seemed logical that if you can't warp in you can't warp out either.)  It would also help to explain why all those agents want capsuleer help doing missions.  After all, if you really had anything like Concord or even the faction police around, why not just send them?  My answer is: because they can't get in there.

In terms of game effect, obviously this would supercharge what mission ninjas are already doing.  They'd not need to bait anyone, just charge in with guns blazing.  The effect on mission runners is more interesting.  They'd be strongly encouraged to take many precautions against gank:
  • fitting a more PVP style tank
  • finding cheap but effective fits to mission in, as versus faction-fit piƱatas.
  • having PVP friends on call
  • sitting a picket alt on the warp gate
  • watching dscan like a hawk
  • fighting aligned
  • finding quiet systems to mission in
  • keeping tabs on local and particular players in local
If these seem familiar, it's because these are the same precautions that one takes when running missions in lowsec or null.  So, one positive effect here is that in learning to how to mission in highsec, one learns skills that transfer neatly to lowsec and null.  Thus we lower the barrier for successful players to migrate outward.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Moonless Wspace Systems

Here's a small suggestion for CCP to spice up wspace just a little.  Put in some wspace systems -- not too many, perhaps 1 in 20 -- which have no moons.  

Such systems would be interesting places because they could have no POSes anchored.  As such, they could be occupied only tenuously, via anchored containers in a safespot.  Lacking permanent occupation, they would tend to build up lots of signature sites and anomalies.  They'd be nice finds for doing PVE in.  However for that same reason, they'd also be good places for PVP. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Draiv Solregard's Odyssey Exploration Guide

A fellow explorer blogger, one Draiv Solregard, has written up an extensive guide to exploration in 8 parts (they all link to each other which is handy).  He's got a more aggressive exploration style than I suggest; I don't hack when there is anyone in the same system.  He does, so a few of his choices relate to the ability to run.  But other than that, I found myself nodding along at all of his advice on how to.  I added a few comments.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Spanked for Stupid

I am in Artemis, exploring the local systems.  I've come to a C3 that appears empty.  I am scanning stuff down, including the nullsec exit for later exploration.  OK, done with that.  No other wormholes so I guess I have to head back.

Dscan shows there is a magnate ... somewhere.  Probably just a flash as it comes through a wormhole.  I try again and it is still there.  OK, that is strange.  No other probes are out.  Why would that be?  I look around for it.  It is at the wormhole I came through.  I warp to it at 10.  There it is, slowly orbitting the wormhole at about 5000.  That's idiotic. 

Easy kill, right?  Maybe.  Maybe trap.  This looks too good to be true.  I get the pilot info to see if it is a newb.  Not really, date is 2010.  I need eyes on the other side of the wormhole.  Don't have that.  I should probably just forget about it.  Anything could be there.

On the other hand, if I don't bite I will never know.  So, I get into position, and when the Magnate is coming at me more or less, about 5000 off, I uncloak.  I lock it and start pounding it.  I do get it warp disrupted and hit a round of missiles.  It turns and enters the wormhole.  Oh well.  I could follow but I doubt I won't catch it before it is gone.

I turn and cloak, but now there's a new ship.  Rapier.  Evidently it came across at the same time the Magnate left, or else I didn't notice its wormhole noise.  Or else it was cloaked, and just now decided to uncloak.  Anyway, this is very bad news -- the Magnate was bait.  I am cloaked, so I feel safe.  I consider what to do, and the Rapier gets close enough to uncloak me.  Oops.  Should have fled when I had the chance.  Now, late, I try to warp but the inevitable happens and it locks and disrupts me.

Gonna lose a ship I expect.  But, have to try, so I afterburn away while I hit him with missiles.  He pulls back to about 17k, outside of my range (quite nicely done, that).  I try to turn around and juke him, to get out of his disruptor range, but I don't expect it to work.

Now an entire gang comes through the wormhole, and put up a bubble.  My fate is sealed.  They deploy drones and tear into me.  Bye bye Artemis.

Boom, I'm in my pod.  I think for a moment that they might let me go or try ransom, but evidently they were all just taking the time to lock me up and disrupt or web me, so they could all share in the pod-kill.  

Lessons: don't be a chump.  If it is too good to be true, it's false.  So don't bite on something like that.  500 million ISK and 200000 skillpoints poorer.  Maybe wiser.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Far End of the Stick

The corp has been busy all night moving stuff in and out of our system.  There is a large network of connected systems, and we've seen scouts or probes in many of them.  So we are wary.  We have eyes on the entire wormhole chain from our wormhole to the highsec entry.  Our Orca makes one trip; we round out the goods with Iteron Vs.  Nothing bad happens.

Now we're done.  My corpies have bedtimes, so they disappear.  Me, I fly later into the night.  So I jump in Artemis to see what I might find.  Our system connects directly to three other wspace systems: a C3 via our static, a C2, and a C4 both via their statics.  These systems in turn connect to a few other systems each.  I look in each one for anything very interesting.  C4: nothing.  Then into the C2, with the highsec connection we've been using all night.  Nothing.  Two connected systems: nothing and nothing.  Such is the life of the wandering monster.

OK, back upstream and over to the C3.  Help me obi-wan C3, you're my only hope.  Nothing.  One connected system (highsec static don't count): nothing.  Crap.  Well, this is fate telling me it is getting late and I should go to bed.  I head home.  I'll do my PI and log off.

I jump across the C3->C4 wormhole, and oops.  Someone has found me: there are a Tengu and a Proteus sitting here uncloaked.  All my buds are logged off, so it is just a matter of evasion.  Fortunately my position is good, some 2500m from the wormhole.  On the other hand, one of them is just 3900m from me.  I wait a little.  He moves a bit further.  I order my move away from him, cloak and fire afterburners.  Or maybe the reverse.  Anyway, they don't even seem to try to uncloak me, so far as I can tell.  I warp off to a celestial.

I was planning to go to my POS to reship for PI.  But obviously not with people in my system.  I wonder if maybe they are scouting or something, so I go to the C4 wormhole hoping something interesting will come through.  But I see nothing.  The Proteus disappears.  Then after a while, so does the Tengu.  Well.  This is boring.

I fly to my POS and start in on PI.  Reupping all the extractors is fast as always.  But all of my planets need more inputs.  Hmm.  Should I carry or not?  Hard to say.  I decide to go for it.  I have some anti-ganking tricks I want to try out.  I jump in one of our smaller Iteron Vs, make my adjustments to the fitting, and set out with a load of Toxic Metal.

I don't fly direct.  I have read too much Penny for that.  Instead I do a tactic that I think might juke her.  We have a solo outer planet that, from our POS, is in a direction that nothing else is.  I fly to it at 100km.  There are several ideas here.  One is the most obvious, to deny cloaky eyes the ability to see which POCO I am heading to.  Another is to give cloaky eyes a very obvious place I am going, so that (hopefully) they uncloak while still on the way.  Then I get to see them on-grid, or at least on my dscan.  Then I would know for certain that I am being hunted.  One other idea is to get off their dscan for a while if they do not chase.  This should at least get them wondering if I have headed to a wormhole.

Anyway, I am off, and nothing happens.  I turn at the outer POCO and head to the one I was actually planning to go to.  I drop goods, grab goods, and move to another to do the same.  Then back to base.  And a second time: get a load, stunt Penny (as I lovingly think of my imagined monster), and go to another two POCOs for a pickup and dropfest.  Then back home for the last load.  One more stunt (though to the inner system this time, because I am pretty sure there's noone here but me), and I drop goods and start picking...

Uh oh.  Tengu.  Heartbeat rising.

Well.  I try to be calm because I think I have him beat.  He -- one GhostStarWolf -- is about 10000m off, but not coming fast.  I order the warp to my POS.  He is locking me.  I slowly turn, oh so slowly, and accelerate towards warp initiation.  His only chance now, I think, is to bump me (or have friends).  He's got his warp scrambler on me now.  Strangely, no missiles are hitting me.

I warp.  Sorry, fellow, but I had three warp core stabs.

I say Good Try in local.  GhostStarWolf breaks silence to tell me he had to try for it (which is true; what else do we play this game for?).  I tell him to stick around because there's more PI coming up.

I log out and log on to do PI with my PI characters.  Neither of them need to leave the POS, and so I don't.  Small victories.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

On the Edge of an Ambush

I am in Artemis, my hunting Tengu.  Let's see who's connected to us today.  I slide through my home system's static wormhole to unknown space. J113143.  Highsec static.  The initial dscan shows... drones.  Lots of tech 1 drones out in space somewhere.  Well, that's not ships, but it is at least more interesting than 95% of systems.

There is also a POS, nobody home.  It's Russian owned, so it appears.  This being early evening in Eastern Time, I am unlikely to see any locals in this system tonight.

The system has an outer planet.  I warp out there, to be away from the tower to fire probes.  But what is this?  There is a battlecruiser wreck on dscan!  I look around; there is a sig out here but no anom.  Well, there are also two drones, and dscan shows they are in the same place as the wreck.  I fire probes and scan for the drones.  OK, got them.  I warp to them.  Yes it is a site: Forgotten Frontier Recursive Depot.  I warp to the wreck at 10. 

I am rather close to some sleepers.  And sleepers start warp scrambling!  Shit!  Did I get decloaked?  Run away!  Oh wait -- it is the drones they are killing.  I forgot that they do that.  Well, I warp back at a more comfortable distance to look at the problem.  I'd like to loot that wreck, but the sleepers have a few warp scrambler frigates.  Well, back home is just a wormhole jump away and there is a nice shield buffer Tengu there... I am pretty sure that it can kill a few sleeper frigs before the rather large DPS of this site gets me killed.  I bookmark the battlecruiser wreck.

Let's look at the tower once more... OK, still nobody home.  Back home, swap ships, and wait a bit for polarization to die down.  I don't want to be fleeing the system and get locked in.  Now, back into C3a, and warping to the wreck.  I land, and grab the loot, then align back to where I came from.  The sleepers open up, and two of the frigs warp scramble me.  I open up on one of them with painter and precision heavy missiles.  It dies quickly, but man, the damage is more than I thought.  I am at about 2/3 already.  Target the second scrambler frigate, and start firing.  Shields below 1/2.  OK, it's dead, and zoom!  I am off.  A bit closer of a shave than I wanted.

What's the loot anyway?  Not really that much.  Some T2 guns and ammo, armor stuff.  No bling on this BC.  Oh well.  I make it back home safe and head off for some coffee.  I'll see you later, EVE universe.

OK, it's later.  I have my coffee.  I sit back down.  I know from staticmapper that C3a has a highsec static, but it may have other wormhole connections.  I want to find them to explore.  I get in my hacking-and-archaelogizing Buzzard and head out.  I transition to C3a and I move off the wormhole and cloak.  Out of habit, I dscan to make sure it is still boring as I left it.

But it is not boring.  There are 14 sleeper wrecks on dscan.  There are also three Caldari battlecruiser wrecks on dscan.  And there are ships.  What is going on?  Immediately I turn on the display of anoms and bookmark all of them.  Then I spin around the dscan to try to figure things out.  The battlecruiser wrecks are with most of the sleeper wrecks.  But the wrecks are not at any signature or anomaly.  So I cannot get to them.  It appears that someone got ganked just as they finished a site.  Where are the ships I see?  I locate them in, of all places, a gas site, with two small sleeper wrecks.  One is a Venture so that sort of makes sense.  But not the Proteus.  I warp to at 100.  Getting there, I arrive just in time to see the Venture get ganked by a fleet of 4 assorted ships.  The pod warps off.  Then the fleet warps, and disappears from dscan.    Probably back to highsec or maybe there is another wormhole entrance.  The pod turns into an Imicus.

The original wrecks are still on dscan.  I think this is the time to run back home and get Artemis again.  I don't know what's happening exactly, but there are many juicy wrecks sitting out there and someone may try for some salvage.  If that someone is not cautious, maybe I can gank him.  I quickly return, then fly to the gas site again to sit near one of the sleeper wrecks.  I figure this is a good place to wait.

The Imicus is still there and there are no probes out.  I figure there is a good chance that he will go out to look for wormholes, and he may duck through the highsec static of this C3 or my wormhole and return polarized.  Then I might get a cheap gank.  If he is going to find mine, he'll need probes out.  So I will get warning.

I wait.  I dscan.  Still there and no probes.  Then I wait some more while dscanning.  Still there and no probes.  Then some more dscanning.  Nothing interesting happens.

Eventually, dscan shows the Imicus has turned into a Manticore -- a stealth bomber.  Hmm.  Then it disappears.  Uh oh.  What is he doing?

I keep dscanning.  Then something odd: the Manticore reappears and stays visible.  It is evidently sitting in space, but why?  Then a battlecruiser wreck disappears.  OK: he's salvaging in a Manticore.  That's kind of funny.  The three battlecruiser wrecks go quickly.  Then he starts in on the sleeper wrecks.  It is very slow, a minute per wreck.  But gradually they disappear.

Now I must make a choice.  I have combat probes.  I can certainly get them fired away from the Manticore's dscan at the outer planet.  But can I pinpoint something as small a Manticore?  I mess with dscan.  The range is easy to get, about 240000000m or 1.5 AU.  And after messing quite a while I get a rough heading.  But I am not sure I will get a 100% hit, and also, his grinding is so slow and he was just ganked, so he's got to be watching dscan like a hawk.  I feel it unlikely that he won't notice probes in time to GTFO.

Option B seem preferable: he knows the gas site with its two sleeper wrecks is here.  I bet he will come after he finishes where he is.  I am hoping he will come directly, instead of dropping off loot.  So, I wait and I watch on dscan as he slowly grinds down the other site.

Eventually he finishes.  The last wreck vanishes.  Now is the time.  I wait.  And... he turns back into an Imicus.  No.  Then he disappears.  Dammit!

I hope it is not what it seems, so I sit in the site another 10 minutes.  Nothing.  It is what it seems.  Evidently the small basic sleeper wrecks were not a temptation.  No ambush here today.

I go home and get our salvaging destroyer, and come back to salvage the three last wrecks.  Then I fly to the drones and grab them all.  I hate a messy room.

Ideas for Discovery

Penny criticizes the effects of the new discovery scanner in wspace.  Right on.  I put some suggestions there in a comment, but recently read another good suggestion (by Sugar Kyle): have automatic discovery happen only in highsec.  The explanation is that it is an service provided by empires.  The effect is what we want: to alert newbs to the world of exploration, while keeping more dangerous spaces mysterious.

Here's a few other changes I'd like to see made related to probing and sites.

Remove the Z-axis arrow in scanning.  Already covered.

Put back ore signature sites, and add ice ones.  This does not mean eliminating the current anomaly-based mining sites.  (It might mean making them a bit rarer.)  Variety is good.  As it is, making all mining sites be anoms makes it too easy.  Anyone can see anoms, which makes them little different from fixed asteroid sites.  This is true both for the miner and the ganker.  Sig sites change the balance somewhat to favor better-prepared miners.  Not only do they have less competition from other miners, they also have a level of warning (seeing scan probes) from gankers that is not available in asteroid fields or anoms.

Add in some deadspace-based mining sigs.  (That is, they have a warp gate like a mission site.)  These should have enough tough rats to require at least a modest combat ship to kill, like a level 3 mission.  Thus, to exploit them you'd need both scanning and PVE combat capability, in addition to the ability to mine.  Mining in deadspace would be safer than mining in sig-sites, because gankers must reveal themselves at the warp gate for at least a few seconds.  Also you can jetcan the entrance to make cloaked entry hard.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Logistics and Someone Else's Wrecks

I am hunting in Artemis, my cloaky Tengu.  There are two wormholes in my home system.  Both have the same signal strength.  One must be a K162 from who knows where.  The other is my static.  I take a guess and go for one.  It's the one I wanted, the K162. I fly to the signature and appear about 5km from the hole.  This is fine.  I sit and scan.  OK, nothing else out of place.

Time to go in.  I enter the wormhole.  The other side is a C2 system, with dual statics: C4 and highsec.  There's the expected tower on dscan -- wait a second.  A tower, but no shield.  It's offline.  Surely this system cannot be uninhabited!  If it is uninhabited, it would sell for a pretty penny.  And I've got my system-sitter alt back the POS, ready to log if needed.  But there is one planet out of dscan range.  I fly near it, dscan -- oh well.  Tower and shield.  Rats.  I scan down the system, finding a highsec entrance 11 jumps from Jita in Amarr space.  I hop out to bookmark the entrance and the nearest station.

Well, highsec access means it is time to run a freighter load out and back.  Back at Jita my market alt buys up a new load of PI inputs, loads up a few things and starts the laborious trek.  Freighters are very slow.  So, there's dead time.  First I carry out the high value stuff in our loot can in my Buzzard.  Then, I change ships and escort out a Orca full of bulkier stuff: gas and PI goods.  Rather than wait, I send the Orca back empty.  I am pretty certain there is nobody in the C2 right now.  That may not continue, especially given the highsec entrance.  There's only enough goods coming in the freighter to fill two Iteron Vs; I don't think that's enough to risk the Orca.

I get my two empty Iterons out to highsec, park at the station, and wait.  By this time, the freighter is close.  So I twiddle my thumbs as he does the last few jumps.  OK, now all three of us go back in carrying goods.  Made it.  Now my alt can use an Iteron to do his PI as I sit watching.  He visits each planet.  Goods get on, goods get off.  Nobody ganks him.  And he can leave.

Now I am ready to hunt some more.  I fly to our static wormhole to C3, and enter.  It's a large system, and I am near the middle.  Three planets I can see; three more are out of dscan range of everything including each other.  This means three warps.  I fly to each, looking for prey or spoor.  At the third one, I see sleeper wrecks!  You know what this means: someone has been here killing sleepers.  No ship is on dscan.  A chance to ambush a salvager!

Strangely, there are just eight wrecks.  This won't sound odd unless you've run sites in C3, but there are very few sites with eight sleepers.  (I think one gas site.)  Usually there are just a few sleepers (with asteroids and gas), or 14+.  So, I am already curious.  Where are the wrecks?  There's nothing I can see near here... wait, turn on anomaly display.  Yes, there's one anom near the outermost planet.  A tight-beam dscan shows the wrecks are there.  If I can still see the anom, that means that there are still live sleepers in it.  I fly to it at 100, preparing to make a perch.

It's a strange sight that greets me.  The eight wrecks are there.  But so are 5 sleepers: three battleships and two cruisers.  I did not think any C3 site had three battleships in a wave.  I check the site on eve-survival, which is a Solar Cell.  And I am right, sort of.  Usually this site has two battleships.  However, it does mention an "additional spawn" which looks like it would happen only in the initial group.

So, what's happening here?  Someone stopped halfway through a site.  I guess that whoever was running the site was not ready for three sleeper battleships (that's about 1000 DPS).  So, maybe they will be back with more ships.  Or maybe not.

Suddenly, a wreck disappears.  And a second.  Oops.  (All wrecks in EVE vanish after two hours.)  Evidently, whatever happened here happened two hours ago.  Well, that changes things a bit.  Nobody is coming back for these wrecks.  I can't salvage with the sleepers here, but I can get the blue loot.  The wrecks are about 100 from me, but there is a sleeper building far enough to warp to.  I warp to 50, to get close to a wreck.  As I do this, two more wrecks evaporate.  Artemis certainly cannot take 1000 DPS very long, so I will have to be careful.  I close in on a wreck, it uncloaks me, and I loot it.  Now I power towards a second, about 15 km.  I want to cloak but the cruisers lock me while still near the first wreck.  Now I cannot cloak.

The sleepers are pretty far off, and their beams are not hurting me at all.  But the battleships lock eventually, and start hitting me with missiles.  I lose about 1/2 shields before I loot the second wreck.  Then I bookmark one of the other two, and warp to a nearby celestial.  And back.  I get the third, and the sleepers pound me down to 1/4 shields.  I bookmark the last wreck and warp again.  This time I finish scanning the system for a minute to let the shields regenerate.  Then I head back and get the last blue loot.  All in all, not much there, about 8m ISK total.  But it was fun getting it.

Here's one of the things I love about EVE.  It feels real because you are interacting directly or indirectly with other people, and they do many strange things.  The setup I had -- a small amount of loot with powerful guardians, nonetheless easy for me to handle by avoidance -- was nothing someone designed.  Rather, it is just something that happened.  It was the result of the failure of some other player's plan, and as such, rare.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tips on Playing the Exploration Minigame

I have been exploring quite a bit recently.  Here's my guide on how to explore.  I have some more tips to share on the minigame itself.

First, it has been my observation that the system core is usually fairly remote from where you start.  So, while exploring the board I try to cross it in both X and Y, then explore the edges, then backfill.

Second, know your utilities and how they work.  Generally, to use a utility you click it then you click on a defensive node.  There are some nuances worth mentioning.
Repair Subsystem
Polymorphic Shield
Secondary Vector

  • Repair Subsystem: unlike other utilities, this one does not target a defensive node.  It just adds to your hitpoints virus coherence regardless of what you click.  That is, it functions even when you are just clicking on unexplored nodes.  Since there is never any downside to having a large virus coherence, you should always use each Repair Subsystem immediately.
  • Polymorphic Shield: this utility protects you from any two attacks, from the same node, or different nodes.  Thus, it is often the case that you can use it on two different defensive nodes.  For example, 50/40 firewalls are fairly common in nullsec sites.  If you have virus strength 30, as I do, these can be killed in two hits.  But two hits means they get one hit back: 40 damage.  Ouch!  Say that you've uncovered two of them.  If you activate a Polymorphic Shield, then click one, and then the other, each node will be knocked down to 20/40 without hurting you.  You can then click each one again; this time you destroy them and because it is the last hit, you don't take any damage.
  • Secondary Vector: this utility does 60 points of damage to a defensive node, over 3 turns.  You do not have to attack the defensive node yourself once you've activated the utility and selected its target.  And it is often best not to, limiting your own damage.  As an example: you run across a hated Virus Suppressor (60/15).  It halves your virus strength; thus, with 30 strength initially you've got 15, and it will take 4 hits to kill the Suppressor, during which time it will do 45 damage to you.  Ouch!  However, you can kill it without taking any damage using a Secondary Vector so long as you have some unexplored nodes left: activate the vector, click on the Suppressor, then go click some other nodes for 2 turns.  The Suppressor takes 60 damage and poof it is gone; you don't take any.
Virus Suppressor
Anti Virus
Restoration Node
Third: know the enemy.  Here are the list of the defensive nodes, in order of their nastiness, as well as strategies for dealing with them.
  • Virus Suppressor: these things are the worst. The ones I have found are always 60/15.  60 strength does not seem that bad until you realize that your own virus strength is halved when fighting it, so 60 is more like 120.  You'll want to eliminate them ASAP. If you have a utility of any kind, use it. Secondary Vectors are preferable. Because Virus Suppressors do so much damage, it is worthwhile trying to find a utility to help kill them. 
  • Restoration Node: a close second in nastiness. The only good thing about them is that their damage is moderate. The ones I have found are always 80/10, so with 30 virus strength they do 20 damage. Because their effect is nasty, I usually kill them ASAP. Because their damage is moderate, I usually do not use a utility on them.
  • Anti-Virus, Firewall: not a huge threat. You should never attack one of these if it will damage you, until you are completely blocked everywhere else.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Against Z-axis Arrows in Scanning

Odyssey has come and been patched N times now.  CCP has certainly made exploring easier.  They made many changes to the UI that make it easier to control.  For example, it used to be that without keyboard modifiers, operating on a probe only affected that one probe.  You had to hold down shift or alt to control all probes collectively.  The situations where you might have wanted to move individual probes were rare, and almost negligible excepting getting your probe pattern established initially.  Whereas you want to move probes as a group almost always.  So, this change is very welcome.

Similarly, being able to pattern probes with one click is a great improvement to the UI.  Unfortunately, the two patterns we are given are not ideal; I'd prefer a more regular 8 probe pattern, and a flat pattern for hunting people.  Ideally there should be user-determined patterns so we can each have what we want.  However, at least it is clear that CCP is aware that what we have now in this respect is not ideal.  They are working on it.

There was one change that I was expected, but which did not occur.  And I don't know if they even know.  (How can they not know?  And yet: there it is.)  That change is removing the ability to drag on the probe-movement arrow which is pointing primarily in the Z axis.

The Z axis is computer-programmer lingo for the depth "into" the screen (which, being 2D, you cannot actually show).  Put another way, the Z axis is near to parallel with the direction of view.  The "Z-axis arrow" is the one that points almost straight "up" out of the plane of your computer screen.  Here's a picture:
Z-axis arrow, seen edge-on in the center.  Image stolen from Penny.
Z-axis arrows are hard to see, because they are thin and you are looking edge-on.  But they are hittable, and dragging on them moves the probe-group in the Z (depth) dimension.  Although this is logically consistent with how the arrows behave otherwise, it is also bad.  Allowing this drag is just terrible user-interface design; nobody could possibly be using it intentionally because you simply cannot tell where a probe is depth-wise.  When you do drag a Z-axis arrow, it is always a mistake.  And the effect is not even neutral, which might be more tolerable.  Rather it retards what you are attempting to do.  If you had your probes close to centered where you wanted, now you don't.  They are some random distance up or down in Z.  You will have to do at least one more 90 degree rotate and adjust, and probably two, since you failed to do the one you were expecting initially.  You may also have to re-zoom the view if you happened to get really unfortunate and send the probe position a zillion AU, which is quite possible.

Adjusting probes by dragging on the square itself is superior to using the arrows; the arrows have their limited uses, but the "power prober" almost always searches faster by adjusting two dimensions at once.  And yet, dead center in a UI element (the cube) that does one thing (planar adjustment) is a teensy tiny, almost invisible UI element (the edge-on Z arrow) that does something completely different -- and completely unwanted.  But it is easy enough to hit accidentally that I still do it almost every time I scan down a system.

Is this broken?  No.  But is it annoying?  Hell yes!  It really does make we wonder if nobody at CCP who works on this code actually does exploration.  I imagine them doing a very limited amount of exploration, where they only use the arrows to adjust things.

There are two fixes I think I'd be happy with.

One way to go would be to leave the UI drawn as it is, but make the arrows insensitive when they are sufficiently parallel to the Z axis.  Ideally I'd like to be able to grab the cube instead (this is always what I am trying to do).  But if it were simply a no-op, I could probably live with it.

The better way to deal with it is to not display the arrow when it is pointing mostly in Z.  This is the better UI.  To show a control element at all is to suggest it is there for a good reason and that it can be profitably interacted with.  In this case, there is no good interaction with the arrow once it gets to an angle of perhaps 45 degrees or less with Z.  So, stop drawing it then.  (Indeed, if the "don't draw" angle were as large as 60 degrees I think that would be even better.)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

About the Discovery Scanner

Penny at tigerears has a screed up opposing the discovery scanner.  I can certainly see her point and agree with her insofar as it makes hunting in wspace too hard.  By showing almost immediately when there is a new wormhole connecting to your system, it makes it almost trivial to maintain fleet security while doing stuff in wspace.  Just do this:
  1. resolve all signatures in your system
  2. close all wormholes incident to your system
  3. ignore all existing sigs.  Keep the discovery scanner open
  4. Do whatever you want, in near-total safety.  So long as no new signature appears, goto (4).
  5. [a new signature appeared]: immediately abort and return to a POS (or cloak up in a safespot, whatever).  Goto (1).
One other annoyance with the discovery scanner: if you are hunting, you don't always want to launch probes.  If you don't, there is no way to turn off the display of signatures.  This is usually what you want, but not always:
Kiptain, I kinna see a thing!

The main thing I may disagree about with Penny is that I really like the idea of showing newbies that there is an exploration game there.  People argue that this is something that should be done in the newbie intro missions, and it should.  (It was when I did them a year ago.)  But this is not enough.  Newbs are overwhelmed with information when they do those missions.  They need more than just that.

Anyway, here's what I posted at tigerears, which I might as well replicate here.

I think there are some fairly simply changes that would help.

First is the suggestion that Mara makes, to restrict the discovery scanner's ability to detect sigs to ships with a probe launcher. This does not solve anything fundamental, but it means that at least one person in a fleet needs to use a high for a probe launcher, and that that person needs to pay attention to the discovery scanner. The average grunt in a warship should not get all that free information.
It would still be too hard to sneak up on anyone, but at least in this case a small fleet would not have N potential eyes to see, just 1 or maybe 2.

To serve the end of alerting newbies to the unknown: give all T1 frigates the built-in ability to detect sigs with their discovery scanners. This means that for the first few weeks, when the newb is running around in a frigate, he'll see sigs regardless of whether he has fit a probe launcher. And he will also see them intermittently after that, whenever he uses a frig to get around fast or whatnot. Hopefully these will be enough to get him interested if exploration will be something he likes. Most players most of the time won't be able to see sigs on discovery.

Second fix needed is to make the discovery scanner run automatically only when you enter a system. Running it that one time serves the end of piquing the interest of newbies in "the unknown out there". But once is plenty. The auto-run should be restricted to the least usage possible, and I think "enter a new system" is that.

Third, make the discover scanner runnable via player click on the "scan" button. If probes are out, the scan acts as it does now. If probes are not out, you get a new discovery scanner sweep. This allows active players, but only active players, to get the benefits of the discover scanner.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Selling a Player Owned Customs Office

Before my corporation moved into its current C4 wspace system, we were in a C1 with highsec static.  Our goal there was making money via PI, which we certainly did.  (One of these days maybe I will write up what we were doing.)  Over the roughly four months that we were there, 4 characters were making about 3 billion ISK per month.  However, it was a lot of work.  That was one of the reasons we moved up to a C4 system: killing sleepers is easier and more fun than moving around PI goods.

When we left our old system, we left behind two POCOs that we had put up after shooting down Interbus ones.  (The other three planets had POCOs owned by another corp; I asked nicely when we moved in, and they let us use them for free.)  My policy was to let anyone who want to use them to do so free; this is better than having them shot down.  Anyway, only one guy had asked me since we left, and I set him blue and forgot about it.

Yesterday I got eve-mail from him, asking about selling the POCOs.  He wanted to know how much I'd sell my POCOs for.  I told him "at cost", which I had to figure out.  Here's what I wrote him (prices as of July 2, 2013).

To build a POCO, you need to start with a Customs Office Gantry, which currently costs 53.5 million at Jita (buy price). (Sell price is 56.9m.) Then you have to bring some PI goods, as follows: Broadcast Node 8, Recursive Computing Module 8, Self-Harmonizing Power Core 8, Wetware Mainframe 8. You put those in the gantry, then do an "Upgrade" on it, and it turns into a POCO.

The costs of the PI goods (in millions) are as follows:
Broadcast Node: 1.27 - 1.34
Recursive Computing Module: .88 - .93
Self-Harmonizing Power Core: 1.28 - 1.44
Wetware Mainframe: 1.32 - 1.39
So, the total cost of a POCO (minus labor costs) is 91.5m at the minimum, up to 97.7m. I offered them to him for 91m.  He convoed me and accepted the deal.

The issue of trust came up.  We discussed using a trusted third party but he was OK with just doing one at a time.  Boom, he gave me 91m.  So I starting trying to figure out how to effect the transfer.  There is a tab on the Corporation window that shows all corp assets, and there are a few right-click menu options for them, but you cannot transfer them there.  I found no way to do it.  After failing to discover a means in-game, I googled for information on it.  I could not find a clear answer, but my conclusion is that one cannot transfer a customs office except by being in the system with it.  In system, there is a menu option on the right menu to transfer ownership.  (I already knew about this, because it is option that I wish was not present where it is.  It is bad UI design to have a almost never-used menu item on a frequently used menu.)

So I told my buyer that I'd have to fly down to do it.  I gave back his 91m.  He told me the system that the static was currently in, which was 25 jumps from Jita.  I flew out my market alt in a frigate.  Eventually, got there, fleeted up, warped to him, and entered the system to effect the sale.  (He joked about killing me as soon as I got in.)  We did the transfers one by one to minimize his risk.  He accidently paid me for a non-existing third POCO.  (I was tempted to joke about stealing his money, but didn't.)  Gave his money back again.  The whole thing was about 1 minute.  Then I autopiloted back.

I generally dislike the idea of requiring physical attendance in-system to sell a corporate asset.  On the one hand, requiring presence does have an interesting effect on wspace, where you cannot get to an asset simply by knowing which system it is in.  On the other hand, it's painful to have to drive 50 jumps to sell something, and for what?  How does this add to game play?

Certainly in terms of "realism", it's absurd that I cannot sell something remotely.  Indeed, you can sell all normal assets remotely, via contract at any station.  The same should be true of extra-station assets.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Ice Price Rise di'n't Materialize

Before Odyssey happened, I projected a significant price rise in ice and ice products.  This was based on CCP's description of how ice would change: according to their plans, they were going to put only enough ice in the new ice anoms so that if each anom was depleted 5 times per day, highsec could generate 80% of the amount of ice it generated pre-Odyssey.  My assumption is that they did as they said.  We can certainly see the ice anoms and we know that the respawn time is 4 hours.

A quick look at ice product values at the site shows the trend over the last 180 days.  Here are the graphs for two ice products that I care most about, Helium and Nitrogen isotopes:

thanks to

The price certainly did rise.  The dev blog describing the changes happened April 26.  The price spikes right then and stays high, however there has been a slight tailing off since then.  One very interesting aspect of these graphs is that the buy price has not changed much.  The sell price has almost doubled

What is interesting about this from my perspective is that I have put in several hours of ice mining recently.

One time I logged my ice miner and looked in Otela, then Osmon, and finally Wuos, and there was no ice in any of them.  But within an hour there was, and he mined straight for another few hours.  Three other times I have logged in and there was ice in the system he was in.  This is a small sample, but it suggests that ice anoms are not being mined out quickly.

The other evidence I have on that score is the number of ice miners in the anomalies, and how long they have lasted.  All four times I have mined, the number of ice miners was initially low.  Then it increased, but only once was there more than 10 miners at a time in any anomaly.   And in all of the cases except that one, I logged off the game (usually after about 2 hours of mining) before the ice anom was depleted.

At 190000 ISK per block of White Glaze, and mining about 1 block per minute, the income is pretty good considering how much work it is.  You can still do it on a second monitor while doing something interesting on the main monitor.  On the other hand, the income from ice is still not as high as I predicted would be necessary to draw in nullsec production.

There is one interesting aspect of ice product sales that is interesting to ponder.  Here's the 180 day graph for Caldari Fuel Blocks:

The price has moved in sync with Nitrogen, which is what we expect.  But note the volume.  It declines a bit around the timeframe of the announcement, but has rebounded.  Volume is now almost exactly what it was in the steady, normal market operation in the first half of the graph.  (This pattern is also there in the two isotopes graphs above.)  I suppose that part of that may be due to people re-subbing for Odyssey, who had unfueled towers that they then fueled.  But part of it is just inexplicable to me.  When price rises, as it did, quantity will decline (if other things are equal).  In any case, there is no evidence as yet that people have been pulling down marginally profitable towers.

So, the small evidence I have shows that current ice production simply is not that great.  Ice is not being massively mined in highsec, and the price is not yet high enough to incent substantial production in nullsec.  (Lowsec is too dangerous.)  But volume is not decreasing.  My guess is that a massive amount of ice products have been stockpiled since the exhumer buff of Inferno.  This stockpile is gradually being spent down.  Ice will go higher.  I expect much higher.