Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fun in C1

It's Christmas eve.  I am not working.  So, in between family I work in some Christmas EVE.  I am out for a roam in my Manticore.

My system's static C5 connects to C5a, as it always does by definition.  C5a has Russians in it, and they are still awake.  But it looks like they are winding down if they were ever doing anything.  I lurk about hoping they do something, but apart from a few moves in between far-scattered POSes, they don't.  Eventually I give up and scan their system.  I see a Tengu and Loki appear, neither of which I can do anything about even if I did get them outside of their POS bubble.

I'm about done here.  Onward.  C5a has a static C1, which I just scanned.  Ever since Hyperion, C1s, 2s, and 3s are great places to hunt.  So I am eager to get in there and see what's up.

Nobody on scan, and I warp around a bit to find one live tower with nobody home, and nothing else.  But there are fifteen sigs.  Time to scan.  My scanning reveals eight data sites (four of them sleeper sites), four relics, and three wormholes.  One wormhole is the one I entered from, and another is the N110 static to highsec.  I jump out to find the exit in Caldari space, eight jumps from Jita.  The final wormhole is an EOL and highly disrupted connection from C5.  Well, that probably won't be much of a problem.

I do note one interesting thing: one of the sleeper data sites has a talocan frigate in it.  So I confirm for myself that these do exist.  (I suspect all sleeper data sites have the potential.)   I bookmark a spot near the talocan.  Perhaps I can run this site.  But not now -- later.  Now I have family to attend to.
Talocan and guard.
Later, I return to the computer.  There's a small amount of time before dinner.  A dscan in C1a shows something interesting: a Helios!  The local POS is out of range, so that Helios must be out in space somewhere.  I see his sisters probes, so he appears to be an explorer looking for loot.

(Jaws theme.)
Sure enough, in a minute I find him on narrow-beam dscan in one of the data sites I scanned earlier.  I throw it into warp, to 100km.  When I land on grid, the setup is perfect.  He is heading to a can about 170km from me.  I start to warp to it at 10km, then stop to make a perch just in case.  Then I warp over.  The Helios approaches the can and scans it, then starts hacking.  Perfect.

I set myself to orbit the Helios at 1000m.  Then I wait a few seconds, and when i am in scrambler range, I uncloak.  And the expected happens.  Getting out of the minigame and warping is practically impossible in time, and he does not manage it.  So, dead Helios.  I try, but the pod warps free.  I loot the wreck, and the loot fairy is in tune with the season.  The Sister's launcher survived.

Now I lurk a bit more, but I've got to go.  I head back into my system just in case.

Later, I return.  A quick trip through C5 and into C1 shows nobody around.  OK.  I log in my alt, thinking about running that data site for the talocan. Otto gets in a Falcon, then warps down to watch the C1's highsec entrance.  Then I warp back to get my small-site running Tengu.  I find a relic analyzer and put it in my cargo, then head down the chain.

Arriving in C1, I warp into the data site and start in on the sleepers.
Squishing small sleepers.
The difficulty is comparable to an easy gas site, except three in a row.  This is nice.  I use rage missiles on most of the cruisers, then javelins on a few that pull range beyond normal assault missile range.  Then I kill the frigates.  Then I refit to salvage, and clean up.  Finally, I get the relic analyzer on and hack into the talocan frigate.  It's an easy puzzle, which is trivial to run with virus strength of 40.
Puzzle can't touch me.

I quickly find and crack the system core.  I am rewarded again, with two small hull sections.
Lucky loot.

Merry Christmas.  Probably won't post again for a few days.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Remove the Z-axis Arrow in Scanning

It's time to grind on my favorite axe, the blade having been dulled by time.  To get the context, first read my article Against Z-axis Arrows in Scanning, which is more than a year old.  It describes the problem about as well as one can, given words.  But I think maybe we need more pictures.  Therefore, I am reiterating the criticism with more pictures to make clear what is going on.

I am sure you've been scanning at some time, when suddenly your probes are gone, or otherwise moved way off in a direction you did not expect.  What happened there?  You accidentally grabbed the z-axis arrow when it was almost invisible, and then you moved the mouse, launching the probe-box like a rocket into the z direction.

How does this work?  Well, let's show an example.

How It Usually Works

Here's a normal view of probing in process:
After first scan.
I have my probe-box and have just scanned the first scan, at 8 AU.  I have two single-dot hits.  Neither is at 100%.

I want to refine the scan, so I shrink the probe-range down to 2 AU, then I start moving the probes so that they are centered on one of the dots.  I'll go for the left dot first.

First I rotate to the "side" view of the probes.  (The "side" is a view looking edge-on of the ecliptic of most systems -- recall that EVE has absolute directions.)  Now I adjust the probe positioning in two directions, by grabbing the cube.  I get this:
side view, after one move

Note that I could do this adjustment by grabbing the arrows that stick out to the sides of the cube.  Why not?  For one thing, adjusting with the arrows does one dimension at a time, so it is half as fast.  Also, notice that from this angle, the left and right arrows are seen edge-on, and so they are quite difficult to grab.  It is not impossible to grab them, but with a height of a few pixels, it's not easy.

Continuing with the normal probing routine.  Now I rotate the view 90 degrees, so I am looking almost straight "down" at the cube (and thus also the ecliptic).  (Note that by CCP's design, you cannot look exactly straight down, just close to it.  That's why you can see a bit of cube other than the top edge.)
Top view.
Here I do the same thing as before: I adjust the position of the cube to sit on the dot.  In this move, if you did the first move perfectly you won't need to use the cube, since you have two of the dimensions set correctly.  However, as you can see if you look carefully at the screenshot, although I got close, I was not 100% perfect in the first move.  So in general you want to use the cube to make this move, too.  I tweak the cube very slightly to sit exactly on the red dot.

Then I scan.  Yah!  One more than this one will resolve 100%.

The Z-Axis Gotcha

OK, now let's scan the other sig.  First, I select that sig on the Probe Scanner window.  Then I hit the "Launch Pinpoint Formation" button, which resets the probing range to 4 AU.  (This is a wonderful feature that CCP added in... Odyssey?  Not sure.  Anyway, added since I started the game.)
Changing to the second sig.

The process is the same as before.  I want to refine the scan, so I shrink the probe-range down to 2 AU, then I start moving the probes so that they are centered on the dot.  First I rotate to the side view of the probes.
Side view.
Now I grab the cube to move it over the hit I am trying to scan.  Except -- oooops!  This time, I accidentally hit that tiny little sliver of Z-axis arrow.   The probes now shoot off towards infinity with the slightest twitch of the mouse. Since I think I have grabbed the cube, not the arrow, and I want to drag the cube over the red dot, I more than twitch.  Zoom!  The probes shoot off down the z-arrow.
The probes taking a z-axis excursion.
Here is the same system and probe location, tilted a bit up:
Probes gone, tilting a bit
And looking "down", zoomed way out so I can see the probes:
Far out, maaaan.
Now, I am a bit screwed.  There is no easy way to get the probes back where I want them.  I have to zoom out and move them back by hand, typically by grabbing a z-axis arrow (irony).  The above example is a mild case; I only "accidentally" moved the probes out about 200 AU.   They can be zoomed much further, so far as I can tell.  Thousands of AU.  It can be so far that you cannot see then in a fully-zoomed out top-down view.

The Probe Arrangement Compression Bug

There is one more thing to mention in this connection.  Here's a picture of the situation taken immediately after what I did above, but after I moved the probes back to the system:
Probes have lost relative positioning.

I moved the probes back into the inner system.   Then I zoomed in.  Note that they have moved relative to each other, compressing the normal "Pinpoint" scanning configuration.

This is a bug.  It's not serious for me, though, since I know that one can always get back to a good pinpoint scan-probe configuration by hitting the "Launch Pinpoint Configuration" button.  I do worry about newbs, though.  This is an undocumented feature; very handy for those of us who know.  But if you don't know, you either have to reset your probes by hand, or re-launch them.


Since I have come this far, why not throw out a few solutions?  I already propose a few back in my original article.  Quoting me...
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.)
These are good solutions, particularly the second one.  In addition, I'd like to offer a quick and dirty partial workaround.  Change the "Launch Pinpoint Configuration" button so that when it is clicked and the probes are already set to 4 AU distance, instead of doing nothing, it centers the probes on the local star.  This does not solve the Z-axis problem, of course.  It simply mitigates it, for expert probers like me, by offering a workaround.  Still, it's a lot better than the current situation.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Milking Sleeper Data Sites

A few days ago was my corporation's "Corp Night", which is our weekly get-together to run C4 or C5 PVE sites to make ISK.  (We also will attack small-gang targets of opportunity if we find them, but this is rare.)  We have been doing almost solely C5 sites because they pay better than C4.  Because of this, our home system has gradually filled with anoms.  There were enough of them that I felt it was getting embarrassing.  It's like having a messy house; even if you don't have guests, you know.  So we ran our own sites for a change.

Among the sites we ran were four data sites: two Unsecured Frontier Trinary Hubs, and two Unsecured Frontier Digital Nexuses.  Among the four, we got one of the "site escalation" waves, which is an extra sleeper battleship and an abandoned talocan cruiser.  The latter is a loot can requiring a relic analyzer, which opens via the normal minigame.  It normally contains one or two hull sections in some state of repair (intact, malfunctioning, or wrecked), which are used to make T3 cruiser hulls.  Typically one of the cans is worth a few million in loot; not bad, but nothing earthshaking.

Well, this time in the one talocan can, we got a small wrecked hull section.  It showed no price on the mouseover, because this is a new item introduced in Rhea to build into the new tactical destroyers.  In the long run, it is likely that the prices of small hulls will drop to below that of the equivalent cruiser hull.  However, in the short run the prices for these hulls are very high.  People are paying a huge premium for the first Confessors.

(Here's the EVE Central search for "hull section".  As of this writing, Jita has the following prices for high buy/low sell:
Intact Hull Section:   23m/33m
Malfunctioning Hull Section:  2.2m/9.4m
Wrecked Hull Section:  500k/3.0m
Small Intact Hull Section:  215m/350m
Small Malfunctioning Hull Section:  100m/269m
Small Wrecked Hull Section:  36m/100m )

Nice.  So moral here is: do not ignore your data sites!  Even if you don't feel them worthwhile to run for the normal blue loot and salvage, warp in to check for the Talocan relic.  If it is there, cargo scan it to see what it's got.  If there is a "Small [X] Hull Section", you want it!  Crack it in a tank with logis [update: this doesn't work; any sleepers on site means you cannot crack a can], or clear the site and crack it.

Continuing with the story... the next day I noticed that all the data sites had despawned, except one.  In that site, I had not bothered to open any cans because all the data cans in these sites are essentially worthless.  (Yes, I scanned them all.  I keep hoping for a nice blueprint or something, but it does not seem to be in the loot tables.)  Anyway, this one extra half-dead site left a slightly unkempt system.  It annoyed me enough that I decided to fly over there and crack a can just to get rid of the site.

So I jumped into my exploration Buzzard, and warped on it.  Much to my surprise, there was a Sleeper battleship on grid!  I tried to cloak, but no, too near a can!  Uh oh... Warp!  Warp!  ... and I escaped.  Whew.  As I warped off, I noticed an abandoned Talocan cruiser.

Now, I am quite certain that can was not there two days ago.   If it was, I'd have looted it.  Nor was the Sleeper battleship.  I'd have noticed that, too, when I entered the site and scanned all the cans.

What happened here?  Evidently, you get a "die roll" each time a sleeper data site is instantiated, and if lucky, you get the escalation wave (which includes the Talocan can).  We did not get it on corp night, but then the site got de-instantiated at downtime.  Coming back two days later, I instantiated the site again; the site records that all the sleepers are dead, but I got a fresh check for the escalation, and more luck.

So, the moral here is: when you check out a sleeper data site, and there is not a Talocan relic, or there is but it contains relatively low-value stuff... don't give up!  Come back the next day, and the next, and the next, and try again!  (Sites despawn on the fourth downtime after they are first instantiated, so four tries is what you get.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Culling a Flock

It's midday Sunday.  The Boy is out at a guitar lesson, so I am in EVE.  I've checked out two systems, a C4 and a C5, adjacent to my home system.  No targets.  Now, into a second C5 via a K162.  I'm not particularly hopeful of finding anyone doing anything dumb, because after all they connected to us.  They presumably know they are not zipped up.  That's why I left this one for last.  Still, you never know in EVE.

Ships on scan!
I am right to not know.  I cross the wormhole and dscan, and what should appear but a flock of Ventures.  Also an Orca and a tower, almost certainly boosting a gas mining operation.  Eight targets!  Visions of mass slaughter arise in my mind, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.  I can only kill multiple Ventures if they are being extraordinarily stupid.  First things first: get on grid.

Is there an outer planet?  There is an outer planet.  I warp to it at 100km, as always cloaking immediately as soon as my gate cloak drops.  This is my first chance to blow my cover, and there is nothing I can do about it.  With eight of them, probably at least three actual players, there is a decent chance someone is dscanning.  Will the see me?  I hope not.

I make a safespot out in space near the outer planet, which is pleasingly abandoned.  Also there are no sigs out here, so there is little reason why any of the natives would come out here.  I warp to the safespot, uncloak, deploy my mobile depot, and fire probes.

The probes I throw out of the system.  I'll get back to them.  The depot is for refitting.  I need to refit my Manticore from its normal configuration into its Venture-killing config.  The Venture killer removes the normal target painter for a second warp scrambler, which is needed to tackle a Venture with its built-in +2 warp core stabilization.  My anti-Venture fit also forgoes torpedoes.  I've been using light missiles for Venture killing, because I have had them at level V for a while.  But recently I trained Rockets V, so I get to try rockets for the first time.  Yay, me.

My minute is impatient.  Then I refit, get the rockets loaded, scoop the depot, and it's hunting time.

I warp to the inner system, then get a rough bearing on where the Ventures are.  2.4 AU from me, and generally up and left of the sun.  I set my probes to 2 AU distance, then move them into a rough position as my marker.  Now I start trying to hone down to 5 degrees.  Usually getting down to 15 degrees is fast, while the last step to 5 is hard.  (CCP: very please to put in a 10 degree setting?!)

This time, I am trying for five degrees for a while with no success.  Then I back out to 15 degrees and the Ventures are not there.  What?  Try at 360: there.  Again at 15, then 30, and 60: not there.  I guess they moved.  Strangely, they are the same distance from me, 2.4 AU.  But somewhere else.  Back to the start of my search.

I narrow and narrow, and get to 5 degrees.  OK, that's it.  I check my distance, and have to work it a little bit to get it to look like 2.4 AU.  (This is done purely by eyeball, and is a bit of an art.)  But now I am ready to scan.  I set the probes to 0.5 AU, and scan.  Scanning... and a red dot, 49%.  OK, quickly, drop the range to 0.25, adjust, and scan again.  100%!  A Vital Core Reservoir!  I retract the probes to hide them.  I am "below" the site, which means it is safe to warp in at 100km.  So I do.

Warping... and on grid.  And sure enough, there is the big gas cloud, the C540 one, with all eight Ventures orbiting it, sucking gas.  The little cloud is already sucked up.

The good news is that an orbiting Venture can be sneaked up on.  Or so I think.  I have never done it successfully before, but that's because my average kill is not orbiting.   Stupidly, they sit still.

The bad news is that they are all over the place.  The gas cloud has a radius of some 70km.  There is no way I am going to get two of them.  Orbiting while you mine is not the absolute best way to do it (here's how to do it right), but it is solid play.

Currently I am more than 100km from edge of the cloud.  This is too far to approach in reasonable time, but too near to warp.  Well, I can bounce.  I bookmark the C540 gas cloud (that is, its center), then warp off site to a nearby planet.  Then I warp back to the cloud at 70m.  I end up nearer to the edge than I thought, just 9000m.  But it's actually pretty much perfect.  I am near the edge, ready to go.  Now all I need is for a Venture to come to me.

A quick look around shows one Venture in particular that appears to be headed nearly at me.  He's 70km from me, but approaching fast.  OK, that's the one.  The Venture's orbit is mostly towards me, but a bit to the "down" direction from my perspective.  So, I maneuver down to intercept, and also include a slight angle in towards the cloud.  The approach is working.  The target is getting closer: 50km, then 30km.  I am getting close to the cloud: 7km, 5km.  I stop for a bit.  That's close enough.

Now the target is 20km, and closing.  I start moving a bit more down, and as he closes to 10km, towards him.  Time for pew!

I uncloak, and start locking.  All systems on: 2x scrambler, sebo, rockets.  The lock completes: got him.  My rockets start up, and the range stays short.  Good.
I pounce.
He is past me, and starting to pull away.  I may have to pulse the microwarpdrive to keep up.  But it seems like not.  Distance is maintained at about 4000m.  Then boom, he's dead.  I am ready, and start locking the pod.  He's not ready, it seems, because he does not get the pod out in time.  Locked!  And podded.

I attend to the overview: no ships left on grid but me.  I didn't have any awareness of them leaving.  Tactical tunnel syndrome.

I approach the wreck and grab the corpse for my collection.  Then I open the wreck and loot.  The loot won't fit: there is a lot of gas, which is large stuff.  (The loot fairy smiled on this gank.)  I grab all the fittings, and fill my hold with a small portion of the gas.  In fact, there is significant value in gas.  But I can't take it, so I perforce will leave it.  Perhaps they will try to get it back.  I'll hang around.  I bookmark the wreck just in case I need to get back fast.

This would be a good time to find their tower.  I burn away from the gas and the wreck, and get cloaked.  Safe, I turn my attention to dscan.  OK, they are at that planet.  I warp to a random moon (wrong one), then dscan up the right one and warp in to have a look.  I have to approach the tower to get close enough to see.

The flock is there, but some have already refit into various other ships.  An Archon?  I don't think they intend anything here except logging out.  Sure enough, poof it is gone.  I watch them all as one by one, they get into a big ship of some kind, then poof.

Gas loot.
Finally one is left, still in a Venture, and the Orca.  I sit and watch another few minutes.  Nothing. I doubt they will do anything.

Now I resume being my greedy resource-harvesting self.  There's 12m worth of gas in that wreck, and I want it!  I log in my alt Otto, who warps to my tower to get a gas-carrying Miasmos.  Then I have a better idea: a Venture!  Otto gets one of our gas-mining Ventures, then removes the expensive gas miners, just in case he gets whacked.  Then he renames it, to the same tag and name as the natives were using on their Ventures.  I figure this might confuse them if they see it on dscan, at least long enough.  I doubt they are paying attention, but you never know.

Otto enters the system and warps to the wreck.  The guys at the tower don't move.  Otto lands on grid, grabs, and goes.  Gas mining the hard way.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Killing a This-Is-EVE Newb

I killed a newb yesterday.

I see an Imicus in wspace immediately upon dscanning when entering a new system.  I am heading down a chain I scanned earlier, just checking for new wormholes and looking for people to hunt.  So, mission accomplished, so far.

Most people use Covert Ops to scan with; the Imicus is a T1 scanning frig.  That's a tell: easy meat.  More tellingly, in wspace, we scan cloaked.  It is possible to scan fairly securely when uncloaked, but it's not easy.  You have to move from time to time, and you have to be continually dscanning for combat probes.

I cast around with dscan.  The target is at a planet, apparently, with two moons.  I warp to the CO.  He is here, but moving off at microwarp speed in a direction I cannot get to.

Check the character: he is six days old.  Do I try to kill him?  Of course I try to kill him.  Welcome to wspace.  Still, I can't get him where he is.

He warps to another CO, and disappears.  I can still see the probes.  I guess he cloaked.  Well, he will have to uncloak when he warps to a wormhole to look at it.  Then, if he is slow, and he may well be, I will have a shot.  So, I sit cloaked and watch.

This takes forever.  Obviously he is not a very efficient scanner, which is not surprising considering he's six days old.  Frankly, I am amazed to find him here at all.  I am always impressed by how fearless some players are.  Not me, I am Mr. Risk Averse.

I get out the phone and start playing chess.  Four games later, about 30 minutes after I pick him up, I finally see him again on scan.  He's warping.

He stops at another planet.  I warp in to the CO again, and he is there.  Again he has headed off in a random direction on microwarp.  This time, there is a planet in the approximate right direction, and an anom in the direction of the target's deviation from the first planet.  I start to work to construct the intercept, flying back and forth to 100km to get in front of him.  I go forth and come back once, but before I can do it a second time, he warps.  I don't see him leaving grid, so I don't know where he went immediately.  But I can use dscan to look for him.  I have the system already scanned, so I can see that he has warped to a wormhole.  He disappears from dscan.  He has probably jumped into the next system, although dscan cannot tell you that for certain.  I give him time to get away from the wormhole, while I warp around the system to make sure he actually did leave.  Of course, one cannot know that for certain, but I see no probes and no Imicus on scan.  So, high confidence.

I enter the next system, a C4 with a C1 static.  Yes, Imicus on scan.  A while of messing around with dscan shows that he is very close the entrance wormhole, but off grid.  I can't get to him myself, in my Manticore.  I need combat probes.  Well, that's why I have an alt.

I log in Otto, fly to my tower and switch into my Cheetah.  I load combat probes as I hop downchain two jumps, and into the same system.  Then I move off the wormhole, fire probes, and quickly throw them out of the system.  I fleet up, then it's time for scan the guy.  This is easily done in one scan when someone is within a few thousand kilometers of a known point: just put the probes on the planet, drop their range to minimum, and scan.  Otto hides his probes again, then fleet-warps Von to the target's location... but when I land, the target is already out of range.  Grr, microwarping Imicus.  Drat.

I can see his the direction, though, and there is a combat anom positioned about right.  I warp Von and Otto there, at 100km so the sleepers won't get them.  My new plan is to scan for the target again, then warp in from here at 100km.  This will put me out in front of him, assuming he does not deviate, perhaps off at a slight angle, but I can move perpendicular to him to cut off the angle and intercept.  I am ready to hit "Scan now", but on a final narrow-beam dscan he drops off.  He's moved again!  Ugh.  I widen: where is he going?

He is going to the C1 wormhole.  I warp to 10km.  This time, I get there in time.  He is also about 10km from the wormhole, and about 15km from me.  I head right at him.  Then the standard stuff: uncloak, get systems working.  He pops before he can escape.  Then I lock up his pod.

I hesitate.  I have him scrambled, but: newbie!  Should I pod him?  I finally decide to, and launch one volley of torps.  But he is moving, and torps do not hit pods effectively in any case.  He escapes through the wormhole.

I pursue.  On the other side, no pod and no pod on scan.  I assume he is holding cloak, and I hold cloak too.  I cannot catch a pod if he just warps off, with or without sebo.  But he may not know that, and he may not realize what's happening when his gate cloak ends, which might be enough time to let me get at him.  But he does not panic, and jumps back through the wormhole.  This time, he warps clear.

OK, good on you Mr. Newb.  Actually I am kind of happy he got away.

In spite of the fact that the guy had little or no chance, it was still an amazing hunt for me.  I figured out a few nice tricks on the fly.  It's sad that I did not succeed in getting to the target with my tricks, but that's life.  Next time I will be faster.  There's a reason why people can't be safe in wspace with just a microwarpdrive.

Now I proceed to the next stage of the thing: I message the guy.  (Grr, CPSA.)

He is a bit hostile to begin with, as is understandable, but we have a nice long chat.  I tell him I was hunting him for a while. I tell him to scan cloaked.  (Yes, he did have a cloak!)  He does not know about wspace levels; I fill him in.  How does one know what wspace level a system is?  I tell him about (actually now, whatever).  I also tell him you can ID wormholes on sight from the other side, and link him to Penny.  We discuss how to scan, and I link him to Penny again.  He asks about ships, and I direct him towards Covert Ops.  We talk data/relic sites: he made 20m that morning.  Good!  Does he know how to get out?  No, he ran into a system and off the wormhole.  So I offer to get him out.  He has to trust me a little, but on the other hand, he's looking at suiciding his pod, so not really that much.  I find him (he's in a C5 off the side of the path I had probed earlier).  Then I fleet him up, have him meet me at a planet, and we warp to the wormhole.  (He thinks fleet-warp is cool.)  I get him to the lowsec exit.  I give him 5m ISK to replace the ship, and try to encourage him to keep it up.  I tell him to find people to fly with, or at least chat with.  He asks about my corp, but we can't really take a newb that raw.  But I tell him to stay in touch.  Once his skills are up a little, he might be a good fit.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Whither PLEX?

Here is a graph of recent PLEX prices, courtesy of  Note the long and relatively smooth ride up, then the peak indicated by the red dot, which was Nov. 19.  Then there is a small correction, with two other near-peaks on Nov 21 and Nov 24.  Then a steep decline, to where we are now.  Not enough data to say yet where it will go.  But we can analyze, and we need to decide whether to buy.  Thus, this article.
PLEX prices, past three months.
Price, as we know from microeconomics, is set by supply and demand.  Let's look at the market for PLEX.

There are several factors that I think are affecting the PLEX supply.  They are, in order of timing, the influx of "This-is-EVE" newbs, the ISBoxer policy change, and the Thanksgiving weekend PLEX sale.

"This is EVE" effect on new accounts.
The first factor is a bunch of newbs coming into the game.  Ordinarily EVE gets ~2000 new accounts per day; these include people trying the game out for the first time as well as old players creating new alts.  After the smashing success of the "This is EVE" video, which was released Nov 21, newbies flooded into the game  New account creation hit something like 8000 per day, briefly.  This has dropped back a lot, but the rate is still about 50% above normal, something like 3000 new accounts per day as I write.  I would guess that a high percentage of these accounts are new players, not just new alts.

(The image is from

Some of these newbies are going to find out about PLEX and want to use one or two to kickstart their career.  Others (and I have spoken to two, now, out of perhaps several hundred newbies in the rookie channel whose questions I have answered) are going to want to jump right past the whole low-skill part of being a newbie, and drop a bundle to buy a skilled character.  For that they need two PLEX, plus a boatload of ISK.  So there is at least some additional demand.

Demand for PLEX can be supplied in two ways.  One is by spending ISK in the in-game market; the other is spending IRL money.  Obviously, few of these newbies are going to be able to PLEX with ISK for some time now.  They have low skills, as a character and a player.  So, we expect them to buy PLEX with IRL money and drop them into the game.  This will tend to depress prices.

Probably the main factor is the recent change in ISBoxer policy.  For some time now, ISBoxer has been tolerated by CCP.  Last week (Nov 25), CCP Falcon announced a change: no input multiplexing to anything in-game.  So, you can still use ISBoxer to log in many accounts, or to organize your windows.  But you cannot send input of any kind (i.e. mouse moves, keypresses) which affects the game to multiple clients.  This change takes effect on January 1.

Immediately upon this announcement, PLEX prices took a steep hit.  (Possibly slightly preceding it?)  This is the sharp downward move after the last peak is hit.  Obviously, people believe that because multiboxers almost exclusive PLEX their accounts (nobody pays IRL money for 20 accounts just to mine more ice), their demise will free up so much PLEX that it will significantly lower demand.

There is debate over how much of an effect the multiplexing ban will have.  Some say not much at all.  But in any case, since the ban is not even in effect yet, the reduced demand for PLEX that will happen on January 1 should have minimal effect.  Yes, there will be some reduced buying, for people that happen to PLEX their multiboxed accounts for months in advance.  And starting Dec 1 (well after the price dropped), there should be some multiboxing accounts that are starting to expire and are not being renewed.  But this effect should be minimal.

The stronger effect must be speculation.  I think that the PLEX selling is less a direct effect of the ban than indirect: because people believe it will reduce multiboxed mining a lot, they believe it will reduce PLEX demand.  As such, people think PLEX will drop, and then sell because of that -- a classic example of efficient markets pricing in all information immediately.

The final supply factor is the PLEX sale that happened starting on Friday, Nov 26.  This sale went on through the weekend.  PLEX sales don't usually tend to affect the price that much, but they do often have a small downward effect on prices.

Meanwhile, what about the demand side?

Well, there are evidently a lot of people like me.  I prefer to safeguard value in PLEX, not ISK.  As I have written: PLEX is money because it retains value much better than ISK.  As such, everyone should try to preserve value in PLEX.  And this is, evidently, what a substantial number of players do.

(There is a very interesting comment I saw by "Baki Yuku" at TheMittani, on this article about the input replication policy change:
PLEX price is where it is because people are using it as an invetment tool on a massive scale. According to CCP (last fanfest) only 45% of all PLEX injected into the market every month is being consumed. That means 65% are being brought as an investment.
Obviously it is hearsay and the math does not exactly add up.  But it does confirm my suspicion that a lot of PLEX is being used as money.)

I've been sitting on a pile of ISK for some time now, both my personal savings and my corporate savings.  However, because PLEX have been so expensive, I've been waiting for a correction.  Now PLEX drops, and there is a golden opportunity to buy.  I bought.  I think a bunch of people have.  So, collectively the demand to preserve value is sucking up excess supply.

There is one more modest factor on the demand side.  In Rhea, CCP is going to abolish clone grades.  Upgrading clones is an ISK-sink; it is about 3% of sunk ISK according the only data I am aware of on the subject.  Clone costs are basically going to go away entirely.  (CCP will raise the amount required to re-home your clone, but it is still quite cheap, and how often do people do that?)   Other things being equal, this move will marginally decrease the ability of ISK to safeguard wealth.  So PLEX win a bit here.

Summary: I think PLEX is a good buy.  All the fundamentals are there, other than possibly some decline in multiboxer demand.  But I think there is plenty of demand in New Eden for secure savings, that will offset that decline.

As previously mentioned, I have been buying PLEX for my corp and myself throughout the recent decline.  I got some at 900m, a few as low as 812m, and most around 830m.  If the price drops further, I may buy a few more, but I am mostly content with my ISK/PLEX balance.  We'll see if my purchases were wise or not.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

In a Relic Site

It's Thanksgiving weekend.  Lots of people playing EVE, including lots of newbs.  I am in wspace as normal, and I've been neglecting things here a bit while I answer questions.   Time for a roam.

I set off up into our C5 static, but nothing is doing there.  There's no incident wormholes, just its static.  So I don't open the far static.  Instead, I run small sites, raking in 60m ISK in about a half hour including scanning.  Not bad.  Now down into C4b.

C4b is also empty, and with no wormholes except its statics, it also seems likely to be zipped.  OK, I'll run small sites here, too.  I clean out four gas sites and one ore anom, getting lucky on nanoribbons this time for 90m ISK.  Then I head back home to get back into my Manticore, and return to C4a to explore its C2 and C5 connections.  I try the C2 first, under the general theory that lower in wspace I am more likely to find easy kills.  Thanks are due CCP for putting in nullsec data and relic sites into C1/C2/C3.  These are great places to look for ganks.

C2a, like the two previous systems, feels disused.  My first clue is no towers or ships on dscan.  The second clue is the pile of 20 sigs.  There are also 10 anoms; not that many given so many sigs.  Now I warp around to see an outer planet.  No tower or ships: that's my third clue.  Also a check of the system in tripwire shows that is has lowsec/C2 statics; not as desirable as a highsec.

I think I have a backwater system here, perhaps untouched for days; that's my strong intuition.  More than one of those sigs are going to be data/relic sites that I can solo.  So, before doing anything further, I head back home to get my exploration Buzzard.  Not only can it run the sites (with both relic and data analyzer IIs), it scans considerably faster too.  I scan in C4a and C4b on the way home, and back.  No activity.  Good.

I return to C2a, fire probes, and start scanning.  After some considerable time, I find a fourth clue: this system has piled up a large number of those nullsec data/relic sites.  In fact, there are ten of them (!), and also two sleeper data sites.  There are also, unfortunately, a large number of wormholes: five of them, plus the one I entered through.  So there is some risk in hacking.  But I figure it is worth the risk, especially if I cherry-pick.  And also if I cache loot.  (The remaining sigs are gas sites.)

I head into each site, scanning cans to see what's there.  Two of the data sites have an augmented decryptor, so I go ahead and do the better cans there.  Many of the relic sites have decent tech II salvage, and I run four of them.  Each time I get more than 10m ISK or so, I run out to a safespot I make in the outer system, to dump all the loot in a jetcan.  If I get killed, at least I won't lose most of the loot.  I don't get killed.  And... it's almost dinner time in the real world.  So that is enough.  I head back home to J213139, 150m ISK worth of salvage and other stuff aboard.  Bye EVE, for now.

And... back!  Food heated, family fed, things said, time's fled, The Boy abed.  Now time for some hunting.  I head into C5 just for a look, including popping out into nullsec on the off chance I can find anyone there.  I don't.  I am eager to head back to C2a... with all those exploration sites.  The six I ran will be gone, but the four I passed on should still be there.  I've got the stuff I want out of there.  Now I want to open it up, get explorers in, and kill them.  Time to fly to those five wormholes.

All of the wormholes are outgoing.  One is the lowsec static, one is a small wormhole to C2, and the other three are connections to C2.  I sense a trend.  I guess that just as exploration sites have dead-ended here, so have random wormholes.  Interesting pattern.

I head into lowsec first.  It's a faction warfare system in Minmatar control, evidently.  That's not likely to attract many explorers.  Then into C2b, C2c, and C2d.  None of them are very promising.  Towers in each, nobody home, no probes, and nothing obvious going on.  Sigh.

I head back into C2a, and run out of steam.  I think I'll just sit here, in the inner system, where I can dscan to all of the sites that are left.  And I will join rookie chat and answer questions.

I join rookie chat.  2600+... yeah, I think they may need me.  Anyway, I get some good answers in.  One guy has a devil of a problem: he has no money to speak of, and he bought PLEX, but he cannot sell them because the taxes are too high.  (Evidently, a sale is not permitted if you cannot pay the tax up front?  Seems strange to me.  But that was his report.)  Anyway, I PM him and give him 10m ISK to allow the transaction to work... and it gets strange from there.  But that's another story.  He eventually gets it done and pays me back.  Ah, not scammed by a rookie.

I am occasionally dscanning in C2a, not finding anything.

More than one question of "how do I make ISK fastest"?  That's a real good question, one I don't really have a solid answer to.  The boilerplate is "mining, running missions, ratting, factional warfare".  I have the feeling too many of them are going to go mine, and that's not really what they want to do, but they know how, it's there.  I think CCP should have a faction warfare mission in the advanced military sequence, where you have to go to a complex, fight a rat, spin a button for 15 minutes, and get bacon.  Maybe have a second more powerful rat warp in on you.  That would give newbs a taste of it and enough familiarity to hopefully try it out.

Anyway, the night is getting on.  It's 11:15, and I'll be leaving EVE in a half an hour or so for bed.  And what to my wondering eyes should appear, in C2a, but probes.  Mmm.  Well, probes don't necessarily mean anything.  But they might.  I keep more than half an eye on the dscan.  I answer more questions.

Then I see a Probe.  It has a character's name on it... hmm, could be a rookie.  Should I kill a rookie?  Well, yes.  I should.  I try to find it with dscan, but it is nowhere I can determine.  Then it cloaks.  The probes are still out there, so: patience.  More questions.

Now I see the Probe again.  I narrow it down to fifteen degrees on dscan, but it's in no known site.  I have the feeling he is in a site, since he is not cloaked for a long time.  But it must be a site that spawned since I was scanning.  I could warp to the outer planet, launch probes and attempt to scan him down.  But, I already know of other sites, and there is a chance that I'll blow it scanning, and he always has his chance to see probes.  So, not a good idea.  I'll wait.  He'll get to another site eventually.

He finishes, then drops off my narrowed dscan.  I widen it to full, and he's still uncloaked... probably moving to another site.  I once again narrow it down, and this time, he is in a site I scanned earlier.  Ha!  Go time.

I warp to the site at 10km.  It's one with widely-spaced cans, all of which are quite far from the warp-in.  The Probe is at a can about 70km from me, hacking it.

I start moving back to get a perch, but that will take too long.  Instead, I spin around the view to the opposite direction of the cans.  There's a handy planet there in just the right direction, 3 AU from me.  Perfect for making a perch.  I warp to it at 100km, then back to the data site, again at 100km.  Now I end up more than 150km from each of the cans.  Perfect.  I make a bookmark.
At my perch.

The Probe is approaching the most distant can, 200+ km from me.  I can see him scanning it.  I am ready to warp as soon as the overview indicates he is hacking it.  But... he doesn't hack it.  Uh oh.  I guess he is being selective, just as I was earlier, and this is a crappy can.  OK, I will wait.  There will be another can.

He moves off toward another can.  Microwarping, from the looks of it.  I consider warping to the can to attack as he arrives, but I'd really rather attack him when he has the minigame up.  He has several more cans to try, so I will wait.

There is time for me to kill.  I check out the character I am stalking to see if he's a newb.

The target is old.

He's not new.  In fact he is two years older than I am.  Good.  No qualms about killing and podding him, then.  (What's he doing in a Probe?)

He finally gets to the can he's headed to.  Again I see him cargo scan.  This can, though, he tries to open.

I warp in at 10km.  He is circling the can, and I end up about 13000m from him, but he is heading toward me.
At the can.

I approach him, then uncloak and start firing.  My lock completes.  He's pinned!  He heads away from me.  My torps hit: shields down.  He heads away from me, but he cannot microwarp, and apparently does not have an afterburner.  The range stays at about 4500m.  His ship is little or no faster.  A second volley: shields wiped, armor almost down.  A third: deep structure.  And zoom!  He warps.

WHAT?  Oh.  He must have had warp core stabilizers; that's why he had to cargo scan from so close.  A good trick... I might think about it for my Buzzard.  I dunno.  It's nice to cargo scan from afar, but it's also nice to thwart gankers.

Oh well.  Live and learn.  Time to go to bed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chatting with Newbies

There's been a huge influx of newbs into EVE following the release of the amazing new EVE trailer.  I've always wanted to give a little back to the community, and this seems like a good time for it.

So I spent a night doing nothing in EVE except talking.  I logged in, entered newbie chat, and answered questions solidly for three hours.  It's a surprisingly fun activity.  I start to get competitive with the other oldsters, seeing how fast I can type out a good answer that does not assume much knowledge.  Trying to pick up on questions that did not get answered.

There are a lot of newbies getting stuck in the training missions at one point or another.  Mostly, the volunteers in the channel talked them through all sorts of weird conditions that we'd never think of.  Like, the guy who had a blueprint in his hold and could not get it to work.  Lots of questions of "where are the asteroids?"  (Apparently they'd been mined out in the newb systems.)  Most of the questions about the missions I did not even try to answer, since I just don't know.  I should create a trial and see how those missions work these days.

It was other questions that I was able to help with.  All sorts of questions about EVE; things we take for granted.  How do you fly in space?  Can I move my ships sideways?  Can I move all my ships to a different station without flying back and forth?  How do you quit out of the game?  How do I get item X?  (The market is apparently a novel thing.)  Can I earn enough to buy a PLEX in 14 days?

Then there were some harder ones.  I finished the training missions; what do I do now?  What's a good corp to join?  How do I make ISK?  (That's a tough one.  Do I tell a newb to... mine??)

One guy in particular I remember.  He PMed me, then gradually worked out for himself (with me supplying answers), that he wanted to PVP and did not want to earn ISK in game, but could do it by PLEXing.  And that he could buy a character... he thought this was a bit pay-to-win, and it is at least pay-to-get-ahead... but as I told him, character skill is useful but player skill is what is most important.  You can't buy that.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

One Percent Moments

I was aware of EVE for years before I ever played it.  There were two things I read that really made me decide I wanted to try it.  If I recall correctly, both were comments by The Mittani, in some interview.  One of those comments was something to the effect of, 'EVE is incredibly boring 90% of the time; you're sitting watching a spinner complete a circle.  9% of the time, EVE is moderately interesting.  But then 1% of the time EVE is just insanely fun.'  (I really ought to dig that up.)

Speaking of those 1% moments, CCP made a new trailer.  It's pretty great.  It's EVE visuals mostly synthed up by CCP, with stirring music and real sound captures of players playing the game. It's these sound captures that are the focus of the video, and why it works so well. 

The game shown in the video is not the game I play for the most part; it's the nullsec fleet game.  (Hunting solo, I make no sound at all.)  Still, a lot of the fun of EVE -- a lot of those 1% moments -- are captured.  That bit at 3:20 is just how I feel when I get a kill, even a pitiful little Venture.  Yeah! yeah!! yeaaah!!!

[Update: the interview referred to above.  My memory is not 100% accurate, but close enough.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Are Wardecs? What Should They Be?

Sugar has a couple of posts up thinking about wardecs (onetwo).  In the minutes of the summer summit we see that CCP has discussed the issue with CSM, which is good, because wardecs currently are a bad game design.  I have my own ideas about what should be done, which I will probably record here.  (My longest explanation so far is in Sugar's comments.)  I have also been reading others' ideas and trying to synthesize the broad themes around wardecs.  Thus, this post.

Just so it is clear, I live in wspace, not highsec.  I have one character in my corp who could be affected by wardec: my Jita alt and freighter pilot.  If I got decced, I could simply not use him for a week, or I might drop corp with practically no loss of functionality.  So the wardec system has essentially no effect on me in my current game.  I feel I can be impartial.  I would love it if wardecs became a fun and interesting play mode.  (I feel the same way about null, actually.  Die blue donut.)

Wardec as Corruption and Crime

It seems the most common current explanation for wardecs is that they are a bribe to Concord to "look the other way" for a week.  Then you get to be a criminal without repercussion and kneecap weak players.  In this view Concord is inherently and totally corrupt.

This explanation works in the sense that it accounts for many of the features of wardec: you pay a fee (real wars don't have fees), it's good for a limited time, and it feels criminal because it is typically deployed to beat up weak corps.  On the losing end, wardecs suck, and that is how being a victim of corruption feels.

It makes very little sense in terms of the in-game reality (the "lore").  Has there ever been a government that has allowed open warfare in its domain?  (No.)  Have there been cops that one could bribe to allow mayhem in public?  (No.)  Will any public sit still while, lore-wise, thousands of people are being killed due to corruption?

Also, being the subject of a corrupt government is inherently unfair and generally unfun.  Fun game play is at some level fair, and current wardecs are deeply unfair in practice.  This is why people dock up or don't play for a week.  Thus, wardec as corruption does not seem to suggest any reform that would make a fun game play for most players.  A game mechanic is probably not going to be fun when it is based on corruption.

Wardec as Sport

Another view of wardecs is that they are a Concord-sanctioned form of sport for capsuleers.  Capsuleers pay a fee and then get to play war for a week.

This explanation has the virtue of aligning with the IRL reason for the feature.  That is, it really is sport for us players, designed by CCP, supposed to be fun.  In practice, it is not fun for the vast majority of the players.  This makes it a bad design, but the intent is obvious.

Lorewise, the criticisms of wardecs -- that they are unfun for either side most of the time -- apply even more here than for bribes.  Why does Concord push this awful "sport"?  Can't they think of anything that is more fun than being docked for a week?  And why do they call it a "war" if it is a game?

On the other hand, the sport metaphor does offer a way forward.  Sports by their nature are not fun unless they are fair.  My little league baseball team does not play the Orioles, and that is good because such a contest would be totally imbalanced to the point of absurdity.  Sports are highly segmented by ability, typically via both age and sex, in the attempt to level the playing field.  Also, sports are voluntary; they are opt-in affairs on both sides.

The suggestion of the sports metaphor is thus to make "leagues" of some kind, or more generally to require only "fair" wars, and/or to allow only consensual wars.  I disapprove of this -- EVE should be about real conflict, not staged -- but it is a redesign idea that makes sense in its way.  (Indeed, the game Clash of Clans, which several in my corp are playing, seems to have taken this metaphor for its warfare.)

One suggestion in this line that I do strongly support is Gevlon's idea to have "safe" corps.  These would be player-run corps that have the safety of an NPC corp.  They are taxed a little less than NPC corps, can't anchor POSes, and are immune to wardec.  It seems like this should be a relatively easy change to program.  It would, at a stroke, remove a lot of the whining about the current wardec system, because many (perhaps most) highsec corps are basically social clubs.  So there's big bang for the CCP programmer-buck.

Here's a further idea along the line of wardecs as sport.  I might suggest that all corps be assigned a power rating, as in chess.  (Here's wiki on the Elo rating system.)  Any war declared against a corp of sufficiently lower power rating could be declined by the would-be victim without penalty.  (Wars between relatively closely rated corps could not be declined.)  Either side could "resign" and halt the war (at the expense of losing) at any time.  The resolution of a war would have to be automatically generated, and a winner/loser/draw assignment made, and the power rating adjusted accordingly.  New corps should not be allowed to wardec until their average member time in corp was, say, two months.

Wardec as War

One other view of wardec is that they are (or should be), as the label says, wars.  That is, they are the ultima ratio regum, the "continuation of policy with other means".   This idea of wardec seems to be what most people want them to be, me included.  So it has that going for it.

On the other hand, wardecs as they currently exist are very little like war.  Corps are not sovereign in highsec; Concord is, and there is very little reason to suggest they have any interest in allowing wars to be fought there.  Also, Concord's in-game power (to stop gankers) is so far beyond that of capsuleers as to make any pretensions to kingship by the latter a joke.

Furthermore, wardec "wars" don't have many features of normal wars.  Normal wars do not require paying off a higher authority.  There is no higher authority.  Wars are never known to be finite in length.  They don't always involve a warning period.  And while they can end by negotiation, they often end by the unconditional surrender of a side when it is utterly destroyed.   And they are always about something: there is some question at issue or possession being contended for.

Wardecs as war is the explanation that least fits the reality of the existing game.  Nevertheless, this would be the explanation that I most favor CCP developing on.

Wardecs should be war, which is to say they should settle something.  There should be something at stake in every wardec, for both aggressor and aggressee.  And a war should, if won, have some meaningful outcome.  Wars should be unbounded in length, because we want the test of strength to actually happen and some resolution to occur.  And a successful war should make some change in the state of the game.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

An Ineffective Tengu

The weekend.  The cat will play.  Let's see what's up in EVEland.

I log in, and I know nothing beyond my home system.  I am zipped up, probably.  Likely.  Almost certain.  But that can be rectified.  I am already in my hunting Manticore.  I'll search down the three new sigs.  One is my static C4.  The others are yet to be determined.

I determine them to be one gas and one radar site.  Hmm.  Well, since I am zipped -- probably -- this might be a good time to earn a bit of ISK.  So I activate the gas (a frontier site), then warp to my home POS and get in my small-site Tengu.  I wait around a while doing other stuff.  Finally I warp in to the site and... nothing is there.  I'll sit.  After five minutes, finally some sleepers appear.  I kill them, and the reinforcements that appear too.  My mobile tractor is grabbing all the wrecks, and my one salvager is grinding them.  All done now.  30m ISK richer, and now it is time to hunt.

I don't want to open my C5 now.  So I'll head into the C4 and see what's there.  I warp to the wormhole, bookmark it, and jump.  Then I bookmark the far side, and attend to the dscan.

Nothing much.  I am near an outer planet, though.  The center system, I can see.  But one of the planets is out of range.  I check the sigs: just three.  That will be my entrance wormhole, a K162, and the two statics of this system.  Also, there are no anoms except for one ore site.  This system looks lived in.

I move away from the wormhole, launching probes.  Then I throw the probes out of the system, cloak and decide what to do.

The ore site is near to the planet I cannot see, so I warp to it instead of the planet.  You never know when you might find miners mining.  As I cross the inner system, I dscan.  Lo and behold: two Retrievers.  I think I have found miners mining! 

I land on grid in the ore site.  Sure enough, about 40km from me are the two Retrievers fairly close together, mining into jetcans it appears.  They've each got a full flight of mining drones out.  The discovery scanner is ticking, so I head straight at them.  I think I can get there faster than bouncing.  It should be only a minute, then I'll have them.

One of them moves.  Did they both move?  Uh oh.  The first one's drones are coming back to it.  I think they saw my sig.  Curse you discovery scanner!

I redirect slightly to head at the second.  If I am lucky, he is AFK or not paying attention to his corp chat, and I can still get him.  But now his drones are returning too.  I am still 30km away.  The first Retriever warps off.

Desperate, I uncloak and hit my microwarp.  My hope is to cross the remaining 22km fast enough to get in range to scramble the remaining miner.  I lock, and open up on him... but the torpedoes never hit.  He warps too.


I cloak, then fly to the nearby planet.  I'll search down the moon they are at, and see what they do next.  There are four tower, including two towers with ships at them, both with bubbles at them.  From the Cyrillic, it appears they are Russians.  I don't like the look of those bubbles, always fearing decloak traps.  So I won't get on grid yet.  I'll just wait a bit to see if they go back to business as usual.  (It's crazy, but sometimes people do.)

Instead I see two Scorpions appear.   Uh oh.  I think they plan to pop my wormhole.  I fly to it and look for probes... but there are no probes.  Strange.  Have they had time to scan it already?  After a while of sitting and no probes, I warp back to check on the enemy.

No change.  I think I'll scan.  I rapidly resolve the two sigs, which are both near the enemy planet.  I assume they will see this, which may dissuade them from trying to pop my wormhole.  Two statics bookmarked, I hide my probes again.  Then I set to finding their towers.  They are at moons 2 and 3.  I warp to these moons from the C3 static, which is above the planet in absolute space-directions.  (Always warp into potential traps from the most unexpected possible direction.)  The decloak traps turn out not to be.  Each tower just has an anchored bubble.  I don't hit it at either moon.  Neither bubble seems very helpfully placed.  Whatever.

Now I can see that the Scorpions are empty.  There is also one empty Retriever, and an empty Iteron V.  There's a manned covert ops, though, so I take another trip back to my wormhole to see if they are scanning.

They are not.  Weird.

When I warp back to the one of the towers, I can see a new Tengu on scan.  Also, there are two Iteron Vs on scan, not one.  Neither are at this tower.  So I warp to the other tower.  There's one Itty V here.

Where is the other?  I point my scan at the ore anom... yes, there it is.  It seems they want their jetcans back.  I once again warp to the site at 10km
A Miasmos is better for this.
Again I land about 40km from the jetcans.  The Iteron is next to the cans, no surprise there.  I head towards it.  This time there is no hurry.  The Iteron picks up one can completely.  There are six more cans near it, and a bit further away another three jetcans.  My guess is they are full, and an Iteron maxxes out at less than two jetcans worth of stuff.  So, it will have to take multiple trips.

The Iteron turns, and warps to the Russian planet.  I continue getting in range of the cans he was at.  I figure he'll be back.  Meanwhile, I determine the range to the planet -- 3.2 AU.  I set my dscan to 3 AU, so that I can see if anything is coming.

I am mindful that this may be a trap.  But there's only one way to find that out, and I feel the risk is worth it here.  Their listless response to my presence so far does not suggest they have much of a plan.

Just as I get into position about 8 km "up" from the jetcans, I see a Tengu on scan.  Ah.  It is a trap!  But I am aware of it.  I see the Tengu landing on grid.  It lands about 40km from me -- it must be back at the warp in.  It disappears.  It evidently has a cloak.  So they are trying to bait me, or just to fly cover.  But they screwed up.  The Tengu is not close enough to scramble or even disrupt me.  Nor can it lock me fast enough.   I am going for it when the Itty gets back.

And there it comes, gliding on grid.  170km, then 40, and 10.   It has returned to the same cans, and I am poised 7km off.  Normally an easy kill, but with the Tengu this may become interesting.

I uncloak, and start locking the Iteron.  And... it's locked.  I see the Tengu uncloak.  The Iteron is dying, and boom.  Gone.  I am still not locked, so I try to lock the pod.  I almost get it... and I see the redbox appear.  Ok, I am warping.  (The pod escapes.)  I wonder if a volley of the Tengu's heavy missiles can kill me.  I doubt it, especially after the recent hitpoint buff.  The question is not tested.  The missiles never hit.  I warp.

I bounce and immediately return to the site, but it's quiet.  They may or may not try for the rest of their cans soon, but I am not going to take another shot at it.  They may well succeed at trapping me.

I set off down into C3.  I find some nice nullsec-style data/relic sites.  I pass back through to get my hacking Buzzard.  The Russians are not in evidence.  So I visit the wreck and get the single cargohold expander off it.  Phat lewt!  I get my Buzzard then I score some actual nice loot in C3, and return.

This time I see the Russian Scorpions manned.  They are popping my wormhole, finally.  I skedaddle back in, and watch as they finish the job.  Bye, guys.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Wspace in Rhea

There's a new dev blog up revealing the new systems that will be added to wspace in Rhea.  You've probably already heard of Thera, a giant system with NPC stations.  

In addition there will be another 100 "shattered" systems, with no moons (no POSes!) and shattered planets (no PI).  (I wonder if CCP read my proposal to have moonless wspace systems.)  Also they'll have permanent asteroids, and ice anoms!  Hmm.  All will get one more static than is normal for a system of their level, and it will go to kspace.  So two or three statics each.

Of the 100 shattered systems, 75 will be normal systems in terms of their effects and access.  Another 25 systems will have only small wormholes as access: that is, you can only get in frigates, destroyers, and heavy interdictors.  Also, each of the small systems will have C6 wolf-rayet effect, namely, armor good, shields bad, small weapons really amped up, small signature.  

Will this affect my game?  Perhaps a little.  I don't really envision doing mining much at all; it's just not lucrative enough.  (And if I wanted to mine rocks, I can mine in my own system.)  Ice-mining, maybe.  (Though which kind of ice will there be?  I want Minmatar ice, whatever it is, to make fuel from.)  With no local POSes, I'd guess they will be anom graveyards.  So, there should good site running there.  

In any case, I don't see carebearing in them except in a zipped system.  That's asking for gank.  The extra static will make them harder to zip up, but it should be doable.

There are currently 2498 wspace systems.  Given 100 more, this gives a roughly 1 in 26 chance that any particular new connection connects to one of them.  So from moonful wspace, we should get a direct connection to a shattered system approximately once per month for most systems, or twice per month for C4s like mine.  Then we'll see.  

I think the strongest effect may be on hunting.  The chance of any particular connection leading to a shattered system is 1 in 26.  But let's say you look at 10 systems each night.  (I typically connect to at least this many.)  Then the chance to find a shattered system is about 32%!  So I'll be seeing them fairly frequently.  They seem like good places to hunt.  Indeed they seem like good places to go on safari.  

Am I excited?  No.  Maybe a little bit.  Still, it's good to see CCP adding new content.  These may not be for me, right now, but they might be places I'll get to eventually.  

I'd love to see a Hutt Enterprises Inc. form, and dominate Thera to be run as a freeport.  All non-combat ships NRDS.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nerf Awoxing in Highsec

Evidently CCP has discussed nerfing highsec awoxing with the CSM.  This is in the recent CSM minutes.  So, what do I think about it?

Generally, I agree with the plan.  Awoxing is horribly unintuitive for naive players, enough so to break their willing suspension of disbelief in a very negative way.  Also the violation of trust is considerable, and not something we want to promote in a game that is trying to get people to work together.

The ability to shoot corpmates does have some utility.  The CSM reps bring this up quite effectively.  (I.e.: webbing freighters, logi support, playing around, testing fits.)  After considering this a bit, I think that it should be kept.  However, 99% of the time, it is not needed.  So, make it possible but never by default.  Limit the scope as much as possible.  Move it to a fleet setting.  Corpmates in the same fleet can shoot each other if and only if the fleet commander has set a "free to shoot" flag for that fleet.  When you join a fleet, you already get a warning saying you can't shoot people.  You'd need a new warning for this.  Also, players should be warned whenever their fleet commander turns on "free to shoot".

Note that this idea does leave open a small window for awoxing.  Get in a corp, lead a fleet or sucker the command into turning on "free to shoot".  Now you can awox everyone.  I am OK with that.

There are arguments out there (i.e. James 315) that awoxing is needed to break up bad highsec corps.  Well, it's colorable at least.  But I think that the number of such incidents is quite low compared to the total awoxing that people do to corps that are good or indifferent.  I also don't think that people who get awoxed even though in a bad corp necessarily learn the "right" lesson from it, as opposed to the lesson "EVE players are assholes".  And finally, most players in a bad corp will leave of their own volition.  Indeed, James has a posting up recently detailing just such a player.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Rolling with a Higgs Rig

For those not keeping up on stuff, as of Phoebe there is a new rig in EVE: the so-called Higgs Anchor.  It has a number of effects on a ship, including doubling its mass.  A reader mailed me asking if I had thought about them for the purpose of popping wormholes.  I have.  I decided to write a bit about it.  This prompted me to get the latest EFT to play around with.

The Higgs does make it possible to make a battleship with almost exactly 300gg of mass.  That is double the current mass (about 150gg) that my wormhole-popper gets.  But I am still not sure if I will use it.  There's just a few problems.

Here's one problems with the Higgs.  It doubles all of the mass on the ship, including microwarpdrive or afterburner mass.  Yes: your 100mn afterburner adds 100gg.  (This violates my intuition, and I wish CCP would change it.  I don't care if the Higgs doubles the armor mass.)  Thus, most battleships will end up slightly over 300gg with prop mod on.  Therefore more than half of the cheap battleship hulls cannot really use it to full effect.  You can still get ~200gg of course, turning your prop mod off.  So you require five back and forth passes to pop a wormhole, instead of seven.  That does not excite me as much as half as many passes.

Another problem with the Higg rig is that it drastically decreases speed.   You get a quarter of what it would be otherwise, and the doubled mass means that prop mods don't have as much effect.  (I get about 1/6 the speed with a microwarpdrive.)  This makes a microwarpdrive almost mandatory, and even that is not very fast.  It's a lot faster than five minutes of polarization.  But it's not just a simple time tradeoff, since the extra time is spent on the dangerous side of a wormhole.

One more problem, which applies only for people with 2000gg wormholes (those in C2 through C4), is that you really do not want a ship more massive than 180gg for the later passes when popping one of these wormholes.  A wormhole can have mass variation of plus or minus 10%, and it is at the 1/10 mass level which it goes critical.  Thus, if your hole popper has mass of over 180gg, then it can potentially pop a disrupted but not highly disrupted wormhole in a single pass.  A single pass leaves you stranded outside.

(If you live in C5+, then getting a battleship with 270gg is still safe.  But none of them can easily reach this number.)

Now, it would be possible to use one set of battleships for the early/middle part of hole popping, then only switch to lighter ones after you've gone well past half mass.  Still, I like the general foolproofness you get from the rule "it's always safe to do a single out and back pass in this ship".  And I don't really want to have even more single-use ships.  I already have two dedicated hole poppers and limited space to store big ships.

A final problem I have with Higgs has to do with my hole popper.  On occasion I pop holes by myself, using two characters.  I fly Scorpions for the purpose; here's the fit:
[Scorpion, Hole Popper]
Damage Control II
'Hypnos' Signal Distortion Amplifier I
'Hypnos' Signal Distortion Amplifier I
Beta Reactor Control: Capacitor Power Relay I
Beta Reactor Control: Capacitor Power Relay I

'Cetus' ECM Shockwave I
'Hypnos' Multispectral ECM I
'Hypnos' Multispectral ECM I
'Hypnos' Multispectral ECM I
'Hypnos' Multispectral ECM I
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large Micro Jump Drive
Experimental 100MN Afterburner I

Expanded Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I
Heavy Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Heavy Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Heavy Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Heavy Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Large Particle Dispersion Augmentor I
Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I
Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I

Hobgoblin II x5
Warrior II x5

This ship is very hard to stop by any enemy short of a pretty substantial and well-chosen fleet.  It can burn back to a wormhole in reasonable time unless webbed.  It can jam out ships webbing it.  It can microjump out of bubbles, unless scrambled, and if desperate it can try to drain a tackler's capacitor out.  I like it a lot.  The hull's bonuses are used fully.  You'd have to bring a fleet combining several jam-resistant webbers, scrams, and DPS to stop it.

This ship is also a good escort for a hole-popping fleet of battleships with micro jump drives.  If there's an enemy attack, it can get everyone else out and probably escape itself.

I don't feel I can make as good of a ship for popping on any hull but a Scorpion.  But of the sub-100gg hulls, I think the Raven might be the best.  Here's a possibility cranked out with a little EFTing:
[Raven, Higgs Hole Popper]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Damage Control II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Stasis Webifier II
Warp Scrambler II
Large Micro Jump Drive
100MN Microwarpdrive I
Rapid Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Precision Heavy Missile
Rapid Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Precision Heavy Missile
Rapid Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Precision Heavy Missile
Rapid Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Precision Heavy Missile
Rapid Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Precision Heavy Missile
Rapid Heavy Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Precision Heavy Missile
Heavy Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Large Higgs Anchor I
Large Core Defense Field Extender I
Large Core Defense Field Extender I
Warrior II x5
Hammerhead II x5
This has just under 300gg mass. It can fight off light tackle pretty well, and can swap to fury missiles against larger stuff.  Still, compared to the Scorpion I'd feel rather exposed in it.  The main good thing about it by comparison is its 300gg mass -- one half the passes.  I'll have to consider whether it is worth it. 

One other amusing possibility occurs to me: the use of a Higgs on a lighter hole-popper.  A Higgs and a 100mn prop mod is 100gg.  So, I should be able to make my hole-popping Onyx better at its single function.