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.