Friday, 30 November 2012

Day 160 : Milestones & Millstones

I got an in game mail the other day from a pilot named E’dyn. Apparently the blog had inspired him to “get of his lazy ass and start doing things myself”. It’s great to hear that someone actually reads (and enjoys) the stuff I pour out but in this case it was doubly welcome because I realised that I too had once again been sat on my lazy ass.

Again I'd fallen into the "future trap" where either the skill queue or long term plans caused me to pause any other activities I wanted to pursue. Looking for the cause my suspicion fell instantly on my old foe the skill queue, particularly when I’m involved in managing the grind to escape the Noob Tax (see day 157). When I thought about it further I realised that it wasn’t just the skill queue, but actual plans that were underway and another trap I’ve invented for myself, the Milestone.

I’ve done this before in games where I think “If I can just do X then I can mark that off as doable in future if I need to”. The main milestone I had in mind was reaching that figure of a billion ISK. This is a hilariously bad milestone partly since my easiest source of income stems from mining so I end up doing a lot of that, and msly because all the ISK building up could be in the market working for me and I’m not doing that. I don’t mind mining, I tend to get a lot done both in game and reading outside the game while doing it. Multiple monitors is a must since T2 strip miners are going to need a target swap on most runs and I find ALT-TABing around multiple screens to be annoying. I end up planning a lot while mining, so it becomes a kind of milestone feedback loop, generally adding new plans or further milestones to an already stupid one. For example: the cost/benefit analysis, after the Retribution launch, of running with a couple of salvage drones vs a couple of mining drones and leaving defence to just three scout drones. It depends on the spawn rate of rats and how many mining drones you lose (since the favourite meal of a rat is apparently a mining drone).

Another milestone was invention. I want to produce a T2 blueprint by myself. This would probably end up being uneconomic for actual production with my current skills but I wanted to produce it nonetheless. This became entwined with yet another milestone: setting up a research POS. The POS wouldn’t be necessary for a one of invention job, its easy enough to find hi sec slots for both this and blueprint copying. Being an obsessive however means that I like to do things myself and in this case add some sweet, sweet Material Efficiency into the mix. If you've ever tried to do ME research on a blueprint, you'll have seen the queues for the NPC station slots. Need I say more? Ok. I wanted my own space station. It doesn't have to do anything, it just has to be there.
All this led to a standings grind to 6.0 so I could anchor a POS in 0.6 space. 

At one point during this grind I decided an easy gain would be to repeat the Sisters of EVE Epic Arc, which you can do once every three months. This would be a) less boring that hammering level III distribution missions, b) safer than level 4 security missions and c) fast d) full of easy rewards and e) cheaper than buying the more expensive Serpentis tags. In the end I sped through the entire arc without really following the story. Most of the opponents were alpha’d from a full rack meta 4 rail fit Catalyst. Until the last mission, I hardly had to move once in deadspace. It was a waste since I treated the entire thing as a grind which when playing a game for enjoyment is equivalent to doing nothing at all.

Yet another milestone involved with standings grinds involves getting to 8.0 with someone so they’ll allow me to store a jump clone. A jump clone would take my mind off losing any implants if I went on another RvB ganked roam or spent a weekend roaming around low sec. I’ve been delaying PVP until I get it. Massive error. Since I only have +3 implants, and only two of those due to the Perception/Willpower focus following Noob Tax, the loss wouldn’t be that much at all. Certainly not enough to stop me doing things as I have. Idiot.

So can I escape these milestones turned to millstones around my neck? Not really. It’s in my nature to plan ahead like this and EVE as a game encourages you to do so. I enjoy reaching the milestones so why should I stop, however uneconomical or pointless? The real answer is to enjoy the journey, look around, do stuff on the way there, spend a little more time getting there in order to make the trip more interesting. Basically I need to go out and shoot stuff more, in ever crazier fit ships.

Plans for the future then :

  • Convert rocks into oodles of ISK
  • Invent a T2 blueprint
  • Anchor a POS
  • Get a jump clone
  • Ignore all the above and lurk in low sec in northern Essence looking for easy kills. Come say hi.  Preferably in a really badly fit and fragile ship.

To this I’m adding :

  • Visit the EVE Gate
  • More exploration (both the seeing stuff type, and the “probe then hack that can and run” type)
  • Start Planetary Interaction trial runs on the alt instead of just thinking about it.
  • Try Ice Mining (also uneconomical for me at the moment and even duller than rock mining but it has to be tried at least once.)
  • I may also try some ninja salvaging. I want to try this with salvaging drones after the 4th but that would just mean I’ve found another reason to put off something I can do now.

Along with my long running “scheme”:

Making stuff. Half of this is just the achievement of building things myself, collecting  BPO’s (my addiction), and marshalling the materials through the market (mining currently just being treated as raw ISK input). I like doing this but the way I feel about it has been covered recently, and more entertainingly, here I’m a long way from making my own Orca but I’ll get there. I build my own frigates and destroyers. I am looking forward to building the new destroyers in Retribution and maybe even speculating on some useful modules to do with a couple of those destroyers and one of those frigates.

Finally, as you can tell from the above, I have a bag load of little plans and schemes to do with Retribution because when you’ve learned your lesson about sitting around waiting for the fruition of future plans what you really want to be doing is making more plans for an expansion that you can sit down and have a good wait for.

I’d be interested to hear of other plan style traps anyone else has fallen into. If it turns out that it is just me that does this then I can crawl back under my rock and never talk about planning ahead again.

EVE Track of the Day

The Importance of Being Idle - Oasis

NOTE : This is day 160 written from 169. It’s been a busy old time and I need to catch up on the blogging.

PS. For future reference when I say “planning ahead” with reference to myself it probably means “Don’t do today what you could put off until tomorrow or indeed so far away it won’t fit on a calendar”.

PPS.  Cheers to E’dyn for returning the favour of provoking the getting off of lazy asses.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Day 157 : It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

TL;DR : I had to say something, it wouldn’t get out of my damn head.

I commonly spend lunchtimes reading around the internet. Actually I used to spend lunchtimes reading around the internet. Now I spend lunchtimes keeping up with EVE blogs. I start out with the blog list I keep on this blog and then whenever there is spare time I try to follow a link to a blog I don’t know about. This has swiftly got out of control and I’m having to actively speed read and even skip posts I feel might not have any relevance to me. I even skipped the entire Blog Banter on e-sports because I had no real opinion on it so it saved a lot of time. I skimmed the entries but still couldn’t form enough of an opinion for a post.

Anyway, I was reading aroud when I came across Marc Scaurus post on  describing how the EVE Blog Pack ( and the blogging award called the Eeebees ( had come to be  neglected due to time constraints. The post was entitled “The Future of the Community” and outlined what a useful resource the blog pack was and yet how it needed constant input to remain valid. I’ve an interest in this since the EVE Blog Pack was both an inspiration and a launch point for my reading and writing about EVE. I’d like to see it survive.

A conversation in the comments of the post above led to a typically entertaining explosively styled blog post by Rixx Javix on EVEOGANDA. This claimed that had killed the EVE community, highlighting recent drops in blog entries and some other long term blogs going dark. It’s a great style for getting a discussion started, it energises people into getting involved when they might otherwise have passed over a dry approach of the topic. It’s like using a forest fire to promote new growth but that once out of control just burns the entire place down. Rixx’s premise drew on Marc’s role as a writer for to get started. Marc took opposition and fired back. Blog war. Kind of sad to see two excellent writers knocking chunks out of each other. Hang on. I think they are both great but pass the popcorn.

Seismic Stan over on Freebooted has a summary of all the posts culminating both Rixx and Marc on in the Podside cast.

So why I am posting about this? Shit that wouldn’t get out of my head that’s why. Brain dump time.

Community : as a youngling noob I have to say the EVE community is vibrant and amazing. It’s a struggle to play the actual game sometimes given the amount I spend reading blog posts, forums, dev posts, and Twitter. If it is in trouble now, what the hell was the community like before?

Bias : somewhere in the dim and distant past I picked up a degree in Medieval History and Archaeology. Yes. I have forgotten most of it. One of the few memories from studying history that doesn’t involve gigantic amounts of cheap lager was the lesson of assuming bias on the part of every writer. Bias doesn’t imply a conscious agenda but you must critically read everything. It’s all too hard to remember this given the fast paced, ephemeral nature of writing on the internet. I do it all the time. Accept bias and appreciate it, it’s at the core of any discussion. Read what you want and think what you want about it once you consider how the writer started thinking about it. : Accept the bias. It’s pretty good. There are some excellent articles on there, some very much so. Read with bias in mind. Competition is healthy too. It looks like the EN24 facelift was due to the launch of themittani. Mind you, I still can’t read EN24 in case I see the comments and despair for humanity. Once themittani
put the RSS feed link into the page headers instead of just as a link on the page I'll stick it in my blog reading list. Actually I'm just sore that I posted the html for doing this in a comment on Jesters Trek and it got ignored. It's trivial. I've never even used Drupal and I bet I could sort it out in next to no time. All right. Enough of my I.T. based ranting.

Blogs and other EVE metagame sources : However you can link the ones you like. Share. Comment. Add your opinion. The more channels out there spreading the word, the better. Even the Google algorithm prizes links appearing on more than one site than it does on a single site. They don’t call it the “web” for nothing. The more things to argue about, the better.

Expert opinion :  I’ll look forward to the future of a crowd sourced evebloggers and/or blog pack. I understand some people were wary of its nature as a source where the positions and awards were given out by a selected few. Anyone who ever said EVE was complicated can’t complain about this. You can ignore it as you see fit but I’ll look to experience when I am starting out in something. I’ll learn then move on from there under my own power once I’ve learned. I'll come back to the source to pick up even more. You don’t need to hold fast to its recommendations but it’s a great resource for those starting out on their first steps along the EVE web. Perhaps crowd sourced it will become something else, perhaps even drowned by certain null sec concerns. Support it if you can. Support it if you know stuff about EVE.

Finally I then read of a new plan by an old maintainer of the blog pack, a fascinating idea for a tool to enhance the community further. I read it as a kind of “Podbook”, an EVE dedicated version of the likes of facebook or twitter where all the links and chat would be gloriously EVE related. It turned out that the author had something more in mind when I commented on the entry.

Me? I’m an idiot and bloody minded enough to stay outside such a project just because I’ve been told that it will render me irrelevant. Consider me an independent and as a famous Independant once said “This is how it is. Anybody doesn't wanna fly with me any more, this is your port of harbor. There's a lot of fine ways to die. I ain't waiting for the Alliance to choose mine.“

Gosh. That was dull. I nearly didn’t write it but the thing has been giving me writers block and I had to keep coming back. Apologies for any boredom caused and apologies if the writing is a little patchy and ill-thought out. I basically had to get this stuff out of my head as fast as I could.

Resuming normal service (once I finish listening to the Podside cast).

EVE Track of the Day

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) - R.E.M.

Honestly, it was going to be Shiny Happy People, but this is EVE.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Day 150 : Noob Tax

I sometimes think that MMO players love to be victims, in particular victims of “nerfs”. By “nerfs” I mean anything that lessens their in game character in any way; rule changes, buffing of opponents or rivals, removal of income sources, and for some simply other people being better at the game than they are. It gives the player a chance to rant cathartic. To over dramatically let go the inner reservoir of tears before the dam gives way and they end up posting publicly about how things should be changed to restore them to an earlier god-like status. Don’t get me wrong, I do it too. I've done it before and I've only just done it again. I prefer to think of it as catharsis and have a laugh about it later. My favourites include the, usually drunken, WoW topic of conversation “which class to nerf into oblivion because they annoy me” and the schadenfreude following the nerf of some other class. I'd still be playing whatever game nerfed me, and I’d generally forget the rage within a short period of time and deal with it.

I've had my first experience of this MMO experience staple in EVE. Like everything with EVE it was more intense than with any other game and I’d like now, before I go on, to apologise to CCP Fozzie for telling Rixx Javix ( not to “feed the bear” on Twitter. I was laughing when I did it, but it had the ring of mania about it. I’m not apologising for the crack about the forums being 90% of Statler and Waldorf alts because I’ll need proof that this isn’t true first. So, soz Fozz’. I owe the bear a beer.

So what was it that caused this blaze of rage? It’s something I referred to in several places as a “noob tax”. It is the incoming change to Destroyer and Battlecruiser skills that will split them into four racial equivalents. I didn’t realise I had a  problem when I first heard of it, nor did I realise that the change wouldn’t happen on the 4th, with the expansion, but at some point soon after the launch.

I think I was pondering the future of my character, perhaps a stint in null further down the line, when I realised I’d have to have way more skills in ships to adapt to any fleet doctrines. It was then that I realised that on my current skill plan I was going to end up with at least seventy to eighty extra days skill learning to max out just Battlecruiser skills for the other three races. I’d of ended up with Gallente Battlecruiser V at best. You can add almost another month if I hadn’t learned Destroyers to maximum though in truth I’d have probably got to this before any change anyway. That’s a lot of time to consider when you it’s greater than 50% of your current characters entire life.  Hence the “noob tax” label and why I didn’t care that it made sense considering all the other types of ships were split along racial lines.

In the end though I’d found out from CCP way before it happened. There was an explicit warning to begin training up now if you didn’t want to lose out. I could only pretend to despair for my future skill plan since really I change it more often than I change my underwear. The only solution was to tool up and face the problem.

I brought out the skill planner in EVEMon and messed around with my plan for a while. I then created a new “emergency” plan and faffed around with that for a while. Finally I abandoned those plans and looked at just Battlecruisers. I picked its two SP contributing attributes, Perception and Willpower, and filtered all the skills in the Skill browser tab by this. I had decided that I would remap to learn Battlecruisers, and then use the specialised time to train whatever else I found under those attributes. I can only fit +3 implants, +4s are too expensive for my noobtastic loss rate anyway, but I do have three attribute remaps left.

When I looked at what EVEMon was suggesting it was kind of like a slow version of this


So in fact the "Noob Tax" is a massive excuse for me to specialise in training weaponry and, incidentally my favourite thing about the game, ships. Oh, the hardship, the pain. I should go pour some tears into the forums. Embarrassment is, like, totally OP, man. (EVEMon is also OP but don’t nerf that because it works for me..... Sound familiar?)

I'm still in a race. I might end up with all racial Battlecruisers at IV depending on how soon after the 4th the change comes in. I have a faint hope that CCP might reduce the Skill Rank of Battlecruisers and Cruisers by one each. On the upside, my skill plans are finally coming into focus. That focus is on guns, lots and lots of guns. If I don’t make it for the 4th then, well, I probably won’t notice all that much after all :

  • Salvage drones
  • New bounty system
  • Non labyrinthine Crimewatch system
  • Dead Orcas littering Uedama for months and months (I’ll get emailed by the WWF now)
  • New ship skins
  • New targeting and HUD revamp
  • Camera Tracking feature (goodbye camera spin migraine)
  • Frigate logistics
  • New mining frigate (possible upcoming post : how much trouble noobs can get into using a mining frigate)
  • New sound effects
  • 4 new Destroyers, one of which looks like a U-boat.

There is probably stuff I've missed. If I don’t make it to BC V across the board then I’ll be too busy enjoying myself to care.

TL;DR : noob rages, thinks, says sorry, starts arms race instead.

For those of you of a mind to read something epic that isn’t an epic rant by a noob then you should go and read TurAmarths summation of Blog Banter 39

I’m not just telling you because he has immortalised my immortal as it were. The imagination, dedication and flat out work that a summary of this length, quality and enthusiasm must have taken makes it a must read. o7 Tur’

EVE Track of the Day

Don’t Look Back in Anger - Oasis

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Day 142 : Gardes! Gardes!

Time today to launch into another attempt to do level 4 missions. I'd been flying around earlier completing the third set of career missions as a cheap and cheerful standings gain. I completed them all in an Atron and it was simple. I wish I had another set, I could complete them in a Velator. Full of this false confidence I picked up a level 4 mission and quickly prepped my Space Potato, the good ship "The Big Lebowski", for flight.

Mods : Check
Guns : Check
Ammo : Check
Sobriety : Amber warning light.... hmmm. Looks like the alcohol levels are low. Fuck it. I'll top up in flight.
Balls to toast 100 millions worth of ship on PVE content : Check (note : metaphorical ball checking)
Drones : Ch...  Shit.

I have an addiction to blueprints. After the first Dominix level 4 mission experiment and the ensuing conversations in the comments I became convinced that Sentry drones were the business. I had mental images of the Dominix sitting in the centre of these static drones, running its reppers and toasting everything apocalyptically automatically. These dreams were enough to justify purchasing the BPO for each type of Sentry drone. Quite a lot of cash but not the worst justification for buying a blueprint I ever had. I ran off 5 of each type and promptly left them somewhere that wasn't the drone hold of my Dominix. 

If you aren't a noob then you might want to look away now.

After picking them up I looked at the mission run down on eve-survival, noted that the required damage was EM or Thermal and stocked up with a range of Gallente drones, including the sentries called Gardes. Along with assuming that sentry drones were some PVE panacea I blindly assumed that all sentry drones were roughly equivalent bar the racial damage. It turns out that nothing could be further from the truth. 

NameDamage TypeDamage ModifierTrackingOptimalFalloffMain Defence
Bouncer IExplosive1.40.0140km35kmShield
Curator IEM1.30.0235km20kmArmour
Garde IThermal1.60.0320km10kmArmour
Warden IKinetic1.20.0150km25kmShield

The rest of the stats are pretty much the same, hopefully. Not sure why I've included the Main Defence since I've not worked out whether or not they'll pick up any mitigation from my skills.

Firstly look at the tracking. Its low. It's even worse if you realise my noob fit Space Potato doesn't have any Omnidirectional Tracking links fitted since I swap out drone types for enemy types. Basically without modding you are looking at tracking enough to take out BC/BS equivalents, maybe cruisers. Frigates are going to slip under your tracking and eat you alive, like mosquitoes on a fat bloke sun bathing.

Secondly look at range, particularly the Garde range. So much for always having a blaster at your side. Damn Gallente and their blaster addiction. Once you glance at the stats it's easy to see where the various sentry drone roles are and that there are cases where you aren't going to be able to use them at all. It boils down to simple range/target speed trade offs and keeping your fingers crossed that that particular damage type isn't heavily resisted.

I was lucky that I realised this within a minute of deploying Gardes which by then had commenced to do absolutely zero damage. I started to shout for them. Nothing. I started to shout at them. Still nothing. I named them for characters in the book "Guards! Guards!". Nothing, nowt, zip, sweet FA. Luckily the faithful Space Potato (that ship is getting renamed) laughed off the damage. I could have read the book "Guards! Guards!" while the ship sat there. Drones getting out gunned by my shoddy Large Hybrid Turret III skills. The shame. I realised my error and unshipped some "spritely" Ogres, later swapping those out for Hammerheads which were a lot less dull to fly around and could still handle the content.

Later a situation arose where my sentries would actually be handy. Dropped into the right situation they are indeed pretty devastating. I can imagine that the longer range sentries would have been amazing in my first level 4 mission where I had BC and BS maintaining 30-60k ranges. I am sort of glad I didn't have them, it might have been too easy and so, too boring. I'll stick with a mix of drones and fly heavy drones when I am unsure. At least I don't have to go running after them to pick them up.

So it looks as if Sentries aren't the be all and end all of slow boat PVE clearance. In the end I am just glad I figured it out and got another lesson about pre-flight prep. Read, Know, Then Go. From my response to flying Ogres around I am glad sentry drones don't fit all roles. It looks like my boredom threshold can't cope with minimal interaction mission running, neither can it cope with the headache of shepherding NPC enemies around strategically placed sentries and then having to go back to collect said sentries.

I went on with the level 4 missions since it turned out to be a chain of 5. I was bored by the end of the fourth which I found you could decline and get a courier job in place of it to still complete the chain. I make that six level 4's completed now. So far the most entertaining has been the first which I've described elsewhere and the third here which involved blowing up drone mines. Each time you gunned one down they'd explode, damaging everything in a wide radius and then spit out four cruiser level drones. I knew about the explosion so I didn't lose any small drones and later in the mission it was a laugh just to start filling the area with drones and seeing how many I could take on. I ran out of mines.

Back to level 3 missions for a while I think, I've forgotten when my next storyline is turning up and I don't want to be handed some low sec level 4 that isn't completed by shouting "come on in and gank me!" in Local.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Day 141 : Extinction Event

I broke a rule today.

EVE is a difficult game in so many ways. It can be bought around, it can be ground around, it can be corp'd and alliance'd around. It's still a difficult game. I think the best players of it did it their own way. That's why at the start I decided to do it the hard way. I love that I have to think when finding things out. Intellect. No gifts. I thought I'd live the hard way from day one. I'd find out how it ran for a noob starting from scratch with no help beyond advice. I'm big on the advice. I guess that's a cheat of sorts, I've made a bit of cash out of it here and there. Still, I still haven't dipped into the initial 50 mill that my cousin sent me when I started. If the game wasn't so difficult I wouldn't love it half as much as I do.

I was passing through Sinq Laison with an empty hauler; my faithful Mammoth, the fastest way to high cargo hauling there is, when I heard the scream of alarms. Apart from a set of drones that got left behind on previous COSMOS mission outings I had nothing of value. Who would risk high sec ganking for almost nothing? It's EVE but no one is that daft, surely?

It turns out I'd picked up a kill right in the Tuskers FFA. Shots were wild down there, what can I say? The pilot in question was hanging of a gate in a Hurricane. It was a nice kill, I'm partly glad that I wasn't carrying much and partly racked with guilt that there was bugger all loot in the hold. It would have been more amusing had I been hauling stuff at the time. To that pilot (I forgot to ask his permission to mention him here - go look at eve-kill) o7! I almost leapt out of my seat when the alarms went off.

I quickly realised what had happened and tweeted it, mocking my own loss. Almost mocking. I loved that Mammoth. A sci-fi hauler appearance second to none, in rust we trust, echoes of the Falcon ethos.

A short time after this a long time contact and blog reader let me know he had left me something on contract. Initially wary about gifts I nontheless had a look.

Named for a ship in a Culture novel, and an appropriate name for a hauler (though not technically a Culture ship - the sauce!).

Full of: Exotic Female Dancers, Coffee, Tobacco, Spirits, HoloReels. In short, an entertaining cargo run. Hell, with this on board I'd have done the Kessel Run in 100 parsecs (yes, I know).

The "Break Even" was designed for me. The hauler I never had. I didn't have a chance. Not a gift I could refuse. I imagine flying through space and turning up lighter at the destination.

So, in other words, thanks to TQ, I never asked if I could mention your name either, as much for the laughs as for the hauler. Comment below!

EVE is dark and difficult but it is shiny. I think the TQ care package might be accompanying me on many a haul in the future.

EVE Track of the Day

I was going to choose My Way by Frank (which is a great EVE track, as so many of Franks tracks - or maybe that's just Fly), but I was gutted to see the Big Apple given a roughing up, so to the occupants of that fine city I need to visit, and particularly those that hung working power extensions out so people could charge mobiles:

New York, New York

One day I'll visit. Start getting ready.