Monday, 24 February 2014

ISK/hour versus FUN/hour

In previous posts I have touched on the ISK/hour metric and the concept of fun/hour. Many games, particularly MMOs, have activities that can be repetitive in nature, typically referred to as grinds, which are important in progression or maintenance of other in game activities. The outcome of the activity is desirable, sometimes mandatory to progression, although the activity itself isn't often considered fun. In EVE, many activities are considered boring and typically end up having an ISK/hour value attached to them. ISK allows players to buy modules and ships for PvP. It allows players to get started in industry. It is required to buy skillbooks. ISK is undoubtedly required to take part in a large number of activities in EVE. However, I feel that too much emphasis is often placed on how efficiently that ISK is earned.

Two examples immediately come to mind: Missions and Mining. Missions are PvE content which is carried out to gain faction standings and/or to earn ISK. Faction standings can be useful for a number of reasons, such as reduced broker fees for traders. However, the consensus that I have observed is that the majority of mission running is done in pursuit of ISK and that the missions themselves are boring. I agree that they are a bit behind the times and could an update to make them more dynamic and engaging. However, sometimes I wonder if the obsession in maximising this ISK/hour ratio contributes to them not being fun? Often forum posts come up asking what the best ship to mission in is, in order to reap maximum rewards, rather than going with what is the most fun. I don't mission very often. When I do its usually just for the hell of it. I grab a random ship that I haven't flown yet and go do a couple of missions to pass the time. Isn't that partly what video gaming is for after all?

Mining is viewed in a similar light. While I don't consider mining fun, I do sometimes find it relaxing. Maybe I'm not looking to do something in EVE that eats all of my attention but want to stay connected to the Universe. I'll fire up my Retriever for an hour while I relax watching Netflix. However, whenever mining is brought up it is often dismissed as a boring, poor ISK/hour task not worth wasting time on. There are dedicated mining corporations out there. Though I haven't participated in fleet mining, I assume they keep at it due to the social aspects rather than the ISK/hour aspects otherwise they would do something else. Other people might mine as part of a personal ship building project, just for the sheer satisfaction of building something from scratch, even if it wasn't the most cost efficient way of getting the ship in the end. For example, Sugar Kyle over at Low Sec Lifestyle mentioned mining the minerals herself to build an Orca. I admire that and appreciate that satisfaction that can be gained from such a project.

What is my point here really? Well, I often wonder what percentage of the playerbase are caught up in an ISK obsession. I appreciate that some people do genuinely enjoy watching their wallet blink ever upwards. I know I certainly feel satisfied when the effort I put into my market operations come to fruition. I enjoy the planning involved and just spending time in the EVE universe. However, how much fun is "lost" because of players becoming obsessed with ISK making rather than simply doing activities for the sake of it? There are players like Gevlon over at Greedy Goblin who put great emphasis on opportunity cost in relation to ISK/hour. Why spend x hour doing y to make z ISK when you could spend x hours doing w to make 10z ISK. Maybe he gets more satisfaction from the planning a project and the end result, regardless of the actual activity in between? When I think of gaming, I suppose I still apply opportunity cost. However my cost usually places emphasis on the fun/hour rather than this ISK/hour.

It leads me back to the drive towards PLEXing accounts. How much of this ISK/hour culture is attributed to the existence of PLEX? Goals are important in sandbox games like EVE. Great satisfaction can be gained from planning the way forward, executing that plan and then reaping rewards from the end result. Though in EVE I often wonder how many activities are "made" boring due to the obsession with ISK/hour. When I look at an activity in the game, my first thought shouldn't be "how many hours would I have to spend doing that activity to make enough ISK to buy a PLEX?". It should be, "am I having fun". If I'm not having fun, I should be doing something else. I feel sorry for the people out there treating EVE as a job rather than a videogame. It really is a fantastic Universe to be a part of. I think more people would enjoy it if they could free themselves of their ISK obsession.

Maybe my success in the markets has coloured my perception here. I'm by no means space rich relative to other traders. However of the limited set of ships I can currently fly I'm in no danger of going broke at losing 1... or 100. I know that in real life financial hardship can be an extremely harrowing experience, being at the forefront of your mind. EVE is probably the same to a degree. People often say that "money can't buy happiness". While this might be true, I would suggest that money can set you free. Free of certain burdens which can lead to happiness. Maybe EVE is the same?

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Easy Listening

I spend a lot of time reading about EVE on various blogs (the sidebars will eventually be populated). I also listen to quite a few podcasts about EVE and I am always looking for more. I'd love more recommendations if I've missed out on any obvious ones. This post will be a quick rundown of the various podcasts I currently listen too and what they are about.

Broadcasts from the Ninveah

A short format podcast, usually running at ~15 minutes, by Kirith Kodachi who also writes the blog Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah. He typically does short readings from a number of blog articles and share his opinions on some of the subjects. Its a nice podcast which is short, sweet, and a good way to find interesting articles or blogs that you may not have been aware of or just to get a short dose of EVE content.

Cap Stable

Another shorter format podcast, at least relative to others in this list, with a run time of usually around 1 hour. It is run by members 4 members of AIEU, now part of the Brave Collective. It usually follows a consistent format without straying off on too many tangents and is quite light humored. They typically start off with general chit chat about the hosts activities in EVE, followed by current EVE news and then finish off with a kill of the week. They normally cover a range of topics in these segments and I tend to find it nice and easy to listen to.

Clueless Space Nerds

A relatively new podcast started up at the start of December 2013. This typically runs for ~2 hours and currently has 2 hosts, Rafe Collins and Domanark. The hosts manage to get through a range of topics at a nice pace and both are likeable whilst keeping their "zero fucks given" attitude at the forefront.  They are only up to episode 4 so far but I've been enjoying this and will keep my eye on it. 

Crossing Zebras

Self proclaimed "NUMBER ONE CCP CERTIFIED PODCAST" run by Xander Phoena and Jeg Elsker with a range of guests including regular interviews with CSM. This typically clocks in at 1 and a half to 2 hours. Crossing Zebras really picked up steam after the colossal effort put in by Xander to interview almost every candidate running for CSM8 election. Good banter and discussion between the hosts make this a great listen and the range of guests keep things fresh. The show is reasonably well structured, with the topics to be discussed announced during the introduction. Although they are good friends Xander and Jeg disagree on many topics keeping things interesting. Other than Declarations of War, via Ali Aras, and occasionally Podside, via Mike Azariah, they tend to have the most consistent interaction with the current CSM via monthly interviews.

Declarations of War

An older podcast, run by 2 time CSM representative Alekseyev Karde with co-hosts Ali Aras, a current CSM representative, and NinjaTurtle. A slightly less consistent run time than other poadcasts, ranging from 1 to 2 hours, though packed full of interesting topics. I particularly like this podcast due to Alekseyev and Ali being members of Noir Mercenary Corp, with Akelseyev being the founder, as it gives an insight into mercenary operations in EVE. Portions of the podcast are usually dedicated to reviewing recent contracts another other mercenary corp activities. They do also cover a range of other topics, with NinjaTurtle operating in wormholes and the range of guests they get on the show. Also, getting an insight into CSM processes via Ali and Alekseyev's experience every episode is another great reason to listen in. 

Down the Pipe

Hosted by Longinius Spear, Bronya Boga and Cethion the focus on down the pipe is usually wormhole space. Typically 1-2 hours in length. If you don't know much about wormholes, this is definitely a good place to start. They cover a range of topics, from the good fights in wormhole space to the politics between the various wormhole corps. I like this particular podcast for the "Story Time" segment where they talk about recent fights. Longinius in particular is great at talking about the various, and often ridiculous, fights he gets into in wormhole space. They also get on other wormhole guests from time to time with equally brilliant stories. Other than that the insight into wormhole space, which I know relatively little about, is interesting and often informative.

Fly Reckless

Fly Reckless just passed its 100th episode and over that time has seen a number of host changes. Currently led by Connel Tara with co-hosts Tumbles Goodness and Gynax Gallenor this tends to come in at the 2 hour plus mark. Usually more structured, in a similar vein to Cap Stable, with a general chit chat to start followed by their newly introduced  "Build Reckless" segment headed by Gynax, then their more educational segment where they typically discuss ships, fittings/modules and skills and finally the fail mail segment where they take some rather hilarious killmails and pick them apart for your entertainment. Generally pretty light humored and always a good listen. A notable feature of this podcast to this is the aforementioned "Build Reckless" segment focusing on industry and marketing as not many current podcasts out there, that I know of, have any focus on industry and it can be an interesting and informative segment.

High Drag

High drag usually has the largest panel of hosts other than Podside and usually comes in at around 2 hours. The larger and less consistent panel leads to more casual podcast with more general chit chat than some of the others. They often get through a large range of topics ranging from topical EVE news to thoughts on future development. The also get engaged in high quality podcast PvP with Crossing Zebras from time to time, though all in good fun. They do have some regular segments, such as the "Yin of Fin" where Fin takes you through some of his favourite fits and the best ways to use them though generally the cast is fairly casual and laid back. The range of hosts also leads to some more interesting debates due to the range of perspectives on offer which can be interesting.


Podside is by far the most regularly updated podcast on this list, with typically 2 shows per week. Also their shows regularly top the scales at the 2 and a half hour mark or even longer. The format of this show is probably the least organised and is more of a bar room chit chat, with hosts coming and going mid show, though it usually edges towards Null Sec discussions. Not necessarily a bad thing, though sometimes certain topics get drawn out a bit longer than they otherwise should and arguments can become a bit circular. The panel of hosts come from a range of backgrounds within EVE typically from within the podcasting or blogging community, including the occasional drop in by CSM representative Mike Azariah, leading to a range of topics being discussed. Podside also has a lot more Dust 514 content than the other shows listed here, though due to the nature of the podcast it is hard to predict when it will come up. This show almost certainly has the most heated discussions of any of the podcasts listed here, particularly when null sec politics are brought up. Podside can be a bit hit or miss at times but for the most part I find it entertaining. Just beware the CFC kool-aid.

The Daily Roam

Hosted by Forget Myface and Spillrag this podcast usually clocks in at about ~1 hour. The hosts usually get through a range of topics in each show but the focus is generally small scale or solo PvP. I particularly enjoy this podcast due to the heavy emphasis on ship fitting and tactics discussions employed day to day by the hosts as it is an area I want to get into and I find it very informative. Usually less chit chatty than other podcasts with less topical discussion but it fills its niche nicely. They also do contests on each show which are detailed on their website, usually focusing on ship giveaways in order to get more people involved in small scale or solo PvP. I'd highly recommenced this podcast if you are interested in solo/small scale PvP.

I enjoy all of the podcasts listed here. However if you are new to podcasts and looking for one to start off with some specifics might be a good way to start. Here is a basic categorisation depending on what you are looking for:

Bitesize EVE content: Broadcasts from the Ninveah
General EVE chit chat: Podside, High Drag and Clueless Space Nerds (though all podcasts have this to some degree)
CSM insight: Crossing Zebras (monthly interview), Declarations of War (Ali Aras) and Podside (when Mike Azariah is around)
Structured format: Cap Stable, Fly Reckless and Declarations of War
Focused content: Declarations of War (Mercenary Corps), Down the Pipe (Wormholes), Daily Roam (Solo/Small Scale PvP) and Podside (Nullsec politics almost every show).

Thursday, 20 February 2014

PLEX: A Double edged sword?

For those that don't know, PLEX is in an item that enters the game economy via a real world purchase (£16.99 at time of writing). The item can then be sold in game for ~600 Million ISK (the in game currency), redeemed for subscription time or used to activate multiple character training. This allows players to pay for their subscription with ISK and allows players with limited play time but more disposable income to get ISK to fund their activities. For example, I know that many players invest in an ISK per month on top of their subscription to fund their ships in PvP and minimise their time spent farming. Although ISK cannot be legally transferred into real money, due to PLEX having both an ISK value and real world value, it allows a pseudo-real world value to be applied to various items in the game and provide nice headlines for the gaming media such as the "~$300,000 destroyed in the battle of B-R" equating to over 10 trillion ISK.

In the first paragraph highlighted a few positives. Firstly, this offers an alternative to players who don't necessarily have the disposable income to pay the subscription fees. Secondly, it allows players with limited playtime but extra disposable income to get engaged in activities that cost ISK such as PvP. This is good because more players engaging in PvP, or other ISK losing activities, means more content. More content in a sandbox world is always a good thing. Thirdly it is also a great marketing tool. The battle of B-R is an example where media can put real world values on the destruction in game to draw the attention of players who wouldn't otherwise take notice of the EVE universe. This leads to spikes in player population which is always good for the health of the game. However, I also feel there are a number of negatives associated with PLEX.

I think it often causes a problem in expectation management. When I hear EVE players trying to get friends or other gamers interested in playing the subscription fee almost always comes up. When it does, it is almost always followed with "but if you earn enough currency in game you can pay for subscription that way". While true, and a good way to draw them into taking the free trial, I think it sets a dangerous precedent. It can cause new players to become entirely focused on making enough ISK to buy a PLEX rather than just enjoying the game during that trial. Very few new players make enough ISK in their free trial be able to PLEX an account. Making ISK can become an obsession for a lot of players, counting the hours to that next PLEX. I know that when I started out I spent a lot of time wondering about the ISK/Hour for each of my activities, rather than if I really enjoyed some of them. Thankfully Brave Newbies cured me of that illness and now I only engage in ISK making activities that I actually enjoy, regardless of ISK/Hour.

The other point I want to touch on is the altered perception of the game that it can give outsiders. "$300,000 destroyed in EVE online". It is quite a head turning statement. I believe the majority understand that nobody really spent $300,000 to blow up spaceships in a videogame. Sure, some of the ISK used to obtain ships lost in the battle will have come from PLEX sales, though I would expect that to be a small fraction of the total. My concern is that there will be a subset of potential players turned away by this headline because they don't take the time to understand it fully. There will be players who immediately conjure up a cash shop in their minds, common in other games, immediately connecting that money with the direct purchase of ships. The dreaded "Pay to Win" will be a concern of others, possibly putting them off the game*. There will also be non gamers who see the headlines but don't actually read deeper into the article, negatively affecting their perception of EVE players and the Universe that they inhabit.

Overall I do think PLEX is a good thing in EVE online. It has other benefits not described earlier, such as the pressure it places on RMT sellers. I think the amount of players it brings to the game outweighs those that it turns off, evidenced by the spikes in trial accounts and subscriptions following the major battles that make it into the media. Though the altered perception it can give to others is an interesting thought. The ability for less financially prosperous players to get in on the action, along with the flip side of that particular coin being able to generate content, can only be a boon to the population of the game. Though, I do often wonder the problems that it can lead to with ISK obsession and how it affects the motivations of new players entering the game. It makes me wonder what the EVE landscape would be like if PLEX didn't exist. Just some food for thought.

* The "Pay to Win" idea is a contentious point regarding PLEX and one that I will at some point dedicate a post towards

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

BB#53: The Bracketview

EVE often gets called spreadsheets in space. A major reason for this is the overview which isn't too dissimilar to a dynamic excel spreadsheet. It is packed full of important information such as distance, velocity, radial velocity, transversal velocity, ship type, player name and a bunch of other items. Often the game could be played only using the overview and keyboard shortcuts without actually having to look at the space around you. I can understand why gamers who haven't played EVE get put off when they see the user interface. It is rather busy and the reliance on interacting with the overview consistently during combat isn't particularly engaging or immersive gameplay.

EVE players understand the importance of the overview. It is an incredibly important tool and the table format is probably the best way to display this information in a way that is easy to scan and read. However the general complaint is that it takes up too much screen real estate. I personally think that the current overview is fine. It could use some tweaks, like more customisation options or extra tabs for more presets. I think the current format of the overview needs to be kept. Removing or drastically changing the current overview is the wrong angle to take in my opinion. I think a better option would be to have a way to toggle between the current overview and a simplified overview or display the information elsewhere in another format, allowing the overview to be toggled on/off depending on the situation.

To start off, in a combat situation, here is the key information provided by the overview:

Name: Who did the FC tell us to shoot?
Type: Do we have a chance of killing them?
Distance: are we in range to lock/shoot/scam/web?
Velocity: Can we catch them if we choose to chase?
Transversal and/or Angular Velocity: Can we track the target (if tracking matters with the particular weapon system)?
Radial Velocity: Are they moving towards or away from us?

I think all or some of this information could be transitioned to the bracket system or into a simplified overview in some way, without drastically cluttering the screen in big fleet fights. Here are my ideas:

Name: Who did the FC tell us to shoot?

Well, I think this is the most difficult to get onto the bracket system. Adding permanent text to a bracket in a large fleet fight would be unreadable and cause too much clutter. We can already scroll over a bracket to see a name, but this doesn't help identify targets. However, we do have a broadcast system for target calling without using the overview which highlights a target in space. So I think improvement of the broadcast system would be an approach to solve this particular problem, with better highlighting of targets in space or additional target marking options for FCs.

Type: I think this could be reflected by symbols within the current bracket system. Keep the current colour system and add extra white markings into the central area. For example you could use a central dot as a frigate and a dot with a vertical line through it could be an interceptor. The idea would be to have very basic symbols that wouldn't be TOO cluttering in a fleet fight to be visible, to get a general idea of fleet composition. Obviously this would require careful design decisions.

Distance: We can use the tactical overlay for this. It could require a little tweaking for better visibility in the vertical direction however I feel it is a suitable method for gauging distance in a skirmish and for major fleet fights you can highlight a target to see this information.

Velocity: This is where things get tricky. How to show this without using text? This is where we start to use the sides of the square. I would add a marking to the left side of the square which moves up and down. Up is max velocity with the bottom being stationary.

Transversal Velocity: Similar to velocity however using the top of the square. Right being max and left being 0.

Radial Velocity: I'm not sure if this is necessary, as you can view the bracket either moving towards or away from you, though I know many players like this information on their overview. In this case use the right side of the square in a similar fashion to velocity, though with the center being 0 above being positive values and below negative values.

So how about some examples for visualisation? I've mocked up a couple of examples of how these new brackets would look and how to interpret them:

Possible bracket profiles for moving and simplifying overview information
The general idea is addition of markers to the brackets which indicate velocity, transversal velocity and radial velocity on the left, top and right sides of the bracket respectively. We can also determine ship type via addition of a symbol and also observe distance using our tactical overlay. The idea here is, with a little practice, get important information about an enemy or friendly ship from a quick glance. Looking at brackets labelled A, B and C we can identify different information quickly. In A we can see that it is a frigate, it is moving at its top speed, it has low transversal and highly negative radial velocity indicating that it is on a direct approach towards us. Of course, this would be apparent from watching it move on screen. In B we can see a frigate at top speed, medium transversal and slightly negative radial velocity indicating that is also approaching us but may be attempting to spiral in. In C we see an interceptor, differentiated by the vertical line and circle, at max speed, max transversal but neutral radial velocity indicating that it is in an orbital trajectory around us.

What do you think? I don't feel that this is perfect, however I think it is a sensible approach. Simplify some of the overview information to allow for either a toggleable, simplified overview or move some information to brackets in a way that is relatively easy to take in at a glance.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Bumbling Through: 6 months in part 2

Part 2 of my review of my first 6 months of EVE

Being a noob BRAVE

So I was in Barleguet. Fortunately my trader was still afloat and sustaining enough income to fund some cheap frigates for my first forays into PvP. I had no idea what I was doing but apparently this was normal and importantly I wasn't alone. I started joining small roams whenever I could. Multiple times I'd jump when I was supposed to warp. I'd align to the wrong gates because my autopilot was still set to safe. I'd forget to jump and get caught. I'd get blapped by gate and station guns for aggressing too early. I was really bad but I was having fun and I was learning. One night during a roam in nullsec we ended up in a bubble after jumping a gate blind. I ended up in my pod but managed to escape and eventually regroup with 2 other guys. They braved 10+ jumps through null just to get my pod home, avoiding bubbles and teaching me about tactical bookmarks on the way. I'd offered to self destruct my pod so they could rush without waiting for me but the insisted. At the end one game me the ISK to replace the frigate I lost too. It was fantastic. The community in Brave Newbies really cemented my place in EVE. I realized I had found what I was looking for. It was where I wanted to be.

Since then I've been a part of so much content it's hard to remember it all. I've tackled and killed a carrier. I've helped take and defend POSes. I've seen a Titan up close and been thrown into the depths of nullsec via it's bridge. I've been out on a roam with a random Battleship  leading the way as a scout, just because we could. I've saved people in structure as a heroic logi bro. I've been bombed into oblivion and laughed about it. I've learned a lot. The most important lesson I've learned is to forget about ISK per hour and embrace a better metric. Fun per hour.

Gambling Trading into riches

I mentioned in part 1 that my total wealth at time of writing is ~10 billion ISK. Those keeping track up until now will realise that I probably had ~200-300 million when joining Brave Newbies, which is about right. Towards the end of November I think I had just about scraped over the 1 billion mark. At this point I invested in my 3rd character slot, activating training via a PLEX purchase. This would be my Amarr trader though it wouldn't see much use at this point. I also had a ridiculous stroke of good fortune. After a rather heavy drinking session, with the more sober of the group talking us out of going to the Casino, I got home with a gambling craving. With ~300-400 million ISK to my name, I did what any sensible drunk person would. I wen't on SOMER Blink and deposited almost all of it. I was a moron, and rarely touch Blink these days. Fortunately I was a lucky moron. I went to bed with 2 Billion ISK in my Jita traders wallet. Around the same time he finished training into his Viator (which got blown up and is detailed a few blog posts ago), allowing me to start hauling into low sec. This is when I really started raking it in. You see, lots of ships blow up in Barleguet (or nearby) thanks to the Bravery of the local pilots. Taking my opportunity I started doing what any normal EVE player would do, I set up shop and started to seed the market with the help of my trusty Viator. It also took much less effort that the way I was trading in Jita, since orders didn't need regular updating and allowed me to place more focus on my PvP activities, especially as my skills were allowing me to play more diverse roles in fleets.

Multiple accounts already

At the start of December I got the collectors edition for my birthday from my partner. This is when my trading really took off. One of the first things I did was invest my ISK into some PLEX which allowed me to transfer my first character (trader/blockade runner) over to the second account. I also started up dual account training and filled out the other 2 slots along with the now empty 3rd slot on my first account. These 3 new characters would be my dedicated Jita, Dodixie and Rens traders freeing up my previous Jita trader to do more hauling and dabble in other activities such as exploration. Being able to run both accounts was also an incredible eye opener. It really is a huge force multiplier for various reason but in this case it was allowing me to manage my market operations while PvPing simultaneously. Downtime during or between fleet ops is now filled with nerdy spreadsheeting and market work (which I actually really enjoy)!

Moving fowards

From January and until now I've been getting into a comfortable the routine of updating my market stuff, checking if any particular items need restocked then hopping on the BRAVE mumble to look for PvP content. My market operations are now in full flow, mainly via arbitrage by moving items out from Jita. Organising my market work doesn't take up too much time or can be done while running both accounts together. It is also fairly flexible and allows me to invest more time for greater returns. I'll look to expand this into different areas and improving efficiency but I'm very satisfied with my results so far. Now that my market work is fairly stable and consistent I wan't to keep my focus on PvP. I've recently trained into a few ships that I want to spend more time in, particularly bombers (the manticore is just damn sexy). I'm also training towards higher end logistics ships such as the Scimitar and Guardian since in larger fleets I tend to prefer flying logistics. Also, moving foward I'm going to try and get into some smaller scale combat. Probably some solo stuff in frigates to get a feel for things and try and arrange/get involved in small gang fights.

Overall I'm really enjoying the game. I've had a few tough losses to stomach, like my Viator and Pod from a couple of posts ago. However, things are moving forward nicely and with my ever increasing skillpoint total I'm sure there will be plenty more opportunities that open up on the horizon. I'm not much closer to controlling the entire Universe but one can continue to dream.

Bumbling Through: 6 months in Part 1

I didn't expect this to be so long when I started writing, so here is part 1. Hopefully it's not too boring but it might offer a nice perspective on a new players foray into EVE online.

Background: My stable of characters

My first character, which is now my industrial/hauling alt, was created on 13th August 2013 making it just over 6 months old. Bizar Raizen is a little younger and was created on 4th September 2013 with the goal of being a PvP character, though I started him off as a mission runner while initially skilling up via dual character training. Just under 2 months later, at the end of October he liquidated his assets, joined Brave Newbies and moved out to Barleguet. Unfortunately in those 2 months a rather excessive amount of time was spent rushing to the point of sitting in a Raven, rather badly, making his skill set almost useless at the point of joining Brave. I'll get to that later. In December I received that Collector's Edition for my birthday and transferred my trade character onto that account allowing me to run my 2 "main" characters simultaneously. I filled the 4 empty character slots with trade alts which sit at various trade hubs and make up my, now rather lucrative, trade network. At time of writing my net wealth including various assets is ~10 billion, not too shabby!

EVEs Tutorials aka "Here's a Rubik's Cube, go fuck yourself"

I had a rather rocky start in my first couple of months. I really derped... a lot... but I soldiered on. Coming off the tail of 2 years of theme park MMO gameplay I was in the habit of not reading NPC text and everything being easy mode. Unfortunately, the tutorials (and missions) in EVE almost always have a gigantic wall of text with random bits of flavour text here and there and the key information required to complete the mission hidden somewhere within. The "click button, receive bacon" mentality I had been brainwashed into really made the tutorials a pain in the ass at first. I was eager to get into the meat and potatoes of EVE and couldn't really be bothered sitting through walls of text to get to the spaceships. So, naturally, I didn't bother reading them properly. One that really comes to mind is the suicide mission where you are supposed to lose your ship. I think I had an Atron which I had been building up and fitting through the missions. The mission gives you an unfitted ship to use for the mission and explains that it is a suicide run. Without reading the text there is no way to know you were given another ship or about to blow up. So off I go. Pop goes my Atron. I docked back up at the station, confused that I just completed the mission despite exploding, only to actually read the damn mission information and proceed to facepalm. I had other facepalm moments through the tutorials but I managed to get through. So off out into space I went with a head full of grand ambitions of building an unstoppable space empire. I was destined to rule the universe. I was going to win EVE.

30 minutes later I was dead. You see, I bought the game through Steam on sale, a decision which I now regret with every ounce of my being*. It was called the "Explorer's Pack", or something to that effect, presumably off the back of the Odyssey expansion. With that pack I got a fancy skinned Magnate with the modules to get started exploring. So, I took it out and went to the first signature I could find. It was a wormhole, no way was I passing up on that. It sounded cool as hell! So, I jumped in and started scanning again. I don't remember what the next signature was, I just remember a bunch of red crossed making short work of me (Sleepers). My dreams of dominating the universe thoroughly shattered, I grabbed my Venture from the tutorials and set off into the asteroid fields of Perimeter. I needed to shoot lasers at something that wouldn't shoot back.

30 minutes later I wasn't dead. It was refreshing! So, like many unfortunate fools in EVE I spent a couple of weeks mining**, building up some ISK eventually upgrading to a retriever. It was soul destroying, but I had a plan. I had heard tales of people making unholy amounts of ISK station trading. Once I was making an acceptable amount of ISK per hour mining in my retriever I started training trade skills and being a no life 0.01 ISK undercutter in Jita. With the Daytrading skill I was even able to do it while mining next door in Perimeter! It was working, sort of. In my first month I had reached ~200million ISK. I could see that it was viable and as my capital went up so would my earnings. However it was soul destroying. I was getting very bored very fast and thus Bizar Raizen was born.

Missioning at 0 fun per hour

One of my Rift buddies at the time had started playing EVE again on the side and was set up out in Khanid somewhere doing industry. So out I went with Raizen to cut my teeth on missions as I skilled him up. Being overeager and impatient I rushed through the standings grind and ended up at level 4 missions well before I was suitable to run them efficiently at all. I had worked my way up from Level 1 to 4 in typical fashion, moving up from the Frigate on Level 1 missions to the Battleship on Level 4s. It was my undoing. At each step I sold my previous ship and subsidized the next purchase via my station trading earnings. So, the Raven that I had bought represented my entire wealth on Raizen. I also hadn't insured it. I lost it on my second Level 4 mission when faced with my first dose of warp scrambling by NPC ships. It was a right kick in the nuts. I was never in danger of giving up at that point but I knew I had to do something else. I had to suck it up and take the plunge into PvP before I burnt out on the repetitive nature of my current gameplay style. So, into corp finder I went. Into the search box went "Brave Newbies". Off to Barleguet I toddled. It was time to be BRAVE.

* I think Steam is great. I've been using it since it launched when it was truly dreadful. The modern incarnation is actually a fantastic piece of software in my opinion. I have more games on it than I care to admit to. However, EVEs integration with Steam is an absolute aberration. With other MMOs you still get a separate account and can bypass Steam if desired. With EVE however you are forced to launch the EVE launcher through steam where it logs you in with your steam account automagically. You can then launch the game. This becomes a pain for a multitude of reasons which I won't list here.

** I don't really think miners are fools. I just don't understand them. Particularly those who mine solo. If mission running is 0 fun per hour (out of a maximum 10) then mining is -1 in my books.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Negative Reinforcement: The little Viator that couldn't

EVE is a pretty harsh game. In the past 6 months I've learned a lot. I'd say the majority of that learning has been through making mistakes and getting punished for it. EVE doesn't pull any punches when you make a mistake, so you have to either learn quickly from them or die. I've lost plenty of ships in PvP now. Every time I lose a ship I look back at what caused the loss and try and learn from it. Every time you fail, there is usually something you could have done different to have altered the outcome, even if it isn't instantly apparent. So far none of my losses have really been that traumatizing. I went in expecting to fail. I went in expecting to learn.

This is a story about how I lost my first Viator... to a suicide gank.

Poor Viator, how I loved you so.
Above was the fit. I lost it in a 0.6 system. I lost it to 2 destroyers. I was a target of opportunity and I had made a bunch of mistakes. I had just completed an alliance courier contract and had made my way safely out of low sec. Being a little restless I decided to turn on auto pilot and go grab a beer. That was mistake number 2. Why was auto piloting mistake number 2? Well, mistake number 1 was forgetting to refit for travel after completing the contract. Usually I adjust my cargo for the contract in question using cargo expanders then swap out my lows when I'm done. This may have saved me, but I'll get to that later. Upon my return to the computer I cracked open my can of beer and started pouring it into a glass whilst watching my ship land and begin slow boating to the gate. This was mistake number 3. My desire for beer was stronger than my desire for the structural integrity of my trusty Viator. Mid pour, about 1/3 of the way into the pint, I started taking fire. I was about 10 km from the gate I was approaching. I quickly put down the glass, continuing to pour, but freeing up a hand I grabbed my mouse, turned on my hardeners then microwarp drive and tried to rush to the gate. Willing my Viator onward I eventually got popped ~3-5k from the gate. These were mistakes number 4, 5 and 5 and a half. Mistake number 4 was the hardeners, I had no shield left by the time I turned them on making them useless, I needed to get them on during the warp before pouring my beer. Mistake number 5 was trying to rush the gate, I might have been able to warp out, since the align time on a Viator is relatively low. Mistake 5 and a half was continuing to pour my beer.

Not my actual beer but pretty close resemblance.
Mistake number 1 comes back in here. By forgetting to refit for travel, I had also gimped my defence due to the 3 expanded cargo holds which reduced my ships maximum velocity and hull ehp. With 10 km to go to the gate I had drastically reduced my chances of reaching the gate for a jump. Also, if I had the nanofibers fit I would have had a significantly reduced align time which may have allowed me to warp out instead.

The morale of this story. Don't autopilot, even in highsec. All of the mistakes mentioned would have been avoided if I had been manually piloting. Even an empty cargo hold will not make you safe. Something I forgot was that blockade runners, like the Viator, cannot be cargo scanned. They also have relatively low effective HP, allowing a small group of cheap destroyers to pop them. So my attackers had no idea that my cargo hold was empty aside from my 3 travel fit modules. To them I was a tasty loot pinata and relatively low risk as they could pop me for such a low investment. Unfortunately, the story doesn't quite end there. In the mild shock at losing my Viator I forgot that a green egg was about to pop out. I forgot that the clone wasn't clean. A few seconds later, I realized that I had just lost a lot of ISK.

+5s and a token christmas present.
EVE is brutal. I fucking love it.