Thursday, 27 August 2015

Just Doing Stuff

Since the weekend, I have been pottering around space doing a bit of this and a bit of that. It does suprise me that some people say they get bored in Eve. I can understand when people might no longer like to play the game. Tastes change afterall. But assuming you have the desire to play then there is always something you can do. For me perhaps, there is too much to do and at times spread myself a bit thinly. So the last few days have been a time to think abut some housekeeping.

First off I had to feed the POS. It is currently the barebones small POS I set up the other day. It is experimental for now and I want to try some ideas out in the future. But for now I just want to understand the underlying cost and time required of owining one. So currently it is an ISK sink but as I have discovered a very bearable one. The local market's cost for a fuel block does seem on the high side however. So one experiment might be to establish the cost of making (again both in ISK and time) my own fuel blocks and to sell off any surplus.

Sort of related, I have also been giving some attention to Planetary Interaction. PI has always been a bit of a Cinderella activity of mine. It's not a great source of income in Hisec once POCO costs get lumped in but that could be resolved one way or another. So to explore the opportunities I have stepped up production to understand the processes and costs I need to factor in.

Another angle is research and manufacturing. I have a tonne of BPO's and BPC's to play will that I have somehow gathered. Full production will probably wait for now until my Orca pilot becomes a reality. So for now I have been researching blueprints to improve their time and material efficiency.

Just to restate, this is all an experiment to gain experience. Ultimately, I would want to re-site all of these activities somewhere more profitable. Most likely this would be a wormhole or lowsec. Nullsec is a shambles and the travel distances to market are dispiriting, especially with the static wormhole nerf which makes it a no brainer to avoid.

On top of this, I have sortied into a wormhole and successfully hacked a relic site in a more sparsely fit Astero. Its been  a while since I last did that. I still haven't fallen in love with the new map so have reverted back to the old one. As I am about a month away from having all my scanning skills at level 5 it was interesting to see the impact would have on a more lightly fitted Aster without boosts. To be honest I didn't notice a difference which I guess can be regarded as a success. While there I discovered an abandoned Navitas. I always wonder about the stories behind these abandoned ships. Anyway for now I am looking for suitable wormholes to play with and hack a bit of loot while there assuming I don't explode in the process. No chance of being bored anytime soon.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Ding Dong, the Empress is Dead

A big lore weekend. It all started with the planned handover of the new Amarr flagship. Prior to that of course, the Empress Jamyl had been prancing around her realm in her Avatar Titan. Alongside this, the Drifters have acquired a taste for kebabing Amarr Navy ships. Something was going to go down in Safizon on friday for certain.

The crowds arrived, The empress arrived, ambiguous speeches were made. So far so normal. Then enter Drifters stage left who then basically headshotted the Empress and promptly left as quickly as they had arrived. This video here from an FC perspective probably captures the moment best.

It was so quick I missed it. I logged on 20 minutes due to ill timed real life stuff. I had a jump clone in Safizon and there were 300 people in local. I thought people were trolling in local about her death. I didn't believe them until I left the station and saw this...


So the empress is toast and the succession is on. Brush up your Amarr flying skills if you want to take part. But is she really dead. A couple of people have used locator agents and have spotted Jamyl in Chaven. It might be that CCP forgot to biomass her perhaps, or is she really a capsuleer? If so she still won't be Empress, but her story arc might have more twists in it yet. I'll let the experts tinfoil on that. I'll leave you with the Scope video.





Tuesday, 18 August 2015

It's a POS - the movie (don't hold your breath)

Well I did say I recorded it in my last post. My second ever game video that documents my complete ineptitude at POS building (and making videos). I threw a quick soundtrack in for good measure. Anyway, enjoy.. or not :)



And the soundtrack can be found here:


Monday, 17 August 2015

It's a POS

A Drifter Incursion, this time repelled by the Amarr Navy, Structure Dev blogs a plenty from CCP (here and here), AT Competition, the Imperium trying to recapture the agenda through their media outlets, a wormhole sounding board that didn't involve copious amounts of salt and a riot in Jita that did (mined from Siberia presumably) because fighting a 20 million ISK Interceptor with a billion ISK PVE ship is hard apparently. A quiet weekend then!

For me the structure dev blogs are the most interesting and were my inspiration for the weekend. There is a lot to take in. From a filthy solo casual perspective, what I took away from it was there is still no auto defence. But the vulnerability to attack is small for a medium citadel. I would have preferred auto-defence and and a wider window but it works sort-of if you can put the banality of the magic wand to the back of your mind. In wormhole space, they are proposing you lose everything. I hope this is the case because that is what wormholes are all about and distinguishes them from known space. There is also a debate about what should drop. We will see where that leads. HiSec and Lowsec citadels will be more secure naturally. Null sec... well lets just not go there. So while I am not thrilled to bits over the changes, I can definitely see some interesting opportunities ahead.

Now my trader is back to pulling in the ISK after my laptop's unplanned sabbatical, it was time to commit. I decided to build a small POS tower in high sec. I have been keeping my eye on a location for some time now. It is reasonably quiet, close to a trade hub and lowsec but is also a good NPC system for manufacture. I have semi seriously been manufacturing on and off ages. Mainly, I just research blueprints but if the price is good I run off a few frigates for my traders to pitch. For now the objective is to be able to contrast the costs, time and maintenance between the two methods. So a test-bed. essentially.

That was the theory. Bearing in mind I know nothing about how to setup and use a POS, the half baked plan was grab some stuff from Jita, travel to the location, dump the tower in space and then figure it out. My Alt CEO prowler hauler from the corp I set up was up for the task. I had trained her in Anchoring so it didn't need multiple characters to get this done. The first problem was the Prowler hasn't got enough capacity for all the fuel blocks, certificates and stront. This is why I am training an Orca pilot but that is a couple of months off. It was going to take several trips to fill the POS's boots with fuel was the hard message. So I took basic rations and the Tower to the destination to start with.

I Dscan'd furiously on arrival to check to coast was clear and the moon hadn't been occupied. All good, so dumped the tower in space, anchored it, cloaked up and watched the light show as the tower took form. Then to on-line it. The interface was beyond me. This was solved by lots of random clicking and shovelling fuel into various orifices. More random clicking got the forcefield to start and the password set. But only 7 hours worth of fuel left in it. I videoed this with a view to putting it on YouTube at some point but not sure if I can bear you all looking at my clumsiness. 



Moving on... The eventual plan might be to produce my own fuel from the dormant PI operation I have. But today was not that day. Back to Jita then to pick up the fuel I had already bought except.... revolting Russians were busy hoofing the monument and causing monumental TIDI by various nefarious means. OK Plan B, go to the local trade hub and buy the fuel at a ridiculous price instead. I was getting tired and emotional by now so I changed my Prowler with a please gank me fit by fitting cargo extenders to increase capacity. I got away with it but I should really resit that temptation in the future. 

Anyway, the POS is now born and fully fed. It cost around 100 million ISK but next time it will be much cheaper. I've learned a lot but there are plenty more childish schoolboy errors ahead of me. I'm looking forward to the challenge.  

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Jump Change Town Hall Meeting - Morning after the Night Before

I listened to about an hour of the Jump Fatigue Town hall meeting last night just out of idle curiosity. For those that don't know, Jump Fatigue used to allow a fleet to travel to pretty much any point on the map. It was an awful mechanic. A small fight in Lowsec would suddenly be welped with huge capital fleet from the far side of Nullsec for example. Distance and location was a marginal factor in bringing arms to a fight. It became the goto tactic. Small groups didn't stand a chance of establishing themselves because local spats with their neighbours would be bounced by the big blocks looking for random content.  It had to change and CCP duly heavily compromised Jump Fatigue in the Phoebe release. Originally, the whole extent of the nerf was to apply to jump freighters too as CCP latched onto the idea of localism. But the people and infrastructure to support a local economy didn't exist. Nobody wants your hard earned ratting loot in nullsec. They do however want it in Hisec. To accommodate this uncomfortable truth, the restrictions were relaxed for Jump Freighters (at least for now) and the ISK continued to flow.

Beyond that, the jump changes themselves highlighted the obvious. Null is empty.  To find a fight your capitals now have to travel a long way via risky gates or have your future mobility crippled as a penalty for jumping. The reward for this endeavour is to capture a bit of space. The distance is now hard to sustain and the space itself doesn't bring much additional value. The loser just moves on to another bit of empty space that is a suitable distance from the aggressor so unlikely to put up a massive defence in any case. So it is a pyrrhic victory. Now when you layer on the later Aegis changes, the old battalion of capitals don't have much reason to be deployed (if only for POS grinding). So I get that there are some people that are annoyed that they can no longer play with their boats. I would be if I had devoted that much time to own and fly one.

That said, ultimately the Jump Changes were put in for a good reason and the benefits are real elsewhere in Eve. So that reason won't go away. But there is scope to amend the changes. That at least seemed to be the premise behind the Jump Changes Town hall meeting. It was well attended by CCP and CSM reps. It could have been good. Now I have called out both CSM and CCP in the past. This time it was the players that fell short. They had an opportunity and they blew it. In general terms, (there were exceptions), the players came across as confrontational with a suffocating sense of self entitlement. All the reasons why null is empty (and thereby makes Jump Changes such a issue) were put on display by the sub optimal behaviour. Unsurprisingly, CCP had to take a very defensive position with this onslaught and so the opportunity was missed. One of the few things I could glean amongst the passive aggressive false dichotomies the devs were having to bat away were that CCP are seriously thinking about how to make Null more meaningful. If people had picked up on that rather than emoting gratuitous clich├ęs then Null would certainly be heading to a better place. Way to go.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Joy of the Mundane

So laptop returned and the Signal Cartel project done. Now I can actually play Eve. Apart from a couple of lore events and Signal's 500 celebration roam, I hadn't done much in Eve itself. My trader's orders tell the tale. 60 days since I last updated them. I was shocked. So first task was to update them and renew the ones that had been fulfilled. One hour gone. My orders are regional so the next task was to collect the results of my orders. These were scattered across high and lowsec so as usual I set off in my Prowler to collect the goods. The lowsec areas are quite active where I travel so it can feel a little tense at times. This time was without incident. A rough estimate of the final haul was about 500 million for which I had paid a pittance. In fact, I had recovered my initial outlay within a couple of hours of putting the goods back on the market.

The next task for my main was to recover my favourite Astero. I had left it in Thera after the Signal roam and I don't have a clone there. I decided to travel in something cheap. No point in having 2 Asteros stuck in Thera was the reasoning. I discovered I had an Imicus in Jita. This was intriguing in itself as my natural choice of T1 Exploration Frigate would be a Heron. So I went to Jita to try and remember how I ended up with one. Looking at the fit was excruciatingly embarrassing. No cloak. NO CLOAK! no drones, and only one core probe. The memories came flooding back. My first attempt at being an explorer. I was hopelessly new. It was emotional and it was in an Imicus. I had mined and mined to afford that ship and it had taken me forever to find a wormhole. The interface was much different then. Having found the wormhole I dived straight in. While I was figuring out what had just happened, my ship exploded. I hadn't bookmarked the entrance so I was doomed. Fortunately my potential assassin had taken pity on me and showed me the way out. I bought a second Imicus but never flew it as I moved onto hauling and trading instead

I didn't go to a wormhole again for ages after that and I didn't fly a T1 Explorer - a Heron until after I could fly the Astero. So now I had an objective. Fly the Imicus to Thera, dock there and don't die. But this time with a cloak and some probes. I found a nearby connection to Thera. Amazing the difference having the right level skills has. I cloaked outside the station because it was being camped. Amazing the difference a cloak makes. I docked once it was clear without incident. I noticed a lot of TEST guys are in Thera now and the place seemed a lot more livelier. It seems that people are beginning to get Thera finally which can only be a good thing. I really enjoyed flying the Imicus. I will fly it again.

Final activity of the day was a complete about face of what I have been saying in earlier posts. I subbed a new account. I have been badgering various CSM's about my concerns and one replied. No details were given, nor did I expect any because of NDA. But I was told to wait for the Structures Dev blog from CCP because that would address a lot of my concerns. 

So new character created - I went full on Amarr this time. The Avatar was created and photos taken. I wish it meant more. maybe one day. I then drove off to Jita because the skill-books would be cheaper there. The plan is to make an Orca pilot. I like the idea of former Amarr nobility having to wrangle an Orca. In theory, this would take 18 days but there are a whole load of other skills needed to be able to fit it sensibly and operate it. So that will take time. One unexpected benefit was I was exposed to the Rookie channel. Questions like "I lost my ship! What can I do to get another one?" were bouncing around. Bearing in mind you now start in the middle of space as a new player and not docked you can see why this might be stressful. I tried to be helpful.

So a very mundane but thoroughly enjoyable time in Eve. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Summer of Music - Signal Cartel



The Making of "Scout"

After finishing the Nova Haven project, Scout posed very different challenges. The hard part of Nova Haven was finding the right inspiration. Once I get the idea that works, the execution is pretty straightforward. Not so with Scout. Because it is a parody of an existing well known song, it will always be measured against that. The vocals have to be clear because it is a parody and the backing music needs to be a credible representation of the original. What could possibly go wrong?

Background

This all started when Mynxee (CEO of Signal Cartel) got bullied into singing "Shout" by Tears for Fears on mumble. In a frankly uncredo like fashion this was recorded and put into the public domain. I put a musical backing to her dulcet tones and sent it back her. Surprisingly, she liked it so the idea was born to do a parody version of Shout - Scout. Mynxee wrote some excellent lyrics and I had to come up with a guide track for her victims to sing against.

Backing Track

The first decision was identify which version of Shout to work with. The Bristish release was nearly 6 minutes long, the German/Japanese releases are 5 minutes long and it was 4 minutes in the US. I opted to work with the UK version but cut two sections of instrumental bridge mainly because I never liked those parts anyway.

The second decision was to consider whether to use the original track and doctor it or construct my own version. I opted for the latter. The original track was recorded around 1984 onto tape. The quality is actually quite poor. If you listen to beginning of the original on YouTube, there is a lot of his and noise and the mix is quite muddy. Nostalgia gives us a clarity that never really existed. Most of my vinyl records (showing age here) were scratched. But I don't remember the jumps and scratches - just the songs. Unfortunately we are no so tolerant now in the digital age.

The original song was also mixed aggressively resulting in a very powerful sound. This worked well because the singers had strong voices, belting out the vocals with gusto and could compete with the powerful backing. The capsuleers of Signal Cartel however don't have time to train Music and Singing to Level V. So it was evident that more control on the backing would be needed so that their voices would not be overwhelmed. In the end, the only part of the original song I used was the opening triangle and detuned bottle percussion loop at the beginning and this runs all through the song as it does in the original.

Constructing the backing track from scratch was a bit of a detective story in itself but I think I managed to capture most of it. The percussion track was the most interesting. The original starts with a drum machine which is later augmented with a real drummer playing on top. So essentially I had to try and make it sound less like a human in the beginning and more like a human in the end, but not overwhelm the vocals as the original would have done (and was intended to do as part of the climax) Stuff like this messes with your head.

Vocals

The vocals were always going to be challenging. Each were recorded locally on Audacity by the singers concerned. From a technical and sound quality perspective, people obviously use different quality microphones and had different background acoustics (including a barking dog!). Then came the musical interpretation. This included different phrasing, tuning, tempo and lyrics. So I spent a bit of time editing these to blend them together. What I must say is that everyone's contribution was invaluable and added to the overall sound. So well done for having the guts to sing (or bark)!

Mixing

When bringing the music and the vocals together, you tend to know already what is and isn't working. Novices tend to boost something they like to fix a problem. While that might work, more often I use a subtractive approach. If you can't hear something clearly the it is likely that some other sound frequency is clashing with it. The power chords on the guitars where the biggest offenders in that regard and had to be toned down (but kept the same volume). The vocals needed to be beefed up using a mixture of compression, reverb, delay and a light unison effect.

Mastering

Similar to mixing but takes the viewpoint of the to device or format the final mix is going to be listened on. What might sound great on my earbuds my sound terrible on someone elses headphones. And Mp3 format degrades the sound as part of the compression. It is my weakest area to be honest. I don't have a set of neutral sounding monitors and I suffer from tinnitus in one ear anyway. So I compromise. I do have a set of really cheap and bad earbuds so I use them as a reference set. If it sounds half decent on those it usually sounds pretty good on more reasonable speakers.

As I have said before, the software I use is Reason 8.3. It's an acquired taste but I have always found it flexible and allows you to concentrate on the music rather than worrying about how to make something work . The main difficulty I experienced was with my laptop dying (motherboard failure) and the drama around getting it fixed which took about three weeks.


Anyway, I am really pleased with the result and hopefully Signal Cartel are too. It could not have been done without them and they deserve all the credit because at the end of the day, it was their performance and ideas that made it what it is. Well done.