Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Launch Control

It has been really hard  get some quality Eve time recently. It has not been for the want of trying but Mrs Kong has plans (for plans read directives). Some of these plans appear to involve strange things called vacations. The primary purpose of these things seem to require separation from the laptop, travelling somewhere, and then to photograph the random destination from every possible angle and orifice. Once you have done that you can return home again. Strange indeed. Anyway, now the objective has been successfully completed and the world is now presumably a better place, I can now be reunited with my laptop. What to do?

First task was an important one. Attach a Signal Cartel sticker to the laptop. It was a bit trickier than I imagined, you need Level V Fingernails,  but the laptop now looks glorious (in my eyes at least - thanks Mynxee!).

Next task was to log onto Eve. What is normally routine exercise turned into my own pixel vacation. I chose to install the new Eve Launcher that is currently in beta. What it didn't seem to do is import my current settings but it did give the impression that it should. Maybe that was due to the particular build or just my error I don't know. In a way it was good that it didn't because it made me experiment. Overview settings aren't a big deal for me as I use the SaraShawa Overview Pack with only a couple of tweaks. So the focus was on window arrangement and graphics settings.

This is important because what you can do is launch more that one account immediately and attach different profiles to the accounts. So four hauling I might want low graphics, while for exploring I might want higher graphics. Running two or more accounts, you might want to optimise for performance. All this is possible and it works really well.

But there is more. If you want to log onto the test server Singularity (SISI) (there is a mass test for brain in the box tonight by the way) it is just a click on the drop-down box You are presented with the same options as you would get with Tranquillity. Simples. I hadn't logged onto SISI before so I gave it a try. There was about 120 other players on at the time. I didn't see one of them. Hek was deserted. Now I have a lot of fondness for Hek and seeing it empty like that was a tad weird. But SISI will be a great place to experiment in future so I won't be a stranger there. 

So I have only used the beta launcher briefly but it seems stable and is definitely intuitive. I am a huge fan. I would hate to return to the old one.  Take the journey, try it! 

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Eve Vegas Keynote: A Couple of Rough Observations

Last night I managed to catch the Eve Vegas Keynote speech by CCP Seagull and her supporting cast on Twitch. Thanks to EOC and TMC for providing a facility that was seemingly beyond CCP. Plenty of good things are coming. I wasn't aware of anything new being announced but there was certainly more detail. Capitals and Super Capitals are in for a big change and this will probably dominate the Everati discourse over the winter. That is not my game so I will leave those best placed to emote about that. As an outsider, it does look pretty exciting but fundamentally irrelevant to what I do. What follows are my rough observations. I take a half empty rather than a half full perspective - its my nature and is a counterpoint to the natural hype that surrounds Vegas. Don't interpret this as an Eve is doomed whinge. It isn't. The future looks good but its certainly going to be different.

Money for Skill Points

CCP Seagull faced this head on. She is deeply committed to it. No explanation as to why though.
Speculation: Subscriptions will in the future play a lesser role if any. Eve will become Free to Play, Pay to Win/Progress (delete according to your prejudice/vested interest). That would certainly bring new players into the game which must be the likely driver for this in the absence of any official explanation. Watch for skill points being offered as rewards as happens on the Chinese version of Eve (might do yet another post about this sometime in the future).

Structures

They look amazing and can do amazing things, ISK price points look reasonable. On course for arrival in Spring 2016.
Speculation: Pending further details obviously, but I would suggest it is goodbye Hisec as we currently know it. Why? You can run a market in a Citadel and set your own tax rate. I asked myself the question where would I set  up a market. Nullsec, Lowsec, Wormholes or Hisec? Well in Jita obviously and undercut Jita 4-4 because that is where the business is. Now it won't just be me that does that. The world + dog will want a piece of the action. That includes the large Nullsec entities who will muscle in and take control. Hisec will become a gangster paradise. When gangsters take over the 'hood it is bad for the local economy. People leave - just look at the empty space in nullsec. Will be interesting to watch.

Capital Ships

If I ever build a citadel, there will be a host of fun things to take it down. If.

Merchandising

An Eve story book sponsored by The Mittani... 
Lots of well crafted and clever things, "Bottle of Tears" , Quafe hip flask and so on, with prices to match if the pictures from Eve Vegas Store are any true reflection. 
Observation: All can only be bought on an American website who's name I can't remember so shipping costs and taxes could well kill this stone dead for those of us who dare not to live there. Personally, I will stick with Tiancity but that is obviously not an option for most people. It's still a missed opportunity.

UI

Dscan - looks great
Detachable Camera: Looks great
First person View: Look really great

Other Things

Brain in the Box, Hardware and other game optimisations demonstrate CCP's ongoing commitment to Eve Online

Science Minigame

I'm curious

General Observations

1) Not a single mention of the CSM (unless I missed it, it was 2am in the morning). Interesting.
2) The development roadmap was restated and goes as far as Spring 2016. Beyond that who knows but I expect the Money to SP feature will be likely at that point considering the commitment CCP Seagull has but behind it.

I've probably missed some things. So some good things coming and some things that are less optimal. I'll give it 7/10

 


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Catzilla, Trains and Spaceships

File this under weird. It will save time. And no, I don't have a therapist...

Imagine the disappointment. The requirement was Hot Wheels . Hot Wheels were cool. All my friends had them. I knew what to do with them (vroom vroom). I had to have one. Plenty of hints were given. I turned up the TV volume every time they were advertised, talked loudly about them, and even drew pictures of them. The  message was abundantly clear. It couldn't be simpler.

What I got was a Hornby Train Set . As I am sure you will agree, this was betrayal of the highest order. My father had deliberately sabotaged Christmas. How could he do that to his son? As my world crashed around me he catches my expression which is a mixture of despair and rage. He knows he's been found out. He bought it for himself to play with. "Open your next present while I set up the train set" he says to distract me. He succeeds for now. A huge plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex emerges from he wrapping. Perfect!

Perfect because it was the ideal instrument to brutalise the Barbie doll my sister had just joyfully received. THE ONE SHE HAD ALWAYS WANTED! War commences. Dinosaur versus Barbie was never going to be an even match and Barbie's head is soon rolling across the floor but still smiling as it tumbled. I am sent to my room despite my pleas against the injustice of it all. My father rages because he has to glue Barbie's head back on to abate my sister's tears and can't play with the train set.

The following day, my father tries to indoctrinate me in the way of train sets. He talks of strange things. Signals, points, schedules, rolling stock and level crossings. This is clearly gibberish. The man must be insane. All I can see is two trains going round and round in circles. And that is it. How can you win this game? He tells me it will be better when we buy more bits. Seeing the trap, I tell him its boring and Hot Wheels are better. I leave because me and the dinosaur have other plans that involve my sister.

The next day, things are looking bleak. Somehow the dinosaur disappeared overnight. I have my suspicions but no one is fessing up. I am really bored now. The train set sits on the floor taunting me. With nothing better to do, I start to play with it. My father is away so I don't give him the satisfaction. I quickly learn that crashing trains is far more interesting than making them go round and round but I would have tired of that if hadn't been for the cat.

Now the cat and I at that time had a similar outlook in life. This usually manifested itself as playing with something until it broke dramatically or proudly bringing in something disgusting from the garden. Watching the locomotive mayhem became irresistible to my furry friend. In cat terms, I was creating excellent content. He chased the train, pounced and missed. This naturally created content for me.

Game on. Operation Avoid Catzilla commenced. This went on for ages until the cat go fed up and sat on the rails to gate camp the train station. Plan B. I brought out the alt train. The one with the cow catcher on it and approach the feline from behind. At which point my father hot drops into the room via the door. The cat being smarter than me dives for cover. A long lecture ensues. "I am not playing it properly" he says. Treat it with respect or you can't play with it again" he says. "Fine I don't want to" I said, and I ever did again. The train set just gathered dust after that.

If you haven't guessed, playing Eve reminds me a lot of about that train set. I often get told I am playing it wrong by some fatherly vet. But there are welcome differences. No one can stop me playing and whatever I do wont wreck the fatherly vet's game. Eve, like the train set, is an environment where you can let your imagination loose. My father wanted to be George Hudson . I wanted to be Catzilla's nemesis. Eve has the capability to support both at the same time. I think my father would have enjoyed it. But I wouldn't have told him about it. He did, after all, sabotage my Christmas. And I miss the cat content. I guess that's why we have YouTube now.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Skill Training Completed: Living with Pay to Win


So beyond the kneejerk reaction, time for reflection. Firstly thing to say is  I still regard the proposed ISK to Skill Points change as a Pay to Win feature obviously. Now there is no agreed definition on what Pay to Win means so I am not going to debate that point. Free student tip: You could write a PhD thesis about it. I am just going to say what it means to me and work on that basis.  Simply put, it is paying for a competitive advantage, in a multiplayer game. 

As has been pointed out, Pay to Win already exists in Eve Online. Buying Plex gives you access to ISK. Your ship just exploded? Pay for another one and rejoin the battle. Want new skills? Buy a character off the bazaar. So why the emotion over ISK to SP? 

Let us be clear. I would actually benefit from the change in a significant way. The most skill points I have on any character is 25 million and I have made some dumb choices in the past. Selling skill points wouldn't be my priority, but I can now quickly buy my way out of my current situation. And that is the thing. It is the immediacy. Buying a char was a pain and took time. Guzzling skillpoints doesn't. 

For example, I have no PVP skills and can only fly a limited set of ships. Never needed them. If I wanted to bash someone's POS I would have had to hire a merc corp or train for ages. Not now. Instant Oracle and SP, blast away AFK and job done. Then sell the SP and Oracle. Easy instant gratification when you have money. So Pay to Win it is. That there are other pre-existing examples in Eve doesn't diminish the fact.

But ISK to SP changes the game significantly too. I am not talking about CCP now taking an aggressive monetization stance although perhaps in a more refined form that is now their direction of travel. It is a more fundamental point. You will have to play differently and you will have different options available to you.

Another example. I was thinking of training into Outpost Construction to be ahead of the game when the new structures arrive around Spring. Someone has to build Citadels right so why not gamble on the skills you might need and make a profit before others catch up. Well not now. Everyone will just pile in at the last moment once details are known. There is no future reward for taking a risk with skill training now. That saddens me.

There are the benefits though. I currently have two subbed accounts with dual training on one of them. Now I no longer need to sub one of the accounts. Its was basically doing skill queues online to become a rounded Orca pilot, and similarly dual training is no longer needed as I can just buy the Skill Points instead. That saves me £26/$40 a month. The actual costs haven't yet been released yet so this might not stack up but having a live account just to update a long term skill queue may not be the best way to go. 

Finally, pity the poor Corp or Alliance leader. It is only a matter of time before their members demand a free skill pack for whatever doctrine is the current fad. Or alternatively, the stalinist CEO who demands the poor noob buys SP before he/she can join the roam.  

No, the sky doesn't fall down with this change. But Eve will be different because the change is disruptive. My prediction? PVP will become a more secondary activity to PVE because players will be grinding to pay the rising cost of Plex and Skill Packs. Pay to Win games are like that. Eve will be like that. Maybe you want that. I'm not so sure.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Paying to Win : Drawing a Line in the Sand

Ok, this is a knee jerk reaction to the latest Dev Blog. But I feel strongly about it. I have played a lot of games in the past. Maybe too many. In the past you got them on floppy discs or CD's. Accessibility to the internet allowed patches and fixes to be applied. And then the bean counters stepped in. Monetization opportunities and micro transactions came into play. Paying to Win became acceptable rather than just simply cheating. This fundamentally changed how games were made and played. 

Now I have played these games and I find them cynical and unrewarding. Cynical, because they play on the player's goodwill and loyalty, or even addiction but devalue real gameplay if it doesn't offer a sufficient return on investment. Those that do not engage in war of the wallets become content for the paying whales until they realise the futility of trying to compete. I am not playing a game like that again. It is why I am not interested in Eve Valkyrie. When you see CCP vacancies such as Monetization Manager, you know the direction of travel of that game. Eye candy is not enough to entice me.

Eve, of course, was different. It had already learn't that lesson after Incarna. Vanity items only was the agreement. The new EXPLORING THE CHARACTER BAZAAR & SKILL TRADING dev blog says different. The proposal is to allow the purchase of Skill Points. Pay to Win pure and simple. Already one CSM has spoken against it and claimed this was not what CSMX wanted. If it goes ahead it will be a breach of the Accord. And I am not going to willingly volunteer to be some else's content. Think again CCP


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Gold Serenity Skins (updated)

Just a quick one today. From the official Eve Wechat account I saw these skins being promoted. Apparently gold duct tape for Minmatar ships is a thing on the Serenity server that hosts the Chinese version of Eve. (updated: see video below)


Updated: Came across this video on the Tiancity site:


video

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Obelisk on your back

How sad am I? Completely. Now we have got that out the way, I came across this:



Yep it is an Eve laptop bag that transforms into a Obelisk. Bizarre but I must have it. I do need a new laptop bag anyway (pathetic justification I know) and it is only £40, 55 Euros or $60. So I have bought one with a little help. Getting it out of China might take a while but there is a a plan.

Is it legit? Tiancity are CCP's partners in China so yes. Why CCP can't do stuff like this outside China is beyond me

The Tiancity link for the bag is here

Monday, 5 October 2015

Roadmap: Erm...What's Next?

This is entirely unfair but the new roadmap announced by CCP does beg the question. What is next? It seems a bit ungrateful to ask to be honest. Nevermind, let's go there anyway.

The current roadmap takes us to spring 2016. The date isn't specific but I would imagine CCP marketing would want it around fanfest in late April. This would only really give 3 months before the summer break. Part of that will be refining, balancing, fixing, call it what you will, of all the things released before that period. There won't be a lot of developer time between now and this time next year essentially. Maybe 12 to 16 weeks worth. That's the first thing to bear in mind.

The next thing to consider is the roadmap graphic presented by CCP (see below). 




The bit that is missing from all the current announcements is "Alliances and Corporations". Now I got confined to bed last weekend. Having abused my backbone, it retaliated and froze. To mitigate my misery, I tuned into Sugar Kyle's and Corbexx's Question and Answer session. As an aside, it was an excellent session, but they didn't have a clear idea about what CCP were planning next either. But Sugar speculated that "Alliances and Corps" were a possibility. So lets run with that assumption and say that by this time next year we will be experiencing the new Alliance and Corps features whatever they may be.

Why am I dwelling on this? On one level this is all very good and exciting. But as has been pointed out by others, it can be interpreted as the ongoing appeasement of Nullsec to the detriment to the rest of the game. That is a little unfair given that structures will be used across New Eden but only a small proportion of people set up a POS in Hisec, and if my unscientific survey of Lonetrek is any indication, even a smaller proportion of people actually fuel them. So most of the big ticket changes have most likely gone over most people's heads outside of Nullsec. Alliances and Corps on first sight might seem like more of the same.

Now of course, it depends on what CCP intends to do with Alliances and Corps. Is it just a refresh or is something more radical afoot? If it is the former then Eve won't have changed much, if at all for a lot of players for 18 months or so. Those players don't form a naturally coherent constituency so won't wail in unison if they don't like it. They will just leave or put up with it. So the way the cards are stacked, it is hard to imagine CCP doing something radical. No one is really asking for it with any passion.

But if CCP were to do something more exotic, what could they do? Corps are currently "one size fits all" entities. They are vehicles for command and control. Great if you want to be commanded and controlled. Tiresome if you don't. In real life you have a much broader range of entities. Cooperatives, partnerships, sole trader, trade association, and trade union to name a few. Why couldn't we have these or something like them in Eve? Rather than surrendering yourself to work for someone, why not have the opportunity to work WITH someone on your own terms? 

If I were a miner for example,  it would appeal to me if I could join a trades union AND join a corp. CEO cracking the whip to push up the system index? On strike lads! Give us better terms and conditions! That would make me want to bother asteroids. Who knows, the CSM might become more representative with union candidates, or you could manipulate the market, or offer non profit buyback services for your members or hire mercs to clear the Uedama pipe or, or,.. The block alliances would hate them but the "meta" would be different. Ok back to reality. I don't expect any of that in 12-16 weeks available. At best Wardecs might be slightly tampered with if there is to be any impact at all outside of Nullsec. That is probably the best we can expect if my assumption is anyway near correct. Which it probably isn't.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

EVE Online Roadmap Update

Well this is a welcome surprise. Late Friday night CCP announce their route map for the next 6 months. CCP Seagull (so good to see a higher profile from her) outlined what is coming in the video below:


Much to digest and I am looking forward what is coming. A breakdown of the details below. Alternatively, go to the Eve Update site here


October 5th

November 3rd

Fall

Winter

Spring

Data Sites


Final thing. CCP are looking to improve Data Sites. I suspect this is focussing on short term fixes rather than something more fundamental. If you are interested join the debate here

Friday, 2 October 2015

Back to the Routine

Lately, Eve has been a bit quiet for me. RL has been taking its toll but beginning to resolve itself, so I am looking forward to spending some more time with pixels. That doesn't mean I have been doing nothing. Skills are being trained. In that regard, I am getting close to the objectives I set myself a few months ago. For my main, that meant maxing out all the Scanning skills. This was to take the pressure off using implants and/or mods specialist hulls. I am still a couple of weeks away from achieving that aim, mainly because I took a skill detour. I was given a Buzzard to play with and trying to get a useful fit for it was troubling. Some attention was needed with my core skills so it made sense to invest some time on those as they will be useful elsewhere. Once all that is done I might start looking to train into the Prospect I also obtained. With a T2 Ice mining Venture coming out (announced at Evesterdam) at some point there are potential play possibilities that don't necessarily involve huffing gas, ice mining and so on. This is all aspirational and a long way off at this point. 

My second hauler come trader is finishing off some cloaky hauling Tengu skills. This was my plan interim B after many of the changes coming down the line seemed like they had undermined plan A. This would align it with my main trader that can also fly Blockade Runners, Tengus and Asteros. However, recent announcements have cleared up a lot of doubts along and with  CCP Seagull's announcement on release cadences means it means I can will now review this. There are many lines to I could take ranging from preparing for new structure construction to new structure operation in the future for example. I need to think about it. The other character I have in training is still learning to be an Orca pilot. Once that is near completion - it will take many months to make a decent one - I need to think about a webbing and/or cyno alt I guess to help things along. I have no idea how to do either of those things but they seem important from what others say, at least in terms of what I would like to achieve. Another voyage of clumsy discovery then. What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile in the game, I have unanchored my POS. I now know the basic costs and time needed to operate one and what buttons to press so it has served its immediate purpose. Once all the other bits of the jigsaw are ready, I will look at setting it up again in anger. While all that is happening I will resume my wormhole tour to see what I can find.

Trading wise, the cost of minerals have been too good to miss recently. I knew I was going to be away so I put in some speculative buy orders. Whether it is just cyclical, a mining supply deficit or a response to the proposed structure and capital changes is hard to know for certain. May.be reprocessing cheap Ventures might become a thing for me again. But it might have already peaked. We shall see. Anyway, over the coming days I will be scooping up my purchases across the region and put them back on the market. While it might seem a bit low key and routine, I am rather looking forward to it.