Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How do you stop

A reader challenged me to a really interesting mental exercise this week that I've decided to take up. It's going to get me yelled at and cause yet more misconceptions about me but hey, I can't seem to say "hello" this year without causing that. So what the hell, eh? "May as well be hung for a dragon as well as an egg," as the Westerosi saying goes. Here's the mental exercise:

What would it take to stop the depredations of James 315 and his ilk?

Before I begin, let me start by saying... again... that I support non-consensual PvP. I've been saying this on the blog for years, over and over and over again. Here are some relevant quotes from the links:
  • I absolutely believe that there should be non-consensual PvP in New Eden. I've said that many times. It's one of the things that makes EVE EVE.
  • I accept, embrace, and defend the gray areas of EVE, from scamming to non-consensual PvP to unequal warfare to corp names that some might find questionable.
  • ...[this] came up quite a lot during my CSM campaign, particularly when an incorrect belief that I'm opposed to non-consensual PvP was politicized...
  • For the record:
    • Do I think war in high-sec should be limited to suicide ganking?  Nope.
    • Do I think there should be a PvP-free zone in EVE Online?  Nope.
    • Do I think there should be any condition under which an EVE player can be in space and be completely safe?  Nope.
    • Do I think new or inexperienced players should be safe in low- or null-sec should they travel there?  Hell no!
So put down the shotgun, k? This is strictly a mental exercise. I was asked if I'd be interested in taking up this topic, and I decided I am. And hell, a good bit of non-consensual PvP is going to come up in my answer.

The topic came up because New Order Logistics and the CODEdot alliance (CODE hereafter) that it's part of have apparently started expanding their scope from "miner bumping" and miner ganking to hauler and freighter bumping and ganking. This makes a lot of sense: these are often juicier targets, certainly easier to gank in most cases, easier to find, more likely to result in a successful kill, probably more fun. Goons have elevated freighter bumping (to get them away from gate guns and instant CONCORD response) into an art form, often an entertaining art form. What's not to like?

And the questioner was curious where the trend would stop: is New Order going to go after high-sec PI next, for instance? High sec incursion ships? Missioners? Will the "code" expand to include all high-sec activities? And if so, how would high-sec dwellers fight back, even if they were inclined to?

If I can be permitted a very short "Jester Makes History Fun" tangent, the whole question kind of reminds me of submarine warfare in the Atlantic Ocean during both World Wars. The submarines had all of the advantages: their attacks were preemptive, most often against helpless targets, and nearly always without warning. They preferred undefended targets over defended ones, and most often avoided ships that could fight back in favor of those that couldn't. In high-sec, even if they wanted to, miners can't legally act preemptively.

In terms of looking at the various options I came up with, I'm going to grade each of them in terms of "viability", that is, the likelihood that the given approach is feasible and would be successful. And it's probably not going to surprise you that I rate most of the options I could think of as having a low viability or worse. Minerbumping has been running for a couple of years now. If they could have been stopped easily, they would have been stopped by now.

Finally, I'm going to look at every option I can think of even if the likelihood of them "working" is nil or I disagree with them philosophically. As I said, this is a thought experiment. So I warn you in advance: this is a frightfully long post.

Ready? Let's start with:

Declaring war. Viability: Low. Many of the personnel engaged in this activity have lumped themselves into a single alliance, CODE. It's possible to declare war on this alliance and in so doing, freely fire on their pilots. Minerbumping is a 100 billion ISK per year enterprise on average and its budget is growing. While this is pretty small potatoes by null-sec standards, anyone who would want to put a stop to them is likely going to have to commit equal ISK to the effort, plus the 75 million ISK/week fee to keep the war declaration active over a very long period. The organization that did this would need or would need to create a larger alliance than CODE has (the aggressor in any conflict needs to be bigger than the defender), be well organized with good time zone coverage since CODE is active from EUTZ to USTZ, and would need a ship replacement program since there would be zero ISK to be made in this effort.

A typical CODE Catalyst or Talos fleet would also have to be carefully managed since it's obviously capable of doing a lot of damage to an aggressor. Against the former, it only takes one or two losses in an attacking fleet to lose the ISK war pretty badly since Catalysts are cheap. Since both ships use very short range weapons and no prop mods, I'd probably go with Maledictions as my standard attack ships. They're crazy fast both at sub warp and warp, pretty easy to get into and to fly, do a ton of DPS at good range, kite well, and a flock of them would make mincemeat of a Catalyst gang twice its size. They'd also have a fairly easy time holding and whittling down a large Talos fleet.

That said, while ganking helpless targets is fun, chasing Catalysts and Taloses around high-sec probably would not be. Station games and neutral repping would come into play in a big way, and about a third of a given CODE gank fleet appears to be made of non-CODE members that could not be attacked without further expensive war-decs. It's a pretty good bet that a number of CODE members would just swap over to non-CODE alts to keep the ganks going. So a war declaration would be a long expensive slog with not much to show for it. This tactic would also be heavily reliant on a large number of PvP pilots, something Minerbumping's victims probably aren't going to have access to. That brings me to...

Hiring mercenaries. Viability: Very low. This approach has all the disadvantages of the first idea, plus an obviously even greater expense since the mercs must be paid, and paid well. The victory conditions would have to be very carefully set as well, since "destroy 5000 enemy Catalysts" or something like that would be pretty easy to fake.

Bounties and/or kill rights. Viability: very low to none. The typical CODE ship is a Catalyst with a very low value. Even if a kill right was successfully exercised against one, the response from the pilot would be "BFD." Likewise, putting bounties on a large number of CODE pilots might be satisfying from a stand-point of being notified every time they got killed by CONCORD and someone in a frigate shot them to get on the mail. But it certainly wouldn't do a thing to actually stop the attacks.

Counter suicide-ganking. Viability: low to moderate. Here's kind of an interesting notion: gank the gankers. The Catalysts being used by CODE are ridiculously thin. A fairly small group could declare a particularly good mining system a "Catalyst-free zone" and just suicide gank any Catalyst that warped to a belt or mining anomaly in that system. In particular, a relatively small group of Thrashers posted around a mining op and dedicated to the preemptive ganking of any arriving Catalyst could probably do a good job protecting that op.

This would get somewhat expensive in a hurry, particularly since it's 100% likely that CODE would quickly learn to hit such an op with unarmed decoy ships. It would also take a large number of participating pilots; as each pilot involved ganked a Catalyst, he would have to clear the area. The organization of such an effort would be somewhat complex because the counter-ganking pilots would also need to learn the skills to "pull CONCORD away" from the target belt. Keeping the security status of the Thrasher pilots high enough to operate in high-sec would also quickly become an expensive proposition. Amusingly and finally, there would also be a philosophical argument to be made about the justifiability of fighting fire with fire in this fashion.

Still, it's more viable than some of the other options, particularly if it's combined with war-decs. And if it could be expanded to additional systems by additional corps, over time it would damage Minerbumping's play style. Of course, it would come at the cost of having to explain to newbies why you're shooting at the Catalyst he's trying to use to belt rat in high-sec...

Defensive fleets. Viability: low to very low. I covered this one in depth last year. Even if a defense fleet does everything "right", the gankers are still going to win -- and win easily -- on an ISK efficiency ratio. And to make it work, you have to subject a significant number of your pilots to the most boring game-play in EVE: orbiting a mining fleet waiting for something that's probably never going to happen (because the gankers are going to look for easier targets). Finally, from a financial standpoint, this option cuts mining yield -- the whole point to mining in the first place, of course -- to its lowest ebb. And it doesn't stop Minerbumping's tactics overall in the slightest.

Defensive logistics fleets. Viability: low to moderate. Skiffs are getting a bit of an upgrade come summer and are already quite tough. Nothing is ungankable, of course, but you can make a Skiff gank a brutal slog. Add a logistics ship or two on stand-by and doing so becomes an almost ridiculously difficult proposition. It's also as close to a preemptive strategy as it's possible for a mining fleet in high-sec: the Scimitars and Basis and Scythes can have counter-cycled reps and rep drones pointed at the Skiffs so that once the Catalysts start firing, the damage gets repped up immediately. From time to time, you might get your Skiff ganked by a group of Taloses anyway "just to make a point" but it's going to be fantastically expensive for the gankers.

From a success/failure stand-point on an individual gank basis, this tactic is probably the one most likely to succeed. That said, it also has either the biggest boredom factor or the biggest botting factor of any of these options. At least a defensive fleet doing it "right" is going to have rats to shoot at from time to time. A defensive logistics fleet is literally going to have nothing to do except orbit and rep, rep and orbit. Even if players do this with alts, this is cutting their potential mining yield by a third. Or a quarter. And like defensive fleets in general, this tactic is not going to stop the Minerbumping depredations unless this tactic were performed en masse.

Finally, of course, if this kind of tactic started to be used in any kind of numbers, the gankers could just switch to killing the logistics platforms with more or less equal benefit to them of killing the ships being repaired.

Lobby CCP to put a stop to suicide ganking. Viability: none. CCP sees suicide ganking as part of the DNA of EVE Online. They're never going to make any change to remove it no matter how many players beg them to.

Lobby CCP to somehow criminalize bumping. Viability: none to very low. This one's a bit trickier. CCP has never come up with a definition of "harassment" as it applies to an individual ship in space, preferring a Potter Stewart test applied by individual GMs. Still, the action of spending many minutes bumping a potential suicide gank target, particularly when that action is combined with a suicide noob ships aggressing the target could potentially become a sore point. If enough players made enough of a stink about this particular action, CCP might choose to do something about it.

But it would take hundreds of individual players raising the issue and turning it into a threadnaught for anything to happen. And it would only stop a fraction of Minerbumping's tactics. As a side "benefit", though, it would make freighter and jump freighter ganks during Burn Jita somewhat more difficult and costly. Still, I can't see this one getting any traction.

Lobby CCP to give high-sec players more preemptive options. Viability: low to very low. I've always thought it would be kind of interesting if there was a way for players to "stake a claim" on high-sec minerals for brief periods. And with the advent of player anchorable structures, the code now presumably exists that could make such a thing at least possible. Assume you had a "mining claim" anchorable, and while it was anchored, the zone around the anchorable became a free PvP zone, even in high-sec. I could see that creating some interesting emergent game-play. The code would have to be carefully written such that such an anchorable only worked within some number of kilometers of a minable asteroid, though, or the abuse potential would be enormous.

But giving high-sec players preemptive options would definitely put a crimp in the Minerbumping play style. Or it might put a really useful tool in their toolbox since they could anchor this structure next to an AFK miner and use it to freely blow him away without CONCORD intervention. Other options to give high-sec players preemptive capabilities would likely have similar downsides. So something like this is interesting but I could see this kind of knife cutting in both directions.

Encourage miners to use smart fits. Viability: low. Of course, you could put ganking mining ships 80% or more out of business if most or all mining ships were fit properly. This particularly applies if high-sec miners stuck to Skiffs for most or all of their operation. Skiffs aren't ungankable, of course, but it often takes a prohibitively large number of ships to do it and in the long term, trying to gank an endless stream of Skiffs is probably a non-starter from a cost/budget stand-point.

Still, this option's viability is low for a couple of reasons: EVE players being dumb about ship-fitting is sort of one of the bedrock principles that the game is based on. And of course, not every miner can fly a Skiff. CODE gets a lot of their kills from players who can't fly anything better than a Retriever.

Attack CODE from within. Viability: low to moderate. This is another one that would be philosophically interesting: could a high-sec miner put on a good enough front to be accepted into a CODE corporation, and from there, take actions that would be sufficient to put them out of business? From a long-term viability stand-point of actually attacking the target, this one has the greatest chance of success. The end goal of this operation would be to be put into a place where one could access part or all of the Minerbumping budget. I suspect that would be a long term project and in the meantime, such a person would have to prove their loyalty by destroying dozens if not hundreds of mining ships, haulers, and freighters.

And in the process, who knows, such a person might even come to like it.

So this tactic would require iron discipline, a very long-term commitment, not an insignificant amount of luck, and the internal structure of the alliance itself and Minerbumping generally would have to be open to this kind of attack. That's a lot of ifs. I'm not going to say it's impossible, though.

Various low-end meta-game attacks. Viability: very low. This one is similar to the above, attacking CODE from within, but at a lower level. Under this heading falls various spying and awoxing tactics. In particular, keeping an ear on CODE comms and warning mining fleets of incoming suicide ganks would be an example of this sort of tactic. This sort of thing would be entertaining but I suspect such a spy would be found in pretty short order.

Also under this heading are various corp v. corp awoxing attacks. A particularly entertaining option would be to include a ECM Burst module on your Catalyst fit to break some of the fleet's target locks before a particularly juicy attack. Such tactics wouldn't work more than once or twice, of course, and their chances of disrupting Minerbumping long-term is very low.

Rally other EVE players into a combination of all of these tactics together. Viability: low to very low. Most EVE players are much more interested in activities that are fun and driven by profit than making any sort of political statement. Furthermore, enough players will sympathize with the gankers to disrupt such efforts.

Rally other EVE players into a short-term "event" to disrupt Minerbumping. Viability: low to very low. On the other hand, making an "event" out of it could be done relatively inexpensively. Something like "For one week only, 5 million ISK to every person who ganks an armed CODE Catalyst! One pay-out per character, characters must be 30 days or older to participate." would certainly be exploited by CODE members themselves. But enough other players would also come out of the woodwork to participate and make that week rather harrowing for CODE members. Of course, this would require a fair budget to implement, but probably wouldn't be too expensive, maybe five or ten billion ISK in total. And there's a possibility to drive sponsorship of such an event to help pay for it.

This would be an entertaining event, would drive visibility to the issue, and get people talking about why it was done. But its likelihood of disrupting Minerbumping's operations long-term is quite low.

Various high end meta-game attacks. Viability: very low. Not going to go into details on this one. Those of you who understand what I'm getting at will understand what I'm getting at. And I certainly don't condone these sorts of tactics. Particularly since such things would likely be against the EVE TOS... and I judge their likelihood of working to be very low.

...aaaand that's all I can think of. Again, you'll note that as possibilities for causing long-term impact to Minerbumping's activities, virtually all of them have little chance of success. But I was asked to think about this as a mental exercise and finding it interesting, I have done so. Did I miss anything?

Differentiation

Sigh. I seem to have started another mini shit-storm and again it wasn't particularly intentional. I'm sorry about that.

I want to clarify the post I wrote on the upcoming industry changes a bit, and I'm going to keep this clarification short. But I do want to make sure that if I'm going to be roasted over a slow fire, I'm going to be roasted for things I actually said rather than things people think I said. So let's make sure that people understand what I didn't say here:
I did not say that industry in high-sec was going to be ending.
Please be clear on that because I think it's really really important.

What I did say is that every time CCP Greyscale has gotten his hands on something in the past, he has been a proponent for strong differentiation between various types of space... every single time. Put in simpler language, Greyscale likes to have things be worth doing in some parts of space and totally not at all worth doing in other parts of space. As a predictive model, this statement has in the past been very very accurate.

But this does not not not mean even if this turns out to be true that manufacturing things in high-sec is suddenly going to become a no-profit enterprise. Even when Greyscale strongly differentiates something, he doesn't differentiate the low end to zero. You can still run Sanctums and Havens and Hubs in Syndicate and Providence. You just can't make nearly as much money as you can doing the very same thing in Delve and Deklein.

Therefore, if Greyscale holds to past form, there will be things that it will be profitable to manufacture in high-sec... but I think there will also be lots of things where it will be more profitable to manufacture them elsewhere. That's all I was saying.

Except that I also said that I agree with this strategy and I think that in the long term view, it's healthy for the game. And I do think those things. I think you should make more money living in null-sec than living in high-sec... whatever it is that you do there.

Now by all means, go back to roasting me over a slow fire if you care to.

Monday, April 21, 2014

CSM8 Status Report: Week fifty-one

Gonna keep this one really short.

Voting closes today! If you have not voted for your choices for CSM9, GO VOTE! People right across CCP had really nice things to say about CSM8 and the influence we've had on the development process this year, but I'm gonna quote CCP Ytterbium, who summed things up nicely:
If you think the CSM has no value except as a free ride to Iceland, you are wrong. If you think the CSM are only pushing changes in favor of null-security cartels, voice your opinion and vote for someone you feel represents you to your best interest.
Ali Aras also wrote a very nice piece that was included in the CCP perspective called "A Day in the Life of CSM 8", so if you haven't read that, I encourage you to do so.

As I mentioned last week, CSM8's final Town Hall of the year is set for:
Saturday 26 April, at 1900 EVE time.
As I mentioned in the forum thread, if you have any final questions for CSM8, now's the time! I've only received a small handful of questions so far. So either please send them to me via EVE mail or post them in the thread and I'll make sure they're included. I hope to chat with all of you one last time on Saturday...

...or at Fanfest next week! As I mentioned last week, the CSM8 members that are in Iceland for Fanfest 2014 (most of us) will be presenting at a CSM8 Question and Answer Panel followed by a smaller CSM8 Round Table. I hope to chat with a lot of you there!

As a result of Fanfest next week, there will almost certainly not be a "Week fifty-two" update. I may or may not combine weeks fifty-two and fifty-three into a final weekly update two weeks from now on May 5. Either way, I do also expect to write a final "lessons learned/looking back" post on my time on CSM8. That should take place the week of May 5 sometime, and that post will wrap up the "CSM8" blog tag around here.

And that's all for this week! CSM8 continues to be busy as always but we'll soon be passing the baton to CSM9!

Traffic notification: Jita

Just a quickie.

TMC has announced the dates for this year's Burn Jita: April 25 through 28. That's this weekend.

There's also every single reason in the world to assume that things will kick off at least several hours early. After all, they did both last year and the year before. And I wouldn't put it past the Goons to start things off earlier than that this time. Last year, a number of people tried to sneak a few expensive things into Jita before the "deadline." This did not go well for them.

Don't join the dozens of people who lost freighters and jump freighters last year and the year before! Good luck!

EDIT (21/Apr/2014): Talvorian Dex makes an excellent point in the comments below: a good solid third of the losses last year took place in the systems surrounding Jita. So watch yourself anywhere in the neighborhood!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Duping scandal

So barely two days after having its first major bug explode in its face, ESO has had a second even more serious one: a bug that allowed the duping of stacked items -- any items -- in the game's guild banks. The combination of the ability to duplicate items plus the game's NPCs willingness to buy back an unlimited number of the game's craft materials has allowed some players to rack up hundreds of thousands of gold, if not millions.

The bug was fixed with an emergency change earlier this week, but needless to say there's a long Reddit thread, gaming magazine articles, an ESO forum thread, and a video tutorial of how the bug worked in practice:


Now coming out of EVE as I do, I find the whole mess rather amusing. This is exactly the sort of thing that would instantly generate a 250 page threadnaught on the EVE forums and righteous player indignation right around the world whether this bug affected those players or not. And I certainly don't want to discount the ESO players that are concerned about it. For ESO's PvP game, this early major bug is certainly going to have an impact.

But I'm going to give the same advice to ESO players that I've given to EVE players from time to time when this sort of thing has come up: calm down. It's honestly not that big of a deal. If you want to get angry at ESO's developers, get angry about things that they do on purpose, not things that they do by mistake. Now granted, this bug has apparently been known for quite a while -- rumor has it that a number of players found it as part of the beta then simply didn't report it, intending to profit by it after the game launched. But a number of players have also said that they reported the bug and Zenimax and Bethesda did nothing about it.

Those things are worth worrying about, yes. Even in a newly launched MMO with hundreds of bugs to address, a duping bug should have been given higher priority and chances are excellent that the devs are going to be looking at their bug priority system a lot more closely going forward.

But as to this issue itself? It's certainly a major headache for the GM team but game-breaking? No. Something that necessitates a relaunch of the game? Absolutely not. MMOs have dupe bugs. Every MMO has dupe bugs. WoW had one. EVE had one. Rift had a couple. I could go on (and on, and on), but you get the idea: MMOs have dupe bugs. It's sort of a fact of life.

Those bugs didn't break those MMOs and this one won't break ESO.

What's likely to happen with this one is that the ESO GM team will get busy banning the players that perpetrated this one, wipe out a lot of assets and a lot of gold, and generally heavily attack anyone that they can link to this problem. Will that eliminate every single benefit that some players got out of this bug? Nope! Will this bug have a continuing impact on ESO's PvP going forward? Yeah, probably. But over time, the impact of it will smooth out and become less important. In the meantime, it seems clear that the influx of gold isn't having any sort of major inflationary impact on ESO's economy.

So, yes. It's serious. But no, it's not worth freaking out over. Here, look at a pretty tree for a while.


Incidentally, that's the central Argonian Hist tree that ES lore has been hinting exists for the last thirteen years or so. "Make it majestic," the artist was clearly told, "make us believe this is the central focus of the Argonian race." I'd say he or she delivered. It's something else!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Traitor

OK, let's talk about the industry changes announced so far.

Between the refining change announced last month and the overall sweep of the industry changes announced by CCP Ytterbium a few days ago, a number of you want to talk to me about this. And most or all of you that want to talk to me about it have one thing in common: you do your manufacturing in high-sec or low-sec. The latter group are mostly solo capital producers. You guys, by and large, are particularly angry.

And yeah, make no mistake: I totally get why. Most of the advantages that are being touted, particularly in refining, are mostly going to benefit null-sec. Refining will be more efficient in null-sec than can be managed in high- or low-sec and though we haven't seen the full sweep of the changes for manufacturing, it's a pretty damn good bet that manufacturing is going to be cheaper in null-sec as well. Particularly since -- *shudder* -- it's CCP Greyscale working on that. "Expect costs ranging from 0% to 14% of the base item being produced for the most extreme case," Ytterbium says.

That's pretty freakin' significant since as I covered a couple of years ago, once you take out the materials costs today the "COGS" -- cost of goods sold -- for most manufacturing in EVE typically runs less than one percent, the vast bulk of that in station taxes. Manufacturing costs are insignificant to the point of being something industry players ignore entirely. Once summer comes, industry players will no longer be able to ignore those costs. Players that live on industry would be idiots not to pass those costs directly to their customers, and players that live on industry are definitely not idiots. Most of them know their profit margins down to the fraction of a percent. I know I sure do!

Therefore, what Ytterbium is saying is that every single little thing in EVE is about to become 5-10% more expensive. Some things will be 14% more expensive. And those items built in high-sec will be on the higher end of that curve, while the items built in null-sec will almost certainly be at the low end of that curve. And the bigger and more expensive and more reliant on minerals the item is, the bigger the benefit is going to be to build that item in deep null-sec. As I said, the low-sec capital producers are particularly annoyed.

What this naturally means is that goods built in null-sec and shipped to Jita will have a significant cost benefit over goods that are built in high-sec and shipped to Jita. Furthermore, the tendency is going to be that the further away something is built from Jita, the lower the cost of that item is going to be and the higher the profit margin that manufacturer is going to realize. The systems nearest Jita are almost certainly going to end up being -- either through dev intention or player action -- the most expensive places to do industry.

This is absolutely, totally going to flip high-sec industry and trade on its head. Hell, it's even somewhat possible that we'll even see multiple major trade hubs grow out of this change. Sooner or later people might start getting bored with all that logistics, say "screw it" and start selling their stuff in high-sec entry systems closer to where those things are being manufactured. If Burn Jita is too successful this year, this possibility actually becomes slightly more likely.

And in the midst of this, the people who are making their living doing the bulk of their manufacturing in high-sec -- and I include myself among this number -- are going to be the most trodden on: we'll be paying the most for minerals, we'll almost certainly be paying the most for manufacturing. That is going to make our margins on a lot of products razor thin... where we're able to sell these items for a profit at all. I suspect there are some items for which manufacturing in high-sec at a profit is about to become impossible!

"Jester," some of you are saying, "make CCP understand this!"

And here's the simple fact of the matter: guys, they do understand this. Hell, they haven't said so -- if they had, it would be NDA -- but I suspect that's the goal of the exercise. Greyscale in particular has for years been the champion of the philosophy that doing some activities in some areas of space should completely suck and you would be dumb to do those activities there. In the past, the goal has been to make living full-time in null-sec directly correlate with higher player income than living in high-sec. I can easily see industry warping off in that direction come summer.

Did I raise a major objection to this at the Summit? Call me a traitor if you must, but no I did not. Because in the long-term grand scheme of things, this view of EVE is the correct one and it's more healthy for the game.

Now, I might object on other fronts. For instance, I'm personally of the view that there are vast swaths of null-sec that are much safer than high-sec because they happen to be either full of friendly pilots 24/7 or somewhat more often are simply empty of another living soul. As a result, a good bit of null-sec manufacturing is about to become ridiculously profitable while at the same time being ridiculously safe. You do your manufacturing, you pile everything into a jump freighter, and you jump all of it nearly directly into Jita (or wherever). You can add the JF fuel to your COGS confident in the knowledge that even with this expenditure, your profit margin is still probably going to be higher than if you did the very same manufacturing in high-sec.

But as I keep saying, the safety that I feel in null-sec is something that should be addressed in a rebalance of how sovereignty works and the mechanics of null-sec. It's one of the ways in which I feel null-sec is broken. I might shift uncomfortably in my chair and wish that CCP would address that before they addressed the industry expansion. But CCP Seagull showed us all a picture last Fanfest of a giant star gate being built in space. To get to her vision, EVE needed a Crimewatch-level rebuild of industry and it looks like over time we're going to get that.

So, there's likely no stopping this train.

In the meantime, all that I can tell you high- and low-sec manufacturers is what's good for the goose is good for the gander. There are dozens and dozens of PvE-, mining-, and industry-focused corps in null-sec now. Sure, they're mostly called "renters" and sure, I think the whole rental mechanic in EVE is more than a little bit dumb.

But it certainly isn't stopping industry players from taking advantage of the coming changes by sticking your manufacturing alts in these renter corps and taking advantage of these new industry tactics yourself once they come along (assuming they do). After all, in the end you'll be well paid to do so and it will continue to be the safest way of making money in EVE Online. And isn't that why you got into industry in the first place?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Picture of the Week: Dem bones!

OK, this just made me laugh:


One of the mid-level ESO quests turns you into a skeleton. And it's not just skin deep, either. While you're a skeleton, you're a lot tougher than average... but healing spells don't work and you don't regenerate health. It's a very clever little twist on the standard Elder Scrolls vampire/werewolf tropes, because you can keep this quest running for as long as you like...

...and while it's out there running, you're still a really tough skeleton that can't be healed and doesn't regenerate health. A few people seem to have taken the game up on this bargain and are playing a bit as a skeleton. And when the quest is over, if you just want to go skin deep with it, the game rewards you with a little token to skeletonize yourself.

And the quest itself also isn't just skin deep. ESO doesn't have a morality system that I've determined, but about 10% of the quests do have moral choices in them and this is one: a village has made a Faustian bargain with one of the Deadric Princes, Clavicus Vile, that turned out really really badly for them.(1)


As the end decision and moral choice of the quest, you can either enforce that bargain forever (blue) or break the bargain and release the village from it -- with potentially even more disastrous consequences for the village (red).

This is the sort of really interesting game play choice that I just love in a game.

I couldn't help but sit in this room for about 10 minutes and watch other players pass through, curious as to which choice they'd make. During the period I watched, it was running about 50/50. A few of them reached the room and sat there for a minute, clearly thinking about it, before deciding. You know the quest designer is doin' it right when that happens. Hopefully over time, ESO will develop a reputation system for its NPCs. Or maybe it's there already and I haven't encountered it yet.


(1) Hint: in a previous game, a group of vampires made a bargain with Clavicus Vile asking him to end their vampirism. He sends the player into their lair to kill all of them. Because that ends their vampirism, right? Clavicus Vile could be an EVE player.

Minecraft in space

I want to write a pair of posts about space-based industry in EVE Online (as well as a bit about industry in EVE Online in general). But I'm going to write the first post in the context of Kerbal Space Program. The two games are more connected in this small way than you probably realize. Or at least, they should be. Because both of these games involve building things that fly in space. And because building things that fly in space in KSP is insanely fun.

Doing so is challenging, engages your brain, and instills a real sense of accomplishment when you build something big and it happens to work. This applies whether you're doing it in space or on a planet or building some of the truly goofy creations that KSP players have come up with.

Building stuff -- just building stuff! -- in KSP is insanely fun.

Though my progress in the game has slowed down a lot (due to the factors I mentioned this morning), I'm still in the process of building my Jool exploration ship. And I got it into my head that I'd kind of like to use the same basic design as spaceship Discovery from the movies 2001 and 2010: thin and really long, crew cabin up front, engines in the back. But to put a KSP spin on it (and in a slight nod toward reality) I decided that instead of jettisoning fuel tanks from the sides the way I did it with my Enterprise design, this time I'd jettison fuel tanks from the length of the ship.


Fly around for a while, undock from both ends of a fuel tank, cut it loose, redock the remaining components, fly around for a while. Before long, I'll just have the small fuel tank up top left with a few landers (both remote-controlled and piloted) attached to it. I'm making the whole thing modular, and playing around with different modules. Do I want to use the tried-and-true Skipper engine to power the thing? Or do I want to go with a trio of nuclear engines like the movie Discovery? How long should I make it? What should the landers look like? What should the probes look like? It's all pretty much in flux, though I think I've finalized my Leythe lander:


That sucker can make it into orbit from the surface of Kerbal, easy, which means it should also be able to get itself into orbit from Leythe despite that moon's gravity. I'm absurdly pleased with it, actually: everything I need to actually land -- parachutes, landing legs, lights -- is attached to the three outboard fuel tanks and engines. Once it's on its way back to Leythe orbit, I can cut all that stuff loose. The central spacecraft is surprisingly light and nimble.

And in doing all of this, from the design of the ship to the design of the unmanned probes to the design of the landers, I'm using past experience from my previous KSP ships. I'm testing each piece, then I make sure the pieces work together. I'm trying out different engines, trying out different landing strategies, starting to pay more attention to mass than I have previously. It's all immensely satisfying.

It'll be weeks before I actually get around to flying the mission and I don't much care because I'm enjoying the playing and tinkering. I'm having fun, which is kind of the point to playing a game. Anyone remember that?

Compare and contrast with EVE, where building things that fly in space is a workmanlike chore. It's spreadsheets and logistics and huge cans full of obscure stuff. And all of it is about as much fun as one's real job... probably less so, because lots of people do enjoy their real jobs.

Building my space stations in KSP felt like a project, and it was something I was invested in at each stage of the process. I thought about the design, the elements I wanted to include, and how all of them were going to fit together. I thought about my stations in the context of what I was going to use them for, which meant that I had to think about what items I wanted to incorporate and where I wanted to incorporate them. It took skill to do and instilled a real sense of pride of ownership when I was done and they were doing the job that I wanted them to do.

Again, compare and contrast to EVE, where building a starbase is a task that players dread and will avoid if they can at all do so.

As CCP Ytterbium has revealed, EVE is doing an industry-based expansion for the summer. Heaven knows it's been a long time coming. And as a partially industry-focused player, of course I'm happy about it. But in a lot of ways, what was announced in the dev blog announcing this theme is really just polishing the sneaker: making industry a little bit easier, making it a little bit more interesting, and changing the dynamic of how and where things get built (more on that in my second post).

But I don't kid myself into believing that building stuff will be any more fun. The game and the fun that goes with it is still very much about what you do with the ships after they're built, not the enjoyment of building the ships. But does it have to be that way all the time? KSP (and other games that focus on the mechanics of building things, and making building things fun) says no.

It's an answer to the question that maybe CCP should consider at some point.

Anyway, more about the actual mechanics of what's being announced in the dev blog in my next post.

My cup runneth over

Quickie note from the management: I am incredibly, incredibly behind on my EVE mail.

This has turned into a fabulously busy two weeks for me, between blog posts, trying to keep up with CSM-related EVE-O forum threads, trying to keep up with my RL life and job, and my desire to put a decent amount of time into Elder Scrolls Online. But as a result, right now I'm running about two weeks behind on my EVE mail and it's piling up.

So if you've written me something in the last two weeks, I apologize in advance. I'm not ignoring you. I'm just getting behind on it. I'll get caught up this weekend.

I apologize and thank you for understanding...

EDIT (21/Apr/2014): I did indeed get caught up this weekend so if you sent me an EVE mail and I didn't respond to it in some way, feel free to resend it.