Friday, September 22, 2017

Warzone Extractions: Revamping the Arbitrator Fit

I guess I should give an update on my experience running the Warzone Extraction sites in EVE Online given how popular my T1 cruiser fittings post for the event turned out. For those wondering, I am flying an Arbitrator through the sites and with my skills, the only problems I encounter are with the battleships, as they kite at the edge of falloff range of my autocannons using Depleted Uranium M.

The Arbitrator fit using Depleted Uranium M

The reason for using autocannon is to kill off the frigates quickly. Once the frigates are off the field, the drones (and thus the ship's DPS) are safe. Experience both on Tranquility and Singularity show that the frigates will try to pull range to around 5km-6km, which means artillery should track well enough to contribute to the damage. Here is what I intend to fly over the weekend.

An Artillery Arbitrator fit using Phased Plasma

On paper, the tech 2 autocannon fit using Depleted Uranium M still has a 1 damage per second advantage over an Arbitrator using tech 1 artillery. Don't let pyfa fool you. The damage totals displayed don't reflect reality in space. Taking into account falloff, the artillery fit should actually outperform the autocannon fit. The Sleeper battleships have the ability to kite a player at 14km-16km. What is extreme falloff range for an autocannon is only 3km-5km into the artillery's 22km falloff range.

But what about killing the frigates at the beginning of a fight? While I haven't tested the new Arbitrator fit, I did test a Vexor fit with tech 1 artillery on the Singularity test server and I found the Gallente cruiser performed well.

A Vexor Artillery Fit
One good thing about using 650mm Medium Gallium Cannon is that they are cheap, running only a few tens of thousands of ISK each. I may even still have a few in one of my hangars. Also, artillery goes through a lot less ammunition, which means I can roam longer without stopping to pick up more ammunition. I perhaps should have included artillery options in my original post, but I ran out of time.

While the Vexor is better on paper, the Arbitrator still has the intangibles going for it. I get a kick out of these people flying around in Dominix and Tengus landing on grid watching an electronics warfare cruiser running the site. And as long as I can pay off the purchase price of the Arbitrator (which if it already hasn't happened, will happen tonight), I'm happy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tech 1 Cruiser Fits For Warzone Extraction

Today, CCP celebrates the launch of the EVE: Valkyrie - Warzone with an event in EVE Online. Running one week before the launch of the expansion of the first person spaceship shooter and one week after, the Warzone Extraction should prove the most challenging of The Agency events yet launched on Tranquility. Players unprepared for the content could face a rude surprise.

The setting for the event is fairly simple. A mysterious NPC named The Quartermaster has hired The Agency to find trinary wrecks among the wrecks of Drifter battleships. Players warp to an acceleration gate where they find The Quartermaster in a Viator, the Gallente blockade runner. The player then uses the acceleration gate to warp into a dungeon with 5 Drifter battleship and one station wreck. Players then investigate (i.e. bump into) each wreck until they find the goal, a container holding Corrupted Trinay Relics. If the player fails to find the container after investigating a maximum of three battleship wrecks, a message appears in local chat informing the player where to find the container. Once the Corrputed Trinary Relics are retrieved, players then use the acceleration gate to return to The Quartermaster to hand over the item and receive credit with The Agency for completing the site. The reward was not listed on the Singularity test server.

To make the event more interesting, the site is guarded by Sleepers. According to the EVE University Wiki:
The Sleepers are (or were?) a presumably extinct human race which lived thousands of years before the playable EVE races. Their remaining installations and automated defence systems can be found throughout W-Space. They were far more advanced, technologically, than the current human races, and their drones, which still guard their former bases and systems, can overcome any unprepared explorer easily. Sleeper drones should not be confused with Drifters.
I identified 6 ship types in the high sec sites I tested. The Defenders and Preservers are frigates that web, scam, and neut. The Wardens are logistics ships that can repair the armor of the frigates in one repair cycle. I don't know how effective they are when repairing battleships as I always killed the Wardens before attacking the battleships. The last three ships, Upholders, Sentinels, and Safeguards, are all battleships that can web, scram, and neut. Image a Bhaalgorn with officer neuts. That's right. Expect to have your capacitor drained in short order.

The presence of the Sleepers isn't all bad. While salvage only resulted in scrap metal when I tried, the NPCs drop boosters as well as blue loot normally only seen in wormholes. Bringing a mobile depot unit is highly recommended.

When fitting a ship to run the high sec Warzone Extraction sites, make four assumptions.

1. Unless running a site in a system with a 1.0 security status, plan on facing cap pressure. If you see a battleship, assume you will run out of capacitor in short order. Plan accordingly.

2. Assume your ship needs to output 300 damage per second. The applied damage is probably a little less, but I couldn't calculate the exact amount.

3. The payout for the sites isn't worth using faction or tech 2 ammunition.

4. Bring a prop mod. Spawning and retrieving the Corrupted Trinary Relics may require traveling 60-90 km.

I decided to fit one tech one cruiser of each race and test them on the Singularity test server. I only had time to test in high sec. As the sites get tougher the lower the security status of the system, I won't vouch that the first two ships would survive a low sec site. I'll present the ships in order of preference. I'd say effectiveness, but my top choice may surprise people.

4. Caldari Caracal

The Caracal is the ship I tested with the largest natural shield tank, which meant I could devote more slots to offense in relation to the other three ships. However, the damage is lacking, which results in having to perform certain tactics to win.

Due to the crippling neut pressure in the more profitable sites, each ship fits a shield regeneration tank, sometimes referred to as a permatank. The mid slots hold 2 Large Shield Extender IIs, which allows for fitting a Medium Ancillary Current Router I instead of a third shield rig. The rest of the mids hold a EM Ward Amplifier II and Thermal Dissipation Amplifier II to plug the EM and thermal holes in the shield tank inherent in all the tech 1 hulls. The final mid slot holds a 10MN Monopropellant Enduring Afterburner, because cap is precious and the module uses the least cap of the afterburners.

The lows contain a Damage Control II to enhance the ship's resistances, a Shield Power Relay II for additional shield regeneration, and two Ballistic Control System IIs for enhanced missile damage.

The rigs hold two Medium Core Defense Field Purger Is to add to the shield regeneration rate as well as the aforementioned power grid rig. Using the power grid rig allows for fitting a full rack of Heavy Assault Missile Launcher IIs in the high slots.

Even with all the skimping on the tank in order to improve missile damage, the Caracal cannot break the tank of either a Defender or Preserver receiving Warden reps without overheating the missile launchers. So as soon as the Sleepers show up on grid, lock up a Warden and destroy it as fast as possible. Even then, the battleships can keep you webbed down and screened from the Wardens. As I mentioned before, I don't know if the Wardens will remote repair the battleships, but why take the chance?

3. Minmatar Rupture

The Rupture came in third based on its ability to destroy the Sleeper frigates through Warden reps. However, the unbonused drones the Rupture carries, along with the limited drone bay, means careful drone management is required to not lose any damage. Also, the short range of the autocannons comes into play when killing the battleships. The battleships like to kite at 15 km using their webs and neuts, just out of falloff range of short-ranged ammunition like Phased Plasma M. I carried Depleted Uranium M for this situation, but the destruction of the battleships took a long time.

In addition to four 425mm AutoCannon IIs, the utility slot is filled by a Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II. The HAM launcher, with a range of 20 km, is a welcome addition when attacking the battleships at the end of a fight.

The mid slots are fit with a Large Shield Extender II for buffer, an EM Ward Amplifier II and Thermal Dissipation Amplifier II to shore up the weakest resists, and a 10MN Monopropellant Enduring Afterburner for scooting around the site.

The low slots hold three tank modules and two damage modules. A Damage Control II increases the resists further while 2 Shield Power Relay IIs add to the shield regeneration. Finally, two Gyrostabilizer IIs add to the damage output of the autocannons.

Finally, the rigs are filled with Medium Core Defense Field Purger Is to provide the required shield regeneration to withstand the fire of the Sleepers. With this fit, my shields never dipped below 60%.

2. Gallente Vexor

A lot of people think the Vexor is overpowered. The Gallente drone boat is definitely a dominant ship even if one has to use tech 1 autocannon, or even tech 1 artillery in the high slots to supplement the damage of the drones. The only worry really is making sure the NPCs don't kill your valuable drones. The safest way to use the drones is to go after the frigates first, because the Vexor has enough damage to kill frigates before the Warden reps land. After the frigates are gone, kill the Wardens so reducing the battleships to slag doesn't take as long. Then switch to the Ogres and mop up the battleships.

Since the Sleepers bring a lot of neut pressure, I fit four 425mm AutoCannon IIs in the high slots. Just remember to bring Phased Plasma to use during the frigate fight and switch to Depleted Uranium to take down the kiting battleships.

The mid slots are fit exactly like the Rupture fit above, and for the same reasons. The lows are fit with a Damage Control II for the resists, three Shield Power Relay IIs for the shield regeneraton, and a Drone Damage Amplifier II for additional drone damage.

Finally, the rigs are filled with two Medium Core Defense Field Purger Is to bring up the shield regeneration to a safe level and a Medium Core Defense Field Extender I for additional buffer.

1. Amarr Arbitrator

For purposes of the Warzone Extraction event, the Arbitrator is almost the same ship as the Vexor. The only difference in the modules used in the fits is the Arbitrator, due to its split weapons layout, has two HAM launchers and two 425mm Autocannon IIs in the highs instead of four autocannons. For drones, due to bandwith limitations, the Arbitrator carries 2 full flights of light drones and 2 flights of medium drones compared to the Vexor's 2 flights of light drones and 3 heavy drones.

Fly the Arbitrator exactly the same way as the Vexor in the site. Upon landing, start firing on the frigates and launch the drones, making sure the drones always attack the same target. Afterwards, kill the Wardens, then switch to the medium drones to finish off the battleships. While the medium drones do less damage, the heavy assault missiles help make up for the damage deficit with their greater damage application. Just remember to swap out the Phased Plasma M for Depleted Uranium M if the battleship is kiting beyond 13 km.

So, if the Arbitrator is just as good as the Vexor, why fly the Arbitrator? Three reasons, none of which will appeal to the min/maxers out there. The first is I already own an Arbitrator and I've never flown a Vexor on Tranquility. The next is that I just like the idea of tooling around these sites in a ship everyone will think is weird. The final reason is I just like the looks of the ship more. If the choice is a coin flip, then why not fly around New Eden in style?

UPDATE: After experiencing the content for a few days on Tranquility, I've posted artillery fits for the Arbitrator and Vexor that may work better, depending on your skills.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Did The Judge Really Pull Off The Biggest Heist In EVE Online History?

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, 12 September, Circle of Two's head diplomat, The Judge, pulled off a stunning robbery, emptying alliance wallets and selling citadels, including Co2's keepstar in 68FT-6, to the tune of at least 1.5 trillion ISK. In terms of raw numbers, The Judge pulled in higher numbers than the previous record held by Eddie Lampert and Mordor Exuel and their 1 trillion ISK Phaser Inc. ponzi investment scheme. But in terms of value, did The Judge set a record?

Back in 2012, I converted the ISK value of some of EVE's biggest events into their PLEX values. While ISK changes in value, 30 days of game time will always be 30 days of game time.
Two of the biggest scams in the history of the game, the Phaser Inc. ponzi scheme and the Titans4U investment scam, were worth 2,953 PLEX and 2,575 PLEX respectively. Converting the old-style PLEX into modern PLEX, the Phaser Inc. scheme netted 1,476,500 nuPLEX and Bad Bobby's Titans4U scam raked in 1,287,500 nuPLEX. In comparison, the 1.5 trillion ISK to 2 trillion ISK The Judge stole will convert into between 500,000 to 666,667 nuPLEX. In other words, while in raw numbers The Judge comes out on top, the value of his theft will most likely be 50% of what Lampert and Exuel gained through their ponzi scheme.

Leaving the two financial scams aside, surely The Judge pulled off the biggest corp/alliance theft in EVE history? Not so fast. What about the famous strike by the Guiding Hand Social Club against Ubiqua Seraph and the assassination of its CEO, Mirial?

At first glance, comparing the GHSC's 20-30 billion ISK take seems ludicrous. But the event did occur in 2005, and the value of ISK definitely dropped over the ensuing 12 years. Also, since PLEX did not exist in 2005, doing the conversion of the GHSC numbers to 2017 ISK would require some knowledge of black market ISK numbers in EVE Online. Fortunately, I possess the required knowledge.

The black market price is given in the PC Gamer article linked to above. The author used the price available at RMT giant IGE (now out of business), which was $550 USD per billion ISK. I'm pretty sure in those days ISK was sold in millions, but in order to match up with today's pricing, I converted the units to billions. Looking at my data from Player Auctions for the month of September so far along with the pricing from some ISK-selling websites, the current price of one billion ISK is $5 USD. The result is that 1 billion ISK in 2005 is 110 billion ISK in constant 2017 ISK. Or in other words, the GHSC heist in 2005 was worth between 2.2 trillion ISK and 3.3 trillion ISK in constant 2017 ISK. Quite a bit higher than the estimated 1.5 trillion - 2 trillion ISK The Judge is estimated to have gained yesterday.

Up until now, I have used a range when describing the value of the Guiding Hand Social Club's actions. For the below table, I'll use the commonly used figure of 30 billion ISK for the heist to perform the conversion of constant 2017 ISK into PLEX using today's prices.

My post isn't meant to denigrate the scale of what The Judge pulled off. Getting a minimum of 83 years of game time isn't anything to sneeze at. But the people that came before him did pretty well themselves. Sometimes taking a second look lets us appreciate the scale of what they did.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Fitting Weekend

I spent a lot of time reading and listening to news about the release of the CSM summit minutes Friday. Over on the INN Twitch channel, The Open Comms Show, Talking In Stations (available on Soundcloud), and the Whiskey Gaming Show all tackled the subject, with CSM members Jin'taan and Noobman appearing on the first two shows. I also appeared on the Naked Trading in Albion show yesterday with Roedyn and Caleb Ayrania discussing real money trading. Add in some mining in low sec and I spent a lot of time involved with video games this weekend.

The most significant time, though, involved reviewing and updating fittings on three ships. I recently had the computer that had all my pyfa fits stored on it die and I'm in the process of recreating the fits based on how my ships are currently fit. Two of the ship fittings I hadn't reviewed in years. The other ship I found shuffled to the back of a hangar and may wind up using it for a project I'm working on.

The first ship is one I fly all the time: the Prowler. When something works, even if sub-optimal, people tend to leave things alone. But as I put the fit into pyfa, the mids just bugged me.

Originally, I had a 10MN Afterburner II and 2 Adaptive Invulnerability Field IIs in the mid slots. One of the weaknesses of my fit was if I landed short of a station, slowboating into docking range was a bit slow and irritating. So I replaced the afterburner with a microwarpdrive. I also replaced the active invulnerability fields with two passive modules, the Explosive Deflection Amplifier II and Kinetic Deflection Amplifier II. If someone attacks, I no longer have to worry about turning on modules, I just have to fly the ship. Besides, blockade runners depend on their speed and cloak for protection. A ship with a 12.1 AU/second warp speed, a regular speed of 2287 m/second with the MWD turned on, and a 3.5 second align time should do well.

The next ship is the Orca. I hadn't touched the ship since CCP added three high slots to the ship awhile back. I realize part of the meta revolves around using the ship to mine with drones while granting yourself boosts. But I decided to go with a more traditional fit that can both grant boosts in a belt or move cargo around New Eden.

For the boosts, I chose the charges that improve mining lasers' and strip miners' range and rate of operation in order to end the pain of mining as quickly as possible. The Shield Command Burst II is present in order to improve the resists of all the ships in the fleet, just in case something happens.

The remainder of the high slots include a Small Tractor Beam II and Salvager II to gather up loot from NPC wrecks. In high sec, the drones from an Orca can pretty much take care of any belt rats, leaving the mining ships in the fleet free to deploy mining drones. The Improved Cloaking Device II is fit to use the MWD/Cloak trick in case travel through low or null is required.

The mid slots are fit with what I hope is an adequate tank, 2 Adaptive Invulnerability Field IIs and 2
Large Shield Extender IIs. When combined with the Shield Harmonizing Charge, the fit has over 300 thousand effective hit points. The last slot in the mids holds a 500MN Y-T8 Compact Microwarpdrive. The calculation in pyfa is incorrect, as the Orca can reach a speed of 436 m/second when using the MWD. Also, the judicious use of the MWD can reduce the align time of the ship in some situations from 30.6 seconds down to 10.

The lows contain the almost mandatory Damage Control II and a Reactor Control Unit II. The reactor control unit is required to fit the microwarpdrive. For those wishing more defenses, replace the MWD and Reactor Control Unit II with a 100MN afterburner and a Reinforced Bulkheads II.

The part of the fit I am still unsure of is the rigs. The Large Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I is required to plug the EM hold in the shield tank. What I don't know about is whether I should use one hyperspatial rig or two. When combined with the WS-615 implant, the fit currently has a warp speed of 2.76 AU/second. With two hyperspatial rigs, the speed increases to 3.24 AU/second. I think the rig selection is just a matter of taste, and I may wind up replacing the agility rig with the warp speed rig.

The ship I found in my hangar was a Stratios. I remember an old Johnny Pew video that stated the secret to surviving the explosion of a Ghost Site was to fit a buffer tank, so I decided to go with an armor tank. I also wanted to switch from running data and relic sites to combat sites with a minimum of fuss, which definitely left out trying to develop a shield fit.

The high slots contain what I hope is a fairly standard fit for an exploration Stratios. The Covert Ops Cloaking Device II and Sisters Core Probe Launcher are standard on any of my cloaky exploration ships. The Focused Medium Beam Laser IIs with tech 1 crystals are present to hopefully draw fire away from drones when I deploy them. I'm using tech 1 crystals because they never wear out.

The mid slots once again are fairly standard, I think. The Data Analyzer II and Relic Analyzer II are present because I run both types of sites. Also, in a Ghost Site, I hear that either module works. I use the PL-0 Scoped Cargo Scanner due to the modules increased range which could come in handy when deciding which cans to hack when running a Ghost Site. The Ghost Sites are timed and will blow up in your face, so picking out which cans have the best stuff is important. The microwarpdrive is necessary to travel between the cans as fast as possible. And the Scan Rangefinding Array II, when combined with the AR-810 implant, gives the probes a strength of 124, which should prove sufficient to probe down any site.

The low slots contain a slight twist. The Damage Control II, Medium Armor Repairer II and Reactive Armor Hardener are pretty standard for an armor tank. But for the buffer, I chose to use Federation Navy 1600mm Steel Plates. I normally don't use faction gear, but not only do the armor plates offer more protection against a Ghost Site explosion, but I was able to get the align time under 4 seconds, which is pretty good. I finished up by fitting a Drone Damage Amplifier II. When using Curator IIs, the ship puts out a theoretical maximum 427 damage per second.

The fitting is completed with three rigs, with another choice that once again is unusual for one of my fits. For the first time I'm using a tech 2 rig, a Medium Low Friction Nozzle Joints II. The agility rig also helps the ship get the ship under a 4 second align time. After experimentation, the Medium Anti-Explosive I offered the best choice to improve the armor tank. Finally, a Medium Ancillary Current Router I was required to increase the power grid.

When running combat sites, I plan to replace the analyzers and the cargo scanner with 2 Omnidirectional Tracking Link IIs to improve the performance of the sentry drones I plan to use as well as a Cap Recharger II to increase the capacitor recharge rate for a few seconds longer.

I realize I'm not a great theory crafter, but putting down the rationale for my fits seems to help. I'm pretty sure I made a mistake somewhere. I just hope I don't find out what in a fiery ball of flame.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Change For Null Sec Makes High Sec Less Safe

During every campaign for the Council of Stellar Management, we hear claims from null sec candidates that they can represent high sec adequately because they have high sec alts. The counter-argument is that if the choice is between null sec interests or high sec interests, the null sec candidates will choose null sec every time. So I would really love to hear the CSM's reaction to the latest citadel mechanics change coming to EVE with the Lifeblood expansion on 24 October. CCP Fozzie announced the change on the EVE Online forums:
We have been discussing these new structures and their mechanics with all of you in the EVE community for much of the year, including some excellent discussions at Fanfest and with the CSM. One concern that was raised both by Fanfest attendees and the CSM was the risk that current structure deployment mechanics might be abused to “block” the orbital moon mining locations by ninja-deploying a Refinery and forcing their opponents to wait 24hrs (or longer in the case of sovereign nullsec space) to interact with that structure. This is an issue that can apply to all Upwell structures at the moment, but it would be especially vulnerable to abuse with Refineries.

After our discussions with the CSM and the wider community we have decided to make a surgical adjustment to the flow when deploying Upwell structures. As of the Lifeblood release there will be a new 15 minute repair timer immediately after a structure is deployed. It will begin after the structure name, access profile, and vulnerability schedule is chosen but before the 24 hour anchoring period. The existing repair timer at the end of the 24 hour vulnerability period will remain in place.

This means the current flow of:

Drag structure into space -> Choose name, profile and vulnerability schedule -> 24hr anchoring -> 15 minute repair (vulnerable) -> Online

will become:

Drag structure into space -> Choose name, profile and vulnerability schedule -> 15 minute repair (vulnerable) -> 24hr anchoring -> 15 minute repair (vulnerable) -> Online
The blocking of minable moons could become a serious nuisance for null sec alliances because the higher a system's ADM, the longer an attacker's, or in this case, a troll's, refinery takes to anchor. For example, under the current system, in a system which has an ADM of 6, the anchoring process would take 7 days before the system's owner could attack the citadel to remove the structure. Trolls could deny a sov holder of 7 days worth of moon mineral income during the initial land rush that Lifeblood will introduce.

Activity Defense Modifiers In Delve
Did CCP need to do something about the situation? Yes. The mechanic was broken from its inception, but never really mattered until now. However, did the fix really have to affect high sec? No.

Currently, if a high sec corporation drops a citadel, they have to hope a high sec wardec alliance doesn't see the deployment for the first 15 minutes. If they do, the wardec alliance issues a wardec and gets a chance to attack a deploying citadel. If the structure goes unnoticed for the first 15 minutes, then a wardec alliance will have to attack a fully functioning and fitted citadel. My understanding is that, unless the citadel is located in a strategically located system, the wardec alliance won't bother.

The change, as described by CCP Fozzie, adds an extra 15 minutes for wardeccers to find deploying structures and issue a wardec. Did CCP intend to double the effective vulnerability time for deploying a structure in high sec? Couldn't CCP just shorten the 24 hour invulnerable anchoring period to 23 hours and 45 minutes?

In my opinion, CCP never intended for individuals in one-man corporations to own citadels, and the POS before them. The mechanics of the POS just lent themselves to avoiding the war declaration system and high sec residents want the same ability with citadels. A resident of null sec would have no sympathy for such an attitude. I wonder if any expressed an argument to avoid the increase at all.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A First Look At EVE: Lifeblood's Resource Wars

Yesterday CCP published the first of the dev blogs describing the freshly announced high-sec content for the EVE: Lifeblood expansion coming on 24 October. Covering the Resource Wars feature, players received their first description of the content:
For decades, each of the four core empires have been sending Mining Expeditions into these asteroid fields to harvest the vast quantities of ore required to manufacture advanced technologies. These extremely important strategic resources have been gathered under the watchful eyes of each empire's dedicated military logistics and supply corporation. They have surveyed all existing mining expeditions and determined that they are rapidly being exhausted with pirate raiders wreaking havoc on their returns. A high priority is now being placed on extracting all remaining resources in the face of growing pirate raids. As Blood Raiders, Guristas Pirates, Serpentis and Angel Cartel attack these desperate operations, it is essential that capsuleers play their part in the resource wars between the empires and the pirates.

You and your fleet mates will form a strike team with the empire mining expedition fleet to warp to these previously secure sites and survey the environment to select the best asteroid clusters to focus on. If you choose to mine with the fleet, your role will be to gather the resources as quickly as possible and deposit the rare ore into waiting haulers. If you fit for combat, you will defend the fleet miners against the incoming pirates and their reinforcement waves. After your force enters a site, mine the asteroids and eliminate the pirates as quickly as possible before heading to the next site once the haulers are filled and warp away.  These sites will contain a new asteroid type, never seen before in New Eden.  
From reading all the available information in the dev blog, the EVE Online forum thread, and the thread on the EVE subreddit, the basic framework emerged. The sites will come in five tiers, with each tier allowing larger and larger ships, just like deadspace complexes do today. Since the sites will only appear in high sec, tier 5 sites will allow battleships, not capitals. The probable maximum ship sizes allowed in each complex are:
Tier 1: Frigates and Corvettes
Tier 2: Destroyers
Tier 3: Cruisers
Tier 4: Battlecruisers
Tier 5: Battleships
I would imagine that the tier 2 sites would allow boosts from command destroyers while mining barges would make their appearance in the content in tier 3. Tier 4 may see the introduction of the Porpoise with Orcas allowed in tier 5 sites. But those are just guesses; we should see more in future dev blogs.

Access to the sites will depend on two factors: standings and ship capacity. CCP is introducing four new NPC corporations. From what I can gather, access is dependent on the standings with the corporations only. Standings with the four major NPC factions will not count. Also, each site will only hold a limited number of ships. The number of ships is currently unknown.

At this time, we can assume the standings requirements to enter the complexes are the same as talking to mission agents. Those are:
Level 1: -10
Level 2: 1.0
Level 3: 3.0
Level 4: 5.0
Level 5: 7.0
For those wishing to race to the tier 5 content, I would suggest training the Social and Connections skills. We currently do not know if the Negotiation and Mining Connection skills will have any impact on site completion payouts.

Speaking of payouts, the sites are timed, which means players must quickly complete the site in order to receive loyalty points. Unlike regular missions, players do not have to share their rewards with others. CCP gave a description of the rewards:
While in the site, you will notice that the empire's ships have new SKINs--a unique one for each empire. These will be available to you inside reward crates available for Loyalty Points (LP) and ISK from each empire's Resource Wars corporation LP stores.

These reward crates will also contain a selection of ships with basic modules to complete a fit and a fitting plan. We want to allow players to participate in the Resource Wars, earn standings to unlock the higher tiers, and use their ISK and LP to buy the next tier reward crate from the LP store. As these ship packages feature a unique Resource Wars SKIN and will be available via the LP store through all stations in each empire’s sovereign high-sec space, they will cost more than purchasing the same hull straight from the market.
The contents of the different loot crates will appear in each corporation's LP store so players will not have to rely on the random number generator to get the loot they want.

CCP Affinity spent a few hours answering questions on the EVE Online forums. For those allergic to the official forums, below is a collection of the questions and her answers that clarified points in the dev blog.

Q. The root problem is that both CCP and the CSM have had their preconceived biases re-enforced by getting suggestions and feedback from a group of people who play in the same style that they do. Part of the problem rests in the HS player not being aggressive enough in voicing their complaints/concerns, but the biggest error is that those in power failed to realize that they had to reach out aggressively to those OUTSIDE the powerful corps and their play style.

A. We actually did speak to quite a few HS players and a lot of players who mentor/specialise in helping new players. That is why with this content, we reward everyone who enters and participates. Will other players be in the sites? yes. However, as you have a common/shared goal and everyone is rewarded equally provided they participate towards the goal - you can enter sites by yourself, do your own contribution and not have to worry about working ‘with the group’ if you don’t want to. However, we do also have a lot of completely solo content and not much aimed at new players for groups, so we wanted to make some group based activities that will let you interact as much as you feel comfortable, with other players :slight_smile:

Q. What kind of difficulty can we expect from the most difficult sites? One thing that is currently missing in high-sec is small-size PvE (~2-5) content that is worth running.

A. The sites will range from rookie/frigate to battleship difficulty. They will be aimed at smaller fleets/groups and be time limited so you can guarantee moving around and quick PvE encounters.

The sites will give standings, LP and ISK so they can run the lower sites to get the standings. It’s new corporations, so no one will have the standings to begin with.

Q. The description states that a “strike fleet” is first formed and then everyone warps to the sites. Is this correct or can an individual just show up at a beacon and, barring a fully filled site, use the gate to join the currently running site?

A. They absolutely can just warp to the site :slight_smile: they will be joined in the site by an AI Empire fleet and other capsuleers

CCP Affinity responding to concerns that the sites are too safe: These sites are aimed at content that is accessible to anyone. They will be readily available in high sec systems only and the gates will restrict entry based on standings and max participation. Does that mean you won’t come up with ganking opportunities? I very much doubt that. It does mean though that new players coming out of Inception will have places to go either alone, with other new players or with older players to learn and progress so they feel ready to take on the rest of EVE. This is a more engaging, exciting way to learn aspects of the game than through career agents and it helps to more easily form fleets for activities with newer players.

Q. It’s not just ganking. If a corp can monopolize control of a site, they have a 100% safe place to operate with impunity during a wardec.

Content gated behind gates only accessible by standings and that can be monopolized pretty much creates a perfectly safe space. I guess players are vulnerable en route to the gate, but just to be clear this comes very close if not crosses the line where there is no safe space in New Eden.

A. The sites have timers that are triggered on warp in. They would have a very, very small window of time to do any of this before the site explodes and redistributes elsewhere.

These timers also mean players will be entering and leaving the sites (and out in space) a lot. They won’t be stuck inside 1 site for ages.

Q. We need the details but I was envisioning a corp locking down a site by acquiring all the keys and running the sites as intended for hours earning LP while completely immune from a corporation that declared war on them.

If the sites aren’t easily locked down or last a short time this isn’t really a concern. But if you can hole up in one with your corp and farm in complete safety for hours, that kinda undermines a core idea of the game

A. They are short content - think minutes :slight_smile: The sites explode after that time

Q. This reference to “capacity” refers to payout or participation right? This isn’t some sort of instanced PvE content locked away from the greater universe?

A. There will be a max capacity in the site to maintain performance within the sites and also have balanced rewards and not just complete chaos. It’s the same as sites that have keys currently though so this isn’t new. You can always bypass the gates in other creative ways like you currently do if you so wish :slight_smile:

Q. Can these sites be run solely in combat ships or does it require a player to be mining as well?

A. The sites will require a player to also be mining, or a hybrid miner/combat.

Q. Can I use a full combat ship with mining drones?

A. As for the mining/combat… you can do it any way you want, the site listens for haulers filled with ORE and NPCs killed.

Q. So warp with combat hull, deploy mining drones - kill incoming rats? Sites have to be clear mined?

A. The goal isn’t to mine the sites out, it’s to fill the haulers to their max capacity :slight_smile:

Q. What if only combat ships show up to a site for whatever reason. I kill every single rat waves and the the site expire even if nothing get mined? Do I get any reward? Bounties? Loot/salvage if I though to BM the site? Nothing because only one objective was fulfilled?

A. You must complete the objectives to get a reward and that includes filling the haulers in the allocated time.

Q. Can you remote repair the NPC Haulers?

A. Yes :slight_smile:

Q. Any way to assist the pirate factions? In an actual measurable way, not simply ganking site runners.

A. Not with the initial release :slight_smile:

Q. So I take it these sites won’t appear in low sec?

A. They will be in high sec only

Q. Could these perhaps be expanded into NPC Nullsec? The Pirate Factions only have missions for rewards currently and adding something similar to NPC Null would most likely add alot of content in the regions.

A. We have no plans for that currently

Q. Is this new ore solely used for the LP and ISK reward from the Resource Wars corporations, or can it be refined into minerals as well?

A. The ORE won’t be refinable.

Q. Will these LP stores have the standard array of LP rewards in addition to the reward crates?

A. The LP stores will not have the same rewards as other stores, they will have a selection of reward crates. You will know what is in the crate before purchase though.

Q. Are the ISK costs in the LP store going to be tied to the market in some way, or is there potential for inflation to push ship prices up past the price these crates cost and then we’re back to refining shuttles and insurance frauding Rokhs on the Jita undock?

A. Yes, they will be higher than market prices and will be adjusted as the price rises.

Comment: They [the loot crates] aren't RNG. It's just a container with multiple items.

CCP Affinity: Yeh. It’s a container with a set list of items and we will tell you what is in the crate :slight_smile:It’s exactly the same as having a list of items… only they are presented in a more aesthetically pleasing way

Q. Can you explain this part? "These reward crates will also contain a selection of ships with basic modules to complete a fit and a fitting plan. As these ship packages feature a unique Resource Wars SKIN and will be available via the LP store through all stations in each empire’s sovereign high-sec space, they will cost more than purchasing the same hull straight from the market."

A. It’s a new way to deliver multiple rewards at once for 1 price in the LP store. Reward crates aren’t new. We’re just packaging up items.

Q. Will these LP stores have any unique rewards other than the reward crates?

A. More info on the rewards to follow in a later blog.

Q. Will these new corporations have missions or will these new secure sites be the only way to acquire their LP?

A. Currently this will be the only way to acquire the LP.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

EVE Online: Lifeblood - The Surprise Expansion

As new technologies for resource acquisition emerge in the form of Upwell Refineries, new moon mining capabilities and refined reaction processes, pirate factions have set their sights on taking a slice of the dwindling resources that remain in New Eden.

With more tools for resource gathering at the hands of capsuleers than ever before, the competition for raw materials and supremacy over space is becoming more heated than ever as the cluster is pushed closer toward the brink of all out conflict.

A couple of weeks ago, I noted that CCP had removed mention of high-sec content coming in the winter expansion from the Updates site. On Friday, CCP announced the next expansion, Lifeblood, would launch on 26 October, which technically occurs before winter in the northern hemisphere. When does a game company move the date up on a release? Unheard of!

The expansion mainly covers two things, the moon mining changes in null and low security space, and the addition of new content in high sec. I'll list (aka copy and paste) the features currently listed on the Updates site and then give some thoughts based on the sometimes limited knowledge of the features available.

Refineries: The next class of capsuleer-built structures are arriving, putting even more industrial power in the hands of pilots throughout New Eden!

Refineries will revolutionize how consumable resources are harvested and processed in New Eden, and will become the premier structure for capsuleers to use when collecting, processing, refining and reprocessing.

This new line of structures will offer an entirely new method of moon mining, and improve the ability to carry out reactions by utilizing the industry UI for the process, allowing capsuleers to streamline their industrial workflows like never before.

Nosy Gamer: The addition of the refinery structure will also issue in a complete redistribution of moon minerals throughout the game. High sec players will no doubt complain that the structures are of very limited use in CONCORD-patrolled space, but anyone thinking that moon mining was coming to high sec hasn't followed developments too closely. In the dev blog introducing refineries in March, CCP explicitly stated:
To be clear: Refinery structures themselves will be deployable anywhere that other Upwell structures can be deployed. However only Refineries deployed near minable moons will be able to fit a moon drill service module. The deployment UI for Refineries will clearly show whether the structure is in a location suitable for moon mining before deployment is confirmed.
The dev blog also stated, "However, for this first release we are not currently planning on expanding moon mining to areas of space where it is not available today (highsec and wormholes). Although this gameplay has the potential to be interesting and fun in any area of space we want to be careful not to dilute the regional value of tech two resource collection too much."

Moon Mining: With the arrival of refineries, capsuleers will now be able to carry out moon mining operations directly via these structures, transforming the process from an entirely passive form of income into an active form of gameplay that promotes collaboration and conflict.

Nosy Gamer: I wouldn't exactly describe the mining process as occurring directly from the refinery. Yes, the mining module is part of the structure. But the belt created by the moon mining process will lie 100 kilometers from the refinery. The mining operation will lie beneath the guns and missiles of the refinery, but the mining ships and supporting haulers will need to bounce to a spot over 150 km from the refinery before making the final warp to the structure.

Also, I still want to know one thing. Where are the low sec moon miners going to find people to mine the asteroid belts? Any adventurous miners willing to brave the risks beyond high sec will most likely head to the safety of null sec, skipping low sec completely. After all, the pay is much better there.

Improved Reactions: The arrival of refineries heralds a rework of reactions, wherein they will be moved into the industry UI and will be a process exclusive to refinery structures.

With a simplified interface for ease of use by pilots of all levels of industrial expertise, the new reactions system will bring a more coherent and clear process to the fingertips of both veteran and rookie industrialists.

Nosy Gamer: From everything I've heard about the existing mechanics and running reaction farms, I don't think anyone will complain that CCP is "dumbing down" the game. Interestingly, all existing reaction jobs will stop at downtime on 24 October. In addition:
POS Reactor arrays will remain anchored in space but will be offline after the Release. Your Reactor Arrays will not be able to be onlined again. No new arrays will be able to be manufactured and no new arrays can be anchored. Any jobs to manufacture arrays that are running at the time of the release will continue to run (will not be paused or cancelled) and the arrays will be delivered to the manufacturer once the job has completed. It will not be possible to anchor or online these arrays.

Mining Ledger: With the advent of new mining technologies, capsuleers will be able to utilize detailed information on their mining history, as well as those who’re mining in their space to monitor efficiency and raw materials output from their resource gathering operations.

Nosy Gamer: I'm sure the mining ledger was designed with moon mining in mind. After all, minerals as valuable as moon goo need to have a way the owner of the refinery can keep track of the activity. Still, I'm not a big fan of the free intel on who is ninja mining under the noses of the refinery owners. Finding out everyone gets a personal mining ledger is a welcome bonus.

Resource Wars: As pirate forces encroach on the borders of New Eden’s sovereign nations, capsuleers are being contracted to assist with resource gathering operations in high security space. Forming part of resource gathering expeditions as combat or mining pilots, capsuleers both young and old will be able to take part in collaborative gameplay with other capsuleers to assist their chosen empire with the release of EVE Online: Lifeblood.

Nosy Gamer: The first of the high sec features, we don't have any details apart from the fact mining is involved. If I had to guess, I'd say that the resource gathering expeditions will gather to clear out one or more dedicated sites. I also expect a large death toll for the first 2-3 weeks after the expansion releases, as I expect CCP to use the same AI protecting the Blood Raider Sotiyo-class engineering complexes in null sec to also contest the sites with players.

Pirate Forward Operating Bases: Increased conflict over dwindling resources across New Eden has caused the Guristas and Blood Raiders to expand their influence and industrial capability, staging daring raids into high-security space which lies under the sovereignty of the empires.

New pirate Forward Operating Bases – or FOBs – have been spotted across New Eden, creating new opportunities for groups of likeminded capsuleers to band together and work toward driving out the threat.

Scan them down and hit them hard to reap the rewards from defeating hostile forces.

Nosy Gamer: At first glance, these should resemble the Blood Raider engineering complexes. A lot of questions remain, like will the Guristas and Blood Raiders divide empire space, or will they appear throughout New Eden like the Sansha incursions? Once again, expect a high toll of dead ships until players figure out the NPCs.

Improvements To The Agency: With the arrival of EVE Online: Lifeblood, many user experience improvements will be made to the interface for The Agency, including the ability to find gameplay sessions with likeminded pilots so that capsuleers can collaborate on exploration, mining, combat and other aspects of life in space together.

Nosy Gamer: Remember a couple of years ago when improved support for social groups was a semi-big issue? The improvements listed may represent some of that work. At the very least, the feature may make gathering groups to run the Resource Wars and Pirate Forward Operating Bases content a lot easier.

Alpha Ship Balance Pass: With the deployment of EVE Online: Lifeblood, there’ll be a sizable balance pass to many of the hulls popular among Alpha pilots, in order to give them a little more punch, including a few slot layout and bonus changes that aim to shake up the combat meta a little, and provide new tactical options for these classes of hull.

Nosy Gamer: When I first started playing in 2009, min/maxers would choose to play Caldari Achura due to the starting learning statistics associated with bloodline. Today, the way to start is to create a Gallente character due to the ships available to alpha accounts, followed by the Caldari. Hopefully following a balance pass choosing either a Minmatar or Amarr character will make more sense.

Overall, I think the expansion is meaty enough to have content for 3 out of the 4 areas of space (sorry w-space!). I do have a hesitation about fully endorsing the release, however. Lifeblood feels rushed. I know that CCP needs to get the moon mining content in place so the null sec blocks will start fighting seriously again. I guess we will find out as CCP releases not only dev blogs over the coming weeks, but during the presentations at EVE Vegas coming up over the first weekend of October.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Star Citizen's $400 Flying Monocle

Yesterday I read an article on MassivelyOP about the newest ship Star Citizen developer CGI offered in a post-GamesCon concept sale, the Origin 600i. The sale, which ends today, offered two variants, the Origin 600i Touring version for $375 and the Exploration variant for $400. CGI published a Q&A page and the same question and answer stood out to me that the MassivelyOP writer highlighted:
Q. The 600i is a supremely expensive ship for its size and role, especially against the larger Carrack and cheaper Constellation. Why is this? What benefits are worth the increased expense?

A. We are building a universe, and part of that means we can consider aspects that a standard game does not, such as value and desirability. When we look at vehicles in the real world, its apparent that more functionality does not always mean something is more expensive, and vice versa. In the Star Citizen universe, a sleek, luxury ship created by Origin will bring certain connotations with it, in the same way most people would find a sports coupé more desirable than a family sedan, despite the fact it has less seats and cup-holders.
The overall backer reaction is less than pleased, especially since a lot of players purchased the ship before the CGI published the Q&A. The following response from a poster named Captain Miller seems typical:
"I love how they use the 'buying a sports car vs buying a family sedan' when in fact if the family sedan handled supremely better, was just as fast, had more cup holders, leg room, and every unnamed feature imaginable, then no one would buy the sports car.

"What makes it a sports car is that it handles better and is in another class in terms of speed. This isnt the case, so they are essentially saying you are paying $400 for looks, and nothing else. It will be worse in every other way. Sad..."
My first thought after reading the article was, "Monocle!" The answer reminded me so much of CCP Zulu's defense of the pricing structure of the NeX store when it launched in June 2011:
"People have been shocked by the price range in the NeX store, but you should remember that we are talking about clothes. Look at the clothes you are currently wearing in real life. Do you have any specific brands? Did you choose it because it was better quality than a no-name brand? Assume for a short while that you are wearing a pair of $1,000 jeans from some exclusive Japanese boutique shop. Why would you want to wear a pair of $1,000 jeans when you can get perfectly similar jeans for under $50? What do other people think about you when they see you wearing them? For some you will look like the sad culmination of vainness while others will admire you and think you are the coolest thing since sliced bread. Whichever it is, it is clear that by wearing clothes you are expressing yourself and that the price is one of the many dimensions that clothes possess to do that in addition to style and fit. You don't need to buy expensive clothes. In fact you don't need to buy any clothes. Whatever you choose to do reflects what you are and what you want others to think you are."
I think Matterall summed up the situation best in his recent retrospective on the Summer of Rage:
"Following Zulu's remarks related to Fearless, he moved on to the issue of pricing in the NeX store. Considering the NeX was limited to clothing for the new full-bodied avatars roaming the Captain’s Quarters, Zulu referenced clothing in real life. Namely, the difference between $1,000 jeans from a Japanese boutique compared to similar jeans for under $50. The point was that tastes and willingness to pay to express yourself differed from person to person. However, the selection of items was very limited and players were outraged over some 'deluxe' items such as a monocle valued at upwards of $70 worth of Aurum. That high-priced monocle is also why the outcry over the NeX store was known as 'Monoclegate.' However, what many players heard was a CCP Dev saying that some consumers' willingness to purchase $1,000 jeans was the justification for overpriced merchandise in a virtual store."
Now, do I expect Star Citizen backers who have spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on Star Citizen, to abandon the game now? No. So in that aspect, the situation is not the same. But I do find amusement from some people's willingness to spend $400 just to look good instead of spending the money on performance. I guess Star Citizen really is a sandbox after all.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Moving Days

Weeks like the last one is one of the reasons I like the time-based skill advancement system in EVE Online. Instead of worrying about making my characters better, I could concentrate on the important task of moving my assets around New Eden.

Unlike most games that have a magical bank that allow a player to store their assets in one location and access them from anywhere in the game world, EVE requires players to move their assets around. Since I want to play in several different locations depending on how I feel that night, I have to move my assets to those places. Did I mention I have a lot of assets?

In EVE, we have several different options to help us move our belongings around. While I don't have the larger ships like freighters and jump freighters, I do own an Orca and a Mastodon. The Orca is an industrial command ship with a 400,000 m3 ship maintenance bay, a 40,000 m3 fleet hangar, a 150,000 m3 ore hold, and a cargohold that can hold a base amount of 30,000 m3. The ship maintenance bay is a huge time-saver as the Orca can transport assembled ships. Without the Orca, I'd either have to repackage my ships (and thus destroy some expensive rigs) or fly them one-by-one between locations.

The major problem with the Orca is that the ship is so damn slow. I probably should update the fit, but the 2.3 AU/sec warp speed I currently have along with a 28 second align time makes for some really slow traveling. But once I had moved all of my ships from my old corp headquarters to my new one, I switched to my Mastodon. The Mastodon is the Minmatar Deep Space Transport. The description of deep space transports is amusing, especially after flying an Orca:
"Deep space transports are designed with the depths of lawless space in mind. Possessing defensive capabilities far in excess of standard industrial ships, they provide great protection for whatever cargo is being transported in their massive holds. They are, however, some of the slowest ships to be found floating through space."
Flying blockade runners a lot really helps with flying the Mastodon. I need to tweak the fitting, but with my Transport Ships skill trained to 5 and current set of implants, the ship has a 62,500 m3 fleet hanger, a base 4,500 m3 cargohold, a warp speed of 4.55 AU/second and an align time of 10.5 seconds. Those stats belie the claim of one of the slowest ships in space. Oh, and did I mention deep space transports have a built in bonus of +2 to warp core strength? If I change up my fit slightly to add a warp core stabilizer, the ship becomes much harder to tackle in low sec.

For extra storage capacity, I use 15 giant secure containers in the fleet hangar. Space in EVE is funny. The giant secure container takes up 3000 m3 of space in my ship, but can hold 3900 m3 of cargo. The 15 containers in my ship add 13,500 m3 of capacity to the ship. The number isn't magical, although I do have enough space left in the fleet hangar to carry around a packaged cruiser and frigate.

Players of other games may wonder why I am listing the volumes the ship can hold. Unlike games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2, EVE does not use bank and inventory slots. In ships and containers, the amount a ship can carry is determined by the size of the container/cargohold. Stations work a little differently. In a station hanger, players can have up to 1000 stacks of items. Not 1000 stacks total on an account, but in each station. Players can also increase the capacity by using containers, which are limited by volume, but only count as one item against the hanger item limit.

Can you see why players need specialized ships to haul goods around? Imagine bouncing around the game for years and then deciding a consolidation and relocation of assets is required, which is where I am at in the game right now. I could engage in a service like Red Frog that specializes in moving items around. Or I can just move the items around myself. Given the way I like to change my mind, I'll probably continue to just move the items around myself. Besides, EVE is a really pretty game, so I don't mind looking at the scenery.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Winter Is Coming

So far this year I have spent a lot of time in MMORPGs not named EVE Online. In April and May I levelled to 80 in Guild Wars 2 and completed the personal storyline from the original release of the game. Recently, I've spent over 70 hours playing the crowd-funded PvP sandbox game Albion Online. After all the wandering, I'm ready to return to EVE full-time.

One of the big challenges is getting excited for the future of EVE. Leaving Fanfast this year, I was really excited about the announcement that promised "to breathe fresh life into Empire space." As CCP posted in it's review of the first day of Fanfest:
"We are going all-in with the EVE Online winter expansion. Using all new capabilities (dynamic PvE etc.), we will create amazing new content in the universe. The heart of this expansion will be all about new content: New challenges, new rewards, new aspects of EVE to learn and explore in Empire space. Stay tuned for more info."
But sometime after 6 July, CCP quietly took down the entry on the winter expansion breathing life into Empire space from the Updates page. If I remember correctly, I was told about the removal in July, but the only link I have from the Internet Wayback Machine is from 6 July.

PvE Content Removed From The Winter Expansion
I have to admit, finding out that the cool sounding PvE content and improvements to Empire space will not debut this winter was pretty disappointing. The news probably pushed me into Albion Online a lot deeper than I originally intended. But after getting my upgrading all the buildings on my island up to tier 4, raising chickens and goats, growing lots of carrots, and almost having enough money to upgrade the island to level 4 (out of 6), I'm ready to return to space full-time. I even ran a combat site in lowsec in a Cyclone, which is totally out of character for me.

So does that mean EVE holds no allure for me in the upcoming months? I said I was disappointed, not suicidal. The total redistribution of moon minerals will give me an excuse to do something I first thought about in 2012, a geographical survey of the Minmatar Republic. I did a cursory overview of Minmatar lowsec but never really expanded on the idea. The article itself needs updating, and with 2940 minable moons inside the Minmatar space, I could spend a lot of time exploring in Heimatar, Metropolis, and Molden Heath just probing down which moons are valuable in the Republic.

If I really go crazy, I can expand the effort from the 104 lowsec systems to encompass a survey of the 280 systems that comprise the Minmatar Republic. Is a Nosy Gamer's Guide To The Minmatar Republic in the future? That sounds insane, even to me. But who knows?