Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Procurer Pilot's View Of September's Mining Barge Changes

Yesterday CCP Fozzie posted the upcoming changes to mining barges and exhumers to the EVE Online forums. I know that many people are deathly allergic to the forums, so I'll post the ship and module changes below:

Monday, August 22, 2016

Looking At Tags

A quick post because I spent a lot of time playing EVE this weekend. I am now up to 250,000 Sisters of EVE loyalty points on my grind up to getting a Nestor. What surprises me, though, is the amount of wealth I've accumulated over the past two weeks. Even after paying for drones, manufacturing and research costs, and a second fully-fitted Hound for my second low sec mining base, my wallets are still up a combined 250 million ISK. The thing that stunned me, however, was the amount of drops and salvage I collected. The price estimator in my inventory in the station states I collected over 500 million ISK in modules and salvage.

Breaking down the value of the drops, I gathered over 250 million ISK in Caldari and Amarr Navy tags. Wow! Back when I started playing EVE, I never considered the tags as worth anything. Okay, that was sheer laziness. Seven years ago the estimated worth of your belongings didn't exist. If I wanted to know how much things cost, I had to look them up one at a time in the market display. Who had time for that?

I'm not really sure tags are really that attractive. I took a look at the Brutor Tribe loyalty point store and I didn't see anything I really wanted. Or, nothing I wanted that required tags.

I see an awful amount of tags required to get a lot of items. Perhaps some of these items are better than tech 2, but I'm not so sure. Then again, I have a lot of skill points, so perhaps newer players would see these items as replacements until they get the skill points for a higher level of tech.

Something tells me the true value of the tags in my inventory is greatly exaggerated. I probably should just gather them all up in one place and watch for when desperate people are willing to overpay for the things and then sell to the buy orders. If I really want faction gear, I just want to pay the loyalty points and some ISK. Trying to collect tags doesn't seem worth the effort.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Watching My Standings

One of the dangers of running missions in high sec is running afoul of one of the empires. On my current quest for the Nestor, I need to worry about my Amarr standings. Currently Wandering Rose is sitting at -2.81 and Rosewalker is at -4.5. If I hit -5.0, the Amarr Navy starts shooting at me in high sec.

My standings with the Amarr are improved considerably due to a skill called Diplomacy. The skill grants a +4% modifier per level to the effective standings toward every NPC faction with which I have negative standings. Both Wandering Rose and Rosewalker have the skill trained to 5. Without Diplomacy, my characters would have Amarr standings of -6.01 and -8.12 respectively. Did I mention I like to shoot at Amarr ships?

The formula for calculating standings isn't found in CCP's Help Desk article on standings, so I thought I would include the algorithm below:

Effective Standing = Unadjusted Standing + (10 - Unadjusted Standing) * (4% * Skill Level)

Of course, my standings are so bad that just a couple of storyline missions would free me from fear of the faction police wanting to separate me from my ship.

On the flip side, if I started working to improve Wandering Rose's Amarr standings, her Minmatar standings would drop like a rock. Her standings are 9.91, and I'm not sure I really want to lower them. Then again, the development trend in EVE is to not value high standings like I have with the Minmatar anymore. I think the only reason I am reluctant to do so is that her standings show she is a staunch supporter of the Republic and doing anything to reduce that feels like a betrayal of the character.

I should add that I could gather up the loyalty points I need without ruining my Amarr standings. I know of a level 4 distribution agent in low sec I can get a lot of loyalty points from. But part of the exercise I am engaged in with my current grind is to become familiar with running high sec security missions after a very long time of not doing them. Besides, ruining my Amarr and Caldari standings would give me additional goals in the game. A kind of perverse way at looking at the situation, but if I want to talk about repairing standings, I may need to ruin some first.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

In The Midst Of Deadspace

Sometimes logistics get a little confused. After using some sub-optimal ammunition over the previous few days, Wandering Rose watched as the hanger crew unloaded some sorely needed Scourge and Mjolnir missles for her Claymore and crates of large EMP rounds for the 1400mm howitzers on Rosewalker's Maelstrom. Finally, she could relax until the next scheduled shipment arrived two days hence.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Station Lockouts And Derived Standings

Every so often I read or hear someone bring up the idea of locking people out of stations based on their faction standings. A very old idea, we saw the feature implemented in factional warfare in the Inferno expansion in 2012. With CCP working on new PvE content that may come out sooner rather than later, I figured now is as good a time as any to take a closer look at the concept.

First, let's examine the mechanics at a relatively zoomed out level. Players currently require standings with a corporation in order to run missions for that corporation's agents. Faction standings can modify the level of agent the player can access. For example, a character with standing of 5.0 with the Caldari State, for example, can work for every level 1 thru 4 Caldari agent in New Eden. On the flip side, a character can have perfect 10.0 standings with an NPC corp, but if the pilot's standings with that faction are below -2.0, then a pilot can only access level 1 agents belonging to that corporation.

I should add that the level one restriction did not always exist. When I began playing, one could not run any missions for a corporation with which one had faction standings below -2.0. Recovering from bad standings was, in polite terms, painful. In order to gain standings, one had to do missions with a faction allied with the faction the player wanted to gain standings with. The derived standings gains are smaller than directly running missions for the NPC faction. Even with access to The Plan, I don't think anyone wants to return to the days where players could lock themselves out of access with a faction's agents.

Now, can anyone see where locking players out of stations for having low faction standings could cause a problem? Locking players out of stations would lead to locking them away from agents that could allow them to directly gain the standings needed to get back into the stations. Then we're back to the derived standings game if one has already utilized all the one-time use agents that reside in space.

The second complaint is about realism. Some may argue that the Amarr would not deal with someone with bad standings. Putting aside the theory that sometimes playability is more important than realism, I think the current situation has that covered. Let's use the Amarr Empire as an example of how things work today.

Let's say someone like me, who likes to shoot Amarr, shows up in the Empire looking for work. With standings of -4.3, all of the good paying jobs are closed to me, unless I seek work at a non-Amarr station. I'm stuck with low paying work from level 1 agents. And if I keep up my Amarr-bashing ways and my standings fall below -5.0, the faction police will chase me out of the high security sections of the Empire.

Outside the Empire, the lucrative Amarrian agents will still shun me. As for the level 1 agents? They seem pretty desperate to me. Let's take Chadla Herorad as an example. Chadla is a level 1 distribution agent for Nurtura, a large Amarrian agricultural company with interests throughout New Eden. Chadla is stuck in Aldik, a system in the Minmatar Republic region of Metropolis, two jumps out of Geminate. Does anyone really think Chadla cares who hauls the fertilizer out of the station as long as the smell goes away? Any warm body who can fly a hauler will do.

Now, I have to stipulate, the above is based on the current situation in EVE today. As I mentioned above, CCP is working on changes to PvE that could upend everything we know. But as long as we have the current standings system, I hope CCP doesn't make recovering from a mistake, or even sheer ignorance, too onerous an undertaking.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ammo Issues

After 10 days of running missions, I'm a little over one-quarter of the way to obtaining a Nestor. In addition to picking up 150,000 Sisters of EVE loyalty points, I've looted 180 million ISK off the field and picked up over 200 million ISK in bounties and mission rewards.

One thing I didn't count on was the type of damage I would need to deal. I figured the Ani constellation is in Angel Cartel space, so if I brought explosive ammo, with thermal as backup, I would do okay. Ha! I think I've used explosive damage the least. I need to use all damage types, although thermal is the most used so far.

I have ammunition stashed away throughout Minmatar space, so I had a cache close by to meet immediate needs. But my ammunition usage is higher than I expected, so I've moved into high gear producing my own. Why don't I just hop over to Hek? Because I'm saving my liquid cash not only to buy the Nestor blueprint (150 million ISK) and fit the ship, but I still need to purchase and outfit a Damnation. I'd rather convert the stockpile of minerals I have into ammunition. Besides, I like making my own ammunition.

One slight oversight I made with my blueprint collection was failing to do time efficiency research on most of them. Given that I not only need to meet my current consumption rate, but replenish the one cache I borrowed from as well as establish a new cache in the Gallente COSMOS constellation, the faster I can manufacture what I need, the better.

One trick I'm using is producing blueprint copies and then manufacturing items using the copies while I continue to perform the time efficiency research. Because I can only run one or two missions a night during the week, I have time to make the copies. Coming home and finding 30,000 rounds of EMP L waiting for me when I log in after dinner is a nice feeling, as don't use that much in a full week.

Maybe one of these days I'll get back into the business of selling faction ammunition and missiles. For now, though, I'm just happy having the proper ammunition to shoot at NPCs.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mining Art And Possible Changes To Barges And Exhumers

Yesterday on the o7 Show, CCP revealed some dates for a few old features that will receive large revamps. In November, not only will EVE see a new fleet boosting mechanic implemented, but the Rorqual receives a rebalance pass. In addition, a new, smaller industrial command ship will hit the servers similar in cost to a tech 1 battlecruiser.

What struck me, however, was the mining barge overhaul coming in the September release. We don't have details, but the artwork is suggestive of a major overhaul. Below are screen captures of the new Procurer- and Covetor-class hulls.

The screenshots suggest that the Procurer/Skiff will gain one turret high slot and the Covetor/Hulk will lose one. Does that mean all mining barges and exhumers will now have two turret high slots? I think so.

One of the things that differentiated the three mining ship hull designs from each other was the number of strip miners each could mount. To my eye, the ships don't look that much different anymore. Throw in the same number of mining slots and I have to really ask what will make the ships unique?

I know, I know. CCP hasn't published the dev blog yet and I am already sounding pessimistic. Let's just say I already have a couple of ideas for the newly revamped ships and I really want to read the details before saying anything else. I just hope CCP allows an increase in the cargo hold of the Procurer if miners have to start carrying twice as many crystals as we do now.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Don't Be A Phish

Sitting at work yesterday I saw tweets coming from the security team. CCP Peligro came out with the first tweet, followed by CCP Bugartist with screenshots. Someone was trying to pull a phishing scam, luring people to a website where they could capture players' EVE account credentials. I didn't receive the fake bait email, but CCP described the scam in a dev blog:
We have recently been made aware of a phishing scam that is currently targeting EVE Online players.

As can be seen from the image above, emails are being sent to members of the community that contain links that lead to a bogus version of the EVE Online Single Sign On page.

The mails are typically disguised as mails from Customer Support, Team Security or the Community Team, informing the recipient that a PLEX or character transfer has been completed, that a support response has been issued or a competition has been won.

Please be sure that you carefully check the URL of any sign on page asking for your account credentials thoroughly before signing in, and don't hesitate to contact Customer Support or Team Security should you feel that one or more of your EVE Online accounts may have been compromised.
I also want to point out that people should use two-factor authentication to protect their accounts. Not only does 2FA put another roadblock to hacking/phishing attempts, but keeps the hacker from putting his own 2FA on your account. Besides locking players out from their account while the hacker loots it, but is an extra delay in getting the account back.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Another Day, Another Cult

On Wednesday I did a couple of jobs for Kiljavas Yaskasen, a Sisters of EVE security agent in the Ani constellation located in Metropolis. The first task was simple. Track down a corp thief and retrieve some sensitive documents. Easy work for 1.7 million ISK and 3,940 loyalty points.

You would think an organization that can keep 4 stations built in a wormhole secret for years would not keep having security lapses. I'm coming to the realization that the Sisters of EVE aren't deploying their best people to this area of New Eden. Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that the Ani constellation lies in high sec. I'll have to ponder the reasons why further.

The next mission Yaskasen offered should have thrown up some red flags:
For you, my friend, there's always something.

We have reports of terrorists wreaking havoc in Tvink. Our convoys have been attacked, as well as some outlying outposts; they seem to be intent on causing as much damage as possible. I'd like you to take care of them as quickly as possible. And be aware that they may not all be gathered together when you arrive... if so, you will be able to pick them off as they warp in to the rendezvous point. 
But, I figured terrorists shouldn't pose too much of a threat. I even caught them scattered and defeated them piecemeal as they warped in. Fortunately, tactics were not a strong suit for the enemy commander, because his combined force consisted of 19 battleships, 11 cruisers, and 2 frigates. Even with the lack of tackle, that force could have caused some anxious moments if adequately led.

During the operation, Aura marked the terrorist ships as EoM. Afterwards, I learned that EoM stood for the Equilibrium of Mankind. I'm beginning to wonder if the Ani constellation is populated with religious zealots. While many may not put the Amarr and Sisters in that category, the EoM definitely fits the description. A splinter group of a cult, I found the following in a history site:
This new division called themselves "The Equilibrium of Mankind". Ocilan became the self-appointed leader of this new division which had very different views than most within FoG (Followers of God), which is simply a law-abiding monotheistic sect that follows the writing of Aramon Khalid, who lived during the beginning of Eves history (or so they claim). Little is known of the life of Aramon, but a few fragments of his writings still remain intact within a museum in the great library in Ardishapur Prime. His teachings are officially approved by the main religious body of the Amarr and the Emperor.

However, other fragments remain from this period. Scorned by the religious leaders of the Amarr, they were long forgotten and almost vanished forever, if it weren't for the dedication of certain Amarrian historians who kept them intact and safe. These writings had a completely different message than the ones revered by the Followers of God. They were written in an almost chaotic manner, as if transcribed by a man beset by a mental illness. They tell of destruction and doom and the downfall of mankind as we know it, should the human race decide to remain within this new universe which had been forbidden to them by God himself. It warns all who read it that those who do not follow the path of the righteous will burn in the fiery depths of hell. Those who follow "the path of the righteous" in this case are those who aid in the reconstruction of the "pathway to heaven", a myth long forgotten or discounted by most scholars within the Eve universe. This path would lead to the salvation of mankind, and failure to ultimate doom. Those who choose to follow the path must commit every ounce of their energy to see their pledged fullfilled or risk eternal damnation.
How many religious enemies do the Sisters have? The Sisters beliefs seem in direct contradiction to the EoM's belief that all non-believers will burn in hell:
"They are also devoted practitioners of their religious beliefs, which center around the EVE-gate. The Sisters belief that this ‘relic from god’, as they call it, holds the key to the universe and are determined to unlock it, in order to bring ‘everlasting peace under god’s guidance and guardianship’ to the world of EVE. The Sisters maintain that god resides at the other side of the gate and from his domain he guides the lives of those that belief in him and keeps them out of harms way."
No wonder the EoM is attacking the SoE. The Sisters believe that God looks favorably upon the humans in New Eden and acts positively in their lives. The EoM, on the other hand, believes God disapproves of the presence of those in New Eden and will condemn those who do not seek to leave.

I understand why Yaskasen is using my corporation to settle religious scores. The Sisters of EVE are looking for a cut-out to maintain their stated public neutrality, and outsiders won't look askance at my actions. I just hope I can get out of the area with a Nestor and a profit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Looting The Field

In yesterday's post I mentioned making 64 million ISK looting the field on the last part of the Pot and Kettle series of missions. One element of running missions I'm trying to figure out is how much, or even if, I should loot the field. Back when I used to run security missions, I would just pull out a Noctis after every mission and salvage everything. Mobile Tractor Units? They didn't exist back then. To give an idea how long since the last time I seriously ran security missions, CCP introduced MTUs back in the Rubicon expansion in November 2013.

My ultimate goal is obtaining a Nestor, so stopping to salvage after every mission would really slow me down. With an MTU, however, I can loot the field while I am running the mission. The EVE University Wiki gives a short description:
A Mobile Tractor Unit (or MTU) is essentially a massive cargo container with a tractor beam bolted on. Once deployed, it uses a single tractor beam to pull in any wrecks and cargo containers. It has a range of 125 km, with a 1,000 m/sec tractor velocity, and a 27,000 m3 cargohold. Deployment time is only 10 seconds, and the MTU will last 2 days in space before despawning. The MTU is only accessible by its owner. When destroyed it drops partial loot the same way a destroyed ship does.

The MTU may not be deployed within 5 km of another MTU, within 50 km of stargates or stations, or within 40 km of a player owned starbase. It has 50,000 hitpoints. However unlike the Mobile Depot it does not enter reinforced mode and can be immediately destroyed. Like the Mobile Depot, the only consequence for shooting another player's MTU is a Suspect flag; CONCORD will not intervene.

The MTU targets the closest item first, tractors it in, and loots it. Due to the "closest first" behaviour, you can't use more than one MTU per site, as they will interfere with each other and pull nothing in at all.

The MTU has become extremely popular despite its cost, particularly for looting mission rats. Though not as fast at tractoring and looting as a Noctis, the MTU continues to loot a field even when you're not there, and deposits wrecks in an easy-to-salvage group around itself. This can allow your mission ship to salvage while running the mission, using either a utility high slot, or salvage drones.
One of the first things I noticed is that the MTU will scoop up more loot than I have cargo space. So I have developed a plan which I hope is common. I deploy the MTU, create a bookmark, and then let the deployable gather up all the wrecks. If the mission has more than one dungeon, I scoop the MTU to my cargo hold, which deposits all of the loot into a jet can. I then proceed to each dungeon until I get to the last one, where I may or may not leave the MTU to finish the job.

Lanngisi, the home of the Sisters of EVE level 4 agent Kiljavas Yaskasen, is no further than two jumps from any system in the Ani constellation. So flying back to base, turning in the mission, and then flying back in a Noctis does not take very much time. Turning in the mission first kills the mission site but not the wrecks. I then have the choice of flying out either a Prowler or a Noctis to gather up all the loot. I use the Prowler if I don't want to salvage the wrecks or the Noctis if I do. And if someone pops the MTU while I'm running around elsewhere? The thing has paid for itself eight times over, and that was after only a couple of days of seriously running missions.

I realize a lot of people will laugh and point out the flaws in my method. How could someone who's played for seven years not know the tricks to running high sec missions? Hey, EVE is hard and no one knows everything. Besides, figuring out the mechanics is part of the fun.