Archive for Rant

Null-sec Wasteland

Posted in CCP with tags , , , on July 16, 2012 by Baa

“Scan is clear. Moving to the next gate.”

The tension was mounting as we traversed space, the last ten systems we had jumped through had all been empty.

“Jumping to the next system. Damn, traffic control, we’ll have to wait.”

The traffic control could mean one of two things. Either the system was heavily occupied, or the gate has been taken offline due to lack of use.

“Traffic control cleared. Jumping through.”

As we arrived in system and established contact with the local communications grid we could see that it was empty. Only five more jumps to our destination.

The above seems to be common in vast swathes of null-sec at the moment. The was a brief period, with the initial introduction of iHubs and the like, when the null sec population swelled and it was worthwhile developing systems. Now it seems less so. There was even a throwaway comment in the ATX commentary that “no one rats anymore”. This seems a shame. What’s responsible?

I guess the first finger of blame will point a CCP for the null sec nerfs to switch off the ISK faucets that the iHub introduction created. Suddenly it was only worth developing those systems whose true sec rating was worth ratting in anyway. The lesser systems, the ones that most benefitted from the iHub improvements, were no longer worth the investment. They now support solo botting Tengu’s at best, most of them lie empty. We had a brief gold rush, the gold dried up, everyone moved on to other things.

The second finger of blame has to go to the force projection capabilities of the large alliances. It’s so easy to drop a fleet of super-caps into a system to obliterate a small operator it forces those that would try to settle to find other things to do, occupying wormholes for example. This is a bigger problem than the nerf. The sheer power of super-cap fleets is now making even semi-permanent settlement of 0.0 impossible. Other than the large coalitions the main null-sec alliances now seem to base themselves in NPC null sec, or low-sec systems with a null-sec entrance. The idea of building something and holding space only exists in CCP promo videos.

The recent war in Geminate is a case in point. BricK sQuAD only took systems Geminate for the good fights. There was no expectation that it would be a permanent occupation. In fact it was expected that it would be lost. NCdot have taken most of Geminate and left it empty and abandoned.

The third finger of blame has to be the ISK faucet provided by moon mining. This is something that seems to be being addressed but at the moment it’s the be all and end all of ISK generation rendering everything else pointless. What’s more those in charge of the moon goo can increase its value by destroying ships built with it. Hulkageddon anyone? It doesn’t matter if you lose expensive ships blowing up Hulks if the miners need your moon goo to buy new Hulks. You are helping to keep your sales prices up.

So what can be done about it? The aim has to be to make holding space more worthwhile and easier. So here are a few steps to consider:

  1. Remove the moon goo. Passive ISK generation shouldn’t be possible. I know that PI fits into this, but hopefully Dust 514 will have an impact here. If this kills the economy then reverse some of the previous movement towards all community provided resources and have them seeded by the NPC corps.
  2. Reduce the jump ranges of combat ships massively. At present it’s far too easy to move a huge super-cap and cap fleet halfway across the map to stomp on someone and then withdraw. Removing this ability would make more systems relevant. It might even create a frontline that wars are fought over.
  3. Make super caps more vulnerable. They are still pretty much the “I win” button. Yes, I know they are expensive, and people have invested in them, but if you drop a fleet of them the only thing that can beat them is a bigger fleet. They should be rare.
  4. Add defensive system upgrades. Gate and station guns for one thing. The ability to suppress local based on standing, deny the enemy intelligence. Perhaps even the ability to charge for, or prevent, use of the gates into an occupied system. This could potentially lead to more emergent gameplay; spies lighting covert-cynos for a black ops fleet to neutralise gate controls etc.

We need some more out of the box thinking on null-sec that will upset the current, destructive, status quo and encourage more capsuleers to make their home there. If nothing is done it will become more of a wasteland than ever.

Wardecs (or how we all stopped worrying and learned to love the pew-pew)

Posted in Gameplay with tags , , , , , , , on June 15, 2012 by Baa

There has been a lot of discussion on EVE-O forums, blogs, and elsewhere about the Inferno wardec system. The thrust of it appears to be that it has had unexpected consequences so now CCP are going to nerf it and forget it for another few years. This is a shame.

The fact that the impact of declaring a war as mutual was unexpected points to a real lack of understanding and testing within CCP. They really should be taking more care and attention over such fundamental changes. This leads me to believe that this wasn’t unexpected, what was unexpected was the reaction by the CSM. Following the WiS and Aurum PR disaster from earlier in the year, and the massive climb-down from CCP, they’ve felt that they couldn’t afford not to listen to the CSM on this measure so rather than toughing it out and see if an in-game solution could be found, they’ve decided to make a knee-jerk change.

I don’t think that the current mechanic is too far out. It needs tweaking rather than gutting. The proposed changes go too far in that they make multiple changes at once. We’ve already seen that CCP are getting adept at rolling changes since Inferno was released. How about coming up with a number of possible solutions to the perceived problem and applying them one at a time?

Here’s what I’d like to see, to make things less fair:

  • Allies should be able to come to the aid of each side in a conflict. These should be managed by an treaty that could be cancelled by either side with 24 hours notice.
  • Ally cost should be based on ally size. CONCORD are keeping track of who can shoot who, this can reasonably be based on number of pilots and logically fit in a sandbox.
  • Logistics corporations blue to any of the combatants should be valid targets. Mutual blue standings should be enough for a corp to become a target.

Now these could all lead to a forever war throughout New Eden, with the exception of the NPC corps. It’s a risk. EVE is a sandbox, let us rattle it for a bit. Things will settle down once people get used to it.

Anyway onto the lolz. The irony of the Goon complaining about a game mechanic warms the cockles of my heart. I’ve come across one of these mercenary corps (Noir) when they were hired to grief us in our pocket. They were pretty useless against any sort of organised opposition. Surely they should be welcoming the chance to justify the fees they charge?

It’s interesting that the CSM is so much in favour of the changes. I think this shows how unbalanced the CSM is (in terms of representing the player base not in any mental sense). There should be a more even split of players from the different constituencies within New Eden. Its far too easy for the null-sec power blocs to get their people elected.

The real worry I have is that after the release of Inferno 1.1 war decs will go back to the same as they were before and the opportunity to extend the sandbox element will have gone.

What to do about AFK cloakies?

Posted in Gameplay with tags , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by Baa

Picture the scene:

You’ve spent a couple of months taking a system, building up its military index to 5, shipped and installed upgrades to your infrastructure hub, and are now ready to take advantage and finally make back your ISK. What’s that? A red has appeared in system.

You dash over to the gate, pinging the D-scan for all its worth. Nothing.

You check the next system. Still nothing. The red is still there when you jump back.

You get back to your safe POS and sit. Waiting for it the red to leave. You’re tempted to risk it. There’s only one red in system, and a few corp mates. Then again, the red is from an alliance that is known to hotdrop ratters. Is it worth the risk. You decide to bait them.

A solo ship starts ratting. It runs the belts. It clears a couple of anomaly sites. No sign of the hostile ship. You log out and come back later … The red is still there. You wait for downtime and log straight in and head for the gate. Within a few minutes the red returns. No gate fire, nothing on scan. Its cloaked and staying there.

This is probably familiar to anyone in a sov holding alliance. The question is what can you do about it?

The only chance you really have is to bubble the in-gate and sit on it with a number of fast ships and pop anything you can. If you miss them at this point, which given that you aren’t going to get many volunteers to sit on a gate waiting for incoming cov ops ships, is pretty likely, there is nothing you can do. Once in system the afk cloaky has you at their mercy.

You can only really rat, or do sites, if you’ve sufficient firepower to insta-pop it and escape before any fleet can get through the lit cyno field and gank you. The fear of a single cov ops pilot stops you exploiting the system resources. What’s the point of taking your ship out of the POS shields if you could spend an hour collecting ISK only to see it all lost when you are jumped.

This has to impact people being able to make the most of the Dominion changes. They definitately impact the null-sec population density. At first look it does seem contrary to CCP’s objectives for nullsec. I don’t think it made their list of things to look at though. What could they do?

I’ve seen suggestions to make cloaks have a duration, rather than being infinite. It would be a simple change, a tweak to the cloak modules. I’m not sure it would serve the purpose on it’s own though. If people can automate ratting and mining, it would be fairly simple to automate toggling the cloak back on. You could add fuel, similar to how a cyno operates. Operating the cloak could consume X amount of some ice or PI product to keep it running. That would sort of work, ships couldn’t stay in 23.5/7 without needing to re-supply. It would improve the chance of catching them.

The other proposal I’ve seen is the exhaust gasses one. This is a Star Trek influence. The ship might be invisible to normal detection, but some energy has to escape. If some escapes then it can be detected. At this point you’ve a whole bunch of things open to you. Is it a special probe type. Very short range, and the signature from the cloaky should be very small. This would allow the cloaky to move to get away from the probes, only penalising the genuine afk cloaky. The probes would get you in the area then it would be the normal orbit with probes out to try and get a de-cloak. Not perfect, but better than at present.

I guess the final thing would be some sort of security improvement that affects cloaks. It would have to require considerable development, and cost a bit to run, but in return allow cloaks to be disabled in the system. Perhaps this could just aid the above probe solution, or affect duration, or fuel usage, from the earlier first option.

Of course we could just leave things as they are and allow an afk alt to stop people playing.

The CSM

Posted in CCP with tags , , , on September 8, 2011 by Baa

What is the CSM?

Literally its the Council of Stellar Management. Functionally its a means of CCP getting soundings from the player base.

How important is the CSM? Well, if the numbers taking part in the election mean anything, not very. Until the CSM election gets votes from a significant portion of the EVE playerbase then its just a talking shop. It’s the single issue lobby group in rl politics. Yes, CCP can listen to it, but if anyone believes that CCP needs to take notice of it they are sorely mistaken.

When its working with CCP to fine tune features, the CSM works fine. When in conflict it cannot do anything but fail. What real leverage does the CSM have? The answer is much less than a lot of the commentators think. I thought The Mittani understood this, sadly it appears that power has gone to his head.

The critics, naysayers, doom-mongers, un-subbers, should bear in mind that no matter how much they have invested in EVE CCP has invested more. All of the CCP staff that are castigated across the Internet have more invested than the players. Perhaps not in time, but their livelihood depends on EVE. Only RMT botters have a similar claim.

This is my second post in as many days about the latest blog banter thing. I just wish we could all get back to playing instead of people forgetting that its flying internet spaceships.

Is EVE dying?

Posted in CCP with tags , , , , , , on September 8, 2011 by Baa

I’ve seen posts from Selene, Roc Wieler, and Jester all espousing the same thought, that EVE is dying. They make some interesting comments, and drag out some pretty (or not) graphs, to try and persuade the reader of the truth of this. Is it true?

EVE has changed over the time I’ve been playing, and will continue to change. Not all of the changes will please all of the player base. EVE has players leaving. I’ve seen people I’ve played with leave for real life reasons, mostly because their life didn’t have time for the time sink EVE is anymore. I’ve seen people leave in principle over the NEX store. I’ve also seen some of these return when they found out that the sky wasn’t really falling.

There’s no doubt that the spaceships part of EVE is, for the moment, stagnating. There has been little content over the past couple of expansions that has benefitted those players that like to fly about and shoot other players. The sov changes that came with Dominion have now been gamed in the same way that the POS mechanic was gamed. Its familar, easy to manipulate, and not really a challenge. It needs more work.

PVE content has stagnated as well. Incursion brought some decent stuff, but its too limited, too restrictive, and not available to everyone. It serves as a show piece of how good EVE PVE could be, if they rolled out some of the mechanics around it to the rest of the PVE content. Missions deeply need some love.

Wormhole space was fun, until we settled in it, now its not something that the casual player can jump into and have fun with. The majority of them are now occupied. Anyone jumping into a WH to try and do anything than pass through has a pretty good chance of dying unless they are in a big enough gang to hold off the inhabitants.

CPP have been spending time and effort on the new player experience, to try and bring players up to speed with the complexity of EVE. This is all well and good, but once they get out of the new player experience what next? Things pretty quickly deteriorate into grinding missions, or crushing rocks.

As a player that’s spent most of my time in 0.0, shooting people or trying to make ISK, I welcome the changes that CCP propose to 0.0. The fact that they are intending to do a root and branch rework of 0.0 to make it what it should be. Sadly without spending time on missions, anomalies, and new virgin territories, this won’t last. Things will stagnate again.

I find all of the negative comments about Incarna to be amusing. Many of the same people complained that CCP hadn’t delivered on walking in stations. It had been promised for years but now, when it was delivered, its not what they wanted.  What would make these people happy? Its like the kid in the toy shop that wants everything now.

So is EVE dying? I don’t think so. Its in transition. EVE used to be a game that was solely about flying spaceships. It is still mostly about flying spaceships but its evolving into something more. As with all transitions the road will be bumpy but CCP know what they want in the end. They also know how vulnerable they are if EVE subscriptions drop off a cliff. If you ask 100 EVE players at random what needs to be done you’d get somewhere approaching 100 different answers. Everyone has their own favourite ideas and bugbears. CCP have to rise above that and steer their own course whilst keeping as many people on board as possible.

Looking outside EVE for a moment. Would the iPhone be such a success if Apple had just stuck to dealing with what people thought they wanted from a phone?

Sorry about the wall of text. The tl;dr answer is not yet.

Nullsec dev blog (nullsec development: rules and guidelines)

Posted in CCP with tags , , , on August 4, 2011 by Baa

So a day after I rise like Lazarus from the dead CCP Greyscale publishes a starting point devblog about nullsec development. I´d like to think that I had something to do with it, but I´m not that vain.

The dev blog, for the most part, seem pretty reasonable. It points out some of the issues with nullsec, and states what CCPs aims are for nullsec. The section titled The functional role of Nullsec being a pretty good summary. The Nullsec Development rules are, similarly, pretty good. I just take exception to one statement from each

Nullsec is a place that allows us to distribute high-value resources in a balanced way

and

Nullsec moneymaking activities should be generally competitive with one another, and therefore pay out more than equivalent activities elsewhere

Why? This is a statement of preserving the status quo, but there is no reasoning behind it. It is safer to make money in nullsec, especially deep in large alliance nullsec systems, than anywhere else. Why should the rewards be higher. I could deal with them being on a par, but higher is a stretch.

As an example. Last night we decided to go suicide ganking in high sec. Its something that we do from time to time. We loaded up with cheap artillery battleships and waited on gates for pimped out mission running ships. We scanned them, shot them, had an alt collect the loot and made money. Various people in local knew what we were doing but were powerless to stop us. It was impossible for them to engage us without a wardec, which would be too expensive and take too long to allow them to shoot.

In nullsec if you see a gate camp near a mission running, or other high value, system you can get a fleet together and bust it. The mission runners/miners/plex runners, I won´t use the perjorative term carebear, are safer in nullsec than in high sec. So why should we earn more, for doing the same thing, in nullsec than they do in high sec?

The rebalancing of EVE will only be tinkering around the edges until address the economic imbalance between nullsec and Empire. Sadly this dev blog shows that this isn´t even on the agenda. In fact it confirms that they are happy with the current balance.

More movement and sov

Posted in CCP with tags , , , , on August 3, 2011 by Baa

So here we are back in K3. Our deployment to X-7 and UMI having been pretty much a disaster. The whole alliance lost focus as the leaders dabbled with Sov. We have now regrouped and purged the blue list so as to have a bit more pew-pew.

This whole exercise has thrown up the fact that CCPs intentions with the Dominion changes have failed. Prior to dominion Sov warfare was a painful exercise of POS bashing with the alliance with the most pilots and ISK winning. Now the mechanism has changed but that is about it. Its just that now its all about who can field the most MoMs. That said I don´t see how changes to the mechanics will change anything.

The problem CCP faces is that whatever they do to enable smaller alliances gain Sov it will undoubtedly be exploited by larger alliances to stop them. The only way around this is artifical limits. These are against the spirit of the sandbox, and would just be gamed anyway so wouldn´t work. If the was a limit on the number of systems an alliance could hold, alliances would split and form loose confederations.

The only real solution is a large-scale nerf of nullsec income. Its so easy to make ISK in nullsec that the losses that we´ve seen in the past few months haven´t really had an impact. As a 40m SP pilot in Venal I can make a billion a week without too much effort. Make resource in null-sec more scarce. Force the large alliances to have to deal with Empire in a real way, rather than just flooding Jita with their loot. That would remove farming from null-sec and probably allow better exploitation of it.