Monday, June 27, 2016

Bloc Fighting

Last night we were cruising around in a small fleet of Algos Destroyer when we spotted a Caldari Militia kitchen sink fleet of mixed frigs, destroyers, and assault ships. We chased them for a bit and they setup in a plex and I decided to charge in.

I proceeded to make two fatal flaws: I missed the Burst logistics frigate on the scan and overview, and then I proceeded to call primary as the well tanked Harpy assault frigate. Things did not go well.

Later on with a better composition and still smarting from the previous loss, we ran into the same Cal Mil fleet again and we re-engaged, this time setting up in the plex and having them come to us. The results were better; they won the ISK war but we held the field, and everyone left happy.

One of the pilots (possibly FC) on the Cal Mil side, Myra Stark, had this email comment to my post last week about the state of the warzone:

You missed one piece of this problem. The current Warzone Tier system punishes the losing militia. Using the Cal-Gal WZ as our model, the Caldari hold 22 systems and with 22 systems can garner 132 VPs enough for T2. The Caldari need 41 systems to attain T3. The Gallente have the ability to seize T3 whenever it suites.
 In recent history, this has occurred 3 times. Each time the number of Caldari held systems takes an immediate nose dive. Why? Quite simply FW system control is in the hands of players who have no interest in FW PVP or WZ control. They see FW as a means to earn LP/ISK for other pursuits in Eve. As such, they join the militia that pays the best for their plexing efforts. This forces the weaker militia to spend its time pursuing farming alts with ZERO interest in PVP and is like chasing ghosts even with the new Maulus NI. Then after you've chased them from system you must spend hours in plexes undoing the damage they've done. Gatecamps and aggressive patrolling helps remove them from system but doesn't undo the damage they've wrought. That requires FW pilots to spend hours dplexing with alts or mains of their own. 
Remember this damage is being done by farming toons. Attacking defended systems has zero impact on the farmer. You'll get PVP from the defenders. The opposing militia may even concentrate to defend the system all the while the farmer sits in his plex undisturbed because FW PVP pilots are PVPing elsewhere.  
Finally system vuln is a 24/7 business. This creates large windows of opportunity for farmers when your organization has few people online and they can farm unchallenged.
The WZ Tier system is broken. It empowers players with no interest in FW and prevents the weaker militia from rebuilding. Who wants to spend their precious game time dplexing systems for hours with little chance for PVP to offset the work of profit motivated farmers. In addition, efforts to claim the 41 systems required in Cal-Gal space for T3 requires PVPers to spend hours o-plexing while their home systems become increasingly vulnerable and usually at a faster rate because the opposing militia will rally to defend since they are starved for PVP as you mentioned. 
As long as the WZ Tier system exists the weaker militia is at a significant disadvantage as it tries to rebuild its numbers, hold its space and challenge the stronger militia for control in the WZ. Instead of the tier system, lock in plex value at T2. Provides fair profits for plexing and stops the movement of farmers from militia to militia in pursuit of the higher tier. It won't end farming but over time offers the opportunity to even out the influence of farmers on war zone control.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Overwhelmed

I've switched teams at work and I'm diving into new technology and products and as such my free brain cycles for blogging have been limited. I apologize for the lack of content lately.

Things will improve next week.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Faction War Stagnation

While things in low sec are still pretty active, the war with Caldari Militia has been mostly, well, un-war-like.

We've seem to have entered a "nightmare scenario" where one side has dominance in warzone control and the other side has no incentive or ability to break that control. Currently Gallente militia controls 79 systems while Caldari controls 22 and that situation has been mostly static for the recent past.

What was always expected to occur was that if one side dominated that two pressure valves would activate to start the pendulum swinging back to the other side. The first was that the winning side would be burnt out or get bored beating up the losing side and would go off and do other things allowing the other side to regroup and push back. The second valve was that the winning side would flood the market with their loyalty point store purchases and devalue their loyalty points while at the same time the other side's LPs would gain in value as the supply of their store items became limited, thus encourage LP farmers to switch from one side to the other.

However, those valves are not working. First off, because the warzone is so inhabited by PvPers, not only those in faction warfare but low sec "pirate" groups, that groups in a winning militia do not need to go on vacation for activity. Rather, they can simply change their objectives to spar with a different group or groups over non-faction warfare resources or just for "gud fites".

Secondly, most veteran faction warfare pilots don't earn the majority of their ISK through loyalty points. Instead pilots have secondary income sources such as exploration, planetary interaction, trade/manufacturing alts, etc that are all more lucrative per hour than plexing for loyalty points. This leads to the effect that people don't plex very much even when winning so the supply does not spike and prices remain relatively static, thus very little incentive to LP farmers to switch en masse from one side to the other. Couple in all the changes to make LP farming more difficult to do in an mostly-AFK manner and the farming of LP dynamic is pretty much negated.

Hence the current stagnation.

As we discussed this in the fleet last night while the only CalMil fleet was a handful of assault ships that ran away very quickly, we threw around some ideas to try and break the deadlock.

One thing suggested was increasing the rewards or uniqueness of items in the loyalty point store for the militias, which might encourage more offensive plexing and draw in more pilots to fight for control of systems. But really that only increases the number of for-profit farmers and not the actual bread-and-butter PvPers. Busier is not necessarily better.

Another idea was to work on a Viceroyalty program where groups in faction warfare could gain more control of a system or constellation, encouraging groups to fight for the militia to secure a more personalized home. For example, claiming viceroyalty of a system could allow a group to charge docking fees or repair fees in stations in their system. By giving groups something to build up and claim, you give something for other groups to try and destroy. Right now kicking an opposing militia corp out of a system is an inconvenience at best. However, this is a radical change and would require a lot of design and thought before implementation.

I know at one time CCP was thinking about making faction warfare a free for all instead of the current 2v2. This might invigorate the war by giving everyone more opponents, for example, current dominant militias Gallente and Minmatar could fight for overall dominance giving Caldari and Amarr a chance to rebuild. Or, it might not make a difference as the distances involved between the warzones might keep them isolated anyways.

There does not seem to be any simple answers.


Friday, June 17, 2016

What Will The Future Look Like?

Prior to the deployment of Citadels, there were three major types of large structures: Stations, Outposts, and Starbases.

Stations had the most functionality, allowing the possibility of refining, repair, manufacturing, cloning, research (copying/ME/TE/invention), markets, hangers, etc. 

Outposts are like smaller stations with many of the same features (markets, hangers, repair) but come in specialized flavours, for example, one has many more offices than the others while another allows refining.

Starbases (aka Player Owned Starbases) are like stripped down configurable versions of outposts, with no markets or docking but the ability to set up hangers, manufacturing, science labs, etc as can fit. In addition, they are the only platform for moon mining and moon material manufacture, and the only platform for advanced booster construction.

Citadels have added to the environment by providing competition for these existing structures by providing markets, offices, hangers, refining, repair, and cloning services. In the future, industrial arrays will arrive to take over the manufacture and research side of things, while drilling platforms will take over the moon mining activities. 

We have seen how already Citadels have been used not only for markets and homes for corps and alliances, but also as offensive platforms such as the Money Badger Coalition citadels in Saranen as they try to make life hard for the Goons living there. 

I predict we will see a certain synergy between Citadels and industrial structure in the future, both deployed near each other, one providing a home for the group and refining for miners, and the output minerals diverted to the nearby industrial arrays for building war materiel. Moon mining could become less complicated with a lower barrier to entry and in the future we may jump into systems to see a number of citadels, industrial arrays, and moon drilling platforms of a single alliance all working (and defending) together.

How all these pieces will truly fit together depends on a lot of details of course, but I look forward to seeing it happen. 

And of course, what those promised stargates will do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Blog Banter 76 - Flagships

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 76th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.
Blog Banter 76 - Tanky McTankFace
At fanfest CCP Fozzie proposed a potential new ship class. Let's call it the fleet commander's flagship for now. This is to try and prevent "FC Headshotting" where the opposing fleet knows who the FC is and alpha's them off the field leaving the rest of the fleet in confusion and disarray. Fozzie mentioned a ship with a great tank but no offensive abilities. Is this a good idea? Is FC head-shotting a legitimate tactic? If CCP do go down the route of a "flagship" how might this work? Also is a new ship the answer or is there another way of giving an FC the ability not to be assassinated 12 seconds into the fight without letting players exploit it? 
Banter on...
* * * * *

Back in Blog Banter 70 last year which was about Dreaming, I talked about my dream of a Flagship

As a Fleet Commander, one thing I find myself doing when not in actual combat is listening to my scouts, looking at maps on Dotlan Maps, and trying to picture where all the ships of my fleet and known enemy fleets are located. It can be tough sometimes, and this is one instance where I think it should be tough as the skills and expertise of the FC and scouts combined can make the difference between a successful fleet and a complete debacle. 
That being said, at a certain point the number of chess pieces on the board as fleets and parties grow can become very unwieldy and it would be nice to have the option to command from a flagship with the tools to allow a fleet commander.
What tools you asked?

I want a ship with a command deck map that I can use to visualize the battlefield from my scouts and fleet automatically. It would connect with my fleet's transponders and my scouts d-scans and grid visuals to feed into my screen a map of known and previously known ship locations. It would also allow scouts to tag groups of ships as hostile or neutral or friendly, and give up to date status on my fleet position and composition. 
I think it should be tied to a ship, a tech II battleship based on the Rokh, Abaddon, Hyperion, and Maelstrom, so that the reward of having so much information at your fingertips is balanced by the FC having to field a delicious target. (PS make sure the Command Map mode does not work under cloak or in station or in POS bubble.) You want it balanced so that not every fleet includes one, but only the Super-Serious-Internet-Spaceships fleet includes them.

However, my vision of a Flagship above is not quite what this blog banter is about. My idea above is about a strategic command deck I suppose, whereas this banter is focusing on a field tactical command deck, the former about the bigger picture and the latter about the current local situation.

In that regard, I really like what the Command Destroyers have done for the small ship meta. They are extra tanky for destroyers giving me a more solid platform to command from, reducing the fear of headshotting a titch while also providing an easy link boost (which will become extremely important when on-grid AoE links are a reality) as well as the very cool tactical ability of a Field Jump Generator. Overall it has been a great Flagship for frigate and destroyer fleets.

I would like to see something of the same vein for large fleet types. When you get to cruisers or bigger, the command destroyer has a weaker tank and less likely to survive the conflagration, and will outpace the slower ships trying to approach for a tactical jump. But a larger vessel, say a Tech II version of the Attack Battlecruisers focusing on a big Tech II battleship level tank and Field Jump Generators instead of battleship level DPS could work really well. Alternatively, revamp one of the sets of Command Ships currently seeing little use in game to include less DPS but more Field Jump Generator.

At the end of the day, the best defense is being an unknown FC ;)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cycles

Nine and a half years ago, I sat in my Merlin with all my EVE possessions in the cargo hold on a gate in a 0.5 high sec system, I don't remember which one, and nervous as hell. I had only ever been in Kisogo, Jita, and Perimeter running missions(1) and I was terrified that the lower sec status meant death around every corner.

I was barely a two weeks old and had done nothing but try to run missions... badly. I had been close to quitting when my friend Adam from the warhammer group who's stories about EVE got me to download the game contacted me and offered to bring me into his corporation. I was waiting for him to escort me to the home base in low sec. I didn't know what I was doing.

He arrived and we went off, avoiding some pirates along the way while my heart pounded in my chest. Eventually we arrived at Pelille in the Placid region. "Welcome to your new home!" Adam said to me.

* * * * *

Last night, I was sitting in my Incursus, a small fraction of my total net worth, in low sec on an acceleration gate where three Caldari Militia enemies were waiting. They had a Hookbill, Firetail, and a Merlin and with me was another Incursus.

"Ready?" I asked. "I haven't PvP'd in 4 or 5 years before tonight," he responded. "S'ok, like riding a bike. Activate gate."(2)

We warped into the plex and engaged launching drones and firing blasters. Before it was over I was in structure but we killed the Hookbill and most of the Merlin before the rest of my fleet arrived and finished off the Firetail. 

"Good work, Adam," I told my wingman.




1 - Back in the day, there used to be a jump from the starter system of Kisogo to Jita which was removed to lower Jita traffic of newbies running missions.

2 - Not an exact retelling, modified for dramatic purposes.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Post Astrahus Production

The flood of Astrahus producers has brought the margins of the market down as predicted and I'm looking at 10% or possibly less for profit per unit. Its even feasible that the competition could drive profits lower than I'm willing to work with. Its all good, capitals are in a good spot and should continue to be profitable.

The real question is what to do next.

One possibility is to try to upgrade to Fortizar production by buying blueprint copies off contracts and taking the hit. I haven't investigated margins but the much higher barrier to entry in the form of the 60 billion ISK blueprint cost might have kept the number of producers low and thus supply lower than demand keeping profit margins high. I need to work up the numbers to be sure.

Another option is to amass capital and try to get in early on the upcoming industrial citadel/drilling platforms re-announced at fanfest this spring:

This autumn will see the introduction of a new class of citadel specialised for industry, and CCP has confirmed that it will come in medium, large, and x-large sizes just like standard citadels and they will be specialised for manufacturing and research. This will come at the same time as mining barge overhauls to improve both their visuals and gameplay, though we don’t have any details yet of exactly what those gameplay tweaks will be.
The winter update could revolutionise the way we collect resources in EVE with the introduction of a new drilling platform class of structure. This is sure to spark wars over moons and asteroid belts and will replace the Starbase in its current role of mining moon minerals. 
If I plan and gather resources properly like I did for the Astrahus project, I could potentially make a lot of ISK again as I expect there will be a lot of demand for these structures as well, perhaps even more than there was for Astrahus.

One thing is for sure, its a good time to be a Planetary Interaction baron because those prices will just keep going up as these things are built.

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