Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Crystal Ball - The End is Nigh For POS

Last week I talked about how the new Refinery structures from Upwell Consortium are probably the last major dockable structure coming intended to replace Outposts and Player Owned Stations (aka POSes). However, that statement was not 100% accurate. Yes, Outposts are effectively obsolete with the growing functionality of Citadels and Engineering Complexes, but while Refineries cover a large portion of the outstanding functionality currently provided by POSes, there are still three very important functions that are not covered:

- Cynosural Generator Arrays (aka cyno beacons)

- Cynosural System Jammers

- Jump Bridges

Each of these is a starbase modules that gets anchored and onlined at the POS and provides important functionality to pilots of the owning corporation/alliance.

Cyno beacons act as permanent cynosural fields like what is generated on ships that allow ships with jump drives to transit to that system. These are hugely more useful than using another pilot because they are always on, don't require other pilots, and are anchored near a starbase for some automated defense (but don't count on it to save you in the face of a determined opponent).

Cyno jammers are modules installed near a starbase that prevents any normal cyno fields from being generated (covert cynos can still be lit) in the system.

And jump bridges are modules installed near a starbase that allow instant passage from one system to another system in range with a paired jump bridge module. The module requires liquid ozone fuel in it to allow passage (the amount determined by the mass of the ship using it) but this module is support important for null sec alliances who want to shape their space and gain a huge mobility advantage for them and their allies over enemy fleet in the same space.

An important part of the operation of these three modules are that all of them have to be active outside the starbase's force field, meaning a hostile force can attempt to disable the modules to deprive their functionality to the owners, indeed some serious battles in null sec erupt and/or turn around these modules being forced offline or preventing that from happening.

So when POSes go away, how will CCP implement something to replace these items?

For the two cyno related items there are several possibilities each with their own issues. The simplest approach would be to make two new structure modules that require fuel, much like the manufacturing modules or clone bay module, but can only be installed in Citadels (i.e. not Eng Plexes or Refineries). Installing and activating the cyno beacon/jammer would enable the citadel for the appropriate role. However, the downside is that the durability and invulnerability of the citadel now applies to the module, safely ensconced in the bowels of the structure. This would remove the option of an attacking force disabling the jammer/beacon without destroying the entire structure. So that's no good.

A second option would be to keep the POS modules similar to how they are now, but change the code to only allow them to be anchored in the vicinity of a citadel. Their fuel cost for being online would go into the fuel cost of the structure, they would still be attackable since they are not inside the structure, and the citadel's weapons could be used to provide some protection for them... but since the structure weapons are not automated it would be only if there was someone at the controls, meaning it would be much easier for attacking forces with even a few small ships to disable the modules.

Finally, CCP could make new small structures independent of citadels, larger and more permanent than mobile depot and portable cyno jammers but much smaller than citadels. They would not have docking but would have a fuel bay, a few automated weapon systems, maybe even vulnerability windows but much larger than Raitaru Eng plexes (like 12 hours a day). They could have the same anchoring limitations as the other Upwell structures to prevent them from being used as extra firepower around stations or gates. This option would solve the too-invulnerable and too-vulnerable issues of the other two options but requires a lot more coding development work from CCP.

For the final POS module, the jump bridge array, I think a new structure with new rules is mandatory to make it work. Right now jump bridges are only allowed in sov null sec but I think that we can open the functionality up both in how and where its used. And tick off a roadmap checkbox for CCP's long term plans.

Allow players to build stargates.

(I realize I'm putting on my crazy dreamer development hat here, but go with it.)

There would be three sizes: medium, large, and extra large and each gate would have similar build costs to citadels. Each size has different levels of defensive capabilities, vulnerability windows, and fuel cost, again similar to citadels.

Docking? No, can't dock at them. They have fuel bay and perhaps some method of opening a fitting window.

In order to actually be a stargate and allow passage, they have to be paired with the same sized stargate owned by the same corporation in another system within range: the larger the stargate the longer the maximum range. Right now I'm think the max range of the extra large should be around 8 light years, large at 5 light years (current jump bridge max range), and medium at 2-3 light years.

They would show up on the overview (same functionality as other Upwell structures) but access to using them is defined by an access control list (ACL). They may have an ISK cost for using them defined by the owning corporation via the ACL.

They can be placed in any non-Wormhole space like other Upwell structures, but only one active online stargate allowed per system! HUGE gamechanger, I know, but they can be attacked and destroyed like any other Upwell structure so yes you can build a new public toll road to avoid Udema when travelling from Jita to Amarr but you can be wardecced and attacked for it.

God I would love to see this.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The End of Passive Aggressive Income

Yesterday CCP introduced the final of the trio of new Upwell structures that will replace Outposts and Player-Owned Starbases: Refineries.

Refineries will come in medium and large sizes with prices between that of Engineering Complexes and Citadels. Like the earlier Upwell Structures they will have docking and tethering ability as well as the whole suite of standard structure features like storage, fitting, insurance, repair and corp offices. They will be able to fit the same set of basic Standup modules as Citadels and Engineering Complexes. As we continue to add more features to the basic Upwell framework both before and after the release of Refineries they will gain those upgrades as well. The benefits of the larger sized Refinery will primarily come from increased defenses, more generalized rigs and increased docking capabilities, with all the core Refinery functionality available in both Medium and Large versions.
Refineries are intended to be the hub of resource collection and resource processing operations. At launch these operations will largely revolve around reprocessing ore, mining moons, and reacting advanced materials together to create composites. In the future we will continue to look for opportunities to tie more resource collection and processing functions to these structures. For instance, mining buffs and support roles provided by the structure are not out of the question over the medium-term, and we are interested in investigating the possibility of shifting the sov mining upgrade role from Infrastructure Hubs to Refineries eventually.
What's really interesting is the new mechanic that will replace current moon mining:

Here’s a walkthrough of the process currently planned for the new moon mining system:
1. A refinery that is deployed close enough to a moon can fit a special moon drilling service module. Fitting of this module will only be an option if no other drills are fit to other Refineries around the same moon, so only one structure can mine each moon at a time. This service module gives the owners the ability to designate how large of a fracking operation they wish to begin, with larger chunks taking longer time to prepare.
2. The moon drilling module begins blasting a chunk of the moon away from its surface and dragging it towards the structure. This process takes between one and several weeks depending on the choices made by the structure owner. Observers can watch the chunk move through space as a way of estimating when it will reach the Refinery.
3. Once the chunk of moon rock has completed its journey into space, the Refinery can use its drill module to detonate the chunk into a minable asteroid field. The exact time of the detonation is controlled by the owners of the Refinery within limits. If the chunk is left unattended long enough it will disintegrate into the asteroid field on its own.
4. The new asteroid field that appears with the explosion of the chunk will contain new types of valuable ores that will yield moon minerals when reprocessed. The composition of the field will depend on the composition of moon materials available in the moon. The field will generally remain far enough away from the Refinery structure that you won’t be able to effectively mine it from docking range but close enough for a pilot controlling the Refinery to be able to cover the friendly miners and/or attack uninvited guests.
5. Once the chunk has exploded, the drilling module can begin fracturing a new part of the moon to start the process again.
The time scale for this whole cycle will be controllable by the owners of the Refinery, within constraints. Longer cycle times will mean more ore generated in each explosion.
This is a fascinating and fundamental change. Let's call the POS moon extraction technique "moon mining" and the Refinery technique "moon fracking".

Moon mining can be an extremely lucrative activity for a corporation or alliance to engage in, but tends to be a) mostly passive and b) run by a small number of people in the organization. Once a POS is setup and the moon extracting modules running with the correct silos connected, the operation becomes one of moving extracted materials around, setting up reactions, transporting to market, and ensuring fuel levels of the tower are maintained. Overall, not a lot of people required.

Moon fracking, on the other hand, still has the setup of the Refinery and onlining of the module, but the actual resource gathering step will require a mining fleet in order to gather the extracted moon minerals from the newly formed asteroid field. Suddenly the operation has to leave the safe confines of a force field and venture out into space to get those valuable ores. Suddenly the process requires other people working together. Suddenly its possible to disrupt a moon mining operation without having to reinforce a tower.

This dramatic shift means that one of the pillars of a successful alliance / coalition, i.e. a dependable income stream that is difficult to disrupt without a large scale attack, is now more exposed to outside interference and requires more members of the organization working together to accomplish what a small number did before. This will make it easier to topple organizations from without (attacking the miners) and from within (low participation).

If I were in a large coalition right now, I'd be making plans on how to put the incentives in place to get pilots into these moon fracking cleanup fleets.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Aspiring Youtube Stars

My children, aka The Boys, are growing in an era where a person making Let's Play videos and posting them on Youtube can become a world wide celebrity and make a decent living doing so. A big example of this is DanTDM who started his rise to fame doing Minecraft vids (The TDM stands for The Diamond Minecart) and moved on to other games with his following and now has over 14 MILLION subscribers to his channel.

Since the boys watch Youtube for DanTDM and other gamers, not only do they want to try the games they see (smart marketing and the source of Dan's income) they have become enamoured with the idea of making their own Youtube videos and getting millions of subscribers. Being the modern dad I agreed to help them create their videos and host them on my inactive Youtube channel so I can try to protect them from trolls or unfriendly persons.

Here are the first attempts. I realize the sound levels are way off in spots, this is a learning experience for me too, but if you can spare a few minutes here and there and a like (or not like), they love seeing the feedback. The twins play some Roblox games, while their younger brother sticks to World of Tanks

Terjoe Ep1 - I Believe I Can Fly:

Wilmick Ep1 - Cake Equals Illuminati

Aaryjay Ep1 - Let's Play World of Tanks

They've already recorded second episodes, I just need to review them and edit as needed.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Pacifying Placid

Over the past week and a bit our newly formed alliance Federation Uprising [FEDUP] has been conducting operations in Placid region, part of the South of the warzone along with Essence region (the North being Black Rise and Lonetrek).
The main Caldari opposition in the area comes from fairly new Black Shark Cult corporation, a decent sized group based around giving new players an introduction into faction warfare from the Caldari side. Unfortunately for them, they are smaller than Aideron Robotics alone, much less the combined efforts of AIDER, XMETA, JREX, and CRYRS.

The result of our attention has been a string of system flips all throughout Placid:
 This is not too big a blow to the Sharks, however, as they base out of high sec right now and the fights they have been getting have been great for their morale. Plus, now they have a slew of offensive plexing systems nearby giving more Loyalty points than defensive plexing.

For now we have the upper hand and the campaign has been good at cementing the alliance and starting off on the right foot.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

CCP Its Time - Structure Changes for the Overview

I really really like a lot of things about the new structures (i.e. Citadels and Engineering Complexes).

I feel that these items have opened up space customization and player housing in a way that Player Owned Stations and Outposts failed to do adequately. The latter came closer for sure, but the limitations (only certain null sec, only one per system) put them out of range of a large portion of the playerbase, and the former, while available to all areas of space, are just awkward to own, utilize, and share.

Upwell structures combine the best of both worlds: something you can dock in, live in, deploy anywhere (even more so than POSes), and easily share with anyone. They have quickly become ubiquitous across space giving small groups to massive alliances a place to call home.

However, there is a dark side to this propagation: Overview Glut.


Look at the image above. Prior to Citadels, there were two dockable celestials on my overview. Upwell structures appear on the overview if you have permission to dock at them OR you are on the same space grid with them. But in both cases they look on the same on the overview so you can get into the situation where two structures are on the overview and one you can dock at and one you can't and you need to look at the name and know which is which or you need to warp to each one and see what happens.

On top of that, even if every structure on the overview are ones you have access to, there is no easy way to distinguish at a glace or with a tab preset any of them of the same size in any manner except reading the names. For example, look again at the image above and find the Astrahus owned by my corporation Aideron Robotics. While its easy to distinguish the Azbel and Fortizar from the Raitaru and Astrahuses, one needs to scan every one of the former and know the name to find the Kirith's Grand Emproium Astrahus. And to complicate matters every structure automatically gets the system name pre-pended so you can't even scan the column's first letter/word easily. There has to be a better way.

I have several proposals.

1. Apply corporate standings tags to structures just like we do to pilots in the overview. This would quickly distinguish corporate structures from alliance structure from friendly structures from neutral and hostile ones. Yes, this does not mean you have access to docking at that structure but it would simply looking at a glance on the overview. And besides, someone blue on the overview doesn't mean that they won't shoot you either.

2. Indicate accessibility in a new column. Either a new overlay icon on the regular icon (like a tiny green check mark) or a new column (with check mark). This would be an optional column and could be placed anywhere is the column order.

3. Grey out structures not accessible when on grid with them. Yes, you can see them and everything, but some sort of indication that they are not accessible would simplify life immensely.

4. Provide option to see ALL structures in overview. Right now you jump into a system there is a second you see all structures before the ones you don't have access too and are not on grid get greyed out and removed from overview. It would be nice for scouting purposes (and home defense) to be able to bring them up.

CCP its time - make the overview great again!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Couch Potato

I don't usually talk about my home life because its usually pretty boring if you are not family or friends interested in the goings on of my kids, wife, and myself. But every once in a while I like to open the door into the mysterious life of Bill.

Two Sunday's ago I was playing EVE but my throat was sore. "A cold coming on," I thought to myself but in the morning I felt OK and went off to work. However, by the time the afternoon began to roll around I was feeling very pale, weak, and sick. "Go home, Bill, you're sick."

I manage to commute my way home where I bundle up in blankets on the couch and watch with immense sympathy as my wife has to:
- pick kids up from school
- prepare supper
- take Terjoe to dance class
- come home and take Wilmick to Cub Scouts
- clean up the dishes (I dragged myself off the couch for 15 minutes to help)
- do baking for birthday on Wednesday
- leave to pick up Terjoe, and then go over to pick up Wilmick
- come home and put all three kids to bed
- crash for the night

She was exhausted, poor thing.

Tuesday I was feeling better and went off to work but by the afternoon I was feeling wiped again. However, no rest for me since it was Arrjay's 7th Birthday on Wednesday and we needed to put up decorations. So I put on my brave face and blew up balloons and put up streamers and begged a god, any god in the neighbourhood, to put me out of my achy misery.

And as I was going to bed at 10 PM Aarjay opened his bedroom door and moaned "I puked."

Now, I've seen some nasty kid puke scenes in my time. My favourite story is the Strawberry puke from the top bunk bed hell-night that happened twice in a week, but this one ranks pretty high on the list. He was eating cranberries so the puke was red and chunky and runny all at the same time. Not on the floor, oh no, all over the pillow and bed and stuffed animals. And puke cleanup is my job.

Strip the bed, take all the infected blankets and stuff downstairs, and bag the semi-solid chunks and start scrubbing with laundry soap because you don't want it to sit there and stink up the house or stain the stuff. Once scrubbed, it can be left for the machine tomorrow. Meanwhile, upstairs Aarjay is crying not only because he is sick but because he thinks his birthday tomorrow is ruined.

Eventually off to bed praying no more puke arrives tonight.

Wednesday, miraculously, arrives without anyone sick. Or rather, sick enough to ruin the day. We celebrate by all five of us playing hooky and taking off to the National War Museum of Canada in Ottawa where we check out the World War II gallery and the Tank gallery.
Panzer IIC

Back at home, presents were opened, songs were sang, pizza was ordered, and treats were eaten. A good birthday.

Thursday, Aarjay is over the birthday rush and stays home from school to rest with mom. I get home from work that evening to find him feeling much better... but Mrs Kodachi is on the couch wrapped in blankets and weak and unwilling to move. Uh oh.

Now, I love my wife immensely going on 20 years marriage this year, but she is a broken human being when it comes to health. Everyone else goes through a 24 hour flu or a minor cold? She's out for 72 hours and takes a week or two to fully recover. Gall bladder issues? Emergency surgery and a week stay in the hospital. Another time it was a ruptured appendix.

So when she got sick Thursday evening, it meant that:
- I had to sleep on the couch for three nights
- I was single parenting for three days

I'm a modern dad of the 21st century and unfortunately I've had practice doing this type of thing so it wasn't a huge deal. The 8 loads of laundry on the weekend was a pain, but at least the twins are old enough to help sort the clean clothes into the right piles. But sleeping on the couch sucks mainly because it means that I can't sleep in because the kids get up at 6AM and I'm a light sleeper. Not to mention Terjoe came down the stairs at 6AM, said "I feel sick" and ran back up to the bathroom and puked on the stairs on the way. At least it wasn't on the carpet or bedsheets. Or middle of the night... from the top bunk. *SHUDDER*

There I am, early Saturday morning, cleaning puke. Parenting is rewarding!

Terjoe spent the day on the couch recovering along with Mrs Koachi, but I had to take Wilmick to his Jiu Jitsu belt test in the morning and in the afternoon Wilmick and Aarjay had haircuts scheduled, and still I needed to keep on top of the housework including the laundry.

On Sunday we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Terjoe was feeling 100% better and we had no plans so I could tackle more laundry and just relax. Mrs Kodachi was still pretty weak but the nausea passed enough that I could sleep in my own bed that night again. Sweet comfort. Monday Mrs Kodachi was finally starting to eat and keep it in, but since its March break I needed to stay home to protect her from the kids and their hurricane of activity, and today I'm back at work as she was declared well enough to hold the fort down.

And then I get a text that Wilmick is sick now.

Sweet god, please do not let him puke from the top bunk again.

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