Friday, December 19, 2014

Team Un-Building

My reaction when the dev blog about industrial rentable teams in the Cruis industry revamp was released was tepid at best:
Overall, I'm disappointed. When I saw teams were coming into things from the second dev blog I had more of an image from World of Tanks where you get inexperienced tank teams and train them up over time to become proficient experts in various abilities. Instead we get temporary random components to fight over in auctions.
And again, I feel this feature will aid the large scale rich heavy industrialists over the small scale and casual industrialists. Those with the wherewithal to hire the best teams to their hubs can amortize the hiring cost over their jobs and produce more cheaply even in busier systems than those who work with generic default teams or the poorer quality teams. I'm also willing to bet that capital ship production teams will be in highest demand even if poor quality because the large capital jobs makes savings more significant.
On the other hand, the devil is in the details. What's the spread of randomization of the teams? How many teams will be created? Will null sec powerhouses achieve any benefit from outbidding everyone to bring teams to null sec? How much will freeloading affect benefits (which ties back to my question of whether or not teams are tied up in jobs once they are working)?
Together with all the other changes coming this summer means I don't even know how this is going to shake out. Time will tell.
Well, time has told and CCP decided to pull the plug as the feature was seeing very little use and low impact on the game:
While we definitely think that the core idea behind teams is a good one and brings value to the game and you, in its current state it is adding the wrong type of complexity and not impacting the universe in the way we hoped. We have done some initial investigation and it is clear that bringing it up to the quality standards you should expect of us is a large project. A project which at this time is not the highest priority for us against some of the other things we are looking at. Given this, we believe the right thing for EVE and its players is to methodically remove industry Teams from the game over the next few months until such a time as we can properly revisit it.
Our rollout plan is to disable the seeding of new teams by the end of 2014 and to disable the UI features in one of the first releases of 2015. While we would stop seeding new teams, any existing teams in use would continue to provide bonuses until they retire, including those being actively used in jobs. We will also be closely monitoring the impact this potentially has on the Industry landscape and react as appropriate if the change is not as expected.
To those wondering why CCP didn't just leave this little used feature in, having extra code to work around for future releases increases complexity and risk for little gain if the feature is mostly ignored. I applaud their willingness to address the issue by admitting its not working out and removing the feature instead of letting it fester.

I admit the impact the teams had was less than I anticipated, probably because the effort of getting a useful team for your operations was complicated due to horrible auction mechanics and poor interface design and usability.  Ultimately, though, I feel the major failure of teams was in trying to force players to work together to achieve a common goal without providing sufficient tooling to accomplish that. Creating a secondary inflexible market for teams that are randomly generated and of mixed use seems to run counter to the main economy that is flexible and supplied via player actions.

I think the next iteration of teams, if they are ever given a second chance should:
- make use of the main market
- be player "built" (i.e. designed and created)
- can still have a limited lifetime and can still be used by everyone in the system
- have fewer but more focused bonuses

However... I have my doubts they will be coming back, which is a shame because I thought it might lead to crews for ships.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

CCP Its Time - Overview Overhaul

As a solo pilot or a fleet line member, or even as a scout, I came to appreciate and accept the overview's functions and limitations. When you are only concerned with yourself and your targets, for the most part, the overview suffices in what it offers.

But as a Fleet Commander with tens of pilots under my control, I am starting to really find the overview lacking in its functionality. Well, that's not completely correct. I can make the overview do what I want it to in various configurations, for example, show me all hostiles sorted by range or show me drones or show me all ships on grid grouped by type, etc. But what I want, what I really really want, is the ability to have multiple overviews open at once.

Here's what I'd like to be able to do:

Main overview: showing hostile ships only, sorted by type, and filtered further by a range of 0-75km. Second tab shows all ships with same sort and filter. Perhaps a third tab of hostiles but further filters to 0-30km.
Second overview: showing hostile ships only, sorted by type, and filtered to 75+km. Second tab shows all ships with same sort and filter.

When I'm FCing, there is the immediate threat of ships right on top of our fleet, and the secondary threat of ships on grid near our fleet. The tertiary threat of ships in system or on the other side of the gate are handled through normal intel. 

As I go to call targets (or decide to GTFO), I need to see what enemy ships are close and what types there are present on the grid but out of the immediate threat zone. An Ashimmu that's close to me is less of a concern than one 30 km away but on top of our logi. A Blackbird anywhere on the grid is a concern. Enemy logi is a target unless they are too far from targets I want to engage, etc.

The current overview is good at answering some of those questions one at a time, but lacks in allowing me to answer all of them quickly or even at once. I want multiple overviews.

* * * * *

OK, reality check time. 

The likelihood of getting multiple overviews that can be sorted and filtered like I want is very low, but perhaps its time to look at enhancing the current overview. At least being able to add a range filter to the distance would give some of the functionality I desire, especially if it was set per tab. As discussed in previous posts, I also think a lot more information could be graphically delivered such as hull size and role if you changed the overview icons for ships to something more intuitive. Velocities could have a gradient of colour based on how high they are. Distance could be done with colour or icons or even font size/boldness or transparency (e.g. bold and solid for close items, faint and translucent for distant). 

I'm just spitballing here but I really think it time to increase the power and information radiation levels of the overview. Aspiring FCs will love you for it, CCP.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Riding the Unicycle on the Cliff-side Trail of Doom

Last night was crazy in a good way.

I decided I wanted to fly and probably lose an old Abaddon battleship I had in the hanger from my Paxton Federation days. Specifically, an armour buffered Large Pulse Laser behemoth whose purpose is to kick ass and chew capacitor... which is not a great fit for Aideron where doctrines are light on cap transfer logistics. But I was out for insurance fraud so that was OK.

Usually when I start the Aideron Sunday Night Fleet we get about 7 pilots at first and build up slowly over the next hour to our normal size around 22-24. Last night we started at 14 pilots and peaked later at 32. I guess people were excited at the thought of watching my battleship go boom.
Source
So we immediately shipped into Vexors and Exequrors with supporting frigates and my Abaddon Mace and went looking for trouble in all the right places. Specifically, we started with Tama.

The Nourvukaiken gate (aka Nourv because spelling is hard) had a small group camping so Bait Abaddon is Best Abaddon and in I went. It was nice being in something with heft to it, no fear of being blapped off the field by 7... no wait, 10... no... 14 hostiles... OH SHIT! "Jump and warp to Kirith now!"

What enfolded was a crazy fight between us and possibly multiple groups of hostiles in a variety of ships including frigates, cruisers, logi, recons, stealth bombers, and at one point I swear I saw a Redeemer. Calling targets was tricky due to ranges and security status as I wanted to kill some things but didn't want to stress our logistics wing with gate guns until it was necessary, then we turned on the weapons on some neutral recons and stealth bombers to clear the area. We held the field with minor losses and scoring some nice kills including a Navy Omen, Rapier, and Armageddon, scooped loot, and headed home to drop it off and let some pilot reship.

The next hour was quiet excepting a scuffle in a medium plex I could not fit in so Marcel took over that fight. We heard rumblings that frequent sparring partner Templis CALSF of the Caldari Militia so we ran some plexes down in Sujarento while keeping eyes on the Templis home system of Hasmijaala where their numbers slowly increased. We moved into Nagamanen and waited for reports on the enemy fleet. When they showed up, they did not disappoint so we set up in a Large complex and prepared to fight.

We had about 24 cruisers including my battleship, with 7 of them being Exequrors, one blackbird, and the rest Vexors and Vexor Navy Issues. The Templis fleet was more of a mixed bag of Thoraxes, Vexors, Vexor Navy Issues, a couple Ashimmus, a Sacrilege, a Rupture, 2 Blackbirds, and supported by some Exequrors and Oneiroses (I think 2 of each to start), a total of 23 cruisers. Both sides had a smattering of frigates and there might have been a Destroyer here and there.

The Blackbirds were a serious threat to our logi wing and nice and squishy so they were primaried early to remove the jamming. Our ECM pilot met the same fate as the Templis FC had the same concerns apparently. I ordered our DPS to start into the hostile Exequrors and we took one down in what felt like an eternity but was probably closer to 2 minutes. Then our Logi anchor reported an Ashmmu was on them and neuting hard so we diverted attention to it but it could not break with the CalMil logi firing on all cylinders. I ordered switching primary to one of the Oneiros pilots but Marcel wisely suggested we keep blasters on the Ashimmu and only send the drones after the logi pilot. I agreed so we split our damage and this seemed to work by unsettling their reps enough for one, then the other Ashimmu to be worn down before the Onerios pilot died. We went after the other Onerios pilot to remove their reps (or so I thought as I missed one of the Exes #FCfail) and once it was gone taking out a third Ashimmu before concentrating on the last Exe someone finally pointed out to me.

Now, we were losing ships in this process over the 5 minutes since the fight started, and our logi commander was reporting that reps were not holding. I asked what was hitting them and they said "drones!" HEY! That's our shtick! So with enemy logistics and neutralizers removed we started into the high DPS and drone cruisers taking down the Sacrilege followed by 2 Vexors and 2 VNIs and then tearing into the vulnerable trio of Thoraxes. Templis, seeing the tide turning against them as their DPS failed ordered the retreat and we held the field, battered and bloody.

Not 100% accurate but close.
The end tally showed that both sides caused a lot of damage with Aideron losing 17 cruisers and Templis losing 17 cruisers plus 3 Tech 2 cruisers. However, the faction and Tech II ships' costs gave us the ISK advantage, plus holding the field means we declared this a victory. Hard fought and won, but victory nonetheless.

Great Fight Templis CALSF, you guys bring the fight and its always a pleasure.

Friday, December 12, 2014

PvP Low Sec Is Where Its (Still) At

In other words, low sec sees more destruction per system spread pretty evenly than any other part of EVE in 2013. If you are looking for consistent PvP action, low sec is the place to be.

Now, about the grey coloured circles, they are low sec systems I recognized as part of the Gallente-Caldari faction warzone and we visited most of them on our roam last Friday night and they are frequent destinations for our fleets. If I coloured in the Minmatar-Amarr warzone systems, most of the other large low sec destruction circles would be grey as well.

In other words, Faction Warfare: its where consistent and destructive PvP is at.
Things have changed since those heady days in early 2014, as the blog EVE Lost and Found explains in a post titled "The State of EVE - Ship Kills in 2014":
2014 is the light blue line, click to enlarge.
There are some straightforward explanations of the trends witnessed in 2014.TEST leaves Innia and Faction War in late 2013, part of the slow decline of faction war that culminates in the second half of 2014. In February, Barlegeut had 11,800 kills; in March, 4800; and by April, just 399. Brave's PVP activity in March and April was largely clustered around Sendaya and the low security systems surrounding the area, but by May virtually all of Brave's PVP switched to to null security space, with only 142 kills in Sendaya. By June, a low security system wouldn't even appear on their top 10 systems by kills.You can see this movement of Brave on the LS and the NS charts for 2014--that drop in LS ship kills corresponds exactly to when Brave leaves for NS, which corresponds with a sharp rise in NS ship kills.

That discrepancy of on average 50k less kills in low security space from May to December 2014 is, then, largely explained by the loss of Brave & allies, the loss of the single largest content driver in low security space in 2013 and early 2014.
I can confirm that since March that the war between Caldari and Gallente has gone very cold over the summer (the notable exception being Templis alliance), with CalMil only starting to show more signs of life this past month. However, he continues:

[O]nce you take into account Brave's departure from low security life (not to mention the departure of a number of other major groups in late 2014, including Pandemic Legion), and the general slump of faction war in the second half of 2014, the statistics for low security space do not look too bad, all things considered. Imagine someone at the start of 2014 asked: What would PVP activity in low security space look like if Brave left and faction war got stale? I am pretty sure they would say, “pretty bad,” and one might well expect the statistics to be close to 2010-2011 levels. Instead, though, low security space PVP in the second half of 2014 was still the second best May-Dec period ever, surpassed only by the record-breaking year of 2013.

So, to sum up, the general state of LS & NS PVP activity in EVE online currently and throughout 2014 is this: PVP activity in LS and NS has reminded very close to the record-breaking levels of 2013. Activity was higher than ever in low security space in early 2014, and activity was higher than ever in null security space in late 2014, largely following the movement of Brave & allies and the ebb and flow of faction war activity.
This I can also confirm. While our CalMil enemies have been largely absent for a lot of the time, the mantle of our common opponents have been really taken up by other forces that either live nearby or roam through occasionally. Pirates like Overload Everything and Sniggewaffe and Shadow Cartel, neutral forces like EVE university and Spectre Fleet, and null sec fleets that used to frequent our space more than they tend to now, and the occasional wormhole gang.

And while null sec kills are higher than low sec recently, its worth remembering the terrain involved. Null sec's 300K kills in November compared to 280K kills in low sec represents the PvP in 3000+ systems compared to 817 for low sec. PvP continues to be more concentrated and thus more active in low sec outside of a few flash points in spread out null sec.

And things seem to be heating up again in our neck of the woods as CalMil is getting more aggressive pilots and corporations and local pirates seem to be stepping up activity. For example, this recent blog post on Jakob's Eve Checklist by Aideron Robotics corp mate Jakob Anedalle titled "On the Second Day of Rhea, My FC brought to me...":
On the First Day of Rhea - Bacon and Thera
I log in and Marcel is calling for ships to undock. Vexors with enfeebling ECM. Scramble - I have that mod, I'm in, I'm undocked I'm warping. Enemies in a plex in our home system. This is pretty much as "push button, receive bacon" as I've ever seen. I've barely had time to settle into my chair and I'm plugging away at primaries and finding a Scythe to try to scramble with ECM. Caracals backed by Scythes - as we weigh in we're starting to lose ships. Somehow we balance - I don't know if it's the Logi wing catching up or the Caracal's getting out of sync or just being too fragile, but soon it's a rout. Farewell, CalMil and thanks for the fight. Later I look back and see they were mounting Rapid Lights - so the initial burst started off great, but once we got into their reload cycle it was over.
[...]
On the Second Day of Rhea - Confess your Sins
I hop into the fleet chat and undock to a pretty much immediate fight again. There's someone moving too fast for our Tristans, so I dock back up and hop into my Retribution. We start hunting around and in an unusual situation we have someone up with Skirmish links. I must say I like to look of my overheated Warp Disruptor having a 31km range. We bang around a bit and then head out roaming.
A Confessor is spotted on dscan. It's unclear if the Loki nearby is boosting him, or just hunting him like everyone else. Sard Caid is around in a Thorax, so that's keeping us on our toes since any slip and he'll probably find some way to down a straggler or anyone foolish enough to engage him on a gate. I keep looking for the Confessor, but I figure that I must be pointing my narrow-band D-scan in the wrong direction.
Our fleet is split over a gate and suddenly there is excitement. Scram + Web on the Confessor. Jump, Jump. Am I on the right side of the gate to see the Confessor or not? I think I am, but I can't see the damn thing. Then it dawns on me that my overview isn't updated to see Tactical Destroyers. I have all brackets on, so I start locking, Scorch'd lasers overheated and pre-loaded... but just as I've almost gotten him locked he is reduced to a capsule.
Lots of things happening in low sec. Come join us.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Land Rush

Caroline's Star appears to be in Jove space. In three regions of Jove space, previously inaccessible by players, the stargates have been almost completely removed. The latest mysterious actions by Sleepers, Sansha's Nation, and the strange artifacts appearing in space with apparently degrading cloaks suggests that the Jove are going if not gone and that soon there will be a new land rush.

The smart money is betting on that the much heralded "new space" that players will be building stargates to is the Jove regions that are now probably unoccupied, or at least occupied by Sansha's and/or Sleepers.

I'm not so sure.
Source
Much like the 101 new Shattered Systems are an extension of wormhole space with unique properties, I suspect that players will be able to build stargates to Jove space eventually and start to colonize that area, perhaps with a mix of known space and wormhole space mechanics. No local, but cynos can be lit. Special systems with effects and moon mining. Etc. But like the Shattered systems, there is not enough there to represent a long term expansion to the game as a whole. For example, wormholes expanded the game back in Apocrypha in a large scale that allowed hundreds if not thousands of players to carve a new playstyle. Simply put, 101 Shattered systems will not do that, nor will 2-3 regions of Jove space; it would simply be integrated into the large systems in a relatively short time.

No, I suspect that we are seeing a purposeful and graceful expansion of current space and the Jove systems will play into that plan, but the end goal of the road we started in Rubicon is beyond Jove, beyond wormholes and the Shattered Systems. New space, real and expansive new space, is still coming.

* * * * *

Crystal Ball Prediction Time:

Players will find a way into Jove space, probably via wormholes, possibly with new technology to make jumps or stargates. I suspect the partially cloaked Unidentified Objects we are seeing in space from the Rhea release will play a part in getting us there eventually. In there we will start to find the components and techs we need to make the next jump to the new space which will be much larger than a couple regions. Think wormhole space big at least.

Brace Yourself.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Map Is Great, But Hold Off On The Trophies

So this conversation happened on twitter:



So, to clarify my position in more than 140 or less characters, yes it is great that they are finally working on the map. As long as they continue to work on it and enhance it to the point where it exists as a viable option for pilots of numerous roles to use instead of Dotlan maps, I will be happy.

But I'm not going to cheer for CCP for the beta maps that (a) do not go far enough and (b) should have been started over 5 years ago. It would be like rewarding my kids for finally picking up a mess of toys after ignoring it for hours since I asked them to clean it up. Everyone knew the map sucked yet it was left to languish to the detriment of many a pilot, both new and old.

Do not mistake my position as not supportive because I am one of CCP's biggest fans. Nor do not tar me with a brush of "whining" or "bitching" because I had the temerity to suggest we hold off our congratulations for the finished map product. I will not give out kudos where they are not deserved until the in game map provides the complete functionality we need.

That is not a bar too high to hold CCP to.

Monday, December 08, 2014

EVE 101

"What would we encourage ALL new players to do in their first month to get them to subscribe long term, if we had to give out one set of advice for everyone (which we do if we're giving general advice)?"

Do stuff with others.

Now I'm not saying that you should or should not fly as a solo pilot, or that you should or should not join a corporation. Those are personal preferences and as such can and will change over time as you experiment in the game with different styles and roles.

But 99% of us are social creatures (the Nosy Gamer excluded) and the benefits of finding a group to communicate and socialize with while playing the game are numerous and well documented. You learn faster and make fewer mistakes. You have others to lean on for help when needed. You can get guidance on which directions to take. You can cooperate financially or industrially to profit both parties. And most importantly, you get someone to chat with.

You don't need to join a corp to get the benefits of communities. A lot of corporations have public channels where they will gladly talk and help another pilot (like "Aideron Robotics" channel) and there are communities like Spectre Fleet which will take you on PvP roams regardless of your current affiliations and get you up to speed in PvP.

Do stuff with others.

Even if its just mining or missioning in high sec, or simply chatting in a channel, don't be afraid to reach out and get talking. In your first month, it will get you ahead faster than anything else. Everyone loves a newbie.

Blog Banter #61 - Origin State

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 61st edition and last of 2014! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

* * * * *

The new This is EVE trailer has combined with a lot of community enthusiasm to generate a massive uptick on new character creation. There has been a lot of buzz about how to help and funnel those new players into fun and satisying careers in Eve. For example:

Target Caller blog by Talvorian Dex: Target Caller: What Newbies Need to Know About Eve
EVEHERMIT by EVE Hermit: The wrong way
Lowsec Lifestyle by CSM Sugar Kyle: Rambling: Vestment
The Nosy Gamer: Learning Anti-Social Behavior

TurAmarth asks this question: "What would we encourage ALL new players to do in their first month to get them to subscribe long term, if we had to give out one set of advice for everyone (which we do if we're giving general advice)?"

UPDATE: Talvorian Dex to kkodachi 11:39 AM
Just an FYI... the question was mine, actually. Tur was quoting me in his reply. ;) Nice to see that you took our suggestion! I'm curious to see the responses.


* * * * *

Participants:
Sand, Cider, and Spaceships - Online Darwinism
Eveoganda - Your First Month in Eve
Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah -  EVE 101
Low Sec Lifestyle - Freedom Must be Taken
Aggressive Logistics - The Wonder
The Ancient Gaming Noob - This is EVE and EVE is Different
Khanid Kataphract - Chapter 1
Dog's Breath - Rules to Live By
Morphisat's Blog - Hang in there
Align to Ramble - Experiment

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