Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Remuneration

Consider, if you will, the entire EVE Online universe. Not just the game, but rather the game and the metagame that extends beyond it and spills out in great gobs on the internet. Alliance and corp forums, fitting tools, mapping tools, industry calculators, guides, wikis, blogs, podcasts, news sites, artwork, fiction, gaming sites... If you step back far enough the actual game seems like only half of the game's universe!

Some of these external metagame things are small, like this here blog, and others are huge undertakings with many moving parts and functions like Dotlan EveMaps. Some are the results of individual effort and others are the results of many hands sharing the load and responsibilities as suits their strengths. The larger enterprises even end up developing their own corporate power structures with bosses at the top and "employees" at the bottom.

The width and breadth of the metagame is astounding.

Imagine, just for a second, if EVE did not exist outside the game world. No EVE University wiki; no Dotlan maps, no killboards, no EveNews24.com, no Hydrostatic podcast, no Rixx Javix artwork, no Mumble servers, no Jabber channels, no corporate forums... imagine everything had to be done in the game. Not a pretty site, is it? Imagine setting up a fleet op with a certain doctrine using only the in game calendar and fitting tool and then running the op on EVE Voice and the in-game map. Not a pretty sight, is it?

The fact of the matter is that thousands, if not tens of thousands of person hours per year have been put into this metagame universe and its almost all been done for free. And its been going on for about 10 years.

Well, not quite for free. Operators of out of game sites that qualify as Fansites can get their account paid for by CCP as a promotional gift. For example, my main account with Kirith Kodachi has been paid for by CCP for the past 3 years for running this blog. I don't get a second free account for the podcast I run and I pay for my other two accounts normally. I don't know exactly how this works for sites with more than one operator, like a podcast or a news site, but its safe to assume that all the major contributors to qualifying sites get a free promotional account.

Does this cover the cost of the effort and expenses of running such a site? Except for the most simplest blogs, probably not. Between my blog and podcast, I have yearly fees for the domain and storage space that are covered by the free account, but that does not cover the time the creative effort takes to write and record podcasts. That's OK, its a hobby and its a price I'm willing to absorb as a cost of getting the creative juices flowing.

But consider the effort some of the larger sites require. Not only webserver costs, but admin maintenance, development costs, storage costs, security, and creative effort. Some of these projects require many hours of planning and implementation to get off the ground and run effectively. A single $150 account per year is a drop in the bucket in comparison.

The point is that its not surprising that a large complex site with multiple people involved sought to turn the project into a money-making venture. I don't know if it started off with that goal or it was considered an objective later on after it possibly became a time-sucking second job, but somewhere along the line someone probably said "I work harder on this than I do my real job, I wish I got paid for it!"

I'm not excusing any rule breaking that occurred, nor am I trying to whitewash anyone's motives. I am not privy to what really what on behind the scenes with any of the involved parties. What I am saying is that I don't find it surprising that a major project tried to get some remuneration for their effort that was consistent with the effort.

I know some sites try to get some return from their effort by selling merchandise like Eveoganda does. Of course, you have to be careful not to run afoul of CCP's legal department in the process.

At the end of the day I think major undertakings should have a method to help pay for the costs beyond the free account, and I think it should be done in cooperation with CCP instead of running around them. I don't believe RMT is the answer by any stretch of the imagination as I believe RMT ruins the gameplay for everyone. These out of game services need an out of game solution and I think it behooves CCP to think hard about it as it the benefit to the game these sites brings is immeasurable.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Blog Banter #58 - Money

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 57th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

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"SHOW ME THE MONEY!" - Jerry Maguire

The SOMERBlink fiasco from last summer and then again this summer (link: https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=367505), resulting in the service's ultimate shutdown has opened the floor to the discussion or monetization of services once again.

Do you think CCP was right in its reaction? Was SOMERBlink justified in trying to monetize its service via plex sales kickbacks? Was it true RMT or grey area RMT?

More generally, where is the line to be drawn when a service attempts to monetize in order to offset costs and/or make a profit? Is asking for donations in Real Life cash too far (I realize CCP considers it unacceptable right now)? Selling non-EVE trademarked goods acceptable? Asking for money to pay for efforts in setting up EVE meetups? Should these all be scrutinized?

And should you want to dig deeper, should players be allowed to reverse redeem plex for cash? Does this already not exist in programs like Plex for fanfest packages or video cards? Is it right?

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Participants:
Sand, Cider and Spaceships - Show Me the rMONEYt
Rinn's Rants - Money
Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah - Remuneration

Friday, August 29, 2014

Stargates

I've been thinking a lot about stargates recently. CCP's famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) image implies that at some point we will be able to build stargates.

With Crius the first arrow in that diagram has been mostly dealt with so we are getting closer.

However, I'm plagued with question less about the "Stargate construction & control" which will be years out still and we need to see how the other 3 sections pan out, but rather asking questions about why we are where we are now. In other words, why can players build (and destroy) stargates now?

I know the simple answer: because such a feature has not been implemented in game yet. And I know the more philosophical answer: because that much control to players could lead to unbalanced power equations and stale min-maxed game play (e.g. imagine every staging system was a dead end system with a single perma-camped and bubbled gate).

But what's the lore reason? I mean, its obvious that player alliances in null space are a power comparable to the major empires, they have basically urbanized most of null sec with outposts, jump bridge networks, cynosaural beacons and jammers. Yet slightly larger construction efforts like true station building and stargates have remained out of reach. Why?

The best possible answer I've come up with is that its more beneficial to the null sec alliances to NOT build such structures. Specifically, the protections all capsuleers enjoy due to the CONCORD agreements the empires signed have large benefits (such as freedom of movement between empires, freedom to dock anywhere, protection from asset seizures, not extradition to planetary governments, etc) that outweigh losing them for stations and new stargates (or destroying existing ones).

Although many null sec players live almost exclusively in null sec, their associated alt characters and business ventures rely heavily on empire resources and markets. Imagine what would happen to a null sec alliance if it was completely cut off from Jita's markets all of a sudden. So that seems like the most likely culprit.

Another possibility is that there is no other known places to build stargates, i.e. the current possible stargate network covers all possible locations. This seems unlikely and is easily contradicted by stargate connection changes in past expansions.

A third possibility is that the technology is tightly controlled by the empires. Again, seems very unlikely since null sec alliances have the jump drive tech and stargates use the same basic principles just  on a larger scale.

Perhaps the problem is simply cost. Maybe stations and stargates are so expensive to build that its out of reach for null sec alliance wallets. *Looks at massive titan fleet* Yeah, I don't think so. Unless the problem is not cost but rarity, perhaps both stations and stargates require some ultra rare material in their construction and thus this rarity limits their propagation.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Project Vulcan - Rolling out the Archons

So time for a little update for little Archon building adventure.

I've built 17 Archons, sold 16 of them for an average profit of 300 million ISK. My next Archon sale should put me over 5 billion ISK profit before blueprint expenditures. I'm producing an Archon every 6 days so my average per month profit is about 1.5 billion.

I was going to use the capital I've made to expand into another line of capitals but my old Orca partner came back to the game and I have to return to him 11 BPOs, 6 of which I was using in my Archon line. I replaced 5 of them with my reserves and I plan to replace the last one soon. Then I can build up towards my next capital production line.

The station costs introduced in Crius have not impacted me significantly; basically I'm seeing a loss of about 2% profit per sale. However the increased mineral requirements have made logistics slightly more difficult and have me investigating mineral compression benefits.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gallente Militia Hold Entire Warzone For the Second Time

Last night the final Caldari occupied system in the Caldari-Gallente low sec warzone fell to GalMil forces, leading to the second time the warzone has been controlled entirely by the Gallente.
From DotLAN maps.
For the record, the warzone once in the past was completely dominated by the Caldari.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Still Learning

With the Gallente Militia working together to take the entire warzone, I logged in last night to run my weekly fleet and found only nearby Heydieles and Ladistier systems the last holdouts. I organized the fleet starting with Algos destroyers supported by Navitas logistic frigates, and we headed out. There were many engagements but I'm going to cover the big fights.

#1 - UHurt fleet in Assault Frigates

We were in Heydieles and checking things out in Old Man Star when a scout reported fighting by other GalMil pilots in the large complex in Heydieless against Assault Frigates, apparently part of a UHURT fleet run by famous streamer SirSqueebles. I turned the fleet around and we warped to the plex only to find a metric crap-tonne of hostiles. In the ensuing fracas our fleet was overwhelmed and while we took down two Enyos, we lost 11 Algoses and a number of Navitas and Atrons.

Lesson Learned: Get a proper scout report before jumping into a fight.

#2 - Eve University Fleet in Cruisers

We reshipped into Algos and Exequorors and tried to engage that assault frigate once more but they had moved on. We had several near engagements with various other entities but then an Eve Uni fleet was spotted with a decent number of cruisers and logistic support of their own, so we upshipped to Vexors really quick and moved to engage them. With our allies in system piling on we completely smashed the fleet, killing 14 cruisers of the enemy while only losing an interceptor of our own (to the villianous Kelon Darklight none the less!). It was a perfect execution of our Rogue Squadron doctrine and the power of a practiced fleet execution. Props to Eve Uni for taking the fight in a system full of blood thirsty GalMil pilots.

#3 - Soul Takers in Battleships, Battlecruisers, and Cruisers

So things quieted down after Eve Uni was sent packing and we were back on the Old Man Star gate in Heydieles considering our next move. We were going to check out a Ghost site in Old Man Star so we jumped through .... only to have a Soul Taker gang land forty klicks away. Soul Takers, for the unawares, are the local serious pirate group that live in Old Man Star and though they have low numbers compared to other groups they compensate with blingy ships and excellent tactics.

This time was no exception as their fleet included Tech II cruiser logistics, about 4 or 5 battleships, 3 battlecruisers, and a number of other ships. After getting my bearing and letting our allies know there was a fight  happening, we engaged and focused our firepower on their first Guardian in an effort to remove their logistics. Then the smartbombs started and our drones, our main DPS, started to whither and die.

Sadly, I froze like a deer in headlights.

I've had lots of practice in small gangs and small fleets, but battleships with smartbombs? I didn't know what to do and the current action of banging on the Guardian was not working. Fortunately, Marcel was in fleet and overseeing the adventure and realized something needed to be done. He took over and gave the order to recall drones and start bumping the battleships away from the logi. Relieved that someone knew what to do I watched as the plan worked and we were able to send our remaining drones on the Guardian with the battleships out of the way and finally worked out a victory. We lost 2 Vexors, 2 Algoses, and 5 frigates (and an obscene number of pods) but we killed 2 battleships, 1 battlecruiser, and 2 Tech II Guardians and held the field.

Lesson learned: bump smartbombing battleships out of the way of the targets we want our drones to kill.

#4 - Templis CALSF in Cruisers

We went back to Fliet and repaired damage and reshipped as needed. There were reports of a rare Caldari militia fleet in system so we went back in and played cat and mouse with them for a bit. Finally we were at the Abune gate waiting for our scouts to find them when they landed about 80 kilometers from us, a Caracal fleet with logistics support from Scythes and some Moas.

Now we've engaged similar fleets before with our Rogue squadron cruiser doctrine and came away clean so I got a little overconfident and had the fleet charge at the enemy to get some tackle. I watched the kilometers flip by and I aimed at a juicy Moa, got the scram and ... "Kirith, you are out of range of our reps!"

Ah shit.

In my bloodlust, I forgot that our logistics could be outrun and put myself into a sticky situation that ended with my Ishtar exploding. I had Marcel take over the fleet while I ran back to Fliet and reshipped to a Vexor. I made it back with the fight still in progress. We lost 8 cruisers (7 Vexors and my Ishtar), 3 Algos, and 4 frigates and in return we killed 16 cruisers including a Cerberus. Good fight and props to Templis for bringing it.

Lesson Learned: Don't outrun your own logistics. Curb the bloodlust.

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After that we tried to get into a fight with a Black Legion fleet with Augoror Navy Issues and logsitics, but they were hesitant to engage our larger fleet and lost an Onerios while trying to evade us.

Despite getting in on a lot of kills for one night, it was not my best outing as a Fleet Commander. I'm getting better, but still need work in some areas.

Post Script:

Later that evening Heydieles fell to the GalMil forces. For the Federation!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Scouting

Scouting used to be one of my favourite activities in fleets prior to my goal to become a competent Fleet Commander and I thought I was decent enough at it after learning from many fleets in null and low sec over the years. But since moving to the FC role I've come to appreciate the differences between a good scout, a bad scout, and an excellent scout.

This post is intended to be a guide of what I want in a scout when I'm leading a fleet.

Movement

While the fleet is roaming or moving to a specific destination, scouts are often asked to fly ahead of the fleet to find targets to fight or hostiles to avoid. This is often referred as being the "plus one" as in being one jump ahead of the fleet. As a general rule of thumb, try stay ahead of the fleet enough so that they have warning time to evade a heavier force while at the same time trying to avoid getting so far out ahead of the fleet that there is room for something to get in between you and the fleet, i.e. being +2 or 3 jumps out. Preferably, my scout should be on the out gate and see the main fleet jumping in via local chat before he jumps into the next system; that keeps a chain of eyes on the systems between scout and fleet while giving the fleet a whole gate to gate warp range to react appropriately.

When in a system I don't need constant updates on where you are warping to if you are looking to scan a plex or a gate. But if you are going to check out a system not on the current route please let me know.

Jump In

When first entering a system, I like a concise report from the scout focusing on the closest things first and working outwards.
1) What's on grid?
2) Who's in Local chat? War targets, pirates, suspects, neutrals, friendlies broken down.
3) What's of interest on long scan?
And  if you can get a scan from where you are to some plexes or gates in the system, warp to a point where you can scan them and report from there.

And for faction warfare systems:
4) Number of open plexes, and if in scan range, what's in them.

Remember, you can hold cloak while doing all three of those things so if you jump into a hostile or neutral fleet, hold cloak and get those scans and numbers. The goal is to give the FC a complete picture as possible, as if they were there with you, so that they can make a decision about how to proceed properly. Incomplete information can lead to bad situations.

Handy Hint: Don't be afraid to drag characters from local chat into fleet chat (I keep them side by side for this reason) so that the FC can see who it is in that ship you just found, especially corp and alliance. Very useful for "neutrals".
Handy Hint: If there is a hostile on grid with you, check local for his corp/alliance mates. Sometimes neutrals are neutrals, sometimes they are backup for the bait.

The Hunt

When trying to find a target ship or fleet in a system, you need to give lots of information so the FC can keep up on the situation. A running commentary is not out of place; "Warping to XYZ gate," "see three Ishtars on scan towards sun," "trying the ABC gate now," "I got a war target in a Moa on the ABC gate at zero, nothing on scan, and he's burning towards me."; these are examples of a good scout report. The FC knows that there is three Ishtars in space somewhere and that the Moa might be bait, but that the Ishtars are not nearby.

When you get on grid with the enemy, remember that your role is Scout first, tackle second. Try to stay alive so you can continue to be the eyes for the fleet. Don't go in and get a tackle and then scream on comms for help, it will arrive too late most of the time. Coordinate with the FC and they can be ready or even send in a backup to help you out. Most foes won't bolt at the sign of one extra in local if they are geared to fight, but a second point to allow you to run is often all that's needed to allow the fleet to get there.

Report ranges and directions. If you have a potential fight at a plex, let the FC know how many AU it is from the gate to the system where the fleet is. If a target is on grid with you, number of kilometers and direction towards a celestial can make for a possible bounce and drop on the target for tackle.

Once engaged in a fight, remember your goal is to stay alive. If the target gets away because you need to burn off, that's OK. There will be more fights, but you might be the last good scout.

Also, sometimes the FC will ask you to do something that puts you at risk, like jumping into a gate camp or trailing closely behind an enemy fleet. Although your goal is to stay alive, the reason we use scouts is because its less costly to lose a scout than it is to whelp the fleet. If you die while scouting, make sure you let the FC know and go reship.

Handy Hint: Watch out for squirrel chasing. A small gang of 5-7 frigates might like to chase every war target and pirate ship they see, but a larger heavier fleet is looking for a bigger fight. Try to focus and make sure you and the FC agree before chasing after every possible target.

Communication

Sometimes a fleet will require multiple scouts, especially when searching multiple systems for a target ship/fleet. When this happens you need to continue giving clear and concise reports but also including the system name and your name, i.e. report in third person. For example,
"Kirith jumping into Deven, three in local, two war targets and one pie, names linked in fleet chat. Nothing on scan, two plexes, a small and a novice, out of scan range."

Later on, if you find a target, you need to reiterate who and where you are. As a bad example:
"I have a moa jumping through, following!"

Even though the scout might have said "warping to Suj gate in Nagamenmen" a few seconds ago, the context might have been lost by the time the FC got the recent message. Instead:

"Kirith, in Nagamenmem, on the Sujarento gate with war target Moa who is jumping through to Suj. Following..."

Now the FC knows the context and location and can respond appropriately, whether its calling you back or sending reinforcements.

Handy Hint: If you need to get the attention of the FC and quiet everyone else, say "BREAK BREAK!" followed by your intel.

Tools of the Trade

There are a number of ships that can be used for scouting with their strengths and weaknesses.

Tech 1 Attack Frigates - Fast and cheap, these are common scouts in low sec as they are hard to catch at gates and cheap to replace and easy for new pilots to get into. Very fragile.

Tech 1 Disruption Frigates - The Maulus or Griffin especially use their e-war capabilities as their tank and tackle unsuspecting enemies for the fleet. Advanced tactics, don't try this at home ;)

Tech 2 Interceptors - Fast with better bonuses to tank, damage, and tackling, as well as that handy immune to bubbles thing for travelling in low sec. Still fragile and expensive.

Tech 2 Covert Ops / Stealth Bombers - Fast, agile, and can warp cloaked! Very handy for spying on the enemy fleet without them knowing you are there, so can get good warp ins for surprise tackle. On the downside they are super fragile once uncloaked and don't have bonuses for pointing things. Also, expensive in comparison to Tech 1 frigates as well.

Tech 2 Recon Cruiser - Warped while cloaked like the Covert Ops frigates but far more dangerous and tanky. Plus, the Gallente recons have bonuses to warp disruptor and scrambler ranges for the extra surprise tackles! However, super expensive compared to frigates and their durability becomes moot if you get stomped on by a fleet of enemy ships (even a handful of good Tech 1 frigates can ruin you).

Bait Scout - Dual role ships in which the scout is also the bait! Accomplished by heavily tanked cruisers or bigger, they scout just like normal but instead of tackling the enemy directly they let the enemy tackle them. Then throw a point and web on the most expensive things you can reach and call in the cavalry. Slower than other scouts and no defense for when you get in over your head. And more expensive than frigates.

Anything - Basically any ship can act as a scout as long as its expendable and the pilot knows how to report good intel.

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Leave comments for your hints and tricks for scouts.

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