Friday, December 30, 2011

Why I'm Not Playing SW:TOR

I'd been thinking about it, but fears of WoW-creep have lingered.  I spent about 5 years in WoW, I'm not going back.  There are some features of a character driven MMO that are appealing in a way that Internet Spaceships is not.  Incarna was a botched attempt at this, but does show that having an avatar is something many players want.  I loved gearing up my Hunter, but got frustrated with the constant "gear resets" that each patch added.  So deep in the recesses of my brain, I have been hoping for SW:TOR to swoop in, beloved droids bee-booping and lightsabers flashing and sweep me off my feet.

Then Poetic posted a link to this.  Images of dancing in Orgrimmar waiting for Raid/BG/Dungeon/Something to Grind flooded into my brain.  And the interface looks... identical?

No thanks.


Back from the holidays, I hope everyone had a good time and survived the familial mine field!  I got myself a Christmas present, but I'll talk about that in another post, maybe.  Today, I want to muse about Exploration and Escalations.

I like exploration.  As PvE goes, it is the most organic experience one can have in Eve.  No set locations, no promises, each time I hop in my CovOps, it is a new experience.  I've made a little money running sites, nothing great, but I generally stay out of low sec when exploring, so there you go.  Yesterday one of my corp mates, who has been talking up low sec escalations for some time, got me out of my mission grinding bliss (deadspace mods don't pay for themselves!) and into low sec for some escamalationing (I just like saying it that way).

We ended up going the full four escalations for the Sansha chain he found, which was awesome.  We also flew through quite a bit of low sec in a Drake and two Ishkurs, saw a hot-drop, and got hounded by a  Hound.  Wel also kept a tense eye on a Nyx that apparently was just passing through as we cleared the final site.  That would have been overkill, we thought, but a hilarious killmail to be on the wrong end of.  All in all we had a generally good time with some nice tense moments, and I have a new found understanding of what I want out of voice coms on a roam.

Here is the downside:  We humped some 30 jumps, spent about 2 hours, and ended up with some rather underwhelming loot (three mods worth maybe 15 mil split three ways).  Such is the life of the explorer.  I've gotten high sec sites with no combat that dropped better loot.  So for the future, I will go on low sec exploration romps when I want some excitement, and as a way to build my chops flying in a gang, but probably not if I am looking for to max my earnings.   That said, it was still one of the more interesting ways to spend a few hours on a cold afternoon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hand of the Master

This post is from the Dept. of Metal Headgear.

In no particular order, here are some things that have happened recently:

  • In game PLEX prices have gone up.
  • PLEX sales may have curbed this, but a new, higher equilibrium seems to be forming.
  • PI supply has been constrained, thereby increasing demand, and prices.
  • Further, long term costs of PI via POCOs, have increased, further altering the supply and demand curve
  • New ships (with higher mineral reqs) have been added, eating into the mineral market.
  • Anomalies were adjusted up, slightly.
  • Incursions have increased ISK supply.
Taken as a whole I see this turn of events interesting.  Eve has inflation.  Others games have dealt with this via simply resetting portions of the economy, or the entire thing, each expansion.  For an example, look at WoW's continual rebalancing of rewards and looting mechanics.  CCP is rightfully loathe to do this given the more long-term game Eve players engage in.  But, the ISK faucets flow, and as players amass ISK, prices increase.  The options to combat this are either find massive ISK sinks, or tweak the economy.  Let's take a quick look at faucets and sinks:

  • Missions
  • Incursions 
  • Bounties 
  • Insurance Payouts 
  • NPC Buy Orders
  • BPOs 
  • Skillbooks 
  • LP Purchases
  • NPC Taxes and Fees
  • PI Costs (Building and import.export fees)
At the current rates players can pump the faucet handle, there is almost no functional way for the sinks to eat the money.  Add to this the habit of many players to hoard ISK, and you have an ever increasing pool of money.  CCP has to know this.  They do have an economist on staff.  So inflation is inevitable in this scenario, especially if the player base growth does not keep pace with the faucets.  Steady, slow inflation is not bad.  In fact, it is often seen as a sign of a healthy economy.  But what happens when the players are not inflating things fast enough themselves, either through slow market shifts or player count growth?

Umm... Hi?

I doubt CCP wants to lower ISK faucet amounts.  It creates a huge uproar every time.  Look at the anomalies nerf.  I'm not a null sec player and I heard that din.  Nerfs make players angry.  So the logical idea is to try and pump up the baseline values players consider normal.  I would argue minerals are the final indicator of this, but others may disagree.  Anyhow, looking at recent developments, I think CCP is trying to cautiously embrace the inflation.

Higher mineral cost ships helps consume minerals as ships are destroyed, hopefully driving up scarcity on minerals.  The Goons, oddly enough, are helping create scarcity on both ends with their recent activities in limiting mining.  PI scarcity and POCO destruction all consume and constrain resources from POS fuel all the way up the production line to T3 components.  You need a POS to do almost any useful research or invention in Eve. 
Prices may change at any time.

PLEX is the one outlier - In my opinion, CCP wants PLEX to stay cheap enough in game for players to keep buying it, and driving RMT sales of new PLEX outside the game.  So CCP is trying to figure out how to increase relative costs of everything in the game except PLEX!  Because the easiest account to close is the one you can no longer rely on getting "free".  This explains the seemingly frequent PLEX sales of late.  As PLEX continues to increase in game, CCP cannot afford to turn up the ISK faucets, but they want to keep moving PLEX so that the real bottom line stays healthy.

Blog a Day #14: Gifts Response

A response to Poetic Discourse.

This is a tough choice of gift!

I already bought and am researching the BPOs offered, so that is rather pointless.  I could care less about the destroyers and faction ammo.  But weighing an implant v a remap, that is tough.  I need to look up the info on the remap, as I am not sure if it is an instant thing or if it gets added to my character to use at any point.  If it the second option, that may be a no-brainer.  This could be a nice ace in the hole if I get bored of my Per-Wil Map of Doom (tm).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Forum: Industrial Might

I'm starting a new feature:  Forum questions, where I ask you to respond to some crazy idea I come up with!  Without further ado, here is my question:

What if a new industrial hull was added that had a slight buff to tanking ability and more turret slots with a negative "bonus" to those turrets?  Something like:

Honey Badger

After years of plying the space lanes, Caldari industrial interests decided to update the tried-and-sometimes-true Badger to take into account the realities of cargo transport in New Eden.  While not intended to pose a true threat, the Honey Badger has a bit more bite than previous versions with the ability  to mount a semblance of firepower, while at a reduced cargo capacity.

Caldari Industrial Skill Bonus:

  • 5% bonus to shield resistance
  • 5% bonus to cargo capacity and velocity

Role Bonus:

  • -25% turret rate of fire
Give it 4/6/3 layout with 4 turret slots, same general stats as the Badger Mk II.


Taking My Ball Home!

Edit: For a nice dose of schadenfreude, read through the comments on this one.

There has been a lot of talk lately about high sec players and how they ruin Eve for everyone else.  I find the volume of chatter unsurprising, given the resent Ivy League and Goonswarm Shrugged antics.  What I do find surprising is the lengths to which each side goes to delegitimize the other side, and using the “Eve is  a Sandbox!” argument to make the point.

A sandbox game is in general a game where the world is laid out for players with rules and mechanics to govern interaction, but without an endgame provided by the developer.  I would posit another fundamental assumption of sandbox style games is that if the mechanics allow for something to occur, then it is a valid play style unless it is explicitly addressed by the developers.  In other words, every play-style that a player can engage in is valid, until restricted.

So it seems very funny and shortsighted to claim pirates are bad or miners are evil just because you think the mechanics of the game favor or hinder a play-style.  The fact that you can mine, and the fact that you can gank shows that both play-styles are valid.  So is a market trader that never levels the station, the missioner that grinds for hours and the Sov warrior who does whatever it is that sov warriors spend their time doing.

My assumption is that anyone who tries to argue that a play-style is completely invalid and should be spurned or banned is in fact one a few sort of people.  The first is the person who got burned by another player.  The second is someone who cannot, likely for ability reasons, compete with other players in a specific play-style, and so seek to disparage it.  The last, and alternatingly most entertaining or insidious one is the true griefer, who plays games not for the game in front of them, but the metagame of making someone else angry.  I don’t want to get into semantics of competitors versus griefers, save to say there is a difference.

And these reasons come through in the arguments often seen against pirates and miners.  They have no basis in actual mechanics, and devolve into ad-hominem attacks on the players themselves.  Miners have no souls and might as well be the bots they claim to hate.  Pirates are horrible people with no hearts who are probably social miscreants in real life and shouldn’t be allowed to play.  One of these arguments is meant to inspire angry forum posts, and the other fails to grasp the inherent meanness built into the human race, but both miss the point of the sandbox.

What makes Eve interesting is the fact that it encourages both play-styles, even though they are openly antagonistic to one another.  And both styles are generated by the players.  If miners, carebears or pirates were eliminated, Eve would fail.  Each plays a vital role in the ecosystem, and pays for subs.  So if you want to debate fairness of mechanics, or imbalances that push players in a certain direction please be my guest.  The sandbox should be constantly tuned to increase  and balance player options, thereby generating more play-style options!  But if you just want to use personal attacks, well, I suppose everyone loves to feed the trolls now and again.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bounty Hunting

If you have read some of my previous posts, I would understand if you think I view pirates as the scum of Eve and they should all go die in that fire people talk about.  But this is not true!  I do want them dead, but by the hands of other players!  I have spent some time thinking about the mechanics of sec status and piracy, and I have a proposal. Tweak the boundaries of legal pvp in eve.  Here is a brief, chart based explanation:

System Security Status Legal Target Sec Status*
High Sec 1 <0.0
0.9 -0.5
0.8 -1.0
0.7 -2.0
0.6 -3.0
0.5 -4.0
Low Sec 0.4 to 0.1 -5.0
Null Sec Null/WH All

Of course there are caveats.

  • Any pilot with a negative sec status is a legal target according to the chart above.
  • Only players who have participated in an illegal action can be given a bounty.
  • Legal actions are any hostilities under the auspice of a war dec, taken after another player initiated hostilities in sec of 0.1 or greater, or anything occurring in low sec.
  • Non-sanctioned bounties (i.e. pirate bounties ) can be placed as contracts in null sec.
  • If a player has a legal bounty, he is a legal target in all sec statuses until podded.  Once this occurs, his legal status reverts to the chart above.
  • Causing initial aggression (legally or illegally) invalidates insurance if a ship is lost during the ensuing aggression timer.
  • If a player has a bounty active, insurance does not pay out on losses.

The whole point of this is to increase the motive for players to actively hunt pirates, and to help make the sec from 1.0 to 0.5 more of a slope.  Right now the incentive is mostly pride and possibly loot drops.  This system tries to change the rules of engagement a little, and provide more of a career for Bounty Hunters.  If you wanted to really push the system, you could add a map option that gave time delayed heat maps of systems with bounty targets.  I mean, the gates know who is going where, right?

Observers might also notice that this system does make it theoretically harder for Pirates to get to higher sec systems.  This would maybe require some tweaking of system sec status, belt deposits and agent distribution, I have no idea.  The point would be that along with risk/reward for carebears, pirates would also have a risk reward for coming after high sec targets.

There are definitely some holes in this, but I would love to see anti-piracy become a viable career in Eve.  If a valid implementation could be found for the bounty system, it could also lead to new stations, factions, ships and mechanics.  Most importantly it would incentivize some high-sec residents to both place bounties and hunt for them (possibly leaving high sec!), creating more player-driven content in Eve.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blogger Fail

Apparently I had comments turned off by mistake.  You can now tell me how stupid you think I am!

PI Changes – The Carebear Version

I was meaning to write an article about opportunity cost that was much more eloquent than this will be, but the recent PI changes are great illustration I want to take advantage of.  Also, robo-poster Jester beat me to some of the economics in this post.

So here is the second half.  The TL;DR: I’m out (of PI)!

Here is why.  I have roughly 24 hours in each day.  In those hours I have to eat, sleep, take care of my loved ones, attend school and work.  Eve usually comes last in that progression, or is something I do in the background while I focus on one of the others.  This is where opportunity cost comes in. 

I am a high-sec carebear, mainly because it is a nice place to base out of and accomplish things in Eve while still being able to get up out of my chair if real life calls.  I generally do not have time to scout low sec routes for gate camps, I generally do not have the mental desire to play hours of stations games, and I cannot commit to being available for CTAs or to wake up at 2am for a reinforcement timer.  And here is where the opportunity costs of the PI changes come in.

I assume that CCP wants to move more players out into low/null sec.  That is the only sensible reason I can find for changing PI tax rates and POCOs.  I suppose the idea is volume would make up for increased cost.  But the cost of moving operations to low sec is far higher than just the isk.  It is the time needed to scout, it is the cost of interrupted production if a POCO goes up in smoke, it is the cost of gate camps and pirates, and it is the time cost of training ships that can compete with the faction/tech II paradise that is low sec.  Another factor is the mind-numbing amount of clicking that it takes to actually do PI.  I don’t feel like setting up another 20 planets…  PI (at current prices) in no way justifies these increases in time and isk spent for the rewards I get, given the recent changes.

I assume CCP knows that PI production will fall in high sec.  This will drive up POS fuel costs and thereby drive up much of the cost of all Tech II/III goods in the game.   While this may be a good way to make low and null sec fights more meaningful, I find it a rather ham-fisted way to do so.  The reason is that the opportunity costs are being placed on the player base that does not go to low or null sec, and probably does not want to.  Asking the carebear/casual player base to change to a more time intensive playstyle in order to continue an established playstle is risky.  Many of us stay in high sec because we do not have the time or energy needed to move further afield.

To those that say this affects everyone, well, I have a feeling the null sec alliances will have low tax POCOs up and running fairly soon.  I also doubt we will see many people putting up multi-million isk pinatas in low sec.

If CCP wants high sec players to move to low sec or null sec, the key is to provide incentives or modify the game to fit the players, not restrict existing content and force players to modify themselves to fit the game.  All these PI changes will do for me is reduce the amount of the game I partake in.

As an aside: I have seen some comments relating to the idea that this mirrors the costs of production in the real world.  These comments do not seem to realize that the difference between China and the USA is not one of law v. lawlessness, but sovereign bodies competing.  Both have laws, they are just different.  The more apt comparison would be Germany (high sec) v. Afghanistan (low sec).  In one there are laws, and in the other, law often is who has the bigger gun and is willing to use it.  I also apologize in advance if those comparisons are offensive.  They are the first that came to mind.