Monday, January 30, 2012

Guide: Skill Planning

Given some of the recent posts around the skill system in Eve, and some discussions in game with Corp members, I am going to propose a boring, but highly useful initial skill plan for new players who have no real idea what they want to do.  This list also focuses on Flying in Space skills for a basic combat oriented pilot.  I am assuming a new player is not going to immediately decide to go the industry or science based career paths.

I'll list these in a general order of training.  A key note:  Training to your racial frigate and gun type of choice is always a good first day of Eve approach, as it will let you actually do something in game.  It may also be worth training a few levels in the racial cruiser and medium turret or missile  too, but that is by no means an absolute.  It just gives you a few more ships to play with early on.  Also, playing through the tutorial missions will get you many of these skillbooks for free, so it is worth sending a day or three doing those missions!

Core Fitting Skills
These are horribly boring, but are highly useful as you start trying to actually fit your ships.

Electronics - Targeting, EWAR, and CPU based skills

  • Electronics 5 - 5% CPU per level
  • Electronic Upgrades 3 - Opens up a wide variety of useful modules for fitting
  • Targeting 5 - You can never target too many things
  • Multitasking 4 - See above
  • Signature Analysis 4 - Target faster
  • Long Range Targeting 4 - Target further

Engineering - Powergrid, Capacitor and Shield skills
  • Engineering 5 - 5% powergrid per level, opens up shield tanking skills
  • Energy Management 4 -  5% capacitor per level
  • Energy Systems Operation 4 - 5% capacitor recharge per level
  • Energy Grid Upgrades 4 - reduces CPU need of many fitting modules

Mechanics - Armor, Hull, and Rigging skills
  • Mechanics 5 - 5% hull hp increase per level, opens up many other skills
  • Hull Upgrades 5 - 5% armor increase per level, opens up armor tanking abilities
  • Jury Rigging 3 - Opens up most other rigging skills

Navigation - Speed and Agility
  • All of the skills in this division that do not start with "Jump" are extremely useful and should go to 3, probably 4.  These all make you move faster, turning faster, and useless capacitor while doing so.  Moving faster is always better!

  • Weapon Upgrades 4 - Somewhat mysteriously placed in the Gunnery tree, this skill reduces CPU requirements of almost all weapons in the game, and as such it is useful to all pilots.
Training the above skills as a start will make it easier to fit and fly almost every ship in the game!  The results are not readily apparent when you queue them up, but getting those done sooner than later makes using every hull you sit in better!  What you train next will in large part depend on what weapon platform you are leaning towards, Turrets or Missiles, and what tanking style you will use, Shield or Armor.  I recommend tanking skills first, but that is a personal preference.  Listed below are the core tanking skills in each subset.  I recommend taking all these skills to 4 in roughly the order shown.

Shield Tanking - In Engineering
  • Shield Management - More raw shield
  • Shield Operation - Faster shield recharge time
  • Shield Compensation - Reduces cap need of Shield Boosters
  • Shield Upgrades - Reduces powergrid need of most shield modules
  • <Damage Type> Shield Compensation - there are four of these, for each damage type, and they improve your resists.
  • Tactical Shield Manipulation - While not mandatory, stops some damage from leaking into armor when you shields are low

Armor Tanking - In Mechanics
  • Repair Systems - faster Armor Repair cycle times.  Mandatory, take it to 5 if you can wait that long
  • <Damage Type> Armor Compensation - Works the same as shield compensation skills.
You may notice that shield tanking seems to have more skills.  You are somewhat right!  Armor tanking is in large part dependent on your capacitor and fitting skills, and Hull Upgrades, which you already trained, opens up armor plates.  Also, armor tanking uses low slots, and often negates the use of damage upgrades, so my theory is that there are less skills to offset that "penalty".  Also, shield tanking allows passive setups that still regenerate hitpoints, while passive armor tanking does not.  For a very nice guide to tanking, and to skills and Eve in general, I highly recommend you check out Isk: The Guide.

If you have trained this far, you are probably already learning what you want to train next.  Past these basics, which I consider the core skills of Eve, you desired play style will influence the ships, weapon skills, and other support skills you will want to train.  I'll probably cover the weapons skills in the future, but for it will suffice to say Amarr, Gallente and Minmatar pilots will want to focus on Gunnery for turrets, while Caldari and some Minmatar pilots will want to focus on Missiles for... missiles.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blog Banter 32: Mechanics and Education

Seismic Stan occasionally posts questions to the Eve blogging community.  His most recent is:

"A quick view of the Eve Online forums can always find someone complaining about being suicide ganked, whining about some scam they fell for or other such tears. With the Goons' Ice Interdiction claiming a vast amount of mining ships, there were calls for an "opt out of PvP" option. 

Should this happen? Should people be able to opt-out of PvP in Eve Online. Should CONCORD prevent crime rather than just handing out justice after the event? Or do the hi-sec population already have too much protection from the scum and villainy that inhabits the game?"

Seismic Stan asked us if there should be a way to remove non-consensual PvP from Eve, which I will take to mean, should there be parts of High Sec that do not allow non-consenual PvP.  I cannot think of another way to reframe the question that makes sense.  So we are either talking about PvP free islands or a PvP free High Sec.  I vehemently disagree with the removeal of PvP in high sec.  I would cautiously support development of very small islands of low value, PvP-free High Sec, but with a lot of caveats.

I thought about how many ships I have lost to non-consensual PvP.  The answer is a handful of T1 industrials in low sec, because I was being stupid.  Then I thought about how many “newb” corp members have lost ships due to non-consensual PvP.  The answer was at least 4.  Specifically, four players who lost ships due to mechanics that are not really explained by the game and are rather counter intuitive.  Some variation on can flipping or ninja salvaging wrecks.  Those players proceeded to log off and never log again, without so much as a goodbye in chat.

 That’s four players who took the time to learn how fit, learned the skill systems, figured out the agent and standing system, and then got caught out by a mechanic they didn’t even know they needed to learn.  If a game mechanic can so enrage people who have already invested a significant amount of time to quit, there is either a problem with the mechanic, or there is a failure to educate players on how the game actually works.

So I will answer the question thus:  If Eve does not develop a better new player experience that actually educates on core PvP mechanics, I am fine with small islands where new players are able to learn mechanics.  By small I mean between 1 and 3 contiguous systems per Empire Faction in 1.0 space with no agents higher than 1, no exploration sites higher than DED 1, no ore besides minimal veldspar, etc…  Losing players due to obfuscated or unexplained mechanics is just bad game design.

But I would rather see a more formalized introduction to PvP built into the game so it is less likely that players can invest a month or more without understanding the rules of PvP conflict.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wormhole Fun

I have been having some pretty awesome luck with exploration within a jump of my home system lately.  In the last few days I have found multiple Radar sites with about 20 mil of loot (in my opinion these are the easiest isk/time ratio in the game when the streak is on), I found a nice Sansha site with a 90m mod, and we found a nice little C1 that was inhabited.

I go in, make some safes, scan down the sites and investigate things.  I get on the horn and call in some backup to clear out a few sites.  Jump clones are activated.  We end up with 2 combat sites outside of D-Scan of the people living in this hole.  There are at least 2 guys logged in flying around in a Tengu and Loki.  Fun!  The best WH sites are those you are stealing out from under the "owners".  We make sure the warp bubbles are not on our warp lines to the sites.  We proceed to find out two Drakes can clear sleeper sites, but it takes a while. Apparently Sleeper NPCs know how to use EFT unlike the Empire rats, or they are just using that unreleased T4 stuff.  Who knows, maybe they have a market hub they share with the Jovians?

End of the run, we have cleared the two sites, the owners of this particular whole are not paying attention to us at all.  We were there for about 3 hours, and they never even investigated the sites we cleared.  I think my D-Scan will need a full tune up, because I mashed the crap out of that little button.  A quick trip to Jita later, and the two of us split 110m in sleeper loot, and I have another Tengu hull, albeit less shiny.

I recommend anyone go play in someone else's WH for an afternoon or evening.  It's fun, and gives you that little rush of potential (and in our case very one sided) PvP.  It also really pushes the need for good command, control and communication in a small gang.  I am becoming increasingly fascinated by this facet of the game and would love to see a more formalized training/starter version of this in EvE.  My corp has a very distinct split of highly risk averse players and a group where "no shits were given".  (Side note, trying to find an old Jester poster is ridiculous.  That was posted on the 10th and is already a page deep in his post history.)  You can guess which camp I am in at this point.

There is a whole aspect of the game outside High Sec space that I think the Empire community has unjustly turned into some horrible bogeyman.  I would love to see something in the game that pushes players into small groups to investigate space together outside the Corp/Alliance system there currently is.  I'm not advocating taking a faction fit Navy Mega into low sec 4s (I don't know anyone who has done this recently...), but trekking through WHs and Low Sec over the last few weeks in cheap, functional hulls with a few people gives an adrenaline boost that nothing in Empire can touch.  The only problem is, doing this requires a level of google-fu and willingness to go beyond any tool CCP has placed in game to organize.  Perhaps developing the fleet finder along the lines of *cringe* the WoW Dungeon Finder?  I don't want EvE to become loot-point grinding in space, but the game cries out for some small gang organizing tool.

Anyhow, if you are a bit of a bear, leave Empire for a bit.  Get a cheap BC and follow some low sec exploration sites or WHs.  It may surprise you!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Failing at (Internet Spaceship) Life

I saved up and trained up over the last month or so, and finally got myself into the ship I wanted to fly since I saw one in action, the Tengu.  My fit was a rather standard mission running fit, as I recently moved to a new section of Empire and have been grinding standing for various characters and stocking up on the isk while I decide on my next move in Eve.  My fit ran along these lines:

[Tengu, Mission]

Tengu Defensive - Amplification Node
Tengu Electronics - Dissolution Sequencer
Tengu Engineering - Augmented Capacitor Reservoir
Tengu Offensive - Accelerated Ejection Bay
Tengu Propulsion - Fuel Catalyst

Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile

Republic Fleet 10MN Afterburner
Caldari Navy Shield Boost Amplifier
Pithum C-Type Medium Shield Booster
Invulnerability Field II
Invulnerability Field II
Photon Scattering Field II

Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Power Diagnostic System II

Medium Capacitor Control Circuit II
Medium Capacitor Control Circuit II
Medium Capacitor Control Circuit I

As far as Tengus go, this is not a terribly expensive fit, coming in around the 1.2 B mark when I got the whole thing together.  I have a few things to say about the 'Gu.  First, it is an amazing ship in the role I built it for.  Fast, agile, and deft at handling most PvE encounters.  The DPS is very nice, about 450 or so, depending on what missiles I load into the launchers.  The tank is half speed, and three quarters shield booster.  Yes, that adds up to over 100% for those inclined to math.  The range is about 110 km, which is further than all but the farthest mission spawns.  The 'Gu is also aesthetically pleasing in a odd, inherently Caldari way.

There are some downsides to the 'Gu.  It makes most level 4 missions trivial to the point of boredom.  It's a bit of a panic to fly the first few days, due to the enormous value of the ship.  I found myself much more likely to warp off encounters when seeing the shield tank take a few hits, and I really watch gates and local while flying it.  But most of all, the 'Gu is so mind numbingly effective at most things in Empire that it lulls you into a false sense of security after a week or so.  You probably saw this coming:  I lost my Tengu not too long after I built it, because I was an idiot.

The details of this death are very simple, and in hindsight the cause of death was hubris.  I had been pulling missions like candy, and while puttering around wiping out fleets of Sansha, I started to build a nice little Manticore on an alt.  Side note - Grimmash is a very capable stealth bomber pilot with most missile skills hanging out in the 4s and 5s, so targeting a frigate with a torpedo, while not the most efficient using of isk, will result in space debris within a few shots.  The pilot I made the Manticore for does not have such nice support skills, and I forgot this fact. So I built the Manty, pulled a Worlds Collide, looked at the Eve-Survival report, and made a series of mistakes which I shall elucidate for you, dear reader.

  1. The most vital mistake:  Angels use webs AND scram, not just webs.  I misread the mission report and saw "5 webs" not "5 webs/scrams".
  2. The 'Gu, although decent at taking out frigates, will not atomize 5 elite NPC frigates faster than a small fleet of cruisers and battleships will break a medium shield booster, even if it is deadspace gear.
  3. A SB is not the suitable suport ship to take out said elite NPC frigates.
  4. A speed tank is absolutely useless when you something like 4-6 active webs hindering propulsion.
  5. Use of kiting and good transversal is the difference between tanking with ease and slowly watching something burn with you in it.
And not so much a mistake but a fun fact:  45 seconds is about how long it takes to go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance when watching your tank break in the most expensive ship you own.  Oddly, I skipped depression unti la few days later when I saw a friend flying her Muninn and wanted to flex my DPS muscles, only to remember that I was now back in my Drake/Raven combo team.

The most interesting part of the whole thing was how much I didn't rage.  I always figured losing a ship that expensive would sting more, but overall I think having had, and lost, the 'Gu reinvigorated Eve for  me.  I've been trying more approaches to mission running instead of just grinding things out, and it lead to me undergoing a rather profitable scanning run in order to avoid missions.  It made me remember that unpredictability is more interesting than stasis, and that sometime a big loss is actually a good thing.