I can smell that new battleship…

I’ve been training Gallente Cruiser IV for the past 4 days. In about a day, that will be done and I can finally inject Gallente Battleship into my skill queue. And once that’s done (shouldn’t take that long… I hope…) I’ll finally be able to fly my Dominix! It’s been sitting in my hangar for what seems like eons, quietly sulking in the corner from the lack of attention.

Unfortunately, I don’t quite have the right skills to fit it properly. According to EFT it doesn’t even seem like it has a much better tank, which is actually somewhat strange. Maybe I need to change my fitting around a bit… and I still can’t use sentry drones.

In any case, I’ve been pondering about whether it’s worth it to take my learning skills to 5. It seems like an incredibly long investment, taking 4 days plus for each rank 1 skill and a mind-numbing 16 days for each of the rank 3s. That would be 16+64=80 days of training just to raise each attribute by +2 (not counting charisma). I don’t even know how long I would have to play EVE in order to recoup that investment in training time.

The other alternative is to make use of the free attribute remap. I’ve read that the vast majority of skills use perception/intelligence as the primary attribute, so it makes sense to remap to max out those 2 and minimise the rest. The only exceptions would be drone and industry skills, which require memory as a primary attribute. Unfortunately… I’m flying drone boats and am planning to go into industry 😦 Again, I’d like to know exactly how much of an impact a remap would make.

The last and most expensive alternative would be getting a set of +5 implants. I’m currently using +3 implants, which cost about 10 million each. +5 implants seem to cost about 100 million each… yeah I could afford it, given that I’ve reached 2 billion ISK as of now. But spending 400 million is still a big decision.

So the common theme is that I don’t know how much of a difference increasing my attributes actually has. If they save me a couple of days over a year then it’s not exactly very exciting. The solution would seem to be EVEmon, the tool that everyone raves about since it lets you plan out your skills and even advises what skills to train, including learning skills. It also allows for some what-if analysis. Sounds perfect!

Except that I can’t install it on my home PC. It requires Microsoft .NET 2.0, and I can’t seem to install it on my XP system despite numerous attempts. But ahhah! It installed just fine on my office machine, so I’m good right?

Wait, it needs my EVE limited API key to import my character settings and skills. Ok no big deal, there’s a handy dandy link to the EVE main site which allows me to get my API key.

Except that I can’t log on to the web site 😐 I can log on to the game just fine, but the website login gives me a “service is unavailable” message. I can only imagine the amount of anguish this would cause someone who was trying to renew his subscription or something.

Oh wait, the website is finally running. Kek. Time to try this thing out!

I’m hunting PLEXs

When I first subscribed to EVE Online, I signed up for a 3 month deal since it was a bit cheaper than the single month affair. I was also pretty sure that I would be playing for a while since I had a blast in the trial. I had no idea how long it would take me to be able to reliably earn enough ISK to pay for my account, so I felt that 3 months was a good estimate for me to get on my feet.

Boy was I wrong >.< I managed to earn slightly more than 1 billion ISK in the first month, meaning I could have paid for 3 accounts and had some left over. This is largely thanks to the relentless efforts of my wife, who helps me checks my orders periodically during the day and has a pretty good market sense of what sells and what doesn't. Personally I tend to be a sucker for deals with larger margins but they inevitably have much lower volumes, whereas she goes for deals that have mediocre margins but the volume traded more than makes up for it. Plus it seems to be more reliable, with fewer rabid competitors since the margins already look thin.

Some of the answers to a question on how long it takes to be able to pay for an account in ISK are pretty interesting since it gives an idea about how most people make their ISK. Some people suggested trading, but the way they describe it sounds like they’re hauling goods all over the place. Which is fine, if that’s what they enjoy… Other suggestions are in the vein of using 3-4 accounts to run level 5 missions… in about 150 days. Wow. No wonder so many people have the misconception that you have to train for 6 months first in EVE before actually playing the game.

Anyway, since I’m roughly through half of my 3 month subscription, I’m now starting to look for a good deal on some PLEXs. Except that it seems that recently PLEX prices have spiked, for no discernible reason. Tobold recently sold a PLEX for 286 million, but it seems that the minimum buy order in Jita at the moment is on the order of 310 million. The average price is around 300 million, but hey I’m a ginormous skinflint. There has to be a better deal somewhere else, especially given the fact that PLEXs can’t be moved in ships. I can imagine that some people would raise a huge fuss if they bought like 150 USD worth of PLEXs only to be suicide ganked while shipping them to Jita for sale. This means that the PLEX market should be relatively illiquid with no arbitrage among markets… perhaps other, less populated hubs would have it cheaper?

Sssh... Have you seen a PLEX?

I originally thought of creating and deleting various alts with my final character slot to check out prices in the various other market hubs in the universe, rather than flying a bazillion jumps with my trading alt. My wife even came up with the better idea of using another trial account to do that. In the end though, I remembered that EVE-central has market reports from all over, updated by inputs from the playerbase. It isn’t realtime and is not 100% reliable, but it can at least give some quick indication of prices. Sure enough, other markets seemed to have lower prices for PLEXs, and the Amarr system seemed to be a good bet.

So another trading alt was born on my account. He started out a handy 2 jumps from Amarr, and immediately joined my little corp to have access to the corp wallet and the 400 million ISK deposited inside for his purposes. After a bit of skill training to expand his market orders, he’s now set up a few trades in Amarr as a secondary passive income source. The volume isn’t as high as in Jita, so I hope to be able to just leave the orders running without much need for updates. In any case his main purpose is to keep watch on PLEX prices and place a buy order if it looks like it dips. I’m not in urgent need for it now, so I can afford to wait a bit for prices to come down, which I believe that they will.

Toddling into manufacturing

Haven’t been able to play much recently besides updating market orders. That’s still progressing at a nice pace, probably have 1.5 billion now but some is tied up in inventory, plus I foresee some additional expenditures in the near future.

I decided to start planning for some activity on the industrial side, since that’s something I always wanted to dabble in. So it looks like my main will be a combat/industrial pilot, possibly with some research thrown into the mix. It’ll still be a while before I start actually making things, but I figured I should start looking into what I’ll need.

And boy did that turn out to be the right decision. I purchased a Rifter original blueprint off the market at Jita for about 6 million ISK. At first I was a bit hesitant because I wasn’t sure whether it was an original or not, and the market interface doesn’t give you any ways to check, unlike in the contract interface. I figured out that the market blueprints seem to be all originals, even though it’s not specified. Those sold from NPCs are obviously BPOs, but in this case the Rifter was a Minmatar frigate. Thus, the BPO has to be bought from Minmatar space. I’d likely be able to buy it for much cheaper if I travelled there, but I felt that it wasn’t really worth jumping 10+ systems and all the way back just to save a couple of million.

So, now I had a original blueprint of my own. However, before I started making anything from it, it would be a good idea to first do some Material and Time Efficiency research on it. The former reduces the amount of minerals needed to build an item, and the second reduces the time needed to make it. Material research is very popular, and I’d heard that there were long queues to do it since you can only do research at a lab and they have limited slots.

Going through the list of available slots, I found that the shortest queue in a reasonable distance was at a station 6 jumps from Jita. With a wait of 19+ days. Hoo boy. In addition, adding 10 levels of material efficiency would take about 12 days. That right there is more than a month before I’ll see that blueprint again…

In hindsight I should have started sooner, but on the other hand there’s no benefit to me to rush the research only to have the blueprint sit unused in my hangar since I’m not ready skill-wise to start making Rifters yet (or even pilot them). I could also have cut down some of the waiting time by using a low-sec research station, but … yeah that’s not a good idea. >.<

My first PvP… almost

Couple of days back I almost had my first PvP moment in EVE. Kind of anti-climatic in that nothing really happened, but I don’t think I stood any chance so if I had engaged so it would have been pointless.

I was doing some level 3 mission in my Myrmidon and was having a semi-difficult time of it. Incoming DPS was significant and there were a couple of neuting and webbing towers together with sentry guns that were chewing through my armor quickly. The neut towers drained my cap too quickly for me to maintain my 2 medium armor repairers, so I had to frequently warp out and repair/recharge shields and cap. This also meant that I couldn’t do my usual salvage-as-I-go routine since it was all I could handle just to keep from blowing up while my drones slowly took down enemy ships.

Midway through a yellow Cheetah suddenly shows up on my overview. I don’t even know what type of ship a Cheetah is, but a quick look on show info tells me it’s a tech 2 ship so obviously the pilot has a decent amount of skillpoints and is likely sporting all tech 2 equipment too. It’s a 0.7 security system so I’m not really concerned about him shooting me since CONCORD will descend on him and grind him into a dark slimy paste, similar to what my wife finds in our baby’s diapers.

Suddenly he goes to flashing RED on my overview and I get a moment of panic. Wait, he’s still 20+ km off. Oh. He just looted from one of numerous my wrecks which were floating around and ninja-salvaged it.

Fortunately, from reading other EVE blogs I knew that he was probably just baiting me. If I opened fire on him, he would very likely just warp out and bring in some other ship to wtfpwn me. Given that my Myrmidon had no web and no warp disruptor and had 2 tractor beams and 2 salvagers equipped, there wasn’t any way I could DPS him fast enough to take him down before he just warped off. Not to mention the bloody sentries and EW towers still nipping away at my battlecruiser. Besides, it’s not exactly like I’m hard up for the salvage, I’m not doing the missions to get ISK although it’s a nice bonus.

I’m guessing that he was probably getting annoyed not only by my unwillingness to take his bait, but also by my general incompetence since over the next 15 minutes or so I had to warp off a couple more times to repair/recharge. When I warped off, he probably came under fire from the NPCs and the EW towers and had to warp off too or risk being caught tanking them if I warped back in and engaged him. So we went back and forth a couple of times, even meeting at the acceleration gate at point blank range once. Too bad I still didn’t have any PvP modules fit so I just ignored him again.

Eventually I cleared out all the NPCs and salvaged what wrecks remained while he continued exercising his ninja abilities. The only thing left was the subspace telescope thingamajig I was supposed to destroy to finish the mission, so I sent off my drones to watch them slowly nibble away. And I mean slowly.

Fortunately, the Cheetah’s aggression timer had run out by this time and he had no way to put it on again since the wrecks were all gone. So he warps off and comes back in a shiny Curse, another tech 2 ship. He launches a flight of Hammerhead IIs (yes I can see that I’m totally outclassed here) and starts firing at the telescope thing. At this point I’m not too sure what his intentions are, but I’m fairly sure that the mission gets completed as long as the telescope gets destroyed, even if I don’t get the killing blow or something. And I had already done some damage to the thing, so it should be tagged or something? No clue how this works.

The telescope goes boom, mission complete, and a cargo container drops, which he immediately scoops up, setting himself red to me again. Ok… enjoy your epic loots of 100 heavy missiles or something, thanks for helping me destroy something which would have taken forever otherwise! And I warp off back to my station to turn in the mission and drop off my salvage.

Granted, I don’t really know what his intentions were. He had no way of knowing what a new pilot I was, so he might have thought that he could get a nice fair fight 1v1 a Myrmidon. On the other hand, he could probably see I was using lousy tech 1 drones and was equipped for salvaging. I also later found out that the Cheetah is a common probing ship, so he was specifically probing for mission runners. I’m not sure why he was doing this in high sec, if he wanted a fight he could have just looked for someone in low or null sec? Either way it looks suspiciously like someone trying to gank a newbie. I can imagine someone new who depends on the income from salvaging getting angry and firing a few rounds at him to “chase him off”, without being aware that he can then come back in a big combat ship and fire at will.

Once I get my standings high enough to get a jump clone and train up some frigate PvP skills, I’ll probably be more willing to engage such would-be griefers.

Are you too hardcore for EVE?

There’s been a bit of a kerfluffle recently when Tobold finally decided to try out EVE and talks about his dislike for EVE’s skill system. A lot of commenters also chimed in about how the skill training times, which can’t really be affected by anything you do in game, make them feel like they have to play EVE-Offline for 6 months first. Gordon also wrote a great article about this and how he doesn’t feel that there’s a problem with EVE’s skill system. At first I felt pretty indignant about these comments, because as an obviously new EVE player I’m having a great time playing every night without having to wait 6 months first. The skill training system is quite different and it seems to work ok, so I didn’t see what their big problem was.

After some thinking however, I realised that quite a few commenters had mentioned that “they tried EVE some time ago and spent 30-40 hours a week on it and couldn’t get into it” as proof that they tried. And it hit me, that was probably the problem.

Triple progression curves

Almost any MMO, or game for that matter, basically has 3 simultaneous progress curves. Character progression, player progression, and economic progression.

Character progression: This is a reflection of how powerful the character is (duh). It could be in levels, or notching skills, or getting gear.
Player progression: This reflects a player gaining knowledge and experience with the game. Includes knowledge of encounters, tricks and strategies, correct specs/rotations etc.
Economic progression: Almost every game has some form of money/gold which is used to buy skills or gear or mounts.

These three methods of progression occur simultaneously, but at different rates in every game. They each serve as a cap to progress. For example, no matter how skilled a player you are or how much gold you have, you can’t raid Molten Core at level 2. You also can’t top damage meters on an epic geared level 80 despite epic /facerolling skills if you don’t have gold to repair your weapons or buy enchants.

The big problem that I think these players have with EVE is simply that they have too much time to play it. That sounds counter-intuitive in that they are simply too hardcore for EVE, which is known far and wide for being a “hardcore death is everywhere” type of game.

For a player like myself who has limited playtime, the limiting factor on my progression is not character progression, but rather player progression. Economic progression isn’t really a problem because EVE allows me to make mountains of moolah even without much playing time through the myriad passive money-making schemes available such as industry, trading, or research. I simply don’t have the time to spend 10 hours a day playing, so I’m still pretty much a complete noob when it comes to many things since I haven’t even had a chance to try them yet. I don’t see the need to be able to fly tech 2 battleships with all skills maxed at 5, because I’m still only doing level 3 missions due to being able to do at most 2-3 missions a day.

For other players, however, who may be either much more talented at the game or have much more free time, player progression is not the cap. Economic progression can be grinded with mining or mission-running, or simply bypassed by selling PLEX. This leaves character progression, through skillpoints, as the bottleneck. Which, after buying implants and training learning skills, just goes trundling along no matter how often you are able to play. This apparently drives them crazy, and maybe they do have a point. It’s probably part of the reason why I couldn’t really get into EVE back in August 2009 when I first gave it a go as well, since I was in between jobs at the time and had way too much free time.

So is EVE badly designed?

No, I think its simply marketed at a different segment of people. EVE’s skill system works well enough for me. I remember the horrors of notching skills when playing a MUD, when people had to make macros to kneel, springleap target, stand, over and over again to notch it up to 100. Or training weapon skills in WoW when you get a shiny new fist weapon (woohoo unarmed skill at 1…) These aren’t exactly wonderful game features either. The skill training system is just different. It has its good points and its bad points. I’m having great fun in the rest of EVE, so I can accept that I have to wait 4 days to train Scout Drone Operation V (which should have just finished this morning, so I can finally use tech 2 drones… YES!!!). Some people would rather wait offline for 6 months rather than actually play the game. I still think that’s silly because they would obviously make some progress in all three progression curves during this period, even if it’s not at “peak efficiency”. Anything is better than nothing, after all. Compared to someone who spends the same 6 months playing, they’d have the exact same skills but less standings, less ISK, and less combat/market experience.

Part of it is also probably due to the pervasive sense of entitlement that seems to be everywhere among gamers nowadays. A lot of people seem to think “it’s just a game, I shouldn’t have to work at it”. While it’s true that a game is primarily for enjoyment, just like everything else in life nothing is designed perfectly for you. If you want the woot stuff, be prepared to have some meh stuff and some bleh stuff along the way. If the meh and the bleh isn’t worth the woot, then don’t play the game. It doesn’t mean the game is bad, it just means they don’t like it. Feedback like “the skill system sucks and should be removed” is like saying “I want to be able to summon sharks with lasers that cast AoE Finger of Death”.

One billion dollars…

So after reaching my mini milestone of half a billion ISK earlier in April, I’ve since doubled that and comfortably reached 1 billion. There are 1.05 billion ISK in buy/sell orders plus cash, and in addition to that I’m holding on to some inventory that came about as a result of the market for that item crashing too much for my tastes. If I sell them off for cost, that’s at least another 50 million.

My trading alt was created on 14 March 2010, and he reached this milestone yesterday so overall it took 1 month and 1 day. I check his orders before server downtime (7 pm here) after I get home if possible, and after downtime is over I check again before logging on to my main to do real stuff. Before going to bed (10.30 pm), I log on and adjust the orders again. Since I have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed my son (3 pm), I check and adjust the orders again, although this tends to be a quiet period where nothing much moves. In the morning, my wife helps me check and adjust the orders when she feeds our son again (7.30 am) and during the rest of the day she checks them once in a while, with special emphasis on what seems to be a peak period at around 5-5.30 pm our time.

From reading an advanced mining guide I found, it seems that the peak profits from mining are in the region of 66 million ISK/hour. That’s with the best possible skills, implants, and using a Hulk with best fittings to mine the best asteroids in 0.0 space. It also assumes non-stop mining, meaning someone is helping haul the ore and there is no travel time.

Seems pretty clear that mining isn’t really that great of a moneymaker, for that kind of expense I was expecting much greater returns. Plus in 0.0 you’d literally have to sit there watching yourself zap asteroids or risk getting ganked. Not something I want to spend my evenings doing.

Battleship go Bye Bye

Bwahaha. Payback is great. And not just because of Lucy Liu.

After the previous night’s misadventure, I logged in prepared for round 2. First up was a trip to Jita and back to pick up some modules for the DPS fit I had planned out earlier. I didn’t actually go with the exact fit listed, and instead went with Limited Ion Blasters because Modal Ion Particle Accelerators were going for 3 million ISK each. I could have afforded them, but I was unwilling to fork over 18 million for 6 of them just for one fight.

In hindsight this was really stupid, since I’m not actually buying them, just renting them. I could have easily just fit them, blown up the target, and come back to Jita to resell them for 3 million each again. That way I’d have been able to get higher DPS and only be out the “rental” of the transaction fees for the sale. Oh well. It ended well anyway but something to keep in mind for the future.

I had to refit for max tanking ability and clear out the pocket again first since by now the other ships had respawned. Being much better prepared this time, they stood no chance as I immediately kited the frigates and cruisers away from the wallowing battleship and creamed them with my drones. Once they were all down, it was time to warp back to the station and refit the ship for the true test.

Warped in, battleship at 70 km. Afterburner on and approach in a spiral to minimise incoming fire now that my tank was weaker. 12 km, 11 km, 10 km, statis webifier on him and he slows to a crawl. Orbit at 1000 meters and turn on all 6 guns!

His shields steadily dropped with each salvo. There was a bit of a sinking feeling when they hit a snag at his peak recharge band of 30-40%, but after yoyoing back and forth his shields finally dropped below 30% and his tank was broken. It was a foregone conclusion as his armor blew away in chunks and there was a satisfying explosion. Take that you bloody lump! And I didn’t even use a fraction of the 5000 antimatter charges I brought along too >.<

So now I'm pretty confident that I can take out battleship level opponents with this refit, although there may be a big problem if the mission involves fighting multiple battleships at a go. The reduced tank may not be able to take the incoming DPS, especially since I would only be able to be under the guns of one opponent at a time, and thus be exposed to the full DPS of the others. I'll probably have to tweak the fit to see if I can strengthen the tank while maintaining adequate damage.