Quirky, bordering on cool

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A tweet from CCP Rise alerted me to the fact I should check the redeeming system.

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Available was a Hull Tanking Certificate.  I had actually thought recently that the Hull Tanking Certificate did not seem to exist any more – so its return in this fashion was mildly amusing.

I redeemed it on my first two accounts, but it wasn’t available on my third.  Then I twigged – it was only available for toons with the appropriate skills – which my two Capital pilots had.  Ok – that upped things from mildly amusing to bordering on cool.  It’s that kind of quirkiness that keeps me being a fan of CCP.

New Toys

I ignored my PI reconfiguration for most of the weekend, and instead got myself an overpriced Astero and Stratios to play around with.

First the frigate

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Exploration sites were being hit hard in my local area, but I managed to find a wormhole into a backwater system in Aridia which had a dozen odd sites to visit. One of these was another Wormhole into Khanid, the even more out of the way system had 30+ sites available. They kept me busy for a while.

The Astero is a workable little ship. I went with this initial basic fit:

[Astero, Explore 02]
Damage Control II
200mm Reinforced Steel Plates II
Centii A-Type Small Armor Repairer
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II

Coreli A-Type 1MN Afterburner
Data Analyzer II
Relic Analyzer II
Cargo Scanner II

Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Sisters Core Probe Launcher, Sisters Core Scanner Probe

Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I
Small Anti-Explosive Pump II
Small Trimark Armor Pump II

Hobgoblin II x5

I took a mobile depot with me with some fitting changes, and I expect I’ll keep the cloak off and use a remote armor repairer for the drones instead. I found the cargo capacity to be too limited for the notion of an extended exploration session far from home. It might work if you just ran Relic and Data sites I guess. It would be nice for it to have a special bay for the mobile depots.

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The Stratios was a different kettle of fish. Again the fit is just a basic first try. It will get some finessing.

[Stratios, Explore 02]
Damage Control II
1600mm Reinforced Steel Plates II
Corpum C-Type Medium Armor Repairer
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Drone Damage Amplifier II

Federation Navy 10MN Afterburner
Data Analyzer II
Relic Analyzer II
Cargo Scanner II
Medium Capacitor Battery II

Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Sisters Core Probe Launcher, Sisters Core Scanner Probe
Small Tractor Beam II
Salvager II
Quad Light Beam Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency M

Medium Capacitor Control Circuit II
Medium Auxiliary Nano Pump II
Medium Anti-Explosive Pump I

Hammerhead II x5

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It was far easier to carry the depot and fitting options, and completely change the focus of your ship on the fly. This was more flexible and better to fly than my Exploration Tengu, and had access to more combat sites. If you paid attention to the loot you collected, this could indeed be used for long deployments. In fact its main drawback was the cargo hold soon got very messy. It would be nice to be able to tag equipment or divide your cargo hold up into supplies and loot to manage things easier.

I did notice the scanning times were longer. My exploration Tengu has a probe strength of around 125, while the Astero and Stratios were around 100. This slowed things down a little.

I am not complaining – I think there are enough negatives about the ships that they are not always just the go to options. I think I will set the Astero up for either Low Sec, or just running Data / Relic sites, or maybe Ghost if I can work out the DPS I have to tank for. I think the Stratios will replace the Tengu as my main High Sec exploration hull. I’ll just have to see what options I have for using a Mobile Depot with the Tengu.

It will be fun playing around with both hulls.

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The Mobile Depot is a game changer in many respects. I still have to do some playing around, and it is a balancing act on how much cargo capacity you use up, but it should really allow you to spend long periods of time away from stations. Very interesting, and very “sandbox” like.

I did have issues when I tried to scan down my own Depot – I could see other structures, including a salvaging module being used, but my own Depot never came up in the scan results.  I assume I was missing something obvious, but I did go through all the options many times over.  I’ll try it on another day.

Existing through the ignorance of others

There’s a count of the various planet types in Hi-Sec, Low-Sec, Null-Sec and W-Space in this wiki entry:

https://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Planetary_interaction

I expect it is out of date, but it would give a reasonable idea of the spread.

Dotlan also provides details on planet counts (although I don’t think summarised like the first link), and you can drill down to see where they all are:

http://evemaps.dotlan.net/region/planets

The rarest planets are Plasma. I use one in my PI cycle, and I had the opportunity to plant my own POCO on it because no one else staked a claim for 24+ hours. I didn’t though, and I never planned to.

My ability to defend my POCO is limited. I could likely see off other Solo players, or a handful of lesser experienced pilots – but any partially organised and persistent corporation can take them from me. I could hire mercenaries I guess, but the cost wouldn’t be justified.

There was no use in me owning a valuable planet because someone else would just come along and take it. If they War-Dec me to take that one, they might also grab some of my other POCO’s while they were there.

I had even wondered if the Lava Planet I have was a little cheeky – but with low tax rates and it being a little out of the way, I’m hopeful no one will pay it much attention. Actually – I think my main risk is if a Corporation decides to settle in my home system, and take all of the planets for themselves.

Whether I lose one or all of my POCO, all this planning and restructuring of my PI cycle will come to naught. I have tried to be a little smart in where and what I have placed, and the tax rates that have been set. But the reality is – my POCO exist only through the grace or ignorance of others.

Now personally I don’t mind this. I’ve liked having the opportunity to get involved in this sort of aspect of the game. The fact I can lose it all fits my idea of the environment I play in. But I am an old player with plenty of skill points and a reasonable ISK balance. I am not reliant on PI income. What fun it this Empire POCO mechanism for most Causal Solo or new players? They are entirely helpless and at the whim of other players – or stuck quietly operating around the fringes where the profit isn’t worth the while of anyone else? It is not a great mechanism in that regard.

When I look at the changes being made by CCP I usually set the benchmark against what impact it will have on those solo players who like to be able to do absolutely everything for themselves. Those who gather the resource for and manufacture everything they have in game. I think the Siphon unit was brilliant for this style of play. I think the PI changes have a negative impact on that style of play.

Thinking on it – I think there needs to be an expansion of the Command Centre launch mechanism to balance things a little better. Either through skill or upgrade; increase the CC payload from 500m3 to something a little more flexible. A factory processing P0 to P1 generates 365m3 each 24 hours (if my old notes are still accurate). Maybe allow the export of two factories worth of processing – so 750m3 a launch? There should still be the 15/20% tax (or fuel costs), but you just have a little more flexibility to salvage your set ups if a Corp decides to set their planet tax at 100%. There should also be some sort of new ship module to allow you to import PI goods via an unmanned drone or shuttle. It should have around the same sort of capacity as the Command Centre, influenced by skills, although it could be a little less. Or maybe allow the fitting of a couple of these modules?

It is just to give the little guy the ability to still operate on the small scale.

Oh but this is meant to be an MMO, and you are a whiny little bitch who is not playing it right – join a corporation and stfu.

The only problem with that advice is that the vast, vast majority of players, corporations and alliances only operate within the sphere they do with the grace or ignorance of others. They are in exactly the same situation as solo players, but they just don’t realise it.

You have a POS? Most of you can’t defend it if one of the Elite groups decides to take it. You have just built up a POCO Empire since Rubicon? Most of you can’t defend it if one of the top tier Alliances decides to take over. You have a constellation and multiple stations in Providence? Most of you can’t defend it if someone stronger decided to take it away from you yet again.

But you are a member of one of the largest Coalitions? Yes, until your CEO says something stupid or argues with the Alliance leader, and you find yourself summarily booted.

There are few in this game who are truly not beholden to someone else. As such I think most mechanisms should be designed to allow scaled access for all styles of player.  IMHO the new Empire POCO could do with a little finessing in that regard.

Paying attention until my brain hurts

I’m still focused on PI – and will be until I adjust my infrastructure for the Rubicon changes. It might take me a while.

My previous PI setup had two Alts managing 6 planets each, running on a two day cycle. I balanced the extraction so that I gathered 12,000 units each of Reactive Metals, Precious Metals, Toxic Metals and Chiral Structures, and processed the same number of units into 450 Robotics.

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I did extra bits and bobs with excess capacity, but that was the core of my PI.

The cost of doing business in Empire space was straight forward.

. You paid a 10% Tax to export goods via a Custom Office
. You paid a 5% Tax to import goods via a Custom Office
. You paid a 15% Tax to export goods via the Command Centre

The tax was based on a static value for the various tiers of PI goods. The old values were:

Tier – Type – Old ISK Value
P0 – Basic – 500
P1 – Refined – 9,000
P2 – Special – 70,000
P3 – Advanced – 1,350,000

For simplicity sake assume each cycle I exported 48,000 P0 from extraction planets, imported 48,000 P0 to factory planets, and exported 450 produced P2 units. The cost was:

48,000 x 500 x 10%
+ 48,000 x 500 x 5%
+ 450 x 70,000 x 10%

= 2.4M + 1.2M + 3.15M, or 7.75M ISK in taxes

It fluctuates, but on average over the years I’ve sold my Robotics at around 60K each – so for around 27M ISK. Take away the tax and selling costs, and I made around 19M profit each cycle. If I was diligent this would earn me 3.4B ISK a year profit. I wasn’t diligent.

With Rubicon things have changed. For starters the base value set against the PI goods – for calculating taxes, has dropped:

Tier – Type – Old – New Value
P0 – Basic – 500 – 400
P1 – Refined – 9,000 – 7,200
P2 – Special – 70,000 – 60,000
P3 – Advanced – 1,350,000 – 1,200,000

In addition you can train up a new skilled called Customs Code Expertise. This drops the taxes you pay through Custom’s offices by 10% each rank. I am going to presume the casual PI player will get this to Rank IV. That means the new NPC taxes you pay will be

. 6% Tax to export goods via a Custom Office
. 3% Tax to import goods via a Custom Office
. 15% Tax to export goods via the Command Centre

Now – if I owned the POCO on every planet I used, and set the tax to 0%, my costs will be down.

48,000 x 400 x 6%
+ 48,000 x 400 x 3%
+ 450 x 60,000 x 6%

= 1.152M + 0.576M + 1.620M, or 3.348M in taxes

I’m 4.4M better off, or I would make around 800M extra profit over a diligent year. Score!

But I don’t the POCO on every one of my planets. I am now reliant on using either some Interbus Customs Offices, which seems to charge a flat 17% tax regardless my rank in Customs Code Expertise, the very limited (time and size) 15% taxed export via the Command Centre, or a Player Owned CO with total tax rates (NPC and their own) that so far seem to average between around 11 and 16%.

I am also at the whim of other players. An Interbus Customs office can be replaced at any point in time, and players can change their own tax rates from 0 to 100% as frequently as they want.

I’m now struggling a bit with what to do.  Do I hope / trust the other players will keep their taxes at around the same levels, or do I change my method to only export P1 goods from planets I don’t own the CO on via the expensive – but consistently priced Command Centre export? Even the process of changing from P0 to P1 export really hits the volumes I will produce in the end.

And 1 makes 4

7 of 9 Interbus Customs Offices in my home system had been replaced when I logged in this morning. I looked through the list and realised there where two Gas planets left. Hold on – I thought there were only two, and that they had been taken? I need my eyes tested.

Owning a Gas POCO gave me more options with my PI output, so I checked the price of the Customs Gantry and upgrade supplies locally, in Amarr, and in Jita. I undocked the two Domi’s and started on one of the remaining CO’s while I flew my Alt to Jita to buy everything needed to plant my fourth POCO.

The whole process took 100 minutes, and now 8 of the 9 planets are player controlled.

I’d like to see CCP release some stats on how many POCO have gone up in Empire. Zkillboard has recorded very roughly around 2,000 odd Interbus Customs Offices being destroyed (in all security zones) since Rubicon was released, with a total of almost 23,000 killed.

https://zkillboard.com/ship/4318/

I think that will be my last one. I guess the next step is to fully review all my PI infrastructure and move / adjust everything to use my own planets, or to launch output into space. That will be quite a job.

Meanwhile I’ve grabbed two of the new BPO (want one more), and started training Customs Code Expertise on four of my toons.

Worthwhile ISK Sink

I don’t mind the PLEX for Good drives that CCP organises.  The latest is mentioned here:

http://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/plex-for-good-philippines-typhoon-relief/

An overview of the whole process is on the Wiki:

https://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/PLEX_for_GOOD

I’ve worked with several Philippine natives over recent years, so I donated in acknowledgement of them and their families, and because I think it is cool when EVE shows it’s nice side.

Down at the first hurdle

The Rubicon update crashed for me at the first hurdle – the launcher patch failed with “ImportError: No module named emails.utils”. The launcher would not run after that.

The EVE forums and Facebook page did not make reference to the problem, but it was early days. I commented on Twitter and left the social media pages up while I looked at what I could do.

I found you could re-start the launcher update by deleting the latest launcher patch folder. EVE would just revert to the old launcher and trying updating again. CCP had by then commented on Twitter that a new launcher was being deployed, so it was just a case of trying every 5 minutes until a newly patched launcher downloaded. From there the expansion update worked as expected.

CCP and its Expansion updates have come such a long way – but they still seem to manage tripping up and giving themselves a bloody nose.

If you followed the Twitter chatter you were made aware the problem wasn’t just with you, that a fix was being prepared, and then knew when it was ready. If you didn’t follow the EVE social media this (relatively minor) issue would have been extremely frustrating.

But I am not here to yell at CCP, I am actually here to praise them. Launcher update aside, the Rubicon deployment seemed otherwise to have gone very well. I didn’t pay close attention, but the game world seemed to be back up and running in around the hour mark. Once my client was patched the game was stable and there were no emergency reboots or obvious bugs. (I did read other people complaining about things, but it seemed more isolated to specific combinations of factors, not general problems.) In the first 24 hours I ran 3 simultaneously logged in clients for long periods shooting structures, and I had no memory leaks, no stability issues, in fact – no problems at all.

I can remember the old 24+ hour outages of the past. While I don’t play many other games, I am familiar with DDO and how long its patching is, and the litany of subsequent bug fixes that invariably follow. CCP seem so very close to the point of excellence in this regard.

They seem – from the outside, to be managing the development of the game much better. It looks like they have the formality and structure balanced well with passion and flexibility. While not perfect, they are doing a much better job of listening and responding to their players. They are not over promising, and generally delivering what they say they will. They are still doing plenty of iteration on current features, improving them, while building the framework for future advances. They also seem to be staying faithful to the game.

It is not to say there isn’t a disaster or ten lurking just around the corner – this is CCP after all, but given the turmoil in the world over the last half dozen years, CCP seem to be doing a rather good technical job with their game of EVE.

And if this is all just an illusion – I’m placated, so keep up the good work CCP.