Cracking an Egg

Rixx Javix wrote a blog post about the reasons for and changes to his decision making about when to Pod another pilot and when not too.

http://eveoganda.blogspot.com/2019/08/why-do-we-pod.html

He has had a couple early comments on his blog from people who tend not to pod in Low Sec because of the extra security status hit, and the impact it has on their need to access High Sec.

Aside a skin, you can not fit anything to a pod. It has no weapons, no extra propulsion, no extra tank. There are still a surprisingly number of factors in play however if your pod gets warp scrambled. You might escape based on your distance from gates or docking, external intervention, your ability to fast or sweet talk, or the distraction level, ammunition level, rules of engagement or whim of the aggressor.

Jixx covered many reasons for his decision making on when to crack open an egg or not – tactical, economic, even a touch of OCD for the accumulation of statistics on his killboard.

There was one area I would have liked to have heard about that is of interest to me. The battle is done, the target no real threat. When Jixx talks about making decisions based on his judgement of the performance or behaviour of the other pilot, or his own bushido code, he is talking about power. The power he has over another player in that moment.

I find that aspect of EVE interesting. What is the meaning behind the exercise of that power, what reward does the player gain from it?

For some it is just a game so the decision might be a purely unemotional, intellectual one.

Some might feel satisfaction or pleasure from doling out revenge or karma.

Some might feel good about being magnanimous and sparing the other pilot.

For each pilot it could change day to day, moment to moment, but power is one of the factors to podding. You only have to look at the number of references to tear harvesting.

For me it is almost a moot point. The handful of times I’ve been in a position to make such a decision I’ve mostly just done what the FC has instructed. I have pointedly destroyed Pods to stop them being a source of Intel. I have also pointedly removed Pods when the pilots have clearly been AFK. Regardless the situation, I have generally just felt a bit bad about doing it.

EVE Portal 2019

The latest iteration of the EVE Mobile companion App is now available:

https://www.eveonline.com/article/pww4x0/introducing-eve-portal-2019-edition

I installed it on my iPad and am mightily .. unimpressed.  It is in a fixed orientation (portrait) and a fixed (small) size, taking up only a fraction of the screen.  The interface is crowded with headings and field contents overlapping. It is just unpleasant to look at or use.

I installed it on my Samsung S8 phone.  While it is again stuck in Portrait, the resolution is far better and the app is usable.

It shows basic information about your character, SP Total, ISK and PLEX balance, current location and boarded ship, jump clone locations and availability and current implants.  You can see, add and remove or re-sort your skill training queue.  You can see and respond to EVE Mails.  You can buy stuff from the New Eden Store.

Not terribly important for a solo player, but I might leave it installed on my phone.

 

Eyeballing Online User Counts

We are 5 or 6 weeks into the chaos era and have just finished the Skill Point Event. The later should have seen more people log in than usual.

I thought I would do an unscientific eyeballing of the Eve-offline Tranquility – Peak Online Player Count graphs to see if there is any sort of discernible impact yet.  I thought this would just be a quick 5 minute blog post.  I didn’t really think it through.

All data from:

http://eve-offline.net/?server=tranquility

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expansions_of_Eve_Online

 

First some disclaimers.  I am really only eyeballing this – the statistics are rough.  I am not sure if Dust players were included in the counts or not.  I am not sure what impact various antibotting initiatives have had on the game or when.  I am also aware of a fatal flaw in using these graphs.  It is possible for the online player count to reduce while the number of active players increase.  This is because I don’t know how long on average each player session lasts for each time period. The shorter the average play session, the less players it will look like.

So, lets start some likely pointless conjecture.

 

 

The first graph covers the average peak player counts from 2003 to now, some 16 years. The daily average across these years has been 37K.

I started playing EVE back in September 2006, just before the Revelations release. That brought the earlier version of Exploration, Rigs, Invention and extra Null Sec regions.

2009-2010 were probably glory years, with the hard to pronounce Apocrypha (T3 ships and Wormholes), Dominion (Sovereignty changes), Tyrannis (Planetary Interaction) and Incursion (funny enough, Incursions plus the new character creation process) releases. These came with a steady climb in average players online.

This period also saw the start of notable variations in player counts, with quick differences of +/- 5K, usually triggered by new content that soon petered away. That makes it harder to really get a gist for what is going on with player counts without seeing many months of data.

The mid-2011 Incarna release saw the (I think we can mostly agree) poorly managed implementation of walking in stations. This cost CCP momentum, players, and a level of goodwill that I am not sure they have ever fully regained.

Activity had a resurgence however at the end of 2012 through 2013 with Retribution (new ships), Odyssey (Exploration revamp and more new ships), and Rubicon (Player Owned Customs Offices and the early steps of CCP Seagull’s roadmap for the game).

Between 2009 and 2013 the average peak online player count was 49K.

Since then the average peak online player count has been around 38K, a seeming steady decline aside a big but temporary jump with the introduction of free Alpha accounts with the Ascension release.

Looking at the averages per year, there has been an obvious pattern.

2004 – 8K
2005 – 12K
2006 – 23K
2007 – 30K
2008 – 35K
2009 – 44K
2010 – 47K
2011 – 43K
2012 – 43K
2013 – 48K
2014 – 41K
2015 – 34K
2016 – 34K
2017 – 35K
2018 – 33K
2019 – 29K

Growth from 2004-9, 5 years of stability before a big drop in 2014-15, stability in 2016-2018, before another bigger drop in 2019.

 

As we drill down, since mid-2015, we can see an average count of 35K.  There was a steady decline after the Citadel release, a temporary surge with Ascension, before a slow but steady decline since – well before Chaos entered our vocabulary.

 

Now for 2019. The dip shown on the full graph has been smoothed out. Aside a temporary increase with the May Invasion release, again we have a slow but steady decline in peak online user counts. The average is 29K for the year so far.

 

Finally, we have the graph for approximately the last month. A 23K average.

So, what have I learnt from this?

Taken year by year across the life of the game, peak online user counts in 2019 are concerning.  They are the worst they have been for a decade.

However – this sort of variation has been repeated since 2009, and we might just be at a bottom of a cycle which could see a big upturn.

The increase in users with the May Invasion Release did not seem as noteworthy or as long lasting as many earlier releases. I am not sure if that reflects part of a malaise or just that the Triglavian invasion PVE did not appeal to that many players.

While the average peak user counts did drop since June / the start of the Chaos era, it did not appear to be exceptional, but a continuation of a decline that started back in February and even earlier.

So, this has been a lot of words and graphs to say nothing definitive.  I don’t feel I can say anything about the last month or two, but I do not like the trend over the last year.

 

Based on the history above – if CCP wants an upturn in online users they need to add content.  Not just any content, but that with wide appeal, accessibility and longevity.

CCP has however recently said they felt adding new content wasn’t getting results – players were just not using it in mass.  They said they would be looking more at revising current systems and for chaotic upheavals, particularly low hanging fruit.

In my opinion much of the new content CCP has added in recent years has had a limited in game audience.  It is aimed at skilled min/max players and veterans, with the cost to step up well outside the range of what most newer players can afford.  The problem is CCP is not adding content that appeals and is available to a large enough range of players.

Alternatively they need to somehow cause a big improvement in new player retention.

Entirely anecdotally however, I’ve noticed comments on Blogs, on Discord, on the Forums, on Reddit, and in the various NPC Corporation chats from plenty of young players who have lost multiple ships to the new Roaming / Raznabord Damavik’s in Hi-Sec belts. They have expressed dismay at how unavoidable it seems – with ships zapped even if they are alert and initiate warp as soon as the Damavik’s drop into the belt.  They turn up so frequently that they can not recover from what they are losing.  None appear to have been excited by this new game play – most suggest they will quit. It seems a misstep by CCP.  It doesn’t seem like a confident start from CCP.

 

So I have come away from this without answering my initial question, more concerned for the trend than expected, and once again questioning how well CCP knows its player base and if they have the plan and capability to get more players into the game.  So far making the game hard core and deadly is their solution.  Lets return to this in a few months time.

 

*Edit – forgot to add I am talking about peak figures.

Bump Off

Something we should be seeing in September:

https://forums.eveonline.com/t/september-fitting-warnings-and-other-qol-changes/184553

. Ships will now automatically enter warp after three minutes of attempting to align and reach the required speed. This will now put a maximum cap on how long a ship can be bumped or stuck on geometry.

As you would expect there are threats of Carebear accounts being unsubscribed and – oh, sorry, I meant, Ganker’s accounts.  The irony.

The details are going to be important with this one.

Forum comments suggest testing shows the timer is reset if an offensive module is used on the target.  This means there will be no real change to bumping outside of Hi-Sec.

In Hi-Sec, most Gank to kill encounters are over within 3 minutes.  If a gang of Gankers needs a little more time to get coordinated, they would have to suicide a rookie ship on the target before each 3 minutes is up.  Organised groups would already have such resources in place to deal with the logoff timer.

One type of play it does likely kill are ransom bumpers.

It also makes bumping bots in Hi-Sec less effective.

The positives are it helps people stuck in objects in missions, and it helps people who are being griefed for long periods of time in game by bumping for no other purpose but to annoy.

Overall I don’t mind the change.

The flow of SP and Chat

I felt mild relief when the kills for skill points event finished. I had consistently logged in 6 of my pilots every day, and it felt like a bit of a chore at times. Having said that, I did end up being undocked a lot longer than I would otherwise have been.

I did not pay close attention to how many Skill Points I ended up gaining – it seemed to be a bit over 400K for each pilot, or ~1,300 for each Account.

Minmatar Shuttle – I like the Star Wars look

I used the bonus SP on my Main pilot on his Tactical Logistics Reconfiguration V training. I think I saved a bit over 6 days off the required total training time. On my Industry Alt I used it to improve their Orca piloting. One of my Scouting Alts picked up basic mining skills to try the limited Mining Expedition sites. Another Alt needed a boost to their basic combat abilities to handle High Sec rats better. The rest went into waiting for a rainy day.

The last phase of the Skill Event has now kicked off – you get skill points just for logging in for this weekend.

https://www.eveonline.com/article/pwpc4z/bonus-skillpoint-weekend-kicks-off-today

 

Last night I watched part of the very long Fanfest at home Livestream. I got though 8.5 of the 10 topics before having to secede defeat and go to bed. This was with Hilmar and CCP Burger.

There was a lot said, but not much said. I am sure you could go through it carefully and find many individual things to quote, but for me I took more notice of the overall vibe. Some of the notes I wrote down (in no particular order):

. It was felt CCP spent too much time focusing on future road maps, and not enough on the now and the game they currently had. (This was a little short sighted I think – as future road maps are how you are meant to take, plan and improve what you currently have.)

. Hilmar noted that the Invasion world tour was hard work, but that he found it unexpected useful to talk to players from areas he would not normally do so. He singled out Australian Players, and how they were able to impress on him for the first time the negative impact AFK cloaking campers could have on the game, something he never really understood before.

. They mentioned how Veteran players sustained EVE, but new players were needed to grow EVE.

. They had some 600,000 new accounts created last year (excluding those they felt were alts or bots and what not). 90% stopped being used within 7 days

(. Jin’Taan suggested in Discord the metric CCP used for this might have been overstating the numbers)

. These 540,000 unused accounts last year resulted in lots of names being locked. It is an issue they are looking at.

. They want to try to make it harder for Veterans in the game, but easier for newer players.

. They remarked that their research unexpectedly showed many of the longest-term players were those who helped other players in the game. (Is this blog helpful?)

. There was the occasional comment about how you can’t play EVE solo (I’ve always been recalcitrant)

. There was an interesting reaction from Hilmar to a screen shot of dozens of Titians sitting outside a station, and quite a bite in his comment about it being inappropriate how they could be stored safely without any maintenance cost

. Their negative mood against safe storage was brought up multiple times.

. I was distracted, but I think they might have said it was too easy for Wormholes to be rolled / closed / controlled.

. The Null Sec Blackout seemed more about the reducing ISK generation than the increase in kills

. Multiple times they mentioned how the economy was out of control, and that they are happy they have been able to reduce the amount of ISK coming into the game. (It is early days though.)

There was more, but that was as much as I noted down. They reminded us at a couple of points that while they have an input in the overall direction of the game, the actual implementation of these ideas was the responsibility of the Developers.

 

Meanwhile in game

I noticed on D-Scan something called Raznoborg Damavik.

Yadot has indicated they are the Recon’s Triglavians – with a different name and changes to damage type.

https://yadots.wordpress.com/2019/08/22/recons-are-now-raznaborgs/

I have also been busy cleaning up some of my Cyno Caches. Most of my alts had strategically placed Cyno ships and supplies. They won’t be required anymore, so I’ve been selling them off.

 

I noticed on social media the suggestion that there is a new model for Jita in the data dump on SISI.

That is not a bad idea – have a bigger model for the main trade hubs – and looks cool.

X-CSM member Jin’taan put up a video discussing why in recent years around 40% of X-CSM members quit or dramatically reduce their time spent playing EVE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bxQv6IKeP0

Some makes perfect sense. Here in Australia we have had several political leaders lose their power for a variety of reasons, then almost immediately quit politics. It is hard to go back to not having the power and influence you once had. Other reasons are rather bleak, and don’t reflect well on his views on CCP.

In the comments another X-CSM member referred to suffering in and out of game stalking, harassment and threats.

A common thread in this and other such discussions I have seen is the view that CCP does not truly understand their game or their players properly. I say that here somewhat regularly.

 

Last of all – CCP have finally released the July Monthly Economy Report, and it makes for very interesting reading.

https://www.eveonline.com/article/pwp24k/monthly-economic-report-july-2019

Instead of making this post even longer, The Ancient Gaming Noob –

https://tagn.wordpress.com/2019/08/23/mer-and-the-blackout/

And the Nosy Gamer –

https://nosygamer.blogspot.com/2019/08/bounties-in-july-2019-monthly-economic.html

.. have already done some analysis on the numbers and their posts are well worth the read.  I will just put this one graph here – the Top ISK sinks and Facets over the last 3 odd years.  Look at what the Blackout did to Bounty earnings.  Bloody hell.

What was I saying about there being a lot to discuss about in EVE lately..

Bigger is better and Discord

This happened.

It is not perfect, but the Elgato Stream Deck added a surprisingly amount to my undocked EVE play. While I have used macro keys while playing EVE for a long time, being able to label each key has been a game changer.

I still don’t really like the feel of the key press, but it has worked better if you sort of toggle the buttons along their edges, a bit like a rocker switch. It is quieter and has a less clunky feel that way.

Otherwise the main issue with the Stream Deck was only having 14 (of the 15) buttons available in each folder. It wasn’t quite enough to do what I wanted while playing EVE.

The idea of the XL Version of the Stream Deck was appealing but I wasn’t sure I could justify spending so much. It was only released a couple of weeks ago in Australia, but it was very quickly sold out from the main IT shops I use. I put the option out of my mind, but by chance found one at a shop I wouldn’t normally buy hardware from. It was something they had only just started to stock and very unusually, it was at RRP and not with their normal scary mark up. I saw it as a sign, and on a whim purchased their last one.

It doesn’t fit as well on my desk, and I am not completely happy with the angle of it, but bigger is better regarding how I can set it up and use it for EVE.

Ignore the very plain icons I am using for my EVE folder – I have much prettier folders for applications and websites. For EVE I just needed an easy to read and modify setup.

One thing I am careful about with using the Stream Deck is ensuring each key only represents a single in game keyboard shortcut. I have a button for F1, another for ALT+F1, and another for CNTL+F1. My most complicated key binding is CTRL+SHIFT+H – for opening the Cargo Hold. I don’t use Multi-Actions to kick off multiple shortcuts one after another in EVE. I’ve read various comments from CCP over the years about the use of Macro keys – and if you get more complicated than that, you can be in EULA breaking territory.

Currently the Stream Deck XL saves me from some finger gymnastics, cuts down on mouse movement, and most importantly, allows me to use all sorts of productive keyboard shortcuts I’d forget about otherwise.

The upgrade to an RTX 2060 SUPER card for my 4K screens has also been more positive than expected. My game clients are running so much more smoothly, and it has impacted my general time in EVE. I hadn’t realised how degraded the old setup had become / how much more resource demanding the EVE client had grown.

Last of all I finally set up a Discord user. I’d been holding off doing this as I really didn’t feel the need for yet another source of incoming data to sift through. I let my son start using Discord recently as several of his friend groups use it for school and Minecraft servers and other such games. Since I am letting my son use it, I must ensure I at least have a basic understanding of it too.

So far it looks like an IRC client, just with less configuration and optimising available. Funny how often the latest thing is a simplified version of an old thing. If anyone can suggest some good EVE servers to jump on, let me know.

So far, I am using the (I think) Reddit based and aptly named EVE Online Discord, along with Jin’talks – an x-CSM member.

As I expected there is a whole lot of mind-numbing crap that would even make my 10-year-old daughter cringe with how inane it is – and she is a well-crafted expert in such things. But – on occasion, there is stuff that makes you stop. Such as..

[07:31] Jin’taan: But yeah, I mean, shit
[07:31] Jin’taan: Y’all gonna get to find out the story behind Brisc
[07:31] Jin’taan: In 5 years
[07:31] Jin’taan: Just get ready for that at the very least
[07:31] Jin’taan: Cos let’s be real do you think what happened in public is even 5% of it?

Then again, maybe ignorance and boring chatter is bliss.

NPC Triglavians 7 Me 1

The Orca pilot and his Bot like fleet of Covetors and the Miasmos pilots seem to be randomly and singularly logging in and out for short periods of time with enough regularity to notice them. I wonder if that is an automated process, or if the pilot behind them is actively organising them. I was not the only local who noticed them.

I was again undocked today collecting skill points, at a time I am generally not active in game. I had gone through a couple of my pilots when I noticed three Triglavian Recon ships appear on D-Scan. That seems to change the entire feel I normally have for Hi-Sec.

I do not specifically AFK play – but being married with children, I am regularly interrupted during my game sessions. I might have to turn away from my screen while someone is talking to me; or walk away for 30 seconds to see someone off at the door; or spend a couple minutes finding someone’s lost sporting gear. Those short moments were relatively safe to stay undocked in Hi-Sec. That is no longer the case.

So far, my encounters or attempted encounters with the Triglavians have come down to:

1 Random Belt Encounter – Had to run
2 Attempts to Engage using D-Scan – Failed
2 Attempts to Engage cycling through or waiting in Asteroid Belts – Failed
1 Attempt to Engage using Probes – Success but had to run
1 Attempt to Engage using Probes – Failed

That accounts for my 7 – 0 total in my last post. I was able to home in on the Rats using D-Scan and Probes, but they almost always had moved before I landed.

As my new post title suggests, I finally had some success today.

After seeing my Triglavian nemesis on D-Scan, I continued collecting my daily skill points on the next couple pilots. I took a lot of extra caution as I warped through the belts. When I got to the last pilot – again my main – I decided to use the Anti Triglavian Gnosis.

I collected my required kill – and with the Rats still on D-Scan, I simply sat in the belt and waited.

Shortly after they warped in. Two Recon Damavik and one Renewing Recon Damavik.

The battle was on.

Now I made two mistakes – I should have been using shorter range ammo (I had loaded longer range to snipe an NPC earlier), and I wasted almost 10 seconds not attacking the Renewing Recon first. It did not change the outcome – but it could have.

I would likely have max skills for my Gnosis fit. For this experiment I was using 5 Quad Light Beam Laser II’s and 5 Hammerhead II drones. I was doing approximately 376 Raw DPS (against 0 resistances), and 570 Raw DPS if I had the right crystals loaded.

The Gnosis was configured to have a buffer tank with mild repairing capabilities. It had 20,000 Raw Hit points (44,400 Effective), and repaired 47 Armor per second (113 Effective).

So my excuses aside, this is how it played out from my logs.

I aligned to station and started to lock the Triglavians.

At 0 seconds they started to apply damage to me.

At 8 seconds my Lasers started to apply damage to them.

At 30 seconds my Drones started to land damage. I had taken a total of 4,476 Damage by the time I was applying full damage.

At 1 minute and 50 seconds I killed the first Renewing Recon. I had taken 12,538 points of damage and dealt 5,127.

At 3 minutes and 3 seconds I had killed the second Recon. I had taken 19,403 Damage and dealt 9,585 points.

At 3 minutes and 37 seconds I had killed the third and final Recon. I had taken a total of 21,491 Damage and dealt 13,968 points.

I had dropped to around 20% armor with my repairer not able to keep on top of the damage from even just one rat.  At around that point I overheated the repairer to see if that would hold against the damage. It was borderline.

Without any repairing – I would have had to of warped out or died. They did more raw damage than I had total raw hit points.

You get no loot, no bounty and I suspect from the lack of messages, no standing change. I did salvage the 3 frigates which the client suggested was worth 8M ISK

Good money for Hi-Sec, although I presume the value will quickly drop.

As I salvaged the wrecks, I hit D-Scan, and 4 new Recon Triglavians were shown. These things seem to be there always.

My Gnosis fit is gimped by fitting the Expanded Probe Launcher. Taking lessons from this encounter I will be changing it and trying again.  I need too. Against 4 or 5 Recon frigates, my Gnosis fit would have failed.  I need more of everything – DPS, Buffer and Repairing.  Given the Probe Launcher doesn’t appear effective, I will have to look at all the hull options across the Battlecruiser Range.  I am also going to have to tank for and do damage specific to those Rats.  I had read it was best to apply and tank Thermal and Explosive – I will have to double check that.

Once I get the right balance between tank and DPS I would be able to farm these relatively safely. But..

I am seeing and hearing some dismissive comments about how dangerous these things are.

I think those damage figures from 3 Hi-Sec frigates is scary.

To me they truly change the nature of Hi-Sec. If they remain as is – they would be close to insurmountable to younger casual players, and they likely make belt mining for those same players unsustainable.  You would certainly have to really consider if you used a Covetor or Retriever.  If they are visiting a POCO – then that too might be too risky without access to a Deep Space Transport.

It is not even like people can band together in local and clear them out. They are back instantly.

That might be another change to consider with them.  If you clear the fleet, give the system an hour of peace (+/- a random amount) before they spawn again.

Now you can just stay out of belts.  You can find asteroids to mine in Missions and Anomalies.  You can run Anomalies or missions instead of ratting in belts.  You can make sure your PI ship turns and warps quick and has a bit of a tank, and only ever sit on a POCO for a few moments to load and unload.  You can band together with multiple new friends and go (carefully) farm them.  There are options – but if you are encountering these things in Hi-Sec belts, they will likely have impacted the game you were used to playing.

Chaos indeed.

Edit… I should have paid more attention to the logs.  The Triglavians were hitting me with an unspecified weapon (I presume Entropic Disintegrators) and Majorana Light Missile’s.  The Disintegrators do Explosive and Thermal damage, the Missiles do EM and Kinetic Damage.  You can’t leave a hole in your resistance..