Sunday, January 12, 2014

Blog Banter #52 - The Other Side

When I started this blog, I had no intention of writing about serious EVE topics.  It was going to be a place where I wrote about my activities in EVE and a receptacle for the lessons I had learned about the many aspects of mission running, manufacturing, trading, and ship fitting.  However, I read Ripard Teg's response to this week's Blog Banter topic and I felt compelled to add to the discussion.

When I was still in the Air Force, many of my co-workers started playing World Of Warcraft.  I had played EverQuest for years and was reluctant to make the switch to WoW, but when the EQ playerbase dwindled, I decided to try WoW.  I started playing just after the Blackrock Spire patch, before the first expansion.  One of my co-workers, a lady named Christina, rolled a new character with me and we leveled together.  We formed a guild together, and when BC came out, we rushed to the new level cap and started recruiting for grinding heroic instances.  We got into raiding as fast as we could, and we continued this trend all the way to the beginning of Cataclysm.  We both felt that Cataclysm felt like a step in the wrong direction for the game, and were quickly burned out by the now-mandatory daily quests; before you could skip daily quests like IQD or the Argent Tournament, but that all changed with the Firelands.  So we took a break from WoW that became permanent with the announcement of Panda Land.

We tried other MMOs, but the market was (and still is) pretty stale.  Age of Conan, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Aion, SWTOR, Rift, Neverwinter, Guild Wars 2, Diablo 3,  etc.  It was clear that nobody, not even Blizzard, was capable of making a game good enough to keep our attention for more than a few months.

In January of 2012, I got an email from CCP games inviting me to reactivate my trial account for EVE Online.  I had created an account back in 2006, had never even downloaded the game client, and had forgotten all about it.  I decided to give EVE a try.

My first foray into EVE ended badly.  After completing the tutorial, I tried to run level 1 missions.  It was clear that I did not possess enough skillpoints to handle even the simplest of missions.  But I did have a Venture given to me by the tutorial missions.  So I started training up my mining skills and joined a mining corporation based out of Amarr.  The corp was less than a month old, and had 19 people.  All of us were brand new to the game; between the 20 of us, we had a combined total of 26 million skillpoints.  But we were a tenacious bunch, and in what seemed like no time at all, we had moved from Ventures to Covetors.  I used my free time to transport the minerals from our mining ops to Jita in a Badger, and the CEO took notice of my efforts and made me a director.  And when we had raised enough isk to buy an Orca, the CEO held a vote to see who the members trusted enough to pilot the almost 1 billion isk ship for the corp, and I was chosen.  I immediately stopped training for a Hulk so I could get into the Orca as fast as possible.  And after a month or so, I was capable of not only piloting the Orca, but providing near-perfect mining boosts.

One day, during one of our regular mining ops, a strange notification appeared on my screen.  Another corp had declared war on us.  I immediately disbanded the mining op and docked the Orca.  I read up on the war mechanics of EVE, and when I felt that I had a sufficient understanding, I held a corp meeting.  I wanted to disband the corp and reform under a new name.  My reasoning was that we were all miners, all our skillpoints were in mining, all of our ships were mining ships, and none of us had any combat experience.  But something happened that I did not expect.  One of the line members that hardly ever spoke up started talking.  He said that my way was taking the coward's way out, and that if we all banded together, we could fight off the enemy corp.  He was able to rally almost everyone to his cause.

Over the next week, the corp that war dec'd us killed nearly 2 billion isk worth of mining ships.  We had been AWOXed.  Most of our members left the corp, and in less than a month, 19 of the original 20 of us had unsubscribed from EVE.  Only the CEO remained subbed, and he still logs in every once in a while to update his skill queue.  The Orca that I was once so proud to fly now sits in a corp hangar that has long since been impounded. 

Several months later, I decided to give EVE another chance.  I couldn't remember my EVE password, and my email account I had used to sign up had been hacked (fuck Yahoo mail), so I started a new account.  I had heard that the best way to enjoy the game was to be in null sec, so this time I focused on ship fitting and combat skills.  I joined a corp called Southern Cross Empire, which was the training corp for an alliance called Flying Dangerous.  At the time, Flying Dangerous was based out of G-0Q86 in Curse.  I went on numerous roams with them and learned about small gang PvP.  It was actually a lot of fun, which surprised me considering my WoW and PvE background.  But my fun was quickly soured by the alliance leadership.

To understand the situation, you have to know about how Flying Dangerous (FIGL) is structured.  There were 3 corps in FIGL.  Southern Cross Empire was the training corp, and had over 1000 members.  Southern Cross Trilogy was the next step up, and it was made up of veteran FIGL pilots and the fleet commanders.  Southern Cross Incorporated was the executor corp, and contained all the alliance leadership.  SCI set the policies and the criteria for advancement from SCE to SCT.  SCI members rarely logged in to the game, and they had their own area of Teamspeak.  There was rarely any interaction between SCI and the other corps.

My first experience with an SCI member came during a frigate roam.  We were 20+ jumps from G-0 heading towards a carrier that had been scouted ratting in a belt.  A SCI member chose that moment to log in and grace us with his presence.  He muted everyone in our teamspeak channel and said that he was disbanding our roam so he could FC a battlecruiser roam.  So like sheep we headed back to G-0.  Those of us that could pilot a battlecruiser re-shipped into a battle cruiser.  I was less than 3 weeks old, and all I could fly was an Atron.  When he called for us to post our fits in fleet chat, most of us were in frigates.  This dude flipped his shit.  He demanded that we get into battlecruisers immediately, and when we pointed out that we were all less than a month old, he kicked us from the fleet.  That left him with 4 people in his fleet, so he cancelled his op and logged off in a huff.

Then the SCI guys started getting pissy because all the new players couldn't afford to field pirate faction ships.  The one I remember most was when they wanted to do a battleship roam.  There were 30 SCE guys online, 5 SCT guys, and 2 SCI guys.  I had just trained Gallente Cruisers to 1, and I had no cruiser sized weapons trained, so I X'd up in fleet with my Atron.  An SCI dude flipped out and said that only an asshole would X up for a battleship roam in a frigate.  Immediately, corp chat dropped from 30 down to 6, and most of the new players left over the next few days.

There were many incidents like this, but things finally came to a head when SCI decided that we were all going to move to Hemin.  I had spent all the isk I had stockpiling frigates and ammo so I could go on roams, and I didn't want to leave it in G-0.  So I asked in the teamspeak lobby if someone with extra room in a carrier would be willing to move 100,000m3 of frigates and ammo from G-0 to Hemin.  One of the SCT guys said that they had plenty of room, and that I should contract the hulls and ammo to him.  But then an SCI guy came into the lobby; he had apparently been listening in somehow, and proceeded to chew me out for 15 minutes or so about how I was freeloading from the corp and that I was a "little bitch" because I couldn't pilot a carrier.  I decided that this was a good opportunity to find something else to do in EVE, so I left the corp and moved to high sec.

While being in an NPC corp had its perks, I decided that I needed to have a corp of my own.  So I created a corp and had all my alts join.  I also remembered the password I had used for my first EVE account, so I resubbed that account and had its characters join the corp.  I had beaten the rush to Destroyers 5 and Battlecruisers 5 (just in time for them to be divided into racial subgroups), and had Command Ships injected, so I trained my missile skills and built up my standings.  In short order, I had a Drake capable of completing level 3 missions with ease.  And less than 2 months after that, I was in a fully T2 fit Nighthawk plowing through level 4 missions.  I wasn't losing ships left and right like I had been in PvP, and I was able to start paying for my accounts with PLEX.  And I was having fun.  I felt like I had found my niche in EVE: high sec carebearing.

Fast forward to December of 2013.  I gave my friend Christina a Steam key for EVE that came with 1 free month of  playtime.  She created her account a few days after Christmas and slowly went through the tutorials.  On January 2, she redeemed her holiday fireworks, put them in a Badger, and started traveling towards the system I run missions out of.  We hadn't gamed together in several years, and we were going to spend the day shooting snowballs and fireworks at each other.  5 jumps in to her journey, 3 Tornados alpha'd her Badger, and one of the gankers called her a cunt when he saw that she had only been carrying fireworks and a festival launcher.  She hasn't logged in since, and I do not believe that she will continue her sub past the 30 days I gave her.

So to answer the Blog Banter question, "What's on the other side of that plateau?", this is it.  We are on the other side of the plateau.  We as a playerbase have chased off any decent human being that wants to play.  We have distilled ourselves down into everything that is wrong with humanity and convinced ourselves that it is all some kind of elaborate inside joke.  We are what is wrong with the game, and the worst part of it is that we hold CCP hostage.  Every time they try to expand the game or draw in new players, we create a scandal to sabotage their efforts.  I hope CCP can find a way to get away from depending on EVE as their main source of revenue, because that's the only way EVE will ever get better and grow.

**Edit 30/04/2014**  A representative of Flying Dangerous contacted me via Twitter and asked to speak with me.  He was very concerned about the prospect of FIGL leadership acting inappropriately toward the SCE members.  After speaking with him, I am satisfied that my bad experiences were the result of one person, and that it will never happen to anyone else.  Props to SCI for reaching out to me and looking out for their new guys.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Caldari Nighthawk

My first level 4 capable mission ship is the Caldari Nighthawk.  I have not been able to find much information about this ship for use in missions, so everything contained in this post is my own personal experience.

Lets start with the fit I am using. 

High slots:
5x Heavy Missile Launcher II
1x Small Tractor Beam I
1x Civilian Gatling Railgun

Mid slots:
2x Large Shield Extender II
2x Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
1x EM Ward Field II

Low Slots:
3x Ballistic Control System II
1x Damage Control II
1x Shield Power Relay II

2x Medium Core Defense Field purger II

I chose to go with heavy missiles because the Nighthawk is really, really slow.  Even with prop mods.  The range of the heavy missiles allows the Nighthawk to reach out and touch everything within 60km.  The damage is less than you'd get from heavy assault missiles, but HAMs have a vastly inferior range.  So while the theoretical dps from HAMs is higher, in practice you'd waste too much time getting into HAM range.

The civilian gatling railgun may seem strange, but it does serve a purpose.  Some mission NPCs are farther than 60km away from the mission warp-in.  Having the railgun allows me to target NPCs in missile range and start applying missile dps, while at the same time gaining aggro on the mission NPCs out of missile range.  Sure, you could always aggro them with a missile volley, but that wastes missiles.  And why waste missiles when you can use a gatling railgun that doesn't need ammo to fire?

The tractor beam is there to loot wrecks and jetcans that contain mission objectives (such as The Damsel).

The mid slots are pretty self-explanatory.  The Nighthawk is a shield tanked ship, so I chose mods that make the shield tank as strong as possible.  The shield extenders nearly 7k extra shields, while the EM Field Ward boosts the incredibly weak EM shield resist of the base hull, and the 2 Adaptive Invulnerability Fields boost all the resists at once.  This gives me a formidable tank that is not damage-specific.  Over 13k shields, with resists over 80% across all damage types (when combined with the Damage Control mod in the low slots, of course).  This can tank just about anything, except for the bonus room of the Extravaganza missions.

The Ballistic Control Systems increase missile damage and rate of fire.  Having 3 of them doubles the dps output of the ship.

The damage control mod increases the resists of the shields, armor, and hull against every damage type.  And its effects stack with the shield mods.  It especially shines in hull resists; it gives 60% hull resists against all damage types.

The shield power relay and the medium core defense field purger rigs increase the recharge rate of the shields, which reduces the amount of time it takes to replenish your shields.  Again, pretty self-explanatory.

I have been using this fit on my Nighthawk for several months now, and it works very well.  Using tech 2 missiles, it can put out just over 600 dps, and with tech 1 missiles it can put out just over 400 dps.  It tears through anything a level 4 mission can throw at it with ease.

There are a few drawbacks to this ship and fit.  One weakness for this fit is that it is susceptible to NPC neuting.  The tank is cap stable, but it can get neuted out fast.  The ship itself is also affected by target jamming.  Guristas are notorious for their perma-jamming.  The other main drawback is that a good portion of the ship's dps comes from using kinetic missiles.  If you are attacking something with a resistance to kinetic damage, switching to a different damage type may not be any better.

I will continue to play around with different mods to see if I can improve upon this fit.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sharing Knowledge

It is no secret that EVE has a rather steep learning curve.  There are so many aspects to the game, and frequent enough updates, that a total mastery of the game seems impossible.  This is compounded by the competitive aspects of the game.  The competitive nature of EVE makes sharing certain information extremely unprofitable.  For example, if a station trader mentored a new EVE player and shared his insights into the market, his mentee would immediately become a competitor and cut into his profits.  So when you combine the elements of a huge game with many complex systems that interconnect, frequent changes to those complex systems, and players unwilling to share what they know, we find ourselves in a pretty sorry state of affairs.

A good example of a recent change that many people are still unaware of are the new mobile structures.  Just this week alone, I have watched 4 EVE mission runners streaming on that had no idea about the mobile tractor unit.  These mobile structures were one of the biggest features of the latest expansion and had been talked about for months before Rubicon, and there are still people that don't know about them.

There are several groups that have tried to gather knowledge and share it freely.  Their work is admirable, but much of it is either so basic as to be unhelpful, or is woefully outdated.  There is a popular mining guide that was written in 2006 that many people still use when getting started with mining.  It was updated a few times, but the last update was in 2007.  Since then, there have been significant changes to how mining works, such as the introduction of the Venture mining frigate, the complete revamp of Mining Barges and Exhumers, the introduction of the Orca industrial command ship, the removal of mining bonuses from all non-ORE faction ships, the addition of the mining foreman mindlink implant to several LP stores, and the new mineral refine rates of null sec ores.  Yet this guide is still treated like gospel, and is the first result on Google when you search for "EVE mining guide".

Unhelpful players are the most vexing of all.   I run level 4 missions, and I am always on the lookout for information about mission ships and fits.  I ask other mission runners about their ships all the time, and they refuse to tell me anything.  I have gone so far as to offer an isk reward for an experienced mission runner to take me on as their apprentice so that I would assume all the risk in the relationship, and 3 months later, I still have no mentor and I am stuck looking at shitty Tengu fits on Battleclinic.  I would love for an experienced mission runner to give me some pointers as to what ship I should be training toward, but instead I have to figure it out myself using the trial and error method and billions of isk.  I do not understand why an experienced mission runner won't take my isk in exchange for their knowledge, especially since there is literally no downside for them.  It's not like I can steal their missions.