Thursday, 26 February 2009

Blog Banter 5: Me And My Shadow

This month's topic comes to us from Mynxee of Life in Low Sec. She asks "Alts and Metagaming: Is playing two accounts who are logged in at the same time and work together (hauler/miner, explorer/combat associate, trade alts in trade hubs) a form of metagaming that is 'ruining the game'?"

I've always been a fan of alt accounts in any MMO, in Ultima Online I used to run 3 accounts (although one was inherited from a friend near the end of my own life in the game, so really I only ever had 2) and the same applies to pretty much every other game I had. I did it in UO just because I had a lot of free time and could try a whole lot of everything, so had one account that had all my 'reds' on it for PVP fighting, and one that was my 'carebearing' account for gold generation. As UO moved into its twilight years (for me anyway) and things like 'red farming for honour points' came along, I had my first taste of dual logging metagaming, where one character gained a bonus from the other character that they would take a while to get using the traditional methods.

As I moved onto other games, more specifically Star Wars Galaxies, the first steps of frequent 'metagaming' came into play – one character was a producer which supplied the combat based character, and offered buffing services for friends and myself and others who were unwilling or otherwise didn't want to buy a second account – SWG was a game where musicians and dancers, and medics and others provided combat buffs for other characters, and because skillpoints were limited, there is only so much one guy could do. There were a few RP aficionados that played those type of characters almost exclusively, but they were few and far between, and if you were to only get the services of those characters, you were almost never going to see them if they had to be played exclusively without any combat elements to their gameplay at all.

I then moved to WoW, in which I didn't run with a second account, primarily because there were decent options on there for the number of available alts on one account, and there was very little need to have 2 characters logged in simultaneously, thanks to the options of each character being able to have a couple of tradeskills running alongside the other skills, so the 'buff bots' no longer existed as each character could do a little something with their buffs so between your friends and guildmates you could usually scratch together enough to get you through whatever event was being planned.

Add to the fact that I didn't have the time to train up a second character too far (I even didn't train many alts in WoW beyond level 20) that added to my desire for only 1 character.

And then we come to Eve. Eve is a bit special as it only really allows one character per account (technically, it offers 3, but as only one can train, you may as well just be 1 per account)

Eve also has the longest 'downtime before you can do something' in it's skill training method, in that most games you can play for hours to reach a new level... in Eve, gaining a 'level' in a skill can take days, if not weeks for the more advanced skills. With this in mind, a secondary account to double your training time is a very useful tool indeed. It's not necessarily to do with having enough characters on your account to 'do everything and not have to worry about ever needing to work with others' but I can appreciate that some people see that as a major issue with those who use 2 or more characters.

Most of the time, one character will be ran as a combat character, and another as a hauler or something similar, which can help with tidying up after missions and/or when mining. In fact the miner/hauler duo is the classic 1-2 combination that seems to be used by the masses in Eve. A good other combination is a low-skill combat character for cheap PVP (i.e. someone who wont bankrupt you after a lot of deaths when you get podded with clones for 50 million skill points) along with your 'main' as well as the combination of main and cyno alt – a job which a lot of people don't want to do with their main because of the risk of dying and losing your implants/clones when lighting up the Cyno field, but ultimately provides a very useful service.

Personally, I don't see that as any major issue, and due to the sheer vast number of skillpoints that you may eventually need, some way of making them run in parallel can only be good.

Where I draw the line with alts is when they are used for a significant unfair advantage. I'm not sure if its not allowed, but having a non account alt bid on a contract that you are running to artificially drive up the price is a bit of a low blow for sure, and should be discouraged. Having an alt spy in a corp during a war (the use of which has been hotly debated in the recent Goon / BoB conflicts) is also a bit of a no-no in my eyes, although admittedly a masterstroke of espionage genius – I could only wonder if an implanted spy would work for instance if you were forced to no longer train your other character by forcing you to use one account, especially as the spy would have to be scrapped after the event most likely... that would be a lot of time/skill points down the drain that would take away from your 'main.'

Similar to the espionage issue with alts in a corp, potentially relaying information to enemies, you have the scammers and corp thieves. I don't get along with those in the slightest – there are ways to test your skill against others, but using loopholes in the system, or exploiting people's hopes/fears never sits well with me – maybe I'm just not ruthless enough, I dunno. I just wonder how many scams could have been avoided if someone was forced to no longer train their main character if they were working on a secondary one to carry out the scam, since its very likely that one person who spends their weeks getting integrated into a corp only to steal their assets would use the character a second time, at least if he hoped to be involved in a corp at all in anyway.

In closing – I can't live without my alt, especially in a game where you can only really have one character on the go per account, I like to do too many and varied things to sit and play one rigid character focus forever. Whilst they do slightly promote self sufficiency and reduce teamwork for doing things like mining/hauling its typically the boring non interactive jobs that are carried out on the second account, which you don't usually get volunteers for to help with anyway. Alts are here to stay, and as far as I'm concerned, they are very useful and do not spoil the game at all, aside from one or two examples that I highlighted.


Monday, 23 February 2009

Further Tech 3 and Test Server observations

A few little bits and pieces have changed on the test server since I last posted on this blog:

1) Attribute respecification has now been changed to a 'once a year' action. In a way, that's good for the likes of me, as it means I won't now have to worry about skill training in 6 months blocks. I'm still deciding if I want to drop a few points of willpower (my Caldari Civire original character had lots) and increase perception a point or two to get a bit faster training on my combat skills (as perception is usually primary, having a high willpower, which is typically a secondary skill isnt too useful in the grand scheme of things)

I still dont know what to do about my Charisma though - I'm fairly confident in being able to drop it to the 5 point minimum as there simply arent enough charisma based skills to make use of more points, but as I'm saying this, im slap-bang in the middle of a skill plan which has me training those self same charisma skills for my command ships and fleet boosting skills. I'm presuming any lost time I would have now from what I currently have would be made up at a later date through the higher skill point training on the higher use stats. Perhaps I will concentrate on the leadership based skills now and then respec in a month or three when I get them finished, seems to be the best of both worlds.

2) Tech 3 manufacturing seems to be getting a bit 'easier' - whilst theres still no idea how long will be spent resource gathering, it seems that CCP has identified that theres way too much variety in the different gasses, salvage and polymers involved in the manufacturing process and are reducing the number of items that are required. Whilst having lots of 'resources' makes the manufacturing process more in depth (coming from someone who used to manufacture in Star Wars Galaxies where each and every piece of material you got had about a dozen stats which affected the outcome) reducing the number of items involved helps both reduce the database load on the server (a good thing) and logistics/handling for the user (also a good thing) so it gets my thumbs up.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

New 'Method' of skill training on the cards?

It seems with the talk of respeccing your attributes once every 6 months, there will be a new way of managing your skills - no longer will you be limited to what you can get with implants and skills, but instead you can alter your attributes to get the best training speed in any given 6 month window.

If you want to train ships for instance, you will raise up the Perception and Willpower, and let the other attributes lower, as theoretically, you wont be using them.

This means a couple of things:

1) Old timers will notice the skill gap decreasing as more and more people get the lower ranked skills finished sooner (i.e. instead of training at 1750 sp/min, some people have managed 2500 or more with optimised stats on the test server)

2) People like me who tend to chop and change through skills are going to be disadvantaged if I don't take part in this sort of skill training method, as theres no other way to get such speeds without reducing other stats to compensate. It means I will have to start to think about longer running skill plans, and get what I need from the skills before moving on to something else, as it seems that its only going to be possible to alter the attributes once every 6 months. If you've minimised your intelligence for instance, you better hope you dont need to train an engineering skill in the meantime, as it will be s-l-o-w.

3) The implants market could get affected - people wont need to carry a full head of attribute implants if you're deliberately only concentrating on the skills that 2 attributes can provide. You therefore only need 2 implants at any given time.

It would be quite a nice trick to get a lot of ships and T2 weapon systems trained for nice and quick (perception/willpower based) but it means my Industrial side will stagnate in the meantime. It still remains to be seen if 6 months feels just too long for attribute respecs, but personally, i'd rather see it be fairly time-unlimited (i.e. you can respec once every day or so much like jump clones) but pay an increasing amount per go, until 6 months passes and the costs are reset (or else, you could end up pricing yourself out of changing after doing a few modifications)

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

More T3 manufacturing info

Theres currently a thread on the development forum on Eve asking for feedback on the manufacturing system whilst they seed any new skills and things involved.

First thing that you notice though from the thread is that there is going to be a heavy investment in POS's for manufacturing:

1) A new reactor will be needed for the Tech 3 polymer (from gas/minerals) reactions. This will only be able to be anchored in lowsec according to CCP.

2) Hybrid Components (from the polymers and salvage) can be seemingly manufactured in a station assembly line, or a component array in a POS. Note that with Apocrypha, the component assembly array is going to have its 10% waste material removed so it has a material modifier of 1.0 instead of the current 1.1 - good news for capital producers at the very least.

3) Ship subsystems and hulls need to be manufactured in an outpost (i.e. a 0.0 player station) or in a subsystem assembly array (a new item, which it seems can be fitted to a High Sec POS if required)

4) Reverse engineering (to generate the T3 BPCs) can only be done in a new experiemental mobile lab in a POS (can be anchored in High Sec) or in an Outpost. There will be new (consumable I think) decryptors which will determine the racial outcome, it cant be chosen without some consumable item.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

First look at T3 manufacture

Firstly, you can see the various blueprints by trying to create contracts to buy them it seems, so theres been some initial postings made of the screenshots.

It seems very similar to Tech 2, making the ships requires the racial starship engineering skill to 4, as well as cruiser construction to 4 (and its pre-requisite, figate construction 4) and mechanical engineering.

The materials themselves call up components similar to the tech 2 components, and very little else (RAM units are required if memory serves correctly)

The components seem to come from a multi stage process:

1) Gas clouds (presumably) are harvested in W-Space, which gives one item.
2) This is combined with base minerals (tritanium et al) in a POS reactor to give a polymer type substance. The reaction was available on the Market.
3) The polymer is combined with salvage from the sleeper rats (presumably) to create the tech 3 components.

There seems to be a reverse engineering skill (similar to invention?) that will create the blueprints. Not sure what you reverse engineer or whatever, but there are 'hybrid tuner interfaces' mentioned and specialist datacores.

Skills required on the blueprints that have been seen are pretty much identical to the skills required to construct tech 2 components.

If these skills will change in the future is unknown, but it does make manufacturing them a bit easier to get into since its nigh on identical to T2 manufacturing. Means finding another POS to create the new reactions, or move away from T2 manufacturing, but suppose theres always pros and cons.

Tech 3 and Apocrypha Exploration - First observations

From what I can see from the test centre reports so far (I couldnt get on to test it yesterday, was a bit too busy to log in)

Tech 3 ships have 6 new skills, the basic spaceship skill, and 5 subsystem skills. These subsystem skills need level 5 as a prerequisite from the 'obvious' skills that are linked to it and in some cases, level 3 in secondary skills, for example:

Caldari Propulsion systems (think thats the name) requires Navigation 5, whereas Caldari offensive systems (again, unsure of the name at work) needs Missile Operation 5 and Gunnery 3 (possibly Medium Hybrids, you'd think I'd remember to bring the screenshots with me!) and the defensive subsystem needs Shield Operation 5 and Mechanic 3.

It seems to be fairly well confirmed now that the initial 'skill loss' mechanic is there with the subsystem skills, which are basically rank 1 skills (i.e. approx 5 days to train a level 5 skill) and you lose one level randomly when the ship dies - the subsystem skills seem to require your standard training time (i.e. they dont train independantly to your other skills) so depending on how expensive it is to buy a T3 ship, you could potentially be locked in a training loop if you lose one every 5 days where you are constantly re-training the same skill again - of course chances are that they will be so expensive, if you lose one every 5 days, you'd be bankrupt within a month.

Probing seems to have changed quite a bit - instead of the 'chance based' system, now there is a system involving using multiple probes to triangulate a known point in space. It seems that the new system is fairly clunky at the moment (talk of the icons and UI elements being too big and unwieldy to handle) but it looks promising, but it needs some refinement - for example scan times are now down to 10 seconds, which puts a lot of the previously used scanning skills close to redundant.

Theres talk of revamping the skills and covops bonuses to make them more useful to the new scanning system, so that will be welcomed.

The only downside to the new system seems to be that you can distinguish ship types that you want to find via search filters, but all the 'classic' scan sites are now lumped together under one filter type (cosmic signatures I think theyre called) which means you cant tell a wormhole from a Gravimetric site, from a Ladar site and so on. Would be nice to get that differentiation in under the new system, but theres plenty of test time left, and it has been raised as a concern.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Tech 3 ships and skill loss.... 'Interesting'

Said with a very thick accent of sarcasm...

I'm not sure I like the sound of this:

Specifically, from CCP Chronotis:

Tech 3 ships and the subsystem skill loss mechanic will be detailed by Nozh in his blog which is due out soon. As with everything, things always change before release and when Apocrypha arrives on sisi next week, we can and will be making changes based on feedback there. If it turns out that this mechanic or any other is not working out based on that feedback then we will change it or remove it.

It seems that when you lose a Tech 3 ship, some of the skills used to improve the ship will be lost. This sort of fits in with the 'experience points' system mentioned in Eon, where a T3 ship learns additional bonuses as you use it more and more, but I'm not sure if it meant actual SP, which this now seems to suggest. I presumed it was an additional experience mechanic from using the ship which worked in addition to your usual training - if you have to train up actual skill points to get the most out of the ship, which you have a risk of losing, that could be a real pain, and would seriously reduce the presence of Tech 3 ships in any PVP encounter.

I'm going to re-read the thread since I havent had much chance to read the full lot properly, but i'm eagerly awaiting the dev blog on the subject now.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

A Nice bit of T3 Speculation

Well it seems that everyone in the blogging community is buzzing about 3 subjects - the BoB/Goons fallout, wormholes, and T3 ships, since they were announced to be going on the test server at the weekend (and hastily pushed back afterwards to Monday of next week I believe)

They have released the names of the 'base hulls' for each of the races, bearing in mind that at initial release there has been confirmed that there will only be a cruiser sized hull available:

The Caldari Varient will be called Tengu
The Amarr Varient will be called Legion
The Gallente Varient will be called Proteus
The Minmatar Varient will be called Loki

These all have a baseline in 'shapeshifting' characters from various myths and legends from Japanese mythology, the Bible, Greek mythology and Norse mythology.

The first batch of T3 test pieces on Singularity will only be Caldari based models (though there will be 4 raical varients, they will all look the same) and much as with the recent QR mods, the test server will be changed a lot, so people who take part will notice many dynamic changes over the weeks to come.

I've got an inkling of which skills may be needed if they are not releasing new skills for the ability to build the ships (flying you can probably guarantee there will be a new skill released) and if its true, I'll need to look into investing in a skill that is fairly expensive at the moment, and is very rarely used - of course, its a bit of a gamble since the skill may come down massively in price once it comes to be more commonly needed and the supply picks up - or I could be completely off base and waste money on a skill I wouldnt have any use for at all.

Not sure how much information is going to be on Sisi over the next few days, but since I always struggle to get it activated and log in (seriously, I've never been on there yet, I can never figure out how to access it) I can only hope that theres enough information posted in the general blog/forum world to get me up to speed.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

War is over once again.

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we have had another crushing victory in our war against Decimus Corp.

After losing only 2 ships ourselves (both frigates) and destroying 5 of theirs (a HAC, a Battleship, a Frigate, a Battlecruiser, and a Hauler they used as bait) the war was declared void due to non payment of expenses early this morning.

In true A Team style... I love it when a plan comes together.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

February Update

Just thought I'd spend a few minutes before the football local derby match to give a bit of an update on how I'm doing in all things Eve related.

1) Skills:

I've detracted a bit from my plans for a Nighthawk. Battlecruiser 5 is still on the cards, but I've been spending my time training up pre-requisite skills for Recon ships (yay, Falcon) which means I'll be able to get into training up the Recon ships skill in a bit under an hour.

I want to get the skills for an Onyx as well soon, need about 17 days for that according to Evemon to get enough levels in Propulsion Jamming.

I still need to train up the aforementioned Battlecruisers 5, but want to also get into my Hulk (about 35 days give or take), and get enough refining skills to get rid of the really bad returns I get at the moment (only got Refining 4, think I only get about 78% return on my ground down loot drops and mined stuff) by getting Refining 5 and Refinery efficiency.

I also really want to spend some time on my Tech 2 weapon systems training, working on my Hybrid Guns skills and Standard to Heavy missiles.

On top of that, I want to train up Gallente Frigate and Gallente Cruiser 5 to give me a bit of greater flexibility in combat.

2) Guides

I have just rehashed the Weapons and Tanking guides after a flash of inspiration I had last night. In the Weapons guide, I updated to include the missile damage formula that was calculated as a result of testing on Singularity during the QR beta test phase, and explained a bit how it works. In the tanking guide I included a few issues that were discussed between myself and corp mates on spider tanking, as we've been discussing issues relating to it over the past few days.

If anyone wants to see the direct link with all my guides to date, please feel free to go to:

3) War

We're back at war again. Decimus Corp (DEC-X) have now decided to attack us. Nothing really to report yet, we've been fighting for 3 days, and all they have seemed to do is station hug. We moved to Lowsec to see just how interested they were in PVP, or if they were just the typical highsec griefer corp, and they neglected to follow us, draw what conclusions from that as you will.

So far there has only been one skirmish with losses, which resulted in them losing one HAC and we lost the tackling frigate we used - a good tradeoff as far as I'm concerned. An earlier skirmish brought a few chuckles as one of their pilots was forced to run, screaming in local for help after we decended on him.

And now the match is just about to kick off, so time to go.