Sunday, 28 December 2014

Catching up: CSM 9 Summer Summit

Season's greetings :)

Eve isn't my only love - there's football, politics, writing, not to mention the beautiful people in my life - so although I can't keep away from the game for long, I'm often playing catch up on the latest developments, etc. This is particularly the case with the meta-game content.

This last couple of weeks I've been catching up on what happened at the CSM summer summit - both reading the minutes and listening to discussions in the podcasting universe (podosphere?).

In general, I think it's a pretty exciting time to be a part of EVE; some aspects, particularly in nullsec, have (apparently) been a little dull for a while, and CCP's attention has been divided to expanding into new games, but that has been scaled back, and it seems clear that those in charge have a vision for making the game a great place to be. A lot of the changes or discussions that have been reported in the summer summit minutes really show that.

One of the more controversial discussions to have taken place is one around "Awoxing", or joining a corp with the intent of killing and sabotaging your fellow corpies. For myself I think the changes discussed - to make aggression within corporations policed by CONCORD the same way all other aggro is - are really great; there will still be space for espionage and infiltration in null and low, but such activities will - and should - bear consequences in high sec.

Our corp and alliance is pretty active, for one largely based around Alliance space. We are always getting new players coming through as their first port of call after the NPC corps; some stick around with us, some stay in the Alliance but branch out, and some move out to the big alliances. We've seen a pretty big wave of newbies join up recently, especially since the This is Eve video was released. Thankfully, we haven't been Awoxed, but I've been in corps which have before, and it's not fun. It's reassuring to know that a PVPer with malicious intent can't join us and give those new guys a bad experience of the community with impunity. Of course, newbies need to lose ships to learn about the game (and most of ours have), but they should also be able to trust the players they are flying with.

Nosy Gamer wrote a good post highlighting the different perspectives here.

The discussion around ISboxer, resulting in the announced banning of ISboxer, has already had a good flow-on effect in terms of PLEX prices stabilising and the prices of minerals rising due to the volume of minerals being mined by one person flying forty ships falling.

Another couple of little tidbits that I've heard discussed in the meta recently: only 4% of Eve's players are female, which is low even compared to other MMOs that can average around 15% - or compared to real astronauts, 10% of whom are female.  Some select quotes on the topic from the minutes:

Ali wanted to point out that Eve has substantially fewer women proportionally than any other MMO – average MMO is around 10% while Eve sits at around 4%. She wanted to know if there were metrics as to why this may be and how they go around resolving this massive discrepancy.

CCP Dhalgren wanted CSM to know he was aware of this anomaly but his priority is to grow Eve full stop. There haven’t been any marketing campaigns generated from CCP so far explicitly with the goal of targeting women. The problem with the community-led marketing as described earlier as Ali put it is that if only men play Eve then it there are less women to attract other women. Obviously it doesn’t have to go that women attract female players and vice-versa but there is certainly a correlation.

Xander asked if there have been any case studies done into why there is such a massive discrepancy between the proportion of the playerbase that are female compared to other MMO playerbases?

CCP Dhalgren advised that no such studies have been done but for him, it’s more important to understand why anyone would want to play Eve at all irrespective of age, sex, background, etc and only after that to ask the secondary question of how do we get more of a particular demographic. He went on to emphasize however that the question on women is very important – there are women out there who would enjoy Eve but aren’t playing and CCP needs to look at how to find them.

That's a bit of a disappointing answer for me, as are some of the bullshit essentialist responses given in the past on the issue which effectively amount to "women don't like science fiction". Finding my current corp, which contains many women [ED: on reflection, only 4 active players, so around 20%] and has a culture I would describe as good and non-sexist, has helped me to realise just how important those factors can be when it comes to attracting or retaining women to a space. [ED: On reflection, Gamergate has shown just how important gaming culture can be in including or excluding women; I'm going to make a future post thinking about this in more depth.]

That's not to say CCP's attitude is all negative: the existence of a CSM, and the increasing amount of respect is it being accorded by CCP, reflect that the commitment and passion of the community what's so powerful about EVE. It's a sandbox universe shaped by players, and CCP understands this and actively invites players to be involved in its evolution.

Now is a good time to be one of those players - even a n00b care bear - as we all have the chance to help make the narrative.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

WAR! Woah-Woah-Woah-Woah

So it turns out a fellow lefty on my Facebook page likes to prey upon the carebears of Eve. I can't really figure it - in many ways we are the proletariat of this game, collecting the raw resources through various forms of basic grinding that go into the hulls and modules for PVP fights and alliance tournaments. Almost all minerals being collected out in null sec space get put straight into making titans and other capital ships, so most of everything else out there is bought in the market hubs and comes from us too. But each to their own. Now we are at war with CODE. Fuck 'em.

One of my golden rules for playing EVE is - never take a risk you don't have to. A legal war dec means CONCORD won't keep us safe from our war targets. That means regular activities like mission running, mining or hauling goods all come with the risk of getting ganked. Our Alliance's SOPs are not to do any of these activities during a war; if we can see there are no WTs online we might risk something, but for notorious suicide gankers like these guys, its not really worth it.

So what can a highsec carebear grinder like me do for the week the war will last that doesn't incur unnecessary risk? For a long time for me, the list was short and mostly involved playing other games or doing productive things, but lately I've been branching out a little more. I'll make more confession posts in full about each of these activities, just wanted to reflect on what there is to do during wartime for anyone who might be tempted to stay in an NPC corp and avoid war forever.

  • Planetary Interaction (PI): It is generally a background process, but when you spend more time than usual sitting in station it can seem a little more fun to micromanage the process. There's still danger in taking a hauler through space to sell the goods, though, so if need be I collect them in a station until war is over.
  • Station Trading: Although I've got a Dodixie jump clone to safely get in & out of the closest market hub to home, I'm finding it more fun and profitable to trade in our home region of Verge Vendor. It's a pretty quiet market, but has some virtues: less need to babysit orders and adjust them every 15 minutes to ensure they aren't outbid by another player, and with the right mix of items which people want to pick up close to home, I can trade enough volume to be growing my ISK satisfactorily. Plus if I were to get caught by the WTs, backup is only a few jumps away.
  • Cloaky cloaky: using a cloak and microwarp drive it's possible to navigate lowsec space fairly safely, and the same principle applies in highsec too. This is a way to move goods around discretely, although I don't have room to move any ships or large quantities of rocks which will also have to wait before I can sell them. I've also recently gotten into a stealth bomber, which can warp while cloaked without the use of the cloak+mwd trick... and could be used for laying traps on our enemy, too ;)
  • Wormhole Living: Some of our alliance mates live in a wormhole - we've got bases in both a c1 and c2 - and this war is the first time I've joined them living there for an extended period. Other corp mates have tried basing themselves out in our lowsec base also. Both come with the risk of PVP violence, but I think the wormhole is a little safer due to the lack of a local chat channel obscuring who is inside. Normally I just have my PI running in here and occasionally pop in when someone's scanned a good site; now I'm having a bit of fun being the one who does the scanning, and gets first crack at whatever goodies pop up. It's brought in a fair bit of ISKies, although since the risk is higher I'd normally be happy just grinding away in high sec :)
This isn't exhaustive, of course; more a chronicle of what I have been doing than a suggested check-list. There's many forms of PvE at which I'm still a n00b, and one of the reasons why I started this blog was to force myself to stop procrastinating and giving those different activities a go.

At the end of the day, I think of myself as a high sec care bear, but I can enjoy the thrill of flying in more dangerous space and earning the rewards as much as the next player. They just aren't at the core of my gameplay. It comes down to your goals in the game - what you find fun about it - which will be the subject of a future post.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Mission Running

Since this is my first post in the series about the kinds of activities I do in EVE (what I'll be calling my "confessions"), a note: I'll cover all the basics of how to go about doing it, but not in particularly great depth as there are generally much better how-to guides out there. I'll link any of those I've found useful. Instead I'll spend most of my time talking about the "why" - why it is I do this part of the game, why I take enjoyment out of it, why I'm repping for the people who do these kinds of activities and get tarnished with the label "carebear" for it.

The What 

Mission running is one of the most basic Player Vs Environment (PVE) activities in EVE, starting with the tutorial missions that introduce the player to the game mechanics and give you your first ships. You dock your ship in a station owned by an NPC corporation. Agents of that corporation offer you a mission, generally involving flying somewhere, doing something (blowing up pirates (rats), mining ice or asteroids (roids), couriering an item), and coming back when you've completed the objectives for your reward. The more missions you do with a particular corp the higher your standing with them gets - and as your standing grows, more agents and better missions become available to you.

The Where

Anywhere there's an NPC station there's generally some sort of agents available. Players tend to concentrate their efforts in "mission hubs", though, where several high-level agents of the same type are available in close proximity, so if one gives you a bad mission you can move onto another.

The How

As always, the best place to study the mechanics is Eve Uni Wiki's page on the topic. The majority of mission running, particularly at the high end, is done for Security agents, and involved blowing up a deadspace pocket(s) full of rats for the bounty on their heads, the salvage you can take from their wrecks, and the ISK and corporation Loyalty Points (LP) you get given for completing the mission.

A few notes:

  • always check the mission out on Eve Survival. Their search function can be screwy so I usually end up googling the mission name, faction and level to get the details. They catalogue exactly what kind of damage will be done by who as well as giving handy tips on managing aggression and how to blitz the mission if that's your goal.
  • I've only recently started using a Mobile Tractor Unit. This is a noobish thing to admit, but whatever. As soon as you can afford to buy one, do it; definitely by the time you are running level 3 missions. Pop it down as soon as you enter the pocket and as you're blowing stuff up it's hauling it in and stripping it of modules, allowing you to get right to the business of salvaging the wrecks once you're done blowing everything up. SUCH a timesaver.
  • Flying in a fleet is great when you are starting level 4s, especially if you're only skilled to BattleCruiser level or only just got into a Battleship. I lost my first Dominix to lowly NPC rats flying solo; having a more experienced player along for the ride meant I wasn't riding on the edge of my tank. 
  • That being said, once you've trained the skills and got the procedures down to comfortably solo a L4 mission, you probably lose ISK flying in a fleet compared to what you could be making doing it yourself - unless the fleet is well organised with a dedicated salvager and logi. 

The Why

Mission running is a pretty basic form of PVE activity in EVE, but after two years of running level 4s it's still fun to crack your knuckles, warp in on the bonus room of Angel Extravaganza, and let rip on a whole fleet of rats. Plus there's something fun about tinkering with a fit, or coming up with a new one, and trying things a little differently. If you're after something a little more challenging, there's the Epic Arc missions - once you get standing to 5 with a faction you get access to this narrative-driven series of missions, generally tougher than their equivalent level. Another option for a challenge is the recently introduced burner missions - a special type where you can only fly frigates, and will face a single enemy with the equivalent fit and skills of another player. I'm yet to do one!

Why spend time mission running: it's pretty safe ISK, good reliable isk per hour, and more fun than putting lasers on rocks. Plus it's pretty much the only way to increase your faction standings, which come in handy for things like refining and sales.

Why not: once you've run the same mission a few times over they can get pretty tedious, and it's also not the most lucrative PVE activity by far. For me it's a staple; when our corp isn't at war I like to put in a good couple of hours of solo missioning, plus our corp's once weekly mission fleet, as a minimum. But once I've done that I'm usually looking for another way to make the ISK.

Mission "griefing" - hostile players warping in on your deadspace and taking your kills/attacking you - isn't that common in high sec space. Although it does happen, it's only occured to me once in several years - so much less so than miner ganking,. However a good l4 mission fit is a more expensive boat to risk than a miner and requires more skill points to fly well (in a coming post I'll link my normal Dominix fit and discuss some tactics). There's no such thing as risk-free ISK in EVE, but the risk for missioning is minimal.

Despite the above considerations, I think missions are a great fleet activity. They are a good way for newbies to cut their teeth on the procedures of flying in a fleet, as well as for the vets to help newbies turn in for higher level rewards quicker than they'd make on their own, and a way to make some ISK while having a laugh - I'll never forget two corpies starting a duel over the 10m3 of Quafe needed to complete a mission! For us, a corp of mostly high sec care bears who dip our toes into other areas, Mission Mondays is a common denominator.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Plex Economy

I've mentioned I play for PLEX - so I thought I should say for the newbies/non-EVE gamers, what exactly is PLEX?

PLEX stands for Player License EXtension - it's an in-game item which can be bought with real money from CCP, traded in game, then cashed in for 30 days game time, skill training for multiple characters, or attire and special items through the Aurum store. In short, it's a way of converting real money to in-game ISK - or converting ISK to game time.

The economy of EVE is one of the most unique parts of the game. The total sandbox theme extends to most economic activity in game. Almost all items are made, sold and used by players; in many ways it's a kind of anarcho-capitalist paradise. It's also so complicated that CCP hired an economist for several years to help them figure out how to make it function. That complexity is a key part of the game's fascination for me.

PLEX as often been used as an indicator of economic activity in EVE. It allows for a translation between ISK and real money - which is how last year's massive capital ship fight in nullsec was estimated to cost $330,000 USD.

Unfortunately, having a way to convert real money to ISK means people will seek to convert back the other way - this is called Real Money Trading (RMT), leads to distortion in the EVE market and gaming environment, and is policed by CCP. The more RMT is cracked down on, the better the market for PLEX gets.

The recent decision to ban ISboxer, a way users can pay an outside party for access to software which can automate commands so that one computer can run multiple accounts, might not strictly be an example of action against RMT. However, it has also lead to a lot of movement on prices of PLEX, as many who were formerly using the software to grind and buy PLEX have stopped doing so. The net result, in EVE's free market? Falling PLEX prices. Good times for me :)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Overview - what's coming

So, I mostly spend my time in high security space, mostly grinding, mostly aiming towards buying plex each month and not letting this game I love playing burn a hole in my pocket. I'm gonna make a short post about each of the main activities I do, as well as some of the fits I like to fly, talking about the ins and outs, and why I find it fun - or what I can do to make it fun.

So what do I do to make the space dolla bills without losing my brain from boredom? That's what I'm here to confess. First thing to say is, variety is the spice of Eve.

Level 4 mission running - when there's no war on, this is my bread and butter.

Mining - busting dem rocks every morning while I brew coffee, or fresh after DT when I should be going to bed.

Away From Keyboard (AFK) mining - somewhat different operation, might seem silly but it's surprisingly effective. In fact, it's happening right now...

Planetary Interaction (PI) - the background earner

Station trading - during a war I'll often do naught but this and PI. Split between traditional buy low, sell high in Dodixie and some slightly less effective but more convenient activity around my home in Verge Vendor.

Low sec hauling - a fairly new addition with my recent discovery of the MWD/cloaking trick. My first experience in using dscan :)

Wormhole - another fairly new addition. Others in my alliance spend most of their time in the hole, I've been raking in isk with PI in there but recently started some ratting & gas harvesting.

If anyone wants to hear from me on any of these topics, comment here - otherwise I'll run through them over the next few months as I get time :)

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Hi there. I'm Tricky, in game and out.

I've been online before as activist, writer, amateur photographer - now I'm making a space for me as a gamer, by starting this blog about Eve Online.

I love EVE online, have been playing for 6.5 years on and off. A good mate I used to live with got me into it, but now my addiction has outlived his own :)

Asides from loving the game itself, I also enjoy the meta game, people who blog and stream and youtube and podcast about it - and every once in a while, when they say be part of the meta game, I think "I could do that".

So I've decided to start a blog about the kind of gaming I do. Eve is a sandbox universe so there's many different styles of gaming, but most people who contribute to the meta game either play in nullsec alliances, talking about sovereignty and capital fleet fights, or in lowsec corps specialising in PVP fights.

Don't get me wrong, I still love listening/reading - my favourites include Crossing Zebras, Cap Stable, and High Drag.But that's not the kind of Eve gamer I am.

Six and a half years since account creation, I have a grand total of zero kills to my name (though a fair number of deaths, both PVP and PVE). I play almost totally in highsec, grinding in various ways to make isk with the goal of buying a Plex each month so this addiction won't burn a hole in my bank balance. And I have fun doing it. So I wanted to share that experience, with posts about the different kinds of things I do in game. Hopefully I can give people ideas for making ISK and show how things that often get derided as "carebear" activities for newbies or those in need of money can often be fun.

Big ups to Mike Azariah, a fellow high-sec care bear, for being an in game legend and someone whose narrative style of writing about Eve has given me some inspiration to try different things in game and, now, out. I'm also going to be posting some ideas for fanfic that I have on here too. As someone with a Bachelor in Creative Arts (Creative Writing) - CCP, if you need someone to write your next novel, I'm your guy.

It didn't take me long to figure out the social side of Eve is what keeps you coming back. Even playing my way, it's pretty boring as a solo game. From starting with a housemate playing the null game who helped me to make sense of the sandbox, to the various people I've met along the way, making friends in game is the best way to fly. As the video says - This Is Eve.

My current corp Newpod Industries is great for that experience, probably the best and most diverse gaming community I've been part of. I've learned a lot more about this game in the last 6 months than the previous 6 years.

I recent attended Eve Down Under 2014, where I discovered someone from my previous life as an activist is also an Eve addict who has flown in fleets I've heard and read about before. The meta game allows me to feel connected even beyond those immediate friends and corpies all the way out to the big headline-grabbing stories. So I'm giving back to it; hopefully you all enjoy!