Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Career Paths, Starting Out, and What Am I Supposed to Do?

How does one start out playing EvE these days? I has been about three years since I last had to think about that. It seems like a lot longer to be honest. It is so far back in the cobwebs of my character's history that I honestly cannot remember what started me out wanting to play. To me Eve is a very content-dense game and I have been around and done so much that can't really remember the early days. I know I mined a lot, in a Navitas. Enough about me.

Something that I have come across in my travels is the masses of new players in the starter systems crying out: "I did the career missions. What now?" Eve is just so enormous that new players encounter face-first the paralysis of choice. This is one of the major problems with Eve, but it is also its strongest selling point.

What draws new players to this Terrible Game (TM)? To being my quest for this answer I began with the main website for Eve Online. www.eveonline.com Things have really changed a lot on the front-page since I was last here. Usually I only navigate here when I need my API key or I want to check out a Dev Blog; and usually the google search brings up the relevant page directly. They have really added a lot of neat content that does fairly well at trying to condense the immense amount of information that is Eve. There are a ton of hyperlinked pages and the inclusion of the interactive 3D maps are really nice. Buried in here are links to the wiki, the forums, and CCP's attempt at a FAQ. Most interesting to me was their attempt at a division of activities into "careers" that players can read up on. There is even a "personality test" that will ask you a series of questions before it displays one of the career paths that the player could like. These career paths are somewhat mirrored in the starting agents located in the beginner systems. Business, Exploration, Military, Advanced Military; but like all of Eve's quests they only provide a minimal introduction to a universe that is staggeringly enormous to a new player fresh out of Start Trek Online or WoW. Still even though these starting missions are better than they were when I started, they could be better. That is a discussion for another time though.

This abundance of information is helpful and all, but I still constantly see confused newbies flying about in their frigates and destroyers going: "What now?" Thinking about it some more I realized that there remains a disconnect between showing new players the beginnings of the game and transitioning them to the point where they create their own paths. Creating ones own path is really what Eve Online is about once you get to the meat of the topic. Yeah, the cookie-cutter "careers" are nice and probably provide a good launch-point; but it is that next step, that hook that sets in your cheek and you cannot get away, that will keep you logging in. For no reason was the saying created: "People never leave Eve, they just take breaks." It is very true.

In an attempt to try and provide at least more information and background to these starter careers I have made an attempt to try and inform players, new and old alike, what to expect and provided generalized paths to follow. These pieces will not be guides per-se, rather my goal was to try and provide a little more direction for a few of the "paths" that are available, show how each path plays its own unique part, and attempt to link each one to the rest. Eve is a game without a built-in win condition defined by the developers. Rather it relies on the players themselves to create their own win-conditions and working out a plan to achieve them. This is a concept that a lot of the new players, and even older players who are in-between goals (bitter-vets), struggle with as primarily win-conditions are spoon-fed left and right by just about every other game on the market.

I will be dedicating the next several posts to each of these "careers" that CCP has developed and go through their core functions, main features, and in general provide a wall of text that explains in depth: progression routes, ways and means, pitfalls to watch out for. But  most importantly - reminding you to have fun.

1) Miner (CCP)
2) Planetary Industrialist (CCP)
3) Salvager (CCP)
4) Explorer (CCP)
5) Manufacturer (CCP)
6) Trader (CCP)
7) Freedom Fighter (CCP)
8) Loyalist (CCP)
9) Bounty Hunter (CCP)
10) Empire Builder (CCP)
11) Pirate (CCP)
13) Fleet Commander (CCP)
14) Player-developed Careers

Friday, August 1, 2014

Mineral Balance in EvE

Ores, Minerals, and the Mining Industry compose the backbone of the EvE economy. That is one of the primary draws of the game for a large subset of the player base; as just about everything in terms of modules and ships have existed at some point as minerals tucked away inside of the silent asteroids that float in space. Those rare times when a capsuleer takes a moment for quiet reflection in the silent expanses of space are prime opportunities to reflect on the enormity of the entire process. From asteroids to minerals to ships for Tech I items; and asteroids to minerals to ships, with moons to goo to intermediate composites to advanced composites to components, all together to Tech II ships and items. It is quite an extensive process.

Material shortages are perhaps the most likely wrench to be thrown into the complicated machinery that is the manufacturing process. Good game balance would dictate that there would be enough of the raw materials to ensure that this manufacturing cycle is:
1) Possible, such that all raw materials are available to the players

2) Available in sufficient quantities relative to consumption demand. Thus there is not 900% availability of one raw material relative to the rest.

Raw materials should of course not be plentiful to the point of wasteful surplus. That is something that gets balanced early on in game development, that way your players have to spend a representative amount of time working through whichever part of the process that interests them. It all comes down to amount of time playing and subsequent subscription duration for monthly fee-based games.

Ok, now that all the background is out of the way here is my concern. Currently there appears to be a mineral availability mis-match when it comes to the reprocessing values of the asteroids; which are the prime method for mineral availability. Take a look at the graph below:

The above chart shows the amounts of minerals that are available from refining all the ores. It was created by making a table of all of the Ores in EvE, with their individual refine values per mineral, and summing each column for the respective mineral (Tritanium column, Pyerite column, etc). This chart looks a little wonky doesn't it? There appears to be a huge plateau once you start mining rocks that give Isogen and rarer! The first question that springs to mind is: "Is this greater mineral availability reflected in the mineral demands of the items that players build?" Let us check and see. 
Well, this is interesting..... There is no sharp knee in the graphed data for ship mineral requirements. This graph was created by plotting the average mineral requirement per mineral by ship class. E.X: average of all cruiser Tritanium requirements, all battleship Isogen requirements, etc. The astute reader will notice that the Y-Axis scales are different between the two graphs, so let me take one moment and present the data together on a single graph. 

Well, would you look at that. It seems that there should be a huge glut of the high-end ores out on the market! Is this a result of the recent Crius patch where all the refine and reprocess values were monkey'd with by CCP? Before we can go down that road, let us make sure that there isn't some large market-group that is consuming all these high-end minerals. 

Capital Parts?
Nope, Does not look like it. Though I find it extremely interesting that the capital parts and cruisers essentially line up!

Nope, A quick glance at ammunition BPOs shows that just about every type and flavor only requires Isogen and lower with only a few like cruise missiles needing 2 or 4 Zydrine. I know that Drug Manufacture consumes Megacyte but I am confident that that market is not THAT large. 

Wait a moment...... What about the actual process of acquiring the raw ores? What if CCP balanced against the amounts that are feasible/possible for a player to mine? So, for the purpose of argument lets work with this fairly decent alt pilot that I have, called David. David is pretty much your run-of-the-mill mining hulk-alt; ~10 mil SP, with 3.5 mil in resource processing, 2 mil in spaceship command, 2 mil in Neural enhancement and shields, and the rest in various other categories. He uses a Hulk with Tech II strip miners and Tech II crystals for HS ores and Tech I crystals for NS ores. Unbonused, just sitting in station, each strip miner pulls in ~1050 m3 of ore per cycle. Adding all that information to my spreadsheet, and calculating the VOLUME of ore that he can mine per cycle for three strip miners results in the graph below. 

Now this is really interesting! That purple line there represents the quantity of minerals, analogous to the first chart in this post, but adjusted for mining volumes for an average player. So not only is the mineral availability in EvE balanced to provide the necessary minerals for all production, it is also balanced with respect to player skills. The only real stat that gets changed as the player gets more skills (and of course the capability to use the higher meta-level items) is the volume of ore that is mined each cycle. This increase in mined ore will preferentially bonus the larger-volume ores like Isogen, Nocxium, and greater. The slight deviation in the slope of the adjusted mineral line most likely covers all the extraneous high-end mineral requirements from such items as boosters, various ships, and various ammo types. 

Originally I started writing this post as a means to say: "Hey! You guys broke something with minerals in the Crius patch!" Yet, as I delved deeper into the problem I eventually found the solution. So this isn't the "WTF CCP?" post that I intended. Since I had already expended all this effort to do the work I figured I would post it as a: "Nicely done CCP" golf-clap sort of thing. Plus it is an interesting topic to industrialists like myself and perhaps someone else out there would enjoy reading it. 

(Apologies to the readers for the completely unacceptable graph formatting, Google sheets needs to be better)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The horrors and fun of POS towers

Managing Player Owned Stations (POS towers) can be a fun challenge. Most of the playerbase of EvE would most likely consider me not right in the head, or at the very least a sadist, but I actually find enjoyment in the activity.

There are a multitude of purposes and reasons for anchoring a POS tower in space, but my favorites by far are the moon-reaction towers. I think that this comes from my "collectionitivism" (I just made that up) mentality where I really enjoy acquiring and collecting items, even if they are just numbers on a screen or pixels in a game, and these mining/reaction towers are a great way to satiate this semi-passively.

There can also be a surprising amount of profit to be had in running moon-reaction POSs. There are of course the well known and highly coveted/"profitable" R64 and R32 type of moons. These will make you a tidy profit in just the raw moon-goo. These types of moons are usually claimed under "eminent-domain" terms by whatever large alliance or coalition owns the space that you happen to find yourself living in. In my experience: even the R16 and R8 type of moons are usually given out to individual corporations to hold and manage.

This unfortunately leaves the aspiring POS Mogul in a tight spot if he is wanting to run any towers for his own profit. Fortunately there are still a few options left to them. If they are proficient at running operations, demonstrate the interest, and their corp/alliance leadership trusts them; the most efficient use of their time would be to try and get a position managing the corporate towers. This, if done right, can net both the corporation and the player a tidy sum of ISK. (Be sure to negotiate your fees up-front) However, fear not as there are still a few options left open for those who cannot get the responsibility to do this.

Most people do not even look at the R0 moons. All of their raw products are pretty much worthless and even the product of their simple reactions are most likely cheaper on the market than the comparable fuel costs for the towers. However there are a few that are worth doing: Namely the Silicon Diborite and the Ceramic Powder. These both consume Evaporite Deposits and Silicon, which are the two most common elements in the galaxy aside from stupidity and Stealth Bombers. You cannot help but stumble over moons containing at least these two gasses. These are both simple reactions as well, meaning that you can use a Caldari Medium tower to do this entire reaction with enough CPU left over to hang a Personal and a corporate hanger with a Ship hanger off to the side. Now you have both a money-making tower and a Safe-POS for ratting or mining or whatever. I saw money making because with those two reactions you should turn a profit even after accounting for fuel costs for a month's operation. I am talking numbers on the order of 50M ISK for Ceramic Powders and 150M ISK for Silicon Diborite. Now, 150M a month in profits after fuel and precursors is actually a nice profit margin. Actually, for a few months there (September and October) this reaction was the most efficiently-profitable ones of all the reaction schemes, simple and complex both.

Profit-Efficiency is a very helpful way to evaluate the feasibility of these towers. Most players would be content with evaluating the simple comparison of units produced against the Jita-price for each. The more discerning players will know that they should subtract the fuel costs of the tower from that number to ensure that they are making a profit. However those in the know will realize that they also need to subtract the raw value of the precursors from their Net Income number in order to get the actual Profit that they will be receiving. I took some time when I started my Corp-level POS-Reaction manager position and created a spreadsheet that auto-calculated all these values using auto-scraped market data from Eve-Central and I was quite surprised at the number of reactions that were actually selling on the market for less than the value of the raw ingredients. I am not sure how these people are making a profit, perhaps they know something that I do not, but nevertheless there their market orders are in Jita.

Ok, so I have all these towers sitting in space and making money, now what? Well this can become quite a chore.
All of the towers need to be constantly fueled, need constant raw-material feeding for the more complex reactions, and likewise emptying of the reaction silos. Moon goo and their reaction products are also quite bulky, and this makes the logistics side of things complicated. This isn't even counting the Herculean effort of procuring the racial Fuel Blocks in the first place. Yeah you can try and find a local source of your fuel, but even then it is not a trivial task to mine up and manufacture all the fuel that even a moderately sized reaction network requires.

Most POS managers make it a priority to train up the skills needed for either a jump freighter or a Rorqual to increase the ease of caring for their towers. Newer players, or those who are just too broke to afford such an investment, are relegated to T1 transport ships if they are lucky, or Blockade Runners if they are unlucky due to living in hostile space. No one in their right mind would use an Orca or a frieghter to do this work as they are way too vulnerable to being caught and destroyed by hostiles. With the recently completed Transport Ships rebalance released in Odessey this task is no longer a nightmare if you don't have Gallente Industrial Ships V trained as each race now has a T1 ship that can hold approximately 38,000 m3. With Silos having a maximum capacity of 20,000 m3 this means that you can go out and fuel and feed a single large reaction tower in a single trip. You cannot completely fill it to capacity from empty, but after the first filling you can keep it constantly running with minimal effort.

Using these T1 transports is still a risky business so adequate measures are required to ensure that you are not featured as a ALOD for people to point at laugh at. Often times you will find yourself flying around with 250-350M worth of goo or reactions in a ship that barely pushes 3k EHP. These loot-pinatias are pretty much kill-mails waiting to happen if some hostile happens across your path. This is why the Prime Directive of null-sec life is so important. ALWAYS READ AND PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR INTEL CHANNELS. It is also extremely valuable to have a scout. By enlisting the aid of a new-bro corp-member, or even an alt, flying a noob ship with a MWD you can send him first through gates and jump bridges to see what is waiting for you on the other side. 99% of the time he will only find empty space, but that 1% chance that there is someone waiting for you on the other side is enough to make you break out in a cold sweat.

T1 transports are also much quicker than the larger industrial ships. It is entirely feasible to throw a 10MN MWD/AB and a cloaking device on your Bestower or Tayra and successfully evade a hostile sitting on the other side of the gate. This method doesn't always work, but it has saved my bacon enough times that I always fit them regardless. Multi-spectrum target-breakers are also a very handy mid-slot module to have, but not rely on them. If you ever find yourself having to activate one always do it at maximum align velocity and consider playing the IRL Lottery if you manage to escape because you used it.

Most importantly, having the keys to the POS towers to run the moon-reactions can be very beneficial financially. This is a job that isn't for the lazy or the uninterested. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position that you are the only, or the main, individual feeding and taking care of your corp's reaction network; then you are entirely justified in making off with all the unsold goo and reactions if things go south. I have recently found myself in this position with my prior corporation. I had designed, purchased, anchored, and tended to the 9-tower reaction chain out in Fountain for about two months. Sadly, due to other IRL and IG reasons, my corporation has fallen to pieces and I was able to score pretty much everything in the Reactions hanger and all the hardware hanging in space. It is going to be an interesting challenge getting all these items out of the region and back to Jita for liquidation; but ~3.8 bn for two month's work isn't that shabby in my books. It probably isn't quite up to the ISK/h that PLEX runners make, or even the station-trading that make Gevlon Goblin rich; but it is enough for my purposes.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

20 Week Progress Report

Greetings again fellow miners!

It is time once again for a progress report on the status of the corp. Even though it has only been 5 weeks since the last one I felt like there had been enough progress to warrant another reporting right before the Christmas holiday.
And here is a graph showing the ISK payouts per player since the beginning of the Corporation's Buy-Back Program™

It is worth noting that the total value of ISK given out through the Ore/Mins/Salvage/PI buyback program totals to 46,015,946,753.28 ISK. Since the last progress report, the following pie chart shows the relative amounts that each person has sold to the corporation via the Buy-Back Program™.
The above graph shows the breakdown of the total value of 25,451,752,248.00 ISK. However, this large ISK value represents more than just the total ore mined during the Corp Mining OPs. From digging through the logs, I have calculated the total value of minerals hauled from the OPs as 7,677,260,681.64 ISK. This large discrepancy between the two values comes from the prevalence of people mining on their own and utilizing the AFK Boosting fleets that are set up by out generous Orca pilots. You guys should tip them, seriously. The below pie graph shows this fact graphically. 

The amount of minerals gathered through the mining OPs has steadily increased. As before, let me break it out:

1) 2,452,884,126 Tritanium
2)    401,093,207 Pyerite
3)    120,115,974 Mexallion
4)      34,096,227 Isogen
5)       6,134,067 Noxcium

To put things into perspective, this is enough minerals to have built:
  23  Charons
117  Abaddons
495  Drakes
40% of a Titan (Avatar)

On a per-week basis:
An finally, a revenue breakdown by source:

And in tabular form:

Keep it up guys and have a good Holiday!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

15 Week Progress Report

Well, it has been 15 weeks since the members transitioned into the new corporation that had been set up in our home system. I figured that in recognition of this milestone I should post a few stats that I have been tracking.

Here is a graph showing the approximate ISK valuation of ORE mined by the corp during OP nights by week.(Red scale is in Billions)

And here is a graph showing the ISK payouts per player since the beginning.

It is worth noting that the total value of ISK given out through the Ore/Mins/Salvage/PI buyback system totals to 19,640,734,071.28 ISK. This amount of ISK has bought the corporation:

1) 1,730,208,395 Tritanium
2)    186,447,048 Pyerite
3)      78,586,003 Mexallion
4)      21,134,185 Isogen
5)        3,368,342 Noxicum

To put things into perspective, This is enough minerals to have built:
14 Charons
55 Abaddons
272 Drakes
1/5th of a Titan (Avatar)

On a Per-week basis:

A further break-down on a per-mineral basis:

And finally, a revenue breakdown by source

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Life among the sleepers

Life in a wormhole is quite different that High-Security space...

Not just harder, but more difficult in a different way entirely. There are a lot of risks that EvE players assume and manage when flying in Empire space. Among High-Sec these include rats, gankers, and people scamming in local. These risks are expected, these risks can be managed to the point of inconsequence, these risks do not prepare one for life in a worm hole. "What about null sec then?" one may ask. Well, 0.0 space is a little bit better in that you have to constantly assume that you will lose your ship and everything you are carrying. This will at least get you used to the idea of loss, however even in SOV space you can 9 times out of 10 see your impending doom coming thanks to the local channel.

Wormhole space is a lot like 0.0 space: non-consensual PvP is allowed without repercussion, there is the ability to gas mine, ABC ores are prevalent, and ratting makes you really good ISK (but only if you salvage)
Wormhole space is also unlike 0.0 space: in that you cannot claim sovereignty (so ship construction that requires it), additionally you can control the entrances and the exits of your wormhole to some degree. Really, the main concern when living in a worm hole is the appearance of a new random connection wormhole at some point during the day; and this is where the lack of a local channel is primarily felt. There will be no advanced warning by seeing a new name pop up in chat. If you are lucky, the first indication that you are no longer alone will be either combat probes or a ship appearing on your D-Scan. If you are unlucky, your first hint will be when a Legion or a cov-ops ship pops up on the overview and points you. If you are really really unlucky (IE: stupid and/or lazy) you will notice when you pop up in high-sec in a freshly grown clone.

More often than not the wormhole on the other side will be empty or inactive, however there are times when it isn't and roaming gangs will pour out making you cry carebear tears as they blow up and pod your precious ratting Carrier or mining Hulk. Occasionally you will get a group of players who look at your wormhole and decide that they like it much better than their own. This is really bad news for you because they will send in a transport ship with a tower and fuel and enough defensive modules to make it hard for you to take out. This is why one of the first orders of business should be to build yourself a dreadnaught and a carrier and have the ability to fly them at the same time. This will allow make it easier for you to go and bash their POS down; however if they put up any sort of fight you will be just as dead. Unless you are doing some serious multi-boxing you will need to enlist the support of some friends or a friendly mercenary corporation that you trust because you really do need that support fleet to protect your capital ships. Believe it or not even those powerful capital ships are vulnerable to small T1 cruisers and battle cruisers and it would be really a shame to lose that heavy investment.

Wormholes can be a really good source of income though. The ratting is great ISK if you salvage, the scan sites are all great, and the PI is awesome. With the proper POS setups you can also make everything for yourself  and do not have to exit into High-sec for weeks at a time. Unless you are with a small group, they can get very boring over long stretches of time. EvE is a multiplayer game and it is hard to be in that experience cut off from everyone

Just make sure that you know what you are doing if you go into one alone or go to live in one.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I guess it has to start somewhere

Where here begins everything:

I figured that I should exercise my skills at writing again, but this time with a blog post or two. I assume that, like many, my blog will end up dieing a slow death as I lose interest or become disheartened by the lack of readers. Thankfully though neither of those are the reasons behind my starting this up. Mainly I feel that this will give me  place to air my views and postulate about THE WAY THINGS ARE on my soapbox for the dis-interested world to hear.

Past that, I guess a little about myself would round out this first post well. I identify as a PC gamer who enjoys the new modern FPS titles just as well as the little known gems that are destined to become cult classics (Sanctum anyone?) I consider myself a moderately good FPS'er and strategist who sometimes has the tendency to tunnel vision and lose situational awareness.

My secret love though is the 4X game genre. There is just something about managing a process where I can take something from cradle to grave that appeals to my inner nerd. Throw in a sandbox environment and we are golden. There does have to be some structure though, there has to be a goal for me to work towards that I can measure progress against. Some activity that I can align my activities around and achieve.

Really though, behind the scenes, it comes down to a love of figuring out the mechanics of something and optimizing that process. And spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are my special love as they allow me to code a process without having to actually know a programming language. I know that I really should learn VB so I can make full use of the aforementioned spreadsheets, but I am lazy and I will do just as much as I need to get by.