Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Finding and Destroying POSes for ISK in Low and Null while doing Exploration (and a review of the POS-Phase out plan)

Way back in 2014 I stumbled upon an offline POS in high sec, owned by a corporation that, by the looks of it, had long since gone inactive. Being new to POSes, wardecs, and structures altogether, I decided to see what would happen if I declared war and attempted to blow up the structures. I learned a ton, and actually made a bit of isk, and in the process I started one of many side-hobbies I have in EVE involving combining traditional exploration with hunting for offline POSes.

I also had this silly completionist goal of visiting every system in EVE at least once, a goal that combined well with doing exploration sites and looking everywhere for POSes. Fast forward a year or so, and I had visited every system in High Sec at least once, and made many tens of billions on loot found from destroying starbase modules like Ship Maintence Arrays, Laboratories, Assembly Arrays, and even Reprocessing and Compression Arrays packed for of ore/minerals. I learned a ton about the game in the process, listened to probably 20+ audiobooks doing this casual exploration, and amassed over 1k kills on my Stratios I used for the activity. This activity also caught on, and I learned of many players who had even better success than I did at destroying POSes. (For example, check this group out: Mischief Managed. They were finding and destroying so many offline POS mods for a few months that I basically couldn't find any. I have no idea how they found so many, so quickly, and over such a large area.)

When I ran out of systems in High Sec to visit, naturally enough I've moved to searching and exploring Low Sec and now Null in 2016 and on. This actually works well, because that's where I PVP most anyway. I created a POS Mods dscan tab and started using it in every system as I roamed different regions. I was surprised to find quite a few offline POSes to pop just from checking dscan. One day passing through Heydieles, for instance, I noticed the moon mining POSes had gone offline--all 13 of them.

 This is likely going to be even more common over the next 6 months, partly because POSes tend to go offline during the "summer slumps" in EVE, but more so because CCP has announced some of the penultimate plans for phasing out old POSes. I'll talk about that more at the end. In this case, I fortunately had a 1k DPS Hecate nearby to quickly pop all of these moon mining structures. My hauler only collected around 500m in moon goo, so it wasn't really worth it. I expect in many cases owners of large-scale moon mining operations will simply let their farms go inactive, rather than undertaking the massive hassle of collective all of the remaining goo and modules. 

In other cases in LS/NS I've made a bit more isk in my finds, putting me closer to 100b isk made from the activity (not that it is great isk per hour, keep in mind!). This SMA dropped a few hundred million close to an NPC null station, and my "jackpot" so far was around a billion isk in capital blueprints and materials from this offline cap production POS:

 Here is my super-sophisticated map and checklist of regions I have now fully visited: 
HS and LS are fully covered, but I still have many small patches in many NS regions left to go. I think I will tackle that during the "summer slump" when action dies down elsewhere. Maybe I will find a few more final offline POSes to give this playstyle a final sendoff for me before POSes are removed. But this side-hobby I've had in EVE is largely at an end.

So what of the future? CCP has announced plans for phasing out structures: In May, starbase production module BPOs will no longer be seeded, and in August POSes will no longer give such bonuses to industry. Moon mining, reactors, and refineries will be disabled when the new Refinery Upwell structures are released sometime in winter of 2017, probably November. According to graphs released by CCP at fanfest, we've already seen a massive decline in the number of POSes used for industry (more on this in a future post).

The first few weeks when the new Refineries are added and the old are disabled is going to make for a very interesting scramble across LS/NS to re-establish moon mining operations, and potentially for new and smaller parties to get involved. (Some solo/small group players like Delonewolf have plans to try out a Refinery. I may give one a go as well.) I think it could mark a shake-up in LS. Potentially, it could allow for many smaller and some more industry-focused groups to carve out a piece of LS moons. Potentially, too, it could mark a transition of the Big Blue groups in LS to adopt a renter-style model of moon mining. I don't see Shadow Cartel doing much mining, but I do see them considering outsourcing the mining operations to a new style of LS renters.

Based on what CCP has said, I think we can expect POSes to be fully removed sometime in 2018--maybe summer or maybe winter. However, I think the main conflict drivers/content creating changes will be:

1. The completely new way in which groups will have to run moon mining, and

2. The conversion of outposts to faction Citadels. I think this could lead to a bunch of local wars across null in the weeks before the winter expansion, and could make for some super interesting content if large groups decide they want ownership of some or many of the faction Citadels.

The switch to Upwell structures means the burden is on them now--and not POSes--to provide a lot of content, and due to the long and off-timezone timers they are unfortunately not creating a lot of content. Many questions were asked about this at fanfest and CCP voiced some disfavor with how punishing the 3-timer, off-timezone system for structures is at the moment. A huge amount of conflict could be created if structures had slightly better self-defenses but, say, one less timer.

I am currently doing a small study on Citadel ownership and activity using data I am gathering myself. In upcoming posts I am going to talk about their current vulnerabilities, destroying them solo, and stuff like that, and later in the winter I will post more about the potential for solo or small groups to make use of the new refineries.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Market Trading in EVE Ascension (or: grinding past 500b, setting new goals, maximizing efficiency, and some ideas for Alpha trading)

The last time I posted about market trading, the Citadel expansion had recently been released and offshore Citadel markets were already helping drive down the prices of PLEX and injectors. PLEX in early June, 2016, had fallen to an incredible 850m isk:

Daily SP rewards were implemented (remember when EVE had dailies?), offering around 300k SP a month if the played logged in every day to collect the reward, which put some downward pressure on the injector market while also lowering demand due to being an additional way to gain SP. Since then (over the last 8 months) PLEX prices slowly climbed back up to over 1.2b in November, and have since plateaued at 1.05b.

In spite of the massive economic changes that EVE has seen over the past few years--skill trading, Citadel markets, free-to-play, and so on--PLEX still follows a predictable path. However, PLEX is not where I've made most of my isk over the past few years, and I've only bought when it has dropped below 900m or so. Instead, injectors have made up around 40% of my trading profit over the past year.

Buy them low--ideally sub-600m--and sell them high--ideally over 650m. Since I do regional trading, incorporating injectors into my casual market took little added effort. The last time I posted specifically about my market trading gameplay was March 2016, the first month seeing skill injectors in game. I hit a record 33b isk in profit that month--on one character and just 300 market orders. Where do I stand now? Here's a really vague chart of the profit. This only includes my main trading alt--it doesn't include trade on second or third alts that I occasionally add, nor does it include special projects I've done, such as Thera trade, or more recently Alpha clone trading.

March 2016 was a proof-of-concept: How much isk could I make with just 300 orders? Turns out, I made about 105m isk for every 1 order. However, my goal in EVE isn't to make as much isk as possible. My goal is simply to have as much fun playing EVE when I log in as possible. Isk value is relative: Is 100m isk a lot per month? 1b? 10b? 100b? It depends entirely on your playstyle. However, time is (largely) not relative: Every player only has, at most, 23.5 hours a day to play EVE. We might all have different playstyles and we might all value isk differently, but an hour for me is just as long as an hour for you, and we all have an upper-limit on how much time we can play (and for many of us, obviously, it is far lower than 23.5 hours a day! Or even 23.5 hours a month!).

That all said, my goal since I started trading has not been to make as much isk as possible. Instead, my goal over the past 3 years has been: Make as much isk in as little as is time possible. So, while my average isk per month has not substantially changed over the past few years, the time I spend to make that isk has drastically plummeted. In 2014, I estimate I made around 300m isk per hour spent maintaining my regional markets, or around 10 hours per 3b isk, or around 30+ hours a month to maintain my 10b monthly average during this year. That's actually quite a lot of time spent, even if it is better than many other activities in EVE--especially if you compare it to what good station traders make. It took me time to find items to trade; it took me time to find where to sell the items; it took me time to haul the items in low amounts since I did not yet have the best ways of hauling available; it took me time to list the items--and so on.

Fast forward to the past 5 months (since July-August, when I was unable to log in much). I have continued to average over 10b isk a month trading (on my one main character). However, I've also kept track of how much time I've spent to make this isk maintaining my market and occasionally station trading in Jita: Around 4-5 hours per week (usually split into 2 2-hour play sessions per week). So, I make around 700m isk per hour spent trading (maintaining markets) now. My profits have largely not increased, but my efficiency has. And since I largely value my time more than I value my isk, that's the improvement I like to see.

In total now, this means I've passed the 500-600b isk mark. About 450b of that is from trade on my main trader, but around 100b or more of that is from destroying offline POSes (another update about this coming soon!), and then around 50b isk or so from exploration.

Finally, I've started a side-project since the release of Alpha clones. Can you make decent isk doing trade on Alphas only? They are very limited in total market orders, making regional and station trade fairly painful, and you can only have one Alpha logged in at once. However, there are two ways I've made over 2b isk in a month with Alpha trade.

The first involves using 3+ Alpha traders and taking advantage of limited edition items. Remember back when CCP released the Sunesis? I set up low regional buy orders on 3 Alpha clones in distant regions (Solitude, Syndicate, Placid, Stain, Curse, etc.). I managed to get a few dozen Sunesi(?) for less than 20m isk, and resell them for around 40m in the following week. The most time consuming part of this, though, was hauling the Sunesi. Instead, I decided to simply relist them a month later in the same regions for 3x the price, and have sold a few this way. So, my first tip for Alpha clone trading is to use your small order amount to trade in limited edition items. This is relatively time consuming and I much more so recommend a second method.

The second way I've done Alpha clone trading is buy selling high value, slow-moving items in null sec markets. 
1. Join a large null sec group that trains new players, such as Karmafleet, Horde, Brave, or Test. This is a great idea for Alpha players anyway, since joining such groups is often the best way to learn EVE.
2. Once you have your first billion or so isk (I know this step isn't very practical, but you can easily make 1-2b isk in such groups doing anoms in a VNI or running data/relic sites in your null region). Start buying high value items in Jita that are not listed in your local null sec market. Don't price gouge, because your alliance will hate you, and also because you will either get undercut or not see sales.
3. Repeat step 2 until you hit your order limit, then consider going Omega and getting better trading skills, or adding another Alpha into the alliance for more market orders.

I know steps 1-3 are not very enlightening by themselves, so let me give you some examples. Finding good items is 90% of the work. The other 10% of the work is hauling the items, but the best way to do this is to search for high sec wormhole connections to your space (such as while searching for data/relic sites). Injectors are a no-brainer, everyone loves injectors.

Here my alt is selling injectors in two NPC stations--one in Aridia, a common route to Delve and Fountain--and the other in Venal. Selling in your respective alliance's own market hub is an even better option usually. The margins won't be as great but they will move faster, and you will be nearby to update or restock as needed. You can do this with many other items as well: expensive skill books, expensive T2 ships not in supply locally, and so on. Look at your alliance's killboard and pay attention to the expensive stuff that dies. Does it have faction mods, tech 2 rigs, or rare modules fitted? If so, are they in stock in your local hubs? If not, stock them. This works with NPC stations in null and low sec as well. Overall, though, I would recommend exploration for Alphas looking to make isk over any other activity, and trading as just a side-gig.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Favorite Solo PVP Ships/Fits for Null over the Past Year - Assault Frigs, E-WAR Frigs, and Navy Cruisers

This post is a bit late--it covers many ships I flew solo during the glorious days of the Querious fight club (RIP), pre-WWB, and shortly after. However, my past year (or two) of solo PVP in null has amounted to some of the most fun I've ever had in EVE or any game for that matter. Many of the ships I've flown over the past year in null sec for solo PVP are usually considered off-meta, if not out-right broken, such as assault frigates. My experiences with assault frigate solo PVP over the past year has been largely positive--they get a ton of fights and can hold their own against most comparable ship classes minus the pre-nerf Svipul.

On my quest to solo PVP in every non-industrial ship, this past year I finally tackled navy cruisers, assault frigates, and the new navy EWAR frigates. They each have their strengths and weaknesses in the current meta and in solo PVP in general, but navy cruisers are as close to the most versatile and affordable ships for solo PVP (and available for Alpha clones as well). I was lucky enough to find tons of navy cruiser versus navy cruiser 1v1s, such as this nail-bitter:

This was an amazing fight in a hull tanked ENI versus a Zarvox fit SFI, with a blue pill running (as confirmed by the pilot later). The main fit I like for the ENI is a dual medium armor rep, for the decent sustain potential. The plated version and the hull tank version lack sustain in a fight but do a ton of DPS. (Then again, against a blob, having some buffer plus 800+ DPS is exactly what you need to kill something before you die.) The SFI has range control against almost any ship in a 1v1, but at the very end of the fight I managed to pulse my MWD out from 10km and secure a few wrecking shots that ended up winning me the fight. Had the fight started and ended at better ranges for the SFI, a hull tanked ENI stands little chance!

Crispy means a job well-done
Overall, my scoreboard for navy cruisers includes some of my favorite fights in 5 years of EVE, and I am for sure not done flying these ships.

Navy Faction Cruisers (8/8):

Vexor Navy Issue vs. Exequror + Exequror RR Duo
vs. Cerberus
vs. Ishtar
vs. Hawk + Crow + Vexor + Svipul
Exequror Navy Issue vs. Scythe Fleet Issue

Augoror Navy Issue vs. Stabber Fleet Issue
vs. Caracal + Vexor + Onyx
Omen Navy Issue vs. Sabre
~~need more here!~~
Stabber Fleet Issue vs. Svipul + Hookbill

Scythe Fleet Issue vs. Stabber Fleet Issue
vs. Svipul

Caracal Navy Issue vs. Vexor Navy Issue

Osprey Navy Issue vs. Raven
vs. Jackdaw

at about middle age

Oh this Vexor. What a ship. What luck. I've flown the Vexor a few dozen times over the past two years but sometimes avoid it since it will scare away some fights. The average Svipul pilot, in my experience, will readily engage a rupture (and the latter, if fit right, will kill it) and other T1 cruisers, but not usually a Vexor, for instance. And there's few things I like more than killing Svipuls (pre-nerf and post-nerf still), so I hate to scare them off. The Vexor continues to be an incredible ship for solo PVP in both LS and NS, with a variety of possible fits, but because it is commonly viewed as a strong ship it can struggle to find decent fights. I had a few fits I wanted to try out in null sec specifically, so in between navy cruiser losses I flew some T1 versions.

This was a slightly uncommon Vexor fit as well, with dual medium armor reps instead of one plus an ancillary MAR, giving it slightly more sustain in longer fights. (It's EVE though: how often do you get a long drawn out 1v1 or 1v2-5 as opposed to a 1 versus blob where an ancillary rep might at least give you the time to kill something?) Yet this Vexor seemed unkillable even when I tried to kill it.

In addition to a few odd T3D kills, I agreed to a 1v1 against a Dramiel. I was surprised he wanted to fight my Vexor (and he was surprised I had neuts), so when I won I agreed to fight something bigger. He brought out a Vagabond (note: he was shooting Phased Plasma, which may seem like a mistake, but I had a tech 2 explosive rig that gave me the same explosive armor resist as thermal/kin). The quick math I did in my head suggested that if he is XLASB fit I will just barely be able to tank his gun DPS with both reps overheating, and somehow I ended up winning (and maybe what is more surprising is that I did not burn out my reps).

My playstyle when solo is that I can be a touch risk average when I first fly a ship or undock for a roam. Getting that "first kill" of the night is a big psychological barrier for me, and sometimes I feel like I'll never get another kill again when in the midst of a drought. I know if I bring out a ship 3 times and die to 3 consecutive blobs I'm going to be "tilted." So, in this case, having secured a few good kills in this Vexor I was ready to throw it at anything lockable.

In the next fight I roamed to F-I-N-K's former space in Querious and tackled a Skiff. A Skiff alone can match the light drone DPS of a Mrymidon, with the buffer of a battleship. To defend it comes two Caracals, and I decide to let the Skiff go just in hopes of winning a 1v2. As I'm fighting, a griffin lands but fails its ECM cycle--the kind of luck I rarely get! I can barely tank the damage of this one RLML and plus a HAM Caracal and I bleed into structure before killing the first one. The RLML one goes into reload and gives me a window to repair armor to full and kill it. Something strange then happened during the middle of this brawl: the Skiff comes back. It's drone DPS really hurts but the Caracals are dead and my drones are popping the Griffin. All said, Caracal + Caracal + Skiff + Griffin, not bad by my standards.

The final fight I have goes even better, and would probably be in my favorite 5 fights of all time. I roam to BX2- where Brave had a medium sized corp. They bring a pretty rough group consisting of some tackle, a Caracal, Cynabal, and an arty Mael, but at this point I will fight anything. I manage to pop the tackle Firetail, Caracal, and and Svipul at the sun, freeing me of tackle, but I am getting pounded by both an arty Mael 80km off and an arty Cynabal. I yolo into the Cynabal and get into a close orbit. My drones are dying which is bad news for this fit since it only uses light neutrons in the top rack, but somehow the Cynabal goes down too. I still get the shakes when PVPing and at this point my nerves are shot, but at the gate waiting for me is like the final boss for this Vexor, a Gila.

Such a close fight! Meanwhile my PVE alt was in system ready to do a relic site when I died - no poors!
This was the final fight of probably my best performing single ship in 5 years. I had already lost a ton of cap boosters and drones due to fighting a Cynabal while under arty Mael fire, leaving me with light drones and less than 10 cap boosters to fight this Gila. An impossible fight anyway, but I promised if they fought me at the sun I would not leave system until I died. I had the Gila in structure as you can see from the screenshot, but two things happened at the same time: fraps ran out of disk space, causing my computer to severely lag, and my damage control burned out, reducing my tank severely (and this was just before the passive DCU change--had I had the base 33% resist hull bonus this fight would have been even closer). With all my drones dead, no cap charges left, and just small turrets to fight the Gila, it was a battle against time before I died to the Gila's overwheling DPS. But damn what a fight and what a lucky ship that got me so many great fights! RIP Vexor.

During my time in Querious CCP released navy e-war frigates, a class that turned out to be some of my favorite ships at the level of the frigate menace, even for null sec solo PVP.

The Vigil Fleet Issue is probably my favorite frigate level ship at the moment. With rockets it can do over 200 DPS. Tank runs either a republic fleet MSE for buffer (the easy version of the ship to fly), or a split MASB/SAAR fit like its Breacher cousin. The former is easier to fly while the latter gives more sustain in 1v1 fights (as rare as they are) but the latter is also paper thin and requires better piloting.

Here are some highlights from flying them in null:

Maulus Navy Issue vs. Hawk

Griffin Navy Issue vs. Coercer

Vigil Fleet Issue vs. Republic Fleet Firetail
vs. Sabre
Crucifier Navy Issue vs. Vexor Navy Issue
vs. Taranis

Finally, there's assault frigates. By reddit "CCPLS" thread count alone they are surely the class players think are most in need of a balance pass, but I (mostly) disagree. The major problem with assault frigates was that T3Ds--and the Svipul in particular--did everything assault frigates did only 2x-3x better. However, flying assault frigates successfully simply required not fighting Svipuls! And flying them extremely well requires paying close attention to their tech 2 resist bonuses. Assault frigates are best when matched up with over-confident frigates and destroyers especially when they cannot avoid shooting into your tech 2 resist profile.

And now with the fantastic nerf to T3D versatility, assault frigates are an incredibly strong and under-rated class of ship that pack a lot of damage and a lot of tank--if being a bit too slow. (A 10% buff to assault frigate base speed, in my opinion, is the only balance change they need to be in an ideal but not OP place.)

Perhaps most importantly for solo PVP, assault frigates are widely seen as engageable (because widely seen as weak). This means they will often get tons of fights, and tons of fights you can easily win.

The "Blarpy" (a blaster fit MSE Harpy) got a hidden buff with the change to shield extenders and buff to faction MSEs, giving it a bit more tank along with its nice amount of DPS and making the Blarpy an ever more awesome ship to fly for go-crazy-brawling. It is a great ship to fly when, say, inebriated, as it requires only a few button clicks and a ton of (over)-confidence!

Harpy vs. Jackdaw
vs. Cynabal

The Ishkur is a rare ship in null sec, especially solo. With very low speed and no tank bonus it seems an easy target. Until it scrams you or puts its drones on you, and you realize you are an EM based ship like a Confessor and are completely screwed! The Ishkur is perfect for taking down over-confident kiting Confessors that get too close, or small frigate gangs that primarily shoot EM or Thermal.

Ishkur vs. Myrmidon

The Wolf is a perfect example of CCP's occasionally short-sighted balancing: The Svipul was released as essentially a Wolf that goes at least 50% faster, with at least 50% more damage, and at least 50-100% more tank, plus having a similar range. However, this does not mean the Wolf is a terrible ship, especially now that the Svipul is in a healthier place. The Wolf proved to be one of my favorite ships in Querious for solo PVP due to the fact that it was considered trash, and that its resist profile perfectly matched the NPC damage types in the region, making it great for killing unwary ratters, such as this VNI, as well as this VNI.

No one, to my knowledge, flew the Wolf more effectively during this time than the great solo PVPer Quinten Sarn, and I emulated some of his fits and tactics, such as his resist and sustain-heavy Wolf that is perfect for surprising the stock VNI ratters. However, I also flew the arty Wolf, an extremely rare sight in null sec, and it decent. Not good, but decent enough to win small skirmishes with frigates and destroyers.

Wolf vs. Atron + Kestrel + Corax
vs. Ishkur

I had good fights in all of the other assault frigates as well. They are a ship class that is off-meta but underestimated, and as a result they attract more fights than most other ship classes when flying solo.

Eve online is a game that is fundamentally balanced against solo play, and solo PVP in particular. Solo PVP in EVE Online is like trying to go solo in League of Legends--good luck defending all lanes, etc. Only the best--or, in my case, the most masochistic--can stomach it. And let's be honest: solo PVP in EVE is not somehow about being better than other players (though that certainly helps), but about a dedication to flying your own ship against all odds.

However, it is possible to fight the good fight (by sheer resilience), and that's what makes solo PVP in EVE so rewarding. You will die a lot, and you will struggle to find decent fights, but you will also get amazing fights where you win against all odds, 1 against 1 ship that out classes you, or 1 against 2, or one against 3, or one against 20 where you take out 5 before you die. After almost 6 years in game, it is still the most compelling reason I have to continue playing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Random Stats After 5 Years of EVE

Number of Active Accounts / Max Number of Active Accounts At One Time:

Current: 2
Max: 3

Total Skill Points:

Sven Viko: 107m
Next Highest Alt: 72m

Stations with Assets:

This screenshot perhaps more than any other
paints an OCD picture of how I play EVE. After 5 years of playing I have kept my assets on both accounts (trader top, Sven bottom) extremely organized. Really, everything except ships I am currently using for PVP or exploration are in Jita 4-4, and when I want to PVP in a new area I simply haul from Jita using a DST or Bowhead, then move all of the remaining stuff back to Jita when I head elsewhere. Some players have the complete opposite asset list and organization, with ships and items spread across hundreds of systems. Nope, can't do it. Even this many stations with assets starts to bother me... 
Total Kills on Sven: 


Total Losses on Sven:


Most Used PVP Ships: 

Stratios (1211), Confessor (582), Thrasher (348), Kestrel (315)

Favorite Ship for PVP:

All of them!

Current Total Number of Ship Types With Solo PVP Kills: 


Most Active PVP Sytems by Space:

High Sec: Poinen+Josameto (1245 kills, all during RVB)
Low Sec: Ouelletta (141)
Null Sec: GE-8JV (105, former home of Brave Newbies)

Most Active PVP "Location" (since added to killmail info in 2015): 

A2-V27 IX (52, former home station of Pandemic Horde)

Total Net Asset Worth:

Approximately 400-500b

Number of Personal Bookmarks: 

2659 (and wow does people and places lag!)

Total Number of Ship Fits on EVE Fit/Pyfa:

A few over 1000

Regions Explored/Visited:

100% of High Security Space, apx. 85% of Low Security Space (in progress), apx. 40% of Null Security Space, apx. 15% of Wormhole Space:

Length of Sven's Skill Plan on EVEMon:

With +5 Implants: 1105 days
With No Implants: 1370 days

Length of Sven's Skill Queue on TQ:

577 days (no implants)

Current Skill In Training:

Minmatar Propulsion Systems V

POSes Owned / Citadels Owned:  

0 POSes
1 Astrahaus
(Citadels accidentally lost: 1...)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Reasons for Playing EVE Less (and hopefully some reasons for playing EVE more)

In June I hit 100m skill points and 4 years of PVP activity every month. In just a few days I will hit my 5 year anniversary of playing EVE. However, this summer was also my lowest period of activity in 4 years. I did a few solo roams, a few public fleets, updated market orders a few times, and that was about it--a very stark contrast to the fall and winter of 2015 and early 2016 which were my most active months ever. It's not so much that I was tired of EVE, but a few reasons led me to need a break, reasons which probably resonate with many players that share my playstyles.

1. Increased connection issues

Even though I don't experience lag or latency issues in any other online game (and experience very low ping and a stable connection), my last year playing EVE has been a constant battle against disconnects, bugs, and socket losses. On an average play session I will experience roughly 1-2 disconnects, sometimes many more, even while my internet connection is otherwise stable. (E.g., on a casual roam through null I typically experience 1-2 disconnects every hour.) There also seems to be a rising number of bugs in the game, some of which affect my playstyle. For instance, the market window frequently "desyncs" when selecting a new item listing, updating the item listing but displaying the previous item's buy/sell orders. It definitely tilts me when I die on a roam due to lag or disconnects, though in some cases it results in funny fights such as in this video (one of the only EVE pvp videos I've made).

2. Unfortunately, and inescapably, less players simply means less content for me

One of the best things about being involved in solo PVP is that you are your own FC, and do not rely on others for creating content. Yet, in another way, you are entirely dependent on others for content—you rely on people actually being in space. When the average number of players drops below 20k, you feel it acutely. The time in between fights—or even seeing another player in space—has steadily increased over the years I've played EVE. These days, even at prime hours, many systems are empty--systems that in 2011-2013 were very active--and few that are flying in space are looking for a fight (or, if they are, they are looking for an easy killmail).

Some roams I encounter more people afk at gates in null than I do solo or small gangs looking for a fight. Solo PVP has always been a niche activity in a niche game, but I feel it is hit particularly hard by periods of low player activity. When the game is buzzing with activity, people solo more; when it is stagnant, I think people fleet up more. This is true even for me: my main PVP activity over the past 3 months has been from Zarvox's amazingly fun Saturday interceptor fleets.

Saturday = Zarvox interceptor fleet day lately
Things haven't been entirely terrible; I've found solo fights here and there, such as a roam in a ferox where I snagged a blingy rapier, then took out 2 svipuls and a sabre before dying to the 6+ other svipuls in the gang. It was fun, but finding such content just takes so long these days, far longer than I often have time to play for. I am definitely roaming more lately as activity increases as EVE nears the major November release, but my feeling is that the amount of relatively inactive months out of the year is growing. I hope that trend reverses.

My other main activity is the market, and it, too, suffers from low player numbers. Sure, my PLEX stack has risen in value over the past 3 months from when PLEX was sitting around 800-900m (see my previous post!), and I still make a decent profit from my local market trading, but the markets over the last 3 months have simply been boring. Little activity, little velocity in isk, little speculation, and slow turnover. Again, the November release should reverse this trend, with new structures and the Alpha clone option coming.

3. The glacially slow balance progress, even by EVE's standards

The balance pass on T3 destroyers, link changes, Citadel improvements, and other balance updates were originally planned for a summer release, and instead mostly got pushed back to late fall. Announcements at 2016's fanfest were largely for features we knew were coming (with some, like some of the aforementioned, planned for summer, then pushed back), and the year's major focus on capital rebalance was a ton of time for little gain. According to zkill data, carriers are involved in almost 2x more kills than last year, but lost at around the same (or less) numbers. Dreads are roughly used (in kills and losses) the same amount. Remember, CCP's explicitly stated goal was to have capitals used more, and lost much more often, so they at best failed on half of their design goal...the more important half, from my perspective.

I support CCP's decision to move back to expansions, yet am disappointed with how little balance work 2016 will see compared to every previous year I've played EVE, where dozens of ships across multiple classes were rebalanced in interesting ways for each expansion. From my perspective, it is better for the game to make frequent small balance passes even if it results in some ships being overpowered and others underpowered, than it is to have few balance passes and a stagnant meta for long periods.

These days, the ship balance team (only about 3 devs, remember) is spread thin—they also work on module and item balance, structure design and balance, events like the AT that take months of preparation, and new and important (/s) ship designs and releases like faction capitals that 1 or maybe 2 players will regularly use. This has left ships like the Svipul and weapon classes like ECM and Rapid Lights in dire need of even a quick balance pass—just lowering a few numbers like base speed on the Svipul would have been a fine temporary patch—for around a year. Sadly, the solution seems to be that CCP simply needs more developers, and for that they need more players.

4. Disappointing events

The events CCP were incorporating in between their rotation of expansions at first showed promise. The success of the few first events in 2015 like the Crimson Harvest were based, I think, on the good rewards, the ability to run the sites in almost any ship or fitting, and the benefits of running the sites in dangerous space. I had a few great fights (some win and some lose) in low, null, and wormhole space running these sites or catching someone running them. Later events, though, jettisoned these elements and opted for more of a slow grind in sites designed for mission running ships, culminating in the Shadow of the Serpent Event. I truly did try to enjoy the event, even getting to the first tier “chest” unlock, but the event lacked any potential player conflict and took a monumental amount of largely afk grinding to progress. My disappointment was widely shared by players, especially since the event turned out to be the only real content over the summer months. The more recent Purity of the Throne event was an improvement, and I really appreciated getting an entire skin set for Amarr ships, but the event did still lack the conflict drivers that we saw in the first few.

Am I hopeful for brighter days in EVE's future, days of 40k average players logged in, better and faster balance and bug passes, and tons of people to fight? Definitely. I am hopeful that the “freemium” mode coming in November will bring in a large chunk of new and returning players to the game. I would love to see the average number of players double or triple in November or return to 2010-2014 levels, and stay that way more permanently this time. I believe EVE is a good enough game to deserve far more players than it currently has, and hopeful that the Alpha clone option will be enough to hook many new players.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Strange New Economy: PLEX crashes, Daily SP, Citadel Markets (offshores), and the Future of Investing

The EVE Prosper blog and show (sadly now on its hiatus) has recorded the recent rise-and-fall of PLEX, and in the most recent episode pointed out the impact "offshoring" is already having on the PLEX market. "Offshoring" refers to buying/selling PLEX at one of the many Fortizar Citadel markets 1 jump from Jita, where taxes are 1% or lower. This is what the PLEX market looks like in the Forge as of 6/3/16:

First off, the sky is falling yet again for PLEX prices. 850m? In 2016? I don't think anyone predicted that one. However, just as interesting is that most of the best buy and sell orders for PLEX and Injectors are now at Citadels 1 jump away. In total there are 5 or 6 Fortizar markets 1 jump from Jita, and each has lower taxes and usually better PLEX/Injector orders than 4-4. Interestingly, the worry that a "New Jita" would be created largely turned out false (thus far)--instead, we seem to have Jita, and then dozens of "offshore" markets for high value and high volume items.

Jita 4-4 does not even appear until the bottom of this page of sell orders for injectors. When you can create contracts in Citadels and so on, they will be even more useful.

Now let's talk about daily SP and the impact it might have on the skill injector market. EVE-Gaurdian has a great write up covering the relative isk value of the 10k SP daily. It depends heavily on your implants and attribute mapping, but for new players it daily opportunities come out to roughly a 15% increase in SP gain for new players.

It is also worth noting that daily SP has a different (higher) relative value for older players (above 60m SP) and especially those who fly in empty clones (i.e. frequently PVP in null for instance). If such a player did the daily every day for a 30 day month, that is 300k SP, or equal to 2 skill injectors (because the player would only receive 150k per SP given their high skills from an injector), which is around 1.2b isk a month in injector cost currently. So the value of a daily is quite a bit higher for a vet player who does no implants PVP; it is two injectors per month or something like 40m SP in "injector->SP" isk value per daily.

Dailies are thus great for new players and even better for veterans, and the upshot is that dailies will likely put pressure off of the skill injector market. There's now a second, more active way of getting more SP faster.

The PLEX market is unstable, the Injector market is good currently (esp. for regional trading) but unpredictable; that all leaves the basic question wide open: Where to now invest isk? In the past, you could dump as much isk as you wanted into PLEX at, say, 900m isk, and make bank when PLEX hit 1b a few months later, or 1.1b a few month after that, etc. As my experiment investing 100b in ships showed, you can make decent return on ships if you buy low and have patience to sell high.

I don't have an expert view on this, but one way to look at investing large amounts of isk is to look at what in game is being replaced--i.e., structures. How much isk exists in POSes and POS modules in space and in assets? And they are all being phased out. I didn't buy a Citadel BPO but I do think it was a good investment, either for producing, selling copies, or researching and reselling. So in the future months/year I am look to the new structures as potential sources of investment, particularly since most POSes in HS are dedicated to manufacturing. Don't take my advice though, a lot of isk can still be made in the injector market!