Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Conversation at the Darkwater Household

Mrs. Darkwater: "Say, what's that those guys are doing?"

Darkwater, Jr: "It looks like they are shooting that big rock with lasers."

Me: "They are mining, and that's a big chunk of ice, actually. I'm running security because, well, Toldain just can't be a miner."

Mrs. Darkwater: "Of course he can't be a miner, he's 3000 years old!"

Me: (groans)

Mrs. Darkwater: (giggles)

Me: "Actually, in EVE, I'm more like 3 million years old, but whatever. I'm totally putting this conversation in my blog."


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Multiple Contacts on Scanners, Captain

I've been getting into scanning in EVE Online. I have a definite Explorer streak to me, but that's not the only reason. I've read where in addition to hidden complexes with lots of NPC pirates that can be blown up for fun and profit, there are sites that are the keys to advanced technologies, and also wormholes. Lots of stuff that you would never see if you didn't scan for them.

Scanning has turned out to be very engaging, and profitable.

Above shows me positioning my scan probes. I'm using five of them, which is not strictly necessary, but is still handy. The process is I position my scanners around the system, and set their scanning range. The larger the scanning range, the weaker the contacts will be, so this means that there is a process of zeroing in on a signal, known as scanning down.

There's a great video showing the process called "Zen and the Art of Scanning" that's well worth a watch if you're interested. In the shot above, I'm currently trying to scan down the red dot, which you can see (at least if you look at the screen shot in full resolution, has been labeled LFA-335 in the scan window on the lower right).

Ok, once you position your probes, which you launched from a special launcher fitted to your ship, you activate scanning and some nice graphics come up, as seen here:

With reasonably good skills trained, you will get a track on the signal from four probes, which is enough to pin it down to one point. It seems the probes do not have directionality, only distance. And with weak signals, there is a fairly large error in location. So you move the probes closer, reduce the range, and scan again.

Sometimes things don't go well, and you lose the signal, or get it only a few probes, which gives you two dots, a circle or a sphere as the signals location. And this is in 3 dimensional space, so your real-world geometry has some applicability.

Apart from the basic Astrometric skill, which enables the use and manipulation of probes, there are 3 or 4 other skills that may be trained, and they improve such things as accuracy or scanning speed. As always in EVE, whether you train them or not is an interesting choice.


The designers of Eve have taken something which might have been a very simple thing, (Hit the scan button, get results), and turned it into an entire sub-game. I haven't mentioned the fact that there are multiple probe types, some of which are used to track other ships. Scanning can be very important in certain types of PVP ops.

Furthermore, this attention to detail results in powerful verisimilitude. Whenever I do this I feel like I'm Spock leaning over the console, with the green lights across his face from the radar-like screen.

Add to this the fact that I have now been able to find stuff that has resulted in serious financial and technological gain to me and my partners, and you see why I'm totally addicted.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

I Came Here to be Podkilled

I was podkilled in EVE for the first time about a week ago. Since my ship was destroyed about 2 hours ago, and the station I fled to camped, I figured I'd write about it.

I was doing something stupid. I was flying my big, slow, clumsy industrial Iteron through lowsec. It was very late, I was on autopilot.

Everyone who plays EVE knows just how dumb that was. But for those readers who don't, let me explain.

One travels through systems by alternately jumping through a jump gate and then warping across a solarsystem to the next jump gate in your path. If you are actively piloting a ship, you can jump to right on top of the jump gate, and very likely be able to jump through the gate before any bad guys camping the gate can lock on to you, even in a slow ship. Unless they put up a Warp Interdiction Bubble, in which case you are screwed, since it drops you out of warp early, about 10k away from the gate, which gives them plenty of time to disassemble you into valuable and easily accessible minerals and parts.

On autopilot though, you don't warp directly to a jump gate, you warp to 10k away and use normal propulsion to close the distance. That give bad guys plenty of time to deal their dirt.

I remember thinking, "what's that flashing? Is that a laser?" I only barely had time to wonder whether I could crawl to the gate in time when pop. When your ship goes boom, you eject in your capsule, which is also warp capable, though has no weapons or armor. However, in less time than it takes for me to write this, that too was destroyed, and I woke up in a medlab far away, or rather, my clone did. Podkilled.

In a strange way, I was happy about it. EVE had seemed safer than it ought to be, I hadn't really seen any bad guys or bad stuff happening. This reassured me, they were there all right. And what I had lost wasn't all that valuable.

Tonight was a little different. I docked in a lowsec system. She was waiting for me when I came out in a Dominix, a Gallente battleship. My Vexor, a cruiser, was no match for it. Locked, webbed (slows my speed), and scrambled (to prevent warp) and crushed. But then something odd happened. My pod was not locked. It was not popped. I went back in the station eventually, watching the station shoot at the criminals. Ineffectually.

So there I was back in the station. With local showing all manner of red-tags outside. Why did I dock here? Why did I ever think it was something I could get away with? And how am I ever going to serve up some payback? I couldn't play any more, because it was clearly unsafe to go outside and try to go back to my base, get a new ship and keep going. I could afford the loss, and the ship was insured, so I can get on with earning more money. But I can't play the game right now, since sitting in a foreign station is boring.

I find myself wondering how a company can survive when its paying customers have experiences like this. I'm not going to quit over this, it's true. But is that true of many people?

In fact, I burn for revenge. The thing is, I have no idea how to manage it. It seems as though players with a five year lead on you have an unconquerable lead, both in money and in skills. But I'm keeping a list.

I still have my goals, and I'm still going to work for them. I want to . I don't want to do stupid, rash things, like docking/undocking with anyone unknown in local. But I don't want to let those fears grow too large either. This mishap has cost me perhaps a million ISK, and some time. I can still work on my goals, I just have to make sure that what I earn from doing dangerous things is enough to cover the costs on those times when it all goes elliptical.

Maybe that's how it works for CCP. People like me who will get back in the game, which makes their commitment to playing even stronger, since they have suffered for it.
I know mine is.

After all, I came here to be podkilled.


The Elements Have Been Warded

I logged on EQ2 yesterday, hoping to do something with my friends in Shards of Glory. I was pleased then, to find that Mandoralen was going to host a raid on Ward of the Elements, the two-group raid zone off of Lavastorm.

I'd been in there once before, and it didn't go well. We managed to kill exactly one trash mob. But folks were saying they had been there last week and killed some stuff, so I figured it had to be better, right?

It was better. We cruised through the first part of the zone having only a few glitches with the trash. The Lord of Water died easily, with Mando running between two towers doing something.

Phritz showed up late, because his son had a soccer game. Then, about the time we got to Digg, the Earth Elemental:

Phritz: I have to turn into a buffbot for about 15 mins, to take my other son to his soccer practice. I'll autofollow on Tolly.

Mandoralen: Ok, Phritz you should be fine. We've never wiped on this guy before.

After much hilarity where we all attempted to get onto Digg's platform without falling off, or getting killed by Digg, we were set.

We wiped.

We revived and ran back, but Phritz was a rock, keeping guard over Digg. Phritz didn't move a muscle, no sir.

The second try we wiped too. I had the pleasure of dying to an ae and then getting ganked again right after someone revived me. That was the first of three times that happened to me.

But the third try was the charm, and just when we finished it, Phritz was back, saying, "Hey, I'm dead". "No, Phritz, you're just keeping an eye on Digg."

Dayakara, pictured above, was tough, but we got her in the end. That was another of my pop and drop fights. The third was Gelidus Ventus, I think.

Then when we got to Captain Grush, we wiped early on the first couple of pulls. Then Phritz announced that his son's soccer practice had ended an hour early and he had to go get him. So he went on buffbot. This apparently is our good luck charm, since this time the pull went smoothly. Now most of you probably know this but Grush is an extremely long fight. My family was kind of getting antsy, we were going to go out for dinner. I told them I'd break at 5:30. Our successful pull was at 5:15. At 5:30 they were all standing around looking at my screen wondering when Grush was going to drop. Finally he did, I think I used Peace of Mind five times in that fight.

I was busier than a caterpillar with athlete's foot in that fight, since I needed to do power maintenance as well as dps. So I didn't get a screenshot of him. Maybe next time.

This is the kind of thing I love about EQ2. As a solo game, it has lost my interest, but I still love to hang with my friends and do cool stuff like crash the Ward of Elements.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Accounting for EVE

I spent some time looking over EVE business/manufacturing tools, and came up with a few interesting items.

  • EVE Income Analyzer is a free download Windows desktop app that downloads your wallet and produces lots of interesting reports on sales and trade. It has nothing useful for manufacturing other than sales reports.

  • Manufacturers might do well to start with the Manufacturing Profit tool at EVE Industry, and a forum thread about it is here. This seems a really good tool to figure out "how much is training skill x to skill y going to be worth?" How much is broker relations or better standing at the station worth? And how much is manufacturing research going to be worth?

  • For automatic import of data, Dedaf's Production Spreadsheet can import both character skill data and Eve Central price data. If you are running Excel 2003 or later. Probably a later version is better, Excel 2003 xml support is still shaky.

  • EVE-Online Multiuse Economic Efficiency Planner, or EVE-MEEP will download and store your wallet data, price data from a variety of places (Eve-metrics and Eve-Central). You can do filters on your wallet transactions, I only wish it would then perform a summary. It has tools to help planning production efficiency, scheduling, research probability, skills, even a reprocessing calculator. I've tried it and it has a few bumps, but worth a look. Windows only.

  • EVE Central data is a little bit like Wikipedia. Full of lots of interesting and useful data, but maybe not completely reliable. So an ingame corp named Arcelor Capital publishes both a manufacturing cost tool, and regular price data updates. It isn't free, it costs 10m ISK. In the forum thread introducing it, lots of people say they are signing up.

Nowhere did I find the tool that I really wanted. I want to be able to be able to figure out not how much money do I think I will make, but how much money *did* I make with product X. Because I want to know whether it was worth my time or not. Unfortunately, there isn't quite enough data in the cash journal xml to let this be automated. It's hard to match up sales, tax payments and broker fees. That's accounting.

So here I am, a game blogger writing about accounting, which to many is the spokesperson for boring. The truly beautiful thing about EVE is that if you don't like this kind of thing, you can pretty much ignore it and fly around doing something else, like pirating, or running missions. There's such a rich ecology in EVE, there's a niche for you. Maybe you become a contract hauler, a researcher, an explorer. Whatever. And you're never locked in to that job, you can always learn some new skills and do something else.

Big aside: I understand now why some capsuleers are reluctant to leave their station. As Tipa documents, we just got wardecced by a corp that appears to typically blockade an important hub world, Dodixie, for money. Several corps seem to be on their list. So if you want to do business there, you need to contract with someone else to do your shipping. It's dangerous out there in space.

On the other hand, those who do like this stuff engage in conversations about what the right way to do accounting for EVE is, and what are the tools that are needed, and whether banks are smart or dumb to ask for the kind of data they ask for.

The discussion in the above mentioned thread has a lot of energy over whether to use LIFO, average cost or item selection. I find myself firmly on the side of LIFO, with the addition that if raw material prices drop significantly, I would be inclined to take a charge off, and revalue my raw material inventory lower. Take the bad news up front, that's how I feel. Otherwise, you are living in denial.

This stuff is incredibly engaging.

UPDATE: Added reference to EVE-MEEP

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