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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Maiden Voyage

After training for the better part of a month, yesterday I completed my pilot qualifications to fly a cloaky transport ship, the Viator. I've been without implants in my main clone in Deklein, so I've been sitting in my empire jump clone and running missions for faction with certain corps.

But Saturday Ginta mentioned that he was going to make a run into Jita, so I jumped back to Deklein, grabbed a rookie ship and followed him through. We went the low-sec route (through the system where I lost my laden hauler, sniff), with very little trouble.

I had already bought my implants and so they were ready for me in Nonni. I could fly a Viator by then, so I went into Jita and bought it, along with a Covert Ops Cloaking Device II. But I had to wait until yesterday morning to fit it.

Of course, there were a few distractions, it being a holiday weekend in the US. But after dinner, I jumped in the ship, determined to fly it back to TNT's home space in 0.0.

I flew it through a few highsec systems, just to get the hang of how the cloak worked. There were a few surprises for me. I may be 3 million years old, but in EVE I'm still a noob.

The Viator will enter warp while cloaked. In fact, it aligns faster while cloaked than Dominix does uncloaked. And it does so very smoothly, not the usual power-drop-and-boost I'm used to. Often I would be in warp before I realized it.

However, I was a bit surprised to find that I could not jump through a gate while cloaked. You all knew that, I'm sure. And you can't turn the cloak on while you are under the after-jump cloak, either.

So I had to develop an "after jump" routine, that included having my finger poised over F1, select a warp target, activate warp, hit F1 to cloak. I sort of flash any nearby onlookers when I do that, becoming visible for a moment, then cloaking.

With far to little practice on this I set off. Since intel suggested a gatecamp in EC3-PI, I went via the lowsec pipe. What could happen? (other than getting caught at a 93PI-4 gatecamp and ganked, that is.)

Of course, there was a camp in 93PI-4. About 5 neutrals in the system, one at the gate from Saranemi, along with 3 bubbles. Fortunately, I didn't jump in all that near them, so I picked a planet, picked a distance to warp to, clicked the warp button and mashed F1 like I'd been practicing. As soon as I dropped out of warp, I aligned to another planet and jumped there. Then I aligned and stayed quiet for a while, watching local. Nobody followed me. One of the neuts left the system for a while. When I blue came in to the system and didn't leave immediately, I figured that was enough distraction and jumped through to G-M4I8.

They had someone on that gate. Lather, rinse, repeat. Don't jump direct to a gate, that's an invitation to be bubbled. I didn't yet know what would happen if I hit a bubble, would I decloak automatically?

I stayed in G-M4 quite a while, I didn't like the looks of the situation. It was clear by then that the neuts were hunting me, but I didn't know their resources. My plan was to bore them to death. So I waited a good long time cloaked and then jumped through to R-2R0G and the long pipe back to Deklein. For a time, I got ahead of them. However, I didn't have a destination set, and I had to pull out a map to look for what a good choice would be.

As it turns out, the jump bridge that we had been using was down. This was in part political. When the SC managed to put the bridge and its tower into reinforced, a call had gone out for people to come and repair it, and the call had not been answered with great enthusiasm, it seems. So rather than pay for SOV in 4ABS8, TCF has decided to leave those bridges down for the time being. Thus I was taking the long road.

So as I paused a bit to look at the map and sort out my route, the neut gang caught up with me and flooded the system. However, they didn't stay long, I'm not sure why. So I pushed on, thinking I might run into them. A couple more systems along I ran into a gang all right - a blue gang!

Mostly the rest of the trip was uneventful except for my close encounter with a bubble. I don't recall exactly which system, but once I found myself pulled 80km directly past a gate and to a smallish bubble. And I was decloaked. Fortunately, there was nobody around at the time, but that was a rude surprise. 80k, I had no idea that was possible. I guess this is the "sling bubble" I keep hearing about. I boosted back to the gate, that was a slow jaunt. I guess warping to a planet and back might have been faster, but the bubble mechanics threw me.

Anyway, the trip is successful, I made it back and managed to blast through two anomalies, one with a friendly alliance member and his alt. I'm well set up for PI, I have all the skill books injected and training, and I have a hauler, my new Viator (I named it Edmund Fitzgerald just because), to haul the PI goods around with.

Of course, having success in the same place/situation where I had failure before is what makes this game worth playing. They were hunting me, and this time, they didn't get me. That puts a smile on my face, big time.


Skyforger [LVSKY] is recruiting. Our CEO, Eperor, has designated me Manager and Meclin/Scipia/Gaff Director for the US time zone(s). I typically play in my later evenings and I'm in PDT, living in California. That works out to about 04:00 to 07:00 Eve Time. Sometimes earlier, and odd times. We are interested in both PvP and mining characters. I'm not that much of a PvP player myself, but I'm learning. There are several good alliance FCs that are on during my play time, and some that start a bit earlier.

If you're interested, drop me an EVE mail, join the LVSKY_REC channel, or just convo me.


Friday, May 28, 2010

There are 5.09 Born Every Minute

From comes the news that Symantec has found a website hosting 44 million stolen gaming credentials. That's some serious phishing.

Symantec says that the accounts are gathered via trojans and keyloggers, and that they have other trojans that validate the accounts.

How likely is it that they've got your account info? Well, Symantec reports that there are 210,000 WoW accounts. However, reported today that WoW has currently 11.5 million subscribers. So that's about 2 percent, which would make it quite a distinction for your account to be among them.

This goes a long way to unravelling what has been to me a mystery. Most of the phishing/hacking attempts I've seen were pretty unsophisticated. I'm always highly suspicious of free stuff. But then, I've been in computing for, well, almost all of my 3000 years (3 million if you're using EVE time).

But no, it's a sad few that are the prey. However, it's enough to make it worth the pirate's while, small a hit rate as it is. That's the beauty of computers, they can ferret out that little gold nugget from all the sluice in the world, while you sleep.

Since there are about 134 million births per year, we can work this out:

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The Devil Strikes Back

About 5 minutes after my last post, I ran across this statement from CCP Cronotis:

There is indeed an issue where you can reprocess the starbase modules whilst they are still regulated by the old market supply prices and use those materials to manufacture other more expensive modules. This unfortunately was a timing issue with our transition to planetary interaction from old to new supply routes and as can be seen, was not handled in the appropriate way.

For those of you looking forward to Planetary Interaction on June 8th, do not worry as these issues will be cleaned up and appropriate measures will be taken to ensure there will be a viable market for you. Those of you currently gambling on profiting from this error should heed that as a warning before splashing more isk here.

Ok, it now sounds like they had planned to allow recycling, but didn't cotton on to the consequences at NPC prices. Or maybe that's just my fevered imagination.

I'm not sure what they could do to kill off the speculative buying and melting though. Blueprints for making stuff will continue to work. Maybe turn melting off for a while? It would be disappointing, melting is part of the ecosystem. They can't very well make the blueprints not work. Will the prices of the modules in question go up or down once they are supplied by players, that's the question. Stay tuned.


Beat the Devil

Letrange plays devil's advocate and reports the theory of one of his allied pilots vis-a-vis recycling of towers.

But first lets get you up to speed with a quote from Letrange's post yesterday:

Apparently you can buy some modules, melt them, make a large tower for less than 100mil or something crazy like that.

FYI, the cost to buy them from NPC's is something like 500million.

Ok, the theory under discussion is that this was intentional.

He posits that it was always intended that the player re-cycle existing modules in order to make sure there were enough P4 materials on the market so that once the towers and what not are pulled, people are able build towers until the more natural P1 thru P4 planetary manufacturing picks up the slack.

If you aren't up on tdhis, towers can be reprocessed, and what you get back are 'P4' components, the highest tier of planet-manufactured goods.

The evidence he has for this being intentional: When you reprocess the existing tower you don't get any capital construction parts like you would if you reprocessed an orca (apparently he's done it twice - with the orca). This means that reprocessing (once the NPC goods aren't on the market any more with their fixed prices) won't be a very good idea since the way it works now any minerals you pump into a tower go bye bye even if you recover all the P4 materials.

I think the only way this could have happened by accident is that there were plans to do this, which were then scrapped, but the code to allow recycling was left in by accident. It doesn't seem highly plausible to me. So, I agree, it was on purpose.

Letrange goes on to say:

Also CCP is on record as delaying the release of the Planetary Control Centers "because of issues of scale". Which does not tell us exactly what they were worried about although I suspect it was the hang time between removing the NPC goods and the industrialists spooling up manufacturing.

I have a very different take on "issues of scale" which has evolved over time. At first, I thought it was some sort of performance issue. That there would be too much of a load on the servers if everyone started doing PI. After all there's a bunch of start/stop orders for each PI installation that must be queued. But computers are fast, I've since revised my thoughts.d

Since the delay was announced, production of an extractor has increased about fourfold (on SISI). You get more, and it takes less time. Really less time if you go for the really fast extraction regime: five minute cycles.

On top of that, the P1 schematics changed to take 3000 input materials, where it had been 6000.

I think its likely that someone at CCP calculated the demand for PI extracts from the current consumption of pos fuel, t2 parts, and station/outpost parts. They then divided by the number of pilots in EVE and got a number that was uncomfortably large. Big enough that they decided to increase base production by about 8x. Which happened the day after the announcement. Big changes like that need a little time to settle out and be tested. Thus the week delay of lauch.

The 2 week delay between recipes and planet changes appearing and CC's appearing seems to be about spin up: letting people train their PI skills for a while, and about intel, which is again a spin up. Let everybody know where the good planets are.

As to the main thesis - recycling is for spin up - I think that's pretty much correct. Or really, recycling is just part of the ecosystem. If you can recycle Orcas, why not towers, for Marr's sake?

This line confounds me though:

His personal suspicions is that this is what the indy guys at CCP intended, but he also thinks that their original schedule and estimates for this got thrown out of whack by the changes in dates.

Ok, I'm behind the curve on something - indy guys? Some of the devs aren't CCP employees? Given (what I've seen of) how CCP does releases, I think it's quite unlikely that group A pushed their stuff to Tranquility at the planned time while group B delayed a week, making a schedule mismatch. They do monolithic releases, and I'm sure they have a release czar who signs off on this stuff.

Anyway, in summary, recycling of towers seems intentional to me. It's started now because that's when the PI goods have been pushed into the database, and the blueprints put on the market. It's also a way to establish a ceiling to the prices of P4 goods. One expects that as the NPC-sold modules go away, the prices will adjust so that this sort of thing isn't profitable any more.

One of my themes recently is "why would anyone want to play this game?" Stuff like this engages me in a way that few games can. People are far more interesting than AI's.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Polar Bear Club, EQ2 Edition

Lobilya and I played around in Halas (Reborn) last night. We both started new toons. I'm sorry, but I don't have screenshots for you. I take screenshots, I write posts, but I don't seem to be able to connect them. I have tons of screenshots for posts I was gonna write, but never did, and when I get down to writing, I never have the shot I want.

Anyway, it looks great. Really. I started a berserker, it seemed appropriate.

Starting quests have you bashing strange creatures, some of which appear to be some sort of artic version of a zygomid, and at one point you get to try out some zygomid repellent (It worked like a charm.)

There is a big stretch of water to cross, early on. There is a raft that travels back and forth across it. The theme of the newb zone is that you're a new pilgrim, and you are trying to get to Halas to start your new life. There are many other pilgrims, as well as a few Halasians and they need your help.

As often as not, helping them involves killing polar bears. You might end up killing as many polar bears. Phritz commented that he should have named his new toon "Global Warming" because of how many polar bears he had killed.

I decided to try to keep my gathering skills up to my level, and after level 5, this became ridiculously difficult. I could go 10-12 harvests per skillup. And the fishing nodes can be pretty difficult to find. So that's irritating. The quests are good, with a good progression to them.

There isn't so much of a conga-line (to borrow TAGN's phrase), but a vast plain of monsters, some of which are quite unusual. Whirling ice storms seem more like something from Velious than Halas, but whatever. There are also rolling rocks, and animated snowballs that hop around. And bears. Did I mention bears?

I didn't get a look at Halas itself. It seems the highlight is the new player housing there, which comes with a built-in (!) fireplace. I've heard good things about it.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Griefers, Populations, and EVEness

Letrange posted about the connection between high-sec griefing and server population, noting that the griefing might be slowing the rate that new players enter the game, and that this seems to be a good thing, because of lag issues with large blob fights, and in Jita.

So in the end I'm ambivalent about the high sec griefers. One one hand they are legalized school yard bullies (and thus scum of the galaxy). On they other they keep the server population in control and keep the ratio of PvP players to carebears withing reason (which is needed for a non-deflationary economy). Incidentally I'm drawing a very big difference between Pirates in low sec and Griefers in high sec (not that there aren't pirates that also grief in high sec). Most of us really don't have much of an issue with low sec piracy as such.

Actually, I think the population proportions between PVP and PVE are self-adjusting. More pvpers makes for more demand for goods, which makes mining, looting, and even mission running more lucrative, thus, more PVE. More PVE means more targets, and more competition in high-sec, which means more jaunts into low- and null-sec. And it means cheaper ships and fittings, making piracy and PVP more profitable.

When you think about EVE populations, you must consider alts. I think they distort things. They are often slave labor, and do not behave in any (in-game, the accounts are paid for, and exist for very solid meta-game reasons) economically rational way. This will tend to distort server loads. How many of the Jita station-campers do you think are the sole character owned by their player? I didn't think so.

Finally, griefing is pretty heavily woven into the fabric of EVE. Hulkageddon might have been griefing, or it might have been instigated by someone who owned a Hulk BPO, and was intended to stimulate demand. Suicide ganking might be griefing, or it might be a vendetta, or it might be a highly profitable act of piracy. Can-flipping seems like fairly pure griefing, but ninja looting a mission doesn't. Not that it won't irritate you when it happens. When I first heard about insurance fraud, my reaction was "Wow, how cool is that!"

Now its true that I have a lot of friends who don't really get why I play EVE. "Why would you play a game where someone could ruin your day like that?" is the typical question. And my day has definitely been ruined a few times. Another question is "What is the point?"

Eve is like playing a game of Civilization with 40,000 other people at the same time. It is full of operational planning problems and strategic decision making. I love the strategy game. Everquest had some element of it, but it's mostly gone now in EQ2. It is a pvp game with a very low fast-twitch element, which, sadly, is appropriate for my age (remember, I'm 3 million years old!).

Another question about EVE is "what is the point?" The point of EVE is whatever you decide to make the point. Control territory, conquer the world, become filthy rich, or hone your skills. Build things, or blow them up. Visit every system. It's an economic sim, not a quest. It's like a breath of new air. The air isn't fresh, though, since it's been recycled through your capsule's life support many many times already. But it's still a very different feel from any other mmo experience.


Monday, May 10, 2010

I Came Here to be Podkilled: Good News, Bad News Edition

In which I continue the tradition of blogging all my podkills...because it's so much more entertaining than talking about running that anomaly.

About a week ago, I don't recall exactly when, intel suggested that there was a break in the red gatecamp in EC-P8R. Since I had a bunch of stuff saved up for sale, and since I needed to buy some modules for my new Dominix, I gathered stuff up in my Iteron III, and rushed down to Torrinos.

Setting all the sell orders and buying up the stuff consumed most of the evening. By the time I was thinking of heading back to Deklein, intel showed the gatecamp in EC-P8R was back.

Then commenced a very frustrating week. I would log in, check intel, find EC- impossible for my clunky freighter, and log off. I spent a couple nights in Essence and Sinq Laison, using my jump clone there to run missions and my research agent.

And then back to the waiting game. If you are knowledgeable about the region (Lonetrek), you know there's another way through, a long pipe of lowsec regions ending in 93PI-4 via Saranen. But the usual way to get there goes through a bottleneck lowsec system called Aunenen. Aunenen is frequently camped, so I stuffed shuttle into Prosperity (my Itty 3) and docked in Nonni to switch to the shuttle and check it out.

No such luck for me. Aunenen is awash with reds, sometimes dozens, sometimes hundreds. Either they don't bother with my shuttle, or its too fast for them. I repeat this several times, and then I hear via intel that it's a forward base for Atlas, which is part of the Southern Coalition if I'm not mistaken and a war enemy for us.

So that's not really going to be an option for me.

I spend a few more evenings logging on, sitting around reading forums and waiting for any sign that someone will come and clear the gatecamp. Nada.

Staring at the map, I see a way around Aunenen. Through some lowsec systems in Black Rise. I get close and check it out with my shuttle. It looks clear, so I approach the gate. Bad news, there's someone sitting at the gate on my (highsec) side. I think for a bit then fly off, look at the clock and wait ten minutes. After all, I'm sure I look juicy.

When I come back, there are TWENTY ships sitting at the gate. They are neutral, but still, not a good idea to take that jump.

So I dock up and log out. That was Saturday. Adding to my annoyance, Singularity was down, so I couldn't go play there either.

So Sunday morning I logged in and found things very quiet when I scouted with my shuttle. The passage through Black Rise went off without a hitch. And so then I started down the pipe to Saranen. Whenever possible, I would warp to a system near the next gate, and use directional to check for anyone there. This probably isn't necessary, but I really don't want to jump through a gate if there's someone sitting there, I'm too much of a sitting duck while aligning.

It's going pretty well, and I get to Saranen. It's more populated than the rest of the pipe, and there's a mix of reds and blues there, plus a few neuts. This is where I made my first, and second mistake.

There had been no mention of 93PI-8 on the intel channel. Not ever. So what's the likelyhood of a camp there? If I had been smart, I would have asked on the intel channel. I didn't. Also, I could have docked up and scouted in my shuttle. Again, I didn't. This was early in the morning for me, about 8:00 AM and a Mother's Day breakfast was on the slate for the day. Maybe that contributed to my impatience, but I more or less cried "Banzai!", warped to the gate, and jumped through.

As soon as the new system loaded, I realized the error of my ways. There were two bubble generators at the gate, but turned off. There were maybe a dozen reds in the system, and no blues. There was a Dramiel at the gate, but pretty far from me. I probably had a shot to get a warp off. But to where. I expected to hit bubbles if I warped directly to the next gate. So a planet.

The warp got off successfully. I consider logging off, but I'm worried that they might have enough time to scan me and pop me. Certainly the Dramiel knew where I warped to, though since I warped to 100km, he won't warp in on top of me if I have even a tiny bit of luck.

Then there's my cloak. Did I mention that I have a cloak fitted? That's because, embarrassingly, I didn't use it. Hit the cloak the moment the warp ends, and its likely that I survive. Of course, I'll be trapped in the system, but there's always a shot. But I didn't do that, which is my third, and most fatal, mistake.

What I did was start an align to the next gate. Best I can tell, I did it because that's what I'd been doing in the runup to this encounter. Of course, it didn't work. The Dramiel caught me and scrammed me, and others showed up quickly.

I thought I had a shot because of other fittings, an ECM burst. Frankly, if I'd had two, I might have got away. Because it really seemed to give them fits. It took them much longer than it ought to have to pop me. I actually regenned some shield at one point.

I think they must have popped a bubble on me, because I had no shot to leave when the ship exploded. And they tried to open a convo on me. I closed it, and they podded me. I assume it was ransom. However, I don't pay ransoms. Furthermore, podding me, , while expensive, wasn't that expensive, since the implants I use are pretty cheap. But it also had a desirable effect. Which leads me to the Good News.

I'm back in Deklein! Now I can actually play the game rather than sitting around in the station waiting for a gate camp to clear.