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A Modest Proposal – Nullsec Groups

Second day edit: I have been duely informed by people that:

  • I’m correct
  • I’m wrong
  • I don’t know what I’m talking about
  • I got the order wrong
  • I should stay in my lane
  • The first paragraph was dickish. (not intended, but…)

So… You should probably just move on without reading.

This is just a minor modest proposal, for how a nullsec group can grow and prosper. Yes, I’ve never been in a nullsec group, but I’ve been watching from the outside, without any real prejudices holding me back. If you think I have nothing to offer, you can just close the tab now, and go about your day, safe in the knowledge that you showed me, and I’ll know my place now.

There’s a few stages to this, some of which have to happen in specific orders, others which can occur out of order (to a degree)

Stage 1:

Pick a capital system. Ideally this will be pretty central for you. A semi reasonable jump train to highsec is worthwhile, but not totally required. Depends how much you hate your logistics people. This could change in the future, but doing so could be quite painful. This will make more sense further down.

Once you have your capital system, you need to anchor at least a Fortizar in it. A Keepstar would be better, but I don’t know what scale you’re operating at. This structure should have A Market module in it. Other structure modules aren’t so important, though I’d suggest defences. Keep your market tax rate sane. Yes, you will get income from this, but you don’t want to make it make more sense to go elsewhere.

Stage 2:

Stock your market. Initially, this will likely be from Jita. This is bad. Jita is the enemy of your logistics chain. If you’re buying something from there, you’re giving ISK to the enemy (namely, someone not in your group)

This one sounds simple until you start getting into all the fiddly bits coming out of the simple premise that the only people you should be giving ISK to, are members of your own group.

You will want to have some subsidiary markets scattered around. These are not for your line members to buy ships and modules from. These are to cut down on the required movement of resources to make stuff. We’ll get to why this is good in a couple of paragraphs.

Stage 3

You’re going to need miners. You probably already have people in Rorquals. If you don’t, you want some. Or mining barges. Or both. Mine anomalies. Mine moons. Provide facilities for them to refine their ore, with a decently low tax rate, and appropriate rigs. Compressin is reasonable, if they’re towards the outside of your space.. You also want to provide them with somewhere to sell the ore or minerals at a fair rate. This can be below Jita, as it’s significantly more convenient for them. Do not scalp them. Taking advantage of your people is a good way to lose them. These can be at the subsidiary markets.

You’re going to need industrialists. Thankfully, you’re probably not going to need a huge number of them. And you can cheat, by teaching your line members to make things for you. Sure, they may not specialize, but if they can get researched blueprints at a low rate, and there are orders for them to sell to, you can effectively outsource bits of your manfacturing to them. You will want manufacturing structures in reasonable locations. This is why you want the subsiduary markets. So a general member doesn’t need to ship things around, to manufacture useful things.

Stage 4

Assuming you’re running a decent monitoring system on your members, you can start to have production goals people can sign up to. “We need 300 of module X”, allows people to sign up to do bits of that. Give corps/people who do useful things kudos, or other benefits. Remember that T2 needs T1 to feed it. And Components. And so on. Outsource from your primary industrialists to your line members. And Reactions are yet another thing that can be spread around. You need to watch for people selling resources outside, but this is a social aspect.

You want to be as self-sufficient as possible. If you have a doctrine, and you whelp a fleet, the appropriate response is to replace it from your stores. If it’s to go to Jita to buy another fleet, you’re playing into the hands of the people you’re fighting against.

Misc notes

The phases should probably be broken up more. But you can see how it all interlocks, and this is close to a stream of consiousness, rather than a properly set out plan.

Running a trade surplus is ok. But it tends to indicate that you can grow yourself more. Don’t give your spare capacity to your enemy.

You’re going to need ISK to make this work. Line members will need to be paid, to stop them selling their shit to your enemies.

You need to be able to have basic monitoring of your members. This means you’re going to be pretty dependent on your IT staff. Welcome to modern business. The basics of what you want to monitor:

  • What people are making. (Did Jimbob make a Dread recently?)
  • What stockpiles you have
  • What’s on your markets. (Is Jimbob selling a Dread on the market?)
  • What contracts exist (Is Jimbob selling it by contract instead?)
  • What ISK flow is happening. (Did Jimbob suddenly get a windfall?)
  • What your line members are mining. (are they refining it elsewhere? Selling in jita?)
  • what your mining happens near your structures.

Your enemies are everyone who are not you. This should be obvious.

None of this stuff is rocket science (though the monitoring system will take some effort. As will reporting on it) But all of it isn’t being implemented in too many places.

EULA Changes – Gambling

I’m not going to talk in detail about the EULA changes wrt the alpha clones. Which is the rest of them. There’s nothing substantial in there. Even the 90 days thing isn’t. (before, it was ‘account expired; we can delete it now’)

What I am going to do is talk about the other change. That to gambling with EVE Online currency and assets. This is a pretty big change. It won’t directly affect a lot of people, who just play EVE and wouldn’t think about giving their money to another player to gamble with. But it will affect people more than some will think. I’ll explain that a bit further down.

Reaction

When I saw the devblog (Same time as the rest of you. The CSM didn’t get advance notice.), I was a little surprised. But not as much as I would have been a year ago. Over the last few months, there has been much more coverage in relation to gambling in video games, with some high-profile (in the industry) court cases. I was surprised, not because of the content, but only because of the timing. On reflection, with Alpha clones entering the scene, I shouldn’t have been surprised at that either.

CCP have a very big incentive to clean house. The removal of a subscription fee being required to play means that we’ll probably have a number of younger players joining us; younger players leading to greater scrutiny in this time of elevated concern about gambling in video games. CCP seriously don’t need that attention. It could prove very expensive for them, especially as it’s not something that they control.

While it’s unfortunate that some sites, such as EVE-Bet, are being hit by this, I fully understand why CCP are taking this tack. Unless you take the stance that all gambling sites are banned, you have to ban them one by one. White listing isn’t possible. Only black listing. So the ‘well behaved’ sites go down with the ones with a shadier reputation, instead of CCP opening their selves up to

Side Effects

This is where I have my only real problems with what is happening. Regardless of how you feel about them, some of the sites being forced to close did a lot of good for the EVE community, funding a variety of projects, and allowing for a richness of content which it will take time to recover. The common example is EVE-Bet. They’ve stayed above getting involved in the meta-game of EVE, instead funding a variety of streamers and other community content providers, such as EN24, Crossing Zebras and Eve-NT.

That’s something I’ll miss. I seriously doubt that donations will match that income. Even when you have something like Patreon, the number of people who will kick in real money is low. Probably because it is real money. The number of people who will donate ISK is similar. I’m lucky. I don’t run up much in the way of EVE expenses. Some of the other sites, well, they’re going to have to seriously change how they do things.

 

Long story short, this is a positive change for the game. But not one without collateral damage.

PSA – Surviving Fanfest

Surviving Fanfest isn’t particularly difficult. Staving off Icelandic Death Flu (also known as Con Crud) is a trifle more difficult. And not being lynched for poor hygiene appears to be difficult for some poor souls. So here’s a few basic guidelines.

If anything appears to be insultingly obvious, then it’s not directed at you.

 

Hygiene

A small refresher course:

  • Shower in the morning, using soap or shower gel. You won’t melt. The water can smell a bit, but it dissipates rapidly (and beats body odour hands down)
  • Apply antiperspirant after showering. Not deodorant. Antiperspirant helps stop the sweat which leads to BO. Deodorant just tries to cover it up (and either fails, or chokes anyone nearby)
  • Change your clothes at least once per day

Remember, the human nose is good at getting used to scents. Just because you can’t detect it, doesn’t mean other people can’t.

Health

This one’s less obvious to people who haven’t been to any large convention.

  • Eat. Ideally at least three meals, but at least a large breakfast and dinner. Snacking throughout the day isn’t a bad idea. Starving people have weak immune systems. Ideally you’re not eating things which are just sugar. Complex carbs, fats, and protein are what you want to go for. If you see them, protein bars aren’t a bad idea.
  • Stay hydrated. You’re probably going to be drinking a lot of booze. Make sure you have water too. Having at least a water bottle with you is a very good idea. keep drinking throughout the day. Starting the day with at least a glass of water is good. (Your urine should be pale yellow or clear. Dark is a sign of dehydration, which is just asking for infection and discomfort)
  • Wash your hands. Soap and water.
  • Try to avoid touching your face. If you have to, your off-hand is probably the cleaner of the two (as you use your primary hand to touch things). You will fail to avoid touching your face.
  • Hand sanitizer (High alcohol based please. Anti-bac trends to tougher bacteria) as backup.
  • Fistbump beats a handshake. Not touching is better, but not always practical.
  • Consider extra vitamins. A healthy balanced diet means you don’t need this. Are you going to have such a diet at Fanfest?
  • No licking people.
  • Shower at night. Good way to get rid of anything you missed earlier. 2 showers are better than one. Go for the morning if you only go for one.

Scheduling

Plan which events you’re going to go to, in advance. That way you’re not running round like a headless chicken. The mobile schedule is a good way to plan, using the regular schedule to decide which to see for each bracket. Leaving gaps to go to places like the PvP room, or to eat, isn’t a bad idea, if there’s nothing on at a particular slot.

Registration – A suggestion for Fanfest

I’ve been to a couple of Fanfests now, and my least favourite part of it has always been Registration. With the long line outside Harpa, in the freezing cold, just by the North Atlantic.

Now, registering a couple of thousand people is never a fun job, especially when you have a bunch of different accents to deal with.  I’ve dealt with systems for events in the UK, where English is everyone’s first language, and those don’t run quickly either.

So, what would I suggest in my vast experience? Bar codes. The moment you have to type something in, or speak, you’re introducing a possibility of misinformation.

So

  • Send out a mail to everyone, containing a unique bar code, ideally one which isn’t a contiguous number.
  • They print this out (or have it on their phone)
  • During registration, attached to each of the machines being used, you have a cheap hand-held barcode scanner
  • When it scans, it first sends a key combo which sticks the cursor into the right field, enters the number, then hits enter.
  • At this point, you have their details up on screen. You confirm it’s them, it updates the (hopefully central, but you could consolidate later) database showing they’ve registered
  • You then hand over the tickets.

If you want to get really fancy you could throw in printing for the badges as well, but that’s probably excessive, and increases the initial cost significantly. Black onto plain white credit card sized plastic is around 9p per card, amortized over the lifetime of the card printer. Preprinted cards increases the cost. Thermal printing onto the tickets is possible, but also not cheap.

Might only shave a few seconds per person, but that stacks up when you’re doing a thousand people.

 

 

In case you’re wondering, most barcode scanners these days act as usb keyboards, just typing a preamble, the code, then a postamble. You could get fancy and use QR codes, but those scanners are more expensive and slower. Basic barcode scanners will set you back around £40 each.  I had to put together a solution for work for this kind of thing, which has been pretty successful.

In Game Rewards

This may seem a trifle self serving, in that I already have a fan site account from CCP (more for the tools, than the blog, I think). I don’t deny I like getting things (like the spiffy monocle I’m sporting in game, which I won from the pre-Vegas blink promo)

Part of me likes the idea of getting neat in game stuff, without ‘soul binding’. The whole idea of items which you can’t sell to someone else kinda goes against the grain in the ultimate capitalism of Eve.

On the other hand, anything that’s rare is valuable, regardless of the actual utility, and just ‘gifting’ that kind of thing means interfering a little in the sand box. I don’t think it’s as major as some people think, a few billion here, a few billion there, it’s not a major deal. It may be worth asking the community in a survey, rather than depending on the forums for this.

As my prescience is currently in the shop for repairs, I can’t say what the community would say it believes. But I can make some suggestions about alternate options, which cement people into the story of Eve. Options which confer no in game benefit, or a benefit which while tangible, makes sense why it’s not transferable. The second category is a lot iffier as it still involves changing the rules of the sandbox. Or rather, adjusting the variables.

Everything would be with CCP’s approval, of course.

No Benefit Rewards:

  • The right to name a High/Low/NPC Null Station/Planet/Moon
  • A monument to that person, or a something that they designate, as a permanent landmark in Eve. You want a monument to a particular someone? Get that instead of to you.
  • A new module with your, or your corporations name on it. Perhaps a replacement for a standard meta module. Or a ‘reskin’ of it. An ‘Otherworld Enterprises’ Strip Miner?
  • Your name on something everyone gets at Christmas. A meta version of a ship. A trading card.
  • The right to name an Agent.
  • Being able to pitch a mission to the CCP Staff. Fancy yourself a writer? Reduce the chance of people having to save that damn damsel.

In game Benefits:

More controversial.

  • A boost to standings with a particular corp or faction. Corp would be less problematic. Ideally not one of the corps for a trade hub. Though that’s a reward in itself. Reduced taxes.
  • Reduced taxes in a particular station.
  • A blueprint for a branded module. Ideally T1 or Meta 1 stats. See the ‘Otherworld Enterprises’ Strip Miner. A GoonFleet Rifter? Ships should just be skinned T1. Modules Meta 1 could work.

Have any comments? Suggestions? Vile imprecations on my lineage? leave them below.

Modular Assembly Arrays and Labs

We’re not going to get modular POS for a long time. That’s pretty much a given, with what’s been said. It’s just too complicated to modify the POS code to allow it, due to the big ball of mud programming that plagues any large software project. (Just slap new features onto older code, because doing it any other way would take a really long time, relatively)

But, perhaps, we could have a smaller change done, which should require less interaction with the main POS code. I’m making a number of assumptions when I’m talking about this, which may or may not be valid.

There are a number of places where working with POS is somewhat painful. The changes which have happened recently with the removal of the 3km limit have helped a lot, but I’d like things to go a little further.

The main change I’d like is: Change assembly arrays and labs modular. So you can deploy a single array (of each type would be fine) and then expand it. So no more having a POS with 4 advanced labs. You’d have a Lab that you could expand with more lab slots, of the varying types. Probably in packs, to reduce the min/maxing potential.

If you could do it with a single Industry structure, that would be even better. Storage modules, assembly modules for each of the different types, and so on. But I can see the restricted manufacturing slots, and the different speeds of labs being a trifle complicated to manage.

Once that’s all in place, you may be able to expand it further, to include more and more of the functionality of the POS.

Ideally the space factories could be anchored somewhere other than at a POS. Just give it a fuel bay module, and a module for power generation. (Yes, I know the ‘Just’ is making it sound simple. It’s not.) Possibly shield extenders modules, hardeners and so on. Tying them to moons is less than ideal, in my mind. Deep space factories would be neat.

As I’m wanting the moon mining to be shifted off into a totally different structure, to allow for raiding, perhaps once that’s all done, the old POS code could just be retired?

And yes, I know this would get rid of bubble shields. Which some people consider to be very important. If they’re really needed, how about an anchorable structure, such as the warp disruption bubbles? Though I’m a fan of my other suggestion, for having it possible to switch off your warp core, and then be unable to be scanned down. Which would be a similar result, if you’re not unlucky enough to be scanned down at your safe before you switch off.

 

 

 

 

And yes, this all came to mind by me being annoyed about moving materials between assembly arrays. A single storage pool would be nice.

Blog Banter #47: How complex is too complex?

My first banter! Time to make an idiot of myself.

From: http://www.ninveah.com/2013/07/blog-banter-47.html

So this month’s Blog Banter will gravitate around knowledge, specifically EVE knowledge. Some examples of topics to cover: Is EVE too complex for one person to know everything? Is it, in fact, too complex for one person to know everything about one topic? How do you maintain any knowledge or skills related to EVE over time with breaks and expansions? Does CCP do a sufficient job documenting the features of the game, and if not, what could they do better? How does one determine where the gaps in their knowledge even are?

EVE is a very complex. game. EVE has simple mechanics. The first statement is true. The second statement is mostly true. EVE is made up of many small, simple parts, which come together to create a monstrosity of enormous complexity. Consider Chess, or Go. Both games with a simple rule set (Go is incredibly simple) but the complexity of thought required to master the games is immense. Eve is similar. It just has a lot more independent rules.

Could one person understand all of Eve? If you exclude the players, I’d say yes, without too much difficulty. It would just take time, and a good memory. Of course, understanding and applying are very different. Being able to apply the understanding, that’s the difficult bit.

Take Industry. Learning how to do the basics of industry is simple. Once you’re comfortable with those, moving into T2 industry is just a case of getting to grips with Invention. Tech 3 is yet another step, just another increment on what you already know. Manufacturing Capitals is just Tech one manufacturing writ large.

Of course, then you have moon mining and reactions to take care of. But those could be quite happily left to someone else to take care of, until you’re in a situation to learn them and roll them into your vertical integration.

That is the core of the complexity of Eve. Lots of simple little things, all coming together to create a symphony of complexity.

Just look at the Rules of Eve. They’re all made to be broken, when and only when you understand why they exist. They hide the complexity behind simple rules of thumb, letting people operate at a reasonable level, until they can take off the training wheels. Sure, they may continue to stay upright, to continue the metaphor, but if they need to, they can bend the rules, taking a corner at a higher speed.

Anyway, to answer some of the questions raised:

Eve isn’t too complex for someone to know everything. But it is wide enough that most people aren’t interested in knowing everything. And knowing isn’t the same as ‘being good at’. Sure, I could run a fleet. I know what Eve provides to do that. I would be bad at it, however. Those soft skills are the limiter.

How do you maintain any skills and knowledge? Application and reading. You read the dev blogs and patchnotes. You try things out, on Sisi or on TQ if you can afford the losses, or need live opponents. It also helps to be plugged into a group who can answer questions – Remember it’s a two way street. Someone asks about something you know, answer them.

CCP do an ok job of keeping the documentation up to date. It’s not perfect, with the Wiki often being behind reality (see cruiser stats until recently), but it’s survivable. With a game that changes as frequently as Eve does, even if those are fairly small incremental changes, no documentation could be entirely up to date, without spending a lot of developer time on it. There are some situations where it’s nice not to know things for certain. Take the spew cans for exploration. It took some time for people to work out what was in each type of can. That’s complexity which makes the game more interesting. Allows for a separation between newbies and veterans. Where a level of personal skill or knowledge makes a difference.

Thankfully CCP has been removing some of the more annoying versions of this. Rote memorization of large quantities of information is a bad form of complexity. Now it’s easy to pick out the explosive damage Torpedo. Before, you had to know that it was a Bane Torpedo. Other ammo types weren’t so bad, as they didn’t change between size levels. Some people call it dumbing down the game. I call it removing pointless bullshit.

As for the final point, determining where there are holes in your knowledge, the big macro holes are simple. “I don’t know industry” isn’t uncommon. Or “I don’t know how to PvP”. The problem is when you know a little. That just casts what you don’t know into darker shadows.

A sidegrade to cloaking.

First off, this is a pretty rough draft of some thoughts that I had while listening to the most recent hangout with @ali_of_spaceSo there will be some edges to knock off.

People complain about AFK cloakers. People who can, due to power projection via Cynos, shut down a system for any PvE.

The cloaker isn’t the problem. It’s the fact that they can bring a whole bunch of their friends at a moments notice. Sure, you could go and do stuff anyway, but there’s no real counter.

So I had a thought, sparked by what some of the other people were saying.

When you’re trying to use combat probes to find someone, what are you searching for? And the big difference between a ship and an asteroid is their warp core. So here’s the suggestion for changes:

1: Cloaks no longer prevent detection by dscan and combat probes. They do, however, make it hard to exactly localise someone. Warping to the signature will get you to their grid, but it won’t get you exactly on top of them. Once on grid, dscan will allow you to find their approximate location, say within 20km. I.e. you get 3 people who can get a distance (+/- 10km or so)  and between them they can localise someone who isn’t moving erratically and actively trying to avoid them.

2: To stop being picked up be probes and dscan, and additionally to not show up on local, you can shut down your warp core. This stops you moving at all. Everything else can run, but no movement.

3: Restarting your warp core takes a while. Exactly how long I’m not sure (this would have to persist between logins. Not sure how viable that is atm) But we’re talking, probably minutes. Perhaps a module or skill (or both) can decrease that time. But still not a /fast/ operation. While it’s restarting everything else can happen as normal.

The net effect of this is that someone can set a trap with a powered down ship (with a cloak), but they have to be in position already. (Get to an anomaly, power down the warp core, fire up your cloak. Wait for a sucker to turn up. Turn off cloak, activate cyno)

Thus, shutting down an entire system isn’t viable with a single afk ship, against a group of organised players. But you can, still, fuck with people.