Archive for the ‘ Ideas ’ Category

On Learning Skills

A recent devblog announcing the removal of learning skills has once again polarized the Eve community. While a majority of players hail the removal as a step forward for Eve (and for new players in particular), a significant minority disagree with the change. This post is for those critics. Let me try to explain why the change is beneficial.

So, why remove learning? I could respond by arguing that it makes the system unnecessarily complex or that it consumes two months of training time during which players cannot do anything new. But I will not, because the wrong question is being asked. A better question than “Why remove learning?” is “Why keep learning?” Do the learning skills provide any positives?

Proponents of learning skills argue that there is a choice, that new players do not have to train learning skills. But that is a patently false claim, as everyone does train learning. Does anyone tell players not to train those skills? Why is it that all the supporters of preserving learning skills have them trained? The reality is that fundamentally there is no choice. Sooner or later, you will train them. And the sooner, ideally while the 100% training bonus is active, the better. If the learning skill supporters sincerely believed that training learning was not necessary, they would not have trained it.

So there is no choice. What do the learning skills do then? Like any other part of Eve, they add complexity. Is that beneficial? Yes and no. Eve is intricate, and (in)famous for that. If you want to do PvE, you need to master ship fittings, cap stability, NPC triggers, agent standings, loyalty points, loot drops, salvage, and efficiency. If you want to do trade and industry, you need to master market manipulation, regional market differences, mineral pricing, production efficiency, location, and timing. If you want to do PvP, you need to master fittings, ship types, ship capabilities, maneuvering, tackling, tracking, ship radii, missile operation, cap management, fleet operation, and leadership.

Those are just a few of the paths you can take in Eve. All are complex, daunting for both fledgling players and seasoned veterans. Yet despite all their differences, they have one thing in common: choice. You choose to PvE. You choose to trade. You choose to manufacture. You choose to PvP. That is what makes Eve a sandbox.

But wait. The paths have another thing in common: the necessity of learning skills. Whichever path you take, you still must train learning. Let that idea sink in for a moment.

When you have no choice but to train them, why are they present? Should all new players be forced to train skills like “Becoming a Capsuleer” and “Pod Operation” upon starting a character? Obviously not. Yet how are those any different from learning skills? You have no choice in training them and they simply raise the learning curve. And when everyone but week-old players trying to figure out what Eve is all about (and even in their trial period they are being instructed to train learning skills) has them, what is the benefit?

It should be apparent by now that learning skills add nothing but artificial intricacy to Eve while forcing players to spend two months of their subscription in training them. But even the arguments presented may not convince some, as some critics of the removal of those skills seem to revel in the pain those cause. One person even stated, “I am more mad that the system goes from gradually-reaching-max rate to EVERYONE-at-max. There should be a little pain.” For those people, perhaps the desire to retain learning skills is due to schadenfreude. Or perhaps it is due to the “Back in my day…” superiority syndrome. Or perhaps a mix of both. Whatever it is, they must realize that Eve still requires time investment. Players still need to sweat for a month over Cruiser V before they can hop in a T2 cruiser. Players still need to train leadership to give bonuses to their fleet. That has not changed. What has changed is that unnecessary complexity has been removed, enabling players to concentrate on working toward their desired spot in the sandbox of Eve.

Thoughts on Incarna

Ever since Dominion, I have criticized CCP’s “new content over quality” mindset. At the time, most others remained highly optimistic, but it seems that the majority of players are finally in agreement with me. But there is no point in beating that dead horse, as major media outlets have already noticed.

With that said, what new content is CCP so excited about? What do they see in Incarna that is worth neglecting the rest of Eve and infuriating the players for? As far as I can see, nothing. But before I delve into that further, let me explain why I play Eve.

I (and I am sure most others) play Eve because of its unique features. For me, those include the rewarding complexity of PvP, the potentially massive scale of engagements, the immensity of the universe, the sandbox aspect, and the high average intelligence of players. Only in Eve do you spend hours and hours just tinkering with fits for a single ship. Only in Eve do you see thousands of players fighting over one system or one POS. Only in Eve do you truly feel small as you travel 30 jumps from one place to another. Only in Eve does the endgame not consist of simply hopping into a Titan and officer fitting it. All ships have their place (except maybe the Burst. That ship is awful).

But what about Incarna? The limited information CCP has released has shown characters customizing their appearance to a certain degree, walking around in a station, and visiting a player-made shop. For reasons I cannot seem to grasp, CCP (and some people) seem excited about that. Nothing in Incarna is remotely exciting or innovative. If you want an amazing character customizer, go play All Points Bulletin. If you want to walk around in a scifi environment, go play Star Trek Online. If you want to actually do something while walking around in a body, go play World of Warcraft or LOTRO or any of a billion other MMOs. And why devote 70 devs to Incarna when, according to the Eve backstory, capsuleers dislike how frail and powerless bodies are?

If I am missing something, enlighten me in the comments. Because all I can see is CCP wasting resources in the wrong areas. All I can see is lowsec being ignored, the UI stagnating, modules remaining imbalanced, lag worsening, players quitting. If anyone from CCP is reading this, please change course. I love Eve. I don’t want it to fall apart.

Ultra Deep Safes

Deep Deep Safes

This Goonswarm manual explains how to create ultradeep safes; it is a must-read for PvPers.

CSM Idea Shower

The fourth CSM is hard at work collecting and reviewing game change proposals; here are several issues that caught my eye:

More Faction Items on Market. Yes please! Many players do not know how much faction items cost because of the fact that they are difficult to access and look up. Concerning the problem of market cluttering, I think simple subfolders would work fine. That is what is already being done for ammo; why not for all other items?

Destroyer Improvements Needed. Definitely a big issue. (and T3 destroyers would be amazing).

Battle Recorder. So many other games already have this; why not Eve Online as well?

“In Position” Broadcast Improvements for Cloaked Ships. Although this seems nice, I do not understand why it should to be added to broadcasts. Why not simply make cloaked ships show up on fleet mates’ brackets and overview (perhaps with a special ‘cloaked’ icon)?

Directional Scanner Delay Improvements. From the day CCP even thought about adding a delay between directional scans, they should have implemented this (of course, a complete overhaul would be nice as well).

The above are just a few of the proposals chosen by the CSM; make sure to read TeaDaze’s excellent CSM meeting notes for complete details.

Overall, I am highly pleased with how the CSM has been behaving and hope that CCP actually listens to them.

Better Eve Online Debate

Although blogging does increase the amount Eve Online players are able to discuss particular issues about Eve Online, it is inherently one-sided. Replies and discussion either have to be on a whole separate blog or in the comments. The first method is very time intensive, and the second is difficult to access and sort out. This is where CreateDebate comes in, a site specifically designed for enabling people to write arguments and rate them (I have tried out other debate sites as well, but none are as clean and intuitive as CreateDebate).

But why should we capsuleers use this? Would it not be yet another burden that keeps us from flying spaceships? I do not believe so. The Eve Forums are ugly and a terrible pain to use. Blogs are fairly time intensive (thus there are only 100ish active bloggers out of 300,000 players) and wanting at hosting discussion. Twitter helps more people participate in conversation (200+ active tweetfleeters), yet lacks depth due to its simplicity. CreateDebate fits perfectly into the holes these methods have.

CreateDebate obviously is not designed specifically for Eve Online, so how can we use it? Well, first of all, here are two sample debates (feel free to participate!): What Changes Do You Most Want in Eve Online? and Speed Boost for Assault Frigates?. As you can see, CreateDebate allows you to post arguments, write arguments in reply, and vote arguments up and down. CreateDebate keeps it organized and gives you some interesting stats.

All you have to do to participate is sign up and start voting and writing. If you create your own debate, make sure to put “eveonline” (without quotes) in the tags so that it appears in this Eve-only RSS feed: http://www.createdebate.com/browse/debaterss/newactivity/all/alltypes/alltime/alltopics/0/24/open/eveonline/rss

There are millions of potential debates that could be conducted on CreateDebate (“What is the most annoying Eve bug?” and “Which ships need a buff/nerf?”). I am hoping that this debate site will facilitate increased interaction among Eve Online capsuleers, just like the TweetFleet has done on Twitter. If you have any better suggestions or have a catchy name for this debate group, please let me know (either in the comments or via a debate/message on CreateDebate)!

Exploring NPC Behavior

Exploring NPC Behavior

Upon reading my last blog post on ninja ratting, you may have had the following questions: Cannot a NPC frigate target you in less than 15 seconds? Would not a MWD make them target you faster? After cloaking, why wait 15 seconds before decloaking again? And since you are trying to avoid getting targeted by NPCs, why not fit remote sensor dampeners? The answers to all of these questions lies in the fact that ninja ratting works by taking advantage of fascinating subtleties in NPC behavior mechanisms.

But before I delve into this further, let me first say that I have never actually seen the source code driving NPCs, I have never talked to a dev, and the devs are vague about how exactly NPCs work. So although I have extensively tested this in game, it is still just a theory.

Now to understand how Eve Online NPCs function, you must first realize that NPCs do not follow the same rules that capsuleers in New Eden do – NPCs merely imitate capsuleer functions.  For example, NPC targeting mechanics are nothing like player targeting mechanics; the apparent “targeting delay” that various NPC ships have has absolutely nothing to do with your ship signature radius or their signature resolution.

Instead, NPCs have two states: active and inactive. NPCs are normally in their inactive state, but they enter their active state as soon as a player appears on the grid. Once in their active state, they wait for a set amount of time before selecting a target and engaging. Because this delay is intended to mimic a player’s targeting, larger NPCs wait longer – a battleship takes around 30 seconds while a frigate takes around 15 seconds. However, due to the fact that NPCs switch to their active state as soon as a player appears on grid, this countdown starts while a player is still in warp (unless the player is cloaked). When the player disappears from the grid (either via warping off or cloaking), the NPCs remain in their active state for a short period of time (around 15 seconds) before reverting back to their inactive state.

This knowlege of NPC behavior makes a huge difference in ninja ratting in the following ways:

Decloaking too quickly. When you land in a belt cloaked, the NPCs are still inactive, as you are not visible. As soon as you decloak, they switch to their active state and begin their selection delay. When you recloak after 15 seconds, they continue to finish their countdown and remain in an active state for a short time. So if you decloak too quickly after recloaking, they will target you nearly instantly, as their delay is already up.

Warping in decloaked. If you are decloaked while warping in, you do not have time for two volleys as usual because the NPCs start targeting from the moment you decloak, not from when you exit warp.

MWDing. Turning on your microwarpdrive while uncloaked does not cause you to get targeted any faster, as NPCs do not really “target” a player.

With that said, NPCs in belts, missions, complexes, and wormhole space do not all behave the same way. For example, not all NPCs in missions give security status gains (despite giving ISK bounties), and NPCs in wormhole space (Sleepers) can shoot a player through his cloak.

HTFU?

Ever since CCP’s HTFU music video in October, “HTFU” has become one of the most popular words in the Eve lexicon. Lost your ship? HTFU. Don’t like grinding missions? HTFU.

But is this a good thing? How far should HTFU-ing be taken? To the point that we refuse to change game mechanics? When CVA was disbanded, should we have simply HTFUed and left it shattered? Should we have HTFUed and not nerfed ECM? When scamming via contracts was much easier, should we have HTFUed? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments. :)