Thursday, April 24, 2014

Industry Changes and Effects on Lowsec Capital Production

Industry isn't my strong suit in Eve. I have some skills in it, and used to do some Tech 2 production out of a highsec POS about 3 1/2 years ago. I ended up giving it up because my heart was into looking for pew, and my POS wasted many hours in fuel between jobs. It just wasn't as efficient as it could have been.

With the new changes announced for manufacturing, BNANA's Logistics/Industrial chief (Gothie) mentioned to myself and some of the directors on comms yesterday that our capital production line is likely going to be grinding to a halt this summer. Of course, we're like "What the hell? We just got it up and running a couple months ago!"

I've got some handle on production, as I mentioned, I've done a little of it, but I can't really wrap my head around the numbers. When my own expertise falls a bit short, I do what any sane head of an alliance does, and I drag the guy who knows his shit into a conversation and have him explain it to me.

Military experts are saying lowsec capital manufacturers
should start investing in lubricants instead.
First up, getting into the capital game as a startup manufacturer requires an initial investment of around 14 Billion ISK for the BPOs involved in components and ships. Those BPOs need between 5 and 6 weeks of research each before the manufacturer can even think about building anything with them. As it stands now, this research can be done at a POS while the 14 billion ISK investment stays locked in a station. After the change, these BPOs will need to be actually inside the POS. In highsec, an industrial will have a 24 hour warning before someone can attack and RF his POS. Plenty of time to cancel jobs and get your stuff out.

I shouldn't need to tell you what happens in lowsec when someone finds out your POS is holding several billion ISK in loot, but even this is manageable. With slots going away, BPOs can be researched in a station, likely for a premium, but at least safe, transit aside.

That brings us to the core of the problem. Not even the guys that rode the short yellow bus to school would dare hold a mining op in lowsec. There are relatively safe places to do it in null sec, but where we live? Guaranteed hot drop in 30 minutes or less, MAYBE 60 if you can keep a low enough profile. Every single one of the 101 systems in our war zone is within a single jump from the 3 main Gal Mil capital staging systems, to say nothing of the threats posed by BALEX, Snuffbox, Stealth Wear, Scum, or any other group in the area with a titan and a t3 gang. The other war zone is considerably smaller than ours, and the people living there have bridging titans too.

With no local source of ore and minerals, any materials used in lowsec production need to be shipped in. With the life expectancy of a standard freighter in lowsec measured at about the 5 minute mark, that means jump freighters and fuel. The average dread takes about 1.5 million m3 of minerals to construct. Shipping efficiency is obtained right now through ore compression in modules. Our industrial arm uses 425 mm Railgun I modules mostly, which offer about 30x mineral compression allowing a single JF run to haul in enough materiel for about 5 dreads with some filler minerals to compensate for ratios.

With module reprocessing changes coming, modules can only be reprocessed for 55% of their minerals, which will sound the death knell for module compression when the expansion hits this summer. The good news in this is that ore will then hold a similar compression ratio, so we won't need to worry about making 5 jump freighter runs to build a single dread. The bad news for lowsec is in the new REFINING changes.

This ship is about as vertical as the predicted drop in
lowsec capital manufacturing is likely to be this summer.
Gothie was kind enough to link me a chart explaining the differences in reprocessing. Considering that we can't build caps in highsec, we can ignore any small advantage lowsec may have over highsec in refining, and instead look to null sec as our competition in this market... a place that really isn't any more risky than where we call home, yet will see an 11% advantage in ore processing yield.

An 11% advantage on small ships is really no big deal. On a 2 billion ISK capital hull, 11% is a deal breaker. We're already locked out on Supercap production, but to this point we've at least been able to remain competitive on dreads and carriers. At an 11% disadvantage, lowsec capital manufacturers are just about fucked, GG.

So an upgraded outpost in null will have minerals available 19.9% cheaper than someone that refines in a NPC station, and 11% cheaper than a POS module in Low sec. Which means costs for building capitals that are that much cheaper....
Some say "Yes but upgrading an outpost is expensive!!! It's many billions!!!". To which I call bullshit, when a player with 4 indy toons (something that is at the low end of any half-serious indy guy - I myself have 7) can crank out 60 moros or Naglfar per month, worth 130 billion at today's prices. An 11% cost advantage will simply kill out all low sec capital manufacturers, when frankly the risk of building in low (particularly FW low) is not exactly lower than null... -
Gothie Maulerant, BNANA Logistics/Manufacturing Division
This is exactly the sort of stuff I was talking about during the CSM campaign season. It appears that without lowsec representation on the CSM, no one either on the CSM, or at CCP either realized this would be an issue, or cared, and once again lowsec is getting bent over and shafted while a severe financial advantage is being handed out to sov holding null sec entities. Call me a crazy bitter asshole, but the risk/reward is not computing for me in this scenario.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vote for Pedro

The CSM election is upon us, and the polls have opened today. My phone was chiming quite a bit today with twitter tags going off from supporters, several letters of support, as well as those asking questions found their way to my eve-mail box, and the show of support from several members of the community has been heartening to say the least.

I've pounded the ground here on the blog, on various podcasts and shows on Eve Radio, and on my CSM Campaign thread to get the word out. I sent a series of letters to Corp and Alliance leaders in Factional Warfare asking for their help in getting our people out to vote, and to keep our voice strong.

At this point, some might expect some words of closing, on why you should vote for me. I'll simply say that if you care about PVP, if you care about lowsec, if you care about Factional Warfare, regardless of where on your ballot I am (if even at all) should my bid for the CSM be successful, know that you'll have my full backing and support this next year whenever I'm voicing our concerns to CCP. I say our, because being on the CSM isn't about having a chance to help make the game better for me. It's about helping to make the game better for us... all of us. That's a huge responsibility to offer to take on, and an obligation that those of us who make it will owe to the ones who helped put us in a position to be their voice. CCP hasn't always been right, but they've been a lot more right when the CSM has been included in the big decisions, and a lot more wrong when they haven't.

I'm also going to go a step further than some of the other candidates, and prop up a few of my fellow hopefuls. You get to rank 14 candidates afterall, and while you don't have to go that far, I certainly wouldn't fill a ballot with less than 5 or 6 if you don't want your vote to go to waste.

Sugar Kyle: If I'm your number one, I hope you've got her at 2 or 3 at least. If I don't make it on the council, she HAS to. In an ideal world, I'd like to see us both on, but having neither would likely mean another year of lowsec having no voice, and little in the way of resources dedicated to improvements.

Steve Ronuken: Fuzzy Steve is a great representative for the guys making all the cool things with Eve's API, and in the future CREST. I'm not a programmer. I can't do the shit he and the other guys in that crowd do, but they do a lot of cool shit that improves our quality of life in the game. If you like being able to download Eve related tools on your smart phone, market tools for your browser, and spreadsheets on the web to help make sense of the spreadsheets in the game, he's their voice, and they need a voice on the council. If you use EFT, Eve Mon, a killboard, any of Steve's tools, Aura on android, one of Chribba's sites, or anything of the like, you owe a spot on your ballot to a guy like Steve.

Psychotic Monk: With the most recent backlash against Eve's most notorious villains, having a voice on the council to support highsec conflict creators is going to be key to preserving their way of life moving forward. A highsec completely free of scams, wars, and suicide ganks is not a good thing for Eve. Conflict breeds excitement. Having to deal with bad guys gives more appreciation for days filled with sunshine and puppies. Psychotic Monk is an excellent voice for those guys that really make you appreciate the good days in Eve.

Gorski Car: He's in PL, and I doubt will need a ton of support. I don't agree with him on adding more FW plex types (the 3 main ones we have now cause an obscene amount of reshipping when assaulting systems as it is), and his favor towards dual timers on plexes shows that while he understands plex PVP, he has little understanding of Plex warfare in a focused system assault. I find the rest of his platform to be solid however, and many of his ideas would benefit life for those of us living in lowsec. He should be on your ballot somewhere.

Mangala Solaris: RvB pilot and an incumbent. He knows a thing or 2 about PvP, and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty learning about issues he doesn't fully understand. History shows he did his part on CSM 8, and he even had some supportive things to say for lowsec. That's worth something in my book.

Mike Azariah: The 2nd incumbent on my short list, and would be a good balancing Yin to Psychotic Monk's Yang. If those two could get together and make a baby, that might be the perfect highsec CSM candidate. Since that is going to be impossible without some serious advances in Welsh cloning technology, I think we'll need to settle for having them both on the council.

That will do it for my recommendations. There isn't really anyone on the ballot I would tell anyone NOT to vote for (even Xenuria and riverini have value if you feel CCP Dolan needs to be punished for some reason). The nullsec guys will be determined by the sway of their blocs, and as someone who has only spent a bare 2 weeks living in a wormhole, I can't pretend to tell you which of their 5 candidates has the best ideas... I think their fellows will make that decision, and the best ones will undoubtedly see themselves elected.

Regardless of how you vote however, please, vote. And get in your corp and alliance mates' ears, and get them to vote as well. History has shown that the more players participate in this process, the louder the voice of the council. The CSM is meant to be the voice of the players, but it is the players that give them that voice. It's best we all remember that.

Monday, April 7, 2014

CSM9 Platform: The (Broken) Eve FW/Dust Connection

I had an interesting day today. It might have been especially interesting for those people tuned into DJ Wiggles' The GRN Show today, because they got to hear me rage at DNSBlack for a couple of minutes. I have no problem with the guy on any level really, it's just that when someone suggests to me that finding fights in Eve (especially Factional Warfare) should be more challenging, I'm liable to lose my shit in a fit of rage that would make Shadoo proud.

Well, DNSBlack sort of said this, but in his defense
I think he was thinking of farming, not fighting.
What sparked this though? A little used mechanic in Factional Warfare connecting Dust 514 and Eve; the Orbital Bombardment. This mechanic was actually revamped some time ago, yet when I talk with most people involved in FW about it, the most common response I get is "What's that?" or "How can I get in on it?" The answer, unfortunately, is complicated.

During one of the more recent patches, CCP changed the way orbitals work in FW in a few ways.

The Changes

First, they added an LP reward to encourage Eve pilots to want to provide them. This LP scales with warzone control, and comes out to 6000 LP per volley fired from space at tier 2. A volley can be fired once per 3 minutes, and the average Dust battle lasts anywhere from 12 to 15 minutes.

Second, CCP made the conditions that dictate whether an OB can be called down based on what's happening in Space, not on the ground. If one faction holds the Satellite in orbit for a 3 minute timer, the squad leaders of the faction that holds the satellite then have the ability to call for a strike. It is then up to the pilot in space to fire.

Third, CCP added kill reports for Dust troops and vehicles destroyed from orbit. While the isk destroyed is usually laughable, most killboards count dust kills as kills, so it can fluff numbers a bit.

Lastly, CCP made it so that if someone is in proximity of the district beacon, it will show up loud and proud on overviews anywhere in system (providing the appropriate box is checked in your overview settings) so that anyone passing through will know that someone is sitting there waiting to get ganked.

The Challenges

These changes were all well and good, however CCP left out one itty bitty important piece to this whole thing... a reliable way for Eve and dust players to communicate a need for each others services! As an Eve player, there is no easy way for me to actually find where these Dust battles are happening. For Dust players, there is no easy way to find pilots in Eve willing to race around lowsec to provide air support.

A simple tool showing FW players upcoming and in progress dust battles would have been sublime. Instead, several dozen clumsily put together in-game chat channels have cropped up with a handful each of Dust and Eve players in them who were able to find their way in. Given the turn over in dust players, often a channel that was busy a month ago is now dead as many of the Dust players in that channel likely no longer play the game. While I applaud players for attempting to work around a shitty implementation by CCP, I am appalled that CCP's devs in this case were either unable or unwilling to provide the players of both games a reliable way to find and help one another.

This issue is further compounded by a rather shitty implementation of voice comms. Most Dust FW players use squad comms for their voice chatting needs. Eve players can not be a part of a Dust squad, and therefore cannot join their squad chat with Eve voice. Eve players can join DISTRICT chat for a battle in progress, but only as long as they are in orbit and connected through the Dust satellite. Most Dust players in my experience, while showing in district chat, are not connected to it audibly, and therefore can't hear or speak with a supporting pilot in orbit.

The only real work around for this issue I've found has been to have a completely separate channel populated by fleet support and ground troops and have everyone connected to it through Eve Voice. In the world of FW, and it's accessibility, this can prove to be a supreme pain in the ass to coordinate, even with a smaller group.

The Solutions

The solutions to these 2 very major issues facing the dust/Eve connection in FW are as simple as the problems.

Proof that CCP's Marketing Dept. probably
doesn't actually play Eve.
First, Eve and Dust players need better tools to communicate with each other. A hybrid CCP sub forum linked on both Eve-O forums and Dust forums, where players from both games can post and communicate with each other would lend itself more to CCP's "One Universe / One War" marketing slogan. I've talked with several FW corps who would love to be able to find like minded souls on the Dust side to work with, but only those who also have Dust accounts are able to communicate with Dust players on official CCP forums.

Next, allowing Eve pilots to join Dust squads as designated air support would go some way towards tightening the voice comms gap. Many Eve players seem allergic to Eve Voice, but this may be one way of showing people that it doesn't completely deserve the bad rap it's been given since it's early days. It also happens to be the most reliable link between Eve and Dust players comms wise at the moment.

Lastly, we need tools to be able to find one another. On the Eve side, this could be as simple as adding a tab in the FW interface to display in-progress and upcoming Dust battles in a player's chosen war zone. For the Dust side, having a queue that Eve pilots can join to show willingness to provide Orbital Support for Dust players to ping, and invite to squad.

Unfortunately, as DJ Wiggles said on the GRN show today, these changes are unlikely to happen unless CCP sees a clear benefit. If the present piss poor implementation of this feature is an indicator of how much stock CCP is putting in the Eve/Dust connection, I weep for it's future. Perhaps with a good shove from both the CSM and the CPM (which I hear is fighting their own uphill battle against CCP at present) some progress at a more meaningful connection can be made.

At least I picked up a solid endorsement from the ER In-Game channel after my ranting:
I'd vote for Bacon. I've heard him rage, so if anyone can get CCP off their asses it's him - River Tamn, Eve Radio Listener
In my own defense, it's not so much rage as a passion to make Eve a better game.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Comparison of Newbro Friendly Corps: BNI, Fweddit, Dreddit, & Noob Mercs

As March comes to a close, I'm going to have to listen to the Noob Mercs [PHAIL] Director of Newbro Integration, Charlie Firpol, extol the virtues of his growing crop of cannon fodder. His corporation of 280 newbies and reforming carebears (with a small sprinkling of veteran pilots) has not only surpassed its previous kill record, they more than doubled it, and they might do it again next month they way they've been growing lately.

The battle of B-R has seen a huge uptick in newbie applications across the board in most Newbie corps. Noob Mercs is a bit lesser known than most, but even they have added over 60 members in the last month, just from the in game recruitment tool and some word of mouth. Thanks to some solid veteran leadership, the boys and girls in PHAIL are, pound for pound, one of the deadliest Newbie corps in Eve right now.

How deadly are we talking here? Well, to run any numbers in this sort of game, we're going to have to look at some killboard stats.

Direct comparison between PHAIL and other Newbie friendly corps with similar open door recruitment is difficult due to some serious size discrepancies, but some number crunching and averages can help shed some light on the pound for pound nature of this elusive beast. For the comparison, we'll pit the Noob Mercs stats next to Brave Newbies, Dreddit, and Fweddit, all extremely easy to get into, noob friendly, and operating in low and null sec, with 2 of the 3 active in FW as PHAIL is.

The results are actually a bit surprising, and highlight more of a difference in how these corps fly and engage, rather than which is better than the other. While some shine in some areas more than others, none really dominates the board. If you are a newbro looking to get into PVP, read on and see which of these corps might best fit the sort of playstyle you're looking to get into.

Corp Name ---> Brave Newbies Dreddit Fweddit Noob Mercs
# of Pilots 6361 1963 421 280
Kills - March '14 7978 3097 2283 2922
Kills Per Pilot 1.25 1.58 5.42 10.44
Losses – March '14 30229 4748 901 1227
Losses Per Pilot 4.75 2.42 2.14 4.38
K/D Ratio 0.26 - 1 0.65 - 1 2.53 - 1 2.38 - 1
ISK Destroyed 569.59 Billion 278.39 Billion 156.52 Billion 127.10 Billion
ISK Per Kill 71.3 Million 89.9 Million 68.5 Million 43.5 Million
ISK Lost 464.61 Billion 110.87 Billion 28.64 Billion 15.74 Billion
ISK Lost Per Loss 15.4 Million 23.4 Million 31.8 Million 12.8 Million
Power Ratio 21.5% 26% 46.4% 29.4%
ISK Efficiency 55.08% 71.52% 84.53% 88.98%
Top 5 Ships Used Thorax Caracal Crow Atron

Atron Thorax Hound Enyo

Talwar Talwar Legion Kestrel

Maulus Hound Hurricane Comet

Slasher Crow Proteus Merlin

The numbers may require some interpretation in a couple areas, but should mostly be self explanatory.

Kills per pilot should give a fairly good example of how active the membership is in some cases, but if Brave and Dreddit are mostly in large fleets, that will drag down this ratio. Losses per pilot is a tough one to figure in this picture. It could indicate PVP activity levels in the case of Dreddit, but with Fweddit flying more expensive ships, it could indicate a relative skill in piloting those ships, or an aversion to putting them in losing situations. Both Brave and PHAIL pilots seem to have a similar average level of being accident prone.

ISK per kill give a fair indication of how big the targets being hunted are. With everyone but Noob Mercs having a presence in nullsec, that might account for most of the difference here. There just aren't as many shiny targets roaming in lowsec. Without decent numbers or solid logi, bringing blingy ships to lowsec is like diving into a pool full of piranhas, especially in PHAIL's home of Black Rise.

ISK per loss gives a fair indication of the types of ships being flown by the pilots, and can give an indication of relative SP of the pilots flying them. Cheaper ships tend to be flown by newbies obviously, and more expensive ones by pilots with higher SP (or with too much money and not enough brains). There is a correlation here with the top 5 ships used by each corp as well. Fweddit seems to have grown up quite a bit since they formed a couple of years ago, Brave and PHAIL are much heavier with their use of T1 frigs, and it shows here.

ISK efficiency can be a very loaded stat. We see by most of the chart that Brave and PHAIL are very similar in the ships they fly, losses per pilot, and isk lost per loss, but they have opened a huge gap in their ISK efficiency. What gives? This one comes down to overall effectiveness and ratios. PHAIL pilots are killing 2.38 ships for every loss they take, while Brave pilots are losing almost 4 ships for every kill they get. The pilots involved have similar skill points, and both corps have a higher percentage of actual noobs than either Dreddit of Fweddit going by the numbers.

I have a theory here, but I can't claim it's very scientific, and some thoughts from you readers would be appreciated.

This is where the power ratio comes into play. It's a percentage of the average value of a lost ship vs the average value of a killed ship. In theory, the lower the %, the more outclassed your ships are in the combat they're facing. Brave is fighting in by far the most outclassed situations according to this number, which may account for their k/d ratio being so far in the tank. PHAIL seems to be hitting a sweet spot at what they're bringing to bear against their chosen prey. Fweddit's higher power ratio also seems to be serving them well. Brave might just need some bigger boats.

Non Scientific Conclusions

Based on the numbers in front of me here, i've come up with some thoughts and assumptions of how these 3 Corps differ and operate. I'd be interested to know how accurate/inaccurate these are.

Brave Newbies: Largest corp of the bunch, highest concentration of Newbros in perhaps all of Eve. Fly in larger fleets, and seem to take on targets of much higher class than what they can bring to bear. Their motto of "Be Brave" seems to be backed up by their stats on that chart above, and they certainly do not fear death in the face of overwhelming odds. Frigate focused, with a smattering of cruisers and larger ships. Loves Talwars.

Dreddit: Corporation populated heavily by reddit users. Last year's war in Delve was a heavy hit to Dreddit, and their numbers have shrunk quite a bit, presumably as more veteran pilots have sought greener pastures. The only nullsec alliance to enter FW and not get pushed back out. Likely have a higher average pilot age than Brave, and more SP. After forming the Hero Coalition with Brave and some other alliances, they seem to be setting their gaze back on nullsec space, but still maintain a small presence in Placid and black Rise FW regions. Their local spam is legendary. They fly a lot of cruisers, but also have a solid love of frigates and Talwars.

Fweddit: Also formed from a base membership coming from reddit, they've come a long way since their early days in the Amarr militia back in 2012. While still somewhat active in FW, they also hold sov in some space formerly occupied by Dreddit's alliance, TEST. They seem to have graduated from massed talwar fleets and into more "big boy" ships, though I can attest personally from occasionally fighting against them when they come to visit that they have not entirely forsaken their roots.

Noob Mercs: After being inactive since 2008, the corp was reactivated and brought into the Monkeys with Guns. alliance as their newbie training corp just prior to joining FW on the side of the Gallente in 2012. At 280 members, they are the smallest of this bunch, but their size has been a benefit to their pilots being able to get more experience with small gangs lead by veteran pilots. Similar to BNI's "Be Brave" mentality, PHAIL operates under the motto "Fly Fearless." They equate the difference from standing firm against insurmountable odds, to charging into said odds with arms flailing and foam coming out of the mouth. They tend to operate in smaller groups than the other 3 corps, and mostly provide suicide fast tackle support in larger fleets. VERY frigate focused. They refuse to fly Talwars, and like to counter them with massed sniping Kestrels, and derp fit Atrons.