Friday, December 26, 2014

New Player Experience and the Skill Queue

Several months ago, I wrote about my issues with the skill queue system in Eve.  I really like the time-based skill queue, mainly because it removes any incentive to grind in order to progress your character's skills (which generally leads to un-fun gameplay being optimal).  Furthermore, there are always more skills to train, no matter how long you've been playing, so I always feel like I am unlocking new abilities as I continue to play.

However, I think the skill system needs to be refined in order to improve the new player experience.  A brand-new pilot will less than 1M SP can be useful to any fleet as a scout or in a tackle frigate.  In order to branch out to other roles, with T2 modules and decent support skills, it will take about 10M SP of focused training into combat skills.  This is enough to get into Interceptors/Assault frigates for a couple races, plus a basic T1 cruiser hull to V with T2 weapons.  The 0-10M SP range is where people either get hooked on Eve, or quit in frustration, and one of the biggest complaints I hear about is with the skill training system.  I think some of the issues can be resolved by helping newbies bridge this 0 to 10M SP gap faster.  This can be done in a few simple ways:

1. Get rid of attributes already!

Ok, maybe not completely.  What should be done is to make every skill train at 2250 SP/Hr, which is then modified by learning implants.  The result is that the rate of skill training is the same as it would be today (with an optimal remap), but one will no longer have to worry about optimally using remaps in order to train the skills that they want. Many of the key support skills that new players need early on have vastly different attribute requirements.

Attributes and remaps might add interesting game-play choices for veteran players, but I think they are overly restrictive to new players, and give too much of an opportunity to make a mistake that you cannot easily recover from.  When I first started, I wasted two of my remaps stupidly, which ended up greatly adding to my frustration later on when I realized what I had done.

2. Condense or remove "required" skills

There are a LOT of support skills which are basically required for any serious PVP character.  These include:

Basic Fitting Skills (1.295M SP total):
Power Grid Management V (1x)
CPU Management V (1x)
Weapon Upgrades V (2x)
Advanced Weapon Upgrades IV (6x)

T2 Tank Skills (1.476M SP total):
Mechanics V (1x)
Hull Upgrades V (2x)
Repair Systems V (1x)
Shield Operation IV (1x)
Shield Upgrades IV (2x)
Tactical Shield Manipulation IV (4x)
Shield Management IV (3x)

Capacitor Skills (1.024M SP total):
Capacitor Management V (3x)
Capacitor Systems Operation V (1x)

Drone Skills (1.5M SP total):
Drones V (1x)
Drone Avionics V (1x)
Light Drone Operation V (1x)
Medium Drone Operation V (2x)
Drone Interfacing IV (5x)

Navigation Skills (1.1M SP total):
Navigation V (1x)
Spaceship Command V (1x)
Acceleration Control IV (4x)
Evasive Maneuvering IV (2x)
Afterburner IV (1x)
High Speed Maneuvering IV (5x)
Fuel Conservation IV (2x)
Warp Drive Operation IV (1x)

Total: about 6.4M SP, or 118 days of training at 2250 SP/Hr.

This does not include other skills that I'd consider mandatory, such as Gunnery or Missile support skills to at least IV, secondary drone support skills, targeting skills, rigging skills, e-war skills, cybernetics, and spaceship command skills for your ships of choice.

This is four months of training, and almost none of it allows you to unlock new ships, weapons, or other fun things.  That is a big problem.  CCP really should try to condense, or eliminate many of these skills in order to reduce the skill training time, especially the fitting skills.  It's pretty ridiculous that the most accessible ship class (frigates) is the class with the tightest fitting requirements and has the greatest need for good fitting skills.

3. Free SP giveaways for new accounts

When a new trial account is first subbed, I would give away 1M SP that can be freely spent however the player chooses.  I would give away another 1M SP when the account is 2 months old, and another when the account is 3 months old (for a total of 3M SP).  I think this would do a lot to help newbies get established, and give them something to look forward to each month while they are trying to find their place in Eve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thoughts on the Recon Rebalance

Last week, CCP Rise announced a proposal for a Recon rebalance in the upcoming Proteus release here. This has received more of a response from the community than anything since the jump fatigue changes in Phoebe.    The most controversial aspect is the addition of d-scan immunity to Combat Recon hulls, but this also includes a substantial buff to the resist profile and capacitor of all 8 hulls.

I've had some time to think this over, and I think that the strength of d-scan immunity in combat recons is vastly overrated by the community. Cloaks are just SO MUCH more powerful in nearly every situation apart from maybe ganking plex runners. Some people are actually suggesting that d-scan immunity is BETTER than covert-ops cloaks, which I think is a ridiculous statement. The arguments against d-scan immunity basically boil down to:

1. People will camp inside medium faction warfare plexes and farm kills all day

I can already do this with force recons if I want to. I have two recon-capable characters, so I could literally just sit inside a medium plex with an Arazu & a Rapier with a scout on the warp-in gate, and just pop frigates all day if I really wanted to, and I can't even be detected by combat probes if I do this. This was also supposed to happen when the scan inhibitors were introduced, but I have not once seen someone actually do it.

2. Wormhole sites and low sec plexes will become too dangerous for PVE

They already are dangerous in w-space because of force recons (or bombers). D-scan immunity only matters if the site is within d-scan range of the wormhole and they manage to hit d-scan within the narrow ~2 second window that a force recon would be decloaked. Let's be realistic, someone who gets ganked by a Combat Recon in Proteus would get tackled today by a Force Recon >90% of the time.

With respect to DED plexes, I think this argument holds some truth, but there are still ways to be 100% safe. You still see people probing the site, and you can always move yourself >100 km from the warp-in beacon if you're paranoid, which keeps you completely safe from anyone coming in, regardless of what ship they're flying.

3. People will camp low sec DED sites with combat recons

This is countered with combat probes by the paranoid. And again, I can clear out the first room of a DED plex, and camp it with an Arazu/Rapier combo today if I really wanted to. It's usually more profitable (and less boring) to just run the site.

4. The decloak delay makes Force Recons balanced today. Combat recons won't have to deal with this.

The decloak delay for targetting is almost exactly equal to the delay between a combat recon showing up on the overview, landing on grid, and it being able to target after it decelerates from a warp. People have tested and measured this on sisi. In either case, if you are aligned and paying attention, you will be safe.

5. The new meta will be 20-man Lachesis/Curse gangs. There is literally no reason to fly anything else.

I'll believe it when I see it. It might work in wormholes, or assist with ganks, but recons are still not great pure combat ships and they'll get wrecked by a proper gang. Combat recons will indeed probably become the ship of choice for scouting wormholes though.

On the other hand, I think the change to Recon resists and capacitor is potentially very, VERY big though, and it could make e-war a much bigger factor in HAC/Battleship fights. For example, the ability to field tanky damp ships can provide a way for smaller HAC gangs to engage other HAC gangs who like to run with a large number of logi.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The many fits of the Hookbill

I made a video on the Hookbill!

The Hookbill is one of the very few frigates with 5 mid slots (along with the Heron, Buzzard, and Helios), and it is by far the most combat worthy.  The more mid slots a ship has usually means that it has a broader range of viable fits, which you can use to your advantage.  The fits I was using in the video are below in EFT format:

[Caldari Navy Hookbill, MWD Rockets]
Micro Auxiliary Power Core I
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Medium Shield Extender II
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I

Rocket Launcher II, Scourge Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Scourge Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Scourge Rage Rocket

[empty rig slot]
Small Bay Loading Accelerator I
Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I

As an alternative to the dual web fit, you can also go with dual prop:

[Caldari Navy Hookbill, Dual Prop Rockets]
Damage Control II
Micro Auxiliary Power Core II

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
1MN Afterburner II
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Medium F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction

Rocket Launcher II, Scourge Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Scourge Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Scourge Rage Rocket

[empty rig slot]
Small Bay Loading Accelerator I
Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I

Armor tanked Hookbills are also very powerful, especially with a tracking disruptor fit when fighting against turret based ships

[Caldari Navy Hookbill, Armor Hookbill 2]
200mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor I, Optimal Range Disruption Script

Rocket Launcher II, Scourge Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Scourge Rage Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Scourge Rage Rocket

[empty rig slot]
Small Bay Loading Accelerator I
Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I

You might notice that all 3 fits use the same rigs, which means that you can carry a mobile depot with spare mods in your cargo and refit in space as needed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Video: Slasher PVP Guide

Time to give a Minmatar frigate some attention!

Unbonused e-war is a bit overpowered, which allows a TD to turn a ship with paper tank and terrible DPS into a ridiculous hard-counter to almost any frigate or destroyer that deals turret DPS. Upon further reflection, I think a neut in the utility high is more useful than I said in the video. The nos allows you to essentially perma-run your armor repper, but I haven't found that to be useful in any of the fights I've had so far. I still think a neut isn't too useful in most situations, but it could help significantly against Executioners & Tormentors maybe. I also had a 10-15 minute long fight against an Incursus that I had to abandon because I ran out of barrage ammo. A neut probably would have allowed me to kill it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Video: Tormentor Guide

I just posted my second PVP guide, this time on the MWD Tormentor.  I chose this ship for my second video because it is very different from what I typically fly in low sec.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Video: Tuskers Alliance Tournament Fraps

I've finally gotten around to uploading the fraps I collected from our AT matches, and I've decided to release them for public consumption.  These are all from my POV in a Maulus, and include our comms and pre-match discussion.  Enjoy!

The Tuskers vs. The Initiative

The Tuskers vs. Feign Disorder

The Tuskers vs. Exodus

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Video: Rail Incursus Guide

Suitonia has been producing an excellent video series on solo PVP, called Eve is Easy.  This has inspired me to turn the fraps of my fights into video tutorials of some of my favorite ships.  Since, I PVP almost exclusively in low sec, the ships I fly are different than what Suitonia uses so I hope I can provide a unique perspective.

My first video is dedicated to the Rail Incursus.  This ship is special to me because it's the first ship I started having success with as a new player.  I think it's a very good ship for newbies to start off with.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ways to Improve the Skill Training System

A good friend of mine is getting out of the military in August.  Since we used to play first-person shooters and World of Warcraft together 8 years ago, it makes sense to me that he might want to try Eve.  To plan for this, I started training a PVP character on a new account earlier this year.  He'll have around 10-12M SP in August, will have good all-around support skills, and will have Caldari Frigate V & Caldari Cruiser V with T2 missiles.  If it turns out that my friend isn't interested in Eve, then I can either keep this as a Tengu alt, or sell it on the Bazaar for a couple Billion isk.

Eve is great in that a 2-day old newbie can fit a out a frigate and be useful in any fleet as a tackler or a scout.  In WoW, if I just start playing then I'm completely useless to my level 90 friends until grind through the quests and reach level 90.  This takes a couple months with a normal level of play (at least it did when I last played wow, it might be even easier now).  In Eve, after the same couple of're probably still going to be flying a tackle frigate in most organized gangs.  While a brand new character can be useful to any fleet, there is a large skill training "gulf" that must be bridged before you can start branching out to other roles or performing optimally in a solo pvp situation.  The 10M SP that my new alt will have is really what I consider now to be somewhat of a minimum in order to fly a decent variety of ships well.  When you reach 20-30M SP, then any ship you can fly you can fly well, and training only gets you into an ever-broader variety of increasingly redundant ships.  It's no coincidence that many PVP corps have minimum SP requirements near this level.

I think that to be more accessible to newbies, Eve needs to help players bridge this gap between 0 - 10M SP faster.  I have a few ideas on how to do this.

1. Condense Existing Skills

There are too many "mandatory" support or fitting skills that are frankly quite boring to train.  In terms of fitting skills this includes CPU Management V, Power Grid Management V, and Weapon Upgrades V.  I would also argue that the Armor Tanking, Shield Tanking, Navigation, and many of the basic Drone skills also fall into this category.

I would condense many of these into a single skill; for example I would have a single skill that covers CPU & Power Grid management, which would significantly reduce the amount of time needed to train fitting skills.  Why not combine the armor repair and remote armor repair skills?  How about shield operation & shield compensation?  And do we really need four separate armor & sensor compensation skills?  This is actually pretty minor and wouldn't have a particularly huge impact, but ultimately it means less time training boring support skills and more time training into fun new ships to fly or fun new weapons to use.

Unfortunately, recent trends show that CCP is actually moving in the opposite direction here.  The most recent example are the revamp of the drone skills.  After the Kronos patch, newbies will need to train a 1x skill to V in order to use T2 light drones, plus an additional 2x skill to use T2 medium drones.  Ironically, I stand to benefit greatly from these skill changes because it means I will not have to train Combat Drone Operation to V anymore, and I will simply be given Light & Medium Drone Operation V.  I really believe that this is a mistake and that CCP should make more of an effort to help new & future players catch up to established vets.

The other example, which I firmly believe was a mistake, was the splitting of the Destroyer & Battlecruiser skills, which happened last year.  Certain players who trained accordingly in anticipation of this change benefited immensely in the form of millions of "free" SP in these racial hull skills.  Someone who makes a new account today will have to spend 4 times as much time training in order to have the same capability.  This is MONTHS of additional training time!  No wonder there's a perception that new players can never catch up.

2. Accelerate Skill Point Gains for New Accounts

Ok, so there is technically already a booster that greatly accelerates skill training for new characters, but I think CCP should go a step further.  I would do something very simple: give away SP that can be spent however the player chooses.  For example, when an account is first upgraded, I'd give away 1M SP.  After another month, give away another 1M SP to the account.  One more month, another 1M SP.  This is on top of the normal skill queue and any boosters taken to enhance attributes.  I think this would do a lot to help newbies get established, and would probably also help retain new players.  Personally, I would also give away 1M SP to every account a couple times a year unannounced, because I think the whole community would appreciate it.

Obviously, I haven't thought these proposed changes through too much.  I'm not sure of what the unintended consequences of this would be, particularly if established players start new accounts to abuse this.  I suppose it would also become much easier to create new hauling, PI, and industry alts, which may impact the overall economy.  I still think that some of these are worth considering.  Also, I want to be clear that I mostly like the skill training system.  The greatest thing about it is that it completely removes any pressure to grind XP, and as long as my queue is running, I never feel as though I'm falling behind.  On the other hand, changes can certainly be made in order to make the game more accessible.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thoughts on off-grid Links

Not too long ago, my covert-ops alt finished training into a link Loki with T2 skirmish links and a skirmish warfare mindlink.  Now that I have some experience solo roaming with links, I thought I'd write about it.  This is a topic that many feel very strongly about, and many feel that links (especially off-grid boosting) should be heavily nerfed in some way.

I'll be completely honest here: skirmish links are pretty much completely unfair in solo fights.  They provide a huge advantage which benefits just about any ship in any situation.  I'll be completely honest again: I am not a good person.  I am a pirate.  I've never made any claim to being good at pvp in this game, and I likely never will (I have many corpmates who are much better than I'll ever be).  I don't always use links, but if I'm engaging above my class, multiple targets, ganking a mission runner, or if I simply feel like it, then I'm turning on the links.  I didn't spend months training my alt in order to leave him sitting in the station.

Looking at this in a different way, skirmish links allow you to engage targets or gangs that are otherwise un-engageable.  Under normal circumstances I would never warp into a plex which has a frigate gang inside of it.  However if you have links and you're flying a kiting ship, then you can burn out of their scram range before you're tackled and potentially get a decent fight out of it.  Solo roaming with links allows me to get more fights/hr than I normally would.  You might think this is unfair.  You might think this is an example of "pay to win" on my part by exploiting multiple accounts.  That's life. Deal with it.  I don't give a damn.

For gang roaming, things are a bit different.  The way you get a good fight in Eve is for your gang to look less scary than they actually are.  One major way you can achieve this is to use off-grid links.  This is the biggest reason that I think links should remain in the game as they are.  Forcing links to be on-grid only empowers the blob, and makes good fights less likely to happen.  This would make it much harder for smaller gangs (such as the typical Tusker gangs) to punch above their weight.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Merlin Revisited

I used to fly Merlins very often when I first started PvPing.  Small hybrids were the first weapon system I trained into T2, and the bonus to shield resistance made them very attractive for use in the E-Uni frigate gangs that I frequented.  I slowly began to phase them out when I trained Gallente Frigate V, and when I learned how easy it is to kite a blaster Merlin and basically stopped using them altogether for several months.  I still don't think that a Merlin is a very strong ship for the kind of solo PvP I mostly do: it's a rather slow ship and its conventional rail variant is inferior to the Incursus.  In fact, I usually look upon a Merlin as an easy win.

I've recently finished training Caldari Frigate V, and I'm now taking another look at the Merlin.  There is one role in particular the Merlin excels at: counter-fitting for specific targets.  The idea here is armor-tank the Merlin, and use its mid slots for unconventional e-war mods that allow you to beat targets that you otherwise can't.  The first example is the perfect counter to Slashers:

[Merlin, Dual Web Rail Merlin]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste 
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
1MN Afterburner II 
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S 
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I

A Slasher usually looks at a Merlin as an easy target since they have a huge advantage in speed.  Against a blaster Merlin, a Slasher can either orbit at 5km and neut out the Merlin, or an armor variant can simply apply an optimal-range tracking disruptor and then scram-kite with Barrage ammo.  A conventional rail Merlin (with only a single web) is an even easier target: the Slasher uses its speed advantage to establish a tight orbit where it can't be hit, then can neut, run a tracking-scripted TD, and brawl down the Merlin using faction EM ammo.  Easy win.

The Slashers speed advantage and its ability to dictate range is completely negated by fitting the Merlin with two webs, and this completely turns the fight around.  Now the Merlin can scram-kite the Slasher outside of its neut range and use its rail guns to apply superior DPS.  If the Slasher has a TD, then the Merlin simply switches to thorium or iridium ammo, and still has better DPS than the Slasher at this range.  

The next version is a TD Merlin:

[Merlin, TD rail merlin]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Damage Control II 
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
DDO Photometry Tracking Disruptor I, Optimal Range Disruption Script
1MN Afterburner II 
150mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S 
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I

With a polycarbon rig, this Merlin moves at 1100 m/s, which is not outstanding, but its faster than a Tormentor, a Punisher, a plated Incursus and a dual-rep Incursus.  There is literally almost no way this ship could lose to any of these ships aside from pilot error.  Its simple: kite at the edge of scram range, apply an optimal range TD, and plink away with railguns while avoiding any incoming DPS.  

In fact the TD Merlin is an interesting fit against any turret ship: A rail Incursus or a rail Atron fitted for speed and projection will probably have to disengage, and a Slicer would have to come within scram range in order to apply DPS with Scorch.  I think I'll fit a few of this up now...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Alliance Tournament

I haven't been blogging much in the past month, for one reason: The Tuskers are entering the alliance tournament.  Therefore, most of my non-playing time is being spent theorycrafting tactics, fits, and gang comps instead of blogging.  Also, there's no way I can write about anything AT related except in vague generalities (at least not until after the AT).

I will say this though: thus far prepping for the AT has been a very positive experience for both myself and for our corp as a whole.  It's really amazing how this has galvanized our loose confederation of low-sec pirates into a cohesive unit, and I believe that we'll perform much better than many will expect.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Business Saturday: Avoiding Burnout

I estimate that I made between 2B and 3B isk in profit during my time as a station trader.  This consisted entirely of placing buy orders and sell orders, all without ever undocking from Jita.   Station trading is great for making isk, since it scales fairly well with the amount of isk invested.  Although profit scales nicely with the number of active orders that are placed, beyond a certain point "fun" quickly goes down (at least for me).

Dealing with burnout is probably the biggest problem that I face with any of my business endeavors.  With station trading this can be a big problem.  Thing about it: what happens if you burn out while you have billions of items listed for sale or purchase?  Cancelling buy orders is simple enough, you forfeit the brokers fees you put up, but that's a sunk cost anyway.  The items you have listed for sale are a bigger problem.  The difference between actively managing items for sale and liquidating everything to the highest buy order was well over 5% for the items I traded, meaning the average station trader would be losing hundreds of millions of isk.  Leaving the items sitting in your hangar is also rather pointless, and potentially unfeasible if you need the liquid isk on hand.

I wrote about how I'm on track to make 1.5B/month from my PI factory planets in an earlier post, but this number assumes that my planets continuously run 24/7.  For this to be true, I have to consistently load and unload customs offices every two days on all my planets on both my PI alts.  Realistically, this isn't happening because it's incredibly tedious work.  Fortunately, if I fall behind I may not maximize my profit, but I'm not really losing anything.  The P2 goods will still be sitting in my launchpads if I ignore my planets for a week.  The only problem is, if I decide today that I don't want to do PI anymore, then the input P1 commodities I bought are now worthless. They would have to be liquidated, probably at a loss.

The risk of burnout is the main reason I haven't looked into doing research, or manufacturing, or drug production, or anything else that requires a POS.  A POS requires fuel every month (a fixed expense).  Burnout, or failure to maintain or refuel your POS, means either losing everything or paying for dead weight every month.

To summarize, I deal with burnout in a couple ways:

1. I don't worry too much about maximizing profit.  If I don't feel like re-stocking my factory planets, then I simply don't.
2. I don't run large scale operations.  In fact, in everything I've done I started small, and slowly built up my activity until I gained a better understanding of what my limits were.  I could obviously be making much more per month if I ran factory planets on 5 additional PI alts, but there is no way I could handle this.
3. I always make sure that I have enough liquid isk on hand to fund all my PVP activities many times over.  I don't ever want to run into a situation where I feel that I have to liquidate assets at a loss.
4. I have a couple different isk-making avenues available to me.  If I get bored with PI, I might start station trading again.  Or I might start running relic sites in null sec again.
5. Probably the most important: I decided long ago that I would just pay for my accounts.  I am fortunate that I have the means to do so, and this relieves me of any pressure to PLEX my accounts every month.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

PVP on a Budget: Destroyers

One of my tenets as a pirate is that tend to fly cheap ships and a relish the opportunity to engage and destroy ships that are many times the cost of my own.  In my mind, there is no better class of ships in terms of "bang for the buck" than the T1 Destroyers. Fully-fit with T2 mods, they will cost somewhere between 10M and 12M isk, and unless you run into a counter-fit they are generally able to win against most frigates, even the more specialized (and more expensive) T2, faction, and pirate frigates.  Gangs of kiting Talwars can wreak havoc on large frigate gangs as well as punch above their weight.

The frigates I tend to fly are usually scram-kiting ships, which are extremely strong in 1v1 frigate duels, but very weak against multiple targets.  To expand my horizons a bit, I've decided to fly destroyers that are designed to engage frigate gangs.  For this purpose, I'm looking for high DPS, high speed, and good projection.

[Thrasher, 280mm Artillery]
Gyrostabilizer II
F85 Peripheral Damage System I
Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Faint Warp Disruptor I
Tracking Computer II, Optimal Range Script
280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP S
280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP S
280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP S
280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP S
280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP S
280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP S
280mm Howitzer Artillery II, Republic Fleet EMP S
[empty high slot]
Small Ancillary Current Router I
Small Ancillary Current Router I
Small Processor Overclocking Unit I

My current favorite is this 280mm Artillery Thrasher.  It does a very good dps of 275 overheated, but more importantly is the alpha.  Each volley deals over 1600 damage!  Projection is also decent, at 13+14 km with the tracking computer running.  This is powerful enough to take out most lightly-fit tackle frigates in only a couple volleys.  The speed of the shit is nearly 2600 m/s with the MWD overheated.  Not the fastest ship out there, but quick enough to outrun any AB frigate.  Total cost: around 12M isk.

[Cormorant, Rails - 150mm]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II
Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Warp Disruptor II
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
150mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
150mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
[empty high slot]
Small Hybrid Collision Accelerator I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I

The Cormorant was my ship of choice until I trained into Thrashers.  The Cormorant has much better optimal range (20 km), and very similar speed to the Thrasher.  It deals slightly less DPS, and has a much lower-damage alpha.  An advantage is that it's able to fit a defensive web, and it's able to swap ammo to further improve its optimal range (if needed).  The biggest downside is the capacitor.  The railguns eat up a lot of cap, so it can't run its MWD for nearly as long as the Thrasher can.  I still love this ship though, and the best part is that it's very, very cheap.  This fit costs less than 7M isk.

[Talwar, Light Missile 2]
Ballistic Control System II
F85 Peripheral Damage System I
200mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Faint Warp Disruptor I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
Upgraded 'Malkuth' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Upgraded 'Malkuth' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Upgraded 'Malkuth' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Upgraded 'Malkuth' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Upgraded 'Malkuth' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Upgraded 'Malkuth' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Upgraded 'Malkuth' Light Missile Launcher, Caldari Navy Nova Light Missile
Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I
Small Warhead Flare Catalyst I
Small Ancillary Current Router I

The Talwar is what I would fly if I had decent missile skills.  Like the Thrasher, it has a very strong alpha strike, but it has projection out to 45 km, limited only by its targeting range.  The downside?  It's the slowest of the bunch, moving at only 2300 m/s overheated.  It's also not an ideal solo pvp ship.  The amazing projection is a bit of a waste in situations where you have to keep your target pointed.  Talwar gangs are excellent against frigates however.  Cost is around 9M isk

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Firetail vs Drake

I was out on a typical low-sec solo roam in my Firetail when I saw a self-named Drake on d-scan.  He wasn't in line with any of the celestials or asteroid belts in the system, so I had my alt drop combat probes and quickly scanned him down.  He was at a data site with a Magnate.  This is very odd.  Although I could tell from local that both of them were in the same corp, there is still absolutely no reason at all for a Drake to be at a data site.  For him to also be in a self-named ship also shows that he probably has very limited PVP experience.  For these reasons, I didn't look at this fight as "a Firetail vs. a Drake".  That's a fight that's un-winnable for the Firetail.  I instead looked at it as a fight between me, and someone who probably doesn't know what he's doing.  That's a scenario that's potentially winnable no matter what ship I'm flying.  Without any hesitation I warped to the data site to engage.

After I landed, the magnate quickly died after only a few artillery volleys.  I pointed the Drake and set an orbit for 20 km in order to maximize my speed.  This is critical against missile-based ships, especially ones that are likely fit with either Heavy or Heavy Assault Missiles because they typically have trouble dealing damage to small targets.  It worked like a charm.  He began firing at me, but his missiles barely touched my shields.  After I shot down his drones, I was more or less able to perma-tank his DPS.

Unfortunately, I could tell that he was using a PvE fit with purger rigs, designed for maximum shield recharge rate.  There was no way I was going to be able to deal enough DPS to break his tank with just a frigate.  I spent the next few minutes asking for backup in the Tuskers intel channel, our Skype & Steam groups, and finally the Tuskers Public Channel.  Nobody's around.  A few people were logged on but were AFK. Not a big shock since I play in a pretty weird time zone.  The good news is that my shields were holding just fine, so I could afford to be patient.  On the other hand, I felt that I had at least consider the possibility that I would have to let him go with nothing to show for it.  After nearly 15 minutes into the fight, I decided to try to ransom his ship.  I invited him to our ransom channel:

[01:14:50] EVE System > Channel MOTD: Hello, one or more members of The Tuskers are prepared to destroy your vessel. Should you wish to pay a ransom to save your ship, please do the following immediately:

1. Turn off all modules (including guns, missile launchers, webbers, scrams, etc.) and recall all drones. Stop your ship.

2. From the time a ransom amount appears below, you will have 30 seconds to pay the amount specified. Right-click the picture of the pirate stating our demands and select "give money" to do this.

If you do not comply immediately, we will re-open fire on your vessel. If we get nervous for any reason we will re-open fire on your vessel.

[03:13:57] Iddo Cohaagen > o/ OldFool52
[03:14:17] Iddo Cohaagen > you've tanked your ship very nicely, I must say
[03:14:42] OldFool52 > thx
[03:14:55] Iddo Cohaagen > my pathetic firetail obviously can't break your tank
[03:15:29] Iddo Cohaagen > however, for the last 10 minutes I've been trying to get someone (anyone) to come out here to help me
[03:15:31] OldFool52 > stale mate so let us finish here and we'll be on our way
[03:15:48] Iddo Cohaagen > havne't succeeded yet, but I'm confident I will  eventually
[03:16:21] OldFool52 > i've got lots of ammo and you still can't break my tank
[03:16:46] Iddo Cohaagen > so, instead of waiting for that eventuality, why don't you pay a perfectly reasonable ransom of 25M isk and I will let you go
[03:16:57] OldFool52 > lol
[03:17:09] Iddo Cohaagen > oh no doubt you have lots of ammo
[03:17:13] Iddo Cohaagen > I'm very, very impressed
[03:17:26] OldFool52 > don't ransom especially when friends arrive
[03:17:37] Iddo Cohaagen > look, I'll get my alt out here and dual box this if I have to

This is an empty threat on my part as I have no suitable alts that I can log on.  Also, I again fail as a pirate.  I offered a lowball ransom partly because I had very little leverage at the time, and partly because I've still never managed to successfully ransom someone.  The deal was actually pretty good for him, since a fully-fit Battlecruiser will cost somewhere around 70M isk.  He was certainly right about one thing though: he had LOTS of missiles with him.  I really was struck by how much ammo he must have been carrying.  He'd been shooting me for almost 20 minutes straight, stopping only to reload.  He still wasn't able to break through my shields, thanks to the Firetail's natually high speed and small signature radius (and maybe Skirmish links had something to do with it too...heh..heh).

[03:18:32] Iddo Cohaagen > seriously, how much ammo DO you have?
[03:18:33] Iddo Cohaagen > god
[03:18:58] OldFool52 > plenty, beleive in carrying alot of ammo

As time progressed I was starting to give up on scoring the Drake kill.  The best I was hoping for was that some of his corp mates would come to his rescue and give me a decent fight.  At the very least the guy piloting the Magnate that I destroyed could have reshipped.  Alternatively, the guy could very well have gotten bored and decided to pay the ransom after all.  There were still plenty of good reasons to stick around, and I wasn't in any real danger.

Pretty soon though, I finally got a response in our public channel.  Redrector, a member of Snuff Box, was only 5 jumps away and was all too happy to help rid the universe of another purger-fit Drake.  He landed on grid with me in a Vexor within a couple minutes.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.  It may have taken half an hour, but perseverance really does pay off sometimes!

[03:28:12] Iddo Cohaagen > =)
[03:28:17] Iddo Cohaagen > can't wait to see how much [ammo] you have left

A few minutes later it was apparent that we STILL did not have enough DPS to break through his tank.  I may have only been dealing 120 dps with my kite-fit frigate, but he was using a mixed flight of drones, including two Ogre II's.  His DPS must have been at least 500, and probably closer to 600.  Now I see why Drakes are so popular for running missions.  Bad news for us.  Not only that, but the Drake had switched targets to Redrector's Vexor.  He was not able to signature-tank the missiles as well as me, and was soon forced to pull out of the Drake's missile range.

[03:33:40] Iddo Cohaagen > jesus man
[03:34:03] OldFool52 > you had better leave now
[03:35:39] OldFool52 > almost have his alt ship down

Unbelievable.  Not only did I have to batphone another corp to help me kill a damn Drake, but it's starting to look like failure is a real possibility.  Fortunately Redrector DID have another PVP alt that he could log on, and he was just as determined to finish this as I was.  His alt was on his way with a Vagabond.  I had been spamming short d-scan regularly up to now, fully expecting backup to arrive.  Right as I saw our Vagabond enter the system was when I saw another Drake appear on d-scan.  The timing could not have possibly been any better.  Red saw his backup coming too and immediately tackled the 2nd Drake.  Now that we had sufficient DPS on grid to break their shields, the fight was over very quickly.

Killmail for the first Drake.  Look at how many missiles he STILL has left!
Killmail for the second Drake

[03:37:10] OldFool52 > shit he has more help
[03:39:20] OldFool52 > real cheap
[03:40:39] EVE System > OldFool52 was kicked from the channel by Iddo Cohaagen
Reason: "None"
Thanks Drakes for one of the more interesting and memorable encounters I've had in a while, and thanks to Redrector for the backup!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Business Saturday: Thoughts on Hauling

My primary source of income has become running PI factory planets, which nets about 1.5B isk/month in income by using two PI alts.  In order to keep my planets running continuously, each character must be supplied with an 800,000 m3 load of PI commodities every 11 days.  That's 4 freighter runs every 11 days between Jita & my high-sec staging system.  Each trip would cost me 13.9M isk if I were to pay Red Frog to do this, which comes out to about 151M isk/month in hauling costs.

That was expensive enough to get my attention, and this is why I bought a Freighter so that I could do the hauling myself.  A freighter is required not only for the input materials (which have a huge volume), but also for the output commodities that are shipped to a trade hub for sale.  A T1 industrial is capable of doing this, but the value of the goods is high enough that it makes the likelihood of a suicide gank very high.  A freighter on the other hand has enough EHP to haul 1B isk worth of cargo without attracting attention from suicide gankers.

This ship is beautiful
I also always autopilot my freighter while I'm AFK.  Every time.  Because of the ridiculously slow align times and warp speed, manually jumping a freighter through 18 jumps is for masochists.  Anyone who says a freighter shouldn't ever be auto-piloted has never actually owned one.  You can also logically infer that auto-piloting a freighter that's carrying less than 1B isk in cargo is relatively low risk.  In terms of isk/hr, actively piloting a freighter while doing courier contracts is much worse than mining (using Red Frog's prices as a basis).  It also requires a more expensive ship than a mining barge, AND it requires that you put up at least hundreds of millions in collateral.  Why would anyone EVER take up hauling as a career under these conditions?

To get the answer, consider it in a different way.  Imagine that you could invest 1.2B isk in an asset that allows you to a few buttons and make 10-20M isk in 1-2 hours, completely passively.  This is actually pretty decent income for the effort & time required, and this is why hauling exists as a career.  Red Frog would NOT be charging such low prices if freighters couldn't be auto-piloted while AFK!  I guarantee you that the vast majority of their pilots are auto-piloting right now.

Red Frog also insures their own pilots from loss, and since it is impossible to enforce a rule against auto-piloting, they must have determined that the risk of a suicide gank is very low.  They make the risk so small by allowing a maximum collateral of 1B isk on all courier contracts, effectively preventing their ships from becoming loot pinatas.  Conclusion: if you value your time at all, you will haul your goods AFK, and you will not carry more than 1B in cargo.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The New Rifter

With Rubicon 1.3, the Rifter's tracking bonus was replaced with a falloff bonus.  This is widely regarded as a needed buff to this hull.  I have Minmatar Frigate V trained, but I've never flown a Rifter before; there's really been no reason to when there were other hulls that were clearly superior.  The old Rifter suffered from a few major problems:

1. Bad slot layout (3/3/3 + 1 utility high slot)
2. Low DPS
3. Good, but not "great" speed

In comparison, the Slasher has a great slot layout (4 mid slots!) and outstanding speed.  This means people mostly saw the Rifter as a worse version of a Slasher, and for the most part they were right.  Is that still true?  Is the Rifter relevant now?  Let's look at a standard cookie-cutter Rifter fit:

[Rifter, Rifter 1]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste

1MN Afterburner II
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
5W Infectious Power System Malfunction

Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
Small Anti-Explosive Pump I

Deals 141 DPS cold at a range of 0.8+9 km
Speed is 1134 m/s (cold)

Let's compare this to the rail Incursus that I like so much:

[Incursus, Rail incursus (speed)]
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
'Refuge' Adaptive Nano Plating I
Damage Control II

1MN Afterburner II
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I

Hobgoblin II x1

This gives 144 DPS, and 1191 m/s speed, both cold.  It's slightly faster than the Rifter, mainly because the Rifter has an armor resistance rig and the Incursus has its speed enhanced with a polycarbon rig.  Otherwise, the Rifter is a naturally faster hull, but not by much.  And therein lies the problem with the slot layout.  The extra low slot on the Incursus means I can partially plug resistance holes with a nano plating, and instead devote the rig slot to improving my speed.  The Rifter has no such option, and must devote rig slots towards improving resistances.

The Rail Incursus is a pure scram-kiting fit.  It's been suggested that the Rifter can now perform this role thanks to the new falloff bonus.  Lets look at an EFT comparison of the rail Incursus, compared with the Rifter.  I've included two curves on the Rifter here, one with short-range faction ammo loaded, and the other with Barrage:

At 7.5km, the Incursus smokes the Rifter in terms of DPS, and it has a better tank thanks to its armor rep bonus.  Hello loss-mail for the Rifter.  On the other hand, if the Rifter is able to start the fight at brawling range, it has a great chance of winning the fight due to its neutralizer and its ability to match the speed of the Incursus.  This capability is nothing new though, and the Slasher is still flat out better at executing this.

It's also been suggested that Artillery fits on the new Rifter have become more viable, thanks to the falloff bonus.  Here's an Arty fit I came up with:

[Rifter, Rifter 2]
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Gyrostabilizer II

1MN Afterburner II
Faint Warp Disruptor I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

250mm Light Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
250mm Light Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
[empty high slot]

Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
Small Projectile Ambit Extension I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I

Below is the DPS chart from EFT, with the Arty Rifter shown in green (The AC rifter with barrage loaded remains in blue for reference):

It turns out that DPS for both artillery and autocannons is roughly identical at the edge of scram range!  The key advantage of artillery is that it can hit out to the edge of point range, giving it a fighting chance against long-range MWD kiting ships, and allowing it to kite outside of overheated web range.  The rail Incursus also has this capability, and it actually beats the arty Rifter fit at point range in DPS if it switches to iridium ammo.  The advantage STILL lies with the Incursus.

My current favorite point+web kiting fit is currently the Atron, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post.  Below is a comparison between the Atron and the Artillery Rifter fit.  Considering that the Atron's speed is 1382 m/s and the Rifter's is 1259 m/s, and that both ships have the same signature radius, and I'll stick with the Atron.

My conclusion: I'd rather be flying a rail Atron or a rail Incursus than any Rifter fit.  However, I would probably now favor the AC Rifter over blaster ships, simply because it now has the option of scram-kiting certain ships that it can't outbrawl (even if it isn't very good at scram-kiting, it has better projection than blasters with null ammo).  The Rifter is also still a useful fleet tackler thanks to its small signature radius.  In terms of the rankings I did earlier this month, I would now rank the Rifter as slightly better than the Merlin.  This is a mild buff, but that's about it.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


My main, Iddo Cohaagen, now has 12.8 million skill points.  I've come a long way, and it's a good time to reflect upon what I'm now capable of doing.  Here are the major skills I've trained:

Gallente Frigate V
Minmatar Frigate V
Gallente Cruiser V
Caldari & Gallente Battlecruiser IV
T2 Small Hybrids & Projectiles
T2 Medium Hybrids
Assault Frigate IV, Interceptors IV
Fitting skills at V (except Advanced Weapon Upgrades IV)
Most key support skills (Navigation, Capacitor, etc) at IV

I can fly Gallente & Minmatar T1 frigates well, I can fly a Thorax & Celestis well and a Vexor at an "acceptable" level (still need those damn drone skills!), and I can field a Battlecruiser in a gang situation if the need arises.  Access to assault frigates & interceptors is also incredibly useful in a wide variety of situations.

Over the course of the next year, Iddo is going to become somewhat of a specialist on cruiser-sized hulls.  I am now training medium lasers, which will be followed immediately by Amarr Cruiser V.  I'm also going to grab Minmatar Destroyer V soon, because I want to play around with Thrashers a bit more.  The Tuskers are now flying Battlecruisers so infrequently that it doesn't really make too much sense to train any of the hull skills to V right now (and Battleships? Forget it).  The slow warp speed is really just painful.  Drone skills have been de-prioritized.  I really don't think it makes sense to max out Heavy & Sentry drones when there are so few ships that it will help (primarily the Ishtar, which I can't fly yet anyway).  I'm not sure that I'm even going to get Heavy Drones within the next year.

I have one re-map remaining, and a new one due to arrive at the end of July.  At some point, probably around 2 months from now, I'm going to need to remap to Int/Mem in order to polish off all my support skills, which will then be followed by a final remap to Per/Wil that will be more or less permanent.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Business Saturday: PI Factory Planets

I'm going to write a post on how my various ISK-making ventures are doing.  It's a part of the game that I'm really starting to enjoy.

Last month I wrote about my first experience with planetary interaction, which consisted of doing extraction and P2 commodity production in a C2 wormhole.  Unfortunately, I was effectively evicted by the owners of the POCOs in the system after they jacked up their tax rate.  So much for that idea!  The bright side is, my stay in the wormhole was going to be temporary.  I gained a lot of knowledge about PI in the meantime, and I soon made an observation, based on the prices of P1 and P2 commodities.  Here are the current Jita prices of Water, Electrolytes, and Coolant:

Water (P1, 0.38m3): 279.00 isk
Electrolytes (P1, 0.38m3): 392.99 isk
Coolant (P2, 1.5m3): 7,698.98 isk

One cycle in an Advanced Industry Facility takes 40 units of water and 40 units of electrolytes and produces 5 units of coolant in 1 hour. That's a profit of 11,615.35 isk per cycle.  With Command Center Upgrades IV, you can have 19 factories, and with 5 planets, you can make nearly 800 million isk in 30 days.  This is with a character that's a week old, and has less than half a million skill points!  For comparison, I was only on track to make 300 million isk per character per month when I was doing extraction.  Here's the setup on my planets:

I use an Epithal to load enough water & electrolytes to fill up the customs office.  Then I transfer as much as I can to the two launchpads (water on the left, electrolytes on the right).  I then do an expedited transfer from the two launchpads to the adjacent storage facilities.  I finally transfer the remaining materials from the customs office to the launchpads.  This trick with the expedited transfer allows me to load more input materials than would normally fit into a launchpad, and it means that I only need to interact with the customs offices every other day rather than every day.

There's nothing to it really, just load up 30 million isk worth of water and electrolytes, and pick up 42 million isk worth of coolant 60 hours later.  So why doesn't everyone do this?  First, I have access to corp-owned POCOs.  The numbers I listed are only feasible with 0% tax.  Second, logistics is more difficult.  800,000m3 of water & electrolytes will only supply 5 factory planets for 11 days.  That's a LOT of hauling, and this is one of the major reasons I decided to buy a Freighter recently.

You can probably tell that a freighter load of the P1 materials isn't exactly cheap either; I'm tying up almost 650M isk with each load, so this isn't an accessible income stream to broke newbies the way that extraction is.  Fortunately, a return of more than 33% of the investment in only 11 days is really excellent.  When I was station trading I was only making about 2-3% return per day on my invested capital, and it wasn't nearly as consistent or predictable.  Pretty much all my liquid isk is being invested into PI right now, so station trading has been put on hold.

I now have one character with 5 planets set up, and I'll be setting up a second character's planets over the course of the next week.  That's more than 1.5B/month of income if I'm able to keep all the planets going.  I'd like to buy a Jump Freighter (6.5B), a suitcase Carrier (1B + 1B for skill books), and a low-grade Snake clone (750M) in the future, so I really need to get to work on this!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spare Modules: A Pirate's Best Friend

I was solo roaming when I spotted a relatively new player in a new-named Gnosis, running missions in Aeschee.  This is a pretty common sight, as Aeschee is a fairly active low-sec mission hub.

I quickly brought my probing alt into the system, and prayed that he wasn't knowledgeable enough in order to check his d-scan for combat probes.  He wasn't.  Good news for me.  I was in a Thorax, but at this point I had absolutely no doubt as to my ability to get the kill as long as I could tackle him.  He may have been in a ship that was a class above my own, but because of the age of his character, odds are that he was in a bad fit.  Add to this the fact that he had limited PVP experience, and I could probably have gotten the kill in an Incursus just as easily as a Thorax.

As I was warping to his mission, my only real concern was that I would land too far away from him to get point before he had time to warp away.  When I took the acceleration gate outside his mission, I landed almost right on top of him.  I could nearly taste the kill as I locked him up, landed my scram and web, and started blasting through his shields with hot void ammo.  Excitement was quickly replaced my disappointment when I watched him casually warp away. 

Warp core stabilizers, the scourge of my existence.  I've long since lost count of how many kills I've watched slip away because my target had multiple stabilizers fit on his ship.  I spent a few moments checking my map and deciding where I was going to next, when I noticed that his ship was still out in space, and I suspected that he was going to go back to finish his mission.  Enough is enough, I decided.  I am not giving up on a stabbed ship today.  I checked the market and found a couple T2 warp scramblers in a local station.  They were priced at more than double what I'd pay at Jita, but at this point I didn't care.  I bought two and refit my ship with three scrams.  Now he'd only be safe if every one of his low slots was fit with a stabilizer.

I only had to wait for a minute or two before I watched him land back at his mission on my alt.  When I warped back and landed all three scrams, he was all done:  Good thing he decided to fit a damage control unit!

This made me think: I typically only bring spare ammo and nanite in my cargo hold when I roam solo.  Why don't I bring a cheap T1 scrambler (or two) in my cargo hold so that I can quickly re-fit as needed?  I've certainly encountered enough situations where it would have been useful to have.  I'm also often frustrated that I can't gank mission running frigates or explorers as easily when I'm flying a cruiser, simply because the lock time is so much longer and they have much more time to escape.  In situations like these it's useful to carry a sensor booster with a scan resolution script.  

What other mods do you find useful?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ranking the T1 Frigates for Solo PVP

A common question among new players is what type of ship & fit they should fly if they're just starting to try out solo or small gang pvp.  For gangs, it's a pretty easy answer: if there's a gang doctrine, you fly the ship the FC tells you.  If not, then pick your favorite ship and go with it.  Often your mere presence in the gang is much more valuable than having the "best" ship.

Solo is different.  Each race has two combat frigates and one attack frigate.  That's 12 ships in all, with tons of variations in fits among each.  In 1v1 battles, it is nigh impossible for CCP to balance all of these ships perfectly, so naturally some are going to be better than others.  Rather than rank all the ships individually, I've ordered them into five tiers (from best to worst).  This is based only off my experience soloing in low sec for the past 4 months.  Don't be mad if I think your favorite ship sucks, be happy that it's underrated!

Tier 1 (Best): Incursus, Breacher, Slasher, Condor
Tier 2: Tristan, Tormentor, Atron
Tier 3: Merlin, Kestrel
Tier 4: Executioner, Rifter
Tier 5 (Worst): Punisher

Tier 1 Ships

If you've read any of my other posts, then you know that I will extol the virtues of the rail Incursus to anybody who will listen.  The Incursus is also a great brawler, capable of dealing a ton of DPS, and the famous dual-rep fit is deadly against the right target.  Just a very versatile and effective hull.  The Rocket Breacher is a top-notch scram kiter, while Light Missile Breachers are great MWD-kiters, which have the mid slots to spare for a tracking disruptor.

The Slasher isn't very versatile (artillery fits just aren't viable because of low DPS, in my opinion).  However, autocannon fits with a neutralizer in the utility high slot are deadly against laser & hybrid ships.  Slashers are so fast that they simply cannot be scram-kited unless you have two webs.  They are the best at what they do, by a long shot.

The Condor is king of MWD kiting ships, and dual-TD/dual-damp fits are so effective that most people simply refuse to fight Condors.  A great ship, but you might have a problem getting fights.

Tier 2 Ships

I almost made the Tristan a Tier 1 ship, and with max drone skills (including drone interfacing V), it probably is.  The Tristan is ridiculously versatile, but it doesn't quite "excel" at anything.  It can't be as good a brawler as a Merlin, MWD fits aren't as good at kiting as Condors, and AB/rail fits aren't as good at scram-kiting as a rail Incursus or a Breacher.  Still, it is a great, great ship overall.

The Tormentor is the best option the Amarr have.  I mentioned in an earlier post that Tormentors are good scram kiters that can double as decent brawlers simply by switching ammo.  However, I'd rather be flying an Incursus in most situations.  Tormentors are fairly slow, and they have no means to deal with long-range kiting ships (max range of Scorch ammo is only about 12km).  The Tormentor also isn't particularly versatile.

The Atron on the other hand, works as either brawler or a longer-range kiting ship against many targets.  It's biggest weakness is its low EHP, which means that it will get out-brawled by ships like the Merlin or Incursus, and kiting fits will die fast against anything that can hit them. Overall, I prefer flying Atrons as kiters (described in an earlier post), but I've found that they aren't able to engage as broad a variety of targets as a good scram-kiting ship.  "Slasher-like" fits aren't particularly viable on this ship either, it simply doesn't have the capacitor or the slot layout to handle a neutralizer the way that a Slasher can.  Flying an Atron can make you aware of just how powerful having a fourth mid-slot can be.

Tier 3 Ships

The Merlin is ranked alone in this tier.  It has great DPS with blasters, excellent EHP, and it can scram-kite when fit with rails.  The biggest problem: Caldari ships are just SO DAMN SLOW.  In the current meta, soloing with a slow brawler just leads to a loss mail.  Just about anything, and I mean ANYTHING can kite you.  Every conventional Merlin fit I've tried just makes me wish that I was flying an Incursus instead.  The reason I keep Merlins in my hangar is that armor-tanked versions are deadly against the right target.  This opens up an extra mid slot for e-war modules.  I have a dual-web armor-tanked rail Merlin that I fly specifically to counter brawling Slashers, although it isn't much good against anything else.

The Kestrel is almost a missile version of the Merlin.  It shares a similar slot layout, hull bonuses, and slow speed.  In practice though, it flies more like a worse-version of the Breacher in a solo context.  The bonus it has to projection simply isn't as powerful as the Breacher's active shield tanking bonus, and rocket Kestrels aren't as good at scram-kiting as Breachers are.  The only reason the Kestrel isn't a tier 4 ship is that light missile kiting fits are actually quite effective, although it's not as good as a Condor in this role.

Tier 4 Ships

The Executioner is clearly below average.  Show me an Executioner fit, and I'll show you an Atron fit which is better.  Most people seem to agree with me, because I hardly ever seen an Executioner flown by someone who isn't plex farming.

The Rifter is just not very good either.  Artillery fits deal anemic DPS compared to small-railgun or pulse-laser fit scram kiters.  At best, brawling autocannon fits are just slower versions of the Slasher.  Fortunately, the Rifter is due for a major buff in an upcoming patch.  Its tracking bonus will be replaced by a falloff range bonus, which will help artillery fits significantly, and widen the engagement profile for AC fits (they'll be able to scram kite brawlers like the Merlin).  I believe this will elevate the Rifter to at least Tier 3, and certainly make it worth flying again.

Tier 5 Ships

The Punisher deserves to be in a class all by itself, because it really is just that bad.  What do you call a slow ship, without a web, that has no DPS projection beyond 12km?  A loss-mail waiting to happen.  Any ship even remotely capable of kiting can kite a Punisher, and any brawler can simply run away easily if he's losing.  Don't get me wrong, it's a good ship for a gang situation because it can have an excellent armor tank, but if you're soloing you're better off flying anything else.

You might notice that the Gallente & Minmatar ships are quite highly ranked, while the other races (especially Amarr) aren't doing so hot.  I really think that this is unfortunate, I'd love to see every race have a couple solid options.  I particularly feel for the newbie who starts off in a Punisher and repeatedly gets his ass handed to him, simply because he's flying such a bad ship.  The Caldari don't have things quite as bad, but they do suffer from having two frigates (The Condor & Hookbill) that are so good that many people simply won't fight them.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Making ISK: Wormhole PI

I joined Red vs Blue shortly after I started playing Eve, and I flew frigates worth less than 1m isk total.  In spite of my ships being ridiculously cheap, I was almost completely broke within two weeks. It's hard to establish a reliable source of income when you're part of a permanent war, so I left the corp and spent a few weeks running L2 & L3 missions in a Caracal and a Drake.  As much as I like Eve, the PVE aspects of this game are really BORING.  I absolutely hated running missions, so I've stopped doing it, but this did net me a couple hundred million isk which was enough to get me started and ultimately become self-sufficient.

I know now that a single week-old character can make more than 10m isk a day with virtually no time and effort by doing PI extraction in a wormhole.  I started doing this as an experiment, mainly because I knew absolutely nothing about wormholes or PI (and I wanted to learn about both), but also to pick up some extra isk in order to help bankroll my recent purchases of a link Loki and a Freighter.

I created two new characters with some unused slots that I had and trained the following list of skills, which didn't take much more than 1 week or so to train (even without implants).  These skills allowed me to fly an Epithal with a Core Probe Launcher and a Prototype Cloaking device fit and operate five productive planets:

CPU Management IV
Cloaking I
Astrometrics III
Gallente Industrial I
Remote Sensing III
Planetology III
Command Center Upgrades IV
Interplanetary Consolidation IV

Next, I cruised through high-sec and scanned every anomaly I could find, hoping to find wormholes.  The goal was to find a system in w-space with a high-sec static exit.  You can identify the type of wormhole by looking up its name in this chart, or by jumping through the wormhole and looking up the system name on staticmapper to see what type of static exits the system has.

A w-space system with a high sec static will ALWAYS have a wormhole leading to a high-sec system.  The existing one will despawn after about a day, and will be replaced with a new one leading to a new high-sec system.  This is important for logistics: you will eventually have to get your extracted commodities OUT of your wormhole and to a high-sec trade hub.  Basing out of a system with a high-sec static makes this much, much easier.  You get the best of both worlds: access to high-yield planets which are comparable to those found deep in null sec space combined with access to high-sec systems only one jump away.

I only had to explore a few high-sec systems before I found a system with a B274 wormhole, meaning that I was in a C2 system with a high-sec static exit.  The other consideration I had was the tax rates on the customs offices, which were 7.5% in this system.  I suspected that I could probably find a better system, but I'm lazy and figured this would be good enough.  I moved my two characters into the system, flying Epithals fit with cloaks and core probe launchers, and safely logged them off.  Over the course of the next week, I logged them in periodically and checked d-scan to see whether there was any activity in the system.  Every time I checked, the system was dead.  Perfect.

Time to set up my planets.  At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about PI extraction, and many of the resources I found online were outdated.  I did find the Eve-Uni wiki page on planetary commodities to be very helpful though.  I ultimately did a bit of experimentation and come up with the set up show below:

The setup has:
One Launchpad
Two Extractor Control Units
Six Basic Industry Facilities
Three Advanced Industry Facilities

The planet extracts two P0 commodities, refines them into P1 commodities in the basic industry facilities, then refines them into a single P2 commodity with the advanced facilities and transfers them to the launchpad (which I use for storage).  The particular setup shown above extracts Non-CS Crystals and Heavy Metals and manufactures Consumer Electronics. The setup is designed for maximum laziness.  Once it is set up, all it requires is that I periodically spend about 5 minutes restarting my extractors to make sure everything keeps running.  It takes about 2-3 weeks to fill up the launch pad, and the volume is low enough that everything can be easily hauled out in Epithals.

With these setups and two characters, this is what I extracted after 9 days:

I also came to realize that a few planets were not running optimally; I could extract different commodities and make quite a bit more.  Still, 169 million isk for about an hour (total) of managing extractors isn't bad.  Unfortunately, this story doesn't have a happy ending.  The corporation who owns the customs offices in my system decided to raise their tax rates from 7.5% to 85.5%, so I had to shut everything down and move on.  Such is life.  I've since learned that setting up factory planets is far more profitable, so I think that's the direction I'm going to take.

New players: if you're space poor and bored with mining, then consider doing PI.  This is a completely PASSIVE income stream.  One could nearly plex an account by using the two extra character slots to do wormhole PI, and supplement this income by ratting or running missions on his main.  This is particularly great for new players because it requires very few skill points and almost no capital to get started.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Players

A little more than two weeks ago, eve experienced its largest fight ever in B-R5RB.  It was significant enough to significant coverage on most gaming sites, as well as some press from mainstream news outlets.  Understandably, this has attracted a large influx of new players to EVE.  This is apparent from reddit, where there are several posts per day from new players who feel lost and aren't sure what to do, are trying to find ways to make isk, or who lost a ship/did something stupid and are trying to learn from their mistakes.

The influx of new players has not gone unnoticed by the Tuskers.  Our home system of Hevrice is one of the closest low-sec systems to one of the Gallente starting systems.  Under normal circumstances, it's not unusual for the occasional new player in a Venture or his first destroyer to wander into our system and promptly get destroyed.  The past month has seen some changes: In the past month, Ventures are the #1 ship destroyed by the Tuskers, with the Center for Advanced Studies (an NPC starting corp) as the #1 victim.

destroyed a thorax who was at an asteroid belt earlier this week.  He and a friend of his in a Tristan were both very new players.  The Tristan pilot opened a convo with me afterwards, and we had an interesting discussion which brought me into the mindset of a new players.

His first question to me was "What provoked the attack?".  To someone who's been playing eve for more than a few weeks, this is obvious: I'm a pirate.  My sec status is -10.  If you're there, I'm going to attack you.  I don't really care if you're in a Venture, a Thrasher, a Faction Battleship, or a blinged-out T3 cruiser; my primary purpose for playing the game is to get fights, cause explosions, and collect loot.  Most other inhabitants of low-sec would do the same, after all if they weren't looking for fights, most them would just live in high-sec (or an empty area of null sec).  To a new player though, this aspect of Eve is not so obvious.  Virtually all PVP in other MMOs is either staged or voluntary for both parties.  In the rare exceptions, such as Rogues who gank quest runners on PVP servers in WoW, there is no reward for the ganker, no real loss for the victim, and no depth to the gameplay mechanics that make it worth pursuing as a primary means of playing the game.

We talked for several minutes, and I passed on whatever advice I could about how he could avoid losses in the future.  I even passed on 15m isk so that he could replace the Thorax.  Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that he'll probably lose another ship pretty soon.  I'm going to dedicate a couple posts to helping out new players, both in terms of survival outside of high-sec, and how to get started with making isk.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Suicide Ganking!

I've been playing online games in some form for almost 20 years, which dates back to my pre-teen years.  The internet was just starting to become mainstream, and like many other immature kids, I soon discovered that I could use my anonymity to act out on my pre-pubescent angst and grief other people in online games without any consequences.  This included cheating at card games and chess (and talking smack), running hacks and townkilling people in Diablo, and teamkilling people in Rainbow Six, until I discovered a way to detonate door charges that would cause the server to crash every time (that was funnier).

I like to think that I've long since outgrown such juvenile behavior.  On the other hand, I've been having loads of fun suicide ganking in EVE.  The idea is simple.  Unlike most MMORPGs, you're allowed to shoot anybody anywhere in EVE, no matter what region of space you are in.  What varies are the consequences for the aggressor, which is a somewhat complicated function of the security status of the system, the security status of the player being attacked, aggression & suspect timers, and the exact location where combat is taking place.  However, in high-sec space, it's real simple: if you attack someone, CONDORD will come and destroy your ship.  This cannot be avoided, and this is what keeps most people safe in high-sec.  The equation becomes different when a particularly expensive ship is being targeted.  As an extreme example, if a freighter is hauling 10 billion isk worth of cargo, it becomes profitable to sacrifice a dozen Tornadoes in order to destroy it and run off with the loot.  More often, a few simple destroyers (like Catalysts or Thrashers) worth less than 2 million isk can be used to gank mining barges worth more than 200 million isk.

The mechanics are unique to EVE.  I've never experienced anything like this in other games.  This would never be tolerated in WoW, but in EVE it's an accepted part of the culture.  You may an image of suicide gankers which is not unlike that of the teenage douchebag that I was.  On the contrary, we were very polite to our victims (aside from the act of blowing up their ship, obviously), and the victims mostly handled it well, sometimes even congratulating us on our success.  I think the whole mechanic works very well in EVE for a few reasons:

1. Getting ganked is mostly avoidable.  It's usually a result of several decisions that made the ship an attractive target.  For example, if you're mining in an untanked Hulk in a 0.5 sec system that's adjacent to low sec, then you've made multiple decisions that put your ship at risk.
2. Ganking successfully (and profitably) usually requires a group.  Very few ships can be reliably ganked with a single T1-fit destroyer (like untanked retreivers, hulks, and mackinaws).  Even fewer can be profitably ganked with a single Talos or Tornado.  If you're autopiloting in an untanked T1 industrial that's carrying 500m worth of cargo, then a single volley from one Tornado will destroy your ship, and you'll deserve it.
3. A suicide gank is really easy to screw up.  It requires a lot of experienced scouts and probing alts and a high-degree of coordination between a lot of people.  Your group ends up looking really stupid if it fails.
4. After a gank, the group must wait for 15 minutes for the criminal timer to run down before they can try again.  To me, this seems very reasonable, and it makes each gank attempt much more important to execute correctly.  Immediate re-attempts would make the whole thing feel more like griefing.

In the past three weeks, the Tuskers organized and ran several public suicide ganking fleets, and we destroyed well over 20 billion isk worth of ships.  Aside from a couple warm-up runs against miners, we were mainly targeting Marauders, Faction Battleships, and T3 cruisers who were running missions.  Most of these ships were valued at well over 1 billion isk each.  In each case, we brought 15-20 destroyers along, which have a total value of about 30-35 million isk.  A single deadspace or faction mod easily covers the cost.  Here are some of the kill mails:

Orchestrating a gank required having a few alts camping a station and scanning ships to look for expensive mods.  The best targets were recorded.  All of the adjacent systems had a couple probing alts, who would note the presence of our best targets in local, and start looking for them with combat probes.  Once the target was scanned, the prober then warped to the target to determine whether a gank is viable.  If the scout is able to provide a good warp-in, then it's on!  There's very little that's more satisfying than setting up a nice kill for 20 people =).  We were operating out of a major mission hub, so there was no shortage of good targets.

If you'd like to know what it's like to be on the other side of our gank squad, then read this blog post.

Remember, in EVE you're only safe if you're docked.  Never fly what you can't afford to lose. 

Also, if you're interested in trying suicide ganking, then check the public roams section of the Tuskers forum any upcoming events.