Category Archives: Null Sec

Chaos Fatigue

Do you press one of these buttons when you log off from EVE Online?  CCP added them a while back as something of an exit survey.

Thumbs up or down?

For about a week after they showed up I diligently and thoughtfully clicked one of those buttons every time I exited the game.  And then I stopped.

I stopped because, on reflection, this seemed like data collection without value.  It lacks any context and, given human nature, can be waved away by circumstances of the moment.  There is always something going on that will allow CCP to say, “Well, that i just because we announced X and a few people are mad about it.”

I would not be surprised to find out that the buttons are not hooked up to a backend that stores the results, that CCP put them in there as just a way to deflect anger into the void.

It is a very Reddit-based response, let people down vote the game when they are upset because it lets you feel like you have done something, even though down voting never changed anything because it can always be explained away.  And that makes it very appropriate for the Chaos Era that CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson has declared for EVE Online.

Things have been somewhat chaotic since the Invasion expansion arrived back at the end of May.  That brought Triglavian incursion-like events to high sec, leading to NPCs camping the routes between tutorial and career agent systems and the joy of logging in an alt only to find you had best just log off because you’re system is now an NPC kill zone.

Didn’t want that 10K skill points anyway

And, of course, that has expanded, so hanging out it a belt in a 0.9 system might end up with you getting blow up right  away as well.

Didn’t want that Venture anyway

CCP also spread the chaos to null sec, which has tended to monopolize the headlines (Because who cares about new players?) with Drifter attacks and the Blackout and the sudden VNI nerf and the tax increases and now the coming cyno changes, with the promise of more changes to come.  I have mostly watched this from the sidelines, this blog being little else than that.  If you’re reading this you are in a tiny, obscure part of the EVE Online player base.

Just the other day CSM14 representative Dunk Dinkle was encouraging people with strong opinions on these changes to speak up publicly.

To me, strong opinions are part of the problem with any EVE Online discussion.  PvP players can be exceptionally vocal… roll footage of the forums of every PvE focused MMORPG ever… and the chaos era changes have brought them out en masse to cheer CCP for making changes that disrupt the status quo.  Anybody speaking against the chaos is shouted down because their motives are based on self-interest.  As such, every CCP proposal seems likely to go forward unchecked, since it isn’t difficult to find a wave of vocal support for them.

So the chaos will continue until morale improves.

However, I wonder if chaos is really a viable long term strategy.  Hilmar mentioned the novel The Three-Body Problem as one of his inspirations during that interview on Talking in Stations.  It was already on my list of things to read at some point, so I picked it up last week.  I have gotten far enough along to see where Hilmar swiped the idea for the Chaos Era.

In the book there is a video game which experiences alternating orderly and chaotic eras.  During the orderly times the player society of the game progresses.  During the chaotic eras nothing is predictable and everything is in disorder.  CCP seems to have decided that is the path forward for EVE Online.  They want to keep changing things constantly so that nothing is predictable in anything but the immediate time frame.

What I found interesting in the book was the player reactions to the chaotic eras.  While a select few persist through those eras, trying to discover a pattern to the chaos, the vast majority dehydrate themselves and are stored away, only to be revived when the next orderly era appears.  Then everybody gets back to work on progress in the game.

I could not help but associate the dehydrated state in the book with something akin to becoming an Alpha clone in EVE Online.  People often find chaos to be wearing over time, not what they want to devote themselves to as their hobby.  I know I am feeling a bit weary from the chaos era of New Eden, and barely any of it has an impact on me.  Only the coming cyno revision will change some aspect of my play.

And there is a very vocal choir that supports the chaos, which means that CCP would have to work to see a reason not to keep on with it.  So I suspect that the chaos will continue.

But it makes me wonder if chaos a viable long term strategy?

Addendum: After writing this, I listened to the Talking in Stations interview with CCP Rise, and it sure sounds like chaos is the long term strategy CCP has chosen.  My question as to whether or not we take Hilmar and CCP Falcon and their vision of where they want EVE Online to go appears to have been answered.

The Chaos Era is Coming to Cynos

CCP announced in the forums today that with the September update they are planning two changes when it comes to cynosural fields, the ship mounted beacons that act as jump targets for capital ships.  The announcement in full:

This September we are planning two large changes for Cynosural Fields:

  • Cynosural Field Generator I can only be fit by Force Recon Ships and Black Ops Battleships (note: these classes can still fit covert cynos)
  • Jump Freighters can jump to Covert Cynosural Fields

During this era of chaos we are eager to introduce new challenges for veteran pilots while working towards a deeper and more balanced capital meta. Historically, cynos have been extremely flexible. They can be used on flocks of alts at nearly no risk or used by the largest and strongest ships in the game. With few options for cyno disruption, capital response time and power has grown to the point that it’s oppressing activity. This change will make it more complex and demanding to get capitals to the field quickly and give more strategic options for those wishing to disrupt capital response.

While most of the impact from this change is on combat, we are sensitive to the effect on Jump Freighters and logistics overall. Jump Freighters will be allowed to use Covert Cynos which can be activated by cheaper hulls like Covert Ops Frigates. This may need further attention and we will be watching this area very closely.

As clarified in a follow up post, that means that only the following ships can fit a cyno:

  • Force Recons
    • Arazu
    • Pilgrim
    • Falcon
    • Rapier
  • Black Ops Battleships
    • Redeemer
    • Widow
    • Sin
    • Panther
    • Marshall (maybe?)

If CCP carries through on this, the days of the cyno alt in a small, sacrificial ship will be over.

No more cyno on a Kestral

My hot take on this is that Malcanis will prevail yet again and the rich will get richer while the poor will be left out.  Is that that goal?

A large null sec organization that can afford to throw away expensive hulls for cynos or organize protection for their cyno beacons will carry on as before.  Coalition capital moves ops won’t change and you will still get dropped on by a bunch of titans if you come to Delve.  You’ll just get a better kill mail if you manage to pop the cyno ship.

However, if you are trying to get your own capital ship moved around New Eden, welcome to the new expensive reality.  You can only light a cyno in low and null sec, where their presence on the overview system-wide makes them an easy to find target, stuck in place for 10 minutes.  The only reason not to bother is that a rookie ship doesn’t get you a kill mark.

But if suddenly every cyno has an expensive kill mail attached, people will be racing to pop them.  I just did a multi-cyno trip across low sec to get a suicide dread in place a few weeks back.  It cost me a bunch of fuel and a Kestrel.  Would I do the same if I knew I was going to have to sacrifice a nearly 300 million ISK Falcon, the current cheapest of all the hulls listed according to EVE Appraisal, for each jump?  Probably not.  That would have cost me almost as much as the dreadnought itself.

And when people are burning a Falcon for every cyno, expect that price to go up.

I know that CCP wants to shake up the meta, but this feels like it will have the same result that so many past changes have, where an effort to make the larger groups hurt only ends up locking out the small time operator.  I suppose at least they had a thought for the jump freighter pilots, who will now only have to burn a covert ops frigate for each jump.  Expect shipping prices to go up some as well.

This change isn’t coming until September and at times CCP does listen to feedback.  We shall see if this is the chaos they want.  I am sure there will be lots of… ahem… discussion about this proposed change.  The forum thread about this is already alight, as is the main thread on Reddit.

Others writing about this:

Interdiction Nullification and Warp Core Stabilizers and Absolutes

I am going to wander into this minefield in the way that only the uncaring can.

Interdiction nullification and warp core stabilizers are twins in that they are hated by subgroups of New Eden.  They are hated because they make getting kills more difficult.  There are plenty of wandering excuses as to why they are bad game play or how the lore shouldn’t support them or whatever, but in the end it comes down to people angry that they missed a kill.

Interdiction nullification is a null sec and wormhole thing, a feature of certain interceptors, a strategic cruiser subsystem, and luxury yachts which allows them to bypass warp disruption fields as though they were not there.  Basically, it allows you to fly through bubbles.

A field of bubbles… they are everywhere in null sec

Bubble come in a few flavors, which are mostly covered over at the EVE Uni Wiki.  But it is pretty safe to say that bubbles are the primary method of holding down hostiles outside of empire space.  They have the advantage of being an area effect tackle method when launched from an interdictor, so if deployed correctly they can hold down a whole fleet.   A null sec fleet commander that undocks without some interdictors isn’t looking for kills.

So, in null sec or wormholes, a ship with interdiction nullification is an exception to what is otherwise a hard and fast rule, that what gets caught in the bubble can’t warp off.  That it is a somewhat recent addition, that many of can remember a time when interdiction nullification wasn’t a thing, makes it all the more contentious and even CCP has seen fit to make changes, removing the feature from combat interceptors last October, ending the reign of the Fozzie Claw.  But it still remains an aspect of fleet interceptors, such as my Ares.

Ares on the move still

And, while people may moan about Slippery Pete Tengus or, more recently, nullified Lokis ranging around space, passing through stop bubbles with impunity, you can still stop them the old fashioned way, the way people have to in low sec.

Which brings us to the warp core stabilizer.  The stab, as the module tends to be abbreviated, fits in the low slot of any ship and adds one to the strength of the warp core of the ship for each stab you add.  That number, warp core strength, is used in the calculation of tackling.  A few subcaps like deep space transports and the Venture have a bonus to warp core that reflects their role, and capital ships have the own bonuses, but for the most part one is the basic number.

A Thanatos getting the tackle treatment

That number gets used against the tackler trying to keep you from warping.  They are likely fitting a warp disruptor or a warp scrambler with which they are trying to keep you from warping away.  The disruptor applies one point of stopping power, while the scramble applies two along with having some side benefits, like shutting down microwarp drives.  There is also the infinite disruptor that HICs can fit and some other details which the EVE Uni wiki covers, but those are the basics.

The simple arithmetic of the encounter is if the tackler applies points equal to or greater than your warp core strength, your ship won’t warp.  If you want to defeat a disruptor you need one stab, while a scrambler requires two.  If somebody has fit two scramblers and your ship only has three low slots, you’re not getting away.

Stabs are not a get out of jail free card however, despite the way they have been cast at times.  They do eat up valuable low slots and they come with a penalty when fit in the form of a hit to scan resolution and targeting range, as this chart indicated. (Chart source)

Warp Core Stab Variations

So fitting a pair of stabs drops your lock range rather dramatically and increases your lock time as well.

The reason I have lumped these two items together is that they have a couple things in common.

First, and most loudly complained about, is that both of them are absolute counters.  If you have interdiction nullification no bubble is going to catch you ever.  If you have warp core strength one greater than the person trying to tackle you, then you absolutely get to warp off, end of story.

It is my read that it is the absolute nature of these counters which gets people worked up.  There are just situations where the prey is going to get away no matter how on your game you are.

That brings me to the second thing that these two things have in common; they both counter mechanics that are themselves absolute.  If you are in a bubble and lack nullification, you won’t be warping anywhere unless you motor out of range or kill the bubble.  Likewise, if you apply points greater than or equal to your target, they don’t get to warp off.  You can argue that they can fight you to get away, but if somebody is trying to get away it probably means the fight is going to you regardless.

There used to be a way to counter getting tackled with a disruptor or scrambler in the form of ECM.  However, people complained loudly about ECM being “cancer” and CCP decided that ECM was not fun or engaging game play, so with that patch last October they made a change so that you can always target the person who is applying ECM.  With that change you could no longer break tackle via ECM.  It was already an unreliable mechanic with a chance to fail, but it was pretty much eliminated as an option at that point.

You can carry ECM drones.  Those have been nerfed as well, but they still have a chance of working.  You better have a a drone bay, no need for other drone types unless your drone bay is large, and a big enough tank that you can wait around aligned to warp while the game rolls the dice to see if the drones will land a hit and break the lock on you.  Your ECM drones also have to live that long, since blowing them up is an option for the tackler.

And yes, you can go reductio ad absurdum listing out all the ways the target could have avoided the situation before they landed in the bubble or were pointed, but you might as well just start with “don’t undock” and save us all the bother.

I am reluctant to endorse any idea that leaves absolute mechanics in place without a counter.

In fact, if it isn’t obvious by now, I am not fond of absolutes like this as mechanics, and even less so as fixes to mechanics.  So when somebody brings up the often discussed on Reddit idea of changing it so stabs simply won’t allow you to lock targets at all, I sigh with dismay at yet another absolute fix that serves the specific needs of one group. (I am also suspicious of simple “just do this…” solutions, as they are almost always faulty, so add that in as well.)

What to do?

I don’t have an answer, but I feel as though people are not asking the right questions around these.  The assumption that warp bubbles, warp disruptors, and warp scrambles ought to be absolute mechanics seems baked into the discussion, so the ongoing drive by some to remove or render useless anything that mitigates these mechanics feels like people bitching about not getting enough kills.

Opposite Day for the Local Channel

We have been living under the blackout in null sec for a while now.  Back in mid-July it was put in place and its duration has been said to be indefinite. (Which means of an unknown duration and not “forever” as some have interpreted the word.)

You say that CCP, but is it?

Well, we got a surprise today on the “indefinite” front.  This morning CCP ended up having problems with their chat systems… or maybe the Secure Commerce Commission got their hands on some bad Quantum-Entangled 4-Helium, I don’t know… which had com channels down all over New Eden.  And while the chat systems has been restarted and normal service restored, one side effect was the return of immediate local to null sec.

Local, now filled with trash again

According to Reddit, wormhole space was visited by this change to local as well.  I’m sure that made everybody happy.

That people still appear in local after the chat system restart seems to be because they have not logged out.  Maybe.  Logging in after the restart, my character did not show up in local.  I am sure nobody will abuse that particular aspect of this strange event.  Presumably everything will be back to normal after downtime.

Welcome to the Chaos Era!

Addendum: 24 hours later and I still see people in local in null sec while high sec local is still messed up.  Go Chaos Era.

Other coverage:

Hilmar and the Chaos Era of EVE Online

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

-Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight

Talking in Stations released a show on Friday focused on the null sec blackout featuring CCP Hilmar Veigar Petursson, along with EVE Community Manager CCP Falcon and EVE Online Brand Manager CCP Goodfella, and it is a show people will be talking about for quite a while.

Local is now delayed in null sec

It is also a bit of a frustrating show to which to listen as the TiS staff basically failed to challenge their guests on anything in even the most mild fashion.  The tone is set in the first few minutes when, after Matterall asks about the effect of the blackout of local in null sec, Hilmar says that activity is up in the game, saying that the MAU and DAU numbers for July are at their highest point in the last five years.

Here is where, in the back of my head, I am yelling, “Ask if that is because of the Season of Skills event, which required people to login daily to get free skill points!”  What we got instead was Carnaeros basically holding Hilmar’s coat, nicely explaining that those terms meant “Monthly Active Users” and “Daily Active Users” and then letting Hilmar carry on as though the blackout was all that went on in July.

I get that this is sort of the style of TiS.  Matterall is a nice guy and likes to create a space where everybody on the show gets their turn to speak without being interrupted.  (Imagine the same interview on the Open Comms Show, where Dirk and Rahne would be shouting over each other to try to respond.)  This is, perhaps, how you get guests like Hilmar, by having a reputation of encouraging your guests to speak by giving them easy questions and letting them go their own way.  But given what was said by Hilmar and Falcon, it made for an unsatisfying listening experience as my brain kept coming up with follow up questions to expand or clarify or nail down what was really being said.

And a lot was said on the show, which I am sure people will be digesting and examining and writing or speaking about for weeks to come.   I have things I want to pick apart from the show and, as I noted on Twitter, I could make a months worth of “Quote of the Day” posts out of it.  This could be a watershed moment for the game, the announcement of some drastic changes coming to EVE Online.

Or it might have been the online equivalent of a late night drunken dorm room discussion in college, a metaphorical circle jerk of “wouldn’t it be great…” sort of ideas.

So my first question out of the gate is how seriously should we take this interview?

I don’t even know who CCP Goodfella is, and that he is the brand manager makes it likely we can discount pretty much any ideas he espouses… not that I can recall anything he said.  Sorry man.

CCP Falcon is the Community Manager, which puts him in the thick of things with the players. But, by his own admission, he is not part of the design and development loop.  I had a post with a quote from him on Friday around a reply he put on Reddit about what he would do about capital ships.  He made it clear down the way that he has his own opinions about the game, which he can freely express, but which are not necessarily the official line of CCP.

So when Falcon is on about his dystopian hellscape vision of EVE Online, he often prefaces it with “If it were up to me,” a solid indication that it is not.  The problem is that this tends to blur the line between when he is speaking for the company and when he is speaking for himself, as most people will only remember what he said and not how he prefaced it.  Is it his opinion or CCP’s that people who don’t like risk when they mine should go back to high sec?

And then there is Hilmar.  He was involved in the development of the game, wrote code and was part of the design team and has been CEO at CCP since 2004.  While Pearl Abyss now owns CCP, he is still the boss on the ground in Iceland, so when he says something it gets some weight.

But how much weight does it get… or should it even get?

He had been absent from the game for quite a stretch, making a big deal about returning and trying out Planetary Interaction and finding the UI for it abysmal.  The CEO complains, a dev blog appears, and changes go in.

He has said that he had been playing in wormhole space lately and now we have the local chat blackout in null sec.  This is a change that has been talked about for years, but the CEO goes and plays in WH space and suddenly it happens.

Now he says he is playing faction warfare, so I guess that is good news for somebody I hope.  Maybe FW will get some love… or maybe some FW mechanic will get stuffed into null sec.

Of course, he was also the voice of CCP during the Incarna fiasco where he manifested some J. Allen Brack level arrogance in telling the players that the company knew better what they wanted when it came to the cash shop while dismissing people who wanted the hangar view of their ship back rather than the resource hungry captain’s quarter or the metaphorically disastrous locked door, continuing to denigrate it as “ship spinning” even as they said they would return the feature in some form.

After that Hilmar declared that the era of the Jesus Feature was over and CCP started updating and iterating on features they had launched then neglected.

I am also a bit skeptical of Hilmar’s relationship with how things have worked out in the past.  One of his big talking points during the show was making the game easier for new players but harder for veterans.  Malcanis says that anything you do for new players tends to benefit vets even more so, while we have clearly seen that making things difficult for veterans tends to just lock them into their position, with the changes essentially turning into barriers that keep newer players out.

If he is talking about a better NPE… a topic about which I have another post brewing… that is one thing.  But beyond that how do you help new players?  And does the planned Chaos Era help the new player retention issue that CCP went on about at EVE North?

So, does Hilmar saying something mean it is going to happen?  Not that what he is saying is good or bad, but is he the final word?  Does this represent consensus in the development team or just voicing his own opinions?  Is the Chaos Era about to begin in New Eden?  Will there be a dev blog?  Hilmar said that there are a lot of destabilizing things that will show up in the coming weeks.  So maybe it is already a done deal?

I don’t know.  We’ll probably have to wait and see and evaluate what we get.

Related material:

 

Quote of the Day – Death to Faxes and Other Capital Ideas

I just fundamentally don’t like force aux hulls. My view would be to delete them, give the logistics role and triage role back to carriers, then refund any SP that was wasted into force aux training.

-CCP Falcon, Comment on the Obsolescence of Capitals Reddit thread

The state of capital ships, a hot topic for both null sec and low sec, has been under a lot of discussion recently.  Last weekend I had a quote from Arrendis over at INN on the state of null sec that led him to advocate for a serious change to titans.

Since then we have had posts from Jin’taan, over at INN, and Suitonia, at his blog, about capital ships, their current state, and where they should head.  And, while Force Auxiliaries come up as an issue, only Falcon has declared for their deletion and a return to a time when the humble carrier had that role.

Why would you ever think there are too many faxes?

Honestly, I think a reversion to the pre-fax state of the game might be one of the more viable ideas.  I don’t think CCP even has to refund any skill points since carriers and faxes both use the same skills.

But why stop there?  If we’re going to revert things that haven’t worked out well, lets get rid of the fighter mechanic as well and return to carriers as over-sized drone boats.  Super carriers can have their old fighter-bombers back and both supers and carriers can return to a simpler time.

Anyway, as noted, CCP Falcon has the most extreme plan of the group, save for maybe the Arrendis “just blow them up” option for titans.  But don’t fret that just because CCP Falcon says something about game mechanics that this is now the official plan for the game.  He isn’t a game designer, so his opinion on this is just that, an opinion.

CCP Falcon is certainly not entertaining any completely crazy ideas.  Somebody opened a thread on the official forums when the Drifters started hitting null sec structures wanting confirmation that CCP was essentially building up to a massive player wipe to reboot the game.  That gives us a second quote for this post:

No.

Wiping out almost seventeen years of player history would be the stupidest thing ever.

There’s no plan to “reset EVE”.

Thread closed.

-CCP Falcon, thread in the EVE Online forums

There is little worse you can do than flush the long term investment your customers have made in your game down the toilet.  Those worrying that this might happen are simply borrowing trouble, while those wishing for don’t care for the health of the game as much as they think they do.

Planned VNI Nerf Hits By Surprise

Back in June at EVE North one of the things that CCP announced that they had in the works was a planned nerf of the Vexor Navy Issue, the ubiquitous ratting ride across all of null sec.  Nosy Gamer has a summary of CCP’s EVE North statements.

The Glacial Drift SKIN on a VNI

A dev blog followed that up up last week with more details as to how the VNI problem would be addressed.

The problem itself is that a single hull had become generally accepted as the right answer for null sec anomaly ratting to the point that it is rare to see anything else.  The hull was also usable by Alpha clones, meaning that disposable accounts could be used to snuffle up ratting ISK, and if the account was run by a bot, caught and banned, the perpetrator could just roll up a new account and start over.

The approach to taking on the VNI scourge was two-fold.

First, to change the VNI to make it more of a railgun platform by adding in bonuses for that while reducing the drone control bandwidth so it couldn’t field the full flight of heavy drones it had before.

Second, to reduce drone skills available to Alpha clones so that it is more difficult to AFK rat with drones.  Those changes were:

  • Reducing Heavy Drone Operation from level IV to level III
  • Reducing Medium Drone Operation from level V to level IV
  • Reducing Drone Interfacing from level IV to level III

The VNI would remain a decent ship, just not for unattended ratting, and especially not for Alpha clones.

That was what was under discussion per the dev blog, which came out last week.  However, people logged in today to find that the VNI and Alpha clone changes had been applied without much in the way of notice.  The update was appended to the June release patch notes.

This move was unexpected for two reasons.

First, CCP generally saves these sorts of changes for monthly updates.  They get announced, mulled over in the forums for a couple of weeks, get a final dev blog, and become part of the release.  They generally don’t just show up randomly on a Thursday unannounced.

Second, there was a feeling that that CCP wouldn’t bother with the VNI nerf until the local channel blackout in null sec had run for a while.  Part of the appeal of the blackout to many in null sec was going out and blowing up VNIs.  Why make them even more scarce when they are such appealing targets?

But there we go.  The nerf hit today and people were surprised.  CCP moves in mysterious was.  I heard that earlier today CCP Falcon blew off a scheduled meeting with CSM9.