Tag Archives: Alpha Clones

The Coming Alpha Clone Skill Point Apocalypse in New Eden

for me at least this started back during EVE Vegas when CCP announced that they were going to expand the range of skills that would be usable by Alpha clones.  After about a year of these free accounts roaming New Eden, CCP felt they ought to be allowed to do more.  So CCP said they wanted to unlock tech II weapons up to the cruiser level, add battlecruisers to the list, as well as limited battleship skills.  Oh, and Alpha clones would no longer be limited to their own faction.  If a Gallente Alpha clone pilot wanted to bring their Drake, that would be within the realm of possibility.

The interesting bit, for me, was how they were planning to do this.

Adding in the new ships and expanding support to all empires raised the skill point total possible to about 20 million.  However, free Alpha clone training would still cap players out at 5 million skill points.  If you wanted to get 20 million skill points you were going to have to subscribe and become an Omega clone to train them or inject them through the usual method.

The Skill Point Divides

So if I unsubscribed my alt, who has over 120 million SP, I would be able to use 20 million of those skill points to play as opposed to just the meager 5 million.  This, to my mind, would create a special class of players who had paid CCP some money at some past date and were being given a minor reward for that support.

LOTRO has something similar in the past, where there were free players, VIP players, and then those who had paid for something and so were entitled to a higher level of support even if not VIP subscribers.  I thought that was a good idea back then, and think so today.  In a game where “free” is an option, people who show a willingness to spend money ought to get some attention.

After EVE Vegas there was a dev blog that laid all of this out again and listed the skills that would be included in the new, expanded, unlimited use pool.  Good so far.

This was followed about two weeks later by an additional dev blog about New Alpha Training Options, the dev blog that introduced the Daily Alpha Injector.

LOL! Drink a pot noob!

This is where the slope begins to get slippery.

CCP had some criteria that this new injector should meet, which I will borrow from the dev blog:

  • Alphas must be able to acquire training in small chunks (one day’s worth ideally)
  • Training rate from new option must not be faster than Omega
  • Must not activate Omega state or put character in a new Clone State
  • New option must be easily traded and available on market

And what they came up with was the Daily Alpha Injector, which has the following specifications, again borrowed from the dev blog:

  • Only one Daily Alpha Injector may be used per day, per character [not account] (resets at downtime)
  • May only be used by characters in the Alpha Clone State
  • Can be purchased in the NES for PLEX or purchased for your regions real money currency via secure.eveonline.com
  • Can be activated to immediately to add 50,000 skill points to your character’s unallocated skill pool (roughly one day worth of Omega training)
  • Can be traded on the in-game market
  • Does not award Omega Status

While you can earn ISK to buy the 20 PLEX for your Daily Alpha Injector (DAI going forward) in game, you can also straight up purchase them for cash, which I have to imagine is going to be a likely course for many an Alpha clone player.

So what we have here is a clear attempt to monetize the free player by selling them skill points generated on demand.

Now, on the one hand, CCP is a relatively small company in the industry; they’ve only have, and have only ever had, the one successful video game and the company lives or dies by its earnings.  They have also made something that is unlike almost all other games in the genre.  Given that, my inclination is to cut them some slack, a position no doubt influenced by the fact that I have played and enjoyed the game for more than 11 years.

So an admitted blind spot right there.

On the other hand, a lot of us just had a jolly old time last week roasting EA for going so overboard on monetizing Star Wars Battlefront II that even Disney had to step in and say, “Whoa, dude, settle down!”  And even though EA has shown itself to be bad to both its employees and its customers regularly and repeatedly over the years, there is still plenty of room for hypocrisy if I just say, “Well, CCP are nice people so they get a pass.”

CCP isn’t straight up selling a titan + fully skilled character package yet, but they are, as has been pointed out in a number of places, pulling skill points out of thin air and selling them for cash money.  And while CCP is clear on their intent, embodied in this phrase:

They can only be used by alphas, and an alpha can only apply unallocated skill points to alpha skills.

That isn’t strictly true.  If you pile up a bunch of DAIs, using them every day on your Alpha, but not spending the skills, they just sit in your unallocated skill points buffer.  If you then convert the account to an Omega… which is to say, you pay the old fashioned monthly subscription fee, which is what CCP really wants you, so we all win when you do that… you can use those unallocated skill points on whatever you want.  But if you go back to being an Alpha and you used those points on skills outside of the noted 20 million, you’ll lose the use of that skill.

Admittedly, that is a tiny and unlikely to be pursued loophole, but it does exist.  And if I can find that one, I bet there are others I haven’t found yet.

And the loophole isn’t really the issue here, it is the willingness to change a long standing rule of the game.  We got skill injectors because players could already buy skilled up characters from other players through an official process.  Besides which, they were not introducing new skill points into the game, just reallocating those already present.  In fact, due to the way the injectors worked, CCP was effectively removing skill points from the game.   If I try to use a skill injector, which contains 500,000 skill points, I only end up with 150,000 while the other 350,000 disappears into thin air.

Well, now those skill points seem to be coming back out of the air and are available straight up legal currency, and no other players need be involved.

But its only for Alphas right?  And it is in such small increments right?

I expect the usual cast of characters to express outrage.  Gevlon and Dinsdale will point at this as CCP revealing their true colors or sign of the impending demise of the game.  And certain Star Citizen fan boys who feel that EVE Online must die for their game to succeed will jump on this as well.  But the current EVE player base seems… well… oddly restrained.

I mean, look at this thread on Reddit.  Generally speaking EVE Online players cannot discuss the weather that politely.  I mean sure, there is dissent buried in there, and the expected “This is the end, EVE is dying” theme pops up now and again.  But the most upvoted comment basically summarized DAIs as selling Omega training time in daily allotments.  (Which sounds a lot like the “selling game time in smaller increments” that Gevlon brought up in an ongoing comment thread with Raph Koster on Saturday’s post.)

I guess that is how you could look at it.  I guess I could get comfortable with that.  I mean, no Alpha clone is going to catch me at 185 million SP consuming DAIs.  It would take them over ten years.

But I was also pretty okay with day one DLC and the whole Season Pass thing wasn’t horrible, but now look at where EA stands.  If we’re fine with one thing it sure seems like a company will push things further.  What follows selling skill points under very restricted circumstance?  And can CCP, which has investors and shareholders to appease just the same way that EA does, afford to not press the envelope and find further ways to monetize the game?

The whole thing leaves me uneasy.  I want to be reasonable, see the stated intent as the only goal.  But I am a product of my environment and goals can change, especially when cash comes up short… or even when cash is flowing freely but somebody sees a way to eke out some more.

What’s a capsuleer to do?  I suppose we shall see come December 5th when this goes live as part of the Arms Race release.

Alpha Strike in New Eden

The Agency event structure continues.  It started initially with The Agency event back in July, carried on with the Lucky Strikes event that showed up with the August update, and has been re-upped again with the new Alpha Strike event.

Alpha Strike

CCP is being a little coy with this event, the announcement lacking in any details.

New Player? Like flying spaceships?

The Alpha Strike in-game event has started and is great for pilots who are new to EVE Online.

Click the Agency icon on your Neocom in game, and start earning those rewards today!

“Fine,” I said to myself,  “I’ll bite.”  So I logged in a wee Alpha alt over in Amarr space, the same one I went mining with in a Venture previously, just to see what the Alpha Strike event really was.

As noted, it comes up in the window used for The Agency, and is pretty much the same sort of thing.  The difference seems to be that some of the ways to earn reward points are a bit more diverse (running a mining mission is an option, for example) and the rewards themselves are ship packages.

Two ship packages are available, industrial and destroyer

The one odd bit is the descriptions of the packages when you click on them.

Wait, what does that mean?

This wording, which was noted over at The Nosy Gamer after he saw it on the test server a couple weeks back, began some speculation as to whether or not CCP was going to introduce the dread scourge of lock boxes to New Eden.  That seemed like a dubious idea, and doubly so when coupled with a player event.  What sort of monster would make people earn reward points then hand them a lock box?

Well, no sort of monster at CCP currently.

I ran out with my wee alt and earned the twelve points muy pronto by doing a mining mission and then killing some of the local NPC pirates.  That got me the item redemption pop up which put the A3 Industrial Package in my item hangar.  Clicking on it didn’t demand a key.  Instead, the description was somewhat different.

The package arrives

Being packed “really really well” isn’t the same as missing the instruction manual or needed a key.  In fact, all you have to do is press the “open container” button.

Hey look, a ship and a module!

I assume that the “A” in the “A3” designation stands for “Amarr,” that if I were Caldari, Gallente, or Minmatar it would be “C3,” “G3,” or “M3” and would deliver the corresponding racial hauler so an Alpha Clone could use it, since they are limited to the ships of their respective empires. (And, while we’re here, I guess the “3” is for the third event using the framework of The Agency.)

Anyway, that is the current event in New Eden.  It does seem suited to Alpha clone characters, which is probably why it was named “Alpha Strike.”

A Few Slides from the Fanfest EVE Online Keynote

EVE Fanfest kicked off in Iceland yesterday and included the EVE Online keynote.

Fanfest 2017

Some of the keynote was spent reviewing what happened over the last year… or year and a bit in one case… with some statistics.  And I love statistics so, since I happened to be home and able to watch the keynote, I grabbed screen shots of some of the slides with numbers to share and have to hand to compare against any future updates.

Citadels

Citadel stats as of Fanfest 2017

Citadel stats are something where I have a previous count from EVE Vegas 2016, which happened at the end of October last year, so we can see how that has progressed:

Deployed:

  • Astrahus 14,322, up 7,632 since Vegas
  • Fortizar 1,772, up 1,025 since Vegas
  • Keepstar 38 , up 24 since Vegas

So the count for all citadel types have doubled since the end of October 2016.

Destroyed:

  • Astrahus 2,353
  • Fortizar 270
  • Keepstar 4

Engineering Complexes

Engineering Complex stats as of Fanfest 2017

Engineering complexes came in with the Ascension expansion on November 15 of last year, taking over production abilities from the old school Player Owned Starbase, or POS.  In the less than five months since then they have sprung up all over.

Deployed:

  • Raitaru 5,522
  • Azbel 875
  • Sotiyo 123

Destroyed:

  • Raitaru 471
  • Azbel 72
  • Sotiyo 4

Alpha Clones

Alpha clone stats as of Fanfest 2017

Alpha clones, the limited “free” option for EVE Online, was the big feature that came in with the Ascension expansion last November, and they have popped up all over.

Alpha Clone Stats:

  • Ships Lost 1,217,366
  • Final Blows Landed 40,941
  • Ships Destroyed by Alpha Fleets 32,065
  • Ship Manufacturing Jobs 228,342
  • Module Manufacturing Jobs 580,657
  • Market Transactions 33,377,966

Those numbers would be more interesting if we knew what percentage of the total of New Eden they represented.  But Alpha clones are out there.

Fighters

Fighter stats as of Fanfest 2017

The coming of the Citadel expansion in late April of 2016 not only brought new structures to New Eden, but also force auxiliary capital ships and changes to carriers and super carriers.  Rather than drones and old-style fighters, they would use a new type of fighter.

Produced:

  • Heavy 5,686,882
  • Light 4,104,542
  • Support 355,939

Destroyed:

  • Heavy 10,419
  • Light 205,112
  • Support 11,286

Of course, I wonder how many fighters have been lost ratting as opposed to PvP.

Skill Trading

Skill trading stats as of Fanfest 2017

Skill trading, skill injectors, and skill extractors came along in February of last year as part of what I called the Mardi Gras release, since it fell on fat Tuesday.

  • Skill Extractors Used 2,227,528
  • Skill Injectors Used 2,198,120
  • Skill Points Extracted 1,113,764,000,000
  • Skill Points Injected 832,396,750,000
  • Most Extracted Skill – Mining Barge
  • Most Injected Skill – Drone Interfacing

So there are/were 29,408 skill injectors on the loose or on the market representing 14,704,000,000 extracted skill points.  Of course, the one stat I really want is how many skill points disappeared because somebody took a 500K SP injector and only got a 150K SP boost.

Battles

CCP also highlighted three large battles that took place over the last year.  Last Fanfest took place during the Casino War, but any large scale battles from that had already occurred and we were in the midst of the three months of skirmishes before the Imperium moved south to Delve.  However, all three of those battles can be seen as fallout from the Casino War and all involved Circle of Two and citadels.

Conflict with Neighbors

The Battle at Oijanen in November of last year was over a Project Mayhem Astrahus and saw the Drone Region Federation lined up against alliances from the north including CO2 and TEST.

Death of a Keepstar

The final battle around the CO2 Keepstar in M-OEE8 in December was the culmination of the invasion of Tribute by Northern Coalition and Pandemic Legion.  Once the Keepstar was destroyed, CO2 and their ally TEST evacuated the north to look for greener pastures.  I was there for this battle.

Two Fortizars coming online

The battle at F4R2-Q in January was the other side of the coin from the battle at M-OEE8, as it represented CO2 and TEST attempting to grab new territory in null sec from the Stainwagon coalition.  The battle itself was sparked by two Fortizars coming online, one for CO2 and one for TEST, that would give them a foothold in the Catch region.  While they lost both Fortizars, Stainwagon resistance crumbled and the alliances have taken over much of their old space.

I was also there for this battle which will be remembered as the one where we managed to get Asher to give us 10 participation links, something he has vowed never to do again.

Anyway, those were the review slides that held statistical or historical interest for me.

Make My Alpha Clone

As we heard back at the end of August, free to play of a sorts is coming to EVE Online this November in the form of Alpha Clones.

For those two lazy to click the link, if your account is not subscribed to the game you will still be able to log into New Eden, but your characters will be in the Alpha Clone state, which limits them to 5 million skill points.

You still have all your skill points, but you need to be subscribed to use any beyond the 5 million cap, which the game promises to remind you of at every turn.

Can't touch that!

Can’t touch that!

And, on top of that, just because you have a lot of skill points when subscribed does not mean that when transition to the Alpha Clone state that you will have the full five million to play with, as those skills must come from a specific set of skills dictated by your choice of race.  Yes, that completely meaningless, primarily cosmetic choice of old can now come back to haunt you.

There is a post up over at The Nosy Gamer looking at the four race/faction choices.

Like a lot of other people, I started thinking about what I would do with a potentially unlimited supply of effectively disposable 5 million SP free pilots.  But even in a potentially bottomless well, there is always a first bucket of water drawn, and so I decided to start in on my first Alpha Clone in advance, so I reactivated an account.

I know, Alpha Clones are going to be free, why pay to make one?

Well, among other restrictions, Alpha Clones are going to train at half the speed of subscribed accounts, if I caught that detail correctly.  Given that it takes my main about 7 months to train 10 million skill points… his learning rate boosted slightly by spending down time in a clone with +4 implants when possible… a completely free 5 million skill point clone account looks to be about a 9 month operation by my guess.  Literally the human gestation period for a fully formed Alpha Clone.

Besides which, I already had a character, a May 2009 model named Reynaldo Fabulous (pre-dates Jay Amazingness by 4 years, and holds our old corp… anybody want to buy a 2007 corp so you can tell people how “old school” you are?), with more than 14 million SP and a set of +3 implants plugged in.  That also made my faction choice for me, since he was born Gallante back in 2009.  I figured I would have this Alpha Clone thing set in a week or two, so I subscribed him (hours before the magic date) to see what he had going on.

He had a Trisatan and a Quafe Skin for it, which I wasn’t sure how he obtained, but was out in the boonies, so I flew him off to a local NPC station that stocked skill books.

Quafe skins for all the ships

Quafe skins for all the ships

Once there I started comparing what he had trained in the past and what skills he would need to grab to get to that 5 million Gallente skill point Alpha perfection.  (The list of skills is in the dev blog, or in spreadsheet form linked from this post on Reddit.)

And herein lays the eternal struggle in EVE Online.  It isn’t so much about having skill points as it is having the right skill points.  Even my main character, 164 million skill points into training, still bumps up against the “hrmm, I guess I never trained that” scenario now and again.

So as I started going down the list, comparing what my potential Alpha Clone had trained with what he would be allowed to use as an Alpha Clone.. well, let the new skill training begin!

Get those new skills queued up!

Get those new skills queued up!

He wasn’t totally bereft of usable skills.  But there also wasn’t a lot of overlap between the Alpha Clone world and what he could use.  Gallente Industrial was good, but he had that to level 5 when an Alpha Clone can only have level 1.  He also had Mining Barges and Exhumers trained up to 5, which are of no use at all, akin to his ability fly a Drake and shoot heavy missiles.  But he didn’t have Gallente Cruiser injected.

So skills were injected and training commenced, though I also bumped into the 50 skill limit in the training queue.  And now, of course, every time I log in… or launch EVE Mon… I am greeted by a list of skills that have trained.

Training training training

Training training training

I probably do not need every skill on the list, but now there is a certain OCD aspect to this, the idea of having a “perfect” Alpha Clone.  And I am still not sure what I will even do with him once the skill queue is complete, but I think he should be done in time for the introduction of Alpha Clones.  We’ll see what happens then.

Addendum: After a prod from Noizy, I suppose I should link to the Reynaldo Fabulous origin story, and mention how there were versions of him in Middle-earth and Norrath.  Searching the blog shows that name was a thing here for a time.