Tag Archives: The Agency

EVE NPE Trades the Epic Experience Idea for More of The Agency

When all you have is a screwdriver, then every feature gets screwed.

-Me, somewhere further down in this post

Who remembers back during EVE Fanfest 2016 when CCP Ghost got up in front of everybody and talked about how CCP was going to change the New Player Experience?  He went on about how they were going to make the NPE an epic, engaging, bigger than life, you matter in the fight sort of experience that would try to do something about the somewhat dismal new player retention issues that EVE Online has traditionally had?

Yes, there were a few other little things going on around then that might have drawn attention from that particular bullet point, like the Citadel expansion, the fall of Deklein during the Casino War, and Xenuria being elected to CSM11.  But I did get around to bringing it up in a post later, though that post points to the video of the presentation that has since been removed.  The internet never fails to disappoint.

I got around to it because an improved NPE seemed like a solid choice, what with the free to play plans that CCP announced later on for the Ascension expansion.  Alpha clones were to become a thing, and with them would the new starting experience.

So it sounded like a good idea, getting players invested with some story up front.  I mean sure, EVE Online is a sandbox, so making new players think there was actually going to be something like a coherent story to follow in the game was a bit of a lie right up front.  But it couldn’t be any worse that past variations on the NPE theme, which tended to bounce between the clarity of the instructions that came with our “Made in China” garden awning and the excitement of the Ben Stein history class scene in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

The literal tipping point to get me to start this blog back in 2006 was the tutorial.  It was such a mess.  After trying to figure that out I felt a burning need to write about it.  It’s your fault we’re here CCP!

Anyway, I did try the new epic tutorial that came in with Ascension, with its voiced instructions and running events that would eventually blow you up, only to revive you and show you how an immortal space capsuleer shrugs off death and keeps on fighting.

Bits of it were admittedly recycled from the previous tutorial, but it was still pretty cool I guess.  There were action sequences where you got into a fight with allies and saw other ships, even capital ships, something a lot of capsuleers never end up seeing.

My Punisher in the NPE with an Apostle

There was even a giant wheel in space to blow up and all.  It was of epic proportions and I remember the art team speaking about it at EVE Vegas and the work they had to do in order to get it to blow up just right.

The ring… it is precious to me

After that I don’t recall CCP talking much more about the NPE, save for a couple of minor updates, so I had guessed they had nailed it… or that it was at least working out marginally better than the previous NPE.

So I was more than a bit surprised to learn that they THREW ALL OF THAT AWAY with the August update.  Not only that, but I remain surprised at how low key that tossing away of the old NPE went.  The entry in the Patch Notes reads:

Updated NPE with beginner tutorial sites and combat challenges available through The Agency.

That is about all there was.  The Updates page said a little bit more, but I tend to lean on the Patch Notes more.  And, generally speaking, this sort of change generally had a Dev Blog associated with it and some forum discussion, but either that didn’t happen or I totally missed it because this new NPE was pretty much a shock to me.  I wouldn’t have even noticed it had there not been a new Alpha Clone doctrine announced for the Imperium which got me to roll up an new Alpha Clone of my own on a lark.

Gone is the dynamic story, the jumping into combat with NPC allies, the capital ships, and the destruction of your ship during the process… at least the intentional destruction of it.

Replacing it are a series of “go shoot the barely resisting NPC” missions stacked up in The Agency interface that have about as much connection between each other as consecutive articles in an encyclopedia.

Here we are in The Agency

It isn’t dramatically worse than some of the older NPE experiences, and its actually much better than what I experienced back in 2006.  But it isn’t as good as the dynamic one, so I am curious as to why CCP decided to toss all of that work, especially after they built it up and were so proud of it.

One guess is that it wasn’t working or that it was doing worse than previous NPE iterations.  I liked it, the dynamic story aspect of it was much more engaging to me than the mission running interface of the previous version.  I wonder if blowing up the player’s ship was too much.

Probably the most important lesson that any player needs to learn about EVE Online is that ships are transitory, less like your epic armor in WoW and more like ammunition to be expended.  And it can be a very tough one to learn.   And even when you do get it, losing a ship won’t be a happy experience, but it isn’t anywhere akin losing irreplaceable gear that you spent months raiding to get.  If you’re rage-quitting over a ship loss you have not grokked the game.

But putting that right up front and center in the NPE might be too much to ask.  So it is possible they were seeing players quit the game right then at that point in the tutorial and decided that it needed to be fixed.

Still, it seems like something you could fix more easily by not throwing away all that work.

My worry is that the change was actually driven by the need to force all PvE activities into the interface of The Agency.  That does seem to be an overriding goal of somebody at CCP, and when your tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.

Though, to modify that phrase to get the right point of view I might restate it as, “When all you have is a screwdriver, then every feature gets screwed.”  And The Agency is the great big PvE screwdriver.

And I say that because they have traded an engaging and dynamic tutorial for one that is tepid and dry and not very engaging at all.  And in addition to being dull, it has way too many steps.  You can see from my screen shot above that I did the core step for each stage thinking that perhaps that would be enough.  Maybe the subsidiary steps were just there to reinforce concepts for people who didn’t really get it the first time. But no, you have to do all 16 to get credit for finishing the full tutorial.

I guess it does have its own ring thing at one of the stages.

Any ring in a storm

The new ring would barely be visible stood next to the ring from the epic NPE.  Also, it doesn’t blow up.

I am also wary of a tutorial that sets up Circadian Seekers of various flavors that are a push over for an Ibis.

This is easy!

Those look just like the ones that you see in the wild… the ones that would blap your Ibis in one salvo and which call for backup if you’re tough enough to tank them.  Granted, the epic tutorial did that as well, but if they were going to toss the epic aspect they might have tossed the Sleepers as well.

Also, in one of the later steps the give you a new ship, a Merlin for the Caldari, and 100 rounds of ammo, but that 100 rounds is completely inadequate to finish all of the missions from there forward.  Completing the missions doesn’t get you any more, which seems like the logical thing, and the tutorial doesn’t tell you to check the market but if you do you’ll likely not be able to afford the ammo with what is in your newbie wallet.  Granted, you can finish off the rest of the missions in your Ibis, but then why give you the Merlin?  The Merlin was only there to show you how to fit modules, which they could have done with the Ibis.

At least the career path agents are still there and looming in The Agency interface as well.  You can get another Merlin and a useful supply of ammo from the combat training missions.

And, CCP being CCP, they felt they needed to flip the switch for everybody so that every character in New Eden.  So not only does every new character have to see this and go into The Agency, but every character that logs in, young or old, has to be alerted to the presence of this new tutorial.

I am sure that somewhere at CCP HQ in a conference late in the afternoon when everybody was tired that all of this made enough sense for somebody to sign off on it and clear it for some dev to implement.  I just have trouble believing that nobody woke up the next day after sleeping on it and felt that there might be a flaw.

Oh well, if there is one thing I have learned is that if you’re forced to sit in a conference room going over a design for hours on end eventually anything will seem like a good idea.  The Cardassians didn’t have to torture Picard to get him to see five lights, they just had to put him in a conference room and just keep drawing diagrams on a whiteboard and making bad sports analogies for eight or nine hours and he would have signed off on the five light design even if it only had one damn light.

The EVE Online July Update Brings Performance Updates, a New Event, and More

We are in the midst of Summer now, which is generally a slow time for CCP as they crew goes off on Holiday, leaving space to mind itself for a while.

But before people clocked out and headed for their various destinations they put in some work to give us something to chew on for a while.

The Agency

First of all there is a new live event launching today, the Minmatar Dawn of Liberation.

Dawn of Liberation Event

This will feature sites in The Agency interface where you can fight slavers and free the subjugated.  The event will run until July 24, 2018 and will feature rewards including fireworks, SKINs, and cerebral accelerators.

Missile Redux

On the actual code change front, probably the biggest technical item in the patch was the update to missiles to improve client performance.  The current missile graphics went in with the Inferno expansion back in May 2012.  Missiles went from colored blobs of light to projectiles with launch animations, smoke trails, and explosions on contact.

Missile exhaust trails

This made missiles very pretty to watch, but also put a performance demand on the client which had to render all of that pretty launches and trails.  It clearly wasn’t the biggest demand on the client… after all, it took CCP six years to get around to working on them again… but it eventually came up as something to address.  And so there is a Dev Blog on missiles and the work that went into making them perform better.  We are, however, back to missiles being blinky lights in the night again.

Abyssal Updates

Also in today’s update are the changes mentioned at EVE Down Under regarding Abyssal pockets.

All in the update

More POS News

There was also another step on the path to the end of player owned starbases.  Blueprint copies for faction starbase towers will no longer drop.  In addition, the amount of minerals you get for reprocessing starbase towers and modules has been increased.  CCP is no doubt hoping that you will take care of removing some of those yourself via that route.

Wager No More

Also facing removal from the game, though more immediately, is wagering on duels.  This feature went in with the Lifeblood expansion last year.  I’m still not sure who wanted this feature, I do not know anybody who used it, and now I don’t know why they’re taking it away.  Business as usual I suppose.

Fozzie Claws and Zealots

On this ship front, the Amarr Zealot heavy assault cruiser got a drone bay in the hope of making it viable for Abyssal pockets as I understand it, while the Minmatar Claw interceptor got a bonus change from a damage boost to a rate of fire boost, meaning that roaming Claw fleets will be less able to alpha bigger ships off the field.

Notification Reduction

There has also been a change so that corps and alliances will only get notifications that somebody is shooting one of their structures if the shield hit points drop below 95%.  Pinging towers has long been a way to annoy your foes.  I have been out to hit structures in order to provoke a response only to cloak up and warp off when the defenders arrived.  Now you have to be more serious about that.

In addition to the above there are the usual list of small fixes and adjustments that went into the update.  You can find most of the information in the patch notes.  The Updates page seems to have fallen behind and does not have an entry for this patch.

Addendum: The updates page got its update as well.

The Great New Eden Shuttle Abandonment Festival

Otherwise known as the Federation Grand Prix.

See, I’m not making this up

In order to celebrate Federation Day in the Gallente Federation this event has been staged that celebrates neither democracy nor the Gallente Federation so far as I can tell.

It is, yet again, based in The Agency interface, home of nearly all PvE and like events (save for Abyssal pockets… so good PvE isn’t in The Agency I guess), which is probably why I didn’t notice that it was actually a thing until I saw somebody complaining about it on Reddit.

That complaint actually got me interested in the event.  I bypassed what the write said to look at all the prizes he had earned.  He had quite a range of SKINs and boosters.  Being in Reavers, I clearly love SKINs and boosters, so I wanted to know how I could get my share of them.

The complaint seemed to be that the event was boring.  I’m pretty sure that is true of all events in The Agency, so I wasn’t deterred.  Besides which, he maxed out his even points in one 12 hour sitting, so it could have just been burn out talking.

The event itself is pretty easy, you just fly places.  Again, I fly places all the time.  I could do this.

I logged in an alt to give this a try and opened up The Agency.  It told me to fly to the Luminaire system and warp to the Federation Grand Prix beacon.  Since it would involve flying places after that, and the type of places were unspecified, I decided to use a stealth bomber my alt had to hand.  It had a warp speed rig to speed it up and a covert ops cloak to get me out of any trouble.  So I jumped in and flew off to Luminaire.

There I saw the beacon in the overview and warped to it.

Right there in the overview

The event site is pretty much the generic structure The Agency uses for all such events.  I didn’t even get a good look at it the first couple of times.

You’ve seen this structure before

When I arrived I got a notification that something in The Agency had been updated, so I opened that up and clicked on the event.  That gave me a destination, a beacon in a system 11 jumps away, with a timer to get there.

Fly to the thing!  You had 11 minutes

Well, that seemed doable.  So I opened up the route planner, put the system name in, and followed the path to the destination.

On the way…

So I flew manually from gate to gate to the destination system, then warped to the beacon, which was again in my overview and, upon landing there, saw The Agency update.  I now had 2 points.  Meanwhile The Agency was also telling me to go back to Luminaire to do the whole thing over again.  And I figured I was committed.  I had two points, and you need at least 5 to get a prize, so I headed back.

The prize interval

The next time it gave me a four point journey which.  That was further, but it gave me more time, about a minute a system.   When I completed that I got the first prize box.  That box gave me four SKINs, two boosters, some fireworks, and a couple of collectible items which, for the effort, seemed like a pretty good deal.

While I had to agree with the Reddit post that, as far as interesting activities in game go, this was really shit, I could bear it for a couple more runs for more SKINs.  So off I went.

The next one was another four point journey off to another system.  Only this one didn’t have a beacon when I arrived.  As I later found out, the destination was off one of the stations.  But I while I was trying to figure that out the timer ran out and I found I had gone 18 jumps for nothing.  Back to Lumiaire.

The next one seemed really hard, 25 jumps and only 18 minutes on the clock.  You already need to be going about 5 AUs a second to finish comfortably, so don’t bring a battleship, but this seemed to be stretching things.  But I set off, figuring that they wouldn’t set me a task I couldn’t complete.

Of course, along the way I figured out what was wrong.  I had the route planner set to take me via the safest route.  Had I chosen shortest it would have been just 17 jumps.  Still, I nearly made it… in fact, would have made it with seconds to spare… except  that it was another no beacon destination and I chose the wrong station to warp to.

Back I went.

I did start to notice a pattern as I flew this time.  First, a lot of people seemed to be using shuttles in order to fly the race.  That wasn’t a bad plan, they are cheap and warp at 5 AU a second.  A perfectly viable option.

But EVE Online players are all about efficiency.  Every time I landed at a destination beacon, I noticed that there were often dozens of abandoned shuttles hanging about in space.  Apparently the plan was to acquire a shuttle… and somebody is probably making money in Lumiaire selling shuttles now…, set your death clones in Luminare, warp to the start beacon, then head to the destination.  Once there you leave your shuttle and self destruct.  I’m not sure why not destroy the shuttle too, since they are leaving it behind, but the fact that they are there tells the tale I guess.

One page of many shuttles

You can tell they are empty because there is no player name, just the ship type repeated.  You could jump in them and fly off with them if you wanted.  I’m not sure why you’d want them, but you could.

Unsurprisingly, systems with race destinations are currently ranking high on the DOTLAN most violent systems charts for high sec and low.

Anyway, I got another destination in Luminaire that sent me across part of Syndicate, which was both a six point mission and made me feel good about having my stealth bomber.  I got there successfully and back safely.  Another shorter run and I had my 15 points.  I docked up to claim my prize and all I got was cerebral accelerators.

Not that those are bad.  I’ll use them.  But I was in this for the SKINs.  And after the first box being so generous, I felt a bit let down.  Still, I was a bit invested now, and it was only another 15 points to the next prize box.  I figured I could hack it.

I got a 2 point run that I dispatched quickly enough.  Then I drew a 4 point run that ended in low sec.  While in the past runs had gone through low sec… even null sec… they always ended in a high sec system.  I figured the likelihood of the beacon being camped was high.  After all, the pile of abandoned shuttles would be a dead give away.  I’d be careful, but off I went.

Purifier on another run

When I entered the destination system I could see the beacon on the overview.  I just needed to warp in and then get away.  I figured I could cloak, warp in at 20km, then turn around and slip away without anybody seeing me.  So warp I did.

And, of course, I landed on a pile of freakin’ abandoned shuttles which both decloaked me and managed to bump me as I aligned out for just long enough for a Condor to point me.  I shot back, but torps don’t apply well to frigates and was dead long before I got him close to armor.

But at least I figured I had gotten my 4 points.  He could shoot me and send me home.  But he didn’t want to pod me.  He pointed my pod, but then unlocked me.  No need to take the standings hit I guess.  So I boarded one of the shuttles and headed back to Luminaire.  My lust for SKINs had cost me more than just buying them probably would have cost.

I guess there is an interesting/danger aspect to the event, at least when it passes through low sec or null sec.  But for the most part it is a pretty dull event.  Somebody has to do it if I want to buy the SKINs, but it doesn’t need to be me personally flying it.  I just have to wait until near the end of the event when prices are sagging.

Addendum: On returning to Jita I did find that selling the cerebral accelerators more than covered the cost.  Still, this race event doesn’t excite me.

Trying Out the Guardians Gala Sites

The current Guardian’s Gala event in EVE Online is the sort of thing that makes me wonder what people really want out of such events or how they should be structured.

Guardians Gala Comes Again

Like such events before it, Guardian’s Gala is embedded in the structure of The Agency.  However, the grasp of The Agency has grown since I last spent some time on an event.  The Lifeblood expansion back in October expanded The Agency from an event framework to the “everything PvE” vision CCP had for it.  So rather than the event being its own thing it is now jammed in the frame with all things PvE though, if you haven’t hidden it already, you will get some event info on screen.

The Agency owns all your PvE

Having read the event preview over at The Nosy Gamer, I had a good idea as to what ship I might bring.  With the NPCs warping in on top of you it reminded me of the Warzone Extraction event from last September.  I grabbed the same alt that I ran those with along with the same ship, a passive tanked Drake.

Big Shiny Drake

I swapped out the resistance amplifiers to explosive and kinetic flavors in order to match the expected damage and, after one run, swapped the Scourge heavy assault missiles out for normal Scourge heavy missiles along with a target painter to improve damage application.

My crappy Drake fit

I’ll paste my crappy fit into a comment on the post if you’re interested… and if I remember.  I don’t recommend this fit particularly, I just happened to have it sitting around handy and my alt has all the skills for it maxed out.  I also cheaped out and shot plain T1 missiles, though I brought some faction missiles along just in case.

As with the Warzone event, the sites are all over New Eden and when you arrive in a site the NPCs have a propensity for warping in on top of you so you aren’t going to pull range and kite.  Unlike the other event, you won’t get warp scrambled or have your capacitor drain.  But you will be webbed many times over by the frigates in the site while the cruisers will sit at range with target painters on you blazing away.  That range turned out to be “just beyond my heavy assault missiles engagement envelope” which is why I dropped the HAMs for HMLs.  With heavy missiles my alt can hit out to 78km and, since I wasn’t neuted, I could run a target painter to help clean up the frigates.

On grid webbed and painted

The goal seems to be to slaughter as many hostiles as it takes… the number seems to be about 20 or so.. in order to draw out the guest of honor, so-called, who arrives in a battleship or a battlecruiser.  You then chase that down, blow it up, and you’re done with the site.

You are seriously done, because any leftover NPCs align out and warp off at that point.  You lose lock on them even before they’ve entered warp.

Anyway I took to shooting the frigates primarily because with the target painter they only required three missile salvos and the less ships slowing me down with webs the better in my book.  Meanwhile the sig of my fat ass Drake, boosted by shield extenders, was probably big enough that the cruisers painting me made no difference at all to damage being applied to me.  So a double win, frigs died faster and in doing so removed something slowing me down in completing the site.

Site rewards come from the wrecks, the primary source being the battleship/battlecruiser who has, for me at least, dropped a SKIN and a learning accelerator with every round.  The smaller ships also have loot, though more often than not it is metal scraps which are hardly worth the effort.

So, in general, easy-peasy.  Warp in, shoot small stuff until the big guy shows up, shoot him, profit.

The details are where things get a bit more messy.

For openers, this seems like a good way to kill new players.  It isn’t as deadly as the Warzone Extraction event, because this one doesn’t lock you down with a warp scrambler so you can escape… and being webbed will get you to warp more quickly… but things can still go sideways fast if you’re not prepared.  My alt with max shield skills and a passive fit Drake that regenerates at 188 DPS won’t have an issue, but somebody wandering into a site with their level 2 mission cruiser may be in for a rude awakening.

But do we care?  If we judge who the event is for based on the level of effort required, then it is something for canny PvE veterans I suppose.  It does seem to require people who can manipulate the overview because, as usual, the NPCs are unselected by default.

Then there is the open nature of the event.  Anybody can see the sites on their overview… even if the ships themselves might not show up because CCP… and can warp on in at any time.  And if somebody shows up and gets the last hit on the special end ship, then they get the loot.  Or, if they can get to the wreck of the last ship before you do and loot it, it is theirs unless you’re ready to take them on in a fight.  That is just the special nature of EVE Online, where you are never fully able to play away from your fellow capsuleers.  I went off to a remote area to run the sites and still had this happen to me once.  I can only image how this is playing out a few jumps from the crowd in Jita.

And then there is the whole point system that events in The Agency use to distribute additional rewards.  This time around they are not too bad in that they are mostly in line with what you are going to do anyway, which is run sites and shoot NPCs.

You earn ten points for killing, in sequence, 5, 10, 50, and then 100 of the small fry, ten points for finishing a site and then a couple of sites, and ten points for killing 1, 2, 5, then 10 of the loot pinatas at that end the site.  I managed 80 points my first night out, though I was thwarted twice on that last set, once when somebody showed up and destroyed the boss ahead of me and once when the boss got bored and warped off.  I’d read that they might warp off and that I should be patient, but after 10 minutes I figured he wasn’t coming back and that I’d been denied rewards and progress yet again.

The second night I passed 100 points and earned my first reward.

Something for my efforts!

Of course, that would have been a lot more impressive if I hadn’t already looted 1,700 Angels Arisen Fireworks already.  To get the next reward I need 300 points and, frankly, the event isn’t that much fun.

Of course, somebody out there is going to be obsessed with the ISK per hour measure of the event, so let me see if I can help on that front.

I timed myself on a couple of sites and it took about 15 minutes to complete and loot in my slow old Drake; extending out to maybe 20 mins if I bumbled my efforts to pick up loot along the way.  With a better ship/fit than mine you could easily cut that back some.  On the other hand, you also have to find a site.  I was pretty lucky out in my area of operation, being the only one in local and having a new site ready every time I finished.  Still, let’s be conservative and call it two sites an hour.

I got 250-300K ISK for just shooting things up.  I think shooing the cruisers more than the frigates could boost that, but whatever.

You get the skill booster which, depending on which one you get, is worth 15-50 million ISK.

And then there is the SKIN, which is the real wildcard.  I imagine the right SKIN would get you some ISK.  The problem is that the market is currently flooded with the Spirit SKINs that drop, all the more so because they are the same SKIN that dropped last year, only they changed the name of the set so I thought for a moment it might be a new SKIN.

But it isn’t.

It is still a good SKIN.  Not as good as a new, hot pink SKIN would be, but good.  In some cases, it is the best looking SKIN that you can find for a few ships.  But it is pretty common so it might be something to save until after the selling frenzy settles down.

The most valuable one I got was probably the Gallente Shuttle SKIN, which you cannot even list on the market.  You have to sell it via contract, a complication that means that there isn’t much competition for it.  But even then, you might get 10 million ISK or so, which isn’t all that much, and which requires somebody to know that the SKIN exists and that it is only available via contracts.

I’ll probably keep it just to add to my collection.

Otherwise the next most valuable SKIN I got was for a Phoenix dreadnought, which might be good for 6 million ISK on a lucky day.

And then there are fireworks.  I got a lot of fireworks off of wrecks.  And metal scraps.  So many metal scraps.  And then there was the odd ship module now and again, some of which were useful.

All told, if the odds were ever in your favor, you could bring in upwards of 100 million ISK per hour with optimum drops.  But that seems unlikely.  Reality is probably closer to 30 million ISK per hour, and that is indirect because you have to schlep back to a market hub to sell your loot.

Basically, you shouldn’t stop ratting in your super carrier to run off and harvest the bounty of Guardian’s Gala.  All the SKINs and learning accelerators you want will be on the market in Jita waiting for you and your ISK to show up.

The advanced booster boost

Even my dank 10-18 million ISK ticks in my little Ishtar are a better value as I get that and all the loot and salvage as well.

But as a distraction from whatever you’re doing in New Eden currently Guardian’s Gala probably isn’t the worst thing you could choose.  And you might even get a SKIN or two that you want.  And it makes for a few nice screen shots.

The January Update and the Death of the Agent Finder

In place of the Agent Finder we will set up The Agency. And it shall not be tiny and dark, but as beautiful and terrible as the the star maps both new and old!  Fair as the sea and the sun and the snow upon the mountain as seen from orbit! Dreadful as a sudden hot drop! Stronger than the tanking modules of any faction. All shall love it and despair!

-January 2018 Patch Notes, early draft

Into the cold reality of the new year… unless you’re in Sydney, in which case you’ve recently been the hottest place on the planet… as YC120 comes with new changes.

The first update of the year for EVE Online is upon us and it touches a sore spot with me.  I’ve been over this already, so I won’t rehash history.  The short version is that the old Agent Finder, which I still think of as “new,” is going away.  The replacement is in the iron framework of The Agency.

You shall put nothing before The Agency

There is a reasonable logic to this change.  CCP wants to put all things PvE into The Agency framework.  The filters for finding an agent in The Agency are even a little bit better than they were in the Agent Finder.  The problem is that The Agency only has room in its soul for a dozen results.  Maybe that is all that people need.  I just rebel at the thought of replacing something that shows all the agents that meet your criteria with something that only shows the nearest twelve.

Anyway, I’ve probably given that change to the game all the weight it deserves and then some.  There is a Dev Blog about changes to The Agency which will now also serve as a way to locate:

  • Factional Warfare Sites
  • Incursions
  • Expeditions

In addition the Journal window will see some changes, with The Agency taking over a number of its roles.  I suspect that this will annoy some people merely due to having to change long instilled habit, but for me the Journal isn’t that big of a deal.  My primary use for it is to check on how may Loyalty Points I have earned but never spent over the years.

Also, NPC Forward Operating Bases… which are also becoming more numerous with this update… will be visible via The Agency interface as “Pirate Strongholds.”

Anyway, the reach of The Agency continues to grow.  If you’re a fan of the interface you’re probably happy, and if you’re not… well… you’d better get used to it all the same.

Also in this update, NPC coloration in the overview is now supposed to follow a consistent pattern:

  • Blue – Friendly NPCs
  • White – Neutral NPCs
  • Red – NPCs that mean you harm and are probably trying to shoot you even now

I’m pretty sure it was always supposed to be that way, but seem to recall some neutral, or at least non-hostile, NPCs getting colored red in the past.  Maybe that is all good now.

On other fronts CCP has applied their current shader technology to more objects and structures found in deadspace and missions areas.  I expect asteroid mining stations to be at least 30% more “shiny.”

CCP has also reworked the occasionally problematic reload cycle in an attempt to fix issues that occur when you’re reloading and do a state transition.  While the work was done in the background it does have some user end changes which include:

  • It is no longer possible to group or ungroup weapons while the weapons are reloading.
  • Cloaking, docking, and jumping after reloading will no longer interfere with reloading (but a cloaked ship can still not start a reload).
  • After the inventory operations have completed the reloading will no longer be interrupted by anything (but other things can be blocked until the timer has finished).
  • All inventory operations connected to a reload command are now done at the beginning of reloading and the reload timer is behaving like a reactivation timer on the module.
  • Several other minor bugs and inconsistencies around loading and unloading ammunition have been fixed.
  • Fixed a bug, which could lead to loss of ammunition when grouping the weapons of an Upwell Structure.

Hopefully this will resolve the issues intended and only introduce a few minor new issues.

In addition there is the usual long list of smaller issues addressed.  Information about the release can be found on the Updates page and in the Patch Notes.  As of this writing the update has been deployed successfully and is the current reality in New Eden.  There is a known issue when it comes to expeditions in The Agency already, so that functionality has been returned to the old Journal for now.

Yule Lads Tell Players to Work for Their Damn Yoiul Gifts

The holiday season is upon us and, in New Eden, that means the start of the annual Yoiul Festival.

The symbol of The Agency for Yoiul?  That doesn’t bode well.

In past years this has meant an advent calendar-like series of daily gifts to the capsuleers of New Eden.  You had to log in daily to get your gift, but that was all you need do to collect fireworks, snowballs, festival launchers, SKINs, and other special treats.

This year the Yule Lads have taken a different tack.

Yule lads of old… I think they all FC for Pandemic Horde now

This year, no doubt due to staff cuts on Team Yoiul, the lads won’t be traveling to every station and citadel in New Eden to deliver daily gifts.  They’re subcontracting to The Agency this year, so it will be like any other event.  If you want some seasonal treats you’re going to have to go undock and PvE for them by completing tasks in The Agency.

If you’re not willing to go out and hit rogue drone sites you’ll have to pick up loot with ISK in Jita or via PLEX in the New Eden Store.

Local crank, bitter vet, and host of the Open Comms show Dirk MacGirk had this to say about the event:

And so it goes.  Am I going to be able to find time to schlep out for my gifts this year when there are hostiles to shoot?

The Agency and Finding Agents in New Eden

Yesterday I was on about how most of my time in New Eden has now been spent in null sec space.  Today I am back to something of a more PvE, if not wholly high sec, in nature.

That is The Agency.

The Agency started out during the summer as something of an event framework.  I called it The Temp Agency since there wasn’t much on offer.

But CCP had bigger plans for The Agency.  At EVE Vegas they revealed their vision for The Agency, with it eventually becoming the one stop shop for all PvE content in New Eden.  With the Lifeblood expansion later that month the update for The Agency was in place, with a dev blog to show us the way.

I meant at some point to write something about the new interface that The Agency offered, but never quite got around to it.  I used it a few times to find some Resource Wars sites to run, but for something like anomalies the probe interface is simply more efficient.  Also I hate that it has a definite article as part of its name.  I’ve had to restructure at least one sentence so far in this post because if sounded odd because of that.  My pet theory is that we refer to The Mittani as “Mittens” more because it removes the definite article than because we like the nickname.  But that might just be me.

Anyway, The Agency looked nice but felt a bit awkward in my hands.  You could find what you wanted, but you still had to know what you were looking for.  And while having a map in the middle of it seems like a good idea… it does at least show relative positions of items on the results list… the map is really too small and detailed to deliver information well.  CCP seems stuck on the idea that star maps must show the actual relative position of stars rather than doing something ala DOTLAN and giving us an abstract but clear view of systems.

For the most part I forgot about The Agency as things like the massive Alpha Clone update arrived.  But now The Agency is back on CCP’s list of things to do, with plans for the coming January update.  Specifically, according to a Dev forum post, the plan is for the following:

  • The Agency is getting Factional Warfare, Incursions and Expeditions added to it along with some new cards for Ice sites and Epic Arcs
  • The Journal is being stripped back to a couple tabs with all the removed functionality going to The Agency or other appropriate window like Contracts or Planetary Colonies
  • The Agent Finder is being removed and finding agents will be handled by The Agency

The first bullet seems fine.  I suppose the PvE sites in Faction Warfare fit the bill, even if they are in a PvP environment.

I will have to see the details of the second when they get to the promised Dev Blog about all of this.  We shall see.

But the third, the removal of the Agent Finder, that strikes a nerve.  It strikes a nerve because we’ve been down this path before.

For a long stretch of time… from August 2007 through to July 2011… one of the most popular posts here on the blog was one entitled How to Find and Agent in EVE Online.  That was because for ages finding agents from within the game was a bit of a pain in the ass.  Click on that link to see what I mean.  Generally the preferred method was to use a third party site to find an agent, but I wanted to detail how to do it in game.

And then came the Incarna expansion.

I bitch about Incarna in EVE in the same way I bitch about Cataclysm in WoW.  There was a lot wrong in Incarna, both in details and in direction, but it wasn’t ALL bad.  And one of the shining lights of Incarna was the current Agent Finder interface. 

Finding Agents for the Imperial Chacnellor Corp

It was simple… certainly relative to the efforts previously required… and the button to bring it up was put in a few places so people could find it.

Agent Finder in the Captain’s Quarters even!

I wrote up a post about it which pretty much marked the end of life for my original post about how to find an agent in EVE Online.  CCP had essentially fixed the problem they had and people stopped searching the web to figure it out.

CCP messing about with the “currently working reliably” Agent Finder makes me twitch a bit.  So I went to go look at how The Agency interface handles finding agents.

As it turns out, when it comes to filters, The Agency has everything the Agent Finder had for filters, with a couple of additions, like being able to show the “highest available” agent level, which will show you when you cross the boundary from 2 to 3 or the like.

Finding Agents in The Agency

So far so good.  Then I brought up the Agent Finder just to make sure that both methods were returning the same results.  A life in software has made me a mistrustful soul.

The Agent Finder over The Agency Window blocking the map

I was happy to see that, with the same criteria entered, both interfaces seemed to be showing the same results.  And then I looked at how many were returned.

In what I imagine was an effort to keep The Agency from fire hosing too much data at new players, the results list in that interface is limited to a dozen agents.  The Agent Finder gives you 32 results for the same criteria.

I get the idea of keeping results down so as not to confuse… and maybe the last few agents that are 27 jumps away won’t be the most important to everybody… but I also have a long standing bias against any system that omits or hides information from me.

My hope is that CCP will figure out a way to resolve this or, absent a solution they can implement in the current time frame, punt on the plan to kill the current Agent Finder.

My fear is that they’ll say, “Hmm, good enough” and just go ahead as planned.

But maybe that will open up an opportunity for a new popular post about finding agents that The Agency won’t display.  Possible click-bait titles for this:

  • One Weird Trick to Find More Agents!
  • See What The Agency is Hiding From You!
  • The Agency Hates This Guy!

Addendum: The official Dev Blog has been posted and the Agent Finder is still for the axe.