Dienstag, 31. März 2015

Elite: Let's Get Dangerous

Now for something completely different:

This little picture is something I made after starting a long-range expedition in Elite: Dangerous.

The game can be as beautiful as EVE Online, even though in other parts the games are as different as night and day. While EVE takes a more holistic approach to space gaming, Elite is a true simulation of space travel. You and your joystick control your ship directly and the map is a painstaking simulation of the 400+ billion star systems found in our Milkyway.

When I'm not playing EVE, I like to continue my lonely journey through the emptyness of space, taking pictures along the way.

Elite: Dangerous is a nice game, even though it is kind of barebones at the moment. On the other hand, if you hate people you can just play in Solo-mode and never get annoyed by someone ever again.

As an explorer, I normally could ignore this and play in the normal "Open"-mode, but 400 billion stars are a lot and outside of the small human-settled space you generally see no-one either way. Sadly, in Open-mode the function to make HighRes-shots is blocked, so a picture like the one above would suffer quite a bit.

Theoretically, it should not bother me as much, since I have to resize and compress my HighRes-shots anyway before uploading them to the mighty internet to share. But I feel like having at least some genuine HighRes-shots on my HDD and anyway, I like to downsize the pics myself, thank you very much.

If you want to try it out for yourself, here's a link to the shop. (You can also get the original 1984 Elite for zero money, if you want.)

Don't worry, by the way: Trading and shooting is also possible, you aren't forced to go out and see the universe!

Mittwoch, 25. März 2015

Bad Luck Days

Sometimes a day just isn't going to work out.

Yesterday I tried out my Astero again to do some exploring in W-Space. Of course in the very first wormhole-system I entered I got jumped by a Harpy at the very first relic site I tried out. Bad luck? It get's even better, I was religiously hammering my d-scan just to prevent getting jumped, but of course the Harpy slipped on grid the very moment I was kind of busy with failing the mini-game on the second can.

In hindsight, I should have probably taken it as a warning when my first try at hacking failed because I had five virus supressors in a row. (Those things, like healing nodes, have to be taken out immediately. Healing nodes are bad enough, since they heal everything except you on the hacking grid. At least those are rather weak and won't damage you too much when taking them down. Virus supressors however make you weaker, which means more tries to eliminate nodes and more damage you take by the nodes counter-attacking. Virus supressors also hit moderately hard, so combined with your suddenly weakened virus strength, they're a pain in the ass to take down.)

So I failed hacking. My second try started to look bad too, since I was at three supressors already when I noticed the Harpy on my d-scan. By then he was already on grid with me. Ouch.

I awkwardly closed the hacking window and tried to run, since I had forgotten I wasn't in a harmless little covert-ops frigate without weapons. Then it took me several more seconds to notice my micro warp drive wasn't working because I was scrambled. Whoops! No running away here!

Finally I activated my armor repairer just as my shields were gone, used my own warp disruptor and released my drones. From that point on it was a damage race. A race I lost: Just as the Harpy's shield tank was slowly cracking, my cap ran dry and he nibbled through my armor. This was an embarrassing end to an expensive ship.

My god, my reflexes are just so bad. One of the reasons I normally don't like frigates: In the time it takes me to react, the fight is already decided. In this case, I could have won the fight had I immediately counter-attacked. But of course I had to bumble around for a minute, which cost me the fight. And mad a bad day worse.

Well, sometimes it just doesn't work out like you want.

The Astero is a nice ship and armed, not like the rather flimsy covert-ops frigates, but as pirate faction ships they're also rather expensive. Together with my fitting, that was 120-200 million ISK down the drain. Back when I started out, this loss would have given me a heart attack. Today I can just sadly shake my head at my own stupidity.

Rest in Piss, stupid little Astero railgunned to death.

Mittwoch, 18. März 2015

EVE Online: Musings on T3-Cruisers

T3-Cruisers, or Strategic Cruisers, are a weird thing. Together with the new T3-Destroyers, they are going for versatility instead of speciality, like T2-ships.

Just as a short explanation for non-EVE people: T1 or "Tech 1", are all "normal" ships you can build/buy in EVE, like common frigates, cruisers, battleships and so on. T2 ships are more advanced ships, normally specialized to do something better then a T1 ship. A T2-logistics ship is generally better at saving other ships than a T1-ship, for example.

T3-Destroyers or Tactical Destroyers instead have different "modes" they can change after a short cooldown. Modes like Sniper-mode for long-range shooting or Speed-mode to get out of dodge fast.

T3-Cruisers, the older T3-variant, went down a completely different path. First off, you need not only the hull, but also a set of five subsystems (defense, electronics, offensive, engineering, propulsion), all build and sold separately by players to get a full ship. The four different cruisers (each for one of the four main races) all have different subsystems to choose from. Sometimes with some overlap, sometimes a certain subsystem will work differently or will be unavailable for certain races. The Gallente Proteus for example can use a propulsion-subsystem to warp faster, but the Amarr Legion doesn't get a subsystem with this ability.

This mixing and matching of different subsystems generates completely different looking and working ships depending on what you chose.

Which is the idea: If you want a cloaky, stealthy ship, just take the necessary subsystems and your T3-cruiser is now stealthy. If you want a death ship killing everything, you have subsystems for this, too. The funny thing is, right now CCP is working on a large-scale rebalance of all T3-cruisers, thanks to some wonky balance. Some combinations of subsystems turned out to be insanely strong, while others are underused or not very usable at all.

If you make cloaky T3s, for example, you'll notice you have to fight really hard to make a Legion (the Amarr-T3) cloaky and stealthy and fighty as all the other ones. The reason here is mainly the covert-ops subsystem which allows the use of a covert-ops cloak (which allows you to warp around cloaked and practically invisible). All other 3 T3-cruisers have a small damage-bonus to offset the serious gimping a truly stealthy T3 has to endure. This means most T3s can have all the stealth and scan-things and still have at least a comparable strength to a destroyer or T1-cruiser. The Legion covert-ops subsystem however, hasn't. Instead it has a bonus to capacity use, which means the laser-weapons a Legion uses will draw less energy from the capacitor, making the ships more able to not suddenly run out of energy at the worst possible moment.

This also means indavertently, that the DPS of a stealthy Legion is shit. If you're careful with crafting your perfect stealth Legion, you can get some sort of "good enough"-fit with less EHP, better active tank and about equal DPS compared to the other 3 T3s. This fit by the way isn't interdiction nullified, which means tough luck if you end up in a bubble.

The other T3s are vastly superior in that category, because they can get, with the same concentration on stealth, more EHP, equal or more DPS and of course they can laugh about bubbles and just warp away. Only the active tank remains superior, thanks to the synergy of combining several subsystems helping with supplying the energy-hungry armor repairers with the nanobot injector, a subsystem with huge bonus to active armor repair.

This sadly won't help you if you can't get through your enemies' tank fast enough, of course. Two stealthy Legions against each other would be the most saddest thing because of this: Both would never run out of energy and would also both never break through each other's tanks. Also someone would drop a bubble on them sooner or later. Then both die, the end.

On the other hand, some Legion-set ups are ridiculously good. But that's the thing: Some subsystem combinations are incredibly good, some rather bad. CCP wants to change this and as someone who generally has no use for the insanely overpowered set-ups anyway, I can't wait to see what will happen.

Another problem T3s have: Since their entire look changes depending on subsystems used, not all looks are visually attractive. To be honest, most T3s are unbelievable ugly. And when not ugly, the T3s are one of the strangest and most unique looking ships in EVE.

Cloaky Legion: Weak as a kitten, but can take a punch. And sloooooowwwww

Stealth Loki: More EHP, less tank, but looks sweet. Also more DPS, because of course it has.

The Cloaky Potato (Sorry, Proteus): With blasters easily the highest DPS of all

Stealthy Tengu: Everyone wants the Tengu. The Tengu is God. I hate this weird ship.

Sonntag, 15. März 2015

Starting Blues II: EVE Strikes Back With Sleeper Drones

(Continued from here.)

And so I entered W-Space through my very first wormhole.

Lonely here. And spooky.
This cold, mysterious emptiness set my heart ablaze immediately and I was in love with EVE again.

Then the old scanning system immediately tried to kill that love again.
I set out to scan everything inside this strange system. Even though moving my probes around one by one every goddamn time was the weirdest and most openly hostile piece of UI I ever encountered in a space game. For some reason it reminded me of some of the stupid bullshit Master of Orion III tended to pull on me, but here with the added risk of multiplayer.

The first Sleeper-drone I ever saw with my own eyes.
For a time, I just warped around and tried to take a look at those strange, black drones scuryying around. Since I couldn't warp cloaked yet, this turned out to be an astonishingly dangerous adventure. My method was essentially this:

- Warp in at 100km
- Immediately cloak up after arrival
- Slowly creeping closer until I could move the camera to the drones for a closer look

My ship would have probably exploded the moment this thing started thinking aggressive thoughts.
Things like this nearly one-shotted me the one time I fucked up my warp-then-cloak routine.
With a flimsy Heron-frigate I of course was completely unable to do anything except look at things, so after a while I decided to leave. One of the wormholes I've scanned down lead back to another HighSec-system and I warped back. Luckily even as a complete newbie I was cautios enough to warp in at 100km instead of trying to warp directly to the wormhole, because someone was camping the HighSec-exit. This would have been a sad end to my little adventure.

A Phobos and an Oneiros were waiting for people like me dropping in for a visit. Together with a warp disruptor bubble, they would have pretty much prevented me from anything except dying horribly had I warped in too close. So thanks to my caution the Phobos had to go after me instead and I, after a short moment of confusion, ran away into the opposite direction.

Just after my cap went out I left locking range of that Phobos and dropped into cloak.

My plan after vanishing under cloak and moving erratically in random directions to avoid getting decloaked was simple: Wait until the weird pair was finished and packed up.

Of course at that time I was still unaware of how crazy people in video games could be, so after a while I stopped observing them and went to lunch, assuming they would be gone when I came back.
Yes, it turned out they were still there, blocking my way out. At that point I just went "Fuck it!" and used my by then really weird position to warp past their bubble.

If you look closely here you see my cloak is switched off. Prepare for warp!

I don't know if they thought I had slipped of somewhere or if they were still expecting me, but my gambit worked: Thanks to me warping past the bubble, I got to the wormhole and jumped out before they could stop me.

Back in civilization!

This little adventure impressed me immensely and my love for EVE's mysteries was back. Since this were the days before the Odyssey-Expansion made scanning less stupid, I soon had to stop my exploration-travels, though. It's kind of hard to control your probes if your hand hurts like mad.

But in the time I was forced to wait with computer-related things until the pain in my hand stopped, I read up on COSMOS-sites. As soon as my hand was healed up enough I avoided probes, scanning and everything else with too many clicks like the plague and tried to run as many COSMOS-missions as possible. (This was actually my second try at COSMOS-missions. In my first try, I ended up with my Myrmidon in a DED-pocket meant for battleships and died horribly.)

Sadly, doing the incredibly broken COSMOS-parts of the game was so frustrating I never thought about making any screenshots, so I have to skip that bit and time travel to a more interesting age. Join me next time when I finally wrap up the early era before we time jump from April 2013 to July 2013!

Donnerstag, 12. März 2015

The Cutting Edge of Technology (also about ganking in EVE Online)

This week was kind of mixed. I installed my new SSD and somehow cut my finger when connecting it after the physical part was done. Then my lazy cat shed her fur all over my keyboard and after cleaning everything up, I somehow totally destroyed one of my favourite glasses. It just fell and shattered like a piece of ice. But then I had some fun driving through our forest with my new bike, so in the end it all balanced out.

My sweet little kitty last summer.

Sometimes it's just a up and down like that. Like the day I tried out HighSec-Ganking in EVE Online: A game for strange people.

I found the concept interesting enough: You take a destroyer, you seek out an autopiloting pilot asleep at the weel somewhere, you shoot him. He explodes, then CONCORD drops in and makes you explode. Cue your second character with another ship to loot the wrecks.

Since your ship will be rather cheap and utilitarian and your victims will often be quite lavishly outfit (not to mention carrying profitable cargo to steal), you step away with a profit even though you sacrificed your ship to the space police. Sweet!

Of course this kind of ganking is more complicated as I make it sound and it works best in teams instead of alone with your alts. But that's the principle at least: Sacrifice a cheap ship to the police to blow up a ship to steal expensive modules/cargo. An element of random chance is added to this -some stuff will be destroyed instead of dropping. That's the price you pay for shooting someones ship with weapons, you vile scum!

Back on track, during my "let's do random shit and see what's fun"-phase I tried out ganking, too. I made a PVP-alt character, trained her up in some essential stuff and moved her to a nice position. I scouted a bit around, I bought a Coercer (since I didn't like the Catalyst and didn't want to use a Thrasher, two destroyers far more able to do solo-ganks) fitted out for maximum damage and after I had everything to start hunting down the peasants of HighSec, I found out a small, but important fact:

Ganking was incredibly boring for me. Turns out, I had entirely the wrong temperament to sit around waiting for targets all day. In a group I'd probably had idle chatter to hold my attention, but to be a solo-ganker my attention span was just too short. After not shooting a single target (incompetence and boredom are a bad mix) I was waffling around a bit since my PVP-alt suddenly had no reason to exist anymore.

But then someone reminded me of Faction Warfare: This was the kind of random chaos which sounded attractive to me, so I relocated my PVP-alt to an appropriate FW-station and started her career as valiant defender of the Amarr. FW turned out to be quite fun, even if I kept and keep losing a lot of ships, due to being horrible at PVP. Right now I don't have the time to play around with her and her stash of cheap frigates a lot, but it's nice once in a while to just log in and have guaranteed fights.

In the end, bad and good balanced each other out.

Wow, this sounded way less pretentious in my head.

Dienstag, 10. März 2015

Starting Blues

I forgot if I already mentioned it, but originally I tried out EVE Online in 2012. At the time, the game confused me immensely. After a couple really embarrassing attempts at doing stuff, I just logged out and forgot about the game. My last contact for a while was the message two weeks later about my trial running out.

Fast forward a few months until December. I stumbled upon EVE again, thanks mostly to the forum I'm frequenting, which is home to one of the larger player presences in EVE Online.

So I gave the game another chance and finally subscribed in January 2013. I spend about an hour on making my character, half an hour on selecting a name and then my gaming experience began! More or less.

My main and in 2013 only character was this guy here. After making Mr. True Amarr Grumpy Pants I wanted to name him after a famous hero from Simon R. Greens Deathstalker books: Owen Deathstalker. "Deathstalker" was a bit to grim/pretentious for me, though. And so I tried to make the homage more subtle by using another second name.

In the end, I wanted to bring out my love of exploration by naming him after a landscape. I settled on the Levant as a good naming place. Since he was an Amarr, this seemed oddly appropriate. I threw the letter "h" in to make it sound less harsh. Besides, his name wasn't literally the Levant, the Levant was just an inspiration for the name.

And so Owen Levanth, True Amarr and liberal holder was born. Fierce defender of freedom and science he went through his tutorials and then immediately travelled to Gallente-space.

Since the Gallente are all about freedom, after all. To top it all of, I wrote a bio explaining how Owen had a falling out with his father, a rather powerful liberal holder because of his personal views.

The next few days and weeks I tried out some missioning, waited for skills to finish and did dumb shit like transporting cheap goods around for some miniscule profits. After this little adventure in the Bleak Lands happened, I decided to finally go back and finish the last tutorials I had left. To my surprise I got a decent destroyer handed to me, which came in handy after my last destroyer (a Corax) had another explosive run-in with a gate camp.

This destroyer, an Amarrian Dragoon, became my first serious attempt at playing the game without ignoring the actual gameplay. I outfitted the ship with some pulse and beam lasers to hit ships at long and short ranges both, fitted some shield and armor modules and went off. Since I wanted to explore New Eden, I finally tried my hand at the Sisters of EVE Epic Arc. A long line of story missions for beginners.

Also the Sisters sounded like the kind of organization I would like to work for, so I travelled into the general direction of the starting agent and started the arc.

During the first few missions I learned I had made some mistakes and learned some drone skills, bought some drones and after getting Drones to level 4 (sounded good enough for me) I continued.

One of the systems I passed through made me learn about incursions and the dire threat of the evil Sansha. Of course I tried shooting some Sansha ships I could see in the belts, which ended badly. Owen warped out without drones and barely surviving. Some repairs and replacement drones later I continued with the epic arc. I also poured all my saved up money at that point into a Thorax, since I finally had skilled into the ship and the medium-guns the ship needed. I came back with a Thorax and (thanks to my low skills) very slowly burned the Sansa-NPCs down. After several attempts I destroyed the two belt rats and was satisfied with my revenge.

I changed back to my Dragoon and everything went well after that, at one point I even replaced my wild mixture of light pulse/beam lasers with four beam lasers and learned to use different crystals to determine range.

In the last mission of this first beginner's arc, there is a NPC called Dagan. He flies an impressive looking battlecruiser and is fierce indeed. The evildoer tanked the DPS from my drones and my lasers like nothing and stumped me for a while. But then I remembered something: I had a cruiser with medium rail guns stashed away, thanks to my Sansha-intermission. So I ran back and took my Thorax to finally undo Dagan.

Of course Dagan still easily tanked my damage output, so I made a third and final attempt: By then I knew blasters were the weapons with the highest damage and the shortest range, so I fitted five ion blasters on my Thorax, loaded up on drones for some extra damage and attacked Dagan again.

This time I burned his battlecruiser down and was finally victorious. Feeling better about myself I finished the Sister Epic Arc. Now I already had tried out a lot of things and at this point I had some skills in exploration saved up, so I bought and fitted a simple exploration frigate to go on some adventures. I decided to take the Heron. For me, the Heron looks the most like an explorer for me from the four exploration frigates. And learning new frigate skills goes pretty fast, so I went out and looked at stuff.

At that point I learned a hard lesson about the old exploration-system. In which NPCs are haunting even the most remote collection of ruins you could think of. Like some sort of metallic insect swarm. My little frigate, barely armed, already has some trouble finishing exploration sites in HighSec -everywhere else, I just ran into a wall.

The old and painful scanning system, in which every single probe you want to use to find something hidden in space must be moved separately, turned out to be another obstacle I found rather annoying.

So after actually not much exploring I made one last journey, just as a sightseeing tour, after I found something really surprising and interesting during my travels: A wormhole into a new and unknown region of space.

Montag, 9. März 2015

EVE Online: Mining Edition

This time it's about mining.

One of the things I've tried after starting out was mining. In another post I'll probably explain how my main got to be a miner after being an explorer, mission runner and also "reprocessor". (I'm sure I left some obscure profession out, I did a lot of different things back then.)

But for now let's stay on mining. My adventure into the world of mining transformed, after some excitement of searching for the most hidden belts I could find (and some mining-incursions into LowSec with a Venture), into pure tedium pretty soon.

It could be relaxing, mind you, but after a while I felt like being chained to the ground. As a lone wolf and nomad by temperament, nothing I could do would wring enjoyment out of mining. I loved the idea of playing space prospector to bring riches back to civilization, but the actual implementation of mining in EVE doesn't even come close.

At least firing off your mining lasers looks pretty, I guess.
You just lock an asteroid, shoot it with your mining modules (mining lasers or strip miners on the large mining barges) and wait. Now the modules will slowly cycle and periodically deposit mined ore into your ship's ore hold. (Or normal cargo hold if you use a non-mining ship but that would be considered self-harm, please don't do it.)

After a while the asteroid will be used up, rinse and repeat on more space rocks. That's it. Oh, sometimes NPC-pirates will turn up, but in HighSec even the weakest mining ship has enough combat drones to deal with them. LowSec, NullSec and W-Space are completely different: NPCs can actually threaten you and other people can and will shoot you. That last point is important since even in empty LowSec pockets someone will ocasionally drop by at least once an hour. And mining takes a lot of time, so good luck with mining that juicy belt in Rancer.

Imagine this, with your ship as the asteroid.
Nowadays I sometimes let my industry-alt slip into a wormhole with her super-stealthy Prospect for old time's sake, but I can only endure this because after twenty minutes super-NPCs will show up to ruin my day, so I'll never be there long enough to get bored with mining.

It's a bad sign for a miner if he starts fantasizing about his barge broadsiding other ships.
So now my main is settled with 1,5 million skill points he will never use again and I ended up training a lot of the same skills yet again on my alt. Just so she can easier and faster dip into mega dangerous space to get some morphite or megacyte every time I'm feeling too lazy to make a trade hub run.

Hey, it's not like occasionally building a T2-cruiser needs a lot of that expensive stuff, so 1-2 trips into W-Space are normally enough.

The only thing I'll be missing: Giant mining laser beams.
In the end, mining wasn't for me and I went on to do other stuff. The End.

Samstag, 7. März 2015

EVE Online: The Early Days of Doing Dumb Shit

Back when I started out, I had a lot of misconceptions. One of these misconceptions was about how the different types of security in EVE worked. During my first weeks in EVE, I was paranoid as soon as security status dropped to yellow, but since I didn't really grasped the difference between HighSed and LowSec, I grew complacent. Nothing ever happened to me in yellow 0,5 systems, so apparently low security space wasn't really as dangerous as everyone claimed.

Then my Corax ran into a gatecamp in 0,4 LowSec and exploded. Whoops! I still didn't quite grasped what had happened and got even more paranoid, this time in every type of system.

For a time I played rogue trader and transported small amounts of goods across New Eden to make ridiculously low amounts of ISK. This time ended when my attempts to sneak out goods from under the nose of LowSec pirates in the amply named Bleak Lands
 ended in multiple explosions of my ships. ("Goodbye little Probe, and let sweet Jove fly you to your rest.", I said and that was it.)

Fastworward a bit until I finally understood the mechanics behind the different types of security. At that point my skills had spread out to different types of cruisers already and one of my favourites was the Stabber. A Stabber is a fast moving attack ship, with bonuses to projectile weapons (Cannons, but in space!) and even with the ability to fit some missile launchers. Also, it looks helluva sweet.

By flying a Stabber for a time, I learned however that I had the wrong temperament to fly the Stabber well: The ship works best with fast-firing, low range autocannons. Maybe some rapid-light-missile launchers to help protect against smaller, more agile ships: But that's it really. I, on the other hand, prefer to stay the hell away from an enemy. Long-range projectile guns are called artillery and for some reason, medium-range cruiser artillery really, really sucks.

It sucks so hard, you can get better damage by fitting rail guns, a type of long-range weapons the ship has no bonus for, which normally means a ship with the wrong weapon-types is heavily gimped. So I ran immediately into trouble since I fitted medium space cannons and then learned I didn't do much damage. As an additional problem, autocannons can be fit to the Stabber with no real trouble, artillery however needs so much energy, you'll end up gimping your ship just to fit those damn space cannons.

So I finally shrugged and went back to other ships. But I had one last farewell to this fine ship! Since I now knew what those colors in my route meant, I planned a long trip through NullSec, just to see how far I could make it. Just running through, one jump after another. Completely blind.

My Stabber before starting to my great trip.
After fitting my Stabber for my mad expedition (two space cannons, two missile launchers, a salvager and a cloak), I planned a route for a quick trip into NullSec and back out.

The Great Wildland Expedition of 2013
37 jumps all in all. Total suicide, but who cares? I did not.

If you're planning to cross NPC-NullSec, I guess LowSec isn't really scary anymore.
And so off I went. HighSec and LowSec-systems didn't stop my ship and the need for speed finally brought me into the Great Wildlands. In the very first system of the Great Wildlands, B-VIP9, someone had left me some NPC-wrecks and like the newb I was, I tried with my salvager and level 3 in salvaging to get something out of them. (I can honestly say I don't remember if I actually got something.)

Salvaging for thrill-seekers.
I made it to the station-system of M-M3DB, then I started running into trouble. Luckily my Stabber was too fast and too furious to get stopped by some minor annoyances!

I wonder what that Brutix-pilot thought about the strange lone Stabber suddenly turning up.
Only two systems farther into the Great Wildlands my Stabber was dead after an intense, but shortlived try at simultaneously running and fighting a gate camp.

To be honest, my pod didn't get much farther, too.
But surprisingly, doing this run turned out to be great fun. So periodically, I would outfit ships for some long-range adventure and just go.

Of course, first I had to learn that not every ship is a good exploration ship. Also, I had to learn people in EVE are often confusing the game-profession exploration with actual exploration. To be fair, playing garbage collector in space does bring in money, but the main draw in exploration always was the simple urge to go out and look at shit.

This means I make less money, but have more fun. As everything in EVE, you have to make a choice.

Donnerstag, 5. März 2015

EVE Online: The PI Adventure

Today was the day all my PI-colonies had their extraction-timers run out and it was the day all launch pads on my W-Space colonies went full again.

Lots of winding up extractors, hauling and scanning. Also hammering on d-scan. Getting surprised with a hold full of PI-goods would smart somewhat fierce, after all.

Now hopefully everything should go smoothly again. Just some more collecting of the stored and contracted PI-goods by my industry alt, hauling and selling, then I can relax for a month.

The smaller setups I have besides the 12 planets in W-Space are mostly just for fun. They're in HighSec, incredibly slow and my factory worlds are still backed up because the more complicated, more time-intensive setup which came before burned me out so bad I still have a ton of tier 1 goods in my alt's base, waiting to be turned into P4.

In a few days, that'll be done and I'll turn one factory planet into a center of P2-production and the other will build P3-goods for my own use. Probably again too slowly to be of much use, but for some reason I just really like building stuff and selling it. Even if technically, workers on the planet are doing the work for me.

That was the main reason I dealt with the highest and most profitable tier of PI-production for a while. It was quite a hassle, since only LowSec-extraction colonies produced enough to feed my factories and emptying them twice a week turned from fun into work pretty damn fast. So goodbye Sterile Conduits, someone else has to take up the slack of building you now.

The new setups need less ressources to get rolling, so I relocated all those annoying colonies to HighSec and now they lazily fill up. Now my effort is probably only about 10% of what I was spending on the old setup. My profits too, of course, but I'm not doing it for money, after all. The money is just a nice bonus.

Only five colonies on my main left. Another problem: First I moved his LowSec-colonies since they were too spread out for me and it took forever to empty them out, then I underestimated just how much low-tier goods an extraction-colony can suck out of the planet. The new colonies filled up incredibly fast and my main had to jump clone around a ton to keep up with them.

As my main is mostly dealing in exploration and moving around like a nomad, it got annoying fast. Even worse: There are times where my main hangs around in W-Space or deep in NullSec, far away from any friendly station. Jump cloning isn't an option there.

So I finally ended this second experiment. Now I'm placing all his colonies in HighSec close to the ones of my two industry-alts. No stress, no effort and a little bit of extra materials for my factories once a month.

Still, together with my two W-Space parasites, that's still 28 planets to deal with. Even with the most half-assed low-effort setups possible, it's still eating a lot of time.

This means essentially, that's it. No upskilling to the maximum of 30 planets on the characters able to do PI, no PI at all on my sixth character.

If the last retooling is finally finished, I should have more time for stuff like PVP and exploration again, instead of playing Industry Manager Online all the time.

Mittwoch, 4. März 2015

Parasite EVE Online

About a year ago I randomly stumbled upon a guide about PI in EVE. Which was good, since I was actively searching for PI-guides at that time.

For better understanding: PI is Planetary Interaction. In EVE Online, one of the things you can do is set up factories and ressource extractors on planets to abuse the workers. I mean to make money. Essentially, you get stuff or build stuff on planets and haul it to a market hub to sell it. That's the short and easy gist of it, at least. As everything in EVE, it can get complicated really fast.

So, since you don't have to be online all the time, PI can be a nice additional source of income for fun stuff with your other characters. The best planets with the best ressources are in a part of "New Eden" (the strange galaxy where the game happens) called W-Space or J-Space. That's short for wormhole-space: Thousands of solar systems only connected through random wormholes you have to find. Wormholes break down based on mass of ships jumping through and time. Every time a wormhole breaks down another one respawns, connected to somewhere else. It's like a giant murky labyrinth in space. (J-Space is a reference to the system names over there: Every wormhole-system with one exception has a name consisting of the letter "J" and a number.)

Now those strange systems have also one "static" connection, which leads always to the same region of space and it's always constantly respawning in the same wormhole-system. It's essentially a lifeline preventing the odd situation where every wormhole decides to respawn somewhere else, leaving everyone trapped. The static wormhole is always there and prevents this.

Giant riches await in those strange places and since EVE Online is quite a few years old, a lot of players have infiltrated this part of space to make a living. Back then I was preparing two characters on my second game account (Yes, multiple accounts are a thing in EVE Online. The game is strangely addicting.) for Planetary Interaction. I maxed out the relevant skills (Skills in EVE Online are learned over time, even if you're logged out. The drawback here is, some skills can take enormous amounts of time. Preparing those two fresh characters took therefore literally months ot waiting for skills to finish.) and made some rather crude colonies.

This was my learning phase. I read up some guides and tried setting up colonies in different regions. I learned a lot and I finally decided I needed some sort of low-effort setup so I could go back to my main character to play other stuff. Spaceship related stuff.

Then in a rather odd but interesting guide, I learned about "PI-Parasites". And was immediately in love with the concept. You see, normally if you want to build colonies in W-Space, you enter not alone, but with your corporation of players. (Think World of Warcraft guilds, but with CEOs instead of guild leaders.) You replace or build the customs offices orbiting the planets, plant starbase towers at moons and so on. PI is just one thing of many you'll be doing. Or you'll do it and your corpmates do something else. Whatever.

But even if the customs office of a world is controlled by a certain player organization, as long as those players aren't cutting you off just to spite you, other players can still use them to transport stuff to or from the planet. They just have to pay taxes set by the owners. Since W-Space is so goddamn rich in ressources, sometimes even high taxes are worthwile if the planets are good and not too many enemies lurk around.

Now, if several people colonize the same world, they can drain each others' ressources on accident, lowering the output of their colonies, which is bad. In W-Space however, the population is low enough this is mostly irrelevant. One or even a couple neutral players won't have enough of an effect on the output to do any damage to profits for someone. So in most cases, the owners simply set some random, not too high tax rate and just skim a bit from your profits. Everyone is satisfied.

The thing is, if you're not planning on living in that particular wormhole, or if you're not willing to expend the time to deal with space towers, foreign and aggressive corporations and so on, tough shit. Some unknown industrial transport ship generally can only expect fiery death if it drops in unanounced and starts collecting stuff.

So being brazenly business-as-usual doesn't work in this region, especially as W-Space is one of the most dangerous parts in an already PVP-oriented game.

Puh, that was a lot to explain, just in case you aren't familiar with EVE Online. But now back to the story:

Back then I was still unsure what was best. I tried HighSec, the most harmless region of space, but the planets are mostly shit and overrun with countless players, so the profits aren't great. Later I did some fancy setups with other characters, since factory planets don't need ressources (you import them from somewhere else) and you can build some strange, highly profitable stuff even in HighSec, but that was still in the future at that point.

My PI-alts were supposed to do only PI, so I tried to find the best possible concept for their use. LowSec-colonies worked better, but after several weeks of surveying my new colonies were kind of drawn out and hard to reach. Lot's of PVP tended to get in the way. Profits were higher, but it was also more effort.

At that point I was deciding on either putting my colonies into NullSec instead (the other super-dangerous region in New Eden) or into W-Space. NullSec had an entirely different set of trouble, but theoretically it was doable. Then I found this guide explaining W-Space Parasites and I was hooked.

This is how it works:

You need at least two characters. After you found and scouted the wormhole-system you want to use, you infiltrate the system with your two characters. One is a stealthy hauler, the other a stealthy character able to find the hidden wormhole connections, so you won't get stuck. Theoretically, you can have one character doing both with some creative fumbling around, but the thing is: If someone collapses your wormhole if you're outside the system, you're probably won't find the way back to your colonies for a long, long time, if ever. Thousands of systems randomly reconnected each day, that's harsh.

With two characters, you can always use the second one to scan down the static connection and re-open it. Then at least you'll know where the new entry to normal space is and your poor, locked out character can travel there to try entering again.

Now your characters are safely inside the wormhole-system. Then you're doing complicated, EVE-related stuff to prepare possible routes of retreat and hiding places around the system.

Next you'll stay hidden under a cloak and use the command centers you bought and brought with you to build colonies on the worlds of that system. This is an entire science in itself. Every character can have 6 colonies at max skill levels, so if you have two, you can have twelve colonies all in all. So you go hog wild.

Now stuff is getting extracted and build and slowly piles up until there's no space left anymore. From that point forward your stealthy "parasites" occasionally log on to maintain the colonies and about 1-2 times a month you spend some time on emptying out your colonies and secretly transporting it back to normal space, where people have market hubs to sell and buy stuff.

If no-one catches you at those vital times, you'll get a shitload of money. Then your parasites go back to their system, log off and that's it. Rinse, repeat.

This was perfect for me: Not much effort, at least once a month lots of money to spend on fancy starships and I could secretly stalk around like a bunch of ghosts, which is great fun to me.

Over time I even modified my parasites a bit: Since a first experiment ended with the owners of the system getting upset at my presence, I made sure from then on that my command centers are integrated in my network of extractors, warehouses and factories. Why? As long as you only want to export things off the planet, you don't actually need an expensive launchpad to send stuff to the customs office orbiting your planet. It's just more convenient and most of the time, actual human players demand less taxes then the automatic 15% tax on command center launches.

Also those emergency-launches are restricted to 500m³ with a 1-minute cooldown between every start. Compare this to the 10000m³ launch capacity of a normal space port and you'll understand why people keep using them.

Experience taught me however, that sometimes people are unreasonable. They get territorial. They don't want you there. They really do see you as a parasite, sucking out their precious ressources.If you want to go with a stealthy parasite-setup, you'll have to be prepared for this.

Normally, since your two guys will only randomly log in at a hidden spot maybe once a week at most, the stalwart defenders will be practically unable to dislodge you as long you aren't getting to cocky. The defenders do can close you out from their customs offices, however. Or blow up the old ones and replace them with their own, then close you out.

In that case you can't send up launches of precious motor oil or whatever you're producing and even if you could, you wouldn't be allowed to take it out of the customs office anyway. If you were smart enough to connect your command center to your warehouses, you can just avoid this blockade, however. Just send those invisible, un-scannable containers up into space. Collect them carefully, and smuggle them out when the defenders aren't looking. Done.

And since you have two guys, the defenders can't even collapse a wormhole behind you and even if you fuck up royally and get blown up, you have a second chance to get this right. Your second character can simply wait until the right moment, then open up another static connection to let your other comrade in again.

Most of the time of course it won't be as dramatic as this guerilla war I just described. You'll simply and carefully collect your products, pay taxes, sell them, go back into hiding.

That's W-Space Parasites in a nutshell. And man, having to explain all this stuff just in case a non-EVE player reads this blog really inflated this post more then neccessary.

Well, hopefully it was still an enjoyable read. Maybe I'll even write more EVE-related stuff in the future!