Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Worming Around The Gurista Burner

I'm waiting for my EVE client to update (today is Oceanus! Yay for Patch Day!), so I have a little time to type.

After the debacle with the Cruor / Blood Burner, I quickly got back to lvl4s (earning the Nestor, see previous post) and also drawing another Burner in short order (another 5 missions and 1 decline, my average is coming down).

This one was the Guristas Worm.

I was pretty gun shy.  I'd just blown a good amount of isk (at least to me) on the previous Blood Raider Chucklehead, and watching Gurista strats on youtube yielded another click-heavy fight with ample opportunity for me to miss a cap boost cycle.

My play time was limited with real life issues and great weather here over the weekend.  So I decided to fiddle a bit.  To Worm around.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Nestor, Bester, Banana Fanna Fo Fester

This one was a long time in coming.  The SOE Nestor is now mine.  I've been sniffing around SOE missions for (what feels like) forever.  I built up the SOE rep, got access to the lvl4, and got my three ship hulls (frig, cruiser, and now battleship).  Built all three with (mostly) my own mineral stash.  

There's currently no reason at all for me to have this hull.  I probably should sell it, as I assume prices will drop with time.  But it completes the set.  And it's pretty.  I built it.  It's mine.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I am a Statistic

I haven't done it yet, but I'm about to fail my first burner mission.  I'll become a statistic in Fozzie's chart - missions failed.

I promised to keep better count of how many lvl4's it took me to pull a burner.  This time it was five successful lvl4's and one decline,

I drew the Blood Raider (Cruor) burner.  Did my usual research and found that I lacked some necessary skills.  Most guys are doing the Blood Raider with a Wolf.  I'm Minmatar-deficient, and oddly enough, Abavus is not t2 capable for autocannons.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Burner Blog Math

I promised a few days ago that I'd dig a little deeper into the dev blog by CCP Fozzie.

Let's focus on this graph:

Two main points I'd like to make:
1. Only 15 out of 100 Burner missions are actually accepted.  The rest are declined.  Fewer succeed.

I was initially shocked that the accept rate was so low.  I figured there would be a lot of declines, but I hadn't really thought about what I considered 'a lot' to mean.  I guess 85% to me is a metric buttload, which is approximately double 'a lot.'

This spawns a concern:  Are too few people partaking in the new content to warrant CCP to continue to deploy burner updates?  What is their threshold of pain for investing dev $$ into content that relatively few players are apparently participating in?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Burners 0.5, Pukin Dogs 2


Well, I have to give the Burners a 1/2 point on this one.

I misread the mission text (noob mistake of the week) and thought I had the Sansha burner again.  Turns out, it was Mr. Angel.  I did a perfect deployment only to be asking why he was orbiting so close and why I wasn't doing any damage.

After a bit of panic (understatement), I managed to sort out what was going on.  My tank was holding, so I navigated away from the spawn point then began playing with modules and didn't just let him burn me down.

Turns out my Retribution can perma-tank him if I turn off all other modules.  I took the cheesey way out and logoffski'd and waited out the 5 minute aggro timer.  Upon my return, I was warped to the acceleration gate.  (For those of you saying "omg cheater" I could have simply slowboated under web to the aggro range, forced him to reset and gotten out, but would have taken ages to do so...).

Anyway, a little bit later, I figured out that a Vengeance was what I needed.  I had one tucked away for a rainy day only 2 jumps from my mission hub.  A quick refit had me set up this way:

[Vengeance, Angel Burner]
Explosive Plating II
Ballistic Control System II
Small Armor Repairer II
Ballistic Control System II 
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I 
Rocket Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Rocket
[empty high slot]
Rocket Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Rocket
Rocket Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Rocket 
Small Warhead Rigor Catalyst II
Small Warhead Rigor Catalyst II
Fitting credit goes to Archtype 66 in this thread.

The fight:

Upon warp-in, the target was 87km away from gate due to the previous pursuit.  He aggro'd immediately and we rushed at each other and the fight was on (I much preferred this starting style vs getting dropped in his lap).  Set orbit at 5k (he orbits much closer, but I wanted to move at least a little), activate all high and mid, watch my stats to decide if/when to overheat and kick the SARII when shields drop.

With an off grid booster (omg more cheater, I know), this was an ezkill setup.  I ended up overheating my SARII right at the end when I hit 50% armor.

I was mildly afraid that I'd go into a reload cycle and let him recharge his shields, but managed to end the fight with 6 rounds left.

Not my proudest kill, but it goes in the win column.

PS:  The loot sucked.

What's playing:  Matt & Kim, Let's Go

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Anomic Agent #2

Second Burner mission was offered earlier today.  I once again pulled the Sansha flavor, which makes setup very simple.

As the server seems at least a little bit unstable (not sure if it was my connection or the game), I'll wait until it's not super-busy-Sunday before I tackle it.

Total mission count between #1 and #2 was somewhere around 25-30, including declined missions.  I'll keep a better count this time.

I did notice that they promised payout this time includes just short of 14.2k LP, which isn't too shabby.  Base payout is 1.67M with a time bonus of 2.18M isk, which still feels too low.

I intend to follow the same basic recipe as attempt #1, which resulted in success.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


A non-EVE post.

Fall is my favorite time of year, by a wide margin.  Temperatures are cool and getting cooler, and it's generally dry.  It's a time of rapid change after the slow evolution of Spring into Summer.

People talk sometimes about how certain smells evoke memories.  I have two.  First, I hate the smell of fresh cut grass.  Some people romanticize it.  Those people obviously didn't spend their childhood and teenage summers humping a push mower around the yard.  Coming inside the house coated with a layer of sweat, grit, bug spray, and fresh-cut grass splatter is not my idea of romantic.  Today, the smell of 2-cycle engine exhaust plus fresh cut grass just makes me groan a little.

The second is much more positive.  I love the smell of 2-cycle engine exhaust, Carhartts and sawdust.  As a kid, this meant Fall.  In my early years, we'd go to Grandpa's woods and hitch up his antique tractors (2 of which are now in my barn) and my uncles, dad, and grandpa would spend the day cutting down dead or dying trees.  It was Grandpa's way of maintaining his woods.  It was our way of heating our home.  As a kid, I'd play with my cousins in the underbrush until the saws were turned off and it was time to carry wood to the wagon.  Sometimes there would be a Thermos of coffee (or hot cocoa for me).  As a late teen, I got my own saw and graduated to "one of the men" cutting wood.  It was a big deal, at the time, to be counted that way.

Mrs. Durden and I now live out in the country, and Fall for me means a frantic time of finishing all the crap I didn't get to over the summer and trying to clear my plate so that I can cut wood, split and stack the results.  Yes, I rush through chores I'd rather not do so that I can enjoy the chores I look forward to.  Ultimately it means plenty of winter nights in front of the fireplace with the smells of wood smoke filling the house with wholesome warmth.  And sometimes hot cocoa.

All in all, I find it satisfying work; chainsaw therapy.  Very primal.

A month or so ago, one of the summer storms knocked over a big locust behind the house.  It's well out of the way and didn't need immediate attention.  I've been eyeballing it as my first victim this year when the temperatures permit it.  This weekend we finished a lot of little things around the house... almost time for the saw.

My anticipation of this kind of manual labor is probably weird to some of you, but yes, I very much look forward to it.

So if my posting turns sporadic, I'm likely outside running the chainsaw.

What's playing:  Alice in Chains, Bleed The Freak

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Burners mk2

CCP Fozzie posted a dev blog today showing some of the initial stats for Burners mk1.  The data is interesting, to say the least.  I'll ponder it over the next day or three and will be back with more thoughts.  (As I am posting from my phone, I'll save the heavy typing for later.)

One stat that bothers me is the stated 85% decline rate by missioneers.  Only 15 out of 100 burner mission offers get accepted.  I expected the decline rate to be high, but not that high.

The second edition for Burners (which I have dubbed "mk2") includes an NPC assault frig supported by two logistics friends.  Sounds fun to me, personally.  But, will the decline rate be higher for the more challenging edition?  Probably. Makes me wonder what an acceptable accept rate is....

And no, I still haven't seen my 2nd burner mission offer yet. I'm beginning to hate the rng gods.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Should EVE Have Achievements?

I can already hear you muttering, "NO!"

Hear me out.

Rule #4 of this blog's Manifesto talks about having multiple ways to measure a player's progress.  Here, I'll go copypasta it and save you a click:
#4 - Sometimes, we need a different measure of progress than isk/hr.  And I don't mean adding things that convert to isk (like LP/hr or m3 ore/minute).  That's just isk in a different format.   
In PVP, we have killmail and killboards and that's a good way to measure things and keep a score.  Character skillpoints has always been a measure (if over-emphasized) of character progression.  The recently overhauled Ship Mastery is a fun way to generate some bragging rights, maybe.  But here's the point: nothing motivates nerds more than "leveling up."  As I continue to post, one theme you'll see is an attempt to allow progress to be captured.
 So, as CCP overhauls the lvl4 / burner experience, what tools do we want to capture the progress?

Do you want an in-game achievement for killing the Anomic agent?  For solo'ing the Angel burner?  For killing the Serpentis Burner in under 10 seconds?  ... for getting killed by a burner agent?  :)

For PVP, there are information feeds (API) that allow the player-community to establish killboards.  There are in-game killmails to link, and collect.  All of this drives all kinds of behavior, some of it good, some of it ... less savory.  But it's a type of motivation not (usually) rooted in isk/hr.

For PVE, we don't have that, have never had that, and don't even have a log showing what missions we've completed or declined recently.  This past week I went through the game trying to count, and ended up in my Wallet counting mission payouts.  This only worked because I had a screenshot with a datestamp telling me when I should stop counting.  It only told me I'd done a mission, not which mission or even which agent.

Now then, I'm NOT (not!) advocating a WoW-style achievement system with hundreds/thousands of meaningless tasks.  Let me digress a minute and say that the Achievement mentality is something that helped drive me from WoW.  I don't need that kind of instant gratification and constant reinforcement of how cool I am.  I don't want a checklist of to-do items that I must complete or not be considered uncool.  EVE doesn't need that kind of structure or handholding.

But I do think I want something in between the big nothing we have now and the absurd something that other games have.

So for me, I'd start with a killmail-style mission log, included on my character sheet.  Collect some metrics like: which ship I was in, how much damage taken/received, and which agent.  Make it part of the API, and see where the community takes it.  Then adjust accordingly.

Does that count as an Achievement system?  It could.  It could be the foundation of one.  The important part would be starting small and staying small.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Oceanus Burner Changes and Level 4 Tools

I really should pay more attention to the Dev Blog feed.  I missed this one a few days ago, but thanks to Sugar's weekly CSM wrap up, I got caught up.

CCP Seagull posted the summary of Oceanus changes coming at the end of the month.  This blog isn't intended to entirely about lvl4s/burners but it's quickly becoming that way.  Anyway, in case you missed it here's the blurb on burners:

New Burner Missions, now with logistics 
Take on a new set of Level 4 Burner missions with more high powered enemies in frigates which have brought their own logistics support. A dev blog is coming with both information on how Burner missions have fared so far and the details about the new missions.

Sounds like some of us are getting our wish for a more complicated encounter that all but mandates you bring a friend (or five).

Looking forward to the additional details....


Separate but related topic, there was some news about lvl4's in the last CSM Townhall.  You can get the full mp3 of the conversation here, but I'll attempt to transcribe the part at the end (about 48:20) about CCP's efforts to rebuild their in-house dev tools (I don't know who the speaker was; I am bad matching voice coms to character names):

Something we are now pleased that we can talk about... CCP are working on PVE tools that was [announced on] the [alliance tournament] stream.  Basically, the problem at the moment is that the tools that they have are less than intuitive, and so they are a bit of a pain to make changes with. Which is obviously going to slow stuff down.  They are working on the toolset at the moment, which is going to make it easier for them to add additional content and make changes for other things with it.   
So, on PVE content: once the toolset is back into play, and has been redone, it will be far easier for them to add new stuff.  Don't have a timescale for that, but they are working on it at the moment.

This jives with things that we have been told before.  Investing in a new toolset is a signal to me that CCP wants to continue to extend PVE and breathe some life into decade old content.  Which, if you're a reader here at all, should know that I think is a big friggin' deal.  See also my Manifesto.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

18 and Counting

Still haven't hit Burner Mission #2 yet.  I must be extremely unlucky?  I just checked the journal, and I count 18 successful missions since the last Anomic Agent.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Skill Plan Changes

It's funny how a little patch can change your focus.  Hasn't happened to me in a long, long while in EVE, so it's a good thing.

I'm talking about Skill Plan changes.  I have 4 skilled characters across 2 accounts (the rest have essentially only starter skills, more or less).  Least skilled character 'L' is just above the basic starter set and is set up for some lowsec scouting and shenanigans in frigates.  A cheap clone for cheap ships.  I always meant to do more with him, but never have.

Of the 3 heavy hitters, Character 'Z' is basically set up to knock out Incursions.  Perfect large turret gunnery and battleships in 2 flavors, plus misc repping, fitting, damage mitigation, and other accessory skills.  She runs a shield-fit Navy Mega and could step into a Vindi if I dumped the cash into the hull (alas, current time commitments don't let me grind Incursions).

Next most Character 'M' is my original alt and has skills shotgunned everywhere, from mining to hauling to salvage.  Wherever I need a 2nd set of hands to pick up what falls on the floor, she is there.  Combat skills are somewhat limited, and were focused around null ratting in BCs back in the day.   Her one shining block of skills are her perfect Boosting skills, and she looks mean in her Gallente command ship cranking 5 links.  She's almost as old as my main, but I resisted buying a 2nd set of implants for her until recent times (originally ... as in waaaay back ... she was my permanent resident in 0.0; she went for years training w/o any implants), and when my interest in EVE wanes, she's the one that I let lapse first.

And then there's Abavus.  My main.  A decade worth of training, not always in the most efficient manner (talent remapping, +4 implants instead of +5, lapsed accounts, etc.) but still a respectable number of skills at rank 5 (153).  He can do anything I'd need (frigates to capships and much in between) and has perfect skills in many things I don't do any more (mining, refining, researching).

For the past many months, I've logged in, looked at the Mastery tab of whatever ship I was flying, and picked something of an appropriate length.  In particular, I've been nibbling on Mastery 5 for the Golem, and working through some of the Armor tanked hull Masteries as well.

Burner missions made me revisit these habits.  Suddenly I see gaps in my skill abilities that I didn't know I had.  For example: altho he's been a missile shooter since before all the cool kids did it, Aba didn't have Rocket Specialization maxed out.  Fixed that: I'll have rank 5 in 2d 2h.  Character 'M' and 'Z' on the other hand, had both trained Assault Frigates but not maxed it, and likewise have some gaps in frigate-sized weaponry skills.

This made me make a choice (choices are good): if I were going to dual box AFs for Burner missions, which alt would I take?  After weighing skill pools, the headnod goes to Character 'M.'  Combat and fitting skills are close, perhaps even a little less than 'Z,' but the passive gang bonuses from all her Leadership training will help.

When you have nothing to train, the skillpoint game of EVE is tedious and boring.  But when you need to min/max a training queue in order to get something Important, it's always been a fun aspect of EVE.  I like looking in the nooks and crannies of a game to figure out little puzzles like this.  It's just another side benefit of new content.

What's Playing:  AC/DC: Back in Black

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Burner Upgrades

Burners aren't perfect.  We can probably agree on that.  CCP has stated that they would like the expand the concept to other ship classes (which I think is a great idea at face value).  However, there's also more that could be done with Frigates.

These are in no particular order and are just my random musings:

  • One of my gripes from yesterday: Burners are too short.  Per the original dev blog post, this is somewhat intentional.  And I'm not advocating adding an intentional timesink (although a separate class/tier of lvl4's called Expert Missions in parallel with Burners would be outstanding).  But keeping with the theme of emulating 1v1 pvp in a lvl4 mission, you could tack on just a little more and have a more satisfying experience ... maybe an appetizer to the main event.  For example, put a (much less challenging) frigate or two at the acceleration gate.  Or add an intermediate room with a Burner Lieutenant, before the final room with the "real" Burner.
  • Burner-Lites.  Maybe level 3 Burners.  I'd like something that can be done with tech1 frigs and meta4/t2 loot (non-faction).  Lower risk, lower payout.  The current burners are pretty harsh (in my view, appropriately so), but a lvl3 version might be fun for lower skillpoint characters.
  • Burners On Demand.  I don't think a dedicated Burner agent is a great idea; implications of farming are pretty horrendous.  But a scheme where "On Demand" means "for a cost" then maybe it's better balanced.  Would you pay your agent 5,000 LP to locate a Burner for you?  10,000?  Would you maybe schedule some friends for "Corp Operations" around a group chain of Burners?  As a former Corp Party Planner, I'd have loved that kind of content.
  • Separate out the Burner Mission like a Storyline mission.  If I am running lvl4's and I am offered a Burner, right now I either decline the Burner and keep grinding, or I stop what I'm doing and get set to do the Burner.  Some players will decline just so they can keep grinding.  Other players will decline because they don't want to be dead in the water (at least with that agent) until their friends login or travel to help.  Some of those players will get the Burner, decide they want to run it but can't/won't run it right that moment and will logoff for the night.  With PCU numbers the way they are, don't give me a reason to logoffski, let me set aside the content until I'm ready. Personally, I'd rather get an evemail from a different agent saying "We've got a special problem that needs a pilot with your skills..." and let me deal with the Burner when I have time.  

That's it for now.  Thanks for looking into my brain with me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Burner Balance

Reading forums, it's apparent that there's some disappointment with Burners.

Now, it's the EVE community. There's going to be some whining and banging of pots and pans.  But, some of it struck a chord with me and put words to the feelings that I had rumbling around behind my brain.

Folks are saying that there's too much risk for too little reward.  They're saying that that they're too hard.  Or require a big shiny faction fit in order to be completed.

Overall, I think CCP hit pretty close to the mark.  Although some adjustment is probably warranted, I wouldn't do it just yet (let's collect more data), and I wouldn't make sweeping changes.  But I do think that they need to get the balance a nudge or two before cranking things up with Cruiser sized burners.

Things I like:

  • I like that burners are difficult.  
  • I like that they're making people think about their fits and affecting their skill queues.  
  • I like that there's a whole new strategy and tactics being developed for them (I saw the term "drop bait drones" being used as a means to break warp scram during an unsuccessful burner run and thought it was great, i.e. turning the AI's desire to murder drones against itself).  
  • I realize these are pretty high level, conceptual bullet points, but all in all, I'm reasonably happy.  All in all, Burners are pretty cool.

Things that Suck:

  • I wish that we'd drop from warp a little further from the target, to try to get our bearings before being instalocked and ganked.  Either add some distance or turn down the npc's lock time a bit.
  • Balance is tricky, but the current setup yields a little bit of rock-paper-scissors(-lizard-spock).  Each burner is designed with obvious counters, meaning that a relatively narrow range of ships will be successful.  Youtube is yielding a surprising number of different setups for some of the flavors, but given the number of frigates in the game, we're using far too few of them on Burners.
  • Balancing around overheated faction webs kinda sucks.  A near mandatory ~95M isk investment is poopy.  Wish Mr. Sansha's orbit range was 10km instead of 15km, for instance (even a 12km orbit would let me do it with meta4 and an off grid booster).
  • Once you drop from warp, it's very much about getting all the right buttons mashed to facilitate a kill.  Once guns are firing and modules are blinking appropriately, there's not much to do but wait for the eventual success or fail.  If CCP /really/ wanted to make things interesting, the AI would get smarter and do things like random orbit ranges and other maneuvering switchups that would make you react during the fight.
  • It's over too soon.  More on this in the next post.

Some of this goes away if CCP would say the words "Burners aren't meant to be solo'd."  But I don't think they should balance around a gang fight.  The solo frigate fight is the classic duel, and emulating that experience in a lvl4 just kinda feels right.  If they can get the balance right, it goes a long ways towards having a future in PVE, /and/ as a stepping stone to train future PVPers.

Anyway, with 1 week in game, that's my opinion on Burner Balance.  Sometime soon (maybe even tomorrow), I'll chat a bit about how the concept could be extended in future patches.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Burners 0, Pukin' Dogs 1


Was a close fight, but on this day, the Sansha Burner floated home in a pod.

It was a close fight.  I misclicked and didn't get the Highslots into full overheat, meaning most of the fight I wasn't dealing maxdps.  I realized this just as my first web expired from overheat.  Mr. Burns (someone's been watching too much of the Simpsons marathon on FXX) died just as the 2nd web went down.

I was making faces and squirming a little. Very close.

So, lesson learned - overheat matters.  Not sucking matters too.

This is the fit I emulated (also watch the vid):
[Retribution] perfect skills, no implants, no boosters
Small Armor Repairer II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Centii A-Type Thermic Plating (very cheap)
Centii A-Type EM Plating (very cheap)
Imperial Navy Heat Sink 
Caldari Navy Stasis Webifier (any web with 15km+ range)
Caldari Navy Stasis Webifier (any web with 15km+ range) 
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Scorch S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Scorch S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Scorch S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Scorch S 
Small Anti-Thermic Pump II
Small Capacitor Control Circuit II
My fit isn't quite this shiny.  I found that I had some headroom in cpu and opted for a cheaper tech2 heatsink.  I also reminded myself that I need skills for a tech2 CCC rig, oops (used t1).  The CN Stasis Webs seem about mandatory, due to the orbit range of Mr. Sansha.  This is more shiny than I'd like to fly on a ship this thin; will adjust with time.

And yes, I cheated. I had a booster off grid providing me some boosty mcboosterson.  I know!  I figure I'll run the training wheels until I get used to small ships again.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Anomic Agent #1

Well, it took longer than I expected.  I actually lost count of how many lvl4's I did this weekend before I got this to pop.  But let me say that when you want to burn through missions quickly, the game has a knack for finding every LONG mission and throwing it at you.  AE4 and Dread Pirate Scarlet (normally one of my favorites) came and went, along with many others and a few repeats.

Anomic Agent
I have a special optional mission for you, we won’t penalize you if you decline it. 
A single individual, a rogue element of Sansha’s Nation, has struck out on their own. We don't know why, but we want you to hunt them down.  
They have all scans open, so we can't go there in force. We've acquired their coordinates and need someone to sneak in and take them out. It's you against them.  
Only frigate sized ships can gain entry to the hideout, so don’t try to bring anything bigger.
This pirate will be flying an extremely fast, shield boosted Succubus frigate. He uses lasers loaded with Scorch frequency crystals. Survivors of his previous attacks claim that he likes to orbit his opponents at around 15km at extremely high speeds. He always flies with a Stasis Webifier and a Warp Scrambler fit.  
A word of warning: this rogue pirate is extremely dangerous and has proven very capable of destroying capsuleer ships. If you choose to decline this mission or if you fail to complete it, you will not lose any standings.

I've got some reading to do and some equipment to get out of cold storage.  I was hoping that the Serp would pop first so that I could dust off my trusty old Hawk.  But I also have a Retribution knocking around since some long forgotten reason.

Wish me luck!

Edit:  Helps if you title your post. Gah.

Edit again:  Many of you are reading this from a Google search.  The results and fittings of this mission run are captured in this post.

Alpha State

"Everything that has a beginning has an end."  That's one of my favorite quotes from the Matrix 2.  It has to do with the ...