Bits & Pieces: October 2016

CCP Games' developer team has been busy over the last couple of weeks, issuing a series of meaty dev blogs and news. Each of these are worth multiple blog posts of analysis about their implications for EVE Online, and for its community of players. Specifically, the big reveals have been:

I intend to explore some of these announcements in more depth in future posts, but for now, I'd just like to share a few reactions and opinions.

Mining Changes - It's All Good

This dev blog focuses mostly on how mining boosts will change using the new area-of-effect mechanics, to be released with the recently named Ascension expansion set to debut on November 8th. It also covered changes to the Rorqual and Orca mining support ships, and introduced the new Porpoise-class industrial command ship.

I'm excited about moving fleet boosting to an on-grid, entirely visible experience, in general. I wrote previously about how I can't wait to try the new mechanics in combat, which is way off my usual playstyle preference for EVE Online. Applying the same kind of local boosting mechanics to mining fleets makes perfect sense, though I recognize that it will change the experience significantly - nevertheless, I think it will be all for the better, on the whole.

This does mean that I'll keep my Orca on grid with my fellow miners, in asteroid belts for the most part. And that means it will be vulnerable to roaming ganking gangs. But with the effective 50 percent bonus to drone hitpoints and 100 percent bonus to drone damage, flying the Orca with a fleet of Skiffs packed with combat drones means that miners now have a fighting chance to fend off gankers, especially when supported with the Orca's 400 percent bonus to Remote Shield Booster optimal range and the bonus to Shield Command Burst strength.

The new, improved Orca industrial command ship, now with extra oomph!

The new, improved Orca industrial command ship, now with extra oomph!

I haven't finished running the numbers yet on tank and damage potential for an Orca-supported mining fleet, but my back-of-the-napkin calculations look almost too good to be true. Unless my math is seriously off, I'm seeing applied drone damage of an Orca with four Skiffs at more than battleship-level ranges. The only downside is the long target lock times due to the Orca's low scan resolution. In high-sec, it looks likely that CONCORD will wipe out any gankers before the mining fleet could apply significant damage themselves - especially since the Orca's logistics bonus and effective buffs to the mining fleet's EHP will make miners a much harder target, for sure.

I admit I'm enjoying the whining from the ganking community in the feedback comments thread about the Orca now being too overpowered - but I must also admit, they might be right. Personally, I can't wait to give my refreshed Orca a whirl in November, and see how it actually operates in practice.

I've not yet flown a Rorqual, but the changes look very interesting, and I suspect there will be a lot of experimentation in null-sec come November. Given the creativity of EVE players, I suspect we'll see this ship being used for many purposes other than just mining support.

The new Porpoise-class entry-level industrial command ship, based on the Noctis design

The new Porpoise-class entry-level industrial command ship, based on the Noctis design

As for the new entry-level industrial command ship, the Porpoise, I will certainly get one for my collection, and am eager to try it out in wormhole space, especially since its low mass can fit through frigate-only holes - shattered wormhole ice mining, anyone? And since it will have cruiser-level DPS from drones, the Porpoise should be quite fearsome there. And it is relatively cheap, so even if it is lost, it won't break the bank. I like it.

Finally, the changes and new additions to mining drones fascinate me. The addition of ice harvester drones, new Excavator drones and enhanced mining drones, along with buffed stats for regular mining drones provide a lot of new options to miners. I'm going to have to experiment to see what combinations of drones and bonuses work the best, but I like what I see very much. I'm especially intrigued by the "new set of NPCs that will be announced in the near future" mentioned in the dev blog, which will drop the revised Harvester drones - what could this be, I wonder?

The weird, squid-like Excavator mining drones captivate me - too bad they can only be used with the Rorqual in null-sec space.

The weird, squid-like Excavator mining drones captivate me - too bad they can only be used with the Rorqual in null-sec space.

All in all, this dev blog reveals a very thorough refresh of mining capabilities - I'm finding myself looking forward to organizing some mining fleets in November to check out the new features. Still, it leaves me wanting more - huge asteroid belts that fill the now much larger grids, comet mining, ring mining, new team mining options. Improving the ships and giving us more diversity in the tools we use is good, but I think the mining profession in EVE Online needs a real revolution. But for now, I'll take what CCP has given, with pleasure.

Engineering Complexes - the End of an Era

This dev blog, which I've been eagerly awaiting for months, finally reveals details about the new industrial platforms to be available in the Ascension update. And unfortunately, it confirms my worst fears.

The new medium, large and extra large Engineering Complexes - shown with an Avatar-class titan for scale - these things are big.

There is much to love about the new structures. They provide very substantial bonuses for research, invention and manufacturing operations. They can be tailored and specialized with an abundance of engineering rigs and service modules. They are significantly less expensive than Citadels. They use the same tethering and asset protection mechanics as Citadels - with a special provision that BPOs will always be protected.

But as a solo Tech II manufacturer in high-sec, it looks like an Engineering Complex will not be as flexible as my current medium POS tower and arrays. Clearly, these new structures are intended for use by a team of players in a corporation or alliance, and not by individuals. They will not be able to be unanchored and stored quickly enough to protect them against wardecs, like you can currently do with a POS. They will have longer vulnerability windows than Citadels, one-third fewer hitpoints, and much weaker defensive weaponry levels. Unless you have a sufficient number of players willing to defend the structure, an Engineering Complex is going to be a big, fat loot piñata for wardec'ing marauders.

And I suppose that is the point - these structures are obviously designed first and foremost to provide points of conflict and combat content. To that end, I think they will serve their purpose very well. But I don't think I will try to operate one as a solo venture - that simply looks unwise. In addition, as a result of the much higher effectiveness bonuses for operating engineering complexes in null-sec space, competing as a high-sec based manufacturer is going to be more difficult. I'm still crunching numbers and running analyses of different scenarios, but the message seems clear: CCP strongly prefers that players manufacture things in 0.0, and not in high-sec.

Roger that, CCP - message received and understood. Looks like my days of Tech II manufacturing in Empire space are nearly over. Time to find another way to make a living in New Eden.

Alpha Limits - Wisdom Prevails

This dev blog describes more details about how the new free-to-play Alpha clones will be limited. I've already written about my pleasure in how the CSM and CCP Games are handling this. Treating Alphas the same as current Trial Accounts, by making multiboxing with them a violation of the EULA, is a good thing. I'd still prefer to see safeties locked on for Alphas in high-sec space, but I'm happy enough with the planned restrictions.

Now, only the question remains: how successful will Alpha clones be in attracting new players to EVE Online? And even more importantly, how many will remain to play, and ultimately upgrade to Omega clone status?

The answers to these questions depend a great deal on the improved new player experience (NPE), slated for release in November. If that NPE is compelling, and is able to entrance novices with an emotional hook, then I think the Alpha clone program could be quite successful. I'm very keen to see what CCP Ghost and his team have wrought at EVE Vegas, at the end of October. And I'm planning to generate a new character myself and give it a try. Then we shall see how good it truly is.

The End of Gambling Sites

Speaking of the EULA, this dev blog highlights all the prospective changes that will become effective with the release of Ascension. Many of these are changes needed because of the introduction of Alpha clones, but the most significant by far is the inclusion of this one line:

You may not use, transfer or assign any game assets for games of chance operated by third parties.

One short sentence of 18 little words and *POOF* - goodbye to all EVE-related gambling sites.

The best summary of what this all means, and why it is happening, was published by my friend and fellow EVE blogger, Noizy, on his site, which you can read here. (Go ahead if you haven't read it already - it's an excellent post.)

While this action was obviously stimulated by illegal Real-Money Trading (RMT) activities, the community has reacted with shock at CCP's broad policy. I personally have enjoyed wagering ISK on eve-bet.com for EVE tournaments, and I'll miss the option to do so. It's a shame that well-run and above-board sites like eve-bet are being closed down as a result of others' illegitimate actions, especially when so many in the community have benefited from their support and generosity. But as streamer Manic Velocity eloquently parodies in this video, those who enjoy making EVE-related content will continue to do so. Even without the support of gambling sites, I think we can all rest assured that the game shall endure.

Still, as I was cleaning my tinfoil hat yesterday, I wondered: does this mean that CCP Games may introduce their own in-game casino, as an alternative? I find it interesting that the minutes of the recent CSM summit meeting redacted out the entire session on monetization. Do they contain plans for generating income from legitimized in-game ISK gambling, wholly within the EVE Online client, and to CCP's exclusive benefit?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

New Character Sheet - Change is Hard

CCP announced a new character sheet, needed to support the introduction of Alpha clones, but also to incorporate more graphic information about a character's skills and capabilities. In theory, this is supposed to make it easier to understand what you can do with your character, and how you can develop them, but it's a significant change. It's going to take a while to get used to.

The new, improved character sheet

It certainly does look pretty - I'll grant CCP that. And by consolidating the training queue into the character sheet, it eliminates a potential point of confusion for new players, as there is now just one window to view what is happening with their character.

But I'm an old bittervet, and old habits die hard. I'll probably stumble around the new character sheet after Ascension comes out, and take much longer than I should to eventually figure it out. I might even come to like it, in a few months. Change is hard.

New kids in EVE Online don't know how good they have it. Why, back in my day, we had to log in every night to update our skill queue, and we liked it. (/me shakes cane angrily)

Fly safe! o7