Bits and Pieces: July 2015

It's time once again to clean out some miscellaneous EVE-related topics that have been gathering dust in the back of my "must blog about this" file - none of which are sufficient to warrant a separate post. So, here are a few random mid-summer bits and pieces of EVE Online flotsam...

Hail, Fozziesov!

The last and most important components of Fozziesov (a.k.a., Aegis sovereignty) arrived this week, with much fanfare from CCP Games.

The old Dominion-style sov system, which relied on long, boring burn-downs of structures with astronomical amounts of hit points, has been replaced with exactly what null-sec players have demanded for years - a system that:

  • Eliminates structure grinds
  • Makes topography more important
  • Provides more tactical options
  • Makes territory more defensible
  • Drives more frequent and smaller-scale combat
  • Encourages development of conquered systems
  • Supports a higher density of players in a system

It's a brilliant design, and CCP Fozzie and all the devs who have been working on it should rightfully claim victory, and receive copious kudos and praise from all denizens of 0.0 space.

So far, the initial reaction of most null-sec residents to the new sov mechanics seems disturbingly muted. I hoped for more excitement, and some immediate and significant movement from the major power blocs. Instead, it appears that everyone in 0.0 is methodically testing the new system, and it looks like will take a little while before everyone gets used to the new status quo. There does seem to be some increase in 0.0 activity, if Dotlan is any indication, but no major invasions underway - yet.

I wonder if we will ever again see a null-sec alliance or coalition make a total commitment of forces in a concerted campaign for dominance, or has Fozziesov made that kind of large-scale strategic conflict too difficult, or unworthy of the investment? I suspect we will simply see the existing power blocs carve out their own defensible borders, albeit less than they used to be, and feed occasionally on any smaller entities that fill the remaining gaps. I'm concerned that political boundaries under Fozziesov may become as static as they were in the oft-maligned "blue doughnut" era  of late Dominion-based sov, though with a sufficient amount of smaller-scale skirmishes to keep most 0.0 PvP'ers content.

I don't live in null-sec space, and my current exposure to 0.0 is limited to running private hauling contracts in blockade runners. My main interest in the affairs of null-sec is limited to the economic implications of increased conflict expected with the new sovereignty mechanics. If Fozziesov increases the number of ships destroyed in 0.0, that is good news for everyone, as it will drive more industrial activity everywhere. I have a huge inventory of Tech II modules and ammo stockpiled in anticipation of a general rise in demand, as a result of Fozziesov. If I have guessed wrong, and that demand does not materialize, I'll be disappointed. More importantly, I will start to feel gravely concerned about Fozziesov's limited success, and what that might mean for the future of EVE Online.

There's a lot riding on Fozziesov. I'm hopeful that it will revitalize player engagement in 0.0. Meanwhile, I am watching movement in the markets with great interest.

EVE is Therapy, Sometimes

It's been a rough couple of weeks for me in Real Life. My mother-in-law died, which was expected but still sad (she was 92), and as we were finishing up her funeral arrangements, my father fell gravely ill and went to the hospital. It didn't look good for him for a very tense and trying week. At the same time, my boss mentioned that some "restructuring" might be coming soon, which as we all know is code for layoffs.

During times like this, when everything seems to be going profoundly in the wrong direction, it's nice to have something to do that is relatively comforting. Despite its cut-throat reputation, I find EVE Online to be a welcome respite from my troubles, and it certainly helped me cope a bit better with my recent burdens.

Being able to log in and chat with a few supportive online friends is helpful, by itself. When feeling depressed, I also like to do something relatively mindless but productive in game - a few missions, some mining, a few industry jobs. It helps take my mind off my worries for a while, and I always feel a little better afterwards.

There are people in EVE Online who encourage those who feel depressed or suicidal to "broadcast for reps". My anxiety wasn't quite that bad, but I wonder, how many game communities have such a thing? I've never seen it anywhere else but in EVE Online. Just the fact that it exists makes me feel a little more optimistic.

My dad got better and is back home now, and I got a new assignment at work, so things look safe there, at least for a while. I'm feeling emotionally stable once again. And as strange as it may sound, EVE Online helped. And for that, I'm grateful.

EVE Ain't Dead

I wrote a thing on Crossing Zebras about recent speculations that "EVE is dying" - not that we haven't heard that before.

Patch Day Blues

When I started playing EVE Online in the summer of 2009, scheduled updates were a big deal. Often, CCP took many hours to update the servers, requiring long downtimes. Veterans routinely warned new players as a patch day approached: "Set a long skill to train!' - just in case something went horribly awry and the downtime extended to the next day, or longer.

CCP Falcon posted this picture as part of his update on the official EVE Online forums about the unscheduled downtime extension after the Fozziesov Aegis patch - a perfect illustration of how things must feel at CCP headquarters when patches go awry.

CCP Falcon posted this picture as part of his update on the official EVE Online forums about the unscheduled downtime extension after the Fozziesov Aegis patch - a perfect illustration of how things must feel at CCP headquarters when patches go awry.

All that went away, for the most part, when CCP changed their update practices, sending out small incremental patches with much greater frequency, instead of storing them all up into one, massive server update and client patch download. We've all gotten very spoiled, now that patches have become very smooth and routine. New players have no idea what it used to be like, at all.

So, I am feeling a little nostalgic today. An update patch caused some massive server problems, and as I complete this post, downtime has been extended through the day. Everyone is running to Twitter and the forums in a semi-panic, wondering when - or even if - access to EVE Online would be restored. We veterans who have been through this sort of thing just shrug and smile. I admit I have enjoyed seeing how newer players are handling it - or rather, not handling it very well, I should say.

Aaaaugh! EVE is down! Whatever shall I do? PANIC! PANIC! All is lost!

Aaaaugh! EVE is down! Whatever shall I do? PANIC! PANIC! All is lost!

And naturally, people are asking for some sort of compensatory gift. Spoiled rotten, you have made us, CCP, with your typically excellent service. Personally, I want a Nyx - then we can call it even. Hell, let's make it supercarriers for everyone! It's only fair.

Entosis Link Building Update

As I reported in a previous post, I experimented with building Entosis Links. I've since completed building a couple dozen of the Tech II variety, which use a lot of exotic materials and are super-expensive to make. In fact, by my rough calculations, after costs for raw materials, invention and overhead, at current market prices, I stand to just about break even, if I'm lucky.

So, in summary, it's not worth building Entosis Link IIs if you are a high-sec industrialist. There's about a 10 percent margin on Entosis Link Is, however, if you collect the Antikythera Elements from Circadian Seekers yourself. But even then, relative to other kinds of ISK-earning activities available, you're not going to get fabulously wealthy making Entosis Links at any tech level.

What's next?

I still haven't really decided what I'm going to next in EVE Online. I think I may wait and see how the markets develop, now that Fozziesov is finally implemented, and unload my inventory if I can make a decent profit. Then I'll figure out where to go next.

The friendly exploration corp, Signal Cartel, still looks good to me, so I'll probably go there, if they will have me. They just crossed over the 500 member level. We shall see...

Fly safe! o7

Building Entosis Links

With the recent Carnyx release, the Entosis Link modules became available to EVE Online players. Entosis Links - available in a short-range (25km) Tech I and a long-range (250km) Tech II version - are the cornerstone of the new capture mechanics for sovereignty in null-sec space. I won't discuss the specific functionality of the Entosis Link in this post. Interested parties can find a more complete explanation in this forum thread, as well as other summarized news reports.

My interest in the Entosis Link is purely financial. I was curious if building them would be a profitable enterprise. So, I set about the task of determining what was entailed in constructing them, and how one might do it with an acceptable margin.

Entosis Link building requirements

In order to build an Entosis Link, one needs to acquire a blueprint, just like any other manufactured item. This can be a blueprint copy (BPC), purchased from another player in the Contracts market (currently for about 1.5-2.0 million ISK for single-run copies), or you can buy your own blueprint original (BPO) from any Carthum Conglomerate station for 200 million ISK.

There are plenty of Entosis Link BPCs available in the Contracts market for about 1.5 to 2.0 million ISK for single-run copies.

All the components needed to build an Entosis Link I are commonly available minerals, except for one item: the Antikythera Element, which can be looted from the wrecks of either Circadian Seekers or Drifter battleships. The minerals for a single-run Entosis Link I manufacturing job cost about 23.3 million ISK , while the Antikythera Element can be purchased for about 4.1 million ISK, at current market prices - a total of about 27.3 million ISK in input materials required.

The Entosis Link I BPO has been released by the Carthum Conglomerate corporation. It is not a difficult module to build - only the Antikythera Element is an uncommon component.

Industry level I is the only skill required to build the Tech I version of the Entosis Link, making it available to any player who has access to the materials and a manufacturing resource.

Farming Antikythera Elements

I wanted to save some ISK and not buy the Antikythera Elements in the market, so I outfitted a Vexor cruiser to do a little Circadian Seeker hunting. There are some players who have experimented with harvesting Drifter battleships, with some success, but Drifter weaponry is very deadly, and they aren't all that easy to find anyway. It's easier and less risky to hunt Circadian Seekers in high-sec space. This can be done most simply with a Tech I cruiser in any system with a Jove Observatory.

Circadian Seekers are not pushovers. They have a decent cruiser-sized tank and deliver all types of damage, so you should fit for an omni-tank and sufficient capacitor. I experimented with several Vexor fits before arriving at this one, which I've found good enough and easy to fly. (I'm open to any suggestions for improvement - please post them in the comments.)

[Vexor, High-Sec Circadian Seeker Hunter]
400mm Steel Plates II
Medium Armor Repairer II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Damage Control II

Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Federation Navy Stasis Webifier
10MN Monopropellant Enduring Afterburner

Heavy Neutron Blaster II
Heavy Neutron Blaster II
Heavy Neutron Blaster II
Heavy Neutron Blaster II

Medium Hybrid Collision Accelerator I
Medium Capacitor Control Circuit I
Medium Capacitor Control Circuit I

Hobgoblin II x5
Hammerhead II x5
Vespa EC-600 x5

Federation Navy Lead Charge M x2500

I love my Quafe Vexor - this fit handles waves of Circadian Seekers without any trouble.

This simple PvE fit tanks waves of Circadian Seekers easily. It's cap stable, mostly because I'm a lazy pilot - one could fit for a less generous capacitor and more tank or damage, but that means having to fiddle constantly with modules in flight, and this fit works just fine without having to pay a lot of attention.

The Fed Navy webber is an expensive extravagance, but I really like the extra range and the 60 percent speed reduction that it provides, so I splurged on one. Circadian Seekers are fairly speedy, so you need to bring their velocity down in order to apply your drones and guns effectively. I'd played previously with fitting tracking improvement modules, but found them wanting in practice, so I went with a webifier and a more stable capacitor, with much improved results.

With a proper ship ready to go, you can then start your search for the elusive Circadian Seekers. They do not appear on directional scan, so you need to find them as they are moving about scanning things, as is their fashion.  Circadian Seekers tend to roam throughout a system in gangs of 4-6, scanning things for a while, and then moving to another location. When trying to find them, I'll fly to the Jove Observatory first, then to each station, any gates in system, and then to each planet's customs office, and then repeat the cycle, until I run into a group of them. Sometimes this takes a while - other times, I find them immediately.

From time to time, I'll undock on another character on other business, and discover a flight of Seekers scanning the station. If I do, then I'll immediately log into my hunter character based in that same station, and undock in hopes of catching them. I've nabbed several flights of Seekers in this way - when you find them, you have to be ready to pounce quickly, before they fly off.

Once I find some Seekers, I engage them immediately. Using the webber and the afterburner, I can generally close to an orbit of just under 10 km, and slow them down enough to take them out with medium combat drones and blasters, in fairly short order. With an armor repper running, I find I can tank Seekers even if there are two waves engaging me.

Both Seekers and Drifters use upgraded artificial intelligence routines to govern their actions, so they are less predictable than past non-player character (NPC) opponents. Seekers operate in groups, supporting each other. They sometimes warp off and then warp back. They are generally not nearly as dumb as typical mission rats, and you can't always assume they will behave the same way every time. Frankly, this makes them more fun to hunt down - especially because they may be joined suddenly by a Drifter battleship, which may "hot drop" out of nowhere on top of you.

I've been blatted to smithereens by a Drifter battleship before - their super-weapon can easily one-shot any sub-capital ship. So, I configured an overview setting designed to show only Seekers, Drifters, planets and stations (as well as any player pilots who might decide to intrude on my fun). After engaging with a flight of Seekers, one should keep a wary eye on the overview at all times, and be prepared to warp away instantly if a Drifter appears - and to warp again immediately after that, as both the Seekers and Drifters will almost certainly chase after you.

Ah, the joy of a Seeker wreck bearing gifts!

So far, whenever I've engaged a gang of Seekers, a second wave will appear after I've taken all but one or two of them out, so you'll end up with about a dozen wrecks if you do your job well. I've observed that about one-third of the wrecks will have an Antikythera Element in them. They don't seem to ever leave anything interesting as salvage - so far, I've only collected Metal Scraps from them, so it's not really worth the extra effort.

I've found that a couple hours of focused effort in Seeker-hunting in the same high-sec system produces a little over a dozen Antikythera Elements, more or less. That's not a very high amount of production, so it appears unlikely that I'll be able to make them in mass quantities as a solo enterprise. At that level, my dream of getting gloriously rich on Entosis Links doesn't look too viable.

Still, I've had fun killing Seekers, and I'll likely continue doing so from time to time, especially if I discover a batch of them as I fly about in New Eden.

Bringing home the bacon...

Bringing home the bacon...

After manufacturing a few Entosis Link I modules, I decided to do two things: try to invent some Tech II versions, and use them to scan Jove Observatories.

Inventing Tech II Entosis Links

First, I am attempting to succeed on some invention jobs in hopes of creating some Tech II Entosis Link BPCs. These require  more specialized raw materials to manufacture, but they also command much higher prices in the market. I will report on my relative success or failure on this effort in a future post.

Inventing an Entosis Link II BPC requires skills in Sleeper Encryption Methods, Graviton Physics and Electronic Engineering. I have several of these invention jobs running now, and will report on my relative success or failure in a future post.

Entosis Link IIs require quite a few specialized components, as well as an Entosis Link I - in other words, they aren't cheap to make!

Scanning Jove Observatories

The second thing I decided to try is to use an Entosis Link I on a Jove Observatory.

Scanning a Jove Observatory with an Entosis Link, to collect bits of "Gleaned Information" from its archives.

If you fly within 25 km of an Observatory, target it, and start your Entosis Link, it will cycle for 300 seconds (five minutes), and then begin to extract items called "Gleaned Information" - these are snippets of information that the Jove have been collecting for a very long time, apparently.

A complete inventory of these reports, along with some speculation about their sources and what they mean in EVE Online lore, can be found in this Google document. While much of the information appears to be random collections of the ebb and flow of history in New Eden, some of it pertains to key events. The language that the Jove use to cataloged their observations is, in itself, interesting, and provides some insights into how their mysterious minds worked. Lore aficionados are very excited about these finds, and are trying to discern what all these observations mean.

The Entosis Link I uses 1 unit of Strontium Clathrates per cycle to operate. I had some extra left over from ice processing, so I threw some into my cargo hold, fitted an Entosis Link in a high slot, and flew my ship to a nearby Jove Observatory. Orbiting at 20 km, I engaged the Link, and started the five-minute cycle.

I soon had a few "Gleaned Information" items for my own collection, but was then interrupted by an incoming flight of Circadian Seekers, who seemed none too pleased about my snooping. They attacked me in earnest, and that is when I was reminded of the downside of the Entosis Link: while it is operating, you cannot warp away! I had to wait until its operating cycle completed before I could shut the Link down, and then I returned to my station, with the Seekers in hot pursuit. And that is when I was reminded of yet another aspect of using the Entosis Link - using one starts a weapon timer, so my docking request was rejected. I had to evade the pursuing Seekers until my 60-second timer ran out and it was safe to dock again.

Finding a good home for my Entosis Links

I've enjoyed my initial encounters with gameplay related to Entosis Links: gathering the components to make them, manufacturing a few, starting some invention jobs for the Tech II version, and using them on Jove Observatories. I'll keep a couple Entosis Links on hand for future use, but I'll put the rest in the market.

It looks like the margins on this module are going to be thin. Entosis Link Is are selling for about 27 million in Jita, which is about what the input materials cost to buy. In the end, I'll get a fair sum of cash for the Antikithera Elements I collected and used to build the links, but I won't be seeing a huge windfall. Like everything else in New Eden, Entosis Links are subject to the market's efficiency, which always brings down prices on new items in short order.

Still, I like to imagine my Links going off to somewhere in 0.0, making life interesting for an alliance or two, at least for a short while. They really need to be used where they can be of the most value - in null-sec, where they might make a little history in a battle for sovereign space.

Fly safe! o7