The last month has been relatively quiet for me in EVE Online. In game, I've been focusing on setting up and operating a solo manufacturing operation in high sec, using the new Crius mechanics - more on this below. Out of game, I've been traveling like a madman, which has impacted the amount of time that I get to hang out in New Eden.
To catch up, I thought I'd make a few brief comments about various odds and ends in EVE Online that I've experienced over the last month.
On Accessing Tranquility in China
I traveled recently for a couple weeks in China, on business. Before leaving home, I set all my characters to long training queues, as I wasn't certain if I would be able to access the Tranquility server while visiting several Chinese cities.
To comply with Chinese regulations, CCP Games licenses a separate server for EVE Online players in China, called Serenity, operated by the publisher Tiancity, while the rest of the world uses the main server, called Tranquility.
Several players told me I would still be able to access the Tranquility server when in China. Indeed, I was able to connect to Tranquility while in Hong Kong. But I had no such luck in Macau or Beijing. I'm not certain if that was a function of the quality of my hotels' Internet connections, or if I was bumping my head against the great Chinese government firewall. I didn't press the issue, as I doubt that Chinese authorities would have appreciated any attempt to hack through their firewall, just to keep my Tech II invention and manufacturing lines rolling in EVE Online.
On "Fixing" Null Sec
After the major revamp to manufacturing mechanics in Crius, the next obvious target for re-engineering appears to be null sec sovereignty mechanics. The current sovereignty mechanics have been mostly untouched since their introduction in the Dominion expansion in 2009. Most players who reside in 0.0 agree that with the political dominance of huge coalitions, null sec space has become much less interesting, and therefore, is now in need of a major overhaul.
I go to null security space only on rare occasions (evading bubbles on private courier jobs in a blockade runner), so I'm unqualified to speak about sovereignty mechanics with any degree of first-hand experience. However, I find the community commentaries and analyses about ideas for improving gameplay in null sec to be extremely interesting.
Some players have focused on changing "power projection" as a principal way to improve null sec play. Their argument is that it's too easy for big fleets to traverse across huge distances in New Eden, making it very difficult for smaller alliances to defend their turf. The result is the current status quo of enormous coalitions, leading to general stagnation punctuated by rare but huge mega-fleet fights like B-R5RB - which are noteworthy but also suffer greatly under maximum time dilation ("TiDi"), assuming the server doesn't crash completely.
I think The Mittani did a convincing job of dismantling that argument. In fact, after reading his recent "Traffic Control" columns on TheMittani.com, I'm pleasantly surprised to find myself nodding and agreeing with nearly everything he has said about improving null sec mechanics. His fellow Goon and CSM member, mynnna, also published an intriguing post on ideas for occupancy based sov - definitely worth reading as well.
Regardless of where or how anyone plays EVE Online, no one denies that a dynamic, exciting null sec is better than a dull, boring 0.0 space, since it affects everyone who plays the game, even those who prefer to spend most of their time in empire space. More combat and player-generated content is good for the game, and the supposedly lawless regions in null sec space should be fertile ground for that kind of goodness. I will continue to monitor the ongoing discussions closely, and I encourage anyone playing EVE Online to do the same. Changes are coming, inevitably.
On Crius Industry
My experiment to operate a solo, casual manufacturing base in high sec space continues, and so far, I'm happy with the results. The Crius expansion's revamp to industry definitely made the user interface much, much easier to use. Now I can start invention jobs with only a couple of mouse clicks - a dramatic improvement over the carpal tunnel syndrome inducing click-fest of the old UI.
There are still a few quirks about the shiny new interface that bother me, but they are relatively minor. Sometimes the UI shows a blueprint available when I've already started a job with it, and then will give me an error message. The top graphical portion is far too large - so much so that I can see only two lines on the lower detail display on my laptop's smaller screen. It's pretty and useful, but I wish there was a compact version of it, to give me more lines of detail displayed below. But overall, I love the new UI.
I was concerned about the revised costs of invention and manufacturing, and whether it would still be possible to make a profit as a casual manufacturer in empire space. After a month, my experience is that significant income can still be made as a high sec manufacturer in EVE Online, albeit at slightly lower margins than before Crius. One does have to be much more aware of where to base operations. I found a nice, quiet system where my job costs are routinely low. I also won a few bids on some nominal-value teams, which help to trim some expenses a little. With two characters doing a total of 21 Tech II invention and manufacturing jobs concurrently, at least a couple cycles per day, my net profit margins appear be between 20 and 30 percent, on average, depending on the item sold. That means I do need to log in two or three times a day to keep the job queues running, but with the new easier UI, that doesn't take long. My cash flow is definitely going in the right direction, and I'm having fun, so I have to give a couple of thumbs up to Crius manufacturing, so far.
My experience may be unusual, however. I know a couple of players who put up manufacturing POSes in a highly populated system, and they are struggling. They expected to benefit from a regular inflow of cost-reducing teams to keep their expenses down, but they have been disappointed. They are now considering moving their operations to more remote systems. I'm sure CCP Games would say that this is working as intended.
I am continuing to monitor the actual amount of income that I am generating, and I will report on my cash flow results next month. But I like what I have seen thus far. If my experience is common, the dire predictions of some naysayers about the death of high sec manufacturing appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
The Hyperion expansion came with relatively little fanfare, compared to Crius, but it has a couple important aspects that I have found very interesting.
First, I was very pleased to see the addition of the new Level 4 "burner missions". It took a while before I finally got one of these, and I jumped into it fairly unprepared. My foe was a Cruor who nossed my assault frigate to zero capacitor, despite fitting a cap booster module, and I quickly died. Burner missions are definitely much tougher than the standard Level 4 missions - and my eager enthusiasm to try one was definitely my undoing.
When I got my second burner mission, I was much more contemplative about what ship to fly and how to fit it. This led to a much longer but more satisfying result - a win, but a close one, with nearly all my armor gone.
I'm all for adding more engaging PvE content in EVE Online. I was excited about ghost sites in the Rubicon expansion, but they occur with such infrequency that I've only had the opportunity to try two of them, so far - much to my great disappointment. I'm pleased to see that the more challenging burner missions occur more regularly. They are definitely more difficult, but much more satisfying gameplay. In terms of ISK per hour, however, you are still going to do better passing on burner missions and just grinding out regular Level 4s.
I do dive into wormholes from time to time, and so I was interested in the changes to their mechanics introduced in Hyperion. So far, I haven't really seen much difference, though I only do Class 1 and 2 holes solo. The serious wormholers that I hang out with in chat are very unhappy about the change to distance from the wormhole entry varying by mass of ship - most hate it, as it makes it more difficult to "roll up" a hole and control access. But even they admit that the other changes introduced in Hyperion have been generally good improvements.
Despite a somewhat lower level of engagement with EVE Online over the last month, I've had a pretty good time in game, when I have been able to log in. Now that I've returned from my travels, and plan to be home for a while, I'm looking forward to cranking my manufacturing operations at full tilt, to see what kinds of earnings I can maximize. I've got a couple of other projects in the works, too - more on those next time.
Fly safe! o7