Change is Good

CCP Games' Team Five 0 published the first of a series of dev blogs yesterday on the massive revisions to fleet boosting mechanics. Essentially, boosts will change from a passive activity to an active role in fleet operations, and from system-wide bonuses provided through a fleet's hierarchy to local area-of-effect bonuses provided to ships within range of the booster when special modules are activated.

I will not recap the already published analyses on the implications of these changes, some of which I recommend to you here:

And Cue the Whining...

Reaction to the dev blog has been generally positive, but a few have thrown up their hands in disgust and demanded full refunds of skill points for leadership skills, or announced their intention to give up the game.

Some people just don't handle change very well. I find this perplexing, for two reasons.

First, CCP has been very open and public about their intentions to make these kind of changes to fleet boosting for years, so there's no excuse for being surprised.

Second, we now have skill extractors, so if you think your dedicated fleet boost alt is no longer useful under the new mechanics, simply suck all their skill points out and sell them in the market - or even better, sell that character whole in the character bazaar.

I've little sympathy for these complainants. In classic EVE fashion, I can summarize my reaction to their objections in two statements: "HTFU!", and "Can I haz your stuffs?"

My Surprisingly Sudden PvP Conversion

Personally, I am delighted with the changes, and I can't wait to try them when they come out in November. I have every leadership skill trained to V on Neville, and also on an alt character, and now I can finally put them to good use. I'd trained all of these on Nev way back when I was in E-UNI, so I could help out with fleet ops. I also trained mining leadership skills on an alt to support my resource gathering needs, and then extended that investment over time to include all the other leadership skills, anticipating the eventual introduction of on-grid local boosts. Now my patience will pay off, and I admit I'm feeling particularly smug about my apparently good prescience.

Suddenly, I'm an enthusiastic space bard!

Suddenly, I'm an enthusiastic space bard!

Let me emphasize how radical these changes will be for a player like me. I am a mission-running, exploring, mining, manufacturing, 100% absolutely non-violent industrialist space hippie. I don't PvP, as a general rule. I understand why people like to PvP, but it's never been my primary activity of choice in EVE Online.

Now, along come the new fleet boosting mechanics, and I can't wait to hop into a battlecruiser or command ship and die gloriously in the middle of a fleet operation, satisfied in the knowledge that my boosts helped my fleetmates and made a tangible difference in the battle.

If a change like this can convert a peace-mongering carebear like me into a blood-thirsty space bard, eager to jump into the middle of a fight, then clearly CCP is doing something right.

One of the reasons that I avoided PvP was that the old warfare link mechanics tilted the odds so heavily away from casual players like myself. Too many players were sticking their boosting alts in some remote corner of a system, and then getting outrageous performance out of their combat ships, making it impossible for any lone, solo pilot to win. Why bother looking for fights, when so many others can simply squash you like a bug, because of their invisible off-grid boosting advantages?

The new mechanics change all of that forever, and make boosts both highly visible and local. It levels the playing field, and adds really interesting new dimensions of PvP choices, tactics and strategies. I'm seriously considering signing my alt up with a more combat-oriented corp, just so I can try out these exciting new changes. To my surprise and delight, the new fleet boosting might be the one thing that revitalizes and reinvigorates my passion for EVE Online.

Mining's Great Porpoise

A little gem that was included in the dev blog was the confirmation of a new "Porpoise-class industrial command ship." We'll get more details in the next dev blog, which will cover mining-related boosting, but I'm excited to see mining get a little love, for a change.

The Porpoise appears to be a "mini-Orca", which can fit two of the new Command Burst modules (compared to the Orca's three), and gives a +1% bonus to Mining Foreman Burst Strength and Duration per skill level (compared to the Orca's +3% bonus). It sounds like an interesting ship, though I'm not exactly sure what application it may be best suited for yet. I suspect this might be the boosting ship of choice for mining ops in dangerous space, but until we see the stats, it's not entirely clear yet.

As for the Orca, I am looking forward to flying mine as a regular fixture alongside barges and exhumers, instead of just passively broadcasting bonuses next to a station or inside a POS shield. I sometimes do this anyway, as it's so easy to just throw ore into the Orca holds instead of shuttling mining ships back and forth to stations or a POS tower.

This does mean that Orcas will die more often to ganking gangs, but I don't think that is a bad thing at all. It certainly will be more interesting than the current, dull boosting mechanics. And anything that makes mining more interesting is a very good thing indeed.

Hooray for Hats

Rixx Javix's long campaign to get head adornments as an official option in the game has finally paid off, apparently. Confirmed via Twitter by CCP Darwin, hats are being introduced into the game. The first options appear to be just simple berets and baseball caps, but it's a start.

How long until we see more ridiculous options like top hats and ski masks in the game? I expect this will be Rixx's next campaign, as I suspect CCP's persnickety art department will be loathe to introduce such options.

I remember sitting in a roundtable discussion at Fanfest a few years back, when someone from the (now defunct) Gentlemen's Agreement alliance asked CCP for top hats and monocles (not the high tech ones we have now, but the old fashioned lenses), so that everyone in their group could look like their silly alliance logo. Everyone laughed, except the CCP art crew. They just frowned disapprovingly. I don't think we'll see any truly silly headwear in EVE Online anytime soon.

Perhaps we will see a new skill tree introduced into EVE Online: Millinery? With Advanced Millinery and Millinery Specialization skills, as well? Millinery Industrial Arrays, anyone?

Still Waiting for Upwell

CCP Fozzie confirmed via Twitter this morning that the new industrial arrays will be part of the November update. I was worried that they were being pushed back, in lieu of other features like the new boosting mechanics. But they'll still be out in the "fall", as originally announced. Since the winter solstice is on December 21st, a November release is technically still in autumn, though I was hoping for something in September. I'm still itching to get my hands on the new arrays, and try them out.

Fozzie promises dev blogs coming "soon". I'm both eager and anxious about seeing the performance statistics on these new platforms. I hope they don't spell eventual doom for a solo, high-sec manufacturing option. Just in case, I'm cranking out as many Tech II modules and ships as I can with my current POS-based manufacturing operations. This may be my last gasp for building things for profit in EVE Online, if the new arrays don't prove to be a viable option.

Meanwhile, I continue to wait.

Change is Good

I'm glad summer vacation is finally over, and the devs at CCP are returning to work. The prospects for an interesting November in EVE Online are looking very good. I feel my optimism about the game beginning a resurgence.

I'm eager to attend EVE Vegas at the end of October now. I am confident we'll be hearing a lot more details about CCP's forthcoming release plans.

Change is good. It shakes things up, and opens up new opportunities. I think the holidays are going to be a very interesting time for me in New Eden.

Fly safe! o7

Bits & Pieces: December 2015

A few miscellaneous items have been piling up in my EVE Online-related inbox - here's a quick comment on each.

Morning Maniac Grants 

I announced a new program to fund worthy projects for EVE Online players, called the Morning Maniac Grant Program, over a week ago, and the response has been gratifyingly positive. So far, I've awarded five grants, or more than 1.1 billion ISK, to these constructive projects:

  • 250M ISK for a +3 attribute implant subsidy program for an alliance's newbros
  • 150M ISK for frigates and fittings for a null-sec corp's new pilot PvP training program
  • 250M ISK for ships and fittings for another alliance's PvP in low-sec training program for newbies

I also donated 250M ISK each to two already well-established programs for helping new players, Sindel Pellion's Angel Project and Mike Azariah's Operation Magic School Bus initiative, because they can both put the funds to very good use.

I was also very humbled and gratified to receive an amazing 6.5 billion ISK donation from Asayamani Dei, w-space expert, CSM member and long-time friend of novice players. My most sincere thanks for this extremely generous contribution go out to him. I promise it will fund worthy projects and programs that will make a positive impact on our community!

If you have a project in EVE Online in mind, and could benefit from some in-game funds, consider applying for a Morning Maniac Grant. You can find full details here.

The Fountain War book Kickstarter fiasco

The Mittani announced that the Kickstarter campaign to fund the publishing of a book about the Fountain War in EVE Online has been cancelled. 

I was very critical of this project. While I supported the book's potential for attracting new players to EVE Online, the Kickstarter campaign was badly mismanaged. You can read my criticisms in this article on Crossing Zebras, along with others' observations, most of which were similar to mine.

But  I must say I've been impressed with how The Mittani has accepted and adapted to this failure. I was convinced that the Mittani Media team would not learn anything from their mistakes, but I've been proven wrong. They intend to re-launch the project in March, with a more reasonable goal and better planning for a renewed Kickstarter campaign, and I am sure they they will be successful on the second try. I look forward to contributing my own donation to the project.

In addition, the drama around this episode has indirectly generated some fun content in game, with the announcement of a Viceroy tribute system, which the Imperium alliance intends to impose. It has been fun to see how players have reacted, and it is clear that there will be considerable resistance. I'm sure many ships will explode and much mirth will be had. This is a good thing.

Here's an example of how some players are reacting to the Viceroy tribute demands of the Imperium - this shirt is available from  Rixx Javix's store .

Here's an example of how some players are reacting to the Viceroy tribute demands of the Imperium - this shirt is available from Rixx Javix's store.

Farewell, off-grid boosts. Hello, giant grids.

Though CCP Games devs have stated their desired intention to reduce the range of boosting ships from system-wide to local-grid for years, it now seems likely that this will finally happen in the near term. CCP Fozzie has been especially vocal about this. The impact to combat in the game, when it actually happens, will be enormous - and I think all for the better. 

This is one of the reasons why the new Command Destroyers, to be available in the update coming next week, will include limited support for boosting modules. This will provide cheaper ships that can provide small boosting advantages on grid, if fleet commanders don't want to risk more robust Command Ship battlecruisers or boosting-fit Tech III cruisers. 

I can't wait to get a new Magus Command Destroyer - because Gallente rule.

I can't wait to get a new Magus Command Destroyer - because Gallente rule.

More interestingly, these new destroyers will include a new area-of-effect module, the Micro Jump Field Generator, that will, when activated, move (nearly) everything within a 6km radius of the ship 100km in the direction that the ship is facing. This will be the ultimate anti-blob weapon, and should break up concentrated fleets to hilarious effect. Speculation about how pilots will use this new capability abounds, and I can't wait to fly one myself.

As for me, I'm thinking how on-grid boosting limits will affect how I use my Orca for mining support. I usually just park mine next to a station, under the nominal protection of nearby station guns, and then enjoy mining boosts throughout that system, but that won't work anymore with the elimination of off-grid boosts. I suspect that gankers will love this change, as it will make nice, juicy Orcas much more vulnerable as targets. This is going to make high-sec mining a little more interesting. This is a good thing.

Also coming soon are much, much, much larger grids.  Currently a "local grid" is a cube that is 250km in all directions from a central point. This relatively small space has enabled smart pilots to manipulate grids for tactical advantage. With the imminent introduction of citadel structures, which are enormous, and the change to on-grid boosts, making local grids much larger has become a practical necessity. The new grids will expand to a whopping 7,800km from a center point in all directions - a grid size that is over 30,000 times larger. (Thanks for correcting my math, Sjaandi HyShan.)

This is also going to dramatically affect combat mechanics. The field of battle just got much larger. It's clear that CCP wants battles to be more spread out over a larger area, to give them a more expansive feel. With the coming changes to capital ships - in particular, carriers, which will employ long-ranging squadrons of fighters over considerable distances - this means that situational awareness is going to become even more challenging for fleet commanders. I can't wait to see it.

BattleClinic closes

I was saddened to hear of the closing of BattleClinic, a site known primarily for sharing ship fittings. Many of the fits there were frankly horrible, but it was fun to examine them and see what made them bad. I learned a lot about how to fit ships more effectively from this site, as a result. And occasionally there were some useful and innovative configurations to be found there.  

I'm not sure what this means for EVEMon, the invaluable skill planning and remapping utility which has always been hosted there, though I'm sure it will relocate somewhere.

Wardecs Revisited

As a result of my earlier post about revamping the war declaration mechanics, I was asked to contribute to a document about a variety of ideas on improving wardecs. It's been an interesting exercise and discussion. Not everyone likes my ideas, but that is perfectly OK. Perhaps even my bad ideas might stimulate a good one. Anything would be better than the mechanics we have now.

The document is interesting reading, and worth a review. Kudos to Jason Quixos for organizing this effort. Hopefully, it will stimulate some action by CCP Games, and we'll eventually see a wardec system that is more fun for everyone.

Until next time

That's about it for now - I'm looking forward to seeing how dirty my ships look when the December 8th update comes out. I suspect they will be filthy - I have some really old ships in my hangar.

Fly safe! o7