Friday, September 30, 2016

Alpha Clones: A Capsuleer's Perspective

In November, CCP rolls out its Alpha and Omega clone state mechanic that will allow people to play EVE with a clone with limited abilities forever. Everyone has opinions and they share them constantly. The forums, Reddit, podcasts, news sites, and bloggers. But the one group we never think of is the characters in the game itself? What would one have to say about the current situation?

What follows are the thoughts of Rosewalker, a mystic from the Vherokior tribe residing in the Minmatar Republic. Rosewalker is a graduate of the Republic Military School in YC111 (2009), who then did advanced coursework in EVE University. After serving a short stint in factional warfare, he joined the family business run by his sister. In YC117 he joined Signal Cartel, where he spent 17 months before returning to the family business.

Control. Everyone wants control. The only problem is, most of the people who want control should never have it. Sometimes, those people watch the control slip from their hands.

I don't know what the Jovians intended when they allowed the empires access to cloning technology. Genolution is only a memory now, but the now departed puppetmasters used that corporation to dispense technology throughout New Eden. Perhaps the Battle of Vak'Atioth led to the decision to ensure none of the other human empires could ever gain enough power over the other empires to then turn their attention to the numerically inferior Jove. I can't complain; the defeat gave my people the opening to rebel and forge a republic that a quarter of Matari now call home.

I wonder if the rulers of the great empires thought they could control the empyreans. If so, they were sadly mistaken. Large numbers of us may live within their boundaries, but they control us about as much as the Amarr now control Heimatar, Metropolis, and Molden Heath.

The Amarr, however, seek to control the universe under their religious doctrine called the Reclaiming. If the Amarr want to fulfill God's plan, they must keep all people perpetually beneath them. The empyreans, by their mere existence, made a mockery of their God. The capsuleers, as empyreans are commonly called, are only kept in check by the Jovian technology granted to CONCORD and the capsuleers' willingness to put up with the rules of the four empires. Sometimes, the empires are reminded of the chaos capsuleers can cause.

Never underestimate the bloody-minded determination of the religious fanatics that run the Amarr Empire, though. Just as their scientists developed vitoc to control the slave population within the Empire, they continue to seek new clone technology. In YC113, the Amarr developed technology that allowed for clones to transfer their consciousness upon death without capsule technology. Their quest for immortal slave soldiers who would die thousands of deaths, however, became known and then copied. While such a result kept the Jovian goal of a balance of power among the empires intact, that just meant an increase in the number of super soldiers. Perhaps New Eden is fortunate that the concept of the clone soldiers didn't prove more popular.

In a bit of poetic justice, the Drifters gained vengeance on the Amarr Empire for developing the new technology from their bodies by alpha'ing the Avatar of Empress Jamyl I and then podding her in the system of Safizon in YC117. I can't say I shed a tear over the loss of the empress.

That leads us to the current time. On Tuesday, Empress Catiz I took the throne and announced a huge military buildup focused on producing tens of thousands of new capsuleers. From her speech:
"Today, together, we stand firm at the beginning of a new path. A path that takes us on a journey paved with prosperity for loyal subjects of the faith.

"A journey, the first fleeting steps of which we take today, that marks a turning point for this great Empire and sets us on a course to stability, security and opportunity.

"To ensure an end to the atrocities we have borne witness to and experienced at the hands of those who would defy the word of God.

"However, with great military power comes great responsibility. The might and the honor of the Imperial Armed Forces will be restored, and with it we will usher in a new generation of capsuleers to support the Golden Fleet.

"Tens of thousands more capsuleers will graduate from the Imperial Academy to join our already established and prized loyalist forces, in the largest expansion to our pod pilot training program ever conceived."
An expansionist Amarr Empire is never a good thing for the Minmatar. Rumors coming out of the Empire suggest these new capsuleers are somehow different. Given the history of Amarrian efforts combined with their religion, I expect that these new recruits will not have the full power available to the normal empyrean. Also given the history of Amarrian scientific efforts, I expect the other empires to quickly copy the technology and create capsuleer forces loyal to themselves.

I find the idea of a crippled form of capsuleer repugnant in the extreme. If the empires' scientists can create a crippled form of capsuleer, can they also modify existing capsuleers to make them more controllable? Are all of us capsuleers at risk of succumbing to the desires of the empires? If so, does that mean we can rescue these new capsuleers and turn them into true empyreans? If for no other purpose than to thwart the will of the new empress, I sincerely hope so.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What Faction For An Alpha Clone?

If I wind up creating an Alpha clone account in EVE, the first decision I need to make is which of New Eden's four factions to choose. When I began playing EVE in 2009, a player's faction and bloodline mattered due to the starting attributes each gained. As time went on, CCP decided New Eden had too many Caldari Achura running around and standardized the learning attributes across all factions. With that one move, a player's choice of starting faction really didn't matter, at least mechanically.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Maybe I'll Start An Alpha Clone

I spent the weekend getting a lot done in EVE Online. On Saturday, I ran the Sisters of EVE level 1 epic arc in two long play sessions. In EVE, actions have consequences, and I needed to perform penance after the standings-wrecking grind I did to obtain a Nestor blueprint copy. The 16 million ISK in mission rewards is nice, but the 8.75% improvement in Rosewalker's Amarr standings is the real draw. I started the day with -4.97 modified standings (-8.71 unmodified) and wound up at -3.66 (-7.08 unmodified). The 50-mission arc took less than 5000 rounds fired from the autocannon mounted on my Vagabond.

When I finally got back to my high sec base, I found eight Purity of the Throne sites practically sitting off the undock. What better way to get the bad taste of getting the Amarr to like me more than to shoot up over 100 Amarr ships? Needless to say, I wound up running all eight sites. The best skin that dropped was for the Amarr supercarrier, the Aeon. The sites only took a few minutes each.

Yesterday I had one mission: mining. I travelled to a 0.7 system because I need isogen and stripped down an asteroid belt. Since I had never visited the system before, I sent Wandering Rose ahead to scout out the belts and create bookmarks in a Jaguar. The Jaguar fit I use is a nice little PvE setup that relies on signature tanking. The ship didn't have the DPS to break the tanks of the Angel Cartel battleships in the Shadow of the Serpent event, but handles everything else just fine. On the way back from the asteroid belts to swap over to a Skiff, I ran across a Purity site. The Minmatar assault frigate performed as expected and an Apostle SKIN dropped. A pretty nice way to start the day.

After mining, I ran a few more Purity sites in my Jaguar. I could have switched to the Vagabond, but bringing in a heavy assault cruiser felt like complete overkill. Yes, in EVE overkill is usually considered a good thing. But I wanted a little challenge.

Okay, running the Purity sites in a Jaguar wasn't a challenge. Just like running the Sisters of EVE arc in a Vagabond was not a challenge. The closest I came to a challenge running the Purity sites is when I used an Arbitrator. Even then, I don't know if the challenge was due to using a bad ship or just one totally opposite the type I usually fly. I think the content for the mini-event was tuned to characters with a lot less than 150 million skill points.

I had a strange thought at the end of Saturday night. What if I had a new character? Then the now easy content would provide a challenge again. Up until now, that was just a wish. Technically, I could make one, but I never wanted to make a new character enough to stop training on one of my existing characters. Also, buying skill points was out, as I don't want to grind ISK just to advance a character. If I want to play a game where I advance skills based on the amount of time I play, I'll start up Star Wars: The Old Republic or Guild Wars 2 again.

I think I might have started an alpha account anyway because of the blog. After this weekend, though, I kind of want to start a new character just to run some of the content I outgrew years ago. So now I have to think about exactly what I want from my alpha clone. And perhaps more importantly, I need to finish up mining the rest of the minerals to build my Nestor.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Slowing Down Learning

"The Alpha Clone State is the new base state for all clones and it will be available to any character in New Eden at any time. Clones in the Alpha state will be able to train and use a specific set of skills including tech one Frigates, Destroyers and Cruisers for your faction along with essential weapons and modules. Alphas will also train skills at a reduced rate compared to Omegas."
- Dev blog announcing clone states

One of the fascinating parts of the new clone states in EVE Online is the statement that Alpha clones (i.e. non-subbed players) will train skills at a slower rate than players who pay a subscription. But how, exactly, will CCP accomplish the goal?

I think CCP will do something radical. The skill set for Alpha clones includes Cybernetics III, which allows the use of +3 learning implants. Does not allowing Alpha players to not use +4 or +5 learning implants make that much of a difference? I could see CCP not allowing Alpha players to remap attributes. One of the problems with the current system is that new players get 2 neural remaps and sometimes get themselves into trouble. Still, does limiting alpha clones to +3 learning implants and no remaps really reduce the rate Alpha players learn skill points compared to subscription players? I don't think so.

If neural remaps get new players into trouble, then why not go all the way and just remove learning attributes completely? That way, Omega players can have one set training rate while Alpha players train much slower. For those who want to train faster, CCP could sell cerebral accelerators in the cash shop. Experience point boosters are very popular in MMORPG cash shops. Up until now CCP has limited the availability of the cerebral accelerator to new accounts and to rewards in live events. The introduction of skill point injectors boosted CCP's bottom line in February. Selling the skill point boosting cerebral accelerator would result in another financial bonanza.

Removing the learning attributes would leave CCP with a major problem. What about all the implants already in use? Unless the plan is great, more than half of EVE players would probably start shooting monuments in Jita. Does CCP want to risk that? I don't think so.

So what is CCP's plan to make sure Alpha clones train slower than the Omega clones? Maybe we'll find out at EVE Vegas. I'm really curious to find out, but I don't need to know right away. I still wonder if I should sell my replacement implants now, though.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Much Mining Do I Need To Do?

Sometimes I have moments in EVE when I say to myself, "You're kidding!" Sunday was one of those times. I spent the morning mining in high sec while listening to Wiggles EVE Radio talk show and then his music show afterwards. After three hours or so, my two Skiff pilots with Rosewalker providing boosts in an Orca cleaned out an asteroid belt in a Minmatar 0.8 system. All 414,997.2 m3 of ore in the belt.

Don't hate me for mining so much. I know I can make much more than the estimated 69 million ISK the UI tells me I made over the time. The purpose of my quest is to grind all the loyalty points and mine all the ore required to build a Nestor. I wanted to see if I could learn anything.

Refining in a high sec station with perfect skills

First, reprocessing the ore in a station earns an extra 14% than just selling the ore on the market. I should add I have max reprocessing skills, including a 4% reprocessing implant, plus over 6.67 standings with the NPC corporation that owns the station.

The big surprise, and what had me talking to myself, is when I compared the output of my mining session against my Nestor blueprint.

The objective of my quest

I mined out an entire belt and still fell short 1.9 million tritanium, 500 thousand pyerite, and 100 thousand mexallon for building a Nestor. I did not realize just how big a battleship is until that moment.

I guess the presence of titans in the game skewed my perception of what big is in EVE.

Getting ready to jump
I began playing after the introduction of supercapital ships in New Eden. In my defense, a titan is huge and something one doesn't forget. Compared to an Avatar, a battleship is small. But anything that requires mining over 600 thousand cubic meters of asteroids is not tiny. Then again, the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza is 2.5 million cubic meters. The ancient Egyptians really knew how to move rocks around.

I'm getting close to finally building the Nestor. Accomplishing a goal always leaves a good feeling. Now, I just need to start mining in low sec to get the rest of the minerals.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Eve Gambling Sites And The UKGC

Friday's charging of Craig Douglas and Dylan Rigby in the U.K. for operating an illegal gambling site based on FIFA 16 leads to the obvious question: how will this affect EVE Online? Specifically, does the U.K. Gambling Commission consider EVE Online gambling sites as operations required to obtain a license from the UKGC?

Monday, September 19, 2016

FIFA 16 Gambling Site Operators Charged In UK

I wrote about the CS:GO gambling scandals back in July. Since then I just watch for news on the class-action lawsuits filed in Florida and Connecticut. The only real update occurred in August with the filing of a third class-action lawsuit in Washington state. Despite some rumblings about FTC involvement in the situation, the legal action in the United States is confined to civil court.

A second front with different rules opened up Friday with the arrest of Craig Douglas and Dylan Rigby, both from Essex, in the UK. According to the gambling news site, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) charged the pair with promoting a lottery, advertising unlawful gambling, and inciting individuals to gamble. In August, the UKGC sent cease-and-desist letters to over 100 gambling sites operating without a UKGC license, with most owners complying with the order.

I think I found the video that the UKGC will use as exhibit A in their case. Douglas, better known as Nepenthez on YouTube, published a video hawking a site called FutGalaxy. If the formatting holds, you can see the segment I think is most damning. If not, the segment in question runs from 3:10 to 3:24.

"The best part about this site is the sports bet section. So if you guys are into betting -- and you don't have to be eighteen for this because it's a virtual currency -- this is the place for you."
A domain lookup on ICANN shows the registrant contact for the website is Dylan Rigby. Turner Sports eSports commentator Richard Lewis linked the two as business partners in the company Game Gold Tradings Limited in a video uploaded to YouTube yesterday.

In the video, Douglas recommends using FIFA Comfort Trade for cashing out of his site. FIFA Comfort Trade works with three illicit RMT companies in doing the transfers. The user is asked to give one of the illicit RMT companies his account login information and then the company deposits the funds into the user's account. Quite frankly, not recommended behavior.

Douglas' statement about gambling with virtual currency is contrary to the position of the UKGC. In a white paper published in August, the UKGC wrote the following concerning skins gambling:
3.4 We are also paying close attention to the growing popularity of other forms of virtual currencies or ‘in-game’ items, which can be won, traded, sold or used as virtual currency to gamble with and converted into money or money’s worth. These include digital commodities (such as ‘skins’) which can be won or purchased within the confines of computer games and can then be used as a form of virtual currency on a growing number of gambling websites.

3.5 We recognise that the term ‘skin’ can mean different things in different games. In the context of this paper we are referring to in-game items that provide aesthetic upgrades to a player’s game play where those in-game items can also be traded as commodities on a marketplace within a platform operated by the game’s developer or distributer. In some cases, the inventory of the player’s account can be connected to websites where the user can use the ‘skins’ they have bought or won to bet or stake in casino style games. These types of ‘skins’ have a monetary value derived from the current market price and can be converted into money.

3.6 Where ‘skins’ are traded or are tradeable and can therefore act as a de facto virtual currency and facilities for gambling with those items are being offered, we consider that a licence is required.
The UKGC has a concept referred to as "money's worth" which comes into play. The term is interpreted very broadly and simply means something which has a financial value to the player. The commission laid out three criteria for determining if the prize or winnings of a game is considered money's worth:

  • Can they be converted to money via third parties?
  • Are they tradeable with others to obtain goods or services?
  • Can they be used as virtual currencies to pay for goods or services?

If the answer to one or more is yes, then the prizes or winnings is money's worth. Watching the video, Douglas and Rigby fell afoul of the money's worth criteria for determining if an activity falls under the jurisdiction of the UKGC.

Back in July, the scandals involving Counter Strike: Global Operations gambling sites and the resulting class-action lawsuits initially only targets the big pockets of Valve. Friday's news was the first sign of governments stepping into the area. Governments, unlike private litigation lawyers, usually don't care about the size of the settlement. Gambling site operators need to exercise a lot more discretion and/or care about following the law in the future.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Purity Pokémon

Last night I did a little prep work for doing some mining this weekend. I made some tech 1 mining crystals as ingredients for the tech 2 crystals I also made. Then I flew into low sec, picked them up along with some EMP S & EMP M ammunition and flew back out to my high sec mining base.

I had a little time left and some event sites were up in the system again. So I put Wandering Rose in a Vagabond and let her start killing Amarr heretics. Flying a heavy assault cruiser was probably unfair, but I just wanted to kill NPCs as quickly as possible so I could get some sleep.

I stayed up a little later than planned and ran five sites. The SKINs that dropped were:

  • Crucifier (frigate)
  • Arbitrator (cruiser)
  • Harbinger (battlecruiser)
  • Apocalypse Navy Issue (battleship)
  • Revelation (dreadnought)

That's right, a capital SKIN dropped in high sec. I should add that although I fly an Arbitrator, I hate the way the Purity SKIN looks. Never mind any high-minded role play reasons, I don't find the SKIN aesthetically pleasing.

I don't know why I keep running the sites. I don't think the SKINs will make me that much money. I guess the collector in me just wants to catch them all.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Matter Of SKINs

Last night I didn't have much time to play EVE, so after setting up production of some mining crystals, I hopped in an Arbitrator and decided to run some of the event sites. I know, the Arbitrator is  Amarr tech 1 electronics warfare cruiser. But the ship is a nice drone boat and I use it to practice armor tanking. I had two sites sitting outside my station, so I didn't have very far to go.

The sites themselves are pretty simple and designed for newer players to participate. I think tech 1 cruiser piloted by a low skill point pilot should find the sites challenging but doable. The waves are mostly just frigates and cruisers, and the frigates don't try to tackle you. I wound up keeping my ship at range and letting my drones do most of the work. The prize for running the event site is a ship SKIN that drops from the battlecruiser that appears in the final wave. The Arbitrator has two utility highs and my fit has a small tractor beam in one of the slots. The tractor beam comes in handy to get to the wreck faster.

Since the rest of the post repeatedly refers to SKINs, I thought I'd embed a video from CCP's support site that explains just what a SKIN is and how it works.

The event takes its name after a group known as "Purity of the Throne", who don't believe the new Empress is pure enough to take the throne. But they drop SKINs for almost all of the Amarrian ships, so they're good for something besides target practice. I wound up getting the SKINs for a Inquisitor logistics frigate, a Vengenance assault frigate, and a Damnation command ship. I actually received the Damnation SKIN from the first site. I don't fly Amarr ships, but I do want to pick up a Damnation in the near future.

While flying a white Damnation in formation with a Nestor battleship sounds good in theory, the idea has one flaw. Both of my main pilots are Vherokior, which helps explain why I don't mind the low standings that comes with shooting Amarr Navy ships. The only reason I worry about my Amarr standings at all is that I do need to do business, however distasteful, in the Empire.

Sorry, but the idea of flying around with markings identifying myself as a member of a radical offshoot of the Amarr is, to put it bluntly, distasteful. Worse, some sick individuals, probably on the Theology Council, figured killing the dissidents and wearing their SKINs to support the ascension of Catiz I to the Amarrian throne is a good idea. I definitely do not want to support the new empress. About the only good thing I can see coming out of the idea is that Purity of the Throne ships will have the perfect cover to sneak in and assassinate the new empress. Of course, that assumes a level of competence I don't think we'll find among the rebels.

I don't want anyone to think I don't just dislike SKINs for Amarr ships. I don't want to fly with any SKINs whose lore conflicts with my characters' beliefs. For example, take the Valklear SKINs. A perfectly fine-looking paint job that will give ships a similar look to the base ORE paint scheme. But the Valklear isn't just the name of a painter.

The Valklear is a group within the Minmatar military formed during the rebellion against the Amarr made up of murderers, rapists, thugs, etc. Think The Dirty Dozen, except more brutal. The chronicle describes the Valklear thus:
"Valklear commanders rely wholly on specialized recruiters to fill their ranks. They tour the courtrooms and judgement halls of the tribes, and with a trained eye they pick out the prime cuts of criminality from the great swathe of vicious, vile, and corrupt. Once the recruiter has selected a candidate, he works on bringing the convict into the system. Each recruiter has his own persuasive technique, but for many hard convicts, presented with the option of a lifetime behind bars or a shorter term in the military, the choice is a rather obvious one.

"The recruiter’s selection is not as clear-cut as one may think, though. They recruit from a broad range of the criminal fraternity. One day, a violent psychopath may be paid a visit, the next a serial killer, and then perhaps a corrupt lawyer, a notorious embezzler – even people who may have never held a weapon in their lives. The path the criminal has taken matters less than their skills, instincts and the inherent potential the recruiter perceives."
Sorry, but I want no part of the Valklear. I'm a relatively peaceful capsuleer. Having a connection to that group is bad for business. The group is so notorious that the members receive a cover identity if they survive their term of service. No thanks, I'm not picking up any Valklear SKINs.

Immersion, in some circles, is a dirty word. Before I buy a SKIN, I do my research into the lore to see if my characters wouldn't object for some reason. So I won't buy a lot of the SKINs on the market. To tell the truth, I haven't bought any SKINs up until now. And even though don't have to spend real life money to acquire a Purity of the Throne SKIN and own them, I'm not going to inject them. I might wind up selling them, but flying with them displayed on my ship? I have standards.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Quick Peek At Yesterday's Release

I logged into EVE last night, but didn't do much. The new event presaging the coronation of Empress Catiz I doesn't sound too interesting. The rewards, unsurprisingly, are directed at Amarr players, or at least Amarr ships. I plan to go into more detail in another post, but I do not want that skin on any ship I own.

The big change for me is the addition of a second mining turret on the Procurer hull. Guess who didn't go out and pre-purchase extra Modulated Strip Miner IIs? That's right, I didn't. When I looked on the market in Heimatar, Rens only had one. I wound up travelling to Molden Heath. I only bought four more, which leaves me a bit short since I have twice as many Procurers and Skiffs. I'll wait until the price drops to pick up the rest of the equipment I need.

I also needed to make more mining crystals. I put some Veldspar Mining Crystal IIs in the hopper and started researching some Scordite Mining Crystal II blueprint copies. I'm good on the rest of the crystals for now, but I need to take stock of what I have before proceeding. I may even need to pick up some more datacores from my far-flung network of research agents.

Finally, I saw that the art department modified the Probe hull. Considering how much time I spend in a Cheetah, I was a little hesitant to look.

I am not a big fan. My first reaction was, "What happened to the dorsal fin?" The Probe had a big solar collector sticking up out of the top of the ship. Kind of like a shark. Okay, the new model is less angular and probably more stealthy, but I really liked the distinctive fin sticking out of the top. I realize that Minmatar technology improves at a rapid rate, but I liked the aesthetics of the old ships.

We have two months until the expansion hits in November. I need to use the time wisely and take advantage of the current fleet bonuses while I can. I still have a quest for a battleship to fulfill.