Worth a Thousand Words

Boy, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged on my own site. Warp Drive Active’s kept me pretty busy these days, but I’m back here and hope to continue the various article series’ that I have happening here. On to better topics, though!

The EVE Online Alliance Tournament 8 has been going on throughout the month of June, to great success thus far. The video streams have been silky smooth with no major interruptions of note, the commentary has been excellent, and the matches have been exciting to watch. A lot of the latter has to do with the rules this year, which streamline the combat nicely — no more ten minute long matches containing nothing but circle-jerk logistics setups. Instead we’ve been seeing some excellent fleet commanding, very capable commentary, and expensive ships melting before our very eyes.

In the past I’ve been allowed to attend the matches in order to do some visual documentation of the matches. For Alliance Tournament 8, the pictures I’ve taken can be found at my EVE Online – Alliance Tournament 8 picture set on Flickr. Players have enjoyed this in the past since full resolution images aren’t provided by CCP from the matches. Some have even been inspired enough to create their own content with the images, either just wallpapers for their own  use or, in the case of Umega, an entire music video.

This all came to a screeching halt last Sunday, and I figured I might as well explain to folks out there what transpired. First, let me give some background.

Back during Alliance Tournament 5, I sent a note off to the organizer at the time and inquired if there was a way I could get screenshots from the matches. I was invited to attend the events in person so I could do this myself. I graciously accepted, and proceeded to do my work back then. Players definitely seemed to enjoy the results.

After the recent Alliance Tournament 8 podcast I worked with CCP to produce, I asked if I could once again attend the matches to document them with screenshots. They got back to me and indicated it was possible. Let me explain how this has worked for me in the past.

Obviously I can’t show up there in a battleship and mash my screenshot button. I’m restricted to a covert ops frigate with no mounted modules save for a cloaking device. I am to remain cloaked throughout the matches. Occasionally while jockeying for position with the EVE TV camera ships I’ll get bumped by one of them and summarily decloaked, but that’s only ever happened during the setup phase and never during an actual match.

During the first tournament I did this for, it became very evident that staying outside the arena was going to be a problem for the effort, since if the players impulse to or have initial warp-ins over on the other side, I cannot do a Look At to get my camera close. I had asked the organizer if it was possible to breach the arena during the matches slightly in order to get within the 100km Look At distance, and it was agreed to be alright as long as I kept as large a distance as possible.

My UI is always on until I’m actually about to take a screenshot. My overview shows me where everyone is, and I have my Keep At button set to 150km on standby in case I notice someone coming my way. I immediately hit it, and I’m usually out of the arena in seconds. The closest anyone’s ever come to me is around 20km, but in that instance I was 10km outside of the arena. GMs would nuke them the second they breach the border anyway.

There are two arenas in the tournament system for AT8, and between matches I’m warping to the next one along with other EVE TV camera ships at 100km, then moving off to a random position to cloak. Players aren’t on the field at this point at all. Last Sunday, the match organizer noticed me decloak at this point — again, no players on the field at all — because an EVE TV camera ship bumped mine and decloaked my Helios. After a short chat, I was relocated out of the tournament system because I noted how unreasonable it is to stipulate a 135km minimum distance from the arena beacon.

Think about this. 135km diameter sphere has a circumference of approximately 425kms. Lets say the teams all warp in at their spots on the other side of the sphere. At around 300m/s, by the time I circumnavigated the entire arena to get close the match would be over. The probability of a player heading straight for my cloaked ship and getting within decloaking distance is profoundly small, and that’s assuming I’m not constantly expecting that to happen.

So, a decision was made. That’s fine of course, again as I said before I don’t have any special access or rights for this kind of access. From my perspective it was more upsetting of how quickly a distrustful opinion was formed of me, after more than seven years of building up a relationship with CCP through my interactions with the community of EVE and the developers themselves though such efforts as the podcast and comic.

As much as I do these things for you, the community of EVE, they are in a way also homage to the creators of the game we all enjoy. The result is a kind of tip of the hat to say “this is how much I like what you’ve created”.

Am I upset? A bit. I’m disappointed that after the things that I’ve done I can’t be afforded the opportunity to take time out of my own weekends to provide another perspective to the community on an event that’s supposed to be all about the players. Twenty thousand people viewed the set on the first day of the tournament alone, with many more thousands to follow in the days since, and a fair portion of those (if referrer stats are any indication) are the alliances who were competing.

This isn’t a rant, and my intent is not to bash all of CCP here. There are some fantastic individuals working for them who are smart, creative, and passionate about the game. You won’t see me slamming the door in the face of future opportunities to work with them, such as providing the current set of AT8 pictures for their own use in marketing or dev blogs, or doing future podcast work with them to highlight upcoming EVE events or expansions. It’s just so you as players can know what transpired in case you were wondering why the screenshots end a week before the finals.

All that will really come of this is a firm knowledge of the widening distance between those of us trying to do work for the community, and the creators of the game that it has built up around. Currently, that distance has grown to around 35km. Who knows where it will be in the future.

Planet Play

If you’ve listen to the recent podcast I did on Planetary Interaction, you’ll know you that I’ve been playing with this on the test server more and more in recent days. I figured this would be a good venue to give some more detailed information on what I’ve found about the concept so far.

The idea here is simple: there are a lot of planets in EVE, and pre-Tyrannis they have almost zero value in the game, short of a warp-to target without infrastructure around it to blow you to pieces. Tyrannis hopes to change that — and more — by letting players create an industrial surface infrastructure. I’ll get to the “why” of things later, for now lets look at the “how”.

There are a specific number of planetary types, including the usual suspects like ice, temperate, gas, etc., as well as plasma, the most rare. Each type of planet has a specific number of materials available to work with, some unique for that type. You start your endeavor by purchasing a command center on the market, one suited for the particular type of planet you want to play with. The command center has stats like power and CPU amounts similar to a ship or POS control tower, with higher level centers having more of those stats. Once bought, put it in your hold, fly to your target planet, right click on it and select View in Planet Mode. Select the location of your new infrastructure and you’re good to go.

You have two categories of tasks on the Planet View, build and scan. Build is obvious, but to determine what to build — and more importantly, where — you’ll have to scan. Scanning lets you select a resource the planet holds, showing you specifically where deposits are located that you can extract. You can play with the settings to get a nifty heat map view of the world, and almost immediately you’re going to wish you did this step first before planting your command center (hint hint!). You’ll see why that is soon.

On a particular gas planet I was playing with, I decided I wanted to extract aqueous solutions and ionic solutions. After scanning for both, you’ll see they will usually be a distance away from each other. Fair enough, so you head to the Build section of Planet View and select the appropriate extractor from the groups presented there, and being planting a few of each type into the locations you found the materials. This is somewhat like a market tab in a way, since you’ll be charged for each item you plant , although only after you click the submit button so you have time to play around a bit. I put down a storage silo to hold my extracted goods as well.

Now you must link your infrastructure together. This is like establishing roads between your buildings, the creation of which will eat up a specific amount of your command center’s stats depending on the distance of the links. Luckily you can optimize this at any time you wish. For instance if you have a cluster of three extractors in one area, linking each to the storage silo 50km away individually would be inefficient. It’s better to link them all together as a cluster and one to the silo, since links are shared.

We’re not done yet. Each extractor must be selected, so you can survey the area it’s set down in for deposits. Each deposit in the list has a a total amount and amount per extract cycle indicated, which is calculated to show you the time it will take to deplete the deposit. Select something reasonable. Now you have to route the product, by selecting where you want it to go when extracted. Doing this to your silo will show how the product moves along the links you’ve established.

Once this has all been done, and presuming you haven’t exceeded your control center’s power and CPU attributes, click submit and your set will become permanent. You’ll see your extractors will begin their work with a 15 minute cycle time. Lets get ready to take care of these raw materials.

Processor facilities let you convert your raw materials to more interesting products. Each planet type has two or more of these, each one is basically a processing tier. For my setup, I chose to put down two basic processors, linked to my storage facility. Each one converts one of the extracted materials into a product. Selecting each one, I chose the schematic for converting aqueous liquids to water for the first one, and ionic solutions to electrolytes for the second. Similar to the extractors you can set up the routing for the incoming and outgoing items. I also set down an advanced processor to take the water and electrolytes and convert it to coolant.

Just to give an idea of the amounts we’re dealing with here, to get 5 units of coolant you need 40 units each of water and electrolytes. That means 12000 units of aqueous liquids and ionic solutions.

So once you get a product and you want to do something with it, then what? You have two options. First, shuffle the stuff to your command center and launch it into orbit, in a special can with a decaying orbit that you must scoop before it self destructs. Second, you can build a launch facility on the surface which lets you interface with the customs depot in orbit of every planet.

The customs facility is a new thing orbiting each planet in EVE, allowing you to import and export goods from the surface. By exporting via this method, the can doesn’t hang out in space. This might seem less risky, however since the customs facility location is known to everyone it will probably end up being camped by those wanting to scan someone’s cargo and suicide gank them for the goods inside.

So, now the why of things. In its current state there’s not much purpose to most of this. So far I’ve seen that nanite paste can be constructed with some of the products from all of this, and I’m not sure what else out there can be constructed from the output of planet goo processing. The intent told to us is that this will eventually replace the remaining elements of the NPC market in EVE, and that is a good thing in my opinion. Additionally, this will all tie (somehow) into DUST 514, although the how of that is still a great unknown at this point.

There’s an immense time and ISK sink at work here as well. Deposits must be re-surveyed when they deplete, so every few hours you’ll be coming back to make sure stuff is still coming out of the ground. Infrastructure cannot be sold, only decommissioned, meaning you will lose the money invested. It seems to be only a matter of a few hundred thousand ISK on average for the different facilities, but that can add up especially when the ROI here is relatively low.

In a way it’s a balanced stream of passive income, as all the elements along the way can be sold off on the market to other people who don’t wish to mine/process their own. For the EVE gamer more concerned with PVP, this is a worthless addition for them directly. Industrialists and tinkerers may find a lot to reward them, but it remains to be seen if the commitment to develop this persists past a year. Think back to the Cosmos constellations and Faction Warfare for examples of promising new features that are current gathering dust…

Hardware Upgrade Complete

Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged to the masses. No I haven’t died, I’ve just been really busy. Stuff on my to-do list includes getting out a new podcast and comic, enjoying a much-needed vacation, and writing up more articles like the EON review series.

To kick all of that off, essentially a pre-req for all of that, my PC was in dire need of an upgrade.

Cooler Closeup

First off, specs time:

  • Power supply: Corsair HX 850W Power Supply w/ 140mm Fan
  • Motherboard: Asus P7H55D-M EVO w/ DualDDR3 1333, 7.1 Audio, Gigabit Lan, USB3.0. 1394, PCI-E x16, HDMI
  • CPU: Intel Core™ i5 Processor 750 2.66GHz w/ 8MB Cache
  • Memory: Corsair 4GB XMS3-1333 TWIN3X Dual Channel DDR3 Kit (2 x 2GB)
  • Video: Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 1GB GDDR5
  • Boot drive: Intel X25-M Mainstream 34nm 2.5in SATA II Solid State Drive, 80GB (OEM)
  • Secondary drive: Western Digital 1.5TB Caviar Green 5400rpm SATA II w/ 64MB Cache
  • Disc: Samsung SH-B083L 8x BD-ROM / DVD Writer Combo Drive
  • OS: Windows 7

There’s some additional drives in there from my previous PC adding another two terabytes of storage to this.

ASUS Heatsink

Going with Windows 7 and a SSD for a boot (and EVE) drive ends up being a fantastic thing to do, and I can’t recommend it enough. The OS’s speed is insane, and everything’s whisper quiet. So much so that when I touch any of the data drives (where I’m installing pretty much everything else)  it’s immediately noticeable how quiet everything is.

Desktop View

It’s nice having a rig where I don’t have to run Battlefield: Bad Company 2 multiplayer on the lowest settings in order to not have the game lag like crazy. It’s also awesome to have EVE run like it’s built on an Astroglide-based architecture.

Check out the rest of the build pics in the Hardware set at my Flickr.  Enjoy, and if anyone’s considering an upgrade feel free to give me a shout and I might be able to provide some tips.