Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Overview: EVE On Easy Mode (BB53)

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 53rd edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

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Today's topic comes from a tweet from @erlendur (aka EVE Online's Development Director, CCP Explorer) in a conversation he was having with a pilot about having multiple overview tabs open in separate windows:
So that is the topic this month: The Overview. Is it sufficient? If not how can it be improved? Is there some way to replace it? Does it give too much information, or not enough? Please be creative and specific as the overview currently is the heartbeat of the GUI.

The Overview: EVE on Easy Mode

Important gameplay here
Let's be clear: I hate the overview.

It think it is ruinous to EVE's gameplay, turning what would have been a sci-fi experience requiring spatial awareness, keen observation and good co-ordination into an interactive shopping list for the obsessive-compulsive.

The overview short-cuts the entire spaceship experience, replacing it with a table of words and numbers. In times of action, rarely will a player need to look elsewhere on the screen, instead sifting through rows of text-based data. It is the overview which is responsible for EVE's reputation as a spreadsheet in space.

Furthermore, without the ability to understand and customise this spreadsheet, your gameplay experience will be impaired and you will be laughed out of fleets.

Sadly, it is so good at what it does, the overview is Pandora's spreadsheet - it cannot be removed from the game without instigating an epic tantrum from those who have become dependent on it, and that is enough of the core playerbase to leave CCP's development brains paralysed with fear, stifling any possible UX revolution.

Does this mean EVE is forever condemned to be stuck in the past, a niche video-game curio one level up from a text adventure and beloved only by masochists, obsessives, and apparently 'narcists'.

Maybe not. Let's get emergent.

An Overview-Free Future?

EVE without the spreadsheet is pretty. If only it were functional too.
EVE can be played without the overview. Shocking I know, but you should try it at least once. Actually, make it twice because your first time* will probably get you killed.
*okay, every time.

There are plenty of other tools at the player's disposal to enable overview-free piloting: the brackets, the tracking camera, the contextual radial menu and the tactical overlay. I've tried it (in PvE - I ain't that stupid) and in many ways it's really fun.

Once you get past the sensation of having a limb missing, you actually get a sense of engaging with your environment, of interacting with the world around you. You start to notice things and enjoy the sci-fi universe. It evokes a sense of heightened immersion.

But in other ways, playing without the overview is incredibly frustrating (perversely, this is probably how new players feel as they struggle with the overview). When you know that there's an easier way to lock targets or find a warp destination, actually having to look for them in the three-dimensional world around you is a chore. It's much easier to pick from a list.

In fact, the properly prepared overview is so effective that it renders the visual element of EVE almost entirely pointless. Try having the main screen set to the galactic map and see how little impact it has on your overview-led gameplay. It raises a question over why CCP even bother to employ artists or have a 3D game engine at all.

Ouch, who was that? Aha!
I say EVE's visuals are almost entirely pointless, because recent UI improvements have given the main 3D view some relevance, with the HUD providing providing target threat indicators, interaction tracer lines and e-war effect warnings. Developmentally, this is an encouraging step, but to make overview-free combat gameplay a challenging prospect without leaving players wanting to smash themselves in the face with the mouse, there would need to be many more improvements.

But the truth is, there will never be as effective a target management tool as that godawful spreadsheet.

However, what if using the overview was a fitting choice?

The Overview Module

A fitting screen, yesterday.
Imagine if the overview was not available by default, instead only becoming available if the appropriate module is fitted. This module would have fitting demands that would require loadout compromises to be made (primarily the loss of the module slot, but other drawbacks could be considered too).

Shifting the overview to a module would preserve overview-led gameplay for the spreadsheet purists, but give rise to a new kind of instinctive pilot who has other uses for the module slot and would instead learn to read his environment rather than his instruments.

Sound too hard? I think the common response to that is HTFU.

This new overview paradigm would create new inter-player dependencies, with benefits to overview-free and overview-enabled pilots flying together. The overview would become a valuable leadership and intel tool. Fleet Commanders and scouts might favour overview module use, whilst the 'gut pilot' would be loaded for maximum military effectiveness.

If overview-free PvP combat became a thing, it could attract a new kind of player to EVE and would create a play-style bridge between EVE, DUST and the upcoming Valkyrie.

It would also mean that pilots would have to pay attention and stop playing EVE on easy mode. Take your spreadsheet stabilisers off, you wussies. ;)

Emergent gameplay, needing to adapt, inventive brutality: that's what EVE is all about, isn't it?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Tangling with the Tengu: Missiles Are the Best Medicine

Tengus: Spewing missiles with style since 2009
There are times when I know I should be doing something constructive, but the last few days have been challenging at Fort Freebooted, with an ill wife and baby both requiring my frequent attention (not to mention the endless laundry as a result of countless biological explosions).

The demands of providing this temporary 24-7 care cover meant that my attempts at establishing any kind of meaningful workflow were in vain. Instead, my bedside vigil was powered by coffee and EVE. Of course, given that I was  repeatedly required to step away from the keyboard at a moment's notice, I didn't want to get drawn into any gameplay which would end in catastrophe as a result.

Instead, I needed to set myself a new, suitably casual and achievable solo goal.

Choosing An Achievable Goal

An Astero looking cool
I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one of those fancy new Sisters of EVE exploration ships, but just buying one would be a bit of an empty experience and would blow a big whole in my funds. Besides, earning my shiny new prize the old-fashioned way would be exactly the pick-up-and-play entertainment which would suit my circumstances.

This would mean earning Loyalty Points (30,000 for the Astero frigate or 120,000 for the Stratios cruiser) by undertaking missions from Sisters of EVE agents. A quick look at the state of my current standings showed that I was not particularly well-liked by the Servant Sisters of EVE faction. In fact, the only reason any of their agents above entry level would deal with me at all was because at some point in the past I'd been forced to learn the standings-boosting Connections skill in order to avoid getting chased out of Gallente and Minmatar space by the faction police. I can't even remember what I did to make them all hate me.

So it looked like I was going to be grinding through level 2 and 3 missions in order to get to the more lucrative level 4s which would yield LPs at a much higher rate. Some quick research on the Agent Finder tool showed me that the star systems containing agents of the appropriate calibre were scarce, scattered and distant. I was going to need to take something which was adaptable and capable enough to deal with varying mission levels, target types and was durable enough to cope if I suddenly disappeared to deal with another exploding baby emergency.

Sounds like a job for a Strategic Cruiser.

Bring Me the Holy Capacitor of Antioch

I dusted off my Tengu, the SSS Blackrun (named after my first and last skiing holiday in 2009) did a quick review of my various saved loadouts on the Fitting Management screen and gathered up all the modules and sub-systems I might need. Despite the Tengu's versatility, I'd never really used it for intermediate level missions before and realised there was an opportunity for some idle loadout-tweaking, especially with the new Rapid Light Missile Launchers, which could be perfect for blatting the frigate- and cruiser-sized targets I would be encountering in the level 2 and 3 missions.

Arriving in the Genesis region, where the Sisters of EVE enclaves live so they might bask in the divine glow of the EVE Gate in the nearby system of New Eden, I set about churning through the necessary missions whilst experimenting with a variety of low-maintenance PvE loadouts for my Tengu.

Unstable stability
This took my on an interesting and mildly embarrassing journey which saw me eating humble pie after insisting both on Twitter and the EVE-O forums that the capacitor management section of the Fitting screen was lying about my fit being cap stable. Eventually I realised by rookie error: offlining a Microwarp Drive in order to see if the remainder of the loadout was cap stable /also/ offlines the negative impact of MWD has on total capacitor penalty.

Rest assured, palm has been applied to face.

The Swiss Army Spaceship

Minor capacitor-based brainfarts aside, I settled on a basic sub-system and loadout arrangement which would offer durable and forgiving platform and also allow for some ongoing tweaks. It looked something like this:

The module arrangement I opted for included five launcher high-slots accommodate Heavy, Heavy Assault or Light Rapid Launchers and one utility slot which, for purposes of being an incredibly lazy PvE-er, will contain an Auto Targeting System II - a wonderful device I'd never bothered with before, but automatically acquires all targets in range, saving me the bother.

Tengu is Japanese for 'too expensive for PvP'. Maybe.
Thanks to the three Capacitor Control Circuit rigs (and, depending on variant, occasional help from a Cap Recharger II and/or Power Diagnostic System II) I was able to use a permanently-running large shield booster. This complemented the outrageously high damage resistances provided by combining the Adaptive Shielding subsystem, a Damage Control II and an Adaptive Invulnerability Field II (there's a bit of an EM hole, but these are just dumb NPCs I'm dealing with so I'm counting on them not noticing). To give me some margin for error, I included a Large Shield Extender to buy me some reaction time if something unexpected happens (which it did on a couple of occasions before I had my capacitor stability epiphany).

Along with the ubiquitous DCII, the low slots were filled with three Ballistic Control System IIs to increase damage output and speed mission completion along. The final low slot would vary according to other needs.

With this basic missioning platform, I took the opportunity to conduct a quick study comparing the utility of the different launcher types available. This was the result:

The 'LazyBoy' Heavy Missile Tengu

This loadout was explicitly designed for me to be a terrible, inattentive EVE player. But with a missile range of 94km, auto-targeting and an incredibly solid, cap-stable perma-boosted shield tank, I could be comfortably absent-minded and work my way into the Sisters of EVE's good books whilst simultaneously keeping an eye on my puke-sniper daughter.

Heavy Missile Launcher Profile

MISSILE TYPEDPS (all/kin)Range
HM Standard291/36394,331
HM Faction (G)321/40194,331
HM Faction (CN)334/41794,331
HM Faction (DG)349/43694,331
HM High Precision291/36347,165
HM High Damage392/49070,748

The poor explosion velocity and large explosion radius of heavy missiles made fitting a Target Painter a necessity, especially given that I was dealing with frigate- and cruiser-heavy missions. Standard heavy missiles did the trick admirably, the Tech II variants either caused range issues slowing the process down in the case of High Precision, or just being ill-suited for small targets in the case of the High Damage type. I'm cheap anyway, so I didn't bother with the Faction ammo option, which would probably be optimal.

This fit was the safest pair of hands I could find, but sometimes it was just a little slow, both in damage application and flight speed, so I looked at other options...

The 'Vomit Monsoon' Heavy Assault Missile Tengu

When you absolutely, positively need to smash things really hard in the face, heavy assault missiles are the go-to option for the aggressive Tengu pilot. It was satisfying to see most things melt much more quickly, but first I had to get there. No problem with targets who obligingly close you down, but those irritating Guristas and their like have a habit of hanging around just outside maximum range. The Microwarpdrive was a necessity, but soon undermines the safety net afforded by the permaboost tank.

Heavy Assault Missile Launcher Profile

MISSILE TYPEDPS (all/kin)Range
HAM Standard404/50530,361
HAM Faction (G)444/55530,361
HAM Faction (CN)464/58030,361
HAM Faction (DG)484/60530,361
HAM Adv. Long-Range363/45445,562
HAM Adv. Anti-Ship545/68125,212

Despite Heavy Assault Missiles performing better against smaller and faster targets, a Target Painter still helped speed up the destruction of enemy frigates. Unlike the fire-and-forget nature of the Heavy Missile loadout above, the restrictive range of the HAMs made piloting a much more hands-on experience and with a slightly less reliable tank-capacitor relationship, being suddenly called away resulted in a couple of near misses.

The 'Captain Capped-Out' Rapid Light Missile Tengu

Named for my ridiculous earlier capacitor woes, the preferred ordnance of Rapid Light Missile Launchers meant using a Target Painter was fairly redundant, freeing up a mid-slot. The addition of a Cap Recharger II put paid to any further concerns about running out of juice without compromising on the rest of the fit.

Rapid Light Missile Launcher Profile

MISSILE TYPEDPS (all/kin)Range
LM Standard344/43042,187
LM Faction (G)373/46642,187
LM Faction (CN)393/49242,187
LM Faction (DG)410/51242,187
LM High Precision344/43021,093
LM High Damage480/60031,640

I kept the Microwarpdrive for the utility of closing down distant targets quickly because, although Rapid Light Missiles provide a bit of an increase to range without too much loss of damage, often some mobility was still required. The real advantage of RLMLs is in the assurance that damage is almost certainly applied to a far more effective degree than with their larger cousins. They offer great balance and no need to fear frigates. On the down side, I'm not sure I'll ever get used to the 35 second reload time. It just leaves you feeling mute and naked.

Missile Performance and You

I wanted to be able to look at my options depending on the performance I needed and so arranged the above DPS and range stats in on list for reference.


TYPE                     /   DPS (all/kin)   /    Range

HA Adv. Anti-Ship        545/681          25,212
HA Faction (DG)          484/605          30,361
LM High Damage          480/600          31,640
HA Faction (CN)          464/580          30,361
HA Faction (G)             444/555          30,361
LM Faction (DG)          410/512          42,187
HA Standard                 404/505          30,361
LM Faction (CN)           393/492          42,187
HM High Damage           392/490          70,748
LM Faction (G)             373/466          42,187
HA Adv. Long-Range  363/454          45,562
HM Faction (DG)           349/436          94,331
LM High Precision        344/430          21,093
LM Standard                 344/430          42,187
HM Faction (CN)           334/417          94,331
HM Faction (G)              321/401          94,331
HM Standard                   91/363           94,331
HM High Precision         291/363          47,165


TYPE                      /   DPS (all/kin)   /     Range

HM Faction (DG)            349/436             94,331
HM Faction (CN)            334/417             94,331
HM Faction (G)               321/401             94,331
HM Standard                   291/363             94,331
HM High Damage            392/490             70,748
HM High Precision           291/363             47,165
HA Adv. Long-Range    363/454             45,562
LM Faction (DG)           410/512             42,187
LM Faction (CN)           393/492             42,187
LM Faction (G)              373/466             42,187
LM Standard                  344/430            42,187
LM High Damage           480/600             31,640
HA Faction (DG)           484/605             30,361
HA Faction (CN)           464/580             30,361
HA Faction (G)              444/555             30,361
HA Standard                  404/505             30,361
HA Adv. Anti-Ship         545/681             25,212
LM High Precision         344/430             21,093

Doing it For the Sisters

To wrap up, whilst continuing to tinker and juggle with the vomit monsoon at home, I managed to all but reach my target standing of 5.0 with Sisters of EVE, meaning I was nearly set to get in touch with one of the three high-sec level 4 agents. As a bonus, I'd already earned enough Loyalty Points to spring for an Astero. However, a brief comparison to existing Tech II Covert Ops ships led me to realise it didn't really offer much that was new. It was the Stratios that I coveted and that was going to need a whole lot more LPs.

It was perhaps fortuitous then that in the Old Pond Pub chat channel a familiar name appeared with a timely warning. Merinne, a long-time chat channel buddy, told tale of the endless shenanigans which are constantly taking place in the areas around these SoE missioning systems. She had experienced it herself and alerted me to the mission invading, baiting, suicide-ganking activities of the local colour.

This final part of my self-set goal should be far more interesting.

Although, given that I've just announced my destination and probable fits, perhaps it'd be wise not to take anything as expensive as the Tengu, especially one fitting with an Auto Targeting System, or I'll never get into a Stratios.

Friday, 14 February 2014

How Long Does It Take to Cross New Eden?

New Eden: Just how big is it?
I know - how long's a piece of string, right?

I was recently asked 'how long does it take to cross New Eden' for a project and I endeavoured to find something approaching a scientific answer.

If any experienced travellers, master mathematicians or general EVE savants can provide more clarification, I would be grateful.

Until then, here's my workings:

The Route
3KNA-N (Branch) to MVUO-F (Period Basis)

My first hurdle was determining the route. It makes sense to find the most direct, but most distant routes from edge to edge.

By using the in-game map to pick visibly remote peripheral systems and setting the autopilot to find the shortest route.

The best I've come up with is:

  • North to South: 3KNA-N (Branch) to MVUO-F (Period Basis) = 96 jumps.
  • East to West: 1M7-RK (Cobalt Edge) to A2V6-6 (Outer Ring) = 79 jumps.

I think these two routes exemplify the farthest expanses of New Eden, but if anyone find a longer direct route I'd be happy to update this post to include it.

The Time

Red wunz go fasta: A Caldari Crow interceptor-class frigate. 
Presumably a T2 Interceptor would be the most suitable vehicle for the job, with its high warp speed, quick alignment time and warp bubble immunity, it'd be both the quickest and the safest.

Having not attempted the journey in practice (yet), I'm going to make a guestimation based on the following facts:
  • According to this old forum post, the average distance between gates is 28.0023280160161 AU.
  • A few tests on the Singularity test server showed that a Crow Interceptor with a standard 8AU/s warp speed takes approximately 35 seconds to warp across this distance, jump through to the next system and be ready for the next warp.
So my chosen 96-jump route from 3KNA-N in Branch to MVUO-F in Period Basis should take just under an hour (96 jumps x 35 seconds = 56 minutes).

Of course something slower and less agile would take significantly longer. The biggest sub-capital ships' standard warp speeds of 2AU/s and their much slower align and acceleration times would make the same journey take upwards of 6 hours. That is assuming the unlikely event that they didn't get caught up in some local colour.

Edit: In further support of the above approximation, it turns out a far more thorough blogger, in the form of Marlona Sky, has put in the required effort to actually fly these kinds of journeys. Read more about The Cancers of EVE Online: Teleportation at the Reversal of Fortune blog.

And Now For Something Completely Stupid

Why? Because it's there! Watch out for that pothole Pierre.
Perhaps it's because of the Winter Olympics, but I think it would be interesting to attempt to set some time-trial records along pre-set routes under specific conditions. For example: Tranquility only, verifiable run by stream/FRAPS etc, records held by ship class.

I can imagine that many attempts will be marked up as a 'Did Not Finish', but imagine the accolades that might come from being able to claim you hold the record for crossing New Eden in a battlecruiser - it didn't do Han Solo's rep any harm (even if he didn't really understand what a parsec is). I would imagine it would develop into an alliance-dominated event requiring Tour de France-like peloton required protect the lead pilot.

Maybe it'd make an interesting in-game event. Just a thought.


Back to the matter of answering the titular question, so if someone asks how long it takes to cross New Eden, are we happy that the answer is basically, 'about an hour if you're lucky, longer if you're lucky and stupid, or never if you're just stupid'?

As a final thought, I recall Brendan Drain's EVE Evolved Massively column which made the claim that EVE possesses the 'World's Largest MMO game map'.

That claim is undoubtedly true in terms of the sheer amount of space represented by the game universe, but in real, playable terms (and sidestepping the whole 'empty space' argument), I wonder if in other MMOs, using the quickest available in-game means of transportation would reveal that it takes longer to cross those game worlds.

I suppose EVE's T2 interceptors might be the equivalent of the quickest mount in a fantasy MMO, a flying vehicle in something like Planetside 2 or a fast car in DayZ.

Anyone care to crunch the numbers for other gameworlds?

Unplanned Bonus Round

Fake Edit: Just as I was about to publish this post, I stumbled across this great forum post from 2010 at, in which MMO.Maverick uses similar methodology (although he uses standard rather than fastest travel speeds) to measure the relative sizes of various MMO universes.

Here is a summary of his findings:

World of Warcraft: From Kalimdor North to South Coast = 42 minutes.
Lord of the Rings Online: From Celondim to Rivendell = 45 minutes.
Guild Wars 2: Tyria East to West = 46 minutes. 
Rift: Crossing world map East to West = 30.5 minutes.

As a final thought (I mean it this time), Guild Wars 2's world of Tyria, as shown in the map below, is apparently 13 miles (21 kilometres) from east to west, which is only a fraction longer than a single Titan (the 18km Leviathan and Ragnarok) in EVE.

Just sayin'.

Real edit: Mark726 tweeted this great Memebase link at me, detailing the following very relevant image: