Saturday, 26 July 2014

Unreal Tournament 2014

A few months ago Epic games announced they'd started working on Unreal Tournament 2014 as a free to play, moddable first person shooter developed with players.

Then a couple days ago they released a video segment talking about the direction the game will be taking and showing off some artwork produced by art director Chris Perna in UnrealEd (not really a playable level, more of an artistic style and proof of concept type thing).



It looks great! A nice clean, realistic look and though the video segment below is quite long (49 minutes) they talk about a number of interesting things.

One of the more radical concepts being that though the game itself will be free, players will be able to create content (mods, levels, meshes, etc.) and sell them in a "marketplace" where the proceeds will be split with Epic.




While it all sounds interesting I have three major concerns

1. Hardware requirements, the Unreal Tournament series has always had very demanding hardware requirements, especially if you were playing anywhere near a hardcore competitive level. A "free" game with high hardware requirements for smooth play will likely get terrible word of mouth peer reviews from players.

2. Double jumping was the main factor that hordes of original UT (1999 version) fans hated which ultimately killed UT 2K3 and beyond for most of us. Yet double jumping is specifically mentioned in the video as if it's an integral part of the game. Big mistake, if they want the original UT fan base to take the 2014 version seriously they need to get rid of double jumping, or at the very least make it a mod that defaults to OFF.

Then again, it's a double edged sword. If double jumping isn't included, that'd probably upset nearly as many potential players as having it in would. Either way it'd be nice for both groups to know if it's going to be an FPS shooter or a 3D platform jumper with guns.

3. Unreal Engine 4 has recently been made available to developers for a $19.00 per month subscription fee. I sure hope they aren't expecting everyone who's thinking about making maps for UT 2014 to pay $19.00 a month just to get access to the map editor. If that's the case (and I'm pretty sure it is) they should just come right out, say so and admit licensing the editor is their real projected revenue stream.

Fixing Nul

Just a couple quick links to an excellent series of articles on "fixing" null sec sov.

http://www.endie.net/wordpress/2014/07/the-most-unpopular-statement-in-todays-eve/
http://www.endie.net/wordpress/2014/07/192/

Well worth reading. I agree with pretty much everything he says with the caveat that in order for it to happen the power projection issue must be addressed first.

As long as the largest blocs can drop massive blobs anywhere they want faster than smaller local forces can respond it's never going to change.

I would have left a comment on the articles except it requires registering with Disqus to comment there and I refuse to register with yet another annoying, redundant and basically useless "registration service".

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Skill Queue

One thing I find incredibly annoying lately is keeping the skill queue updated. I've been playing less lately but with an even dozen accounts it seems like almost every day at least 3-4 characters need their skill queues updated.

It's a hassle, especially when a character is at the point where all the skills he needs to train next take around a day to train (15 hours, 1 day 20 hours and the like). I can't just not log in for several days because I need to update skill queues nearly every day.

Less annoying but still not fun is when you have a character on a very long skill train (a month or more). You don't have to worry about it for a long time but eventually you will need to update the queue on a specific day which may not fit your schedule by the time it finally rolls around.

I have to wonder why the skill queue has that hard 24 hour limit.

Maybe CCP intentionally wants skill training to be a PITA and force us to log on more often. No doubt it helps make the logon and concurrency numbers look better too.

Or maybe it's about not wanting us to be able put years worth of skills into the queue and not logon at all again until the training is finished.

Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter, 24 hours is too short. Why not change it to be more user friendly?

I'd like to see it change to allow more than a single skill go beyond 24 hours. If they really want to keep the total number of skills in the queue down they could always do something like this.

1. You can always put at least 5 skills in the queue no matter how much time they take.
2. Once there are 5 skills in the queue you can only add another skill as long as the total training time is under 24 hours.

That'd keep things sort of like they are yet be far more flexible for when we need some time away from the game, whether it be just to take a break, go on vacation, a work deployment or whatever.

Addendum

Caedes came up with a great idea in comments.
Your skill queue should be as long as you subbed for the game. Sub for year fill it up, or 1 month. So whatever you have left on your sub should be your skill queue. You played for the time mone as well be able to use it.

I should also add my suggestion doesn't have to be 5 skills, 4, 3 or even 2 would be better than now. I picked 5 because that would help with the most annoying times, when you need to train a bunch of skills that take around 1 day each. But 5 might be too much for really long train time skills. 2 wouldn't help very much with the ~1 day skills but it'd still be better than nothing and it'd be great for the really long trains.

In that case maybe my ideas combined with Caedes' would work better. Allow up to 5 skills (or 2, 3, 4, w/e is deemed appropriate) regardless of how long the total train time is but only if your subscription time is long enough to still be active when the last skill starts.

For that matter even just allowing 2 skills in the queue would be nice. That way you could slap a 1 day 5 hour skill (or an even longer one) into the queue that you really need/want to train next, back it up with a long train time skill and take off for a week (on vacation, working out of town or w/e). When you come back the skill you really wanted to train would be finished and you wouldn't have lost most of a week's worth of training time in the process either.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Public Courier Contract Example

Expanding on my previous post about Making Public Courier Contracts Work For You, here's an example of a contract I sent yesterday that proves a number of points about public courier contracts.



Though it was a very valuable contract between 2 secondary hubs it was still picked up and delivered in less than 6 hours. Also note this was during the wee hours of the morning when the least players are on.

At 6.5 billion collateral, it's the most valuable courier contract I've ever made. In the past I always limited my contracts to a maximum of 5 billion collateral because I felt more might be too much for most couriers to risk. This time I decided to test that assumption and went well over my usual limit.

I intentionally sent it from Sobaseki rather than Jita to illustrate that contracts don't have to originate on a main hub to get picked up and delivered quickly.

I paid 40 million to have 6.5 billion collateral contract delivered.

Red Frog Freight would have charged 17.4 million for the same trip with only 1 billion collateral.


For a rush job RFF would have charged 108.75 million, more than 5 times over their usual rate and still with only 1 billion collateral.

Sending 6.5 billion collateral via RFF non-rush contracts would have required 7 contracts totalling 121.8 million. More than 3 times as much as I paid.

Going with Red Frog's sister service Blue Frog Freight would have been even worse costing 125 million for 5 billion collateral (their maximum) with longer completion (3 days vs 1) and expiration (7 days vs 3) terms..

I paid 6.15 million per billion delivered, less than 1% of it's value. The cheapest RFF option to deliver that same 6.5 billion (7 non-rush contracts) would have cost 18.7 million per billion delivered, nearly 3% of it's value.

By going with a public contract I saved more than 80 million in shipping fees over what using RFF would have cost and it got delivered more promptly too.

Here's another example of an older public courier contract with a low sec destination.


This one got delivered in just 33 minutes! Black Frog charges 95 million for a similar contract with longer expiration and completion terms.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Meh

Lately I've been feeling a lot of ennui and apathy about playing Eve Online. The only part of Eve that really interests me much is trading. I'm already quite wealthy compared to the average player, trading is starting to feel more like a grind than fun and there just isn't much else to do in the game that I find at all interesting.

Mining? Forget it, I promised myself I'd never be a miner before I even started playing and that won't change. Probably THE most boring, repetitive thing you can do in the game.

Missioning? Extremely repetitive and boring, after the first few weeks where it's all new, missions are nearly as bad as mining. There aren't all that many unique missions, for the most part higher level missions are just more difficult versions of the same old missions you've already run far too many times at a lower level.

Exploration? Slightly less boring than mining and slightly more boring than missions. Before they completely wrecked exploration by making it mostly a mini-game. I detest mini-games like that. IMO mini-games are ok as long as they're a one time thing or are optional (you're not forced to repeatedly play some silly mini-game to participate in any particular activity), otherwise they very quickly become incredibly annoying.

PvP? What they call PvP in Eve mostly consists of what would be called ganking and griefing in any other game.... And then there's blobbing and power projection, might as well just call it Risk in Space... Risk with modified rules allowing unlimited troop movement and air drops so you don't have to worry about any real strategy or tactics and can attack anyone, anywhere, anytime. Eve wars don't involve much strategy or even tactics, it's mostly about who has the biggest fleet and the ability to teleport the entire fleet whereever they want in the least amount of time. Flight and combat mechanics are terrible with a whole bunch of bandaid "fixes" slapped on in an attempt to cover up broken, very poorly thought out underlying mechanics.

Excursions? The last bastion of PvE elitists in Eve. No thank you, I had more than enough of putting up with that type of player in WoW.

Industry? Way too complex, time consuming and <cough> "skill" intensive, I want to play the game, not play with spreadsheets all day.

Etc...

About the only thing besides trade that does interest me a bit are stealth operations with Covert Ops, Bomber, Recons and Black Ops. Still based on the same poor combat system but at least it's more about strategy and tactics and not just about who has the biggest teleporting blob.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Making Courier Contracts Work for You

One thing that seems to come up frequently across the Eve blogosphere is how to best use courier contracts and get things delivered in a timely manner. There are many different opinions and a lot of confusion about how to use courier contracts effectively.

I've been playing for over 2 years now. As a trader with trade alts in most empire regions who regularly ships cargo all over the place I've tried a lot of different things to get things moved in the most efficient, most cost effective manner. This is about my experience with courier contracts and what that experience has taught me about using them effectively.

In the very beginning I didn't use couriers at all. Couriers just aren't cost effective until you're dealing with more valuable contracts. Personally I felt couriers weren't worth using regularly until I was at the point where I was moving half a billion or more. Even then they were barely worth it.

At this point I'm talking mostly about contracts between main hubs with the occasional contract between one of the main hubs and a secondary hub and very rarely a contract from a secondary hub to somewhere else.

Where couriers really started to be worthwhile for me was when I got to the point where my contracts where routinely worth 1 billion or more. In fact I often had 2 or 3 billion to ship out which I'd split up into 1 billion chunks and send off via private courier contracts with Red Frog Freight (RFF).

I used RFF exclusively then, paying their standard rates.

In my experience RFF contracts between the 5 main hubs usually got delivered within 24 hours and occasionally much faster than that but sometimes it took 2-3 days too. Contracts from a main hub to most secondary hubs usually weren't much slower though more of them took 2-3 days and sometimes one (usually to one of the more remote secondary hubs) would even expire.

Contracts from secondary hubs often took 2-3 days, getting reasonably reliable delivery times of 24 hours or less was possible by paying more than the standard rate but that wasn't very cost effective.

RFF doesn't take contracts to/from low or null at all. For low/null they do have Black Frog but BFF rates are much higher and IMO simply were not worth paying, especially not with their collateral restrictions too.

As I got bigger and had both more and more valuable shipments to make I had to wonder if there wasn't a better way of getting things moved around. The problems with using RFF were:

1. Relatively high rates compared to other courier corps and public courier contracts.
2. Collateral restrictions. Sure you could ship more than 1 billion worth but then the rates went up significantly plus contracts with over 1 billion collateral often took longer to get picked up and delivered too.
3. Timely Delivery. While delivery times were generally acceptable with RFF, they were often a bit on the slow side and unacceptably slow at times (I don't want to wait until Monday for the contract I made on Friday to get delivered).
4. Not an option for shipping to/from low/null at all.
5. Unacceptably high rates for "rush" deliveries and for BFF in low/null.
6. Delivery times were frequently too long on contracts that didn't involve one of the main hubs on either end.

One option was using another courier corps like PushX industries but they're all basically just RFF clones with somewhat lower rates and fewer pilots. IMO that wasn't likely to be any better so I decided to give public courier contracts a try instead.

Several things I noticed almost immediately about using public courier contracts were:

1. Public courier contracts tended to get delivered more quickly than private RFF contracts, usually within 12 hours and often much faster than that. Very rarely did it take more than 24 hours even for contracts from low sec systems. About the only contracts that ever expired were a few low value contracts from remote, lightly traveled, way off the beaten path, low sec systems and the most dangerous systems. Even then it usually involved a bulky shipment containing packaged ships.

Note: I don't consider the largest market hub in a region to be "remote", "lightly traveled" or "way off the beaten path" no matter how far it is from Jita, at least not as long as it's in contiguous high sec.

2. Collateral wasn't a issue. I could ship up to 2 billion in cargo at the rate RFF charged to move just 1 billion and it'd usually get delivered faster too. Contracts much bigger than 2 billion did move more slowly but increasing the payout by 25-50% worked wonders for them too. A trip that RFF would have charged 20 million to make with just 1 billion in collateral I could send 2-3 billion collateral via public courier for 25 million and it'd get delivered faster too.

3. Often, especially on runs between main hubs, the pilot who picked up my contract was with RFF anyhow. Many of the rest were picked up by pilots with PushX or one of the smaller courier corps.

4. Public couriers were terrific for getting things moved out of low and null too. Especially for low volume cargos that could fit in almost any ship. But even big bulky things like battleships could usually be moved out within a few days if you were paying reasonably well. 1 million per jump practically guarantees quick delivery from most of low and null as long as the trip isn't very long or the cargo too big.

5. Even contracts from hell camps like EC-P8R, Aunenen, Amamake and systems behind them usually got delivered within a day or two though sometimes shipments over 1 billion had to either pay 2-3 mil per jump or better yet be split into multiple smaller contracts. I usually made those contracts to the nearest high sec station (for the most part just 1 or 2 jumps).

I was very happy with the initial results, within a month all my contracts except the ones between main hubs were public courier contracts. Not long after that I started using them for main hub contracts too. For over a year now I've used public courier contracts exclusively (no more private courier contracts at all).

Granted a lot of my contracts are high value, low volume. They don't take up much cargo space, so they can be picked up and delivered in just about any ship. Well ok, a lot wouldn't fit into an interceptor with a mere 120 m3 cargo space but most would fit into 250 m3 comfortably and a speed fit blockade runner (no cargo mods) can carry the vast majority without even coming close to filling it up.

That means almost anyone can pick up most of my contracts regardless of what he's flying at the moment. Covert Ops frigates, Bombers, Blockade Runners, T2/T3 cruisers or w/e.

Sometimes I do move ship hulls around though which does require something with more cargo space than a BR.

In the more remote and most dangerous places it's often the local gankers, pirates and pvpers delivering my contracts for me. It might take a few days but the gate camping pirates of Rancer aren't going to shoot their own corpsmate when he decides to make an easy couple million by spending 1 minute moving my half billion ISK collateral contract 1 jump in his Manticore, Cheetah, Loki, or w/e he's flying atm.

I recently had someone dump 3.6 billion worth of implants on me a jump or two behind Amamake. There were no takers on a 3 day, 2 or 3 jump contract to Osoggur with 4 billion collateral and 10 million payout. So I redid the contract with a 20 million payout but again no takers. Finally I broke it up into 3 or 4 smaller contracts with a total payout of 20 million and going all the way to Rens. When I got up the next morning (less than 12 hours later) the implants were all sitting on Rens waiting for me.

A few tips for using public courier contracts effectively:

1. Using standard RFF rates for public courier contracts practically ensures speedy delivery (usually faster than RFF would be) for most contracts. You can even get away with paying a fair bit less and still get service equal to or better than with private contracts to RFF.

2. Contracts that take less cargo space can fit into more ships. They generally get picked up and delivered much faster than larger, bulkier contracts. This is especially true for contracts to and from low or null. If the cargo isn't much over 10k m3 it'll fit into a max or near max cargo fit Blockade Runner. If it's not much over 3k m3 it'll fit into a speed fit BR and if it's 250 m3 or less it'll fit into just about anything other than interceptors and some of the smallest frigates. The more ships your cargo fits into the more potential courier pilots there are to pick it up.

3. For contracts out in the middle of nowhere it might take a little longer before they get picked up but if you're paying even close to RFF rates they'll usually get picked up and delivered within a few days. I find this works great for getting small loads of valuable goods that were purchased in low sec.

4. If you want even faster service paying 25-50% more than RFF standard rates works wonders. This also works well for contracts in remote places that are bulky enough to require very large ships to move them. The more you're paying the more quickly it's likely to get picked up and delivered.

5. If you're having trouble getting things shipped in or out of low/null try paying a little more or in the case of contracts with collateral well in excess of 1 billion break it into multiple smaller contracts with collateral around a billion each. For very short trips (1-3 jumps) paying 2-3 million usually gets the job done no matter where it is.

6. It's often not cost effective to courier ships around unless you're talking about T2, T3 or faction ships. At least not by themselves. A great way to work around that is to send some smaller more valuable cargo along with the ships. A stack of 10 packaged Drakes for example takes up 150k m3 but is only worth about 500 million, hardly worth couriering by itself, but if you add another 500 million worth of implants or faction mods it becomes much more cost effective and doesn't take a freighter to move it either.

7. Keep the maximum cargo capacities of different ship classes in mind. IMO the most important cargo capacities to be aware of are roughly 800k m3 for freighters, 300k for jump freighters and 10k for blockade runners. Also keep in mind not all courier pilots fit for max cargo. The bigger the cargo the fewer ships can carry it and the fewer pilots will be able to move the contract.

8. Don't lowball on the collateral, always ensure your collateral is at least equal to the value of the cargo or better yet a bit more. I generally set collateral 10-20% higher than what I expect to sell it for in the end. That way if the courier ever does steal or lose one of my shipments (hasn't happened yet that I've noticed) I'll actually make more than expected and get paid sooner to boot!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Financial Report - June 2014

Financial report for the month of June 2014 (last month). Trade oriented since trading is how I make virtually all of my ISK.

I buy and sell faction/deadspace/officer mods, ships, skill-books and implants with traders covering all 5 main trade hubs (Jita, Amarr, Dodixie,  Hek and Rens) plus secondary hubs in most other empire regions. I have 24 active traders, 3 on Jita (one each for mods, implants and skillbooks), 2 in another region, another 19 each covering a different region and a couple spare traders that are not actively trading.

June was a slow month for me, I didn't do very much but I still made a profit of 43 billion after expenses.



Current net worth is 641 billion with roughly half in cash and market escrow. Most of the rest is in sell orders and recently acquired assets I haven't gotten around to posting for sale yet. Very little is in assets I don't intend to sell soon, with maybe 5 billion worth of ships and fittings I keep for my own use.

The last several months I've significantly increased volume on ~20 high volume items and been playing longer term trends while spending less and less time at it every month. That's been working so well I'm considering concentrating on 20 to 40 items in even greater bulk, spending very little time at all on the rest and probably eventually dropping out of much of the rest completely.

The roughly 20 high volume items I'm working now are performing extremely well. There are at a least another 20 items that should perform similarly though with all the no-lifers and bots currently working those items it'll take a fair bit of work to inhibit their manipulations enough that prices begin to normalize and profit margins finally settle down to reasonable, reliable, steady levels.