Archive for June, 2013

Measuring Logistics

What a month this month has been. In my last update, I explained how I had been told to step up or step off, and that I was pulling out all the stops to try and do the former rather than the latter. As I stated last month the first step in my plan was coming to an agreement with my eve widow to be an “on call hero” for the month. The second part of the plan, which I decided after writing, was to actually get into some damage ships (shocking I know).

Its not for Logi’s

When it comes to participation reviews, Logi pilots are at a major disadvantage. Sure, ever alliance/corp/fleet respects the Logi pilots, and you generally get a lot of respect for dedicating to it. But at the end of the day a Logi pilots reputation is hitched to visibility and politics. The issue is that there are no metrics associated to how much, or how good or how worthy you are as a Logi Bro. Let’s use the example of two logistics pilots. Pilot1 is always on the ball, always ready to save peoples ships. He Can’t get on every opp, but when he does, he tries to make a difference. Pilot2 is shit (and based on somone I met in fleet a few weeks back). He only flies Logi because it saves him from purges, and ensures he gets SRP for lost ships. While on fleets he changes his fittings to include target painters, just to ensure he gets on kills. Which incidentally is a far higher priority than saving ships. Now let’s say the purge time comes around (or the reward time if you’re a glass half full kind of guy). How do I as CEO of numbers-corp pick which logi pilots or kick(or reward)? I unless someone has happened to notice that Pilot2 had a TP fitted on a logi, I have no way of telling who has contributed, and who has not.

This leads into the second issue of getting noticed by being a logi: There is no guarantee that you will be observed being the Logi Bro or not. I can do everything I can to save ships and do well, but if I am not on the right fleets, with the right people to notice me doing my thing there are issues. When it comes to purge time, a corp might run the stats gather and come to look at my kill count… 5. Hmm seems a bit low, anyone seen him on fleets? “nope”. Ok purge….

Logi Pilots rely on the right people seeing you doing the right things and telling it to the right people. Damage pilots can use stats as evidence. Logi pilots have to do one of two things: A. go out of the way to ensure the right people spot you. Or B. Find a balance between logistics and damage ships, which ensure you can survive and pruning. This is what I have been trying to do this month.

It has however brought forwards the fact that I have been playing logistics far too much recently. Back in Imperial Legion, our dirties group was pretty much the core of the Logistics Pilots. Every fleet, every roam every engagement, again and again: we were in the logi ships, it’s part of the reason I moved on. Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed the logistics role and I still intend to fly it whenever its needed, but it’s time to get back to grass roots and enjoy killings things. That is after all what eve is all about.

So far I have been enjoying the killing immensely, flying some of the interesting ships brought to the fore by  the rebalancing changes; Caracal, Talwar and Loki. It’s been a fantastic time and I can’t wait to try out some of the even newer doctrines, although that may make my carrier a little tighter to pack.

Anyway let’s talk about the results of this change in balance. Last report I gave a breakdown of my playtime to show how I was slacking on the eve front. This month I will do the same to show the improvement. My total playtime this month was ~ 120 hours, over 50% of which has been spend in eve. These numbers don’t include my time in Dust or I think my time spend testing exploration on the Test server. My estimation is that I have spent 15 hours on DUST this month (some of which overlaps with the already recorded time as I often play Don’t Starve while waiting for FW matches to start).

I also managed to scoop ~300 kills this month which means I have average 5 kills per min spent in eve.

Unfortunately there is a bit of fallout because of this, very little work has been done on this site. Sorry, but eve and real life takes precedence. I still want to do some updates, and fixes for the site, but damn it If eve isn’t just too much fun. I will get it done, just no promises as to when. Ok?

As I mentioned before I have spent a good amount of time looking at exploration on the test server in advance of the group venturing out to test it. We took this experimentation forwards an are enjoying ourselves exploring; you can expect more posts on that very soon.

Fly with Guns,

Hark

You say goodbye, and I say hello

Ok fair warning here, this post contains a lot of numbers and statistics. You know what they say about statistics right? This is all purely my own opinion (as always), and despite having numbers nothing in this post is concrete, just opinion. So with that out of the way, let’s go.

One of the most surprisingly interesting lectures at Fanfest was the “Retribution Roundup”. As a member of a (very small) SCRUM team, and having done extensive training in SCRUM with Microsoft, I found CCP a very interesting case study of SCRUM and its application within business. But that’s not what this is about. No today I want to try to dissect and extrapolate some of the numbers we got told during this presentation and apply them to another source of opinion.

Why? Retribution is a very important expansion, because it is, in CCP’s opinion (and in terms of numbers), the most successful expansion for eve yet. This means that in the near future, CCP are going to be working to replicate and refine the recipe which produced Retribution, to replicate its success in future expansion planning. Thus by looking at what made up Retribution, we can see what broad categories we might find in future expansions (and this does match with odyssey).

We know from the Roundup slides that retribution contained ~1500 Story points (~1700 minus ~ 200 which never made it to release). We also know how many story points each of the major parts of the expansion took:

  1. Combat overlay 95 points
  2. New ships 118 points
  3. Bounty hunting (main feature) 134 points
  4. Ship Balancing 154 points
  5. Crime watch system 264 points

Which adds up 765 SP leaving 725 for all the other features (labelled as 6. in the rest of this post). Now SP doesn’t equate directly to the size or value of the product, but instead to the amount of effort put into it. If we categories the sections we come out with the following:

  • ~6% of effort will go into UI improvements
  • ~8% of effort will go into New Ships
  • ~9% of effort will go into revamping old professions (or main features)
  • ~18% of effort will go into revamping old code
  • ~10% of effort will go into ship rebalancing
  • ~49% of effort will go into all other minor features
wtf?

wtf?

But that’s just effort, and only shows what CCP could be working on (effort), and not what we will see as players (value). It’s also true that CCP might be measuring the recipe using perceived value rather than the effort it took.

So let’s extract that for a second, using the CSM 7 development strategy as a basis for valuation. In this report the CSM defined features as a balance of Shiny vs. Iteration (new vs. repair). So let’s define the retribution features the same (again this is my opinion) using the same numbers/order as I did in my first list:

  1. 80% Iterative 20% Shine
  2. 100% Shine
  3. 80% Iterative 20% Shine
  4. 100% Iterative
  5. 100% Iterative
  6. 58% Iterative 42% Shine

This gives the whole release a balance of 70% Iterative and 30% Shine. This figure can be used to compare the CSM’s advice to CCP’s current “recipe”. This requires further extrapolation, taking CSM7’s definition of players (and their wants  in terms of a Shine to Iteration ratio as defined in the document:

  • Potentials — people who have never or only briefly subscribed. (90% Shiny, 10% Iteration)
  • Newbies — players with less than a year in the game. (70% Shiny, 30% Iteration)
  • Veterans — players with more than a year in the game. (10% Shiny, 90% Iteration)
  • Bittervets — unsubscribed veterans. (50% Shiny, 50% Iteration)

Just using this would assume that CSM7 believed there are equal numbers of each type of players, which obviously there are not. So instead, to get an idea of the ratio which CSM7 believes the player base consists of (or at least how much we should pander to each), we can look at the next section of the document. In this CSM7 define 5 pillars of an expansion, which are tailored to each placate at least two of the previously defined categories of players.

So here is what we do: take each player group and their ratio of Shiny to Iteration, times their ratio by the number of times they are a benefactor of a pillar. Next add all of these ratios together and bring them back down to a % ratio. I won’t say that this is CSM7’s recommendation of what an expansion should contain (that would be putting words in their mouths), but I will say this is what I perceive as CSM7’s recommendation:

58% Iteration to 42% Shiny, a pretty even balance leaning slightly towards the veteran player (just like the CSM’s past and present :P). Interestingly CCP in Retribution has leaned even further towards the veteran player with the Retribution ratio of 70% Iteration and 30% Shiny.

So how does this match up to Odyssey then? Well I went through the bullet points listed on the Odyssey home page and gave them the same treatment, I came up the expansion ratio of 37% Iteration to 63% Shiny (which explains why Odyssey doesn’t blow my socks off). Quite a difference, and leaning this time towards the Newer and Potential players. How about if we consider the balance over the full year (i.e. the 12 month cycle the CSM referred too, albeit expecting more linking the two expansions together)… ok, quick time out here. I am doing all these sums in excel as I write this. I have not doctored these numbers, nor did I ever expect to get this result. I write this on the second to final edit run, and I am somewhat stunned:

If you take the last 12 months’ worth of expansions (Retribution & Odyssey), and look at my opinion of features released Shininess vs. Iteration using the methods described above you get: 58% Iteration to 42% Shiny… Exactly what I read the CSM’s recommended release balance to be.

Is it fair to consider the expansions together? Has CCP mixed up the recipe? Are they doing one expansion for vets and one for newbies? Am I talking out of my arse? Was CCP still trying to make it up to the Veteran players in Retribution for Incarna? Should we expect more New/Potential Player Expansions? All this and more, left for your too decided.

What do you think?

Fly like Disraeli,

Hark

Dust, no? yes? Dust?

So I’ve been playing Dust for a month now, and after my first impressions I thought it might be good to see how I felt after the honeymoon period was over. So here we are one month on, and still playing (and for the most part enjoying) Dust.

 

This is a real SP Cap

This is likely to run into a list of things I have found that I dislike, so I think it’s important that I emphasise that I am still enjoying the game. Very much. I believe I have managed to reach the Active SP cap on two out of the four  weeks I have been playing, and I don’t see that letting up very soon. If only my Raptr would track my playtime so I could actually tell you how much I have played. Anyway:

First issue which has become apparent is that I have noticed is a lack of close fought matches. It seems to be about a 50:50 chance of either giving a complete rotfl-stomp or taking it. I have had a few matches where the tides of war have waned back and forth between the two sides, with heated fights deciding the winner at the last second. But that’s pretty rare. Most of the time its 4/5 points caped for one team while the other gets camped at the spawn. I suspect that this is due to the bumrush attitude of Pub matches, but seeing as DUST outside of PC are all pub matches, that kinda sucks. The only other answer I can find as too why is that the random team picker maybe ends up picking one team with far better gear than the other, certainly when losing I seem to see far more Duvole TAC rifles (but then I spend more time looking at kill cards during those matches). Whatever the reason, it’s really sucks. A good battle is one that’s fought hard for, and one which you feel you contributed towards.

Fancy a match in the Pub?

Fancy a match in the Pub?

I’m gona take a second to go back to the whole “Tiered investment” thing here. I know I harped on about it in my first post, but honestly it’s still a big issue with the game for me. I just feel like I either have to sit in the kiddie pool of Pub matches (and FW is still just another Pub match), or throw my lot in with a PC match corp, for which I really don’t have the time. I was lucky enough to take part in a CCP dev conversation on IRC in which FoxFour was discussing the topic. He hinted that FW was about to get a lot harder (and with more rewards to compensate). I don’t know what the plans are but they can’t come soon enough. Ideally we need something where a corp (or individual) can take risks in order to earn money, this is after all what the eve universe is all about.

I am enjoying the blend of earning both Passive and Active SP. It means that when I look at a suit, I can think, well using passive SP that’s going to take 5 days. But I can reduce that down to 3ish If I can gain a load of Active SP. My only worry is that the Active SP cap can kind of curb your enthusiasm. The one week were I hit the limit early, I stopped playing till the next Wednesday came around. Admittedly it was only two days later, and that was a busy week, so perhaps that was just coincidence.

That Segway’s nicely into the progressing in general, which is awesome. I love the feeling of unlocking a new suit and playing with what it can do. However I do wish that they had better visual differences between them. I’m not asking for completely unique models for every suit, but moving from a basic to a proto should give you some extra doodads or glowing bits on your suit. I am also a little bit worried that there is now no reason whatsoever to use the level 5 basic medium suits. If you have level 3 in the basic racial frame you can immediately start training the racial specialist frame, which not only has bonuses, but is also cheaper than the basics. You’d be silly to train level 5 Basic mediums suits rather than going directly for the level 3 proto specialist suit. (unless I missed something).

Clown Car

The new faction LAV

Currently there are only two things which cause me and distress when I die. The first is the “Death Taxi” or “Clown Car” mechanics, which means that I am constantly getting run over. Its fucking ridiculous to be honest. I am fed up of being either run over, or having to jog to the nearest cover to avoid some giggling idiot player padding his stats by running people over. Perhaps that’s unfair though, because running people over, while frustrating , is a fuck tonne (metric or imperial?) easier that using it as it was intended.  I’ll admit that I rage inside every time this gets me (if you couldn’t have guessed).

The second thing is something which most team based FPS’s have an issue with too at least some extent, but which I feel Dust has dealt with rather badly: snipers. Nobody likes being sniped. Unlike most CQB combat, there is a lack of feeling that you had a fighting chance, or of being able to fight back. In most games its acceptably dealt with, through a plethora of methods: BF3 for example requires headshots for instant kills and scopes giving the snipers position away. Dust however has none of these, and most of the time the first that goes through your head when you know there is a sniper around, is his bullet. Worst of all, because when you die the HUD is instantly faded, greyed out and put at a funny angle, the damage direction indicator, more often than not, doesn’t tell you jack, meaning you have literally no idea in which direction to exact your revenge. This means that the feeling of inability to fight back is extended even further than normal, resulting in frustration.

Last but not least, are a couple of minor things which could be tweaked to polish the game that little bit more. Specifically the horrid radial menu and squad command system. As a squad leader, I want to be able to quickly and easily give commands to my squad, so that they can work and move together as a team. Instead I have to hold one button, press another, throw the mouse around the desk until it remembers what a Diagonal is, then snipe the objective I want to place the order on. Oh and even if I manage all of that, I will generally find that I can’t even give the order, because it seems to require directly line of site to the objective (which will be hidden until your onto of it anyway). I’m sorry, but that’s crap. On the subject of poor controls; why can’t I say I want an orbital strike here *points*, rather than opening up a menu which takes 20 seconds to load and manipulating it to tell the game where 20 foot in front of me is? And why pray tell does the score sheet take about 30 seconds to load and unload? Like I said, all minor niggles.

Is that a new heavy suit?

Is that a new heavy suit?

Ok so that last bit was a little bit of a rant for minor things… But the problem is that it’s hard not to get passionate about this game. As an extension of the eve universe its already very deep and interesting, but even forgetting the link to eve, it has an awful lot of potential to be a truly ground breaking game, which refreshes a genre. It just needs some more polish before we get there. I think I am starting to view Dust as a Juganaught, this thing as a lot of potential to be an amazing game, and if you look past the niggles and issues above, it is already quite good. But its going to take a long time for it to get up to its full speed. Once it does though, it’s going to be unstoppable.

 

Walk safe,

 

Hark

The Skill Dilemma

Seeing as there have been a lot of people looking longingly at their skill queue these last 18 or so hours, I figure it’s a good time to post some thoughts on the training system. For a note to all of those talking about re-imbursements, Poetic does make a very good point about what to expect. Besides, you should all stop complaining, I was on a gate, engaged in a fight when the servers went offline… I doubt CCP is going to reimburse me for my soon to be inevitable loss! Because these downtime is not due to errors, I do wonder if CCP might take advantage and release Odyssey early, after all downtime is downtime right? Anyway, on with the original post.

 

The skill system, is harsh mistress to us capsulars. I can remember as a new player, how over whelming the skill sheet can be; so many skills which you don’t understand, so many ships you want to fly, and so many things your friends say you should train for. When you first start eve the skill queue is like a wall to climb, a barrier between you and the ship of your dreams. So you pick a target, set a straight line, and run for it. Forgetting all the nice to haves, and even some of what people tell you is essential, all go sit your ship quicker.

Rokh

A stack of Rokhs waiting to go on the market

 
For me it was the Rokh. Even though back then, it was only able to field 4 missiles (I was a missile only Caldari like so many before me), I loved a tanky ship, and it doesn’t get much tankier than a Rokh. I didn’t care that with my skills it would have the DPS of a limp slap. I wanted to get one fast, and the skill queue set a strait path towards it. That’s what the skill queue is to a new player, something to rush up. And as you zoom towards your chosen role, you, as I did, miss things. T2 weapons aren’t essential are they? Who needs tech II drones of every race? Level 4 shield resists are high enough right? I can fit what I need with only minor fittings skills so sod em’.

Then you get the big things you want and the skill tree changes its nature a bit. You’ve hit the mid game and you start to look back, and you realise that the wall you have scaled isn’t actually complete. There are some pretty huge holes in it. But there are still goals upwards, still things on the horizon you want so bad. Capitals look amazing, and the other races would be cool, so you could fly  in fleets with your alliance. So you keep climbing onwards towards the bigger goals, but now you take more care, and you don’t rush for ships like you used to. During this period, you might even go back and fill in some of the glaring holes in your wall, just because you have to justify some of the bigger more expensive ships you have or want.

Then, at last, you hit the big time, everything you really wanted is trained, all the races, all the T2’s and a few capitals of course. The skill queue changes its nature once more, it’s not a wall to be climbed, it’s a wall to be painted and patched. So far your rapid accent has left only a few upward strips, so it’s time to go back and fill the rest in. You double down and go back to getting the basics you guiltily knew you should have gotten during the first accent.

DSCN2842

Totaly my skill tree

 
The final stage is what I am looking at crossing into now. All the holes are plugged, and the wall is looking pretty damn solid. All that I have left in front of me is decorating it will a little splash here and there. Sure there are a few ships left to unlock, but none which I can see me flying anytime soon. I’m having to start to think about capping off to level 5’s because there is just no new goals to train towards any more. I suspect I am going to have to set my own goals now, looking at ascertaining “perfect” tanking, or “perfect” gunnery, that’s going to be a long project though.

That’s not to say I am losing interest in the skill queue any more. Far from it, I have enjoyed every stage of the skill game so far, and I expect I will enjoy this next stage just as much. It’s just a sad passing for me now that nothing has that fresh ship feel any more. At this stage in the game the furthest I am from a ship (excluding titans, in which I have 0 interest) is around 60d and that’s just because I would need to train a lot of leadership skills prior to embarking. I’m missing BLOPs, but that’s 7d, I’m missing Marauders, but that’s 6d… even The last carrier I can’t fly is only 38d away (but that will reduce to 9d as of the 4th).

It’s kind of sad that there is no new ship class on the horizon for me, but really I wouldn’t trade my position for anything. There are still plenty of ships I have skilled and never flown, so I am content just enjoying the freedom of having the SP to do whatever I want.

But here is what this whole post comes down to. A message to newer players: I won’t give you the same advice that no doubt everyone around you has given since day one. I won’t tell you to train T2 before you go up a ship class, or to train fitting/core skills before rushing to battleships. I never followed it, and I suspect, nor will you. Here is what I will advise though. Enjoy the progression. Enjoy the rush of finally getting in a new ship, because that will dry up one day. Make sure you make the most of whatever part of the skill game you are in at the moment.

 

Fly like a bitter vet,

 

Hark