Sunday, 2 November 2008

A bit of an essay...

Three things happened this weekend that led to this post:
- a short conversation with someone about the fact that neither of us ever updated our blogs;
- a conversation with someone over the pricing of a tech 2 BPO; and
- a thread on the EVE University forums that had a side-discussion over whether it would be right or not to move all level 4 missions to low sec.

As a result, I'm going to write a fairly long post that resolves point 1 for the short-term, addresses my thoughts on playing styles and shares point 2 and also gives my own view on point 3. Not necessarily in that order. ;)

Apologies in advance for my long and rambling style. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the viewpoint I raise on playing styles - I care less about the specific issue addressed...I use it mainly to show how my viewpoint is applied to an issue.

Risk vs Reward

Any discussion about changes in EVE usually comes down to people arguing over risk vs reward. I've used the argument myself in the past. However, it leads to rather "vigorous" discussions that usually don't go anywhere.

The better discussions I have seen move on from there to considering whether people are "risk-averse" or "risk-seeking". Usually in the context of the chance that your ship gets blown up. :)

However, I think that this is a red herring.

My own view is that when considering making changes to the game, the most important thing is to bear in mind people's different "playing styles" (for want of a better description).

This stems from remembering that this is a game that we are playing and that actually risk and reward, profit, isk, PvP, mining, missions, exploring, travelling to luminaire to see the caldari titan, are all done with one aim - enjoyment.

Narrowing down decisions on which approach is better to a concept such a risk vs reward is, quite frankly, a load of rubbish.

Playing style

I'll give you an example of what I mean using a non-PvP vs PvE analogy by sharing a conversation I had with someone the other day concerning the pricing of a tech 2 BPO.

For one reason or another, I was in the public Blueprint channel (Anyone want to buy a 10-run Onyx BPC, drop me a line *grin*) in-game and someone was trying to sell a tech 2 missile blueprint for 2.5bil isk.

General comments were being made by some people regarding the price being way too much. Tech 2 BPOs are shiny, but they are not all isk-printing machines.

I figured I'd have a look at the cost of producing the missiles and compare them to their market average to see how profitable it might be (numbers are illustrative, but you'll get the idea):
- the missiles cost 70isk per missile to produce
- the average price of the missiles is 40isk and there are loads for sale at Jita

So, I can buy all the missiles I like in Jita at a lot less than the cost of building them. To my mind, there is no profit from production.

I dropped the guy an evemail pointing this out and also pointing out that I could see situations where it might be strategically advantageous for an alliance or corporation to hold the BPO to produce ammo for themselves at locations away from Jita. However, how is the price arrived at from a commercial point of view?

I wasn't arguing against his setting the price but I was interested in understanding how the high value was arrived at.

As it happens, the guy convoed me and we had a good chat.

It turns out that at the location that the guy is producing, he produces from his own components as he has a nice corporation setup. At that location, he can sell the missiles at a higher price, let's say 150 per unit.

Now, you could argue that you could buy the missiles in Jita and haul them and sell them and make more profit. If you are trying to maximise return, looking at it from a purely economic viewpoint, that is what you would do.

However, he is playing a game and he doesn't enjoy hauling or travelling to Jita (well, who does?). He's in it for the fun of producing items and the blueprint allows him to do this at profit.

While you might argue that it is actually a trade profit he is making, it doesn't matter. Profit is being made and the blueprint permits this activity for him as he would not otherwise be doing the hauling and reselling.

The important thing here is that it is the way that he plays the game and wants to play the game that dictates his actions, not a strict market decision. Looked at another way, in the game of EVE, enjoyment is an important economic commodity.

It was an interesting conversation and I am glad he took the time out to chat to me as it made me think about the way that I approach the game and also ponder a lot more issues in a different light.

My argument, or I guess my point of view, is that when considering any change in EVE, the important thing to think about is that people have different playing styles.

I think we ought to be considering changes more often from the point of view of what is needed to make the game more fun, rather than arguing against other people's playing styles in favour of our own. As a net effect, we ought to be looking at how a potential change affects different groups' enjoyment of the game, not focussing on specific elements of measure as justification for the change in our favour.

An example, the lvl 4 missions to low-sec debate

This was a side discussion on the EVE Uni forums (probably still is!) and it piqued my interest, particularly since those posting were people who I respect and their views were well thought out and set out.

To summarise the discussion briefly as it stoood last time I checked (in no particular order).

- EVE is a PvP game and there ought to be a risk in earning isk
- Lvl 4s were not supposed to be solo missions, they were supposed to be group missions when they were introduced, so the current game mechanic is broken
- High sec missions are being farmed for isk
- If lvl 4 agents are moved, people will choose either to take the hit in their wallets or move to low sec
- Bringing more people into low sec is needed as low sec is very underpopulated

- People should not be forced to PvP when they don't want to
- A PvE fit is not going to be any good for PvP, so a move to low sec doesn't encourage PvP, it increases targets
- If you are going to argue Risk vs Reward, you are discounting trading, which is entirely risk free and a lot more profitable
- I don't want to go to low sec to do something I enjoy already

There were a lot more points made, but the above illustrates enough for now.

The point I'd make is, people are putting forward good, well thought out arguments on that forum. You can see their indvidual viewpoints in the thread and it's a good, friendly discussion. However, more often that not, they are looking at an arbitrary measure that is important to them to make their point.

Now, as far as I see it, there are actually two conflicting playing styles commenting on the potential change (with shades of grey between)with a view to how it affects them.
- there are people for whom PvP combat is enjoyable and to get the most out of the game, they need the opportunity to fight; and
- there are people for whom running missions is enjoyable, either enjoyment from running the missions themselves or because they are aiming to earn lots of isk.

Remember that people do various things in the game but the aim is enjoyment.

But, what about the problems raised by the individuals? Well, so far as I see it, there are potentially four issues raised in the discussion that may need to be addressed:
- there is a wish to get more people into low sec, to increase the enjoyment of those whose playing style dictates they live in low sec;
- there is a wish to make use of low sec as a location for people to play in, as it is currently under-used;
- there is a wish to address the potential for people to farm lvl4 missions for isk; and
- the original intention was to introduce lvl 4s for group missioning, not as a solo endeavour.

So, if you ask me where I stand on the issue of moving level 4 missions to low sec, I'd say it potentially addresses all of the issues set out above but it does by adversely affecting the playing style of one group of people in favour of another group - and in my opinion the adverse effect is too great to justify it.

However, I'd also go one stage further and say that, if those issues need to be addressed, then is there a way they can be addressed that deals with them but doesn't discriminate against a particular style of play as much in favour of another?

Off the top of my head:
- Introduce something to low sec that might attract people looking for a bit of enjoyment down into low sec but do it in a manner in which they are going to be prepared properly for PvP. How about introducing a "new breed" of low-sec lvl 4 agent that gives a different style of mission for which a PvP fitting is appropriate. It doesn't force people to play the game in a different manner, it introduces the possibility of a new style of play - and it gets more people down into low-sec.
- Introduce a diminishing return over time to high sec missions on a player by player basis. For example, reduce the mission reward and bounties for the rats based on how many missions a player has run that day. This could be done in such a way that casual mission runners (which haven't been identified as a problem as yet) are not affected, but farmers (who have been identified as an problem) are.
- I think the introduction of lvl 5 missions has addressed the wish for a lvl of mission that needs cooperation to complete and with the new more powerful ships in-game these days, the fact that lvl 4s are soloable may not have been an intention but isn't a problem as long as farming potential is addressed.

Now, you can debate these and I haven't thought through the details - I don't really want to, to be honest.

My point is that I think it's more important to decide on what the problems are from all viewpoints and then address them from the point of view of enhancing game enjoyment for as many people as possible, bearing in mind individual playing styles, rather than use an arbitrary measure to decide if one idea is good or not.

After all, we are here to play a game.

Hopefully the above isn't too rambling - without seeing it printed out, I'm not sure if I've set out my point in as clear a manner as I might and I will think through and perhaps edit this post later if I feel it is needed.

Anyway - I was overdue a post on my blog and this is it. :)

All the best


Sunday, 26 October 2008

A short update

Seems like ages since I last posted - probably because it has been!

Work has been doing its level best to kill me under a pile of reports and calculations - luckily I have next week off! \o/

It will give me a chance to write a much promised short guide for EVE University on how to prepare for and give EVE University classes, aimed at new instructors there. It might also give me the opportunity to log into EVE and actually kills something. :)

I've been recently added to the EVe Online blogroll so apologies to everyone who has followed that link looking for exciting insight.

Time for me to go and hunt down food and also to think of something content-full to post next time. Please don't hold your collective breath - I don't want the resulting massacre on my conscience.

All the best


Saturday, 6 September 2008

Eve University forges forth

Exec summary:
- EVE University under Dee appears to be going well.
- Guide is progressing very slowly.
- Watch out EVE, I may return to active status in a month or so.

Longer rambling version: ;)

It's been ages since I last added to this blog - the main reason being that, having left EVE University, I am on a break from the game. However, I'm not on a break fro the IVY League forums! :)

EVE University entered a new period of leadership a few months ago with Dee Carson taking over as Exec Director. I don't think morning Maniac could have chosen a better person, to be honest. Dee's guidance in debates and the way he is taking the Uni is great. He seems to have a great balance when it comes to managing the information passed to the membership and is more openly organised in his communications. Anyone who's not read the SitRep he wrote, ought to.

As for me, well I am starting to get tempted back to EVE at the moment.

I am particularly tempted by exploration and stepping back into invention. I need to get my exploration skills up though, so I might delay my return while I train things like Astrometric pinpointing. I don't think I am ever going to have time to play EVE as much as I have in the past though. I am slightly tempted to find a partner to start up a production corporation in Korsiki with a high sec POS, but then again I am not sure I have the time - we'll see.

Oh, and for those who read this blog and are wondering where my production guide has gone - I am still writing it, but very slowly! I've drafted the first chapter and have now put it aside while I focus on actuarial professional exams coming up in a couple of weeks' time.

All the best


Sunday, 6 April 2008

The industry guide unfolds

So, my professional exam is a little over a week away - clearly the best thing to do is to start structuring a production guide, right? :)

Someone posted a comment on something I said on our forums in response to a very broad career path for a producer I posted that suggested there might be a use for a guide along those lines in the guides section of our forums.

Everyone seems to focus on the "you need this skill to do this" bit etc, without focusing on the "if you are looking into getting into production, this is how you might go about it and this is how to get deeper into it..." side of things. It is all well and good to have a list of skills needed to do tech 2 invention but when those skills are going to take you months to train and an astronomical (to a beginning player) amount of isk, you'd be forgiven for sitting there thinking "Well, I'll never achieve that and what's it worth to me when I do?"

The fact is that the production side of EVE isn't all that time intensive. It is very asset intensive and you do need a reasonable number of skills if you intend to get into research and invention. However you basically set a job going, wait for it to complete, collect the good and sell it. Easy, right?

Well, I'd probably argue that if you are going to get into production for profit, you need to research your goods, diversify your offering and be prepared to make 10%-30% on good production deals. Your real isk-maker may well be what you do while you aren't tending production jobs, which could be mission running, mining, trading, ratting... you get the idea.

The production side of EVE is fun to explore. There is something fun about building stuff, producing and marketing goods and doing the research needed to turn a profit. I intend my guide to set out a path to delve into production and highlight the obvious skills and facts along the way.

So, what's the plan?

Well, I was thinking of thinking of production as a career path. Something along the lines of:

  • Starting production - personal ammo and those first few steps into production for profit
  • Building up a BPO portfolio and production skills, diversifying your options
  • Stepping out into research and setting up a research POS
  • Getting into Invention
The guide should cover tactics of choosing products, choices you might make, with insets covering details of the skills and information on the anatomy of a blueprint etc.

I want the career path to be the driving force behind the guide and to hang the essential production facts onto it.

Anyway, thoughts and suggestions are welcome - please post comments of anything you'd like covered or what you think of my idea.

I am sure I'll post clippits and more info on my blog. I intend to take my time producing it and will no doubt rope people in to proof-read it. I remember doing something along those lines for Dee Carson when he was writing his mining guide so perhaps I'll see if he would mind returning the favour. (Dee, you have been warned! *grin*)

Until then, EVE University is at war, so good luck to all fighting.

All the best


Sunday, 23 March 2008

An old grizzled grumpy EVE veteran

I realised recently that I need to readjust my approach to the EVE University forums. Why? Well, I'll explain.

I have been making posts quite frequently (still pretty inactive in-game but enjoying the social aspect of the forums) aiming to be helpful and to provide information. I stand by everything I have posted but I realised that recently these have tended to focus more on the problems with other people's ideas.

I need to be much more positive. I ought to be posting helpful suggestions and encouraging people to explore the game I have enjoyed so much for the last 5 years. The thing that attracted me to EVE, and has kept me in its thrall, is the massive sandbox to sit and play in.

So, that's my resolution going forwards. To continue to get the information and views I hold across but to do so in a positive manner so I stop sounding like I am talking from the point of view of someone who has been there and done it all. I have been there and done everything I wanted to and do have a lot to share, but it is by no means all there is to know.

I am also thinking of writing a guide to production. It'll have to be after my exams but I'd like to do a guide that contains the usual "this is a blueprint", "these are the skills" but as sidenotes while it explains how to get into production. What to look for in terms of goods for sale, how your skills might progress and how you might go about building up a production side to your character. basically, something that isn't quite as dry and factual as I have seen to date.

Anyway, something to work on. :)


Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Kassie was right

So - long time since I last posted and let's just say that Kassie was right - you never really leave EVE University. :)

I am back in the corp after a few months break when I ran my own small manufacturing corporation.

I am currently taking a break from the game - it has been hard to be totally inactive (and I haven't managed yet, although a week's absence etc is probably going to be the norm) - I get on well with the people and it is nice to drop by a chat and help out a bit. I am not actively playing the game but the big shiny chat client and the community are harder to put down. Current skill plan is very long skills for a bit.

I think my first blog back ought to look at what I have done.

I decided in the end to try manufacturing. I restarted M.A.D. and with a pile of blueprints I have (I tend to be a bit of a collector in games and have 450 or so blueprint originals) I set about doing some copies and selling tech 1 goods.

The first thing that struck me was how much profit could be made from selling tech 1 goods. It isn't as profitable as trading but with careful stock selection I was able to make roughly 10% profit above the cost I could sell the minerals for by putting them up on sell orders (not fulfilling existing buy orders). Some items sold better than other and a wide spread of goods with some ships and cruisers (I built one battecruiser but otherwise stuck to smaller stuff) kept the isk rolling in. It was only a small operation and I bought all my minerals but it was turning 30-50mil profit per week. Which isn't bad for something that doesn't require much work and I wasn't building intensively.

I've always wanted to get into invention to see what it was like. I see it as a nice progression on the career path of a producer:

  • you start off with a few blueprints and PE4, doing small bits of ammo and perhaps a cruiser or two
  • you build up your blueprint collection and get PE trained to 5 and other skills, such as mass production trained, and train the research skills
  • you set up a POS to research your own blueprints, training up the research skills, expanding the blueprint collection further
  • you use the POS to make copies and use those in invention, starting to produce tech 2 goods

All the time, a producer will be mining or running missions, as production is very much a side-career I think.

So, I got into invention. I started off with modules as they have a higher success rate, the BPCs are easier to get hold of and they are actually more profitable.

My first success was an Invuln II BPC. There is something fun about Invention with it's chance of success. I went on to cover a wide range of caldari Tech 2 goods and it increased my income nicely.

The approach to producing Tech 2 modules is the same as for Tech 1 really - pick the items well to guarantee a profit, have a wide range of goods to get a good volume of sales and don't forget to build in your invention costs into the pricing!

I made perhaps 20-30% on average build profit on tech 2 modules and they helped solve the problem you face with tech 1, where it is the turnover of sales rather than the profit margin that limits earning capacity. Tech 2 modules sell for higher values and further diversify your market to those interested in tech 2 and not tech 1 goods. I was making perhaps 200mil per week with minimal activity.

I did try ships - I got luck and got 2 10-run Onyx BPCs and a 10-run Cerberus BPC. However ship profit is not great - perhaps 10% to 20% and you need something like 20 days to build 10 Onyx for something like a 150mil profit (ie not great). For a small operation like mine it wouldn;t have been an option. For a larger more intensive operation, they'd further add to the capacity to generate return.

So - that was me and production. I enjoyed it and am glad I tried it.

Why did I rejoin EVE Uni?

Well, I had experienced invention and it was curiosity more than anything that led me into it, not the isk. (I don't have a lot of cash in my wallet - perhaps just shy of 1bil isk- but then I don't play for isk and, if I did, I would be trading.) Real life has been hellishly busy with work running riot so I decided a break was called for and after loggin on occassionaly to skill train, I decided I missed my old corpmates and would rather have people to chat to when I was on.

Will I come back to active play?

Not sure yet. For now, I am pretty active on EVE University's forums during lunch hours and when I need a break from the evening slog.

I don't think I will ever really escape EVE Uni (I even bought an IVY League t-shirt designed by Kel as the picture shows) but then the people there are good friends and make the game special in so many ways.

I'll no doubt post more musings in the next few days and will try and make this more frequent.