Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Late to the Party

I'm back from my vacation with my wife, and ready to get blogging again.  The internet at our resort was fairly bad, so I had difficulty just checking my PMs and director forums, let alone trying to blog.

I know its old news by now, but one of the best things I saw when I came back was the news about learning skills.  In E-UNI, I've constantly seen how new players are encouraged to do learning skills early.  A lot of older players, myself included, would try to reinforce that they should concentrate more on skills that will make the game more fun in the beginning, but human nature would always win.  People who play videogames will often go for the min/max approach, and this trait, combined with learning skills, would lead to a poorer new player experience.

CCP's plan to remove learning skills isn't perfect, but it is a great plan.  Some of my chars (older) have had the skills long enough to almost pay it off (except for some of the adv learnings to V), so those bonus SP are extra.  Others of mine, because of younger age or not training the adv to V until further into their life cycle, haven't had a chance to pay off the SP invested in learnings, so the extra reimbursement is very nice.

The plan of reimbursing skillbooks in hangars is also nice, as E-UNI would take a hit if those skillbooks just disappeared on the patch day, as would a lot of older players I know that have some in their hangar to hand out to new students. 

Yes, min/maxers won't be able to get quite as high of an sp/hour value, but I consider that slight decrease well worth the benefit to new players and EVE as a whole.  I've heard a lot of people complain that this is dumbing down EVE, but I really don't see it.  EVEMON told people exactly which learning skills to train to maximize their time in a plan, and its almost impossible to be a new player and not get advice about learning skills. There was no real thought about it.  It was just "If I plan on being in game for x years, train y."  The slight lose of complexity is vastly overshadowed by a more new player friendly plan, removal of a pointless and flawed mechanic, and removing skills that were some of the least fun skills in the game to train.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Away for a Bit

I'm going to be heading out of town with the Wife this weekend for our honeymoon, and won't be back for a week.  That means I will probably not be checking into EVE (at least not much), and will only be checking forums and evemails once a day or so.

BYOM and refining will not be operating during this time period. If you drop a container for me to process, it will not occur until I get back.

The blog will probably not see many updates :(

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Noctis- What to do once we have the BPO

The Uni is planning to acquire a Noctis BPO to make available to our students. Despite what students may think, the biggest concern is not acquiring the BPO, but coming up with a fair distribution of how to allocate the BPO once we have it.

Once we do get the BPO, I may put it into research, at least for a few levels of ME. If I do or not will depend on the pricing structure we're using to distribute the new ships. Let me explain several different suggestions that have been given to the Uni for how to use the Noctis, and what I feel are the pros and cons of some of the approaches.

1. BYOM:  This approach would involve putting the BPO in for the BYOM program.  Here, students bring us the required minerals, and we build them a ship. Any student would be allowed to produce the Noctis for mineral costs. It would keep the ship very affordable for Uni students, even when it is brand new. However, we have some downfalls. First, students will be getting it for significantly below market prices. 

Why is this a bad thing, you may ask.  If the Uni is giving Noctis away that cheap, students will have a huge incentive to sell it on the market at the drastically inflated prices people will be paying for the first few weeks or days. A lot of students wouldn't actually be using it for their own use, so its the equivalent of the Uni just donating the price difference (at least tens of millions per ship) to the students.  If the Uni had just sold to the market themselves, and cut out the student middleman, then the money could be applied to uni programs.

Secondly, and compounding the first problem, is that demand at these low prices will be MUCH higher than supply.  How can the Uni fairly determine who gets the first few ships, and who won't get their request filled for weeks later? This could cause a lot of drama and accusations of favoritism, especially as the first people will make huge profits reselling, while later people will not make nearly as much.

2. PYOS: This option involves using the PYOS program, where students just buy the ships at mineral prices plus a few percent. It saves the effort of gathering minerals, but has all of the same problems as the BYOM option.

3. The Auction:  This is the approach I personally favor, where any Noctis we produce will be set up on contract in the Uni to auction to the highest bidder.  This has the advantage of keeping it within the Uni, and at a more market drive price (but probably a bit lower than the price in Jita, considering the Uni demographics).

However, the higher prices also mean that the first Noctis will go to the richer Uni students.  Conversely, those richer students will drive up prices for the Noctis by bidding against each other, and reduce the obscene profits that they would make under the other options.  However, this does open up the Uni to the charge that it's exploiting its students.  I don't really understand how we can exploit people by offering them things at market prices, but I can guarantee some student or outside person will make a drama filled post complaining about it.

4. Taxes:  The last option I've had proposed to me is to do a review of the wallet, figure out which students have contributed the most in taxes over the last x weeks, and give them first chance to buy the noctis at mineral cost.  While it does reward the mission runners in the Uni, it also seems to imply that we value their contributions more than PVPers, traders, or wormhole raiders, which we don't. I'm not a big fan of this approach.

5. Auction: Simply do an auction for the first 10 Noctis off the production run, at a profit to the Uni, but not what we would get selling to market.  I also like this idea, as it does make it accessible to new students, as well as removing some possibility for drama.

6. Sell on Public Market: Just sell it at the local market hubs at market prices, and use the isk to fund Uni programs.  Students don't get a Noctis for cheap, but the Uni as a whole may benefit from our increased revenue being used to fund some nice new projects.

7. Not bother. The last option is to just say that its too much headache, and doesn't really benefit the Uni enough as a whole to make it worthwhile.  We'll just get a Noctis print at a later point of time when it is a more reasonably priced ship, and treat it like all our other blueprints (BYOM and PYOS).

What do you think? How do you feel the Uni should distribute the Noctis?  What would you do if it was your decision?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Artificial market hub

In an effort to help encourage Uni students to try some more t2 frigs, instead of just trying to work their way up to cruisers/BCs/BS as quick as possible, I have transported a lot of t2 frigs to aldrat and listed them for sale.

So far, I have listed all the interceptors, and all cov-ops (except for the helios) at the equivalent price of the nearest market hub.  If this works, I will begin transporting other T2 frigs (probably SBs and AFs) in similiar quantities, and some popular t2 mods (Tank mods, Tackle Mods, Damage increase mods, AB/MWD), along with small faction ammo.

To head off possible complaints:
-I cannot list them below market hub price, as people would just buy them, move them to the hub, and resell
-I refuse to do 100+ contracts to offer then under market price within the Uni.  That just isn't time efficient.

Anything anyone else would like me to consider moving to aldrat for sale?  This isn't exactly a huge moneymaker, but it might help Uni students, especially during wartime.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Importance of Patience

One of the biggest problems I see new students make in the Uni is to rush into new ships.  I see players that want to get to cruisers as quick as possible, as as soon as they touch cruiser, they're already rushing for battleships.  Now, in PVE, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.  PVE typically requires much less in the way of skills than PVP, and newer people can pull off L3 or L4 missions without great skills.

PVP, however, can be an entirely different beast.

PVP is one place where you want to be able to get the best out of your ship, as you know your opponent will be doing the same.  You won't be fighting against rather stupid AI, but against players who want to win, and will do everything they can in order to win.  As an example, here are some stats from my standard Thorax (t1 cruiser- unrigged) fit.

My thorax is entirely gank oriented, with 640 dps (without implants or heat), 12.5k EHP, and a top speed of  1400 m/s.  The range is 2.3+6.3 with antimatter. It has a web and scram as well.

If I fit a thorax with 3s in most of the skills, a massive change occurs.  I have to downgrade several modules, and end up with a fit that only does 260 dps, 10k EHP, and a top speed of 1230 m/s.  The range is 1.6+4.3.

The extra skills make a HUGE difference.  Now, I don't expect people PVPing in a cruiser to have the same skills I do (Cruiser V and AWU V definately aren't must-haves), but this example should show how skills can drastically change the performance of a similiarly fit PVP ship.  Students who rush into the cruiser without those supporting skills will often have a poorly fitted, poorly performing cruiser, where their FC might have preferred them in a medium fit, medium performing frigate instead.  Additionally, losing the frigate is a much cheaper learning experience than losing the cruisers.

In a perfect world, I'd like to see the general PVP pilot  (ewar is a slightly different thing) spend a few months at least doing nothing but frigate PVP before trying cruisers, and a few months doing cruisers before ever stepping into a BS.  PVP is a lot more fun if you're really flying a ship well and learning how to use it, instead of just trying to rush to the next thing too fast. Frigates are very fun to fly, and people miss out by not spending enough time in them.

I would recommend that someone have 3/4s in common supports, a 4 in the ship skill, with a handful 5s in important supports that deal with their ship before really doing PVP in a cruiser regularly.  For BS, I recommend 4/5s in supports.  Frigs can be a lot of fun with almost no skills, but are also great fun with massive support skills. This works out to roughly a few months in-game before Cruiser PVP, and 6-8 months before BS PVP. Obviously, this would change depending on if you've trained non-pvp related skills, etc...

Disclaimer: I'm not saying that students have to wait till they have 2m, 5m, or 10m SP before PVPing.  People should always be willing to grab a frigate and go pew pew, even with <200k SP.  They just should rush to bigger ships without the support skills. The game is much more fun when you aren't losing 10m worth of cruiser fits that you really can't perform well in.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

PVP In the Uni

My last post talked about how I think the University should focus more on offering pvp gangs that have set skill or ship requirements.  Here are some examples of what I'd like to see:

RR BS gangs


Agony style hydra frigate ganges (very low requirements)

AHAC /logi


Blackops/SB (We've done these in the past with great success)

Heavier small gangs for wormholes, not 1 BS, 1 BC, 5 cruisers, and 17 frigates.

Each of these gangs exposes players to a type of PVP that they may see outside of the Uni, and helps gain skills that normally wouldn't be focused on. 

Now, its easy to say what we need, but its hard to actually put it in place.  With our demographic, we can't manage a lot of these on the fly.  It just isn't possible.  However, we could easily dedicate a week for a specific type of gang, and announce it ahead of time to get people prepared.  For example, we could say that Dec 5-11th will be drake gangs (yay for FOTM), Dec 12-18 is RR BS, and Dec 19-25 is Blackops/SB gangs.  This gives people advance notice to get ships available and ready for pvp, and lets prospective FCs know that during those weeks that can take out a regular style Uni gang, or try the specialized gang of the week. 

Of course, it wouldn't be required to take out that type of gang, but it would let FCs know that people will have ships ready for that type of gang if they want to try it.

If properly done, this could be coordinate with classes to be offered the week before, so we may have a class on Friday on Agony style hydra frigate gangs, with the following Sunday-Saturday set aside as a time for people to practice and share their knowledge with the rest of the University.

Any thoughts? What type of specialized fleets would you like to see? Do you feel this is an effective way to look into organizing our instruction and PVP?

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Inclusive Atmosphere

The university is known for having a very inclusive atmosphere when it comes to forming fleets for pvp.  When we call for a fleet, we'll get x's from players ranging from 1 week old to 3 years.  This is great for our students, as it means that anyone can safely jump into PVP and learn whenever they want.  That 1 week student may have just set up an overview and gotten a free rifter and mods, but now they're off with a fleet to attack some low-sec pirates.

I love this aspect of the Uni. That we don't deny anyone access to PVP based on skills or experience. However, this atmosphere of inclusiveness also has a few downsides.  For example, since we tend to have a lot of low skilled players, we tend to steer them towards tackle frigates, as thats a good way for a low-skilled player to contribute to a fleet.  Unfortunately, this can sometimes create an impression that frigates should only be cheap disposable tackle ships, or that they are only suited for new players.  Frigates can be very powerful if used by experienced players in roles other than straight tackle, and thats an aspect of instruction that I feel we fall short on.  I'd like to see a more balanced approach to frigates, showing all that they can do, especially if multiple types are used in concert (see Agony basic classes).  I also would like to see more experienced tacklers in dedicated ships, like interceptors, HICS, or gallente recons.  Our older players tend to move out of tackle as they gain experience, instead of seeing that it can be a role for experienced players as well.

Additionally, our method of forming fleets limits what types of fleets we have.  While there is no rule against it, we rarely have ops with custom built fleets that use a certain tactic, probably because it would limit the number of students that can participate, and no one wants to do that.  However, I think its important for the Uni to have events where we form a strict RR BS fleet, or HACs with logi support, etc... Fleets that aren't suited for new players, but that let older players improve their skills, learn aspects of pvp that we don't normally teach, and share that knowledge with our students as they grow into those roles.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Trading - Can we remove the mystery?

Trading has always been good to me.  I've managed to make some significant money off trading, and have always recommended it as a great money maker for others.  However, most traders are very unwilling to share what items they are trading, for fear of destroying their own market.

Most successful market traders I know in the UNI are trading hundreds of millions or billions in items each day.  This is also a different beast than players just starting out and trying to learn how to trade.

To help new traders, I'd like to propose an idea for all the veteran traders out there.

1. Create an alt trader (could even be trial account)
2. Give that alt trader 20m (not a bad sum for a new player to raise through other means).
3. Actively trade for 1 week.
4. As you trade, take notes on which items you are trading, and why you chose that item.
5. Publish your results to the Eve forums.  List your transaction log for that alt for the week, along with your notes about why you chose the items you did.

This will give new players a unique insight into how beginning traders should approach the market.  Since it is on a significantly smaller scale that what you normally trade, the traded items will likely be very different. This means you can share your thinking and items without destroying your own markets. If several people do it, new students will be able to compare several different viewpoints on how to approach trading at low isk levels.

Do you think this is a decent idea? Who is willing to participate and share their alt's logs and items for a week? If the idea gets some following, we could even have trading contests where people use a new alt and a small amount of seed money, trade for a set amount of time, share market logs, and compare results. Best trader wins isk.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

People like talking about money?

Yesterday, people were joking in one of the Uni channels that the directors must be getting rich off of all the money we're making in taxes.  This led to an impromtu talk about how the Uni manages its finances, and how money is directed to projects.  Luckily, I'm the perfect person to give the talk, since I'm the guy in charge of managing our iskflow and generating a monthly budget report.  This is a somewhat involved process, as I use an api generated log to review each transaction and wallet journal entry and classify them into the appropriate categories.

I decided to use this blog post to briefly talk about some of the things I covered in that discussion.

What suprised me was that students had a wildly inflated view of how much isk the Uni makes from taxes.  To put it in perspective, we'd need students to do a total of 335 hours of level 4 missions at 20m/hr (from bounties and rewards, not salvage loot) in order to meet our bill just for the skillbook wallet program (almost 500m a month).  When you start adding in other programs, such as ship replacment or our hangars, the number of hours of mission running gets significantly larger. The Uni does not support that large of a number of people collecting 20m an hour in bounties. A lot of our students are still doing L1, L2, or L3 missions, with a decreasing number for each higher level.  While it only takes 335 hours of an experienced level 4 missioner to meet our costs for 1 single program, it would take tens of thousands of hours of l1 or l2 missioners. This just won't cover all our bills.

Our income for the University is only partly based on taxes.  Taxes are a somewhat predictable source of income, once you factor in what percentage of time we expect to be at war for a given month.  War heavy months are less income, but peaceful months are higher. Over the long term, it averages to be a more constant value.  Donations, however, are much more unpredictable.  Some months show huge amounts of donations, and others are almost nothing. But, we do depend on donations for a large part of our funding.  They help make up the difference that taxes can't cover alone.

Right now, the income/expenses of the University are fairly well balanced, and we are in a sound financial position that I anticipate will continue for some time.  I am highly conservative financially, and insure that the university always has a sufficient contigency fund for any emergencies that arise.

If you're interested in more information, or have specific questions, feel free to comment and ask them in this thread.
Also, the directors make no direct income from their position. I audit the transactions each month to see what corp cash is being applied to, and question any expenditures that aren't obviously tied to a program. I have yet to see any directors or managers appropriating funds since I took over this duty.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gambling can be fun

I have to admit, I was initially fairly wary about using Somer Blink

I was wrong.  This site was incredibly fun all weekend.  For those of you that haven't read about it, you transfer funds (isk) into your account.  Then, you can use those funds to bid in Blinks, which are fast paced lotteries.  Each one can be from 8-almost 60 tickets, and the ticket price can be from 70 isk (promos) to tens of millions.  The best part is, the lottos are usually over in minutes, and if you don't see the item you want up for grabs, you can start a blink and bid to get a chance to win that item.

Once you win an item, you can arrange to have it dropped at a hub, transported to a station you want, sent as straight isk to you in-game, or sent as credit to your blink account. 

I originally put in 500m, then dumped another 500m in a bit later.  However, that 500m won be a few recons, logistics, an archon, macherial, scorp navy issue, and a set of +4s in game.  The best part is, even if I hadn't won as much, I would have still had fun.