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Kevin's Thoughts!

Maybe you agree, maybe you don't… find out!

NeverWinter - the good and the neutral

In this post I thought I’d comment on the non-pay-to-win aspect of NeverWinter.

The good:

Great graphic detail.  You can actually look at the leave’s on the trees.  Yeah, within a few moments you will see the replication, but they are much actually better than most artificial Christmas trees I’ve seen.

The music sets the mood.  They have done great things with the music and sound track.  The sound affects remind me a LOT of those in The Secret World.

The quest are in-depth and chained, again much like those of The Secret World, which is nice.

Companions are nice.  Most MMORPGs have a class with pets, here it is for everyone.

The Neutral:

A few of the quest are grind quest, but not many.  They do make you run around a bit, which makes the mounts handy.

The dungeons are cool.  The first time I saw a spiral staircase I thought it was really special.  Alas, its a but “building block”.  Once you see the same spiral staircase a dozen times it loses it special trait.  In fact, the “building block” aspect of the dungeons tends to make them all start to feel the same, I actually wondered if they reused some early ones mid-game and simply populated them with different mobs.

One companion.  With two (or 3 or 4) one could run multi-player dungeons solo, which would be cool, but would be a game design change.

Instance matching.  Really mixed feelings about this one.  I tend to play solo most of the time, never having felt “friend groups” worked well.  In Aion I had a strong guild, and could often find players to run multi-player quest with.  Yeah, you tended to run with the same players all the time, until levels drifted due to different play schedules.  But you actually got to know some people.  With instance matching, us solo players can do the required multi-player quests, but the “team” only lasts until the quest is done.  Tera also does it this way (and I have a lot more experience over there with this).  It works, but it doesn’t build friendships, and those really make a game (I still play with Sophie, across a number of games, and we started out in Aion together).  Eve does an excellent job with this, where high level players can run with low levels to help them out, so friendships can grow over time.

End game:  Obviously haven’t made it to that point, but not clear if there really is one or what one would do.  In Tera, there is normal PVP (not voluntary controlled as in NeverWinter), and one can at least play with the idea of becoming a bad-ass good guy and picking on the PVPers.  Reality is bad-add bad-buys seldom run solo, so you would need a team of good guys to be effective.  This was one of the BEST features of Aion, until they tweaked it away with level buffs.  Eve, on the other hand, doesn’t have a practical end-game unless you plan on playing for 5+ years.  That is REALLY nice (and yeah, I’m starting to talk myself into going back to Eve if I get bored with Tera).

Character tuning:  Lots of character creation tweaks – hair style, color, finger nail length/foot width (really?!?!), etc.  Alas, an elf is always going to look like an elf with its big eyes.  Its almost like your can infinitely tweak your characteristics but the results all look the same.  Aion still wins 1st prize with this feature, even if the results do look like a porcelain doll.  At least its a recognizable porcelain doll – I had several that looked like FireFly actors (the quiet girl and profession to be specific).  Tera’s tunes are more lifelike, but lack the details that Aion had.  NeverWinter seems to be a blend of WOW and Aion, which is just weird.  Eve has virtually none, but there you spend most of your time looking at your spaceship, so it really doesn’t matter.

Outfits:  Tera wins by a slight lead over Aion.  Yeah, I’m still a guy, and I like to see sexy outfits. Deal with it.  Tera actually overdoes this a bit, the challenge becomes finding a nice middle – sexy does not mean skin.  I’m leaning towards the elf-mage dress combo as my favorite in Tera now.

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NeverWinter – a few days later

Posted by Kevin on June 18, 2013
Posted in Gaming  | No Comments yet, please leave one

NeverWinter - a few days later

Well… compliments of a variety of mishaps, like renters not showing, the end of work assignments, etc.  I’ve had a few solid (12 hourish) days to play this game.

Some of that time was spent with a friend, some spent surfing the web, but mostly I’ve been leveling my Control Wizard (aka – the mage).  I’ve been following the information in this post, since its appears to be one of the better ones:  http://guidescroll.com/2013/05/neverwinter-control-wizard-guide/

Since the servers are now down for maintenance, I thought I’d take a few minutes and post, a bit about game play, a bit more on “Free to Play”.

First, a teaser:  On a scale of 1 to 10, with Wartunes a 0 and Tera a 10, I’d give this game a 4.5 in regards to your ability to play for free (Eve gets a 8.5).  I’ve made some progress, my Mage is level 38 (of 60) now.

Second, a bit on the economy:

Zen – Perfect Worlds Inc universal real money unit.  $1 = 100 zen.  Bought on their website, then permanently transferred to a server.  A player bidding system exist to convert Zen to/from Diamonds.

Gold, Silver, Copper – earned from selling gear at merchants.  Useful for consumables like healing kits, potions, crafting supplies, etc.

Diamonds – used to buy companions, remove gems for reuse, and to buy things from the Exchange (more on the Exchange later).  Also used to buy Identification Scrolls (more on those in a bit too).

The biggest source for diamonds in the game are the dailys (2000 for running two PVP session, and similar payments for running skirmishes and group dungeons).  You can also make some crafting.

The Zen:Diamond ratio is running about 1:300, so 1M diamonds requires 3333 Zen, which would cost $33.33 (actually $50, since that is the next purchase tier up).  The biggest sink for diamonds in the game is removing gems from armor.  You can either throw the gems away when you sell a piece (player bound equipment is not tradeable) or retrieve them, or avoid the heartache and not use them.  e.g.  Don’t benefit from the extra stats and drag your toon down.   Its pretty clear that those that focus on PVP are using gems, which means they are either not saving up diamonds, or are spending Zen.

The Exchange – a place to offer up unwanted armor, weapons, etc.  An alternative to selling things at the market, but there is no real demand for most of the stuff, at least at my current level.  I have a few hundred diamonds a day from the Exchange, vs. many thousands from quests.

Identification Scrolls – you wouldn’t think of these as a main economy driver, but they are.  They drop fairly frequently, but not at the same rate unidentified equipment drops.  Merchant prices for unidentified equipment is about 1/10th that of ID’ed stuff.  So… spend diamonds on ID scrolls to make gold (or to be a bit selective on what you offer on the Exchange), or make less gold.

Third, where you might spend Zen (aka “Real Money”):

1)  Companions.  The sooner you get one, the sooner you can start leveling it.  Leveling takes time.  As mentioned in the previous post, I bought a tank for glass cannon.  At level 16 (where you get a free companion) I selected the cleric, and am very glad I did.  The cleric really helps in PVE and I find myself swapping him in for a few minutes whenever my health gets low.  My tank is leveling slowing and is currently level 17, while the cleric is maxed at 15.  Yes… the totally free companions max at level 15…  I have my eye on a cat, which is suppose to be the ultimate for a Wizard, but that cost close to 1M diamonds, which will take me a month or three to earn (at current rate of accumulation).  The cat, like my paid for tank, maxes its level at 30.  So… given that as a goal, I have a choice of earning the diamonds in-game, or using the Zen exchange to convert real money into diamonds.  Companions cost anywhere from 1500-3000 Zen, depending on what you want and any current sales ($15-$30).

2) Mounts:  A free one around level 20 that will increase your travel speed by 50%.  Not bad, although mounts are not used as much as you think – mostly they are handy at quest turn in times, or for running through the large cities.  However, Zen purchasable mounts will boost that speed up by 80% or 110%.  So whats a little time?  Well, its more than that… the Zen mounts also take more damage before your dismounted.  This is huge when running through areas you just don’t want to bother slaughtering your way though, and huge in PVP where you sometimes want to run past your opponents to get to their tower.  I believe the best mounts were 2000 zen ($20).

2) Inventory bags, Bank slots.  Yes you can play, at least to level 20 or so, without extra inventory bags.  After that, when you start getting socketed armor, your going to want to start savings gems (4 lowers can be fused into 1 better), and your going to need a place to save them.  The free bank is a teaser, with only 16 slots, it fills up fast.  You get a 2nd, small bag around level 10, which helps, but its just not enough.  The best bags cost 1000 zen ($10).

3) Resets.  As you play, you allocate points into your basic stats (Int, Cha, Wis, etc.), into Powers (basically skills – with limited flexibility – although the skill choices you make for which are active is important), and into Feats (think of them as passives – a lot of flexbility – really how you tune your character the way YOU want to play it).  Play for a few days and your probably going to want to reset for 400 zen ($4).  I view this one as totally acceptable.  Reasonably priced, and very useful.  The developers do have to eat after all.

4)  Zen -> Diamonds.  Weeks if not months of constrained play or spend another $50 to “enjoy” the game.  Easy choice if you have the $50… but I suspect you will spend hundreds if you start down this path.

5)  Crafting.  Crafting is different in Neverwinter.  Closest match I know of is skill training in Eve, with the requirement to gather some fairly easily obtained items.  Its a Real Time thing.  Now, here is the rub…  Want to level crafting?  Well, you spend 6 hours and get 50 leveling points… or you can buy a “bag of gems” (presumably with Zen) and get those points in 15 seconds.  BOO!!!!!

And then there is straight cash payments…

A “Founders Pack”, for $199.99, provides you access to a special race, the Drow, get a special spider mount, a fighting companion, some cosmetics, 2M diamonds, 3 extra character slots, a small bag, titles, priority access to the game if the servers are overloaded, etc.  All good stuff, but $200?!?!?  This reminds me SO much of Wartunes that I had to look… Yep.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_World_%28company%29 Its a Chinese company.  That explains it.  I’ve never seen a Chinese free-to-play that I thought was not money grubbing – they don’t care about their players, all they care about is the players cash.

Well… it was fun, but I think I’ll cut my losses.

Kevin

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NeverWinter - A Perfect World "Free-to-Play" game - Open Beta thoughts

Well… had a friend, Sophie, with whom I have gamed for years, suggest I check out NeverWinter.  This is the latest game from the makers of Perfect World.  Below are my thoughts after playing for something like 8 hours in the Open Beta (Production release is scheduled for 6/20/13).

First off, I highly suggest http://guides.gamepressure.com/neverwinter as a first read.  Its long, over 66 pages in length, but will give you a good overview of the game mechanics.  It is NOT a hint guide or walk-through however.

My initial thoughts on these type of games always focuses on the character creation panel.  As my readers know, I loved the character creation in Perfect World, which was surpassed by those in Aion (which to date still has the best modeling tool), had more lifelike but less control in Tera, and feels just a bit strange in NeverWinter.  One has a LOT of things to tweak, like finger nail length and hand width, but a female elf face is going to look like the same basic female elf face no matter what you do.  Yes, you can change hair styles, hair color within race specifics, etc. but the basic structure is pretty fixed.  I’d call it “good enough”, but found myself spending 10-15 minutes tweaking things instead of the hour+ I routinely spent in Aion.

Of course, more important is game play. The UI is a natural for any MMORPG player, with WASD movement and mouse control.  A bit odd is the use of the ALT key to toggle cursor control.  If you want to click on a control button, you need to tap ALT to do so, then tap it again to return to normal more.  The only other key related thing I struggled with until I accidentally figured it out was invoking the class specific “mechanic”.  Apparently this changed a bit during alpha and beta since various guides talk about using the Tab key, or double clicking the shift key.  Currently, you simply double click the WASD key (at least for my Mage-like character) – that causes her to teleport a few feet and is really handy for getting out of AOE circles.

Having been badly burnt by Wartune’s “free to play” model I remain highly attentive to spending real money to play NeverWinter.  So far, it is similar to Perfect World, which I suppose shouldn’t be a surprise.  The difference is that virtually required items, like companions and mounts, do eventually become available for free.  For instance:  Companions are the classic “pets” – they level with you, and can help you attack, or act as a tank, or I’m told play a healer role.  You get a free on when you hit level 16.  You can buy one with Zen (the Perfect World’s universal real money currency – 100 Zen = $1 USD) I suspect immediately.  I bought one around level 8 in order to write this commentary (and to help!). Zen Companions are suppose to be better than the free ones and will set you back $15-$30.  Good news is they are permanent.  Bad news is that they, like virtually everything, are associated with a specific character.  Reroll and you won’t have access to your Zen based goodies.  OK news is that they appear to be tradable.  (Trick:  Register two accounts with PW, use two computers, and bounce your items between toons).  So… if you spend money early, you can start leveling your companion sooner – and it does make the game a whole lot easier.

Like Wartunes, if you want to speed things up, you can spend in game currency (diamonds in this case) to do so.  Of course, you can trade Zen for Diamonds…  So far, I’ve found (2) real-time events this works for:  Training your companion, which is required to level it, but during which its not available to help you, and crafting.

Crafting is, well, different.  You hire (apparently for free) workers to craft things for you.  It takes real time.  At level 1 start, just seconds, by level 2, hours can be spent.  Good news – its real time – you can start a crafting task and log off and the clock still runs.  There is also a “Leadership” “Craft” which yields coins, exp, and crafting skill levels.  At my current level, as an example, I can do some 5 EXP, 5 Skill point tasks that take 10 minutes, or something that generates 100 copper, 20 EXP, and 20 Skill points in 2 hours, or something that would generate 40 skill point in 4 hours (great when you log out for the night).

Game play starts out very prescriptive, like most games with an initial training area.  That is OK, one needs to learn how to move around, etc.

One has an option to engage a “sparkle trail” that will lead you to your next quest area (and sometimes to individual quest items).  That’s handy, but know you need to go “off trail” if you want to find some treasure chest.  Chest and other reward items often require usage of a skill kit – thievery or nature or dungonning, or … which are for sale fairly inexpensively at most merchants.

One can also pray to your god (called “invocation”) once you hit the first main town and find the quest to do so (near the top of the map).  Some guides say this in only available after you reach level 11 – took me awhile to find the lady to talk to, so I was like 13, so can’t confirm that.  You can pray once an hour and get various goodies for doing so.

This real-time activity stuff is a mixed blessing.  In theory, you would need to login in every hour to maximum your goodies.  That is also very WarTune like where people spend their lives around the game clock.  The real-time training and crafting is very Eve like though, shy the training queue, and apparently escalates fast enough that I hope it will simply be a once a day thing.

PVP is different, and so far, nice.  You queue up to join a PVP team, everyone on the team is artificially set to the same level with the same gear – so it really is about your skill rather than equipment as it is with so many games.  A PVP event takes 15 minutes or so (or so it felt, might have been longer) and consist of a red and blue team battling over ownership of a central tower.  You get points for being the owner, first team to 1000 points wins.  This is very Wartune GuildWars like from a goal perspective without the domination of static op teams.

In the open beta, your allowed 2 characters – more slots available for Real Money.  Likewise, larger inventories, more bank slots, and the universal fancy clothing options all cost Real Money.  I much prefer Tera’s model where Real Money is only spent for costumes, character renames, and things like that.  In NeverWorld, spend rate will make a difference in the ease of playing the game – but I’m still way to young in the game to understand the total impact.

Bottom line:  I’m looking forward to spending some more time with this game and seeing where it goes.  Its my hope that it truly is, like Tera, very playable for free.  My fear is that it won’t be at higher levels.

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Free to Play games (aka Pay to WIn games)

Posted by Kevin on October 31, 2012
Posted in Gaming  | 2 Comments

Free to Play games (aka Pay to WIn games)

Over the years I’ve come across many of these games, starting with RuneScape (free to play in a small world, pay to play in the larger one) through Perfect World (a gorgeous game, very well done, but that will dime you to death) through Entropia (also well done, but will micro-penny you to the poor house) through Evony and its branch of web games, ending recently with Wartune.  Let talk about Wartunes a bit…

Wartune (http://www.wartune.com for the chinese supported version, http://wartune.r2games.com for a much better USA supported version – but other than translations, identical to other) is probably the most complex Flash game I’ve come across to date.  You can play for free, and most do (90%?), but you will never be a top player without dropping some cash.  The game seduces you into do this quite well.  They have a $7.99/month VIP plan that boost your rate of progress by 50% and gives you small bonus items every day.  Not bad… most online game run about $15/month these days.  For “only” $4.99 you get a huge bonus pack with enough gold to start your own guild and raise to up a level, (2) games items that are the best in the game until level 40, etc.

Wartunes approach is not to nickle and dime you throughout the game, but rather to convince you to drop everything your willing to pay up front.  That huge bonus pack I just mentioned comes with ANY first “recharge” (any money you spend other than for your VIP membership).  They basically double the in-game content you receive for your cash vs. money you spend later.  Spend $4.99 and your in pretty good shape for the first few days.  Spend $39.99 and your good for a week, kind of.  Spend $99.99 and you might just, maybe, be in the top 3 players – unless they spend the next step:  $299.99.

I’ve played on about a half dozen servers (they launch them regularly – at least every week or two) and there always seems to be at least one $299.99 player, sometimes several.  Its so consistant that many wonder if the gaming company plants shills to encourage others to spend money.  On the Chinese site, we actually got one $299.99 player that spent more during the game to admit he was the son of one of the game developers and that it was his job to provide competition for the top players to encourage them to restart and try again spending higher sums.  Unethical for sure, but probably not illegal.  And the kid was a jerk, so may well have been lying.

I moved over to the US supported servers after that.  They were busier and I got to know several of the top players – mostly nice people that simply wanted to win once, so dropped the cash to try and do so.  The game is pretty addicitive, and for the first week or so, if you socialize at all, you can easily spend 18 hours a day in the environment.  In fact, if you want to be a top player, you need to.  Thats the real downside – few can.  Miss a day, especially during the first 5 days after launch, and you fall behind.  Again, the developers have driving you to play down to a science:

If you want to run a guild, you need to be present the moment the server launches.  You get to create your guild when you reach level 12, which takes about an hour.  Of course, you need the resources of the $4.99 pack to start it.  Be an hour late and there will be 2-3 other guilds where most of the best (e.g. driven, dedicated, cash spending) players have already landed.  You MIGHT be able to compete with them over the next few weeks if you get lucky enough to have some late cash players join you, but don’t count on it.  Try starting a guild 3-4 hours after launch, when you have earned enough in-game gold to do so without spending real cash, and you will struggle to find members since you will be one of a dozen or so such efforts.

At the two hour mark, or shortly thereafter, you have reached level 20!  I have to admit, going up quickly is a rush – new skills, new equipment, new things being unlocked to do.  Wartune.com tends to launch their servers 2 hours before the first World Event.  World Events require you to be level 20 – so if you really hurry (augmented by cash of course) you can participate in that first event.  Do so yields nice rewards in terms of training credits and in game gold.  It also lets you take a first look at your competition.

From this point on… its a race.  Level 20 lets you buy your first armor set ($16.00).  This is a huge help for those willing to do so.  It can be augmented with gem sockets ($1.85 each and you can add 7) and gems ($0.85 ->  $3.40 each on up in 4X cost increments until your credit card melts) if you truely want to max it out.  This set will serve you well for a few days.  It can also be earned in game, a piece at a time, but will likely take you several days to do so.  They even give you a few gem socketing tools for free – but not enough for you to compete with the heavier cash players.

Leveling quickly slows done.  From 1->20 in 2 hours if you know what your doing and rush (and don’t play a Knight).  Level 25-28 within a dozen hours or so.  Level 30 within 24 hours if you are a cash player.  Level 35 pretty much takes 5 days of virtually contant play, but is key.  If you are one of the top 3 players at midnight server time on the 5th day after server launch, you are rewarded with a 10-pack of L4 gems.  Oohh… ah… who cares?  Well, remember that $0.85 I mentioned?  That was for a L2 gems.  Takes 4 of them to create and L3.  Four L3s to create an L4 ($13.60), and this event just rewarded you with 10 of them.  For people that do not make that top 3 list, thats $136 worth of gems… and armor, sockets, gems, and something called Astrals pretty much define who the winner will be.  Yeah, a bit of skill helps, but surprisingly little.

After you have reached L35 there is a new armor set you want.  The gems move, the sockets do not.  So you get to spend more cash.  Many hold off using their sockets until this set.  At L40 (about 2 weeks) new jewerly becomes available – if you lucky enough to get it.  This is likely the last jewerly you will ever use (at least looking at people on the oldest servers).  So now you finally replace that gear your initial recharge provided you.  Of course, more socketing tools are needed.

Until recently, the L45 armor set was considered the ultimate in the game.  However they have announced a L55 set coming out in the next major patch.  Few will be able to use it.  There are over 50 servers between the two vendors and I suspect less than a couple dozen players that have made L55.  The game is designed to go up to level 80, but I don’t know if it could hold anyones attention that long – unless they spent a LOT of money (rumors of some people spending $1500 – $2500 – $7500 on the game – which is just insane.  But again, the goal is to pit you against someone else who can spend money and make it a competition.)

The game is an interesting mix of activities, but they do get rather repetitive:  Farming, city construction, solo dungeons, multi-player dungeons, a bit of crafting, guild work, bounties, 1×1 dueling, 3×3 arenas, group world bosses (where typically 100-200 people attack one big beast), etc.

Hmmm, world bosses are probably worth a special mention.  These occur 3 times a day: 11am, 4pm, and 9pm local server time (R2game servers are spread around the world, wartune.com servers are all on the west coast).  When you attack the world boss, you get 1 gold coin and 1 daru (a training credit) per point of damage you do.  You get to take your two sets of troops with you.  Put them in front and you will last 3 turns.  The boss will one-shot kill each set of troops, then you (at least early on).  You then die for 30 seconds and can jump back in… unless… of course, you spend money.  For 10 cents you can end that 30 second cool down and jump back in.  Net result:  more gold and daru for you.  Do it every turn, and if your a top player, you may rank in the top 3 and earn a bonus.  Unlike many of the longer term events, there is a significant difference between being 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in world boss.  And that difference of course accumulates and helps you secure your rank and compete with those above you.  Miss a few World Bosses and you fall behind.  Don’t spend reset money, and its likely others will and will take those top 3 slots.  Best bet, if your a cash player, is to just spend enough to safely secure the #1 slot, unless you just don’t care about the cash burn.

About playing 18 hours a day:  Here is a bit of the breakdown…

(3) World Bosses at 11am, 4pm, and 9pm – about 15 minutes each, call it 20 since you can’t be late, so 1 hour.  Something called Battle Ground, which is a random 15×15 competition where you earn the credits you need to buy your L35, L45 and L55 armor sets.  8pm-9pm (split into 2 events of about 25 minutes each).  Arena, which is a 3×3 competition – more armor credits, 1pm-2pm and 7pm-8pm – yes, TWO HOURS A DAY just for this one event.  (5) runs of multi-player dungeons (1-2 hours depending on your team.)  (3-6) solo dungeons (1-2 hours).  Farming, bounties, 1×1 duels and other misc. things – 2+ hour.  So 1+1+2+1+2+2 = 9 hours a day of pretty manditory things to do if you want to be a top player.

 

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EveOnline can be played as a 2nd job, or more, if you so desire – it is very easy to get seriously addicted.  However, I think it possible to play this game in a bit more controlled manor.

Of course, depending on how frequently you play, some aspects of the game will be pretty closed off.  For instance, your not going to be a big time fleet combat pilot if your not on a lot.  Likewise, solo mining is doable, but not very effectively – you really need a miner ship and at least a hauler, and ideally a third player in a ship called an Orca.  Of course, you can solo mining, it will just go slow and be pretty tedious.

So… the way I see it, there are four main aspects to Eve:

1)  Social – making friends, talking with interesting people, doing things together (be that mission, mining, pirating, whatever)

2)  Earning ISK – the in game money.  You need ISK to buy better equipment, ships, skill books, etc.  There is, unfortunately, a cheat now available:  PLEX.  PLEXes are 30 day Pilot Licenses redeemable for 30 days of game time.  You can buy PLEXes with real money and use them (although monthly subscription rates are a bit cheaper), or buy PLEXes with ISK and redeem them (which many serious players do to pay for their habit), or buy PLEXes with real money and sell them in game for ISK.  Many MANY consider the  use of PLEX a cheat – just a way for those with real money to get a jump up on those that earn their way ingame – but it is an option.

3)  Learning skills.  Virtually everything in EVE requires skills, from being able to fly non-newbie ships to firing the weapons on those ships to using mining lasers…  Skills are learned by buying skill books (or earning the early ones by doing training missions) with ISK, and by spending the real time to learn the skill.  Simple skills can be learned in minutes, harder ones in days, weeks, and for some, over a month.  It takes REAL TIME to do this, so no matter how much ISK somebody buys with PLEXes, they can’t get around needing to be in the game for months.  Oh, this is a good time to point out that EVE is designed to be played for not weeks or months, but years.  (See my previous post about a holiday 60-day free trial – but these are designed just to give you a feeling for the game.)  There are fun programs that help with planning your skills, since real time is the one thing that you really can’t afford to waste.  My favorite is EVEMon (http://evemon.battleclinic.com).  I’ve spent hours just playing around with my training queue – it really can be fun if you like setting priorities and expectations.  It also gives you a great reality check on what it takes to do some things in the game.

4) Experience.  ISK without Skills is useless.  Skills without Experience is likely to waste a LOT of ISK.  Fortunately, the game has a huge number of “missions” that will both help you gain experience, and pay you reasonable levels of ISK.  Running missions, especially “Security Division” missions (the combat ones) is both a lot of fun, and one of the normal ways people earn ISK.  Missions come in various levels that you earn the right to fly.

If you are looking to solo and/or play part time, the Social aspect can not be a priority.  Sure, you can join a Corporation if you have a buddy in one, but that’s not going to be your primary calling, and make sure the Corporation knows your a casual player (in fact, Corporations advertise for players with “casual” vs. “hardcore” representing part-timers vs. mostly-daily players.

Earning ISK will come slower, but that’s OK.  Earning ISK via missions will come more-or-less at the rate you need (note:  not want! <smile>) to keep you moving.  By the time you are capable of running level 4 missions solo – ISK should not be a major issue.

Skills work in your favor as a part time player.  You see: skills are trained in real time, even when your not playing.  The only caveat is that you can only instruct the game to train skills that will start within 24 hours.  So early in the game, when your learning a lot of basics, you might want to log in daily for a few minutes just to load up your skill queue.  EVEMon helps a LOT in this – you can figure out your plan once and just follow it.  Of course, as you gain experience, you will probably want to change that plan, but EVEMon at least keeps track of things for you.  Much, MUCH, later in the game, when your training 7 day skills, or 15 day skills, or 30 day skills, keeping track of your training queue becomes less of an issue.

Experience comes at whatever pace you wish to play, so is also not a problem.

So what can you do as a part-time casual player vs. a hard-core player?

1) Missions:  Most are designed to take anywhere from 15 minutes to 6 hours.  You can look at the bonus reward time to get a feeling for how long it might take you to run a mission.  Virtually all missions are also described in detail, with suggestions, on web sites like eve-survival.org.  You can probably ignore such sites for level 1 missions, but they are critical to survive level 4 missions.

2) Mining if you don’t mind doing it slowly – but personally I would think that would get rather boring.  If you want to do this, its probably best to join a casual mining corporation and hope to be able to partner with someone when your on.

3) Trading:  With a few skills and a lot of flight time, you can make a decent level buying low and selling high.  Time is in your favor for this, since most sale offers can be posted to last up to 3 months.  Not my cup of tea, but I know many people that make their primary incomes this way.  Just beware of scammers – folks selling things for inflated prices, or hoping you miss where the decimal place is in their offers.  Don’t trade on a whim, know what your buying, what the normal price is, etc.  Lots of websites and in-game information available to help (like watching item price trends).

4) PI (think of it as Planetary Industry although that’s not what its formally called).  Basically its building extractors and/or factories on planets to mine raw materials and process them into more advanced materials which you then sell.  I’ve written a guide you should find a few post below this one that will tell you more about PI.  The key to doing this part-time is to just realize you will be earning ISK at a slower pace then somebody playing PI full-time.  That’s OK.  The good news is that PI is like skills, it occurs in real time.  In fact, with 1 account you can define 3 characters, and with just a few skills, can have all 3 earning you ISK as real time passes.  Just note that PI requires attention at least once every 2 weeks (at maximum extractor cycle times), so 3 characters doing this will be 3 times the work of 1.  The best part of PI is that once setup, and given that small amount of attention, it will provide a small but steady stream of ISK to you.

Solo playing is very similar to part-time playing: the more seldom your on, the harder it will be to build your social network, so you will find yourself playing solo more often.  Again, nothing wrong with this – just know that the game is designed for teams of players.  In fact, some things, like Player Owned Custom Offices (POCO), can only be owned by a Corporation.  You could, in fact, make your own Corporation, but its just not possible for a single player to place a POCO in space unless they are an outstanding combat player with a LOT of time on their hands (like 17 hours non-stop).  That too is OK, its just a reality of the game.

Kevin

 

 

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Eve News – 60 day Holiday trial

Posted by Kevin on December 5, 2011
Posted in Gaming  | No Comments yet, please leave one

My current game addiction, EveOnline, has a holiday special running right now:  60 free trials.  Normally you can get 2-3 weeks depending if you solo or go through a buddy, so if you want to check out Eve, now is a good time.

Access is via a special code, one per account I believe.  I have two accounts left, so e-mail me at kevin@kevinsthoughts.com if you would like one of my remaining codes.

Kevin

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Kevin's LPC Guide to EVE Planetary Interaction (PI)

Introduction

This is version 1.1 of this Guide, updated on 10/13/2011.

I previously mentioned that I’m spending some time playing Eve.  One of VERY MANY things you can train up to do in the game is whats called PI – technically Planetary Interaction, but I think of it as Planetary Industry.  This activity has changed a lot in the recent release (summer of 2011?) and I didn’t find a lot of current information on the web.  This guide is based on about 60 hours of work building up dozens of planets and was accomplished only with the support of members of the corporation I’m in within the game.  The guide is designed to provide practical advice to someone familiar with Eve, but new to PI.

PI involves investment of ISK for a steady return, but also requires some attention.  I’m way too new to be accurate on this, but I’m guessing breakeven in ISK will take a month or so using low-sec planets, with profit thereafter.  Like most things, the more attention you pay it, the faster the rewards.  How much attention?  After you have your PI set up, just a few minutes per planet per day should be fine.  I have my planets setup to run for 2 days, but generally reset that counter daily. Also, like most things Eve, the riskier your environment (the lower the security level), the greater the reward.  Since you can manage the daily operations of your PI systems from anywhere and only have to visit the planet to collect your final products, I highly suggest working in low-sec, ideally in 0.1-0.2 space.  If your not comfortable with that, start in high-sec (>0.5), but either just do it for the experience, or plan on it taking a lot longer to pay off.  (Of note, a friend tells me that if done right, several 100M ISK a month can be earned doing PI.  I’m looking forward to experiencing that!)

The hints and suggestions provided in this guide should allow you to create very flexible Launch Pad Centric (LPC) designs.  LPC systems optimize the usage of all resources with zero waste so long as your Launch Pad (aka: your Space Ports) do not fill up.  For instance, even if your extractor program expires, your factories will continue to run consuming any excess materials available.  Likewise, you can adjust your PI infrastructure one component at a time without having to worry about re-balancing everything.  This is very handy when upgrading your Command Center and adding additional factories or extractor heads.  But this is getting ahead of ourselves, so lets get started with the basics.

Material Diagram

PI is a game of balance.  For discussion purposes, lets say you want to make Rocket Fuel to sell.  Start by looking at an excellent reference that shows how all the materials work together – the famous Eve Material Diagram.  Please don’t freak when you open this, its huge. I suggest you save a local copy, your going to spend some time in it.  For now, just use Ctrl-F (Find) and search for “Rocket Fuel”.  You should see something like this:

 

The full document will explain all of the legend, but for now notice that two items are required to build Rocket Fuel:  Ionic Solutions, and Suspended Plasma.  Also notice that both items have a black S under them.  That’s key.  It means that you can obtain both materials from a somewhat rare storm planet.   You want everything you need on one planet so that you don’t have to haul materials between them – especially true if you are doing this in low-sec (or are REALLY brave and doing it in null-sec).  So, being practical for now, go find a Storm class planet.  Because they are somewhat rare, you may need to look in several systems before you find one.  On the other hand, I’ve seen systems with (3) storm planets in them, so this shouldn’t be too hard.  Just create an “all” tab in your overview, load the default “all” setting into it, and look for Storm planets as you fly around in your neighborhood.  Find one?  Good.  Now warp to it.  If your in null or low sec, you might want to do this is a cloakable ship and cloak it now.

Scanning Planets

Go to your overview, and right-click on the planet, then select “View in planet mode’.  You should see something like:

Time to play a bit.  Click on Scan and you will see the (5) resources available.  Each and every planet has (5) resources, but they vary in availability (the length of the bars – mostly determined by the security level the planetary system has), and in type (determined by planet type).  Again, the Material Diagram is the easiest way to sort those out.  For this exercise, we know we want Ionic Solutions and Suspended Plasma – both of which you see listed on the Storm planet.  We will come back to this, but for now, left click on Ionic Solutions and give it about 5-10 seconds.  You should see something like this:

Of primary notice here is the colored regions going from dark blue to white.  We see some red areas, those are known as “hot spots”.  The amount of material available in those regions is much higher than in others.

OK – non-obvious item #1:  That color bar from blue to white?  Its slideable to allow you to scale the amounts.  My moving the bar left and right, you can adjust the sensitivity of the scan.  Here is the image after moving it to the left:

I just played with the slider until I had the small white spots.  Those would be the best spots on the current view to extract Ionic Solutions.  You can grab the planet and rotate it, which you really should do in order to make sure there are not better spots on the other side.  If you are going to extract a single item, you might as well do it on the best place on the planet.  You are only allowed one facility per planet, so go for the best spot!  However…

If you are going to extract two or more items, you are going to spend a lot of time in the scan view of the planet, and scanning and viewing other similar planets.  What you are looking for is a planet that has the hottest spots CLOSE TOGETHER that you can find.  This is where showing the “Info” on a planet can be useful.  One item in the Info is the planet size.  They are all scaled to look the same on the planetary view, but planets vary form under 2000 KM (small Plasma) to over 47000 KM (moderate Gas) in size.  If you are collecting 2 or more resources, you don’t want to have to move them far!  Bottom line:  given equally dense hot spots, a smaller planet is more likely to have them close together than a larger planet.  Notice I said “more likely”, its a numbers game – you might find a HUGE planet with the 2 (or 4) items your looking for with overlapping hot spots.  Not likely mind you, but its mathematically possible.

OK – that’s most of what you need to know to find a good planet.  Lets move on.

Skills

As with everything Eve, there are skills required to doing PI:

Command Center Upgrades – determines how big a PI environment you can have.  Good news, everything is upgradable now, so you can start playing with PI at level 1 to get the mechanics down, and upgrade your infrastructure later as your skills increase.  If your going to do PI for real, you will want to get this skill to at least level IV.  Higher skills allow you to upgrade (for ISK of course) your Command Center to produce more power and CPU.  For most situations power is the limitation.

Non-Obvious item #2:  Command centers do not need to be connected to the rest of your planetary infrastructure.  Why not?  I’ve no idea besides ease of game play.  Ideally, when you place your Command Center, you want to put it close to where your going to build your infrastructure, but that’s only because whenever you later look at the planet, it will center the initial view on your command center.  Thus is nice if you can see the rest of your structures without having to rotate the planet searching.  Also, with the exception of extractor heads (talked about later), you can’t move structures once placed.  Unless your really good at this, you will waste some ISK destroying and replacing structures to get a layout you like.  Command centers are the ONLY item you need to bring to the planet with you, the rest are just paid for when your building (you select them and their cost is checked against your wallet balance and purchased when you “submit” your changes).  Good news, Command Centers are cheap, about 80K ISK.  Bad news, they are big, at 1000 M3.  All that said, I tend to connect my Command Centers to enable the ability to launch small cargo containers into space.  With a Launch Pad, you will typically use the more secure export method to the planets Customs Office, but its nice to have option to launch and it looks cool!

If you are purely focusing on PI for your character (reasonable if you only have, say, 20 minutes a day to play with a few hours on weekends), there is a specialty ship for you: the Primae.  Looks like people are buying it for 1M ISK and selling for 10M ISK – which means you should shop.  I found them selling for ~4.5M ISK in Jita, and for only ~3M ISK in Heimatar.  If your doing other things, like mining, I’d suggest a ship like the Hoarder or your race’s equivalent.  The Hoarder takes some moderate skill to fly (the Primae takes none), but its available for sale at around 800K ISK, and is a lot more flexible.  My hoarder is equipped with (3) Warp Core Stabilizers, (1) Nanofiber Internal Structure, and a Cloaking device making it reasonably safe to travel around in low-sec, at least from gate pirates (they got into my hull once, but that was my fault).  With 5K M3 of cargo space, I can set up multiple planets and have a reasonable size cargo bay for hauling goods.  This points out that PI isn’t for a brand new player;  I wouldn’t suggest starting the effort until you routinely have a wallet with, oh, 10-20M ISK in it.  Honestly, you should be there in a month or two of seriously playing if you join a good corporation and do some group activities.  If I had 100M ISK to blow on a ship, I’d probably be flying a Prowler…  OK, back to skills:

Interplanetary Consolidation – Simply the number of planets you can PI.  You can do (1) without this skill, (2-6) with it (from level I to V of the skill).  I’d suggest at least level II which would allow you to manage (3) planets.  Once setup, it doesn’t take much longer to manage (3) than it does (1).  The skill is also fairly expensive at ~450,000 ISK, so you might as well leverage it.

Remote Sensing – you need level I.  It appears that so long as you warp to the planet to do your scans, that’s about all you need. However, level III is required for Planetology.

Non-obvious item #3:  Scanning planets from a distance reduces the accuracy of the material scans, sometimes apparently to the point of them being useless.  I’ve only read this, and have since just warped to the planets to do my scans.

Planetology – Improves scan resolution.  Mine is currently at level 3, level 4 is required for Advanced Planetology (which is just an improvement over regular).  I seem to be getting along fine without it on my Alts.  A bit of Googling seems to confirm that both of these are fairly useless unless your doing High-Sec.  In Low-Sec, all you need to know is that a spot is hot for extractor head placement.  How hot doesn’t really matter so long as its fairly balanced between extractors.  The skills do not apparently directly affect your extraction yield in any meaningful way.

That’s it for skills.

Launch Pad Centric (LPC) design basics

The key to this guide is the before mentioned LPC design.  This can be achieved as soon as you have learned Command Center Upgrade and place (or upgrade too) a L2 Command Center.  At that point you have enough CPU capacity to install a Launch Pad (LP).  Using the LPC design methodology, that LP will be in the center of your complex.  EVERYTHING links to the LP – All Extractors, All Factories, even your Command Center if you have a bit of extra power left over to support that link.

We do this in order to take advantage of the 10,000 M3 of storage space within the LP.  If you are starting out without the Command Center skill, you can do something similar using a the 5,000 M3 Storage Facility and replace it with a LP later (simply install your launch pad, and use Expedited Transfer to move your Storage Facility contents to the LP before destroying your Storage Facility.  You really don’t want it once your LP is built.)

Ideally when you layout your planet, you will find a spot where your extractors can be placed close to each other and access different material hot spots.  In the middle of the extractors place your LP.  I try and have them as close as possible.  Link those extractors to the LP.  If you are build more advanced PIs, say with level III or greater Command Center Upgrade capability, you may need to upgrade the links to handle the volume of material.  Just do it, its relatively cheap power wise.  On a good 0.2 space hot space, with (4) extractor heads, I have needed to upgrade the links two times to handle the flow.  Its OK, no matter what you read about links… trust me its not a sin to use the link upgrade capability.

Once we have created the LP, and linked and routed (explained more late, I promise!) the Extractor output, you should build Factories next to, and linked to, the LP.  Now route the materials deposited at the LP to the Factories and route the Factory products back to the LP for export or further processing via Advanced Factories.

What?  You can’t find the materials to route?  Yeah, that’s the biggest downfall of this design.  It takes real time to setup.  Specifically:  Once you setup your Extractors and install their programs, make sure you Submit.  That will start them.  Wait until one extraction cycle is complete (30 minutes if your program is 2 days or less in length) and THEN route the products that will be delivered to your LP to the factories.  Submit again.  Likewise, if you have advance factories, you will need to come back after your basic factories have cycled once.  Yeah, its a pain, but its worth it, and all of this is “one time” work.  The good news is you can do this work from anywhere in the universe, docked or undocked.

Why is all this worth it?  Absolute product efficiency.  Everything produced by all components will either be used whenever needed, or will accumulate in your LP storage for later export and sale as excess.  (Oh, you will have excess – its virtually impossible to completely balance the output of multiple extractors.  Still, if you have multiple PIs setup, and wanted to use everything, you could ship the excess around for processing in those other PIs that might need it.).  If you manually tune, like I first did, trying to match extractor output to factory requirements to advanced factory requirements, you likely to overflow those factory receiving docks during the beginning of an extractor cycle, and starve the factories later in the cycle.  By using LPC designs, the early excess is stored at the LP and consumed later when there is a shortage.  Without LPC you are also likely to sub-optimize output.  For example, look at these two layouts, the first with the extractor feeding the factories directly, the second using LPC principles.

Note the above has (12) factories being fed with an extractor with (6) heads.  The (12) factories were required to absorb the peak output of the extractor, with a bit of excess routed to the LP, and later manually routed to a few idle factories.  Link congestion was a problem and taught me to have a link between the extractor and the spaceport.  Note the factories are 2 deep and route their products back to the extractor for transfer to the spaceport.  Most of the inner links are 90%-100% busy.

Here is the same facility redesigned using LPC principles:

See that I now have (10) factories providing enough power to support (9!) heads.  In fact, this was so effective it depleted the hot spot by the time I captured this.  This shift from factories to heads was obvious when using LPC since shortly after the cycle peak period, many of the factories were idle.  With LPC, I simply removed the extra factories and was done.  No re-balancing of output, no routes to check.  Likewise the addition of extra heads required no other work since everything was centralized through the LP.  The link between the Extractor and the LP is 100% utilized, the other links are only 30-60% utilized. FYI, it only took a few moments to swing the extractor heads to another nearby hot spot.  No worries about factory capacity since I know things will catch up:

More on Materials

Lets back up a bit and explore that Eve Material Diagram some more.  As you can see, it shows a progression of manufacturing.

Raw Materials (at the bottom like the Ionic Solutions and Suspended Plasma we are using in this example) are collected by an Extractor with Extractor Heads.  Extractors produce the greatest volume of any building.  An extractor will produce thousands of units of raw material per cycle in low-sec, even with a single head.  A Factory will consume 3000 units per 30 minute cycle to produce 20 units of Processed Material.  An Advanced Factory will consume 40 units each of two different types of Factory output to produce 5 units of Refined Commondity.  Likewise, two or three refined commodities are required to produce one Specialized Commodity, and two or three Specialized commodities are required to produce a Advanced Commodity.  All of this should be pretty obvious when looking at that material diagram.

Finally, enough background info!  Lets start producing Rocket Fuel!

Preparing for your first PI

Hopefully you have found a Storm planet you like.  For this guide, I’ll presume its something in low-sec, so that you have some good hot spots fairly close (say within 1000km of each other).  Lets inventory what we will need:

(2) close hot spots – one each of Ionic Solution and Suspended Plasma

(2) Extractors to gather the metals

(2) Basic factories to convert the metals into Precious Metals and Reactive Metals

(1) Advanced factory to convert the basic factories output to Mechanical Parts

(1) Launch Pad

To do this, you are going to need a minimum Command Center Upgrade skill of level II in order to have a Command Center with enough power to support all of the above.

We need a couple of other things setup:

Links simply connect extractors, factories, and spaceports together.  Think of them as single train railways.  Short links cost less power to operate (enough difference that trying to wrap around your planet will kill you, but not so much that being a factory diameter off in placement will make a difference.  A lot of PI guides I found on the web literally harp on keeping your link distances short to conserve power.  I’m not sure, perhaps they ate more power pre-Incarna than they do now, but honestly, I never found the length to be much of a problem.  A bit more on that in the Cost Section later in this guide.  Links are simply created by using the Links icon and selecting Create New.

Extractor Heads – attach to Extractors.  You can have from 1 to 10 per extractor.  Each requires significant power to use.  Don’t go nuts, remember that factories can only use 3000 units/30 minutes.  No sense in producing 20,000 units if you only have one factory unless you plan on letting your programs expire and slowly consuming the excess stored in your LP.

Routes – Automatically transfer products across links to their next destination.  Must be manually setup.  Created by going to the Products window, selecting a product, clicking Create Route (once), then selecting a destination, and then clicking Create Route a second time.

OK, lets build that Rocket Fuel PI!

Building your Command Center

First thing you need to do is buy a Storm Command Center.  Should cost something like 80K ISK.  Remember that you need to pick it up in a ship with 1000M3 of cargo space free.  So go it, and get back to your planet.  Turn your cloak on.  View the planet in planet mode.  Find the rough center of the area between your two hot spots.  Make sure you in Build Mode and Command Center is bolder.  Click Command Center and “Storm Command Center” should pop up:

Simply click the highlighted Storm Command Center and drop on your planet near where your LP will be.  Exactly placement doesn’t matter.  Congrats!  You have the first step done.  You can now close the planetary view (little red X), uncloak, and go dock if you like.  Everything else can be done from anywhere in the universe.  Of course, you don’t have to, you can continue if you wish from orbit but if your in low-sec, that is not a good idea.

Presuming you docked, you can now select “Science and Industry” for the icons on the far left of your screen, and select the “Planets” tab.  Doubling clicking on your planet name (or single clicking and clicking the “view planet” button) will bring you back into planet mode viewing – just like you were in orbit, but in the safety of your docking station.

First thing to do is to upgrade your Command Center are high as your skills will allow.  This will be the single more expensive thing you do.  The command center window for the finished level II PI system looks like this:

As you can see, it is pretty much maxed out of power, but has plenty of CPU left.  The buttons along the middle are pretty much self explanatory.  The round circle is Upgrade, which you hopefully just did.  The rocket is how you launch products.  This cost a small amount of ISK, and places your product in the Customs Office near your planet.  I’ve heard rumor some planets don’t have Custom Offices, which would be VERY BAD – since you couldn’t get anything off the planet except by using your Command Center small jet can capability.  If you’re wisely paranoid (at least in Eve), that’s probably a good thing to check before establishing your Command Center.  The Storage block just shows you what you have in storage – should be empty.  Note that a Command Center can store a small amount of material (500 M3), but that’s hardly worth fooling with.  A Storage Facility (previously called a Silo) can store 5000 M3, but consumes 700MW of power.  That’s the same power consumption that a Launchpad consumes.  Since we are building a LPC design, the choice is obvious.  The “i” (info) just shows you the CPU and Power output of the Command Center (and consumption for other buildings).  Links should be blank without any present as should Routes.  Obviously, the Red X destroys the building.  These symbols are pretty common across all the buildings you will place.

Building your Extractors

OK, now we need to place an Extractor.  This is something you need to get right.  Start by clicking Scan mode, highlighting the material you want to extract, and adjusting the scale until you have a white circle about the size of a large coin on your screen.  Now select Build.  Notice that the scan remains for reference.  Click “Extractor Control Units” and “Storm Extractor Control Unit” should appear as a sub-menu. When you click on Storm Extractor and move your mouse a bit to the right, you should see a very small dark circle surrounded by a very large white circle.  The large white circle is the range indicator for your Extractor heads.  Move the small circle towards your Command Center making sure the white circle overlaps your hot spot.  Extractor heads have a relatively HUGE range and can greatly shorten the length of your links if you use them correctly.  Here is an example on a small planet where the extractor radius is almost 1/2 that of the planet.  Compare it to the 2nd example from a slightly larger planet.  On a Gas giant the difference is remarkable.

Here is an old example from one of my planets that shows the placement well:

In the above example I have (3) extractor heads feeding the Extractor, (3) factories being fed from that extractor, and a link going to my Spaceport.   You can see the thin white large circle that represents the range of the heads and that its overlapping the hot spot when I placed my three heads.  Because my skill for this character was low, and the required resources far apart, I could not completely follow LPC – it is a guide, not a law!  Below is more what we should be shooting for and shows the final layout:

Once you place your extractor you need to select “submit” before you can do much else besides placing the other one and placing your LP.  Once you have submitted (and thereby spent the ISK), clicking on your new extractor facility should generate a popup similar to this one.  Non-obvious item (#5) – big difference between single clicking the Extractor, and double clicking which automatically drops you into survey mode (the first button below).

Double clicking initially on the Extractor, or now clicking on the first icon, Survey generates the following popup:

Setting the Extraction Area Size to (2) days and selecting (2) heads shows the following:

Once “Install Program” is selected and “submit” is done on the planetary view panel, collection has started!  You will see that I have (2) extractor head units selected (any two of the ten will do).  Those are the two units shown in the hot spot above.  You can adjust the number and location of your units anytime the program is NOT running.  Stopping is relatively harmless, but  you will lose that cycles output.  You’re setting this up for months, don’t sweat 30 minutes…  Oh, once in awhile, there will be a minute or so delay if you try and cycle the program too often.  Anyhow, when you select a new extractor head unit, a small circle will appear on your map with a line connecting it to your Extractor.  Simply grab the head and move it to where you want.  If you overlap heads, a red efficiency loss will show up next to the output of each of the effected heads.  Simply move the head a bit so that it doesn’t overlap.  When the program is stopped, you will be able to adjust the Extraction Area Size.  This is how you set how long your program will run.  Once the program stops, extraction ceases until you restart it.  This “extractor cycle” is the primary activity you will be doing to manage your PIs.  I have selected a (2) day run time for two reasons:  1)  I tend to play daily, but this gives me a bit of buffer if I play early one morning and not again until late the next day.  2) Each cycle for 2 day or shorter runs is 30 minutes.  That matches the cycle time of my basic factories, so most of the products will be only in the LP for a short period of time.  Pick something that works for you.  For example, if your only going to pay attention to your PI once a week (most of the time), max it out for a 2 week cycle time – but know that you will not produce as much as if you were cycling daily.  This is actually visually obvious in a way you need to be aware of:  As you increase your cycle time, the size of the area your extractor heads work over gets larger.  Thus a head layout that doesn’t overlap with a 1 day cycle may well with a 2 day cycle.  Bottom line:  set your extraction cycle time before you think your done with head placement.  Good news, just stop the program and adjust to fix any mistakes.  Only cost is the little bit of material extracted.

Speaking of extractor heads on the above image:  you will notice a number next to each selected head.  That is the relative output of that head.  You can watch that number change as you position the heads.  Obviously, you want it as large as possible.  Using the scan adjustment to make the white area about the size of your desired mining zone helps a lot with this.

So… we are now extracting.

Building your Launch Pad (Space Port)

If we try and build the Launch Pad now, it will fail since our facility does not have enough CPU Power yet.  Simply click on your Command Center and upgrade it to level III (three green bars like in the photo way above) to have enough CPU (and power) to build the rest of this example.

Now place your Launchpad next to your Extractor:

Add your other Extractor but only use a single Extraction head.  That is all the power you will be able to dedicate to heads.   Using the Planetary Links button (or the button on each building panel) to link it all together.

Building your Processors (Factories)

Now you need a basic factory to process.  When you go back to your planetary view, select build, and highlight processors you should see something like:

Only Barren and Temperate planets will have the High-Tech Production option shown above.  For other planets, like our storm, you will just see the Basic and Advanced lines:

For now we just want to select Storm Basic Industry and place (4) of them, and (1) advanced next to the LP.  Link all the factories back to the LP.  I like to link my Control Center to my Advance Factory… if you missed when placing it on the planet, that link is easy to follow back to your main setup.  As stated before, this also allows you to use the Command Center launch capability to launch product jet cans if you wish.

For the Ionic Solutions we are extracting, we want to refine Electrolytes, likewise for the Suspended Plasma, we want to refine Plasmoids .  Simply click on your placed basic factory, and select the first icon called Schematics.  A menu will appear, select the target product, and install it.  We need (2) factories making each, it doesn’t matter which ones you have do what since LPC draws everything from the LP.  After you select and install a product, you will be greeted with the “Products” menu and a red “Not Routed” message.  Click the product line, click “Create Route”, click on your LP, and click on “Create Route” again.  Now your products will be routed back to the LP.  Repeat for the (4) basic factories and for the (1) advanced.  Only difference for the advanced is that you select “Rocket Fuel” for the Schematic. Your factories are now set up and looking for material and should look something like this:

Now its time to take a 30 minute or so break, until each of the extractors have deposited their product at the LP.

<insert photo>

Once all (4) factories are being fed raw material, take another 30 minute break and come back and feed your Advanced Factory.

CONGRATULATION!  You now have a fully functional LPC based PI setup producing Rocket Fuel.  Come back at least every 2 days, more often won’t hurt, and “stop program” “install program” on each of your extractors.  Those two steps force a resurvey and start everything over fresh.  Keep an eye on your hot spots and make sure they are not depleted – so long as your extractor heads are producing, your good.

When the amount of Rocket Fuel stored at the LP is approximately equal to your hauling capacity (1000 M3 in the Primae), undock and go visit the planet.  Using the LP menu that pops up when you click on your LP, select the space shuttle icon (Launch), add the Rocket fuel to the launch list, and have it sent up to the Customs Office near the planet.  You open the Customs Office much like any other container, and can transfer the contents to your ships cargo hold.  Note the Customs Office can hold 25,000 M3 of material and is not shared with anyone else.

Getting the most from a planet

Ah, one final note, and rather coming full circle:  When you study the Material Diagram you may notice that each planet type is capable of solely producing one Specialized Commodity.  For example, Robotics on the rare Plasma planets.  Presumably maximum profit would occur when creating the highest level product possible on the rarest planets.  I have found that level IV Command Center Upgrade lets me create a maximum of (4) extractors with the related factories and spaceports.  It does NOT allow me to create any 1st or 2nd level Advanced Factories.    Even with level IV, I can only manage a single extractor head per extractor.   Thus the first layout below, which is my preliminary Robotics planet constrained by power.  I presume I’ll have enough power when I get to Command Center Upgrade level V to add the advanced factories and perhaps a few more extractor heads.  Time will tell.

Examples

Included below are a few of my great, and not-so-great-but-do-what-I-need layouts:

My Robotics planet in progress, constrained by power: (4) Extractors, (4) Heads, (4) Basic Factories, (1) Spaceport.

—————————–

“The Stretch” – a small Barren planet used for Mech Part production.  (2) Extractors, (6) Heads, (6) Factories, (3) Advanced Factories, (1) Spaceport.  Note how much more can be done with only (2) Extractors vs. (4) in the previous example.  Do not try the “Stretch” on large planets!

Now… look whats happens when we LPC “The Stretch”…  I can reduce the number of basic factories from (6) to (4) and keep them busier more.  More importantly, I can increase the number of extractor heads from (6) to (10)!  That simply means more yield, pure and simple!

—————————–

Enriched Uranium: Similar to above.  Emphasizes using Head stretch to optimize.

Cost and other figures

PI Ship:

  • Primae cost ~4.5M ISK in Jita, ~3M ISK in Heimatar at the time this was written.
  • A Hoarder takes more skill, but runs about 800K ISK
  • (3) Warp Core Stabilizers – about 9,000 ISK each
  • Basic Nanofiber Internal Structure – cheap and a fairly common drop (as are WCSes).

Skills:

  • Remote Sensing to level I – need to find hot spots:  ~250,000 ISK + 8 minutes
  • Warp Drive Operations to level I – for fitting Warp Core Stabilizer for more safety in low-sec:  ~27,000 ISK + 8 minutes
  • Hull Upgrade to level I – for fitting a nanofiber structure unit (very optional): ~54,000 ISK in Rens
  • Command Center Upgrade (for all but the most trivial PI work): ~450,000 ISK + 34 minutes for level I, about 3 hours total for level II, and about 18 hours total for level III.  Beyond that on your own time!
  • Interplanetary Consolidation:  ~450,000 ISK.  Training time similar to Command Center Upgrades.  Optional, but highly recommended to level II or III.

PI structure stats:

  • Command Center: about 81,000 ISK – only thing you need to buy at market to start, 500 M3 storage capacity – provides MW and tf for everything else
  • Extractor: 45,000 ISK, 3700 MW, 620 tf
  • Extractor Head:  Free, 550MW, 110 tf
  • Basic Factory: 75,000 ISK, 800 MW, 200 tf
  • Advanced Factory: 250,000 ISK, 700 MW, 500 tf
  • Storage Facility: 250,000 ISK, 700 MW, 500 tf, 5000 M3 storage capacity
  • Launch Pad (aka: Space Port): 900,000 ISK, 700 MW, 3600 tf, 10,000 M3
  • Links:  Free, MW and tf vary on length.
    • Shortest I’ve made:  11 MW, 20tf
    • Longest I’ve made: 527 MW, 806 tf after upgrading – note that even this extreme example (“the stretch”) consumed less power than a single extractor head.
  • Upgrading from L1 to L2 Control Center cost 580,000 ISK
  • Upgrading from L2 to L3 Control Center cost 930,000 additional ISK… and so on.

Capabilities by Command Center level

Level 1:  (1) Command Center, (1) Extractor with (2) heads, (2) basic factories.  Use Command center like Launchpad to follow LPC design.  Optionally install (1) Storage facilities instead of a 2nd head.  Skills required:  Remote Sensing level I.

Level 2:  (1) Command Center, (1) Extractor with (3) heads, (4) basic factories, plus a Launchpad!  Allows for regular LPC design to kick in.  Requires Command Center Upgrade level I to power.

Level 3:  Adds an Advanced Factory.  Minimum required to make 2nd level products.  Not a great place to stop, insufficient power to deploy enough heads to keep all factories busy. Requires Command Center Upgrade level II to power.

Level 4: (1) Command Center, (2) Extractor with (10) heads, (4) basic factories, (2) advanced factories, Launchpad, links from Extractors to LP upgraded as needed. Presume you are following LPC designs.  Otherwise (4) heads with 2100 MW to do with as you please.

Level 5:  Not there yet with my character, however expecting to be able to support (4) Extractors, (4) basic factories, (2) advanced factories, and a 2nd level advanced factory.

Using an Alt for PI

PI is a wonderful use for an otherwise mostly idle alt character (one of those other 2 your allowed per account).  The training to get started is trivial, to be useful is amazingly low, especially for the world of EVE.  Money is made mostly based on real time passing.  In fact, I’m not sure why EVERY character doesn’t do this for a steady stream of ISK.  But to each their own!

Here is the short form of what you need to do, presuming you are about to define an alt just for this purpose:

  • Pick a race, any race.  All start with the small skills now.  Create your character and immediately fly to Jita or Rens or some other close trading hub.  You can skip all the introductory quests.
  • Pause training on your primary character and transfer some serious ISK to your alt.  10M should due.
  • Buy a Primae.  Assemble it and hop in!
  • Buy the Remote Sensing Skill and train it
  • Suggest buying Warp Drive Operation and training it, but that is optional
  • Resume training on your Primary if you just want to dabble or…
  • Buy and train Command Center Upgrade
  • Optional but highly recommended:  Buy and train Interplanetary Consolidation
  • Buy your favorite planetary command center
  • Follow the guide above to scan planets, pick one, and establish your command center and extract a bit of material.
  • Resume training on your Primary when you have your skills to the level you desire
  • Flush out your PI infrastructure and then just go visit when you choose

Minimum training time to get started:  8 minutes!  To level III Command Center Upgrade and Interplanetary Consolidation – something under 1.5 days.  If this is the only real thing your alt will do, I suggest you remap your Intelligence to 21 and your Charisma to 27 – this will cut something like 25% off of your training time.

Misc. Notes

Command Centers, Storage Facilities, and Launch Pads can send things to each other using the manual “Expedited Transfer” command.  Typically only used when sending stuff to the Command Center for jet canning, or if converting from a Storage Facility simple PI to the standard LPC environment to save produced products before the Storage Facility is removed.

Visual inspection:  There is a lot of color coding happening on an active PI system.  The outer ring of every building shows its input buffer state:  a darker ring indicates a building without anything in its buffer.  Advanced factories will have that ring in two showing each buffer.  A bright partial or full ring should the relative fullness of these buffers.   The inner white ring reflects the current cycle process, with a blinking white indicating nothing is happening.

Short link to this guide:  http://www.kevinsthoughts.com/?p=435

That’s about it.  Hope you find this post useful.  I’ll update as new information becomes apparent to me.

Please do comment!

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Current Facebook Game

Posted by Kevin on August 25, 2011
Posted in Gaming  | No Comments yet, please leave one

Current Facebook Game

OK – so I have too much time on my hands.  Need to do something to keep from going insane.  Over the past couple of years I have explored a number of Facebook games with the ever addicting Mafia Wars probably being my number 1 for a long time.  Alas, I found most Facebook games to be either:

1)  Too trivial

2) Too dependent on having a 1000 friends, with “auto-friend” lists being common (Mafia Wars fell in this category as did many, many, others.  These games almost seem to exist to get you to get more people to sign up.  Most are, of course, for profit games and the more players the more likely someone will cough up real cash to play.

3) Too unoriginal like Reignage, which is a clone of a clone of a clone (two of which exist with the exact same name in Facebook with the exact same game just hosted by two different people).  Many of these are Chinese games, often advertising with sexy banners for games with no significant graphical content and NO sexy play.  They seem to exist to entice people to spend $100-$1000 to play their game.  Seriously!!!

4) Just downright addictive, but very expensive.  At least that is my impression of games like Farm Ville.  Hook you early, but want lots of real money to gain a competitive advantage.  The addiction is extreme – I know of people that scheduled work meetings around when their virtual crop needed to be harvested.

I have come across one game that seems to be reasonably well balanced.  I’ve played for awhile now, am doing well, and have not invested a cent beyond my time.  Of course, things would have gone a bit faster if I did invest money, which is ok, but I didn’t HAVE too.  That game is hosted at http://www.clicktaz.com and is called Conquest.  You can check it out by going through my portal at:

Conquest ~ Resurgence Within

http://www.clicktaz.com/?source=100002401930347

You do need a Facebook account to play, but can access it directly from the URL.

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Final Fantasy XIV

Posted by Kevin on August 22, 2011
Posted in Gaming  | Tagged With: , | 1 Comment

Final Fantasy XIV

Almost forgot about my experience with Final Fantasy XIV – maybe that was just wishful thinking.

MASSIVE disappointment from such a franchise as Final Fantasy.   The game was advertised as “designed for the casual player”.  It became apparently that meant “We want to charge as much as other games, but don’t want the player load to ding our profits”.

The downsides:

1)  Work on a skill for more than 1 hours and you start getting penalized.  Work on it for more than 8 hours and the penalty is 100%.

2)  Broken marketplace – each major town as a room were people collect to sell things.  No broker system.  You need to click on each person (and there were often over 100) to see what they were selling.  Perhaps realistic, but in reality, people would make up signs to give you a clue what they sold.  So, if your looking for, say, knife handles – you might need to click on 35+ people to find one, and then since its your first, you have no idea if they are selling at a competitive price.  Hell, they probably don’t know either.

3) Excessively realistic crafting system.  Want to learn fishing?  You need a fishing pole.  Want to build it?  No problem, its a low level skill.  Big problem: it uses high level skill parts.  The pole might be level 1, but the line eyelets are level 12, and the reel is level 26.  Somehow, if you want to make everything yourself, you need to level up at least a half dozen skills, all which have skill dependency’s on other skills.

It was SO bad, that about a month after it released, the president of the company wrote all registered players a formal apology and informed us our subscriptions would be extended indefinitely until the game became playable.  Apparently they also fired the somewhat junior development time and replaced it with their top-tier development team.  Got to give them credit for that, but I’ve never been back to see if it made a difference.

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Recent Games

Posted by Kevin on August 19, 2011
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Recent Games

Over the past 2 years I’ve had the opportunity to experience, in depth, a couple of online PC based games:

Aion (www.aiononline.com and www.ncsoft.com) sucked up a lot of about 15 months of time.  Thoroughly enjoyed the game and played all of the classes of characters.  Started out on the Elyos side and migrated half-way through to the Asmodian side.  Enjoyed playing Chanters and Spiritmasters the most.   Great graphics, best character modeling toon I’ve ever seen.  With a bit of work, you can make very recognizable characters.  Good game balance, there isn’t a best class – just best based on how you like to play.  Was a bit disappointed in weapon/armor crafting – better items are available as drops or quest rewards.

EVE (www.eveonline.com) is my current addiction.  Launched in 2004 it just keeps getting better and better.  Typically 30,000 people are online playing at any point in time.  One BIG galaxy to play in.  HUGE (like climbing a cliff!) start-up learning curve – but its doable, it really is.  Nice to have an experience friend or three in the game to call on for technical help, but the Corporate chat channels are pretty good.  If you want to give it a try, let me know, I can send you a 20 day “buddy” code that will let you get the feel of things.  There are a few restrictions, but not many, when using the code.

Entropia (www.entropiauniverse.com) ate a couple of weeks.  This game is unique in that it not only sucks money, but has the potential to generate it.  Suggest reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entropia_Universe to get the idea.  Short form:  One guy sold an island he created for $335,000 dollars.  Mind you, that took a LOT of time and work to create, but that’s some serious cash.  For the newbie, its mostly about learning to stretch your cash as long as possible.  Everything cost money, from weapon ammo (per shot), to repair of armor you probably don’t really need to be wearing (since you can visit town and get healed for free!).  Free to download and get started, but expect to invest $20 or so to avoid grinding for pennies and hour.

Also beta tested some web games written by a Chinese guy.  Met some nice people I still stay in contact with.  That’s about the only plus.  The game was really in pre-alpha state when we started.  Goal is simple:  make as much money for the developer as possible!  Got old once enough of the game was up that he started wanting to collect some of that cash.

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