Monday, March 2, 2015

A Look at the History of Expansions - Part Twenty One


Previous Entry: Tyrannis

With Tyrannis came Planetary Interaction, a new source of materials and industrial efforts for Eve Online. Launched at the end of June, Tyrannis is one of five expansions spread over a two and a half year period of frantic and large development from Eve. The patch notes include some interesting little things. The Scorpion for instance is redesigned for Tyrannis to look more like an actual Scorpion. The Dominix also gets turrets and thruster animations which is had been lacking. With its launch, CCP turned towards their next expansion.

The Primea for instance, is released on June 29th, a month after Tyrannis' release as a celebration of the expansion. A ship that is given to everyone with an active subscription to the game the Primea is a celebration of Planetary Interaction. June was also the anniversary of Apocrypha, released a year before. With Apocrypha came the introduction of wormholes and strategic cruisers. Now a year along, the quarterly economic report has a special feature focusing on wormhole and strategic cruiser usage.

There was once an idealistic time in Eve's life where you could not undock with PLEX and lose it in loss mails that made people feel faint. That time is ending. CCP is removing the restrictions on PLEX and while they are doing it they are upgrading the redemption system so that things can be redeemed in player stations as well a NPC stations.
• We will remove the restriction on undocking from a station with a PLEX in your cargo hold
• We will remove the restriction that PLEX cannot be put into courier contracts
• We will remove the restriction that items (including PLEX) can only be redeemed into NPC stations
• We will remove the restriction that items (including PLEX) can only be reverse-redeemed from NPC stations
• We will remove the restriction that ETC can only be converted into PLEX while inside an NPC station
Normally I take these stories week by week but something interesting happens in the middle of the summer. First, CCP takes a moment out to explain what is coming in 2011 and to give an update on Incarna. It is 2010 and we do not yet know what the expansion will be. The second thing is that after CCP does this, the next three months become devoted to development blogs about combating the lag problem in Eve.

But first, in July of 2010 CCP Zulu outlines the future and explains where the development teams are working.

  • First off, Incarna.  (9 teams, approximately 70 developers)
  • Dust 514/EVE link (1 team, approximately 7 developers)
  • In-space features (3 teams, approximately 22 developers)
  • EVE Gate (1 team, approximately 10 developers)
  • The others! (4 teams, approximately 15 developers)
He then goes on to discuss Incarna. They have been teasing it for years now and showing bits and pieces at Fanfest.
"Development of Incarna is something that CCP has committed to for multiple reasons, but the most prominent one is fairly simple.
To achieve our goal of EVE being a complete sci-fi experience we must have full body avatars. When we talk to people who like the concept of science fiction games but aren't attracted to EVE, it becomes obvious that there is a need gap that can best be filled by having a character to associate with rather than a spaceship, and I would venture there are many existing players who want this option as well."
There is a lot of promise for the future but the players are not all happy. CCP Zulu continues in his development blog to say:
"So what about prioritization? Where‘s the iteration on feature "x"?
We have seen a number of players talking about us moving from new feature development into iteration in the year 2012, but until then we‘ll be pumping new features into the system. This is not an accurate description of how a 200-person development team works. In the 2011 winter expansion we‘ll certainly focus more than ever before on iterating and polishing up all the features that EVE has expanded to in the then eight years. What those specific systems are, I don‘t know as we haven‘t started the planning phase for that yet."
Eve's future is bright and exciting. CCP has multiple projects on its plate. Eve. Dust. Eve Gate. Another game they are developing. They are also aggressively hiring new developers. There is one more thing of note in CCP Zulu's development blog near the end. He is at odds with the CSM's meeting minutes during their Summer Summit and does not understand why he saw it as a fantastic time and the CSM seems unhappy with the results.

Eve's Economy also has some strange hiccups as outlined in the economic report. But the main focus is on lag. In August, CCP Zulu says that the next blogs will focus on CCP's war against lag and he is not exaggerating. There are ten development blogs between August and the end of September detailing the fight against lag, the hardware and software that CCP is using to update itself and combat lag and notes about Jita as a test subject for their work as it crests 2000 players.

Here and there other development blogs are thrown into the vast lag discussion. CCP Soundwave for instance forgot to tell the CSM that they were removing ghost datacores. Ghost data cores like ghost-training is accumulating an item while no longer subscribed to the game. The GM team also sits down to write a development blog reviewing their structure and how they plan to integrate advice and ideas presented to them by the CSM on behalf of the player base.

The Noctis is born out of the Primea hull being amazing looking. it is also one of the first breaths of what will be in the winter release. A trilogy of API blogs is also released. 32 bit is updated to 64. An API test server is created so that developers can update sooner than after each expansion.

It is the end of September, 2010 and CCP releases a development blog that outlines the Winter Expansion. Born out of his enjoyment of cooperative PvE but his irritation at push button receive bacon, Eve Online: Incursion will focus on large scale team PvE. And it will start with being able to change your panties.

The Character Creator has not been updated since Eve was launched. With Incursion, a new Character creator is coming. It will be so customization that you will be able to change your underwear.  It is not Incarna, it is just one of the first steps towards what will take multiple releases. And the future for Avatars is bright. In the development blog CCP Soundwave says:
 "It‘s not impossible to think that in the future you may clone jump into bodies (clones) of different races, bloodlines and even genders, but that function will not be available on Incursion launch."
With the new future so close, CCP also accidentally broke the UI during the Tyrannis 1.1 update. They did it because they didn't know how else they were going to get it updated. So they broke it and it dragged along slowly healing as players burned in anger. However, all better now, let's move along and look at the pretty things coming in Incursions.

Incursions are going to be on Sisi and a mass test is planned. Planetary Interaction is also receiving a second pass created from player and CSM feedback of the system. The Shortcut system is also receiving an overhaul. It will recognize more mouse buttons. They are adding combat shortcuts in sot hat the overview isn't the only way to interact with things and you can use ALT+SPACE to simulate a mouse click. There are also some rebalance changes to Tech II ammo and rockets. Fighter bombers are getting some tweaks to make them kinder to the server since super carriers can field twenty of them. Also, faction ships can now be sold on the regular market instead of contracts.

The Eve Gate plans are also puttering along. The two notable point in this to me is the fact that contacts go up from 300 to 1024 and a new forum system is going to be implemented. In the area of community, API security is also discussed. CCP Fallout has also decided to write a monthly community focused blog on the broader community of Eve who write blogs and make videos or news sites.

October has been a busy month with a reasonable amount of announcements. On this list comes one from CCP Hunter about downtime decreasing from 60 minutes to 30.
"Why does EVE even have daily downtime?
Tranquility is one of the largest single-sharded Massively Multiplayer Online Games in operation. The database it runs on is 1.5 Terabytes and in order to maintain the core systems of the game, we perform daily cleanups during these downtimes. Most of these cleanups are "under the hood" kind of operations which are not noticed by the users but are needed to maintain good health of the database.
In addition to database cleanup some essential operations are also performed during downtime such as asteroid reseeding, outpost building, NPC standing updates, etc.
Lastly, during downtimes, the load balancer is also updated and fleet fight systems made dedicated."
 The study of lag is ongoing. On October 30th they managed to shove 3,242 players into a system. It was an awful experience but the node held. The following day they had a 1,200 player fight. It was awful as well but the node held. CCP Veritas explains what lag is in Eve and spins some thoughts about what they can do to combat it.

November 10th brings a development blog by CCP Yitterbium outlining how Incursions will affect a system. It also discuses how incursions will work, system control, and the incursion log that will be available to everyone. Next, CCP Zulu announces that Eve Online: Incursion will be released on November 30th. However, Eve Online: Incursion will not include incursions. Those are coming in January. Eve Online: Incursion will be an update.

CCP is releasing a new box version of Eve titled the Commissioned Officer Edition. They are adding a Cerebral Accelerator to it so that new players can get a skill point boost. If you lose it you can petition for it back.

In case you had not gotten enough of lag, CCP Veritas returns from his musings with some graphs of how they have reduced CPU usage in his quest to narrow down what needs to happen to improve Eve's performance.

Have you ever wanted to buy a neural remap for PLEX? Well, for a moment in November of 2010 you almost could.
"...we wanted to explain our thinking a little more. It‘s always been the intent of CCP to continue diversifying EVE Online's business model and we‘ve been looking at various options to do so. This started with the introduction of PLEX, which was an innovative way for players to exchange in-game assets for subscription on a fully player driven marketplace. Since we introduced the PLEX item we've monitored its trading, price and velocity closely. It's now time for us to take the next evolutionary step."
The community and CSM backlash was enormous and CCP backed away to lick their singed finger tips and reevaluate their monotization goals.
"It‘s clear that it‘s the will of the community to keep virtual goods sales outside the spectrum of what we classify as the "merit economy". That refers to skills gained over time or items that have a gameplay impact. So after discussions, designs, brainstorming and all sorts of processes we‘ve come up with a strategy that we‘ve already polished with the help of the CSM and would now want to present to the larger community."
Basically, CCP wanted to sell more things for money and the player base said no making them back up and focus on vanity items.
"Virtual goods sales in EVE Online will evolve through sales of vanity items, first in Incarna but later in-space features. The scope will be (and there‘s no design has been done around this, we‘re just talking strategy now) that anything that doesn‘t affect gameplay directly can be, potentially, sold for PLEX or other means. Ideas that have come up include Incarna clothing and furniture, logos on spaceships and swapping out portraits. This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it a commitment that said items will be available for sale, I mention these as an example for what type of items we‘re thinking about."
And it would be fine except that it is now 2015 and not 2010 and this last paragraph has more meaning then I'd like it to have.
"It‘s important to clarify that virtual goods sales isn‘t an arbitrary - or particularly greedy - decision. There is a constantly decreasing number of MMO‘s out there that don‘t incorporate virtual goods sales at some level. - games that aren't responding to this trend are dying out. Diversifying the business model allows us to offer our players the services and features they desire in ways that are conducive to how they wish to spend their entertainment dollars. The result is that we provide a wider range of options to our subscribers which, in turn, leaves us better positioned to react to future seismic shifts in the market.
If we don‘t react to the wishes of the market we will simply become the dinosaurs of the industry. And everyone knows what happens to dinosaurs. God makes them disappear. Through MAGIC. "
In five days the release, Eve Online: Incursion minus the Incursions that it was named for, will be released. But CCP slips in a little surprise. Learning skills are going away. Right now. The skill books are being taken out of the system and the skill points will be refunded to the players.

Eve Online: Incursion launches on November 30th, 2010. While missing its key point they do release a trailer. We'll see the actual content in another two months.


Resources:
Eve Online 2010 Dev Blogs
Eve Online 2010 Patch Notes
Official CCP Youtube Trailer Eve Online: Incursion

Sunday, March 1, 2015

CSM9 - Day 302

Some of the stuff that has been occupying us since the Winter Summit has finally surfaced as planned for the March release.

But first! CSMX Voting opened on Wednesday. It runs until March 10th. Announcements will be during fanfest.

The o7 show aired on Thursday and with it came many bits of information, some dev blogs, and some promises for next week. I’ll go over the dev blogs and my thoughts in a moment, but first I’ll point out that during the o7 show CCP Fozzie said he has two development blogs planned for next week talking about the changes to Sov.

These proposed changes to Sov have been in front of us since the Winter Summit. The meeting notes are all redacted. I’ve read over them a few times and expressed myself from the viewpoint of the small gang roaming pirate harasser and how the mechanics feel to me if I was to wonder if that was a part of the game that I wanted to enter. Sion and Coreblood have been putting energy into this. I’ve weighed in as has Steve, Mike, Gorski, and Corbexx on various bits. I think there will be a lot to discuss when the blogs go live.

UI Modernization this time is about the icons. I think it is pretty but I also think it is busy. After that, I expect that I will grow use to it. I’m sad in random way over the loss of red crosses as a description of things. I’m going to give the icons a go in person to see if I can really tell them apart or find anything useful about them. What is not happening is changes for some of the desired things to the UI such as customizable colors. I did bring up those topics and pointed out that people would ask about them and state the desire for them.

CCP Nerf Bat.

CCP Rise discussed a handful of nerfs coming in on the o7 show and then, as promised, released his dev blog detailing them later.

I’d like to point out Gorski’s write up on the changes. I’ll also note that we have had these changes in front of us for a bit and there has been a lot of discussion.

The Ishtar Nerf feedback thread. The Ishtar is something that people have been complaining about since before I started on the CSM. After a few tickles nerfs it got a more solid whack with the bat this time. I’ve been compiling feedback about Ishtars and possibilities to nerf it since I was elected. It is nice to see it happening. I’ve never found the Ishtar compelling to fly. I understand how good it is/was. It had no appeal to me. In the days of drone assist when I was in an Ishtar fleet it was often low sec where drone assist does not work smoothly due to crimewatch.

The Skynet Feedback Thread. The complaints about Skynet started in December and only started to escalate. I like seeing carriers and supers used. I don’t like seeing them used while sitting half in a POS shield with another ship using their fighters and not even taking the crimewatch hits. Entire systems were reinforced from the safety of POS and gate camps occupied by assisted interceptors. I do not find that to be good gameplay. However, fighter warping is a different type of argument and it is up for removal at this time. I think it is interesting and I’ve been chased by fighters a few times. Please weigh in with your opinions.

A lot of the opinion for the T3 nerf is that it is not enough. I have combat Legions and Proteus in my hangar. Medium railguns are considered over buffed and Bouncers are taking a bit of a smack as well.

Arguments about reassessing battleships and Battlecruisers have been lost this round. That won’t stop me from continuing to bring it to the table. BC for instance are 15% slower than they were. I’ve argued that while 15% is not appear to be a large number, on the field in a fight and dealing with tactics it is an enormous number and that it is a large enough number to move away from ship usage. The graph that was included is some of the metrics of PvP usage of these ship types and why they fall into acceptable usage.

The download on demand client has gone live on Sisi for those who want to test it. I hope the goal of getting people into Eve faster as well as not pre downloading what is needed is successful. I hope it goes smoother than my download of Assassin’s Creed Unity where thirty minutes into the game I slammed into a wall of needing the rest of the game to install.

The New Player opportunities are available on Tranquility. I think that I will try to give them a run through tomorrow and see what they feel like in game. I’ve gone through the current new player experience several times to find holes and problems. With opportunities coming in its time to get onto the train and catch myself up on how it feels in game vs my knowledge from the CSM. I advise this for anyone who spends a lot of time with new players. Otherwise, we won’t know what the hell they are talking about. My hope is that they don’t have to come to us for questions like they do with the current tutorial. However they may be a bit of a pain to get to and take some rerolling of new characters due to the AB testing.

Corbexx and I had a structure soundboard focused around attack and defense as well as some talk of that shield or safety bubble. We were visited by a troll and I did raise my voice and tell people to shut up at least twice when some could not contain themselves. Steve put it up on CSM9.org under the recording section. We are still missing one of our soundboards from there. We hope to continue this tradition with CSMX.

I also managed to get a bug looked at and discover the resolution. I'll discuss that at a later date. A lot of the last few weeks have been housecleaning and issue addressing. With just over two weeks left to CSM9s time in office I can say that I'm happy with what I've accomplished. I can also say that I am looking forward to much of what is coming.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rambling: Stumbling Over Questions

CSM Voting Links: Link to CSMX voting - Link to Sugar Kyle's Voting List - just Sugar Kyle
--------------------------------------

[TL;DR: Starting at the bottom. Why is there so much negativity to losing spaceships that it drives our social behavior in the game?]


Thursday, February 26, 2015

R.I.P Red Crosses

CSM Voting Links: Link to CSMX voting - Link to Sugar Kyle's Voting List - just Sugar Kyle
--------------------------------------
The latest User Interface development blog was released by CCP Arrow. I have an incredible amount fo respect for CCP Arrow and how he handles himself and his job. Back when the Unified Inventory was changed I was still a new player and the change went over poorly. Being new made the change easy for me but hard for everyone else. It did not help that it came out in an incomplete state that lacked much of the basic, daily usage needs and support for the players.

CCP Arrow took ownership of that. I had a lot of respect for him admitting that it was not what it should have been and that he kept working on it until the functionality started to return. I learned a lot about player reaction to change and incomplete design during that time. Later that year, I listened to him present at Eve Vegas 2012. He was ambitious with his hopes for the UI. That story is not the one that we are at now but it is interesting to be here almost three years later and at this phase of the UI changes.


Not so very long ago I was very new. I had no idea my overview had settings. Torpedo explosions were glorious waves and energy that expanded out from the ship. The Ui was colorful. When player ships exploded it was the most gorgeous blue flash. Drones didn't show up purple when they were in fleet and NPCs were red crosses.

Over time we have lost the blue explosions that defined player ship loss. Torpedo's are boring as hell to look at. I guess missile trails replaced their glorious effects. I also learned what an over view was. And red crosses meant NPC ships. Don't worry that I'm old and bitter. For attack battlecruisers, then known as tier three existed and the Noctis was still my most flown ship. I'm not that far back or anything.

Now we're going to lose that lingo. Red crosses. It is a strange thing and absolutely unimportant. There is no real loss. Maybe we will call them red triangles or bing cherries. I don't know.

The discussion about the icons is another one. I'm not sure if the tiny symbols will be enough and I have large screens. I know that pattern recolonization will work for us. Its how our minds work, but I worry that they are not different enough. However, red and white crosses are not different from each other as well.

That will be a later debate. There is already discussion. Likes. Dislikes. It will all filter into change and the future. But behind us lays a little grave of a familiar icon that defined the simplest and earliest aspects of playing Eve.

I'm kinda sad.

TCS: Restocking

CSM Voting Links: Link to CSMX voting - Link to Sugar Kyle's Voting List - just Sugar Kyle
--------------------------------------

The ramp up to voting is a very hard time. Sitting down to work on my market took more energy then it should have. However, I had some motivators. I had received a request from someone to pull some information about my market. That motivated me to get the delisted items relisted for a better overview of what I have. The second was a request for help about how I use my market tools.

That is what left me writing a loose, non technical guide to using Eve Mentat to keep stock of your market inventory. I need to clean it up and publish it I guess for those interested. Eve Mentat is a powerful tool but I use it almost exclusively to keep track of what items have sold. That is one huge thing missing from the current Eve market interface. Sold and expired orders. As it stands I can manually check what sold against what I have in my inventory. If I am technically proficient, I can write spreadsheets that pull and total information for me. We're in a stage of Eve's history where we are challenging barriers and definging what they actually are. Eve's market was meant to be a market as we find in so many games but it has grown beyond that.

That may be another topic when I'm a bit less distracted. We do have a some recent improvements that have made running a market easier. One of these is multi-sell. Introduced in Phoebe we have been using the interface and the changed sell window that came with it for a few months.

Multi-sell is interesting. I used ti very enthusiastically in December and learned an ugly lesson. Muscle memory can screw you over. I hit enter after typing in one of my numbers. Its a habit. My entire sale window sold itself. Due to Eve's markets there are buy orders of all types everywhere that convince the game that overly low offers are not overly low. I lost about 200 million in that mistake and learned to type slower and use multi-sell with more caution and not with valuable goods.

The place that I now use multi-sell is items that need to be restocked. I then use one of my screens and two clients to create something that looks like this:

It works for me. Your mileage may vary.

Chance is my Jita alt. She lives there and she buys stuff. She has no market skills. All she does is buy things and write contracts to shipping companies to move those things.

Tesau is one of the three market alts that belongs to TCS and sits in Sujarento. She has market skills and nothing else. Because I use a corporate hangar for my alts to share, she can simply open that and start selling things.

Like many people I have a shared chatroom for my alts. Tesau lists the items to Chance. Chance checks prices. Tesau changes prices with the multi-sell window based on Jita prices. I do about 10 things at a time. And poof it all goes up. Window layering helps me move faster in these situations. Its a lot of clicking one way or another and sometimes I get tired of it. The windows are not exciting to look at but I've become fascinated with trends and buying habits and seeing the meta move through modules and ammo.

What I have discovered is that slow moving items start to lose their value a bit to me. I lower prices or whatever to get them to move. Ammo comes and goes with need and activity. Missiles are still my bane when it comes to having them and how slowly they sell. But I need to have them because people want them.

Stocking a market is only partially dictated by those around you. You have to learn about your customers but it also helps to understand what they may need. Long range T2 blaster ammo is an example of this. It sells when there are particular ops but it doesn't sell every day like faction antimatter. But I keep it available because a market like TCS doesn't run off of daily volume or item velocity. It runs off of over all volume over time.

I'd also like to remind people that the type of market that I run is a market run in dangerous space. It will be different from high sec. Here. market pressures are different. Your clients are more specialized. I carry a handful of T2 rigs in Sujarento for Snuffed Out. It's a personal investment that I make to try to help out a little bit. In general I've been successful with low volume and high variety.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

CSMX Voting is Now Open

Vote Sugar Kyle for CSMX!

Link to CSMX voting - Fill it in yourself! You don't need no recommendations!


Link to selecting just Sugar Kyle - Add the others in as you will.

Remember to redeem your diplomatic shuttle in game! They available to all accounts. Hopefully all these links work. The list will autopopulate for you for each account that you log in after you build your first if the links don't work. Voting goes until March the tenth. See my endorsement list for links to more resources.

Guest Blog: Cosmic Travesty: Or why something that's been broken for a decade remains broken

Forward to a Gust Blog: Back in September I was on track for getting the COSMOS missions on Team Space Glitter's roadmap as part of my goal of getting broken things that frustrate people fixed. I was very excited about this. However, other things happened and the time needed to go through these missions and clean them up vanished. On the flip side we have had an amazing lore experience and new and exciting changes to the Eve landscape.

The COSMOS mission system is old. That does not change that the COSMOS missions are broken. It does explain a bit of the reason why. It was added for the Eve Online: Cold War expansion back in 2005. Over the years they have started to break. Their items have become obsolete. Yet, they are full of lore and mystery. They should have been better then they are. But much of Eve's old content suffers the same problem. I haven't abandoned my goal to have them fixed. So when someone offered to write me a comprehensive 'this is broken' list I said, "Yes please." Zosius over at Cloaky Bastard has also been documenting them as well.

I decided to host Nivin Sajjad's write up. For one, he has no blog and I find the information interesting. For two, it lets me have a super easy resource to pull the information for future use when that day comes that COSMOS missions have their update in the sun.
-Sugar Kyle

***
Cosmic Travesty: Or why something that's been broken for a decade remains broken

Once upon a time, when asteroids still looked like dirty ostrich eggs and L4 agents had yet to exist, CCP decided to add some variety to PvE by introducing a set of unique agents who would offer one time missions that granted massive boosts to faction standings alongside interesting payouts. Ever since then, the half finished perpetual train wreck that is COSMOS missions have become a time capsule of all that is terrible in PvE gameplay design.

Just how bad can it be? Well, I have been to the abyss and back more than once, and I have seen such wonders things. Welcome... to 2005.

Anyone who's done any number of L4 security missions is probably familiar with The Damsel in Distress. In this mission, you are tasked with looting an item from an exploding structure rescuing a young lady from a pirate stronghold while coming under attack from waves of pirates that spawn as you shoot her prison. Truth be told we're all pretty tired of rescuing the Damsel by now, to the point that CCP has made it into a running joke, but it does have one thing going for it.

That manna from heaven is instancing, and you have no idea how sweet it is until it's missing.
Now EVE is famous for having all its action take place on a single shard, but that only tells part of the story. Every time you accept a security mission, the game spawns an "instance" of what is essentially a tiny hidden room or series of rooms in some random point in space. This is a unique grid of objects the game makes just for you, which only you can warp to without needing to aim for someone else who's already there. Every time you go rescue the Damsel, there is a new Damsel, a new pirate stronghold, and a new set of rats.

Not so for COSMOS missions.

Thank you pilot! But our princess is in another cargo hold!

Welcome to the bizarro world of waiting for Godot rat respawns in public plexes. Rather than there being hundreds of Damsels in hundreds of rooms, each awaiting the arrival of their own gallant carebear, instead there is ONE room that everyone can see on the overview, containing ONE key ship or structure, that depending on type could respawn anywhere from once every minute to once every six hours to spit out a new Damsel for rescuing. So on the one hand, if somebody out of the tens of thousands of players currently logged on has already looted her this time around, you'll have to wait. On the other hand, a Damsel is a Damsel is a Damsel, so if someone else with vast intestinal fortitude decided to camp the respawn for a whole 12 hours, you can go buy up one of his spare Damsels on contract and "rescue" her all the same.

Psst, you want a one of a kind holy book for your agent? Just 25 mil a pop.

And I wasn't kidding about that six hours part. Some COSMOS rats will respawn after a few minutes, but the rarer ones only do so a few times a day. Hope you brought your poop sock.

Why did CCP do this? My guess is that it was borne out of a misguided attempt to force more people in highsec interact with each other. The reality, though, is much more likely to be you seeing a cloud of empty wrecks that point to an exciting future of twiddling your thumbs, or more absurdly, a complete absence of information that gives you no indication you're actually in the right spot, but that what you need will only show up again in a few hours. This, I think, is the first fundamental flaw of COSMOS missions. Item scavenging in slow respawn public complexes forces players into many long hours of futilely chasing after nothing.

Congratulations CCP, you have unleashed the purest antithesis of fun.

Now I mentioned some of the rats do have a respawn timer that is much shorter. Unfortunately, CCP has found a way to make this brutally unfun as well. First up, the kleptomaniac agent,

Scooping rat droppings is the life for me.

Did I mention this guy lives in a highsec island located behind one of the most frequently camped lowsec systems in the game? More on that later.

But that's not all. Sometimes a fast respawn becomes its own colossal headache,

I'm supposed to hack? Here? While they watch?

What you're seeing is a static COSMOS hacking site. This one in particular requires a mission reward gate key which will cause you to lock yourself out if you happen to die in there. In addition, each of those rats will respawn in a minute or two. As you can see, the full room DPS is near that of an L4 combat mission despite it being a hacking site. Some sites are even worse, limiting you to battlecruiser sized ships while having many times the spawns. You are expected to tank the incoming DPS of what are infinitely respawning and thus essentially unkillable rats while doing an RNG hunt on a separate interface for either mission items or Storyline module components. Once upon a time before hacking was revamped, you could at least orbit a can while letting your module cycle until they succeed. Now you don't even have that dubious luxury.

This and other factors have lead to a perpetually sidelined Storyline module market,

I'm not building any of these

COSMOS agents spit out a veritable fountain of strange little BPCs for strange little meta 6 to 7 modules that usually have the most generous fitting requirements in category, but come with performance stats that range from marginally worse than faction, to frankly bizarre.

Why is this a thing?

In spite of their often dubious utility, Storyline modules do fill a niche in letting people put together some extremely tight fits. But the market for them is miniscule, while the modules themselves are often horrendously overpriced and come with buy-sell spreads that are some of the largest in the game. So what made Storyline modules into the slightly poorer man's Officer bling in terms of lossmail mockery?

Several reasons. First, each COSMOS mission can only be completed once per character, and while some BPC drops are set, most are randomly chosen from a racial loot table. This greatly limits the BPC supply. Second, as previously mentioned, the static hacking sites that drop the actual components needed to build these items are often hard to access (their entry keys are also COSMOS rewards) and interactively unpleasant to the point of being utterly broken. Third, most of the modules require anywhere from two to five ranks in obscure skills such as Takmahl Technology or Yan Jung Technology to build, which you've probably never heard of and don't seem to have any other uses besides building Storyline modules. And finally, performance wise a lot of the items just aren't very good.

The result is that only a small handful of masochists are even bothering to collect the components, which are then sold at vastly inflated rates to the even rarer eccentrics numbering in the hundreds tens who just happen to possess both COSMOS BPCs and training in almost completely useless industrial skills. Meanwhile, every other sensible person out there who wants better than meta but can't quite fit T2 is buying the usually much more common, affordable, and better performing faction and deadspace modules.

Before I go any further, I want to talk about one of the rare things CCP has sort of done right when it comes to COSMOS missions. I bring your attention to the infamous Ihakana-Otomainen pipe.

You can almost taste the loot hauler tears

I am unabashedly risk adverse when it comes to my highsec carebearing. But even I have to admit the brilliance of placing most of the highest payout COSMOS agents in a highsec island that's only accessible through a single lowsec system. Now it was pretty sadistic of CCP to place them all in a stationless system, especially in the time before mobile depots, but beggars can't be choosers. And here's why,

A near complete Amarr/Caldari COSMOS run. Around 60% of the ISK value comes from just two Otomainen agents.

A place of countless dashed dreams, Ihakana is also a crucible that has pushed some highsec carebears into learning active risk mitigation techniques such as scouting ahead, flying in groups, cloaky gatecamp dodging, and various other creative means of smuggling PvE boats and their potentially billions in loot in and out of Otomainen. The skills, and the thrills, one gains from this tend to encourage people to start exploring other dangerous locales as well. I would know. I've fought and chatted with such folks in wormhole space before.

This arrangement wisely keeps the site where most of the combat and forage missions take place as a highsec system. It entices carebears with a balanced mix of safety and danger, while also giving the PvP groups that live in Ihakana a continuous stream of targets without granting them the means to exert a stranglehold on the mission system itself and prevent anyone else from attempting the unique PvE content. In comparison, the pirate epic arcs and COSMOS missions that largely take place in and around sov null don't work nearly as well in attracting people who aren't already up for extreme danger or are friendly with the locals.

But this arrangement is still far from ideal. Case in point, look at this smug asshole,

Sir Not Appearing in this Film

Guess what standings you'd need to gain access to him. 5.00? 6.00 Amarr Navy? You'd be wrong. It's unmodified 7.5 Amarr Faction, though you'd be hard pressed to guess that just by talking to him or reading his character description. But good luck finding him in the first place. This particular agent isn't referenced by anyone else in-game, and neither is he present at any of Otomainen's agent hangouts. Instead, he's hidden deep inside a static deadspace complex behind two separate rat infested rooms, in a place you'd have no reason to venture into unless you were either randomly exploring or already knew he was there. One of those rooms is also locked by multiple respawning battleships, which won't let you pass until they and everything else on grid are dead.

If by some miracle you do find Akemon and get him talking, you'll soon discover he needs three separate items to finish his heroic quest mission chain. In order, these are a widget from a rat that spawns once every 6 hours or so that's located in another system you'd have to cross lowsec to reach, a second widget in a structure next to him that may also take hours to respawn if somebody beat you to it, and finally, a 500m3 packaged fancy shuttle that's dropped at the end of a separate path down the plex inaccessible from his current location, which can only be entered using a gate key dropped in yet another room in the same plex. And of course the agent only informs you of what he'll need next once you've brought him the previous item, so unless you've read a guide and basically cheated your way into knowledge you had no way of gaining in-game, bought everything on contract ahead of time, and hauled it all inside your PvE boat, you're going to end up fighting through the same two rooms of L4 equivalent respawning rats again and again just to talk to him more than once.

This points to what I think is the second fundamental flaw of COSMOS missions. Aside from various other deal breakers I haven't even addressed yet, such as missions that take a half hour to completely spawn while leaving you with large stretches of nothing happening, or 22 jump highsec fetch quests thrown in between combat missions, or being asked to build a random item that takes close to 2 hours to finish in between combat missions, or vast swaths of content being wastefully self limiting when they're doable only once, or the wacky effort vs reward ratios for some agents that make no sense, or the fact that various agents are scattered in opposing faction space some 20+ jumps away who'll hand out missions suited for battleships, or the Gallente and Minmatar zones being left half finished... aside from all that and more, the second contender for absolute worst trait of COSMOS missions is the unforgivable extent to which the game goes out of its way to conceal vital information from the players. Most of the in-game info about mission order, standings requirements, or even something as basic as what you need to do next are either handed out in a needlessly delayed fashion or outright unavailable. Nothing outside of COSMOS points to COSMOS, and few of the agents point to each other. Even when they do, they can throw you into a nightmare dreamt up by the love child of Kafka and Rube Goldberg, where if you screw up even once somewhere in that mess, you're done for good.

An actual roadmap for Amarr COSMOS progress.

The one-two punch of waiting on multiple public respawns, and a "here's a rubix cube, go fuck yourself" design mentality, has lead to a bizarre situation where most people aren't aware of COSMOS missions enough to even know they exist, most people who know enough to at least try them won't have the knowledge to do them smoothly, and the sorry few who actually understand the missions in depth and want to run them will do everything in their power to have other players finish the worst bits so they can buy up the results on contract. If it wasn't for the isolated case of a few decent loot drops, or the sad fact that when all is said and done this is still one of the fastest ways to gain faction standing, then few people in their right mind would put themselves through a COSMOS run more than once. The whole ensemble is so badly put together that they make repeating L4s seem like a rewarding experience.

As it is, I'm already known in my alliance as that crazy person who would leave the wormhole once in a while to perform some kind of self flagellating black magic that summons A Lot of Money. Until most of the underlying design principles for COSMOS missions are revamped, they will continue to be just as obtuse and unpleasant to the vast majority of EVE players. Compared to recent improvements in PvE in the form of burner missions and Drifter AI blackboards, it's a shame to see a long suffering part of the game still remain so utterly broken.

-Guest Blogger, Nivin Sajjad