150 million skill points and counting

I haven’t played much EVE Online recently. When I decided to finally participate in a fleet roam again last week I was in for a surprise: my main character had just surpassed 150 million skill points, something akin to a round birthday. Seems like a good opportunity to have a look at how I got to that number and what I use those skillpoints for.

EVE_150mil_1
Still a bad egg, but a highly skilled one.

I created the character on December 22nd 2005. At the time characters started with less skills prelearned than they get today, so I couldn’t do a whole lot of anything at first. Since EVE is a very complex game and I was content learning the controls and systems by doing easy low-level missions for a while that didn’t really discourage me though.

Something that did suck were ‘Learning Skills’. Putting in the time to train those did nothing but improve your attributes, which in turn have no other purpose than determining how fast you train your skills. You had to choose between ignoring them, knowing full well that you’d hurt yourself in the long run by doing so, or training them early on, forcing you to wait for days – weeks even – before you’d finally train skills again that enabled you to actually do stuff like fly bigger ships and such. I hope that whoever had that idea isn’t working in game development anymore, because it was pretty much the antithesis of fun.

Fortunately I was intrigued enough by the game to stick through that. I indeed pushed the advanced learning skills up to level 4 very early on and hence trained relatively efficiently going forward. I also started to use attribute-enhancing implants as soon as I got my first ones as mission rewards.

Skill training nowadays can be done more efficiently than ever before. You can redistribute your base attributes once per year, which thankfully are much higher overall since they’ve axed learning skills, and citadels enable you to jump back and forth between clones at your leisure, enabling you to use a full set of +5 attribute implants whenever you’re safely docked up and switching to an appropriate combat clone before an op.

Had my account been active without timeouts I’d have surpassed the 200 million mark by now. I’m not complaining though, with those 150 mil I can do a great many things at a high performance level already.

EVE_150mil_2
Like fly very tiny ships…
EVE_150mil_3
…as well as pretty huge ones.

Let’s have a look at how my skillpoints are distributed by category:

EVE_150mil_5

With the exception of Fleet Support I’d wager that at least 90% of combat pilots have about the same categories in their top ten, more or less in the same order. In a game mainly about internet spaceships shooting each other it’s no surprise really.

A couple of things about my own skills did surprise me though.

There’s a bigger discrepancy between Armor and Shields than I would have thought since I consider both categories as ‘finished’ for my purposes. The explanation lies in the fact that passive armor hardeners, which boost your resistances without having to activate them, are very important for most if not all armor tanked ships, while shield setups pretty much exclusively use active hardeners. Hence I trained the four skills which raise the effectiveness of passive armor hardeners to level 5, while the corresponding shield skills remain at levels 2 or 3. That’s a difference of about two million skillpoints right there.

I couldn’t quite remember having trained Scanning skills on this character at all, but somewhere along the way I obviously did. I think I went on an exploration trip once or twice after I’d researched about activities in the game I’d never tried yet and continued to train those skills for a while. In the end Lakisa liked the feature more than I did, and I completely forgot about having those skills.

I’ve done my fair share of mission running in high sec with this character prior to his pirating days, quite a lot actually, so I definitely should’ve trained his Social skills a good bit higher to maximize profits. I thought that I had, but apparently I always had more important stuff to train.

EVE_150mil_4
It’s all about the connections, man!

When I began preparations for getting my first capital ship, a carrier, I decided to train those skills on this character instead of an alt like most people do. The reason being that I don’t like dual-boxing very much in general, much less in combat situations. In hindsight that was a mistake for various reasons. Capitals just aren’t ships you fly with your main. Because of this he has another couple million skillpoints in skills he doesn’t use, the biggest bunch of it in Navigation. I won’t extract those skills though.

Actually, I’ve neither injected nor extracted any skillpoints to or from this character, and I never will. This is ‘me’ in EVE. The character has grown with me, every decision to train certain skills at a certain time was deliberate and has contributed to his adventures one way or another. I’m not going to mess around with that.

Overall I still like this progression system a lot. It came at a perfect time for me back in ’05 when I was seriously burnt out from trying to power-level to the cap in EQII. You need to have patience, sure. It’s also true that a new player will never be able to catch up to my skill total (without using injectors) as long as I don’t stop adding to it. I don’t see either as a problem though.

People tend to forget that the importance of a character’s skills in EVE is greatly surpassed by the importance of strenght in numbers as well as individual player skill. You can contribute to many types of fleet fights with a freshly created character right away simply because you’re not on your own, and a 10 million skillpoint character could (and probably would) beat me in a 1vs1 because I just plain suck at that.

Anyway, here’s to the next 50 million.

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Return of the Firestarter

I hadn’t played any of my non-summoner characters for quite a while in Path of Exile, the main reason being that summoners are just so much fun.

However there are some things I’d rather do with a different type of character. Also, a change of playstyle every now and then keeps things from becoming boring.

So I decided to brush the dust off my level 85 Marauder. I didn’t quite know what to do with him though. Until now I’d always just specced back into his old build that I’d used for over four years and that was quite fun. Unfortunately that build isn’t really viable in today’s endgame content. A couple months ago I tried to do the Eternal Labyrinth with him and couldn’t even beat the first Izaro fight due to lack of damage output.

I did what I always do in this situation: I went to the Classes / Builds forums and browsed various build guides looking for an inspiration. My old build had had a fire theme going and I really wanted to retain that, so I specifically looked out for builds using Molten Strike, a skill that was introduced after I had settled on Infernal Blow back in the day, which seems to be a strong choice if you want to go melee in the current meta.

After a while I stumbled upon a build that not only sounded pretty strong and fun to play, it also utilizes two copies of a unique weapon I just recently found when I killed the Elder (for the first time even): Nebuloch.

PoE_Nebuloch1
I’d rather bugger off than let that thing hit me. Yuck!

When I found it I thought “Well, the bonuses are nice and all, but no way I’m working around that drawback, how’s that even possible?”. Which again shows that I’m not very good at theory crafting, because of course it’s possible. Did I mention that the build dual-wields those bad boys?

The trick is to use items and skill tree abilities that give you a truckload of passive life regeneration in combination with a high fire resistance (which mitigates a lot of that damage, a fact I hadn’t even thought of). That way you can fully benefit from those nice bonuses and don’t even notice the drawback.

So I went to work. Building the passive tree was easy enough, but almost all of the character’s items and gems had to be replaced, and since I don’t have everything the guide suggests at my disposal (and some pieces are quite expensive to trade for too) I had to find substitutions. For starters it works pretty well though. He regenerates almost 600 life per second at the moment, while taking a maximum of about 336 damage per second from Nebuloch.

What I also had to do was complete the Labyrinth once to change his Ascendancy class. He was a Juggernaut before, but for this build the Chieftain is the class of choice.

PoE_Nebuloch4
I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you…

In hindsight it would’ve also been the class of choice for my old build, but, yeah. I’m bad.

For changing your Ascendancy it doen’t matter which difficulty you run the lab on, so I went for Cruel, which is level 55. Although the build is far from finished it went without problems.

And I have to say, Molten Strike really is a great skill. It’s strenght is that while it’s a single target skill it also has an AoE-component in the form of magma balls covering the ground near the initial impact, which can also hit your main target for extra damage. This makes it equally great for clearing packs and killing bosses, you don’t actually need two different skills. I just swap out one support gem depending on the situation.

PoE_Nebuloch2
This is the more-AoE-setup, obviously.

Now I also have a couple of specific goals to persue: get a second Nebuloch, get the rings and a couple of other items suggested in the guide, beat Eternal Lab for those last two ascendancy points.

And get a good looking skin for the maces. Nebuloch doesn’t have it’s own 3D art yet, and the default one-handed mace looks pretty unimpressive even with a fire effect applied to it:

PoE_Nebuloch3
Big man, short…stick.

I’m having much fun already and have done maps up to tier 6 without problems. I’m looking forward to playing the build in it’s full glory. Thanks to FJ for the great guide!

Reaching new heights

The other day this happened in Path of Exile:

PoE_Lvl91

This is the highest level any of my PoE characters has ever reached. I used to regard level 88 or so as ‘max level’ for my characters, with 90 as a distant, long-time (but rather unrealistic) goal.

How different things can look when you have a build that’s powerful enough to make tier 8+ maps a breeze and sturdy enough to die only very rarely. Sky’s the limit, hell yeah!

Reaching level 90 a while ago was an even bigger milestone for me though, because that was an alltime-record in more than one regard: highest level in PoE, but also highest level in any ARPG ever.

My most played and highest-level character before PoE was my Sorceress in Diablo II.

Diablo2_Sorc
Rocking Tal Rasha’s Wrappings, one of DII’s high-end sets

I played in ‘Closed Battle.Net’ which means that the characters were saved server-side instead of client-side, and if you didn’t log in they were deleted after three months. I obviously failed to do so at some point, and that was that. Made me pretty sad to be honest, but it had become quite a chore to log in all those characters regularly (I had three accounts full of mules alone), and I didn’t really play anymore at the time. Oh well.

Anyway, level 89 had already been a pretty huge achievement for me, although a big round 90 would’ve looked much better of course.

Now I got that 90, and even surpassed it by one. We’ll see how far this can go.

Double, double toil and trouble

Everquest II has no shortage of holiday events. I haven’t done the math, but saying there’s more days a year with an event active than days without one can’t be far from the truth.

Most of them are great, too. Some of my favourites are Tinkerfest (not based on a real holiday) and of course Frostfell, which is themed around Christmas and the winter solstice.

The one I’ve always been looking forward to the most is Nights of the Dead, the Halloween event. This year it went live on October 5th and will stay active until November 1st.

Since new content is added almost every year there’s an amazing wealth of stuff to do by now. When I left the game in 2011 there already were two haunted houses, one giant hedge maze and lots of smaller content. Since then a race, a whack-a-mole type minigame, new collections and another haunted house have been added, so I had some new stuff to look forward to in addition to replaying the bits I already knew.

I vaguely remembered that some or most Halloween stuff started in West Freeport back in the day, so that’s where I went first. On my way there I stumbled across some tombstones that aren’t normally there. As I looked closer I discovered a shovel lying in the grass. Equipping it turned some of the tombstones clicky, so click them I did.

EQ2_Halloween1
It’s technically not really whack-a-mole, but it sure looks like it

One of various things then spawns from the grave. A gift package that can contain either candy, a collectible or a housing item, a mob to fight or a ghost who gives you a quest. I took the quest of course, desecrated some more graves, then followed the lead the ghost had given me.

The quest ultimately leads into the (for me) new haunted house. Like the one in Loping Plains it’s mostly built out of assets from The Estate of Unrest, but with a different color scheme and of course new riddles and enemies. It’s not very long or elaborate, and the boss fight is pretty click-heavy. Overall I like the two other houses more, but new content and new rewards are still nice.

After that I finally made my way to West Freeport. Indeed the quest giver for the trek to Loping Plains as well as the entrance to the first ever haunted house are still there, so I did those two next.

I had completely forgotten the dancing challenge (seriously) in the Freeport/Qeynos house. I succeeded without a single fail, which I think was a first.

EQ2_Halloween2
Quick, call Norrath’s Got Talent!

I had read somewhere that there’s also a new (again, to me) race in the Commonlands and Antonica just out of town, so I went and had a look. It’s pretty straightforward, you have to collect as many ghosts as possible while riding a sickly green cloud mount during a limited time, and get rewards accordingly. I made it into the leaderboard in Antonica on my second try (I assume not many had done it yet this year though), and I got myself two copies of one of the appearance weapons because it supplements my Ratonga’s outfit and the Bruiser’s fighting style well.

EQ2_Halloween3
Are you talking to me!?

Saving the best for last I finally ventured to Nektulos Forest and entered Hedge Hollow, a giant hedge maze with a couple of quests and really cool rewards inside. I got the outfit seen above there long ago, and you can still get it.

Speaking of rewards, there are lots and lots. Every quest has it’s own selection, but most come from the event vendor in every major city and are paid for with candy corn. Every ‘spooky’ kind of monster (skeletons, bats, werewolves, spiders etc.) has a chance to drop some kind of candy, and all of those can be exchanged for candy corn. Some of the items, especially the mounts, are pretty expensive though, and the cost for my list of want-to-have items quickly amounted to well over 1,000 candy corn.

EQ2_Halloween4
Flying mounts for everyone (at level 85 crafter or adventurer)!

To be honest, the thought of having to farm that much candy the old fashioned way wasn’t something I was particularly thrilled about. Hence I was really happy to find out that my pack pony has the ability to fetch candy for me. Instead of asking it to gather a specific tier of resources I can tell it to bring me holiday harvests (so I assume this also works during Frostfell etc.), and after two hours it returns with about 90 assorted candies. I’m using two ponies non-stop for this now, so buying everything Lakisa and I want and then some before the event ends shouldn’t be a problem at all.

I kind of miss the old trick-or-treat minigame (which apparently was removed and replaced by the races when Freeport and Qeynos were revamped), but other than that the event is bigger and better than ever. It’s still plenty of time to do everything before November 1st, and I highly recommend giving it a go.

Memorable Moments – Chapter Two

Today I’m going back to a great experience I had in 2009. As a line member of KIA Alliance I was living deep in nullsec for the first time in EVE Online.

Our home base was the TN25-J system in Period Basis. As long as we were part of the anti Band of Brothers coalition spearheaded by Goonswarm we had often traveled to Delve and Querious to fight BoB. After their defeat we didn’t have a clear focus or purpose for a while – which lead to most corps leaving the alliance in the end – and we mainly roamed around Period Basis and Stain shooting everything that wasn’t blue (i.e. allied with us).

Naturally Stain’s residents were keen to return the favour, so gangs of pilots from THE KLINGONS, Systematic-Chaos and Reikoku (a former BoB corp) came to harass us regularly.

One day nothing was happening and I ran missions to earn some ISK on my second account. Fortunately I was on Teamspeak just in case because suddenly one of ours called out “Guys, I need help, they have tackled my carrier in GR- !”.

At the time capital ships weren’t nearly as abundant as they are today and the prospect of losing one, no matter the circumstances, was devastating (well, at least it would’ve been to me), so we knew we had to save it. We didn’t have an experienced fleet commander online though, and there were a few moments of ‘Oh god, what are we gonna do?’.

The pilot reported that there were about 20 of them, all sub caps, and that he could tank them for quite a while. There was still time.

I quickly checked what ships I had ready to go, and since no one else seemed willing to step up I decided to at least get the ball rolling.

I asked everyone to grab any ship fitted for close range gank with a bit of tank and tackle, undock and meet up at our jump bridge in TN25 directly leading to GR-J8B. I hopped into my blaster fit Deimos and headed out to the bridge.

EVE Deimos
A more recent shot of a Deimos of mine – I was much too nervous to take screenshots then

While everyone scrambled to get their ships ready someone was mindful enough to contact our allied neighbors, Zenith Affinity, who would join us on site.

After a while a dozen or so sat on the jump bridge good to go. Some more weren’t quite ready, but the carrier was taking more and more damage. The clock was ticking.

I said “Jump, jump, jump! Latecomers just catch up when you’re ready.”

We landed in GR- and I let everyone align to our outpost. The carrier had been caught 15km off of it (how or why we’ll never know) and was still sitting there, tackled and slowed to a complete halt.

As soon as we got word that the Zenith guys were also in system and aligned I gave the command to initiate warp to the carrier.

To be honest, I don’t remember many details about the fight itself. I was in a frenzy, my heart pumping, my hands sweating. I think I called the enemy ship nearest to me when we landed primary, after that the carrier pilot took over the target calling. Astonishingly he seemed to be the calmest of us all.

Their DPS consisted mostly of Tech I cruisers, so our mix of battleships and Tech II cruisers was superior from the get-go. We destroyed the first ship, then the second, and on it went. More and more reinforcements trickled in on our side too, and before long we had wiped out the majority of their fleet. Only a couple managed to avoid being tackled and got away.

We rescued the carrier and didn’t even lose much – actually hardly anything – in the process while delivering a decent blow to our hostile neighbors. Op success!

The battle report consequently shows a very one-sided affair, but for me it was one of the most exciting battles I’ve had in EVE, and one of those rare gaming moments that was not only fun but also really meant (and still means) a lot to me.

A new flavour of summoner

Yeah, I couldn’t resist for long. Alongside Path of Exile’s new challenge league came quite a few changes to the passive tree, so as I had expected we all got a free reset. I seized that opportunity to change my Incursion-character’s build to a different kind of summoner centered around the unique helmet The Baron.

PoE_Baron
Live and let die indeed seems like a good PoE-motto to me

As you can see having as much strenght as possible is the name of the game. It gives you more zombies, boost your minions’ melee-damage, and if you manage to hit 1k strenght your zombies’ attacks leech life to you.

The summoner build I played until now was rather squishy and I died more often than I would have liked, so I definitely wanted that last bonus. It’s not easy to get that much of any one stat though. Fortunately the game provides a bunch of different means to get there.

Wearing items with strenght on them is obviously the most straightforward way.

PoE_STRitems

Rare items are utilized to provide much needed life and resists, since those are in scant supply on most unique items. The uniques give significant bonuses to strenght, but also supplement the build nicely with an additional skeleton, life regeneration as well as a lot of dexterity and intelligence.

The latter is important because in order to level up all skill and support gems used in the build the other two stats can’t be neglected. Especially intelligence needs some love considering that a couple of the passive tree jewels also used to reach 1k strenght do this at its expense:

PoE_Strenght
Need…more…strenght!!!

I’m just over 1k now with enough int and dex to make everything work. The life leech from the zombies is very noticable and makes surviving much easier, as does the fact that I’m wearing actual armor instead of energy shield items this time around.

Offensively the build absolutely rocks. I have 13 zombies and a maximum of 12 skeletons. Since I summon three skellies with each cast I’m at the maximum pretty quickly, and their damage output is tremendous. The zombies are socketed into The Baron, the skeletons into a five-link chest, so there’s still room for improvement. The fact that I leveled from 87 1/2 to 89 in just two days is a testament to the clearspeed the build already has in it’s current state.

Also helping with that are the spectres that I use. Monkeypower!

PoE_Monkeys
I call them Bud and Terrence

They don’t do much damage by themselves, but that’s not their purpose anyway. One uses a warcry that gives frenzy charges to surrounding allies, making them run and attack faster as well as do more damage, the other’s warcry gives power charges which increase crit chance. When supported with a Blood Magic gem, which makes a skill cost life instead of mana, they spam their warcries constantly as long as there are enemies in range.

PathOfExile_x64 2018-09-26 14-08-22-404
My army and me, pumped to the eyeballs with charges

The build is so much fun to play! It still has all aspects that I find great about summoners, namely that I don’t need to kill the monsters all by myself, yet I still have my hands full with directing and supporting my minions. Sure, in lower level areas I can casually stroll about and watch everything around me die, but on high level maps I have to be on the ball and can still die myself if I’m not careful.

What the build doesn’t have is the clunkiness and rather slow ramp up that my previous iterations of summoners had. I’m really happy with it.

Here’s her passive tree at level 89 with all points spent:

PathOfExile_28-09-18_BaronLvl89