How RNG made me happy for once

I’ve shared my thoughts about randomness in MMORPGs before, my verdict being that it can be good or bad depending on how it’s utilized.

The RNG elements in Black Desert Online, of which there are many, are mostly bad in my opinion. Losing a bunch of progress you’d already made with a single click, for example when an item downgrades again due to a failed upgrade attempt, is just the antithesis of fun.

So color me surprised when the game’s third anniversary came along and with it an event that had a kind of RNG I actually liked quite a lot.

This event gave us the opportunity to earn four pre-enhanced pieces of gear. Spread across four weeks you could get one temporary accessory piece and some event-only upgrade materials per week by doing a quest and being logged in for a certain amount of time every day.

If you were lucky and got that piece to enhancement level TRI you could then exchange it for a regular accessory piece, also at TRI level. A huge prize! The real kicker, at least for me, was that even if you weren’t that lucky you’d at least get a DUO version of that same piece at the end of the week, provided you’d completed the quest (which required to kill a thousand mobs of a specific type) each and every day. At that time a DUO accessory was still a big deal for Lakisa and myself, so I knew that doing the event would be a win no matter our amount of luck.

It went really well, much better than anticipated. After week three we both had already scored two TRI hits, so we had to settle for the ‘consolation DUO ‘ only once each. In week four the best of the items was up, the Ogre Ring (which is actually worn as a necklace, apparently Ogres have pretty thick fingers). Unfortunately Lakisa only got the DUO this time, I on the other hand…

It is indeed, my dear Rudd, it is indeed

I was very excited to get it – I made Lakisa jump in her seat by cheering rather loudly – and also pretty happy with the event as a whole. Getting those TRI items was obviously huge, but, again, the fact that we at least got a DUO whenever the RNG wasn’t in our favour was what made the event feel really rewarding and fun to me. I would’ve also been happy, if a bit disappointed of course, if I’d scored only one TRI, or even none at all. I guess I can enjoy randomness much more if it’s not either win it all or lose it all. Not winning the main prize stings much less if I at least get an adequate reward for my efforts so that I don’t feel like all I did was for nothing.

Anyway, that particular day the RNG gods weren’t quite done being nice. After finishing the event quest we did some boss scrolls, and I finally got a pair of Bheg’s Gloves while Lakisa was even luckier and received Dim Tree Spirit’s Armor. What are the chances of that happening on the same day?

As if that still wasn’t enough I pulled a DUO Eye of the Ruins Ring from a Dark Rift reward box later that same evening. Say what?

Finally cracked that 200 AP threshold; I didn’t think I’d ever get there

Whoa. Not only did all that additional attack power boost my damage output quite noticably, having made such a substantial leap on the gear ladder actually motivated me to try and push even further. Since I now had Bheg’s Gloves lying around, as well as a Kzarka weapon box I got during another event a while back, I decided to buy the remaining boss armor pieces I wanted, namely Dim Tree, Griffon’s Helmet and Urugon’s Shoes, from the market and have a go at enhancing them all at once, which is the most efficient way anyhow.

All prepared and ready to dance the failstack dance

I knew that 300 Armor Black Stones wouldn’t be enough to build all those failstacks I’d need, but I kinda hoped that the rest of the items you see up there, especially the Memory Fragments, would suffice. Haha, not a chance. Over the span of three hours I used up about 700 Mem Frags, well over 1k Black Stones, more than 100 Concentrated Black Stones, 50 Valk’s Cry, almost all Advice of Valk’s I had and like 100 million silver. But I got there.

So beautiful it almost didn’t hurt anymore

At the time of this writing those five items have a combined worth of about 4,5 billion silver on the marketplace, so I actually made a profit, hard to believe as it may be. Still, I’m glad I got it over with. From here on out I’ll only try to enhance anything when I have accumulated enough Cron Stones so a failure won’t bounce the item back to DUO.

The only thing left to do then was to bring the remaining accessory slots up to par. I had long since decided that I’d never try to enhance those myself – because they don’t just fall back a level when an enhancement attempt fails, they are destroyed instead – so I’d held on to any I’d found in order to sell them later and use the silver to buy already enhanced pieces from the market.

I activated a 7-day Value Pack and put all kinds of stuff I had accumulated over the months up for sale. Just 12 hours later I’d made almost 2,5 billion silver. I used that to buy a second TRI Narc Ear Accessory and a TRI Eye of the Ruins Ring. Not satisfied with wearing one last DUO piece I then sold that DUO Eye Ring and also the DUO Ogre Ring I had lying around since after the anniversary event to buy another TRI Eye Ring.

As a huge fan of symmetry this pleases me to no end

It’s ironic, and also a bit schizophrenic I feel, that I still don’t like this gear upgrade system at all, yet looking at what I’ve achieved with it makes me feel really satisfied and happy.

But, again, it probably wouldn’t have happened at all if not for the anniversary event and its rather generous and rewarding form of RNG.

Anyway, at the end of that arduous play session it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea what those shiny new items actually look like on my character since he’s always wearing the costume you’ve already seen in numerous screenshots. So I toggled the hide costume switch.

911? Yeah, there’s some nutter in a bird suit loitering on the bank’s roof

Ehhhh…I think I’ll stick with my costume, thank you very much.



Sov warfare can be fun after all

The ongoing war between Goon-led Imperium and PanFam doesn’t nearly make as much headlines as other wars in EVE Online have – and rightly so, unfortunately.

That’s not to say nothing’s happening – there’s fighting going on pretty much around the clock, every day. However, measured by the huge number of players involved the amount of destruction happening is rather miniscule. ISK-wise the highest damage isn’t done when combat fleets clash, but far off the front lines whenever yet another ratter or miner gets caught with their pants down by the other side’s raiding patrols or even third parties looking for easy kills.

I believe the main reason for this is that there’s actually not much at stake for both sides. Goons have stated from the beginning that they have no intention to hold on to whatever space they manage to take from us. Which means that, once they’re gone, we’ll just take it back. It’s not like anyone but Goons would be able to stop us from doing that.

As for ISK-damage done, that doesn’t matter a whole lot either. Both coalitions are more than capable of replacing any ships, citadels and whatever else the war might claim many times over.

Until now there’s been only one important and numbers-wise relatively huge fight – which Lakisa and I unfortunately missed due to it being very early in the morning in our timezone – after Goons had managed to reinforce the infrastructure hub in SH1-6P, our coalition’s main staging system. Had they succeeded to destroy it our position in this war would’ve been severely weakened. Our forces won that battle pretty decidedly and the I-hub was saved.

Since I wasn’t there here’s a shot of an exploding Astrahus citadel instead

That linked article also talks a bit about the game’s current sovereignty mechanics. As usual you can read about it in more detail on EVE Uni’s Wiki, if you’re so inclined. This system, referred to as Fozzie Sov by most players, is in the game since 2015 when it replaced the Dominion Sov system introduced in 2009.

No one really likes Fozzie Sov much, just like no one really liked Dominion Sov. Or the system before that. The thing is – apart from the fact that MMO gamers in general and EVE bittervets in particular are never happy anyway – I don’t think it’s at all possible to devise a sov system that favours neither attacker nor defender too much and completely negates waiting periods and the chance for a whole lot of boredom.

That’s because you can’t actually force either side of a conflict to do anything. Whenever the attackers have reinforced a thing there has to always be a timer after which they have to come back and do another thing, so the defenders have a chance to react. There’s three possible scenarios for that to go down.

One – The defenders decide to not show up, either because they know they can’t win or they just don’t care. Everyone’s bored.

Two – The defenders show up in force, so much so that the attackers don’t like their chances and retreat or don’t show up in the first place. Everyone’s bored.

Three – Actual fighting happens, at least one side is happy. Probably the other side too, because considering the alternatives EVE’s PvPers generally like to get a fight at all, even if it doesn’t go their way in the end.

So no matter how the sov system works there will always be a good chance that you’re forming up for nothing.

That being said, last Sunday we were treated to an example of how fun Fozzie Sov can actually be. We lost the objective in the end, but most of us agreed that it was the most fun we’d had in quite a while.

Goons had reinforced some stuff in our home region Vale of the Silent, and we formed up in force to defend. Once the timer was up command nodes would begin to spawn randomly anywhere in the Z-DO53 constellation’s systems. PL and us formed a joint Muninn fleet, Horde came in Eagles.

Muninn fleet on the move in ‘potato mode’

In preparation for large numbers and the associated strain on the game’s client I dialed down the graphics to minimum settings, referred to as potato mode, disabled all sound – I really hate playing without sound – and turned off some other bits and pieces. The maximum fleet size of 256 pilots was reached well before we even undocked, and there were still people trying to get in. Hence having your client crash would most likely have led to losing your spot in the fleet, so I wasn’t gonna risk anything.

We were Titan-bridged into EIDI-N and waited there for the timer to tick down. Meanwhile multiple Imperium fleets were reported in KRUN-N, right next door. Since there was still time I fired up dotlan and assessed the situation.

As always, click to enlarge

I knew that we actually might have some fun when I saw the constellation’s layout and our starting position in it. Many constellations have kind of a ‘main road’ which you have to take if you want to reach every system in it. Often those are the fights that end before they even begin because neither side is willing to jump in first and be at a disadvantage from the get go. Here, though, we had many connections between systems, and apart from the IPAY-2 and V-OJEN branches neither side would be able to block the other from going anywhere by locking down just one stargate.

Sure enough, as soon as the first command nodes spawned we were off, zipping to and fro, trying to protect our ‘toasters’, the entosis-fitted ships that have to interact with the nodes, while killing off theirs. I say zipping…actually more like crawling, because there were over 800 pilots in the constellation already and TiDi was hitting pretty hard.

Time Dilation was CCPs answer to coalitions bringing more and more people into battles, crashing their servers left and right. Nowadays when a server is at maximum load everything gets slowed down to give it more breathing room. For us players this means the game effectively runs in slow motion, down to 10% of its normal speed at worst.

Additionally and unrelated to TiDi, session changes – for example when jumping through a gate or taking a jump bridge – have waiting queues when hundreds of people do it at the same time.

We spent quite some time staring at this, though it rarely takes as long as it says

Nevertheless it was extremely fun. I think our FCs did a great job, but the true heroes were our Interdictor pilots. They dropped critical bubbles just at the right time and place more than once, ensuring that we didn’t get caught by fleets twice our size.

Still, after a while it became clear that we wouldn’t be able to win this. Even more reinforcements for Goons arrived while Horde’s fleet was effectively out of combat because they lost almost all of their logi due to some mishap. So at that time it was pretty much our lone 250 pilot Muninn fleet against all that stuff you see on the battle report’s red side. Time to cut our losses and go home.

Many people on our side say things like “Goons can only win when they outnumber us 4:1” or “If they blob us like that all the time they are the ones to blame when nobody gets good fights”. While that’s technically true I wonder what else they should do? I mean, are they supposed to fill up just one fleet and tell everyone else to stay at home? Just the other day Wilhelm portrayed what fleet formup looks like right now if you’re in the Imperium, and as I said, our own fleet was full too. Everyone wants a fight, that’s what we play EVE for. The difference is, if you combine all characters in the alliances on our side of that battle report you get about 24,300. The red side’s characters add up to almost 58,000.

So, yeah, being outnumbered will continue to be our lot in this war. As long as we get some good fights out of it I don’t care much. And, as I said, when it goes like it did on Sunday I might even start to actually like sov warfare. Who would have known?

Lighting the second candle

I started this blog two years ago today.

Have another piece of cake. It’s been a year, you must be starving

As is tradition for such an occasion I’ll now look back upon the past year and also throw some statistics at you.

I published 83 posts since the blog’s first birthday, which is quite an uptick from the first year’s 34. The main contributing factor was Blaugust Reborn of course, which ‘made’ me publish 31 pieces during August alone. At the end of that month I had gained a lot of experience and also made a resolution: to post at least once a week going forward. Except for rare exceptions I managed to do that.

The wordcount per post went up from 691 in 2018 to 1061 in 2019, but I assume that’s mainly because I published a couple pretty short posts last year, especially during Blaugust, while more or less maintaining my usual post length this year up to now. We’ll see what happens if/when Blaugust comes around again.

Since I also wrote the obligatory end-of-the-year-review on December 31rd I’ll only include posts from 2019 in the following overview of topics.

I love how she almost looks like a pirate ship with the advanced crafted gear

From December to April I mainly played Black Desert Online. Building an Epheria frigate was a huge goal I pursued and eventually accomplished, which also prompted me to muse about long term goals in MMOs in general.

Another topic that occupied my mind was combat in MMORPGs, specifically how it needs to be designed to be enjoyable for me personally.

Just one of about five billion memes making the rounds

An article on Kotaku about Anthem’s development was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me regarding the sorry state the AAA gaming industry is in right now, and I felt the need to vent some steam in two posts about those issues.

It’s not all bad though, as a couple of new non-MMO releases managed to entertain and delight me a lot. There’s still hope that the big guns of the industry – looking at you, ActiBlizz and EA – won’t manage to fuck up our beloved hobby completely after all.

Can you spot the swarm of tiny specks that is our fleet?

A couple weeks ago my EVE Online corporation joined the nullsec alliance NC Dot, which rekindled my love for that game once more. I’ve played it a lot since then, and also utilized that newfound enthusiasm by finally starting to write down my whole history with the game. Parts one, two and three are published by now with more to come.

Even more spaceships. What can I say, I like spaceships

After reading a lot of good things about it I decided to make use of the currently running discount and bought Stellaris. A very long time ago I played a little shareware game called Planets with a couple of friends, and Stellaris kind of reminds me of it. Well, except that it’s like 500 times more complex. I still meet up with some of those guys online from time to time, mainly to play a few rounds of Battlefield or some other shooter. I hope to get them on board (no pun intended) and try out Stellaris with me. Could be fun. I’ll probably write about it too once I’ve digged a bit deeper into it.

And that’s all I have for you today. Keep blogging and keep reading, good folks. I know I will.