Saturday, 13 September 2014

All the Gear and No Idea (Week 2): Raiders of the Lost Artifacts

TL;DR - In my foolhardy quest to participate in EVE's industry gameplay without getting bogged down in endless calculations and spreadsheets, I accidentally made a profit and encountered something unexpected: fun.



When I began my 'playtesting' of the new-fangled industry in EVE, I expected it to be a fairly dry affair more akin to running a business than playing a game. To a degree this is still true and, as I detailed last week, a not insignificant amount of effort was required to set things up.

However, once things were ticking over and I was able to research blueprints and manufacture ships and equipment as I fancied, EVE's universe suddenly came into focus.

No longer was my EVE experience aimless, with occasionally roams or content grinding just because. Goals began to present themselves to me, be they of a pecuniary nature or just a desire to 'find the materials to build that thing'. Every game session becomes a treasure hunt or a mystery.

A Quick Recap

In my first week, I was able to manufacture enough to fill most of the sell orders my mediocre Trade and Retail skill levels allowed: a handful of frigates and destroyers, assorted modules and some rigs. Those few sell orders I couldn't fill with manufactured goods I filled with some of the endless stacks of mission loot I'd been sitting on. Some helpful reader comments last week gave me some pointers, including the fact that modules recovered from missions can no longer provide much in the way of reprocessed material, so their use to me was limited.

A single tritanium unit like you've never seen it before.
By the end of week 1, I'd spent approximately 200m ISK and sold goods to the value of 20m ISK, so things seemed a little fruitless. However, with a full stack of 30-odd sell orders which I monitored and modified on a regular basis in the event that someone nearby undercut me, by midway through week 2 I'd turned over 300m ISK. I was back in the black!

Granted, a significant percentage of that was from the sale of 3 Gnosis battlecruisers I'd built for 1 tritanium each, so it's a bit of an artificial achievement - there's unlikely to be such easy money to be made in subsequent weeks. But after getting a bit of a buzz from seeing my coffers fill so quickly,  I hungered for more high value items to sell. What else did I have stashed in my treasure trove of goodies gathered over my years of play?

The Quest for the Random Items

Talocan? More like Talo-can't!
After some sifting through various loot containers, I found some COSMOS storyline blueprints for modules which I recall being pretty underwhelming at first glance. However, a quick market check showed the items to be of potentially quite high sale value, so I figured I'd see what I needed to do to get them built. That's when I hit a snag; it wasn't just your standard raw materials that were required. Lots of parts with 'Talocan' in their name were needed. Oh well, I was sick of mining anyway, maybe these gubbins were found through exploration - I often recover odd and apparently useless materials from sites found at cosmic signatures.

I was keen to discover content rather than be spoonfed by player guides, so I only allowed myself a quick look on EVElopedia before departing. My research indicated that Talocan sites were found in the Okkelen region of Caldari space twenty-odd jumps away. Just in case combat sites were involved, I decided against my exploration ship of choice - the effective but flimsy (and unarmed) Buzzard - and fitted out my recently acquired but still unused Astero frigate, which can deliver just as well on the exploration front, but has more teeth.

Some time later I was busy scouring space for juicy signatures to plunder. I found plenty of archaeology and hacking sites as well as the more visible combat sites (and one combat signature site which was a bit scarier - I left that to a pilot in a Cerberus who turned up shortly after I did). But none were delivering on these mysterious Talocan items. Hmmm.

Eventually, I relented on my 'no heavy research' resolution and dug further. Well, I say 'dug', my misguided assumptions were pretty much corrected on Twitter by Steve Ronuken and Noizygamer, but I confirmed their advice with my 'digging'. It seemed I needed to be looking for my elusive bounty in a static 'COSMOS' exploration location called the Devil's Dig Site. However, the detailed information provided by EVElopedia and supplemented by research from the Arek'Jaalan project (an innovative, slow-burning live community event from a couple of years ago) indicated that my poor little Astero would likely be chewed up by the rogue drones in the area.

I needed something tougher.

Raiders of the Lost COSMOS

One round trip back to my distant HQ later saw me return the the Okkelen constellation in a purpose-fit Tengu strategic cruiser. The configuration I'd opted for was low on damage output (only three heavy missile launchers), but it focused on having a solid permaboosting shield tank so I could ignore incoming fire and get on with ransacking the relic containers while letting my drones chip away at the hostiles.

The Infested Excavation Site
The entry deadspace area for the Devil's Dig Site plays host to a number of NPCs who offer missions to recover the loot found beyond the acceleration gate. I ignored them. I have other uses for those relics.  The COSMOS sites are home to what more traditional MMOs call public quests and I expected to see other pilots passing through, all with their own reasons for scouring the area.

On entering the Devil's Dig Site proper, the Infested Excavation Site, I was confronted by a vast stalagmite-like asteroid, around which were scattered numerous relics to point my Relic Analyzer module at. A couple of other pilots were present (also in Tengus I noted) and going about their business.

Each time I interacted with a relic node, I was required to play through the hacking minigame which I'd encountered so frequently in more standard exploration sites. The slight difference here was that they offered more of a challenge - I even failed a few times. This was certainly a more engaging way to gather resources than mining and I spent a number of hours slowly gathering some of the materials I needed. Before long I'd built a stockpile of Talocan Mechanical Gears, Reflective Plates, Info Shards and Solid Atomizers. However, a number of parts just didn't seem to be available here.

Another acceleration gate sat at the bottom of the site. Hoping the second site beyond would yield the rarer parts, I activated it, but it just taunted me with demands of an Ancient Cipher Totem key, hinting that it must be around here somewhere. I presumed it to be a rare drop, perhaps like some of the other as yet undiscovered Talocan items, and continued the grind.

Scifi minesweeper: sometimes repeated clicking can be entertaining.

Over the week, I did a half-hour here and there, mindful that I needed to get back to my nascent industrial empire soon; this little field trip was taking too much time. With no variation on the loot I was obtaining, I was about to give up hope and head back to HQ when I finally accessed a relic containing an Ancient Cipher Totem key. Frustratingly, my real life schedule was about to get busy for a few days, so I didn't have the luxury of planning an extended session to make best use of the single-use key any time soon.

I waited until I had a couple of free hours and took the plunge. It was a similar setup in the Ancient Temple beyond the gate, with clusters of relic nodes protected by frigate- and cruiser-sized drones. I went about accessing them, but was forced to keep half an eye on my drones and my shield - these hostiles had a bit more about them and when enough of them concentrated fire, they strained my shields. I also lost a few drones to them. My time was brought to an end by the server shutdown (irritating that on logging back in I'd be back in the starting area with no means of returning to the restricted area) and my spoils were disappointing - I'd gathered a couple of new items on my list, but it was mostly the same stuff as the previous deadspace area.

Unexpected Dividends

Nice chap, bad photographer.
Fortunately, in a stroke of random luck, I did get some contributions from elsewhere. I was still on the Arek'Jaalan mailing list (which is mostly dormant these days) but it had recently seen an enquiry regarding technology sites. I'd chimed in about my quest and before long, Mike Azariah piped up that he had a few bits laying around that I could have. He contracted them over and further bolstered my Talocan artifact collection. He didn't even want anything for his stash, nice chap that he is.

Despite all that, as I headed back to my industrial HQ, a quick assessment of the storyline blueprints that had started this little quest showed that I'd be able to build precisely none of modules I'd hoped to. Bugger, perhaps I should've stuck with mining. Still, it wasn't a total loss - according to the EVE client, the value of the artifacts I'd collected exceeded 150m ISK. In any case, I probably shouldn't focus too much on these blueprints as it's about to change, with news that named modules are going to get a rebalance starting in the upcoming Oceanus release on September 30.

Now back in the comforts of my usual system, I've not yet had much of a chance to kickstart the next batch of industry jobs yet, but I will. As I review and reflect on the growth of my industrial empire, even though in terms of efficiency and profit I essentially wasted most of this week on a jolly to far-off systems, it was refreshing. Rather than rinse-and-repeat the same manufacturing cycles, I experienced a variety of gameplay, tweaked a few ship fits, read some lore and socialised with other EVE players.

It was fun.


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