Squinting for science

Crowdsourced science projects (aka human-directed computing) relying on gaming communities are nothing new. One of the first projects I can remember is from 2010 when a group developed a game in order to predict protein structures.

PD2
The willingness of strangers to help out with these kind of tasks is a huge thing for scientists. Very often we are faced with tasks which are important but so time consuming that it is difficult to catch up while still having to do experiments. This usually results in huge backlogs of unanalyzed data. Add this to the lack of fund needed to hire help and the immense publication pressure scientists are under and you can see that this system is not sustainable. Ironically, analyzing the data would often help identifying necessary experiments and exclude those which are not worth performing.

In the past labs used to hire undergrads for these tasks. They get the precious experience for their CV and the lab gets free labor. I heard of a scientist who went a step further and started a company in China which does nothing but trace shapes on electron microscopy images. The demand is there, though I doubt that the average lab would be able to afford this service. Not sure about companies though.

Anyway, when CCP announced Project Discovery, a collaboration with the Human Protein Atlas, people got excited. Eve players would participate in identifying the localization of cellular structures which in turn helps with the characterization of the protein. Scientists would finally be able to comb through stacks of data within a relatively short amount of time. Simply put: Eve players would try to figure out where certain proteins can be found within a cell. Knowing the location of a protein you a lot about its role. For those who prefer to know the real world application: Knowing where to find a protein and what it does will help understand diseases and how to address them. If you know that tires belong under a car you will understand why a car is not moving when you find the tires on top of the car.

I was very excited when Project Discovery (PD) started and I believe that the implementation was fairly well done, considering that this was Terra Nova for both sides. What I found very discouraging is the fact how badly PD communicated with the player base. While they had set up a subreddit, a forum post and a Twitter, they were kind of weak in motivating and encouraging their participants.

From my experience people are much more involved when they actually understand what they are doing and what comes out of it. PD chose to go the path of least resistance and released rather uninspiring updates about the latest findings, most of them which got ignored because many players didn’t know that there was a dedicated subreddit. I would have hoped for more interactions, AMA with participating scientists, reports about where this data actually came from, anything which would make the player feel as part of a team instead of feeling like another F1 monkey. There wasn’t even a final goodbye post when the project ended. At least none I was aware of. No summary of what has been achieved, no future outlook, nada. What kind of collaboration is that?

PD1

Now CCP is starting another round of PD, this time providing support for the search of exoplanets. Players get to decide whether a drop in signal intensity might indicate the transition of a planet past a sun. So far, I like it. It is still the first week, so there are lots of bugs which need to be addressed but I can see myself playing the game once in a while. What I really hope is that CCP will add a magnification feature to the window. So far it can be quite a pain for me to properly place a marker (bad eye sight) and I often find myself squinting at the monitor trying to make sure that I am doing it right.

I really hope that the communication with the players will be better this time. CCP has recently shown again that they have lost their ability to properly talk with us and I hope that PD is not picking this bad habit up.

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Crickets and bad luck

I love scanning. It might sound weird but for me it is relaxing and engaging at the same time. The scan process is straight forward and even the recent changes have not been able to scare me away from it. Of course I don’t scan for the heck of it. I want to find prey in my chain, something I can attack either solo or with fellow wormholers.

Living in California and playing mostly at night has made me accept the fact that I would rarely find something. Once in a while it’s an Epithal or a gas mining Venture and in 100% of the cases they are stabbed up and get away. It makes sense: When I play Europe is still mostly asleep and the Australians are still at work or just not at home.

So when I get to play in the afternoon over the weekend it is always exciting because I like to think that the chances of getting content are much higher. However, recently things have been depressingly quiet. I would scan down 20 to 30 holes just to find some person permadocked. I just have bad luck it seems.

As a result I spent a lot of time just camping holes which look promising. Recently I found a vanilla C3 with a LS static and lots of ships on dscan. Turns out that two corps lived in there and none of them had bothered to set up a citadel yet. Why they wouldn’t leave their ships in the SMA is beyond my comprehension but it made me curious enough to stay a few days.

Every day I would log in only to see the same: Lots of ships, no activity. Both during my night sessions and my weekend afternoon sessions. Not only did they ships just float in space, but also no other wormhole corp seemed interested in running the 20+ anomalies which were piling up in there. So while I waited I spend my time thinking about running those sites myself or miraculously watching the POS shields go down revealing a gigantic loot pinata.

To be a bit more productive I scanned down the chains as much as possible, both in order to find somebody and also be able to provide an entrance for friends should something actually happen. Last weekend I was lucky to have a HS chain which allowed me to jump quickly to the system in which I run my research jobs. The chain was fresh so I took the time and headed out.

When I returned after 30 min the hole was gone. With an uneasy feeling I made the 22 jump trip to the LS static only to see it pop right in front of me. After over a week of camping and crickets I had to leave the hole on that day the corp decided to finally log in and roll their holes. I know that Bob does things for a reason but I still raged while I logged out and called it a day.

Seeding a market

I don’t care too much about grinding and ratting. I understand that Isk is needed to fly shiny things but I don’t see the appeal in these activities and from what I read most of the people who actually do these things do either.

Instead I prefer to do passive trading. I enjoy spreadsheets, I enjoy analyzing data. On the other hand I like to do it at my own pace without feeling that it becomes a second job. So instead of watching my items like a hawk and instantly updating the price as soon as somebody undercuts me I like to go for items which sell slowly but consistently. Alternatively I trade in areas where the trade volume might be relatively low and as a result has less competition. My trading char has almost max skills so I don’t have to be too selective when finding items (it actually is a pain to find enough to fill all my slots). I do wish that I could put more stuff on contracts since selling max researched BPC is a nice income.

Since reading Sugar Kyle’s post about seeding a market I always wanted to give it a try. Recently, while exploring Low-Sec and taking pretty pictures, I noticed that the local area was relatively active (pirates and militia) but the market was poorly stocked and overpriced. High-Sec was only a few jumps away but not all pirates can go there without getting shot. It seemed like a good opportunity to try out my luck here.

First thing I did was placing a few popular products on the market, things which always sell (think Warp Core stabs, repair paste or ammo). After a week I came back and behold: almost 2/3 of my items still hadn’t been undercut and sold well. So demand and competition were reasonable. Time for the next step: Finding a niche. These are the three things to consider:

  • In less busy regions, station trading is not an option – even ignoring the fact that this is low sec; nobody comes here to sell shit.
  • Buyers are lazy: As I said, the market is non-existent meaning products are scattered throughout the region without a hub people can rely on. I need to provide an incentive to prefer my system over others.
  • I don’t want to spend more than 2 to 3 hours max per week on this.

This means that I have two options: Sell general consumables or sell items which complement each other. Consumables in a Pvp area are: Ammo, repair paste, drones and drugs. Regardless what I do, these are things that will sell, no matter what. Items complementing each other are ships and fits. I can try selling a Svipul for weeks but if the buyer can’t find equipment to fit it with there is just no incentive to buy the ship. Buyers are lazy. Nobody wants to travel through x systems just to collect a working fit. Especially in Low-Sec.

A beloved staple of frigate Pvp is the Tristan, an incredibly versatile ships with a low entrance barrier. You can fit it for a brawl or for kiting, it can neut or shoot, combat drones or ewar drones. It seemed like a reasonable ship to continue my project. I selected 3 popular Tristan fits which a reasonably trained pilot could fly and bought enough to fit 10 of them in total. In addition I stocked up on ammo and drones.

Getting it into Low-Sec was a bit unnerving considering the amount of deaths Dotlan shows for that region. I used a stabbed Iteron and lots of bookmarks. Plus I never carried more than 200mil per haul. After a bit more than an hour everything was in place and I was ready to sell.

I am not a fan of scorched earth. Overpriced items are a great way of making profit but I am convinced that it won’t work long time. Especially if I want my system to be known for a good market. While my prices are higher than Jita they are reasonable and still way beyond what the few competitors around here are charging. I won’t make a lot of Isk with this. My napkin math tells me it will be just barely 10% of my investments after tax, not considering the time I spend on hauling. Doesn’t really matter though, it was never about the money. I am pretty sure that my local competitors will start wardeccing me once they notice the drop in prices. But there are plenty of ways to work around them and it keeps things spicy.

Of course there is a high chance that everything I did and said is bullcrap. I will come back after a few days and see how things are going.

 

Storylines

I mentioned it before: I don’t consider Willow my main character. I chose to writer under her name because it is just more interesting to write about wormhole shenanigans. My main is an explorer, part of Signal Cartel. In fact I think he is one of the oldest members still with them, a fact which makes me very proud.

Whenever a new player asks for good income sources, inevitably exploration is one of the suggestions. For good reason: While it might not be a consistent income it is very profitable with a very low entrance barrier. All you have to do is learn basic scanning and the hacking game, then you are good to go. But these are just the skills. An explorer also has be willing to leave High-Sec as soon as possible since the valuable loot is where there is no law.

However, I feel that CCP is neglecting the other facets of exploration, namely the sites New Eden has to offer. Pretty graphics are nothing without context and for a while now not much context has been added. I am in no way a role player and only familiar with the very basics of the Eve Lore. But even I noticed that CCP rarely followed through with the lore elements it introduced at one point.

We haven’t really learned anything new about the Jove or the Drifters. There are sites all over the place but they don’t really DO anything. They are just decorative items and as such are easily being ignored. Same with all the beacons we see over the place. What is the incentive to see them? They don’t contribute to the gameplay and as a result nobody cares about them.

Should it matter? Maybe not. Nobody is forcing us to visit a museum yet people go there. But if CCP is coming up with all those story elements it would be nice if they could at least follow through. Exploration should be not only about hacking can, it should also be about discovering new sites and bringing back valuable information; something which would encourage people to dig deeper and get familiar with the topic. CCP Fozzie mentioned that there are still things which haven’t been discovered by Eve players but why should we care if we don’t know how it fits into a story?

I know that the majority of the players won’t really care about this part of Eve. Right now there are more important game elements which need attention: FW mechanisms, Citadels (and the ridiculous level of security they provide), skill injector farming, decreasing Isk sinks…the list goes on. Yet I feel that story elements are things which add substance to Eve and it would be sad if CCP decides to neglect this facet for good.

Much ado about nothing

Undocking again felt good. After figuring out how to remove the dust from my ship I left the station and…well, didn’t really know where to go next. So I opened Dotlan and started looking for areas I haven’t seen before. Which are quite a lot since I spend most of my time in wormholes. In the end I decided to check out Aridia. No specific reason.

On the way I started scanning down the few signatures I encountered. The new scanning window felt weird but I had expected worse after reading all those comments on reddit. While I am not too happy with the dscan changes I appreciate the improvements in probe scanning. Moving the probes around has always been a bit annoying.

I couldn’t resist jumping into a C2. Dscan showed one Helios but when I tried to pinpoint it’s location I found it at a citadel and by the time I warped there the ship was gone and the Astrahus had one guest. Not in the mood for waiting I scanned the wormhole, hacked the one relic site (66mil, not bad) and left. Just before entering Lowsec I found a Superior Sleeper Cache but apparently 98 scan strength is not enough to resolve it. So I posted the system in a chat room I frequent and moved on.

Jumping into Lowsec was underwhelming. I had expected at least a tiny gate camp but saw only 1 person in local. Same with the next two systems. Then I found an “Outgrowth Rogue Drone Hive”, which according to Eve Uni was a 5/10 DED site. I had never tried a 5/10 before and I didn’t know if a Stratios could handle it. So I warped to it.

I wouldn’t call it a disaster but it wasn’t one of my proudest moments either. Clearing the rats was not a big deal but it took longer than expected. The rats kept on shooting my drones and I lost a bunch of them. When I entered the last room things got a big more complicated. The Drone queen was fucking annoying and webbed me and my drones so we couldn’t speedtank the incoming damage. She also repped her shields and was hull tanked so I had to maintain as much damage as possible. I lost my Geckos because it took them too long to get back. Now my pride was hurt and I decided to stay until the site was done. Almost 2 hours in I finally killed her and got a meh Overseer thingie and some junk. Definitely not isk positive and not a site I will try again.

Rusty

You know you are rusty when you are few jumps into lowsec and realize that you undocked in your learning clone. When I realized that I was flying with 600mil in implants through Aridia my butthole shrunk to the size of a pinhead and I only when I was back in highsec I was able to relax again. Not a great start but it feels good to fly again.