29 February 2016

Brief Break

I took a brief break from EVE this past 10 days. I had been reading about an epic adventure going on in Elite: Dangerous, the Distant Worlds expedition. The people involved in that project are flying with approximately 1000 pilots to the opposite side of the galaxy. Their route will take them some 80 thousand light years before they reach the destination. When I learned of this epic quest I thought I would try and catch up with them and then join their main fleet.

This turned out to be a pretty optimistic and foolish idea. I don't play E: D enough to have much money in the bank. I fitted out my ship with the best jump drive I could. This got me only 15 LY per jump. If I'd known how far away the overall journey was at that point I'd have given up there and then. Over the course of the past 10 days I spent way too many hours each day jumping five systems at a time then scooping fuel at a sun before continuing on. I made it to checkpoint 1 fairly quick and felt smug. I would catch them up in no time. Getting to checkpoint 2 probably took 16 hours of continuous play. It was at this point I realised quite the scale of the journey. I had travelled one eleventh of the way to the centre of the galaxy. Getting to the other side was double that!

I soldiered on through the past week jumping system to system whenever I had some spare time. I was slowly closing the gap on the main fleet but I was starting to think I would be lucky to meet with them before they reached the end of their outwards journey. I don't even want to think how many hours I spent jumping away from the main bubble of inhabited systems. The journey stopped being fun and became a proper chore. In my head I still wanted to catch a group of people I was over a month behind.

It was a nice day yesterday. I was doing some maintenance on my motorbike while pressing on with my mission in Elite. I would do my 5 jumps then go do some more work outside while refuelling at a sun. It was going well until a neighbour visited. Then another. So we sat outside and chatted. After about an hour I suddenly remembered about my ship refuelling at the sun. I came in just in time to see it overheating through solar exposure and my life support failing. Ah, bollocks! I was 11,000 LY from any chance of repairs. No way I could cover more than 1000th of that distance in the five minutes of oxygen I had.


It had taken me a week of not-insignificant time to get so far away from the start. It took less than an hour of distraction to send me all the way back to the beginning. I felt a lot more punished by that than anything EVE has ever dished out to me. Elite: Dangerous picks up a lot of criticism for a lack of content being built in. In the true nature of a sandboxy game the lack of content is largely created by a lack of imagination. I salute the organisers of the Distant Worlds expedition. They are better people than I for the journey they organised. Maybe I can scrape together more credits, buy a proper exploration ship, and join them on their next epic adventure.

17 February 2016

Light years away

I recently noticed the CREST endpoint for getting a character's location has been enabled. As I understand it this is the first step of many towards removing the old and creaky in-game browser. In case you don't know, the in-game browser allows websites access to certain information about the character logged in. I won't go into detail but suffice to say one of the bits of information is the current location. This is particularly useful for mapping tools such as Dotlan's radar function. In wormholes we have our own mapping tools so we can have up-to-date representations of our current constellation and chains. When CCP first mooted the idea to remove the in-game browser the wormhole community was pretty adamant that we would need some other way to find pilots' current location for use in these mapping tools. I have never done anything with the authenticated CREST API. In fact, I've only ever worked with the single sign-on feature in the past, and that code is some nasty mess I threw together. This meant it was time for some learning.

It's pretty easy to move from pure SSO to requesting CREST access scopes. I just had to put the scopes I wanted into the 'scope' parameter in the redirect URL. Once I did that I could use either the one-time access token to request a piece of information from the CREST API, or be more sensible and save the 'refresh_token' as a reusable token to use against the API.  Of course, writing it here makes it all look so easy. I have a terrible history working with APIs so it was a bunch of trial and error that got me to this point. During that trial and error I started talking to the 'systems' endpoint as an easy thing to request. It was while doing that I noticed the systems are listed with x, y and z coordinates. With coordinates for all the systems in EVE I got slightly sidetracked with working out how far away my home wormhole system is from the main EVE cluster. So, to the numbers.

Firstly a calibration test.

  • Sobaseki to Pakkonen has a straight line distance of 37,446,080,319,997,000 of whatever magical units CCP used for New Eden.
  • From the Dotlan jump calculator I can see that corresponds to 3.958 light years. Dividing the large arbitrary units number by the smaller light years number gives a factor to convert between the random CCP units to light years.
  • Pakkonen to EC-P8R has a straight line distance of 80,133,438,607,125,000 which reads as 8.470 light years when divided by the calibration factor.
  • In Dotlan, Pakkonen to EC-P8R shows the same jump as 8.47 light years.
This looks pretty good to me. Time to move on to calculate the distance from my home wormhole to Amarr (because screw Jita).
  • Home to Amarr has a straight line distance of 11,958,622,357,432,000,000 mystery units.
  • Dividing that by the conversion factor yields a distance of 1,264.010 light years.
It's a pretty long single jump between my own corner of Anoikis and my preferred market hub of Amarr. To have my freighter make that jump in one go I would need my Jump Drive Calibration skill to, um, level 1,259. That's quite a long train. I think I'll stick to traveling through holes in space.

Oh yeah, and the location endpoint? Turns out my alt is in Jita...
        "id_str": "30000142",
        "href": "https://crest-tq.eveonline.com/solarsystems/30000142/",
        "id": 30000142,
        "name": "Jita"

13 February 2016

Tell me about the rabbits

Scan a QR code like this to enable Google authenticator
On Tuesday a new ability came to New Eden. By spending some Aurum (yes, remember that stuff) you can now purchase a skill extractor. This item can be used to extract half a million skill points from your capsuleer brain which, in turn, allows you to sell them on the open market. On the other side of this transaction you have pilots who want a quick injection of skill points. They can spend hard earned ISK and purchase your half a million SP and inject it into their head as unallocated skill points. If you've ever been given a ship or fitting for an organised roam and realised you couldn't fit some of it you'll probably be thinking this is a useful new feature. However, the cost of the skill injectors was around 620 million ISK last time I looked. Whilst it's an investment in your character it still seems a whole whack to drop just to fit a module.

Of course, EVE being EVE, it occurred to me this introduces a whole new vector for upset should you be misfortunate enough for your account to be hacked. Until this week it was only your ISK and assets which were at risk. While I never had my stuff stolen in that way I imagine it would be a nightmare to log in and discover everything gone. Since the skill extractors were introduced there is now the potential to log in and discover that in addition to losing all your stuff you may also now find a drooling mess of a 5 million SP pilot who can't even fly a shuttle any more. Oh the joy to discover that. To be fair, it would cost around 40 billion ISK to extract 100 Million SP but from what I hear those rich, rich nullsec ratters are quite likely to have wallets that fat.

With this in mind it is no coincidence that on Monday I logged all my accounts into the CCP account management page and enabled two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is becoming increasingly common all over the internet. For the longest time people have been setting terrible passwords to protect their accounts. With two-factor authentication you either receive an email or use the Google authenticator app to generate a number based on the time you are trying to log in plus a secret shared between your app and CCP. This number is used in addition to your rubbish password to log in to your account. This means there are two pieces of information a potential hacker needs to use to access your account which should significantly reduce the likelihood of getting your account hacked.

Do you want to risk logging in and finding your pilot reduced to Lennie Small levels of intellect? Do you even know enough about rabbits to answer Lennie's questions? Do you have any idea what I'm referencing? If not then get your two-factor authentication sorted today.

2 February 2016

Local Chatter

paranoik vutra > hello
paranoik vutra > I'm gay
If it hadn't been for the flippant comments we'd never have known one of our wormhole connections was being rolled. I had just finished watching Deutchland 83 (watch it, it's very good) and was considering an early night. However, there is always just one thing to check in New Eden before I hit the sheets. As soon as I logged in I'm told about the chatter in local, told there's a crew rolling a hole, and told about the Vindicator, piloted by the chatty pilot, sitting on the hole being rolled.

We scramble into action. What do we need to kill a Vindy? Battleships of course. How do we stop him from just jumping away through the hole he's rolling? A command destroyer jump field! We get ourselves shipped up and wait for the next transit of the rest of the hole rollers. A Raven jumps in, crawls excruciatingly slowly back to the hole and jumps out. This is our trigger. Rhianna warps his command destroyer in on the Vindicator, activates the jump field then yells at us to warp to him as soon as the 100 km jump takes effect.

Rhianna's command destroyer dies before our Battleships get halfway through the warp. The power of dual webs on the Vindicator prove too much for his oversized prop-mod to cope with. Epic has inexplicably jumped into a Thorax so he arrives next and also dies rapidly. This is enough distraction for the Vindicator pilot and my Hyperion lands along with Ponder's Rattlesnake. We get points on the Vindy and start pouring on the damage.

My Hyperion is feeling the pain. The Vindy hits really hard and readily overwhelms my two armour reppers. I'm overheating everything, the Vindicator is in half armour, I am in a much worse state and explode all the same. Just as I warp my pod off we land another Hyperion on the Vindicator. By this time the enemy has drawn in support and they now also have a Tengu and Gila on field with us. I reship to provide some logi support to our own remaining ships. Before I get there the combined weight of the three hostile ships ends Ponder's Rattlesnake. It's too late for the Vindicator pilot though and he dies 10 seconds later. I cheer loudly, much to my wife's disgust who comes down the stairs to glare at me and close the door more firmly. The fight isn't over yet though.

Vindicator - Rixx Javix
The hostile fleet now comprises of a Gila, Tengu, Falcon, Bhalgorn, and a new Vindicator. We still have a Hyperion and Prophecy on the field with my Oneiros trying to keep out of range of any hostiles whilst also trying to keep my friends alive. I get some reps on the Hyperion before the Falcon jams me. Being jammed proves useful as it lets me focus on something other than trying to rep the friendly ships. I notice the Tengu getting mighty close to me. He points me as I align away from him and put my prop mod on. I watch hopefully as my speed climbs to match and then exceed his. I kite the Tengu 30 km or more from the fight before he gives up the chase. During this time we get our Hyperion out. That just leaves our Prophecy and my Oneiros. As I look for a way to get close to the Prophecy to send more reps he announces on comms that he isn't pointed any more and warps off. With nobody to keep alive I also take my leave of the battlefield.

And thus the fight ends. We put 'gf' in local and keep eyes on their fleet. They take some time to withdraw as their route home is critical on mass once the Bhalgorn jumps through. We contemplate jumping their second Vindicator away again but the toll it took on us first time was probably enough for one night. The final score on the killboard is two billion killed for one billion lost. It took us four ships and was definitely a fun fight. Damn those Vindicators are tough.