Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Saturday, May 31, 2014

No tank lasts forever

Tank in EVE Online is a balance between buffer, resistance, and reps on one side, and damage and neuts on the other. Enemy ships rage at you, your native resists apply, and they slowly chew through buffer. Reps build buffer back up and make the process take longer. But the reps are usually at a disadvantage because they are few in number... and the attackers are many. And if there's a fundamental truth in EVE Online it's that if enough people want your ship dead, it will die, and all the reps in the world won't help.

No tank lasts forever. And today, I am shutting down Jester's Trek.

Now before you ask, I'm neither quitting nor rage-quitting EVE Online. But over the last few months, I've come to realize that something like 85% to 90% of the stuff I'm doing in and around EVE simply isn't any fun. So I'm going to cut out everything that I'm not finding fun and focus my time on the remaining 10%.

This little blog was started as an experiment to support my run for CSM6 almost four years ago. And it has a nice symmetry to shut it down after the completion of my successful CSM8 term. Over that almost four years, the tenor of the game has changed remarkably... and not for the better. Four years ago, EVE players were very much "Us against the world! Woo!" Now we've learned the rest of the world doesn't care and it's become "Us against each other." In my writings trying to change that even a tiny bit, I've become something of a symbol. That wouldn't necessarily be bad, except quite ironically I've also become a symbol for any number of things I do not believe in.

For the rest, the people trying to kill the message have been trying to kill the messenger. And on reflection, I find I am quite content to let them. Metaphorically, at least. ;-) And over the month or so since I made this decision, I've been shown a dozen or more signs that the decision is the right one.(1)

So, let's end this little experiment with some thank yous and some shout-outs.

First up, Mynxee, who planted this idea in my head in the first place. All of this is her fault. ;-) <3 Mynxee. I'm so glad to see you back in the game!

Second, CSM legend Trebor Daehdoow, to whom I've gone to for advice at five key places along this road, including at the top of this final milestone. I've always found his thinking sound and his advice exactly what I needed to hear at each point.

Thank you so much to my current alliance-mates in Rote Kapelle and all my past alliance mates, particularly in Sturmgrenadier. All of you have approached my little blog with high good humor, good grace, and understanding... even when some of you occasionally hated what I wrote. ;-)

Everyone who voted for me for CSM8. I still wouldn't trade that experience for the world. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart! I did my absolute best for you while I was there.

Everyone who wrote me an encouraging word, message, EVE mail, or e-mail. You'd probably be pretty surprised how rare and cherished these were. I have an incredibly thick, resistant skin, and yet these were the reps that kept me going. A special thank you to the women of EVE. About once a year or so, one of you would catch me on Teamspeak, Skype, or Mumble after a town hall or a public fleet or the like and tell me how widely read and appreciated I was among EVE's ladies. That meant a lot to me.

riverini of EVE News 24. I know a lot of you guys don't like him. But it's been inspiring to me to watch him continue to push that rock uphill... and continue to succeed at it! He was the very first person to really believe in what I was trying to do here.

Everyone who donated ISK or stuff during my annual pledge drives, or once a year or so, out of the clear blue sky. It never was much. Now that it's over, I can say with some chagrin that James 315 makes more in a good month than I ever made in a good year of writing this blog, with all of my income sources from writing pooled together. But it was enough to keep my accounts subscribed and for me to buy myself an occasional Loki. The money did help but the fact that it was hard-earned doing honest work meant a lot.

EVE's other bloggers and pod-casters, and the members of CSM9. Keep up the good work, ladies and gentlemen!

To the game developers, community members, and just flat folk at CCP, thank you! We didn't always agree and I know some of you don't like me, but everything I said was said out of love and respect for your game and your work. I hope to still be playing EVE a long time from now. Particularly fond shout-outs to CCP Falcon and CCP Guard. Keep fighting the good fight, guys!

And finally to you, Dear Reader, a heartfelt thank you. The good ones among you read my stuff, argued it with me, sometimes learned something, ofttimes taught me something. We've also been fighting the good fight against the darkness. Keep fighting it without me and know that I'm still on your side.

You might see me around EVE, though I suspect it's more likely that I'll let Ripard's account lapse for a while and concentrate my activities on a couple of my other mains. And who knows, if something earth-shattering goes down, I might be inspired to write a guest piece somewhere.(2) Please continue to support EVE's other bloggers! And if you want to say hello, please feel free to do so. I'll likely still have strong opinions about this niche little spaceship game.

It's just that from now on, I'll keep 'em to myself. Good hunting!

(1) One example: a friend lecturing me on how it's bad that EVE players avoid competition... a few days after he himself joined Goonswarm. Another: the constant reminders that ISK is piling up in the wallets of EVE's most hateful people.
(2) But don't expect it for just anything. I really do mean earth-shattering: the break-up of the CFC, say, or a 20% CCP layoff. I'm not going down the Poetic Stanziel route.

May junk drawer

Welcome to the junk drawer, part of a series of monthly posts in which I dump all the stuff that I couldn't develop into full blog posts this past month. This month at mid-month I folded a lot of what was in the junk drawer up to that point into a "Distant voices" post so if you haven't read that post, you should definitely start there. The rest of what's in the junk drawer are longer bits, graphics, and things that didn't make it into that post, usually because they came up in the back half of the month.


Let's start with a few more distant voices, since I'm already on the topic. If you've ever been happy to get the pre-release versions of the EFT data files, then you have EVE player Namamai to thank for that. He's one of the smartest EVE players I know... and now he's started a blog. You should definitely keep an eye on it!

I got a kick out of this post by Kirith Kodachi dissecting the Prophecy trailer. He did miss a trick, though, by scoffing at the idea of EVE, DUST, and Valkyrie players eventually working on the same objective. That's more or less exactly what a lot of people said about the Fanfest 2012 trailer and EVE and DUST players working together.

This article about Steam trading is the best piece of gaming journalism I read this month.

This is kind of cool: blogger TurAmarth ElRandir wrote an Open Letter to CCP asking if CCP Seagull's space colonization vision was going to have a place for the small gang player. And rather surprisingly, Seagull responded!

This blog post about game design is ancient, and is about a game about as far-removed from EVE as you can get. And yet I can't help seeing applicability to EVE in every paragraph. Even the freakin' title is applicable.

My favorite posts at Crossing Zebras? The "CZ Minutes" posts where all of the writers get together and debate in text about something. It's kind of like a written pod-cast, except better because the positions are better thought-out. Go check them out!


I love how the Mordu's Legion ships look, but I think they belong in another game. Aren't EVE ships supposed to be more... I dunno... more industrial than this? Grittier, perhaps?

Speaking of Kronos ship art, here's an enormously long link with pictures of every new ship or ship skin in the upcoming expansion.


Some real quickies, one per line:

This really amazing Captain's Quarters bug just made me laugh. Go check it out.

The former CCP Bro finally announced where he's working now. You get one guess.

The former CCP Dolan didn't have to. The former CCP Soundwave did it for him.

Spotted on Reddit, this also just made me laugh.


A few CSM9 notes:

If you ever intend to run for the CSM, bookmark this Fanfest retrospective. It's a pretty damn fine list of CCP developers and the topics that they feel strongly about. It's not exactly a one-for-one list of who works on what features, but in some cases it's damn close. CSM8 came up with the idea of building a big spreadsheet of every CCP dev we came into contact with: their name, team, job, Twitter accounts, e-mails, work location, even a place to take notes. But posts like this are where spreadsheets like that start.

The CSM Wire project from The Nosy Gamer is pretty freakin' cool!

I continue to be so impressed with the weekly updates that Xander Phoena, Sugar Kyle, and mynnna are doing! But I do kind of wish that they'd publish a joint post on what CCP did in the previous week so that they each can focus on what they individually think about what CCP did the previous week. That way, I wouldn't have to sift through the same list of stuff in all three places (or more often, two places with the third saying the other two already wrote the list, hee!).

That said, getting the three perspectives is really interesting! It's particularly interesting to see each of them talk about particularly contentious features.


A couple of Kerbal Space Program junk drawer items! I got such a kick out of this survey taken of KSP players and how they feel about science and/or the space program after playing KSP. Even if you don't play KSP, go check it out!

Have I ever linked the kerbalmaps.com website and this rather extraordinary Mun map? I don't think I have. This thing was invaluable to me when I was plotting where to try my most recent attempts to make rovers viable.


And that's all for the junk drawer this month. Even with a mid-month cleaning, there was still a lot of stuff in there!

Friday, May 30, 2014

It's only rock 'n' roll (but I like it)

The patch notes are out for Kronos and as is my custom, I'd like to go through them and point at things I like and don't like. And as I go through the list, it's rather interesting how nearly everything the least bit contentious has been pushed back to Crius. Kronos turns out to be an unassuming little release, full of lots of fun little items that will make just about anyone smile.

Let's touch on the major stuff.

Audio customization. This one's a big win, and lets you pick and choose those sounds that you wish to hear and those you don't. I'm a bit of a mutant in that I play EVE with sounds on. I find that it helps both immersion and situational awareness, particularly if I'm flying something small and fast (which is most of the time). That said, the jump tunnel sound effect is overwhelmingly loud and annoying for me. In addition, most FCs are issuing orders as you're going through a jump gate or a titan bridge into a battle and this particular sound effect makes those orders tough or impossible to hear. So it will be great to be able to turn this off without that impacting everything else.

Pirate ship rebalance! Yes, please! My particular favorites, in rough order: Ashimmu, Gila, Nightmare (for PvE), Rattlesnake, Bhaalgorn, Succubus, Machariel, Cruor. My least favorites, in rough order: Vigilant, Cynabal. The rest, I'm pretty much neutral on. So way more good than bad in this group, for my money. Can't wait to get busy refitting and trying them out!

Freighter and jump freighter low slots. The change is more boring than rigs, but I guess I can live with it. I don't see it doing much to jump freighters, but it will make freighter fitting more interesting.

Deep space transports and Blockade runners. DSTs? Don't care. I'll buy a couple, but it will be for a stupid reason: so I can put them into my travel carriers and in so doing have the option of carrying another 50-60k of cargo in my carriers or Rorqual. But actually fly the thing? No, not very likely. The blockade runner changes, though? Thumbs way up! There wasn't much wrong with these ships and the little tweaks plus the additional high slot make them more fun and useful. That warp speed change is just flat nifty even though I now have to train Transport Ships to more than Level II.

EDIT (30/May/2014): And now I'm told in comments that DST fleet hangars full of mods won't be able to be stored in carriers after all... charges only. Which means I don't have to buy any DSTs. I'll stick to a couple of Hoarders in my carriers which do the same exact thing and are T1.

Mining barges and exhumers. Don't much care. I don't see it making a lot of difference. Maybe CODE will leave Skiffs alone, maybe they'll gank more of them just to make a point.

Phoenix and Citadel missiles. Don't much care. It'll sell a few of these dreads to Caldari and missile fan-boys but I just can't see these changes making that much of a difference. Phoenix will still be the worst dread for most applications except hysterical shield tanking. That's becoming a thing, I guess.

Various exploration fixes. The big one is the death of the lootsplosion. Thank Heaven!

Mid-grade pirate implants. I'm not quite sure I see the point to this, but it does mean I won't worry quite so much when Ripard is in his one low-grade Snake set. I'm usually in a hurry to get out of that implant set as soon as I can because it feels like he's training slow. ;-)

Medium micro jump drives. OK, this is the one feature in Kronos that I just don't care for. I think they're going to be over-powered on command ships, both in mid-grade fleet doctrines and in the upcoming Alliance Tournament. More modules that make tackling and destroying ships harder is just not a good thing in EVE, in my opinion. They were introduced into the game for DSTs but they're not very useful at all in that application: why would you wait out a 12 second MMJD cycle when you can just do a 10-second MWD-align-and-warp cycle? I suspect I recognize what's being done here: CCP Fozzie wants to encourage more BC use. But this is the wrong way to go about it, I think.

Hyperspatial accelerators. My opinion of these is going to depend heavily on drop rate. Hopefully they will be common enough that you can fit them to freighters pretty routinely. We'll know more about this in a few months. I really really like the idea! It's going to be the implementation that decides this one.

Hull rigs. These should have been stripped when freighter rig slots were. But they're not objectionable in and of themselves. Just mostly useless.

Drone changes. All in all, I'm positive on these changes! I still say drone assist on sentries should have been murdered in its bed, but I was quite literally outvoted. So we'll see what 50-drone assist does. I do like the faster medium and heavy drone MWD speeds, I like drone skills being adjusted to be more new player friendly, and I can even live with the new drone skill. I'm not sure I'm as big of a fan of fighters and FBs receiving the benefit of drone modules: I think this is mostly going to be a buff to super-powers and ratting, two areas that didn't exactly need a buff. But the rest, I like!

New Eden Store. Call me neutral on this one, waiting to see where it goes. I'm positive about the concept but again this is going to come down to implementation and more importantly, follow-through.

Factional warfare changes. I don't know enough about FW to know whether these are good or bad things.

Mordu's Legion ships. Again, this is going to come down to spawn rate, and ultimately, price. If they settle in at the same price as the Angel ships, say, then call me very positive on this one. But if an Orthrus ultimately costs the same as a Vigilant, then I'll be much less enthused. As I've mentioned, these ships dropped right into a pretty crowded niche. I'm enthusiastic about a kiting missile ship, don't get me wrong. But at a high price-point, player enthusiasm for these ships is going to wear down pretty quickly. And I'm still not a fan of the Garmur.

Prospect. Yeah, it's OK, I guess. I'm not thrilled at the additional skill book, for no other reason than it means I'll almost certainly never fly this ship.

Upgraded graphics and some new ship skins. I'm a big fan of the new Moa and Condor models! Very very pretty! The Typhoon is OK. Unfortunately, I feel like the pirate BC/destroyer skins are going to be nothing but hangar queens, which is an enormous shame because some of those ships are gorgeous.

UI changes. And finally, I love pretty much every single thing that CCP karkur and CCP Punkturis have planned for Kronos. My particular favorite is the reload timer for modules, with color-coding broadcasts in second place, and weirdly (since I don't mine any more), the lock indicator on the survey scanner being third. I also like the repair progress bar for nanite repair paste though I have this suspicion that most of the time I won't notice it. ;-)

And that's pretty much it! Lots and lots of interesting stuff in here, and I like nearly all of it! Bring on Kronos!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The stranger's viewpoint

I'm going to go a bit sideways on you in this post. Let's start with this:
Matthew: In order to prepare this speech, I rang a few people, to get a general picture of how Gareth was regarded by those who met him. "Fat" seems to have been a word people most connected with him. "Terribly rude" also rang a lot of bells. "So very fat and very rude" seems to have been the stranger's viewpoint.
No, EVE isn't dying, even though this quote is from one of my favorite speeches from Four Weddings and a Funeral. But I do want to delve again into the topic of how EVE Online is regarded outside of the game and in this way continue my thought from this morning.

I'm a big fan of Jim Sterling's work... notably his video series Jimquisition at The Escapist. Here's another example of how my brain works. Not too long ago, he did a piece about a very poor game on Steam that earned a lot of poor reviews. Amused and curious, I looked that game up on Steam. That set me remembering that EVE is also on Steam. That reminded me of the Steam tags and that EVE had probably been reviewed. And that sent me over to read the Steam reviews themselves.

Now I've read customer reviews of EVE here and there and they tend to be pretty bad, usually a mix of 1-star and 5-star reviews with the latter usually being long treatises that despite their enthusiasm make the game sound dull and the former usually being stuff like this. And sure enough, most of the negative reviews of EVE on Steam were in the same mold. But two things struck me:
  1. Most of the reviews labeled as "helpful" of EVE on Steam are negative ones (seven of the ten most helpful, in fact!); and,
  2. the most helpful review -- which is negative -- is a thoughtful, incisive, troubling piece that is well worth your time to read in full.
Reading it, it's clear that the writer (a) understands EVE Online, and (b) is exactly the kind of thoughtful gamer we want to attract to EVE Online. And it's equally clear that he wants nothing whatsoever to do with us:
People love to troll. "Collecting tears" is one of the main driving forces that keeps many people playing the game. Once you have a decent ship and skillbase, it's very, very easy to troll less experienced players. And, sadly, that seems to be enough for a lot of veterans to hang around. Eve is one of the few games that rewards you for being an asshole at every possible opportunity. If you're a sociopath and that's your idea of entertainment, then you'll have a blast.
At the end of the day, I simply could not justify spending any more time playing Eve Online. The more time I spent playing it, the more I realized how much I hated it. And that's the insidious part: it's hard to understand the negative aspects of the game until you've already sunk a lot of time into it.
Ouch! The interesting thing is that the review is so thoughtful, well-defended, and becoming so widely read (and widely tagged as helpful) that the author is having to re-edit the review every couple of weeks to add more explanations for his viewpoint:
Yes, Eve is mostly controlled by players, but they're no different from players that you could find in any other popular online game. The only difference is that Eve rewards them for their megalomania. 
In almost every other way, the human interaction is the same as in any other MMO. ... In Eve, there is just more opportunity and incentive to be a dick.
Double ouch! Guys... again: this is the stranger's viewpoint.

Then you read the comments. And while about two out of ten blast the author for what he wrote, six out of ten grudgingly admit the guy makes good points. The final two out of ten?
Thank you for taking the time to post an honest review of this game. I was really on the fence about weather or not I should purchase this game, especially since it's been out for so long and I would be a brand new player. The information you provided was more than enough to help me make the decision to stay out of this game.
I keep coming back to this point because I find it so depressing. Nobody wants to join our little sandbox and we're steadily driving off anyone who does. And as the old shampoo commercial put it, they tell five friends, and they tell five friends.

I realize that a lot of you out there really want to keep New Eden as your own private little club, no noobs allowed, go back to WoW, et cetera ad nauseam. But some of you must feel differently. If you want the game to succeed, how do you not worry about it? Are we so enamored of griefing people that we subconsciously want EVE to flame out and die so we can sit down with some popcorn and watch it happen? In my darkest moments, I feel like this is exactly it. There are lots of current and former EVE players that seem positively gleeful at the prospect of watching CCP implode spectacularly.

Meanwhile, the people we are attracting are either being sold a bill of goods that EVE can't deliver on (B-R) or are only joining to get involved in the grief-fest themselves.

And if you're developing EVE Online, how can you look at this kind of thing and not be worried by it? I'll grant you that Star Citizen is rapidly turning into a joke, but the devs of Elite: Dangerous are showing quiet, steady competence. What they've got out there so far looks intriguing as hell. And even if it's not E:D, some developer sooner or later is going to come up with a game that is going to depopulate wide swaths of our niche little galaxy. It's inevitable at this point. Wouldn't it be nice to have some new blood coming in to replace them?

Assuming that at least a few of you do want that, how do we make it happen? Is it even possible?

COTW: The sandbox

My post on the 24th looking back at the "Peace dec" has generated a huge discussion that's been really interesting to read. Thank you so much to everyone who has participated in that! I myself have been trying to stay out of the discussion because I find that when I get involved in such discussions directly, suddenly the discussion becomes about "Jester said X" as a thing unto itself... rather than what Jester said.(1) I'll have more to say about that specifically on Saturday.

But I can't resist pointing to two particular comments on that post that beautifully encapsulated an idea that's been kicking around my head since the whole Erotica 1 fiasco a couple of months ago. Speaking about the peace dec mechanic, one anonymous commenter said (edited slightly):
The peace dec IS PvP! - one group of players acting on another. It's just not the sort of PvP that you like.
And another(?) said (also edited slightly):
Peace Deccing actually is the ultimate PvP against PvP-minded players. It hits them right where it hurts - and completely non-consensually. Thus it fits perfectly within the ethos of EVE.
YES! Thank you! That's a really lovely way of putting it. And reading these two comments, it finally occurred to me what kind of sandbox EVE Online is. EVE isn't a PvP sandbox. It's a griefing sandbox.

Small-gang PvPers grief solo PvPers.
Big-gang PvPers grief small-gang PvPers.
PvP corps grief industrial and mission corps.
Big alliances grief small alliances.
Big coalitions grief big alliances.
Smart-ass forum posters grief serious forum posters.
Big "media sites" grief little "media sites".
Gankers grief solo players.
Big miners grief little miners.
Smart industrialists grief dumb industrialists.
Rich station traders grief poor station traders.
Bullies grief newbies and other ignorant players.
Scammers grief absolutely everybody.

And on and on and on and on and on, throughout any aspect of the game you care to name. EVE Online is a griefing sandbox. It's all PvP if you care to look at it that way. It's the only shared experience that every single one of us have.

(1) Examples: people saying that Jester must be seriously proposing peace decs even though I said twice I wasn't, or people saying that this is yet more proof that Jester hates non-consensual PvP even though I've said at least ten times this isn't true. Sometimes, I have no idea who this Jester person is that people talk about.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fit of the Week: Tormentor

For various reasons, I feel like doing a Tormentor FOTW this week. Frigates were my first PvP ship and from time to time, I like to return to them in various forms, whether T1, interceptors, or AFs. My first actual PvP kill was in a Merlin but looking back at my most recent Merlin fit, I still like that one. So this is a ship that I flew against Brave Collective pilots:

[Tormentor, Brave Tormentor]

Small Armor Repairer II
Heat Sink II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S
Small Focused Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S

Small Processor Overclocking Unit I
Small Semiconductor Memory Cell I
Small Semiconductor Memory Cell I

Hobgoblin II x2

This is a really entertaining fit. It starts from the fact that Tormentors don't have much of a reputation: they don't seem scary to most people. Hell, I'd be willing to bet a lot of players can't name the Tormentor when they try to name the six Amarrian T1 frigs. It's a pretty easy to dismiss little boat.

Except this easy to dismiss boat can put 200+ DPS out with overheated guns out to scram and web range, and it's wickedly fast for an Amarr ship and therefore perfectly adequate to apply that web and scram. 2900m/s before heat, 4150m/s after heat. If I'm in this ship and I want to catch you, chances are I'm going to catch you. So that's the core of this ship: a really unassuming little family car that suddenly screams into range of you, settles in at a nice approach and starts doing way more DPS than it has any right to.

But that's just where the fun starts.

Unlike most ships that can pour out that level of DPS, the Tormentor can also tank a surprising amount with a dual-rep fit. As you dip into low shields, start with the SAR overheated and you'll rep about 1/6th of your armor every four seconds or so. Then as your armor dips to about half, pulse the Ancillary Armor Repper, also overheated. Each cycle of that will add about another 1/4 of your armor every four seconds. The Tormentor also has pretty good structure for a frigate so you'll find yourself dipping into low armor, jumping back up to nearly full, dipping back to low armor, jumping back to full.

It's tremendously frustrating to whomever you're fighting, even as you're rapidly murdering them with your DPS.

Dive in, get tackle on a frigate, kill it and then -- and this is the important part! -- burn off on overheated MWD, get some range and rep back up. That's where the double Semiconductor rigs come into play. Shut down your AAR, reload it if you need to, and rely on the SAR to get you back to full armor. 30 seconds later, it will have done the job, you can be upwards of 100km off if you want and your cap will rapidly be back up to full and you can start in on round two whenever you like.

Brave liked to run frigate free-for-alls at the sun in Barleguet and I loved bringing this little boat out there. I could dip in wolf-like, kill one of the sickly little cripple ships not with the main group, kill the first ship that came in to try to help (usually a Condor which fell rapidly to my laser damage), then burn away, do a 50km orbit in whatever direction I liked in 20 or 30 seconds, then dive back in on another isolated ship. Rinse, repeat. It was an incredible amount of fun. But I always stayed on grid until the ship died 'cause why not? It's just a frigate.

You can replace one of the Semiconductors with an armor rig of some sort, but I do not: they slow you down. For me, the biggest strength of this ship is its ability to zip in and out of combat and choose its fights in a busy frigate brawl.

The ship is vulnerable to being blobbed, so be careful of that. And it responds very nicely to both Drop and Mindflood boosters, though you can just use Synth on each. Be careful when you've got something tackled to get off your MWD; you can outrun your gun's tracking very easily in this little boat. It's probably the most common mistake people make with laser-armed ships.

Against cruiser-size targets, change out for Conflag and do a pretty tight orbit off MWD. If you are attacked by drones, particularly Warriors, immediately take your web off the target, apply it to the closest drone and use Multifreq and your own Hobs to peel it off you. Then repeat that until the drones are cleared. Warriors are the weakness of this boat. If you get into trouble, open range in a wide fast spiral. The Warriors will try to come directly at you, tracing a more jagged course which usually allows you to outrun most of them as you pick them off one by one. In addition to Conflag and MF, carry Scorch as well. You can use it occasionally on approach or evasion.

Other than that, the little Tormentor is surprisingly hard to kill and lives up to its name nicely!

All Fits of the Week are intended as general guidelines only.  You may not have the skills needed for this exact fit.  If you do not, feel free to adjust the fit to suit to meet your skills, including using meta 3 guns and "best named" defenses and e-war.  Ships can also be adjusted to use faction or dead-space modules depending on the budget of the pilot flying it.  Each FOTW is intended as a general guide to introduce you to concepts that will help you fit and to fly that particular type of ship more aggressively and well.  

Swing and a miss

The latest blog banter is out, and the question is... well, let's state the question first:
The common wisdom in EVE Online is that, beyond the odd high-value moon or Faction Warfare scam, there's little in low sec or NPC null sec to the attract ongoing attention of the big-dogs of null sec, with their large fleets and super cap doctrines. It's assumed that NPC space simply isn't worth the bother of controlling even if one could control it.

Is this about to change?

The shift in industrial inefficiencies from high sec to NPC low sec/null sec has begun, adding value to NPC space outside of high sec. In the recent B0TLRD accords CFC claimed two NPC null sec regions, Venal and Syndicate, as part of the CFC sphere of influence.

What is the future of low sec and NPC null sec as the economic center of gravity shifts from high sec toward null sec?
The first rule of blog banters is that shorter questions are better than longer ones. The second rule of blog banters is that philosophical questions are better than practical ones. This question is both long and practical and as a result in my opinion is one of the less interesting blog banters in quite a while. But you go to war with the army you have, et cetera et cetera. ;-) So let's deal with what we have.

That said, my answer to this one is going to be fairly short: I expect the summer's industry changes to have very little impact on NPC null-sec and no impact or a generally slightly negative impact on low-sec industry.

Low-sec first: even with the changes to jump fuel prices and use for jump freighters, it's still going to be far easier to stock low-sec markets from high-sec than try to build up a native industry in low-sec. There are, by and large, not enough people living in low-sec to support a low-sec cottage industry. These days, things are built in low-sec because they have to be (capital ships), not because the builder has any particular desire to do so.

CCP can (and might) change this dynamic slightly with lower production costs in low-sec. That said, even the increased production costs are not going to be that costly. In a game of risk averse players, industry players are some of the most risk averse of all. They're not going to move blueprints, materials, and a logistics chain into low-sec unless there's an overwhelming advantage to them to do so. I may have missed it, but I haven't seen such an overwhelming advantage.

This very same answer carries over to NPC null-sec, and for the same reasons, only magnified by about three.

Kirith gently raises the specter of null-sec blocs taking control of NPC null for the purpose of turning the regions into manufacturing power-houses. I could be wrong (and if I am, we'll know by Christmas) but I just can't see it. Yes, I continue to think that null-sec manufacturing is going to take over in some niche manufacturing areas. But I also think the bulk of those niche areas are going to be for the blocs to supply their own needs, whether consciously or unconsciously. A lot of the isotopes being used to move stuff around null is being used to bring in ships, ammo, rigs, specific modules, et cetera.

But that fuel is being used to bring them to home stations. Unless a null-sec bloc is going to live in a NPC null station for an extended period of time, there just isn't much percentage in building stuff in Syndicate only to have to ship it to Delve or Deklein. There will likely be enough native manufacturing capability for these niche markets and if there isn't, a few more stations will go up to ensure that there is.

But Kirith specifically implies that "the economic center of gravity" is going to "shift from high sec toward null sec". While this is technically true -- even a few percent would be a "shift" -- I don't see it becoming a major factor.

So... yeah. Swing and a miss on this one. I hope the next blog banter question is more philosophical!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Is tournament play EVE?

It's funny that I've never thought to write a blog post about this. I'm one of the few EVE bloggers that even covers tournament play. And I tend to write about "big picture" issues when I can. So why not cover this big picture question about tournaments? So here goes.

Disinterest about tournament play in EVE takes many forms. Most commonly, this is associated with simple apathy or lack of interest in the topic. Many EVE players aren't PvPers or don't have much interest in EVE PvP and as a result they do not watch EVE tournament play that focuses on PvP. After apathy or disinterest usually comes lack of knowledge of tournament play and/or an inability or unwillingness to commit the time needed to watch and learn about it. But all of these reasons associated with disinterest are pretty passive, all in all.

That said, from time to time, I run into EVE players that are actively disinterested or actively against tournament play in EVE. And these objections usually come in two forms:
  1. Tournaments are "not EVE" because EVE should not include fair, pre-scheduled battles with "rules."
  2. Tournaments are against the spirit of EVE because CCP violates the sandbox by running them.
So let's look at each in turn.

For the first, I think it will be fun to drag in a little history to explain my perspective.

I'm an American, and patriotic. That means from time to time I enjoy pointing at activities that Americans are good at. ;-) One of the things that America is good at that bears on this conversation is war. My country was founded in war and has involved itself in a major war every 15 years or so of its existence. One of the innovations that America has brought to this field is the concept of the full-size military exercise between two powers, usually referred to as "war games."

Military exercises and military simulations have been a part of war since the Napoleonic era. Prussia and their innovation of the career General Staff is generally credited with creating the first modern military simulations and exercises. They were playing war-games in the early 1800s, and military exercises quickly followed in every major country thereafter. This later expanded to the creation and use of "war plans." These were, quite frankly, plans that could be put into place at a moment's notice were it necessary to invade or conquer a neighbor and were updated frequently based on simulations carried out in the "war colleges" of various countries. America had a whole series of these built around the same time.

For instance, the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) conducted military simulations which culminated in various war plans developed prior to and used in World War II. Prior to that war, the U.S. had held a number of NWC simulations fighting the Pacific war or aspects thereof with "blue" (the U.S.) fighting against "orange" (the Japanese)... and usually losing. These were large table-top exercises with two sides, dice to introduce random chance (usually referred to as "friction"), and umpires to judge results. The simulations were remarkably accurate and correctly predicted a lot of the challenges the U.S. would face in WWII and as a result, war plans were made to address these challenges.

In a few cases, the models were so accurate that their information was -- amusingly enough -- not believed. Persistent rumor surrounds a NWC exercise one year that simulated what for all intents and purposes was the Battle of Midway, years before it took place. In the exercise, "blue" carriers managed a series of lucky circumstances that resulted in heavy damage to and sinking of "orange" aircraft carriers. Rumor has it (the exercises were classified) that the umpires judged this result unlikely and one or more of the "sunk" aircraft carriers were "resurrected" and allowed to fight on. Except that when the real Battle of Midway was fought, luck did indeed play a major role!

But these cases did show the dice as a means of introducing less-than-ideal circumstances into the simulation -- weather, morale, supply problems, communication problems, et cetera -- were themselves often less-than-ideal.

So the innovation America brought to the table was reducing the roles of dice and umpires... and running military simulations with real military troops and hardware, often as full scale military exercises with one group of soldiers facing off against other in simulated warfare. This started en masse during World War II and by the post-war years had developed into a number of large scale joint exercises between the U.S. and allied nations. The most famous of these periodic exercises are probably RIMPAC, held every other year in the waters off Hawaii.

To use one example: one of the jobs of escort destroyers around U.S. carriers is to prevent a missile-carrying ship or boat from penetrating the screen and getting line-of-sight on the carrier to launch a missile. One RIMPAC exercise centers on destroyer captains actually using their ships to simulate this play of attack and defense. An allied destroyer or smaller ship "plays" a missile-firing ship. A U.S. destroyer tries to block. Sure, an umpire can decide whether a red missile is successfully launched against a blue carrier in a smoky room on a sand table somewhere. Dice can decide whether a theoretical destroyer does the job. But isn't it more fun and worthwhile for everyone involved to see if the actual destroyer captains involved can actually carry out these missions under simulated wartime conditions with the actual hardware and crews?

Anyway, I think you can see where I'm going with all this: if tournament play didn't exist in EVE, it would be necessary to invent it... and someone would. ;-) There's nothing wrong with simulated military exercises taking place in the sandbox.

Which brings me to the second objection, that tournament play involves CCP violating the sandbox. And here we're on somewhat shakier ground, I must admit. I myself have been known to complain about this aspect of the tournament. For instance, the introduction of prizes impacts the sandbox. For the AT in particular, there are only two winning teams, often out of dozens of competing teams. Given EVE player's tendency to balance investment, risk, and reward, this has created a situation where it is in the best interests of EVE players to join winning teams rather than to try to create winning teams themselves. That, combined with the scarcity of the prizes and the increasing influence of ISK on the process, has resulted in those winnings being concentrated on a small number of teams.

This raises various types of conscientious objectors to CCP's involvement in tournament play:
  • purists who feel that CCP shouldn't be involved at all in the internal workings of the sandbox;(1)
  • people who are concerned that CCP's marketing of tournament play sells a game that isn't EVE to new players; and,
  • people who like tournaments but are concerned about smaller impacts, like distribution of prize ships and movement of players or corps to tournament success teams.
Now the first one I have to admit I don't have much sympathy toward. New Eden has never and will never be any sort of "pure" sandbox. Controls and inputs exist all along its outer edge and this is just one. But the other two do deserve scrutiny.

The idea that tournaments and CCP's marketing of tournaments sells a game that has no relation to EVE is a valid concern. Various people including myself have been raising the idea of "arena EVE" for years and years; I don't think it will ever happen. Unironically marketing EVE to tournament viewers is something CCP Soundwave did seamlessly but I noted with interest that CCP Bro only brought up the subject once during the second New Eden Open. And this topic came up in spades at the eSports Round Table at Fanfest. You could try to start playing EVE with the intent of being a tournament player... but the lack of guideposts will soon frustrate you. The overall argument is that since tournaments don't exist by and large inside New Eden, CCP is doing itself a disservice by marketing them "as EVE" or vice versa.

The third point is a lot more fluid, subtle, and harder to argue, but there's no question that every tournament has an impact on the sandbox, with players and corps changing hands, as well as billions of ISK in PLEXes and tournament ships. The ultimate argument here is that changes to the sandbox are happening because of CCP-initiated actions instead of player-initiated ones. That drives the argument back to the central core: does CCP have the right to interfere in how the sandbox operates? Again, there's no such thing as a pure sandbox, but where are the borders when it comes to this issue?

Start arguing too strenuously that CCP has the right to play in their own sandbox and pretty soon you have to contend with the specter of favoritism. I've been slightly concerned about that once or twice myself when it came to CCP devs...

All that said, I don't consider myself a sandbox "purist" and while I've been concerned with the more minor issues tournament play has on player movement within the game, I'm not sure these objections qualify as major issues sufficient to stop tournament play. So overall, I haven't shared the concern that CCP is somehow violating the sandbox by running tournaments.

What say you, Dear Readers? Is tournament play EVE? Does it violate the sandbox?

(1) This group also objects to CCP giving prize ships to community fan sites, CCP dev roams, and usually to live events as well. See this quite good article from Brendan Drain.