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.
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

It is known

Zeus: Fortune is ally to the brave!
Thetis: But what a dangerous precedent.  What if there more heroes like him?  What if courage and imagination became everyday mortal qualities?  What would become of us?
Zeus: We would no longer be needed.  But, for the moment, there is sufficient cowardice, sloth and mendacity down there on Earth to last forever.
I'm not sure there are full blog posts in two related ideas that have been plaguing me lately, but they're standing in front of other blog posts and refusing to go away.  ;-)  So I thought I'd get them out over the next couple of days and get people's thoughts.  Here's one.  The other tomorrow, most likely.

While there's no question that there's no lack of inexperienced and flat-out dumb EVE players out there, I'm really beginning to get the impression that the number of dumb people in large groups playing EVE for PvP has been steadily dropping the last year or so.  It says interesting things about the game's future if this is true, and I've only really scratched the surface of some of the implications.

I've written about players being risk-averse on this blog before, and I think some of what I'm seeing can be traced back to that.  Fleets are refusing to die in large numbers doing something dumb.  But more of it, I think, can be traced to steadily improving tactics and ship fittings of the medium-size PvP fleets out there.  A year or so ago was when fleet doctrine really started becoming an important factor in EVE PvP.  And as the strengths and weaknesses of those doctrines become better understood and better disseminated, I feel like this is resulting in fewer obviously dumb fittings and tactics being used in the game.

Does this mean I think that there are never dumb mistakes made at a fleet level?  No, obviously not.  I'm saying that I feel like on a per-capita basis, the proportion of dumb things being done by large groups of PvPers is declining.  People are either being risk averse enough to avoid questionable fights, or are using smarter tactics or ship fittings to win fights they would have lost a year or two ago.

Dumb people are still just as dumb.  But they've read enough battle reports over the years to recognize a bad match-up when they see one and refuse to take the fight.

I might rack this up to just personal experience, except that I also read a lot of battle reports on the EVE-O forums, FHC, kugu, and elsewhere.  And those battle reports are becoming more and more full of grudging compliments offered to the other side about smart moves made, or dumb moves avoided.  Hell, even Shadoo grudgingly complimented Against ALL Authorities and friends on their tactics in the recent C-J fight, not once, but several times.  Some of those compliments were overt, some were a bit more subtle -- making it clear how smart -A- was in taking out PL's hictors and dictors, for instance.  Remember, this is Pandemic Legion of all people complimenting opponents on their smart moves.  ;-)

Similarly, I'm still hearing tales of fights during high-sec war-decs, and the same factors seem to be coming into play more often.  No doubt thanks to all the free intel available to high-sec corps on null-sec tactics, along with a fairly large and growing coalition of null-sec ex-pats living in high-sec corps and helping out, dumb mistakes at the fleet level are becoming less common there, too.

Short version: kill-board efficiency at a corp/fleet level for virtually all of the major PvP players is settling down in the 70-80% range.  Yep, Goons too.  It takes a truly bad corp or alliance these days to fall below 60% over the long term.

So, assuming that this change is real, and not something that I'm imagining, it has interesting implications for the game in the longer term.

A group of EVE bitter-vets on Failheap Challenge found a way to register accounts on EVE's separate Chinese server, Serenity.  I didn't get involved in that myself, but it was striking to me how many people that did came back with stories that basically boiled down to "Yay!  Dumb people to kill!  In large numbers!  Whee!"  The Chinese players hadn't advanced as far as the rest of us, and weren't aware of fittings, tactics, and doctrines that have are old hat on Tranquility.  So for a while, there was a lot of fun to be had murdering newly-discovered sources of naive EVE players, even if they happened to be Chinese.  But of course, Serenity kill-mails can't be posted on TQ kill-boards, so the bloom came off the rose pretty quickly.

EVE has always been a ridiculously difficult game to understand, learn, and master.  I'll have more to say about that tomorrow.  But as this vicious Darwinian cycle on TQ takes place, I think we can safely say where the bad EVE players are going: outside of EVE.  Sure, the number of accounts seems to be up, and logged-in accounts seems to also be on the upswing, but it feels like what's happening is more multi-boxing than actual multi-player.  Obviously, at a point in time where EVE really has to bring in some new blood, that's worrisome.

Within the game, movement into leadership positions also seems to be slowing down somewhat.  The game is a lot more complex than it used to be.  A few years ago, being an EVE PvP FC was a difficult but highly achievable goal within the first year or so of starting play.  These days, only a fool would try to FC a PvP fleet in any serious situation with that small amount of time under his belt.  Sure, you can FC PvE, or mining ops, with that amount of time in game (for now), but PvP?   There are so many variables of tactics, fleet fittings, compositions, doctrines, threats, and responses, that only someone with long experience at the game is likely to be successful.  And understanding all of those things is becoming more difficult all the time.

In other words, the Darwinian nature of EVE PvP these days is in and of itself adding to the learning cliff.

Before, a newer FC or newer PvPer could cut their teeth on smaller, weaker corps or alliances in low-sec or NPC null.  Today, a weak corp or alliance entering low-sec or NPC null is quickly identified and torn to ribbons within the space of a few weeks or a couple of months.  The weak targets in sov 0.0 are either smashed or swallowed whole by larger 0.0 entities even faster.

Anyway, again, I'm not sure I have a point here.  It's just something that's struck me lately that might be a worrisome note for EVE's future.  More of this on a related topic tomorrow.

35 comments:

  1. "it feels like what's happening is more multi-boxing than actual multi-player"

    I have this same impression for quite a while now.

    I don't know why CCP have two names for the same thing, buddy program and power of two.

    They may think it is the same if these programs are used to bring new players or just to increase the number of account for existing players.

    But it is not. It is slowly killing diversity.

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  2. Just wondering if the title of your post is at all related to the phrase used in the series A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones for those only familiar with the TV series). Just re-read one of the books and that stuck out to me immediately.

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  3. Perhaps it's simply the environment changing to where you aren't allowed to be dumb any more. Using my own experience as an example, back in Morsus Mihi and the NC, doing something dumb simply resulted in a few point-and-laughs and usually a somewhat-stern recommendation on how to not be dumb again. In -A-, being dumb results in being screamed at by leadership over fleetcoms by name, having said leadership hop down to your corp's TS channel to tell everyone about how dumb you are (probably including a direct complaint to your CEO), starting a forum thread to name and shame you, and if you keep doing it, you better have a way to pack your stuff.

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    1. Weird. Granted I've only been around a couple months but I've not seen this ... even from Maka, whose "rage = best raeg!!!" I'm told. Guess your mileage may vary.... ;-)

      Then again, there's recorded evidence of PL FCs raeging over their comms, pretty much going apeshit like a reject from Gunny Hartmann's Drill Instructor Academy, so...???
      And of course Jester's post about Rote's "corrective flameage" on their killboard comments, so apparently if you're not being a rage-a-holic jackhole, in comms, forums, or KB comments, :urdoingitwrongbro:?

      Funny thing is, leadership isn't about pointing fingers and saying "ur a stupid fucktard GTFO!" (well, ok, maybe 1 in 100 instances that's MAYBE an appropriate response, maybe!), but teaching and developing people, recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, and giving them assignments that play to their strengths, and mitigate their weaknesses.
      ^^ sounds like some corporate "team-leadership seminar" mumbo-jumbo bullshit, huh?
      Funny thing is it's actually from the Federal Interagency Fire leadership curriculum -- don't worry, most of our guys suck at implementing it almost as much as most "l337" corp and alliance leaders do too. ;-)

      I find it kind of ironic that in a game where "RAEG!!!" is supposedly such a BAD THING (if you get killed you're supposed to drop a "gf" in local and that's it, and "smacking" is considered very uncouth, taboo, etc) and gets you made fun of endlessly (C&P anyone?)... that it's perfectly acceptable for an FC, or corp/alliance leadership to RAEG!! against its own members, publicly or not... :-/

      Either way, I also agree with the guy who made the comment about more "multiboxing" and that being/becoming prevalent -- I know guys who regularly have 2-3 accounts LOGGED IN at any given time, with another 2-3 offline... :-/
      But hey, as long as CCP gets their money, who cares, right? ;-)

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    2. So basically leading roles have been taken over by spergy types who assume that leadership is the demonstration of borderline sociopathic tendancies? Yeah, I guess that fits.

      If you want to know which alliance is likely to fall first, look for a preponderance of older players coupled with this style of leadership (say the alliance that starts with Raid and ends in 'en').

      Delete
  4. A combination of the Tribal knowledge of the players increasing combined with last years flat player growth? I mean, if EVE had been infused with 40,000 new players last year, then they'd be mucking up fleets with their noobishness. Perhaps we're at a particular point in EVE's history where there are far fewer new and inexperienced players than at any time in the past.

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    1. I completely agree. I think a lot of these "dumb players" ( I find this sentiment appauling by the way) were new players and people who were trying different things. The EVE player base is more likely moving into a lack of new blood and a singularity of style. That would be the end of the sandbox.

      I really, really wanted to love playing EVE. I did love it for years but over time the game seems to have devolved into this insulated elitist attitude that hates new players or any variety in play styles. EVE is not elite. It never was.

      I think the thing that kept me subbed for so much longer than I should have been was the potential of the game. Even though the game is crap in many ways, we keep hanging on to the idea that it could be amazing. We keep forgiving horrible planning and implementation because, if it gets fixed it would be the greatest game ever made. Thesse things will never come to pass.There was once an absolutely brilliant concept that was called EVE. Sadly, CCP seems to have no recollection of that concept anymore. The player base has lost interest in it too it seems. They don't want a sandbox. They want world of tanks in space. They constantly scream about how they must maintain the sandbox but are more than willing to break it at any given moment. We hate bots, but there are oceans of them. We hate RMT but it's a huge industry because those same players buy from them. We kill bots but in fact we kill miners since they compete with the bots. We only kill bots that compete with our own bots.

      So I have to say that the "smarter" player base is not smarter. It just does less with fewer actual people but with more alts. I really wish the game was what it could be. I really wanted to like EVE.

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  5. Really, I don't think much has changed. Fittings have gotten better, but that's to be expected when you can choose an alliance/corp official fit with a dropdown.

    Corp bookmarks are also easy to get to and use now days for preset rally points and warp offs.

    It's not so much that eve players have gotten better, its that there are many more in game tools to help players out, assuming your corp takes advantage of them all.

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  6. One of my eve friends has an intresting theory. Can you guess? Why yes, the answer is incursions. However, not because of the ISK factor, but rather, how it encourages developing skills useful in PVP.

    Small to medium fleets?
    Yep!

    Logistics?
    Yes!

    Following FC orders?
    You better believe it.

    Suprising as it is, I wonder if previously dumb people are getting smart because they can get rich by not being dumb?

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    1. This was one of the reasons I advocated multiplayer PvE that would have enemies using more realistics fleets, fittings and strategies.

      It would be nice if it's turned out to be the case that Incursions are encouraging people from all walks of life to have better fleet discipline.

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    2. Inflation is always measured by the poor. The rich are mostly insulated from inflation.

      If noobs are getting rich off of Incursions then we should see general inflation of prices in lower and middle goods.

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    3. I agree. Don't know how big the impact is - hard to tell.

      But it sure didn't hurt.

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    4. and sure enough, today there is a dev blog illustrating monetary inflation in EvE - http://community.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&nbid=9115

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  7. You are right. The game needs more new pilots, fresh blood.
    I am such a new pilot, with under a year of playtime.
    Unfortunately I know that not many new people (close to none) will be willing to play this game.
    And there is only one reason for that and it is a very simple one:
    Noone wants to wait a year or two until he can compete. And even after a year you cannot really compete. The skillpoint mountain is to steep.
    I would not do it again...the only option is buying a character on the bazar with 20 mio Skillpoints+. And new players won't be willing to throw that amonunt of cash into a game.
    So it is not the learning curve (Eve is really NOT that hard to get into). It is not the ISK (you always have more than enough as a beginner, because you cannot fly shit anyway).
    It is ONLY the skillpoints that prevents growth of the playerbase.

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    1. CCP could accomplish a flattening of skill points, thus making the game more newbie friendly, by just lowering the per-level bonuses of each ship class. For instance, a 20% boost in missile velocity per level would become a 3% per level.

      Seasoned players would still be better than the newbs, but the difference between them and a fresh player would be minimized - allowing the new player to become a part of the "endgame" fleets much sooner.

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    2. No. You can compete very quickly. You can be a decent solo frigate pilot in lowsec within 3months. A decent BC pilot within six. That is regarding in-game skillpoints. (and that is very conservative, a lot quick for small gangs)

      Unless you get sbd. to advise/train you, it will probably be your personal skills that will hamper your PvP at that point, not your SP.

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    3. Well, not everyone is into lowsec.
      I live in 0.0 and the fleet doctrine ships are harder to train to.

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    4. I have been playing less than a year and most of that time in a large nulsec alliance. I haven't bought any characters; I'm starting at zero skill points.

      And I am more than keeping up. Right now I am working hard at making a second run at being top ten killer in my alliance. I generally keep my efficiency at around 90%. This month so far I have 152 kills. Most months, I am also among the top ten LOSERS of ships. And I'm proud of that.

      Have I struggled to train up to standard set fits? Absolutely. But rather than accept the myth that I have to train for a year or more to be more than sub-par, I've decided to actually study pvp. My conclusion is that attitude and player (not character) skills far out way skill points.

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    5. Thats bullshit and you know it.
      Attitude and player skills help you nothing when fleet doctrine is e.g. Carriers with T2 Sentry Guns.
      Or Tengus one day, Lokis the next and Alpha Maelstroms the next. There is no way you can fly all this with under a year of training.

      Delete
  8. It's basically the same thing thats happening (happened) in LowSec on a larger scale: The Predators are becoming way to efficient for their own good and are on the verge of exterminating their prey.

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  9. I'll admit that I'm bad at PVP, but I fleet up to help the alliance. I'm good at knowing when to bubble and rep so I only fly HICs and Logi. I even multibox a HIC and 2 Logis. I would go on roams and do some gatecamps between mining and industry. I totally quit doing PVP simply because of a widely lauded change...pod killmails. While alliance leadership will tolerate ship losses, they are very aware of killboard efficiencies. If I clonejump, I lose my mining implants for 24 hours, so I always kept my Michi/Highwall-2 and +5's in...yes I live in sov nullsec. I make enough isk not to mind losing them sometimes, but a huge pod killmail would get me kicked. Risk aversion is in effect bigtime and I haven't PVPed since that patch went in. I'm not better at PVP, but count me as another couple of dumb EVE players not getting killed.

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  10. "Short version: kill-board efficiency at a corp/fleet level for virtually all of the major PvP players is settling down in the 70-80% range. Yep, Goons too. It takes a truly bad corp or alliance these days to fall below 60% over the long term."

    These numbers aren't real - to be so they'd be statistically impossible (the null sec alliances don't have enough targets for this to be real).

    If your prime PvP is large fleets in which you are a smallish part of the fleet, then you are virtually guarenteed to have stats of 60% or higher.

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    1. The way killboards work is pretty retarded. Value should be split by damage done or something.

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    2. The overall love for kill-board efficiency is kinda ridiculous imho.
      I always like to help and join on fleet pvp, yet most often in a role of scout, logistic or other supporting role which I like the most. Therefore my kb-stats are laughable to most pvp-ers, even though there aren't many losses on there either.
      Still no pvp corp/alliance wants to accept my application cause of these kb-stats, fully neglecting my combat experiences and knowledge to stay alive.
      To me what they basicly are saying is: do some more kb-whoring and/or go gank some oblivious people to polish your kb-stats and maybe we can talk again, which is something the carebear in me is refusing to do.

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  11. Your comment on FC's reminded me of something I've been thinking off and on lately. Are there a high number of good FC's out there selling their services out to corps/alliances? I would think a very good FC could easily sell his services for taking out fleets a few times a week and make a lot of isk

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    1. I hear stories or claims about this all the time, but I've never met someone who's actually said "Yes, I moved to XXX alliance and run fleets there because they made me a job offer."

      I've also never heard these stories attached to an actual character name. It's always "this guy I know" or "this guy I heard about" making this happen.

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  12. Rip, something that i've been seeing more and more is good FCs coming back to the game. I can attest of two cases: Fatal Ascension and IRC. We have more people from the not so old days reactivating their accounts after Crucible hit TQ, good fights make it to the news or getting back in touch with their buddies to ask how things are doing with EVE. Now, the majority of improvements can't all be put on FCs, there's also the fact that we kind of see the same people over and over again in Ops: These guys are hardened by experience in multiple conflicts. You could say, the guys that are really interested in the game are still around and doing about the same things, and while this is still worrysome because of not seeing new people to the game, it helps tighten the link between those spaceship warriors and make most fighting forces better in quality than in quantity.

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  13. Somewhat overstated your case.

    Especially the almost-last part - there are many ways to enter lowsec or npc-null and not be ripped to shreds. You won't get much out of it either, but unless you are really dumb, your inexperience will quickly give way to a state of avoiding outright fail. You will adopt. The higher amount of meta-knowledge also accelerates learning. Just look at Dudreda and the eve-uni lowsec camp. They learn quickly. They even kill solo and in small-gangs.

    But yes, overall, its gotten to a be a pretty "professional" field. But the midrange has also advanced (just the way a 4th league soccer/football team of today would clean house with world championship winners of the fifties/sixties). Everybody gets ahead quicker because the knowlegde is pretty openly available. FC's/PvPers also learn quicker today (which is a large part of what you see, not just vets multi-boxing).

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  14. One thing I would like to point out and refute is your claim that one cannot be an effective FC within a year in the current meta-game of Eve right now. As someone who has been playing this game for ~8 months, I've been leading fleets since I learnt how to properly use my frigate/destroyer within 2-3 months of playing. Leading frigate roams, getting more experience that hard and fast way, stepping up to cruisers, then BC's, and with a little diligence in reading and listening to other FC's and more experienced players, one can easily be leading fleet's of BC's by 8-10 months effectively. One important factor to this, in my opinion, is a group of players willing to nurture their new players, and guide them as they go. In this respect, the CFC simply can not be matched, especially when looking at the scope of the huge player-base there. Regardless, anybody with a brain, a little confidence, and the ability to talk with a controlling tone can lead a frigate roam with more experienced pilots giving them a hand where necessary. For example, http://eve-kill.net/?a=kill_related&adjacent&kll_id=12596587 . This fleet was a newbee's first time FC'ing. He's been playing for 1 month. He had some assistance here and there on judgement calls, but regardless, this is what can be done rather easily, if the foundation is there to promote it.

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  15. I'd say it is structural mechanics. I think first you need to understand that there are different types of people and not all people are the same. So you have the people that get off on risk. They are gamblers, they are into sports typically and often like PvP. Then there are the cooperative types that like doing constructive things not destructive. They are the carebears that like high sec and mining ops and such. It's not that the second type is afraid of PvP because they are not good at it. They are not good at it because they don't like it. Often people think that the way they experience things is the same for others which is typically not the case.

    That being said I hear constant whining by the ego sensitive players that they want moar noobs to pwn. CCP has responded by making the game favor a certain play style. There is definitely a huge gap between new people and experienced in Eve and it's not skill points it's knowledge. there are plenty of blogs and posts about vets starting new toons and doing some crazy stuff with them.

    There are too many details to post here but Eve is set up to encourage victimization. Also there is not very much reason to get different types of players to work together. The carebears stay in high sec and the risk takers live off of moon products and bot ratters or large mining fleets operated by only a small number of actual people. While all the entry points into null are heavily camped to guarantee no noobs come in.

    I'm a 3 year old player. I have spent 97% of my time in high sec. Since early in the game I've fantasized about going into NPC null to search for Estamel. I've headed out that way on unskilled alts before and get killed before I can get too far into null. I've taken wormholes to deep null and you can't rat for too long before someone sees the NPC kills go up on the star map info and then come and hunt you down and kill you or camp the system so you can do anything if you cloak up.

    The large Alliances and coalitions have huge requirements for how you must act, what you must fly how and when you fly it and are in most cases permanently war deced so if you going into one there is no more going back to high sec with out leaving the corp/Alliance.

    There is no middle ground. No way for the casual player to go out to null and "play around" you either have to live eat and sleep PvP watch videos and read blogs about PvP all day or stay in high sec. For the PvP lovers most of them either have to commit to buying PLEXs, learn to bot, or start a second account to live in high sec to make isk.

    I'm not saying that there is no way to move from highsec to null I'm just saying that it is so difficult only the most dedicated even bother trying and not all of them make it.

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    1. Don't take this the wrong way, but you sure know a LOT about null for someone who's spent all of 33 days in it and lowsec combined (3% of 3 yrs). :-/ ... and a lot of that sounds suspiciously like the "urban legends" that get passed around bear circles about how terrible low and null are, every gate is camped by insta-locking alpha Hurricanes (well now Tornadoes), etc, etc...

      You seem to forget that there's a LOT of money to be made in null, and not just from tech moons or hanging your ass out in asteroid belts ratting. I do a LOT of exploring, and the complexes there drop some amazingly good loots, even Radar sites (actually ESPECIALLY radar sites), and give good payouts.

      As for "you haz to have blingy tech 3s, BSes, and BCs for fleet ops NAO!!!" -- BULLSHIT.
      I have a ton of fun flying with -A-...and if you see me, chances are it's in my own variant of Jester's Terrier Taranis. They cost like 25M apiece to put together if even that. I can go do ONE good radar site in null and come out with that.

      Every fleet needs chaser tackle, pings, scouts, etc, and you should probably get your feet wet in cheaper hulls like ceptors or plain-jane BCs before trying to join ops with a tech 3, BS, etc.

      Really there's no reason that anyone with a few months of skilling and a passing knowledge of low/nullsec mechanics can't join a GOOD nullsec corp/alliance and find a niche.

      And if not, join the Hobos, we'll find you a spot under the bridge. ;-)

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    2. Don't take this the wrong way, but you do sound like the average empire exile who is looking down on the pilots who enjoy their freedom the factions offer.

      Personal flak aside, I have to agree with the other anonymous here that there are all sorts of people. Sadly I have only met a handfull of exiles who actually respect other ways of life other then their own hardcore way of living.

      Like you implied yourself, skillpoints, isk or the percieved risk are not a limiting factor to move to the outer regions. It is the lack of respect from the other, mostly combat pilots, when you take on the supporting and/or constructive roles out there that has put me off.

      Don't force others into your way of living but respect eachother for the added values.

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  16. The straight up level of dumb is definitely decreasing. As you all know I usually make it my schtick to punish the stupid when I find them.

    Right now they are being remarkably quiet. And it mostly has to do with folks actually reading the stuff we have been putting up on the internet. People read about this big event or this other theft. Even my humble additions have been the draw of a number of people. (Some of whom, once they get spacerich even pass me some isk)

    As the game gets older, and the mechanics and rules and social mores become understood. As people post guides and helps and how-tos. Even as the New Player Experience gets better. We are ending up with less 'stupid' pilots. Or at least pilots who know how to read, and figure stuff out.

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  17. I think the higher percentage of skilled players comes down to the incarna rage quits after the whole monocle thing. Basically all the people who stuck with eve are the people who were really into eve. And a lot of these people are a lot better at the game than your random casual player who would have rage quit earlier.

    Also the higher killboard efficiency stats are because of huge blue lists and alliances teaming up. Let's say two alliances are fighting two other alliances and everyone is in a drakes. Each alliance brings 100 drakes so it's a 200 vs 200 battle. Then through some miracle of missile travel time both sides manage to wipe each other out so all 400 drakes on grid die.

    So even though each alliance only brought 100 drakes (being blue with their buddies in the other 100 drakes) they managed to get on the 200 killmails of the 2 enemy alliances that fought them, so each alliance has a 2 to 1 killmail to lossmail ratio.

    Now each of the 4 alliances that came to fight are going home with a 66% KB efficiency even though the whole battle was a complete 1 to 1 slaughter.

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