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...

Friday, February 28, 2014

February 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. The junk drawer is again pretty light; most things, I turned into full length posts...

---snip---

As always, let's do some quickie graphics and the like first.

This... just made me laugh. Short, sweet, to the point.


Wilhelm Arcturus over at The Ancient Gaming Noob is having a screen shot contest, "Show me the planets." It's a fun idea with some really cool prizes! If you want to enter, you have until 2000 EVE time on March 1, about thirteen hours from the time this post is being published.

I don't want to win -- and told Wilhelm so -- but the contest itself was so intriguing to me that I decided to enter a few favorite screen shots of my own. The first one, I really really like. I can't even remember where I took it any more.


This is in Jove space during one of the SCLs and that's CCP Fozzie in the foreground in the new dev ship:


And of course no discussion of planetary screen-shots would be complete without D85-VD planet VI:


EVE Online really is a beautiful game.

This one's kinda fun:


Finally, this website about the B-R battle isn't exactly a graphic but it's really really cool. Go check it out.

---snip---

And a few quickies, one per paragraph...

I passed an interesting milestone this month. Five days ago, I passed three months training four characters in Level V skills, one Level V skill after another, for three months straight across all four characters. But the streak ends in four days, when one of my alts starts training a lot of gun specialization skills from Level I to Level IV.

This is an older site for planetary interaction, but I really like how it's laid out! It's got a really clean, intuitive user interface. You can start from planet types you have access to, systems you have access to, or materials you have on hand. In short, everything you need for PI, nothing you don't. I guess it's been up for almost four years now. Hopefully it will stay up because it's become my go-to PI site.

There's a lot of new players in New Eden lately, so this is for all of you. Scamming is one of the most common get-rich-quick career choices in EVE Online. And lots and lots of scammers love to target new players. Courtesy of EVE University, here's a list of the most common scams. Speaking of which, if you're still looking for a corp to join, you can do way worse than E-UNI as a starting player while you get your feet underneath you. I highly recommend them!

In the meantime, though, as a new player you'll have to decide what side of scamming you're on. Just as a lot of scammers like to prey on new players, a lot of new players decide they want to join the ranks of the scammers... ;-)

---snip---

And that's all for the junk drawer this month. As I said, another unusually quiet one!

We feel her day is over

EVE players can move on to the next EVE-related post, but I wanted to do a pair of recap and wrap-up posts on my Duna mission in KSP over the weekend. They both illustrate some interesting KSP points that I wanted to talk about.

First up, a final note on Enterprise's disposition. Enterprise went to Duna with seven crew on board: three in the command capsule, two in the science lab, two in the Orion lander. That was clearly excessive but I didn't see any particular reason not to do it. I find the necessity of using an EVA to switch between vehicles an annoyance within KSP and I generally try to keep them to a minimum. But it did mean that when the Orion lander set down on Kerbin, I still had five crew on Enterprise in orbit (including Jeb and two other kerbals I like to use, "Danger" and "Gus"). How to get them home?

I could send a space-only "shuttle" over from Liberty station to pick up half of them and a launch from the surface for the others. But I wanted to keep things simple if I could and get all five home in a single mission. I considered launching a "Hitchhiker" can attached to a command pod but then realized I could do the same job with a Mk2 Lander attached to a command pod, so that's what I did. I put the combination plus a couple of extra tanks of fuel and monoprop, on top of my standard Athena launcher and sent them up.

Part of the plan was to fully evacuate Enterprise but still be able to control her. There was a "senior" docking port on top. So at the top of the Athena launch, I attached a large size probe core with docking ports on either side. I could dock the combined space craft to Enterprise, then when I left, leave the probe core docked to Enterprise and control her with that. This is a trick that I use now and again and it always works beautifully. One probe core with docking ports on either side can control pretty much any space craft with an open docking port. You just have to make sure all of the docking ports face the correct way, plug it in, then leave it there when you undock.

Most ships I've built since Enterprise have a probe core somewhere on them as a matter of course so I can fly them unmanned if needed.

Aerobraking had left Enterprise in an elliptical orbit (p: 120km, a: 475km) with an unusual inclination (about 70 degrees). She'd come home with insufficient fuel to fully correct either of these situations. So this was the trickiest rendezvous in my KSP career to date. I matched inclination first, then found the proper moment to do a prograde burn to intercept. This left me in a position to swing very close to Enterprise (about 2km) but my rendezvous would not be near periapsis or apoapsis. That meant having to do a radial burn at rendezvous, the first time I've ever had to do that.

Think of an elliptical orbit as having its apoapsis at a "clock" position. In this case, Enterprise's apoapsis was at about 11 o'clock relative to the prograde direction of kerbin's orbit. My intercept location was at about 3 o'clock with an eventual apoapsis (if I left my orbit uncorrected) of 9 o'clock. A radial burn is used to swing the apoapsis "clock position" of an orbit from one clock position to another. They're very energy-intensive burns; this one required almost 500m/s of delta-v. But I'd used my heavy lifter to get up there so I had plenty of fuel.

The maneuver tool and its rarely used blue radial markers was instrumental for setting this up; once I was close enough, the friendly "Target" orbital indicators popped up and I did the final rendezvous burn with that, just like normal. I love the maneuver tool so much!

After that, docking was straight-forward. I transferred most of the fuel I had left so Enterprise would have enough to maneuver. I then made the appropriate joke from Star Trek III...
Scotty: All systems automated and ready. A chimpanzee and two trainees could run her.
Kirk: Thank you, Mr. Scott. I'll try not to take that personally.
The lander/command pod combo didn't need much fuel; I've gotten into the habit of sometimes using monoprop to adjust the orbit of light vehicles, just like the U.S. Gemini command pod did. I only carry just enough fuel for emergencies. Once the crew were safely off, I used the probe core to shift Enterprise's orbital inclination to 90 degrees and circularized the orbit at around 175km. Then I left her there in case I need her at some point in the future.

Enterprise with her new automation system (at picture bottom)

One more amusing note; I usually don't use KSP's quick save feature but since I was going to be landing an untested vehicle for the first time, this time I did. That turned out to be a good decision. I took 100 liquid fuel (the final stage of the space craft had a "Poodle" engine just in case), and did my de-orbit burn aiming for a water landing just east of the KSC. I came through the atmosphere with no problem, and deployed the six chutes I had attached to the lander. And at 500 meters above the water at around 110m/s, the chutes popped open... and the command pod was forcefully flung away from the lander.

This was kerbal engineering at its finest. Sigh. I hate this game sometimes. ;-)

I've run into this problem a couple of times before trying to land heavy vehicles: the shock of the chutes opening causes parts to fall right off! But this was the first time that I'd had this happen with two parts mounted in line. Rather than start from scratch, I used a technique that I've had luck with in this situation before. Instead of ditching the final fuel tank and the Poodle after the de-orbit burn was done, I reloaded from quick save and kept them all the way through to 10000m. Then I deployed the parachutes, waited until about 2000m above the water, locked the engine's gimbals, then fired the engine to slow my descent rate. As long as you don't reduce falling speed below 0m/s, the parachutes will continue to function.

At 600m, my falling speed was around 40m/s instead of 110m/s. Only at that point did I cut the engine and fuel tank loose. The command pod/lander accelerated back up to around 55m/s but when the chutes opened at 500m, the thing happily didn't break apart. I recovered Jeb, Danger, Gus, and their two flunkies successfully.

So kind of a long story for a simple outcome: just get five guys out of orbit all at the same time. But hopefully there's some lessons learned there for anyone else playing this game. Next up: my notes from the Duna mission itself.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fit of the Week: Cop car Comet

In honor of that fun little GIF earlier today, here's my favorite Federation Navy Comet:

[Federation Navy Comet, Cop Car]
Damage Control II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste

Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Coreli C-Type 1MN Afterburner
Faint Epsilon Warp Scrambler I

Light Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Small 'Knave' Energy Drain

Small Ancillary Current Router I
Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Small Auxiliary Thrusters I

Warrior II x3
Light Armor Maintenance Bot II x3


At the time I joined Rote Kapelle two or so years ago, "cop car" fleets were wildly popular in the alliance for small roaming gangs. They got their name from a previous skin for the Federation Navy Comet, which had a flashing police light on top and police-like markings on the side. You'd jump into a mining system (say) and tackle a mining barge while typing "Pull over!" and "Do you know how fast you were going, son?" and "You're under arrest!" and such things into Local. Cheerful fun was had.


But not long after I joined Rote, the Comet received its V3 skin along with the other faction frigates. The cop car went from distinctive police coloring to Gallente green and brown space camo. The flashing light was replaced with a space headlight. To add insult to injury, the Gallente themselves were allowed to keep the police markings for their NPC customs ships. Complaints were met with a super-lame excuse that capsuleers shouldn't be flying around in police-marked ships. And much of value was lost. Of course, the ship itself is still terrific and it's still fun to fly, but it just doesn't have the same personality these days, you know? ;-)


Anyway, the Comet really wants to be a Taranis so start from the same sort of notion: mid-range small blasters and double MFS, along with three drones, pumps out 250 DPS before heat which is pretty damn nice for a frigate platform. You can double up on DPS drones if you like but this ship is so fast and efficient I actually prefer to loot combat drones from the corpses of my victims as I lose my own. I therefore carry a set of armor rep drones or ECM drones instead as the second trio, depending on if the fleet is going to have logi frigates along or not.

Logi is kinda superfluous honestly and the two acknowledgements that a ship should have a tank are a DC and an ancillary armor rep. Overheat the latter right out of the gate and it will mitigate some of the DPS that's hitting you. If you have a small- to medium fleet along, your fellow cop cars will wipe out the target before you die.

The ship is dual-propped and relies heavily on speed and small sig to also mitigate a good bit of damage. You'll be going in tight at scram range and your standard speed will approach 4000m/s, 5500 with heat! That will (a) tackle just about anything, and (b) outrun all but the very fastest drone damage. Once you're in close, switch over to an afterburner to continue mitigating damage. A swarm of cop cars flown correctly can also mitigate their damage using wolf-pack tactics: if you're the enemy's primary, feel free to switch back to MWD, spiral away from the enemy fleet, and avoid damage through high speed, high transversal, and mobility until the enemy switches targets. Meanwhile, you'll still be doing at least some damage thanks to your drones. When the enemy switches targets, you can swoop back in (hopefully your AAR will have had time to heal your wounds) and put your blasters back on target while the new primary swoops out of range.

It's a very entertaining, engaging, and fun way to play EVE Online and done correctly will frustrate an enemy no end. That said, you are quite vulnerable to light missile ships, so watch out for Crows, Maledictions, Heretics, Flycatchers, Coraxes, and Talwars, as well as the occasional RLML Caracal and Bellicose. Many of these ships can and will scram you back if you get too close and can pelt you down at ranges approaching 60km which is better than all but the very best drone control range. But against gun-based ships you'll have more luck. If facing a scram-fit LML ship, try using your AB overheated to break tackle and gain some distance to put your MWD back into operation.

The NOS is provided to both keep your tackle working and to provide supplemental cap to your AAR. Particularly confident pilots will replace the meta MWD with a low-end deadspace version. This will reduce the capacitor penalty of the MWD which hits this ship particularly hard. Comets are a bit under-powered in terms of starting cap. Finally, your rigs promote speed- and sig-tanking. Again, confident pilots will replace the Polycarbon rig with the T2 version. This does very nice things to both your top speed and your agility for keeping a tight orbit. If you find yourself overshooting targets, you can replace the Aux Thrusters right with an explosive resist rig for armor but keep in mind this will slow you down twice over.

Overheat everything on this ship, and do it often. Carry lots and lots of paste! In addition, X-Instinct booster or Mindflood booster will help, depending on how much you rely on cap, and Drop booster of some kind is a must.

Comets are a very entertaining small- to mid-size gang fleet meta, best flown with an adult beverage or two close at hand to maximize their enjoyment. So few fleet metas in this game engage you like a ball of angry frigates...

PULL OVER!


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.

Fixing past missteps

While I'm thinking about things in upcoming EVE expansions that have been mentioned or spotted on Sisi lately, I'd like to point out a couple more. I love love love both of these things.

Here's one, on Sisi with an animated GIF courtesy of themittani.com:


Squeeee! The video I posted the other day may or may not have more information about this hidden somewhere in it.

Here's the other:
We are removing it, hopefully for Summer.
That's CCP Affinity, one of my favorite devs, quietly announcing the death of the "lootsplosion" mechanic, that carpal tunnel inducing mechanic that I enjoy so much. The very next forum post sums up my position admirably: "best early Christmas present ever." I'm a fan of hacking sites and their follow-ons for a number of reasons but the lootsplosion has been a major downside for me since I first started messing with them.

When I heard about this being a possibility, my immediate reaction was "Yes, please!" Glad it's happening.

As upcoming EVE Online features get officially announced, I will be doing my standard "here are the ones I like, here are the ones I don't like" posts. But these two little leaks deserved special mention. You gotta love it when EVE devs listen to the players and undo their past missteps.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Comment of the Week: Inferbiconyssey

So an anonymous commenter dropped a rather flippant little question into my most recent CSM update that I feel deserves a longer response than I can give in the comments:
How about this... in the broadest of terms, what can we expect for the summer expansion in terms of its scope. From 1 to 10, with 1 being Inferbiconyssey and 10 being Apocrypha (5 years ago), where would you put this summer's release?
OK, I can't directly answer this question because doing so would be NDA-breaking. The things that I like and I dislike about EVE are pretty well known at this point. If I say I like this expansion and would rate it highly, that would allow people to read between the lines about the sorts of things that will be in the expansion. I don't want to pre-announce.

But in a way, the question being asked is asking something a lot more specific and that's the question I'd like to answer in more detail.

If you take a step way back and really look at it, the Apocrypha expansion really only had four features: the skill queue, a new scanning system, wormholes, and T3 ships. A number of things that Apocrypha is remembered for -- sized rigs, epic mission arcs, remaps -- weren't in the Apocrypha release at all. Most or all of them were in Apocrypha 1.5 which for all intents and purposes was a separate expansion with a different theme. Step back further still and you'll realize that Apocrypha introduced space which the vast majority of EVE players don't live in. The content -- as such -- was repetitive and rather wretched (and is still with us!). The scanning system has since been revamped again. And of course T3s are a major factor in a lot of different ways of playing the game.

But that was it: exactly four features, one or two of which most EVE players don't use. And yet a lot of EVE players (including myself and former EVE EP CCP Unifex) rate it as one of EVE Online's best expansions.

Meanwhile, the features list of the Inferbiconyssey (I love that!) expansions is miles long. Yet a lot of EVE players (again including myself) generally consider them "caretaker expansions" mostly intended to be fan service and to try to call back lapsed players rather than bring in a lot of new ones or add big ideas to the game.

In all the time I've been playing, EVE has never been about content. There's an interesting new article published by polygon.com about EVE. The whole article is really really worth your time; it's well-written and interesting.(1) But it makes the point again and again that EVE's "content" are the players and the player relationships. What CCP does in terms of game development is almost secondary.

With that in mind, in my opinion one of the big reasons Apocrypha was a successful expansion was because it "created new nodes" in those relationships. Suddenly, there was a brand new type of EVE player, completely different from other types of EVE players. In that way, Apocrypha created content for every type of EVE player: suddenly every player in the game had to account for how they were going to deal (or not deal) with the new class of w-space players. W-space players had to decide how they were going to deal with each other. Apocrypha created "content" but most of that content had absolutely nothing to do with shooting Sleepers... or really, with anything the devs did.

But it could have crashed and burned. It was a risky move. Had w-space not panned out, T3s would have been outrageously expensive, the scanning system would have gone unused, and players would have bitched that they waited six months for an expansion with one real feature: skill queues.

Know what other recent expansion was attempting to create new nodes and create an entirely new type of EVE player, and in doing so create a lot of new inter-player content? Incarna! Incarna was also a risky move. And of course, Incarna did crash and burn.(2)

Since then, CCP has been a lot more cautious. But they're coming out of that phase now.

I've said before: big ideas are coming. And I don't have to break NDA to say that. CCP Seagull's vision of player-built star gates, and various interviews with CCP employees about what might lie beyond those new star gates are public knowledge. What this will eventually look like and how it will work and when it will happen has not been announced and I'm not going to announce it. But I am looking forward to seeing these big ideas implemented in game. Done well, this vision could very well result in another successful expansion of inter-player content.

How much of that will be done for summer and what the "scope" of the summer expansion will be, you can expect me to talk about more when the theme of the thing is actually announced. At that time, I assure you I'll have a lot to say.

Sorry I couldn't answer your question more directly, Anonymous, but now hopefully you understand why. ;-) Thanks for asking it, though! Got me thinking!


(1) Seriously, go read it.
(2) In the middle is the Incursion expansion. That one successfully created a new type of EVE player... but it was a type of EVE player that a lot of other EVE players resent.

KOTW: Hail scarify ardonn!

Anyone who lives in Syndicate for any amount of time learns about scarify ardonn. He hangs out in the high-sec entry pipe to Syndicate, specifically in K5-JRD with himself and an alt or three. His main generally flies a Sabre. And in that role, he likes to camp the 8V- gate in that system. He's particularly adept at spotting lone travelers in frigates and nailing them as they come through the pipe. He's also quite good about scanning down off-grid pounces around that gate and bookmarking them with the pilot's name. If you jump into system and he's got your name in his bookmark list, he'll often try hanging out right at your pounce to see if you land there.

And if you do, he nails you. He's become very adept at these tactics, riding them to the top 100 on Battleclinic. It's not the sort of PvP I'm interested in, but he's really good at it.

Anyway, this week he managed to nail a way bigger target than a lone frigate... now that's an outstanding kill! Congratulations, scarify!

In honorable mentions, I have to admit this kinda made me laugh: Psychotic Tendencies introduced streamer Destiny to the concept of the pipe bomb. Word has it that he didn't take it well. Here's the video if you want to see it.

Here's another ridiculously unbuffered overpriced mission ship -- a Golem -- getting blapped by an embarrassingly small number of alpha ships. Looks like only one guy got off a full volley.

And the bloodbath in Ignoitton that I mentioned last week continues. Here's a highlight.

Here's one sent in by a reader. From time to time, I enjoy camping data or relic sites. I'll sit five AU or so off-grid in something unassuming, point my d-scanner at the site and wait for something fun to land. When it does, I'll warp in and nail it. Since people running these sites tend to carry a lot of loot from system to system before cashing in somewhere, you can usually make a nice profit. Here's a similar story, where the camper decided to use a bomber fit with small weapons (they can do that, by the way). He got a much better profit than I usually do...


Number of dead super-caps last week: 2

First up, this Against ALL Authorities Nyx was nailed in Wicked Creek by a NCdot gang, while massively travel fit. Word has it this was a ratting ship. Note the distinct lack of cyno so once he was tackled there was no calling for help. This directly contributed to its death: AAA formed up a fleet to come try and save it but instead of being able to bridge in had to do it the hard way. They arrived just in time to watch the Nyx die. EN24 has the story, which basically involves just being too predictable in your super. People DO track these things, you know. But the EN24 story is well worth your time and includes some really funny back-story and a video. Go check it out.

The other super killed last week was this Gents Aeon, taken down by TriumvirateDOT. More specifically, it was taken down by sub-caps. More specifically than that, in high irony, it was taken down by a bunch of Ishtars. They were even shield Ishtars. I approve. Word has it this guy was bringing his super home from the CFC deployment and decided to use POS cyno generators... specifically, a POS cyno generator on a POS that was completely unarmed. From time to time, these tend to be monitored by people hoping to kill freighters and such using them. This time, the prize was quite a bit bigger!

Finally, the CFC admitted that FA lost a titan fetus and a super-cap fetus to TEST and Black Legion.

That's it, though! Very quiet week on the supercap front! A Wyvern died on Monday but I'll cover that next week.

The CSM is worthless

Seen on Reddit:


Let's be very very clear: I didn't do this. A very smart CCP dev did this. Still, it looks like I owe someone else a hoodie.

Duna

A story told in pictures...




Ike quite visible just to the left of Enterprise, did a close flyby






Shifting all the science mods to the top of the lander

Cutting loose the two outboard fuel tanks to save mass



Aerobraking to get Enterprise back into her parking orbit




Completely by coincidence, hit the smallest target on Kerbin


Not counting the orbital science transmitted from Enterprise

What can I say? Enterprise performed superbly. The mission couldn't have gone more smoothly and I'm very happy. That said, this was definitely my last manual mission. Those transfer orbits were a stone bitch, particularly the one to get back to Kerbin.

Time to start playing around with some mods! After I get Enterprise's crew home, of course.

Monday, February 24, 2014

CSM8 Status Report: Week forty-two

Did I say last week was going to be the short update? I lied. But this one will be. Matter of fact, if I was going to keep this update down to just a few words, those few words would be "just like last week, just moreso."

CSM9 campaign season is now in full swing, with more than 20 candidates declared in Jita Park so far, split nicely between incumbents and new voices. I'm cheerfully questioning some of the people I find more interesting, and I'm happy to see that a couple of pod-casts have started setting up interview schedules. As I learn about when these interviews are, I'll try to include those in the updates.

As for CSM8, we continue to wait for the release of the Winter Summit Minutes, but expect that to happen very shortly. As soon as we have a date, I'll be scheduling our fifth Town Hall to coincide with the weekend after their release. But for the record, the CSM has nothing else to do here except a final review pass once we get them back. This is the process that CCP Dolan engineered for quicker release of the Minutes; we'll see how it does. ;-)

In the meantime, we continue to be pretty busy on the internal forums with summer expansion questions and opinions being asked of us. I myself have unfortunately not had a whole lot of time to devote to it between RL work responsibilities and Rote Kapelle's in-game move. But I'm doing my very best to stay involved and informed. The Skype channel continues to be pretty quiet. The devs themselves continue to be in heads-down mode working their charters for this release.

As I've said a couple of times, we would expect to see a video blog or some sort of overview announcement of the summer release plans very soon... sometime in early to mid-March if CCP follows their previous release schedule. I know that some of the Winter Summit Minutes will be delayed until after those announcements to prevent the Minutes from pre-releasing any details about the expansion. Therefore, it's likely the Minutes will be released in two batches.

And that is pretty much it! As I said, more of the same from last week...

Carebear

Spotted on Reddit, this bit of humor. It's amazing the level of trouble some people will go to in EVE sometimes (click to embiggen)...


Happy Monday, kids.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tournament play

I'd like to present a short, modest proposal... and I'll keep it very brief.

When you defeat a team in EVE tournament play, you get to -- if you wish -- choose three or four of their players to join your tournament team. After that, the other teams still in play may poach one player each to add to their teams. As the number of tournament teams shrink down to those last few, this ensures that the best tournament players are still out there flying for our entertainment.

It's good enough for null-sec politics, it should be good enough for tournament play.

Just as an example picked from... oh, I dunno, just something that I was randomly thinking about over the weekend... let's take Test Alliance Please Ignore. As you all know, this past summer they were eliminated as a sov-holding alliance in null-sec. Don't sell them short: they made it to the quarter-finals of null-sec politics and did pretty well there! And although their alliance still exists after a fashion, starting in August a number of their large corps left them to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Of the ones that joined existing alliances or coalitions:
  • five of them joined N3 (aheh, bad decision);
  • two went to Brave Newbies;
  • two joined the southern Russians;
  • two joined Black Legion;
  • and oh yes, eight joined the CFC.
To the victor go the spoils.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Blue and amber, white and green

For the last four of five days, I've been hinting about Rote Kapelle news. We've managed to keep it fairly quiet. Rote Kapelle, and its central corp Stimulus, are giving up on the 15 man fleet meta and on the Syndicate region. We've completed negotiations with CVA to join Provibloc as an associate member. As you read this, we've already moved out of TXW-EI, our home system for the last several years. We'll be moving into the Provi/Catch area shortly.

And so I take my place as literally the only CSM member not KOS in Providence. ;-)

I'm not going to try to speak for the entirety of Stimulus leadership on the reasons why. STIM has always operated as a benevolent dictatorship, with a single leader and a sort of Game of Thrones style "small council" of directors to provide advice to that leader. I was recently invited to join this group and I was one of the members that advised this move. So while I cannot speak for the other directors, I can give you my reasons. They can be summed up as follows (and keep in mind that all of these are my opinions):
  1. The null-sec 15 man fleet meta that Rote is best known for is dead or dying.
  2. Syndicate, as a region, is becoming rather toxic and prone to a growing network of blues we were not interested in.
  3. But I do want to remain in null-sec. I enjoy the game mechanics available in null-sec.
  4. I was not interested in becoming a Goon, or in fighting Goons.
  5. In particular, I continue to have exactly zero interest in sov warfare as it currently exists in EVE Online.
  6. Rote Kapelle needs to move into a meta that has a future in this game.
  7. The Provibloc offers us the best opportunity to learn these metas while also giving us a place to use the tools we presently have in our toolbox until these metas completely stop being viable.
I'll address each of my reasons in turn.

I covered the reasons why I believe the null-sec 15 man gang is dead or dying in my post a few days ago. Some of you took that as an "EVE is dying!" sort of post which I assure you it was not. EVE is changing, but that isn't the same thing. For a while now I've been in a position that I could gently tease people whose only view of EVE's smaller groups was "Make some friends! Be less bad!" With every other group in null-sec now following this philosophy, we have little choice but to do the same. I'm sad about the loss of this game play style and one of the things I'll be looking for in other games this year is the possibility to ply that trade elsewhere. But in no way do I think this means EVE is dying. Rather the opposite: big fleets are clearly good for the game. In the meantime, we're a relic of EVE's past and it was time to change that.


But these changes have caused most of the groups in Syndicate to rally into "mini-coalitions." This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the "culture" of Syndicate has always been rather abusive and suffered from the fact that most entities in Syndicate poach members from other entities in Syndicate. When such a poaching happens, the departing member invariably believes this will mean the instant decay and death of his former organization... and says so. This increases the abusive nature of the Syndicate culture to the point where it has become toxic. The Syndicate thread on Failheap Challenge is nearly without value, members of various organizations spending their time sniping at each other instead of taking any positive actions. The thread can go days or weeks between actual valuable content such as battle reports. The FHC admins, previously over-moderating this forum, have stepped back too far and the thread now goes completely unmoderated.

These two reasons were enough to turn my eyes outward. But assuming I wanted to remain in null-sec, where to go? That meant I was facing the map I've been posting frequently for the last couple of weeks. And if I wanted to remain in null-sec, I'd have to choose: blue or amber, white or green? Join the CFC? Join PL or N3? Join one of the few large independents left such as Black Legion? Or join Provibloc?


Contrary to popular belief, I really am not much of a "grrr Goons" guy. I bitch about their leadership and strategy from time to time, sure. But the fact is I know a lot of people in both the GSF and the CFC and they're good people. Matter of fact, I can't think of a single Goon that I dislike. If I wanted in? Ripard is notorious, sure, but I have three other more obscure mains and a SA account. Still, that does not mean that I wish to play the game the way Goons or the CFC play the game. What they do and the play-style they promote simply does not interest me right now.

When I look at a 21-hour battle like B-R, while I appreciate all the good things it does for CCP, there's absolutely no way I'd want to participate in it myself. There is no recreational activity in this world that I want to do for 21 hours straight. Hell, there are few recreational activities in this world I want to do for six or eight hours straight. Sure, there was a time I could do 12-hour marathon sessions playing a video game. But that time in my life is over. Even if it were not, at 10% TiDi that 21 hours represented 2.1 hours of actual game play. Do I want to play a game where I have to wait two minutes to lock a target, 15 minutes to kill it? Not just no, but hell no.

That pretty handily eliminated blue and amber, and most of white including Black Legion. While Goons don't have mandatory CTAs for the most part, N3 generally does and BL definitely does. And I don't speak Russian. ;-) And all of them participate in this game play style that I have no interest in.

And that turned my eye toward green. Provibloc has a number of advantages for Rote Kapelle and Stimulus at this time:
  • They are proficient at metas in this game that have a future: 40 man fleets, 200 man fleets, and the like.
  • They are positioned right on the axis of what is likely to be EVE's next war zone. That means lots of targets.
  • They're good enough at this game to have good stability, but still struggle in areas of the game where we can help.
  • While they do occasionally do sov warfare, it is not anything approaching their focus.
Short version: we feel like we can create content for them. We feel like they can create content for us. And it will be incredibly nice to live in an area that's a little less toxic. In the meantime, we can learn more about the 40 man meta and build up our base some while still keeping to our core principle of being in space, being excellent at it, learning from our mistakes, and applying the lessons we learn.

So farewell, Syndicate, and thank you! As my alliance-mate RuriHoshino put it...
It's been fun. Thanks to everyone in Syndicate who, during our time there, worked to make it one of the weirdest places in space. We may be separated by these computer monitors, but the time we spend together is real, whether it's shit-posting, ship spinning, roaming, dunking, or getting dunked. I hope you all find the fights you're looking for.
On to the next adventure! See you around the south!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Comment of the Week: Troll

So, here's kind of an unusual COTW. But it's kinda fun and potentially interesting, so here goes.

But I'm going to have to start with a definition or two. On the Internet, a "troll" is a noun, recognized as someone on a website forum who brings up deliberately contentious or provocative opinions trying to disrupt conversation for his own amusement. In traditional English uninfluenced by Scandanavian folklore, the word is a verb and means to trail a large piece of bait on a line behind a moving boat hoping to catch a big fish. In EVE Online culture, these two definitions have merged. To "troll someone" means to concoct a lie and attempt to plant it on your victim, hoping he'll take it as the truth. If the lie is believed, the more outlandish it is, the more successful the troll is.

These days, trolling only works in one direction. The perpetrator is always Goonswarm and the target is nearly always EVE News 24. The purpose is to hopefully disrupt and discredit EN24 to the presumed benefit of the Goonswarm-sponsored competing news site, themittani.com.(1)

Prior to the CFC announcement of 0-W hell-camp on the 15th, EN24 published a couple of text items that they claimed were leaks coming out of CFC forum threads. Anyone who thinks of GSF or the CFC as a monolithic organization with no leaks is wrong. Things do slip out from time to time. Of the two, the second was a fairly bland position post written as if intending to address long-standing complaints about the CFC, most importantly that they intended to "take over the galaxy" or "ruin EVE Online." I found it an interesting piece of writing and wrote my own piece commenting on it.

At the top of that piece, I made it clear that I didn't know who wrote the position post, implied I didn't much care who wrote it, but that I found it interesting and I wanted to address the talking points. In the process, I made a few unrelated predictions about where I think the rest of winter and spring 2014 are going in terms of large bloc null-sec politics. It was a fun piece but not really intended to be contentious.

But the comments thread turned into a river of flame anyway, and so did Twitter and so did Reddit. Both The Mittani and Powers contacted me, said that bit of text had been a troll aimed at EN24, I had fallen for it, and I should do... something about it. What I should do, they weren't quite clear about. I have to admit that this confused me. Remember, a troll is a lie that you want someone to believe is the truth. But I had looked through the bit of text and it was made up of talking points -- more or less true ones! -- that Goons have been using for a while:
  • Goons don't intend to "ruin the game." They've been saying this all the way back to Darius JOHNSON.
  • Goons "don't control half the galaxy." This has been a Goon talking point for ages.
  • The eastern half of the galaxy is bigger than the west. Also a long-standing Goon talking point, as I said in my piece, this is a bit misleading but it's essentially true.
  • PL/N3 control a lot of these systems. While I am not so sure "PL/N3" exists just now, the sentiment itself is more or less true, at least for a couple more weeks.
  • A disparity of renter income is bad for Goons. This is indisputably true.
  • Goons are wrecking N3 renter space so that the southern Russians can move in. Whether this is the intent or not, it's likely to be true enough... nature, vacuums, and all that.
  • And then that statement about three power blocs in the game making the game more interesting and more fun. OK, maybe this part could be a lie.
Anyway, when I was informed of supposedly successful troll, I (quite reasonably, I thought) asked Mittens and Powers straight out: "OK, which part is a lie?" I got no answer. Instead, they both responded -- well, insisted is a better word -- that it was a troll and I should admit to being trolled. I said again, "Which part is a lie?" They got exasperated. Figuring I was on the right track, I asked a third time. This went on back and forth for a goodly long time on Twitter. There's something about Goons I've noticed over the last three years writing this blog: when someone does something stupid, Goons point, they laugh, and then they move on to the next stupid thing. They don't stick to any given stupidity for long.

I seemed to have inadvertently stumbled onto something The Mittani hated just as much as having his real name bandied about the Internet without his permission: someone not accepting his narrative once he's declared what it is.

So I went back to the original text looking for the lie. Instead, I found this:
PL/N3 currently own MORE systems than the CFC and our Russian temporary allies in the south COMBINED. Obviously that disparity in income is bad for us (most of the sov is renter space, unlike CFC sov).
And I realized I'd skipped over a word that seemed unimportant at the time: that word "temporary"... "our Russian temporary allies."

Now anyone who knows anything about null-sec politics knows that this particular group of Russians has never had a lot of love for Goons, and somewhat vice versa. As I said in the original post, I fully expect there to be wars and border clashes and such once the Halloween War wraps up. The thing the CFC has on its side is Russians dislike each other way more than they dislike Goons. They're pretty likely to go after each other with Goons cheering 'em on from the sidelines. But I found this flat declaration that the Russian allies are "temporary" kinda charming.

So! Trolls are lies you foist on enemies hoping they'll take them as truth. All that said, what's more likely:
  1. That this statement is a successful troll perpetrated on EN24, despite being essentially true (if occasionally misleading) from start to finish?
  2. Or that a well-meaning mid-level type in the CFC wrote something very slightly embarrassing to the CFC diplomatic corps that he was in no way authorized to write, someone leaked it, and the higher-ups decided it should be discredited?
I know which way Occam's Razor is leaning for me.

Anyway, just a bit of fun. Back to more serious matters.


(1) If you want to debate journalistic integrity and such topics, this ain't the blog post for that. ;-)

Fit of the Week: Roaming Lachesis

As much as I love recons, you'd think I would have done a FOTW Lach by now...

[Lachesis, Roamer]
Damage Control II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II
Beta Reactor Control: Capacitor Power Relay I

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Republic Fleet Warp Disruptor
Domination Warp Scrambler
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II

Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Light Missile
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Light Missile
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Light Missile
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Cynosural Field Generator I

Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer II
Medium Core Defense Field Extender II

Hobgoblin II x3
Hornet EC-300 x5


This is another "straight out of Ripard's hangar" fit, something I've been flying myself for a good long while. But it's still a fit that's evolved through a number of adjustments and tweaks, learning from the practical problems with roaming in this rather specialized little boat.

Let's start with tank. After the de rigueur DC, that consists of an Invul, three LSEs, a CDFE, and an Anti-EM rig to close the ship's EM hole. At one time, I used double Anti-EM rigs on this ship but laser boats are becoming somewhat less popular in EVE these days particularly in the small- and medium-gang roams. You're seeing a lot more use of sentries, missiles, and railguns. Since these damage systems do kinetic and thermal damage to which Gallente ships are generally well-tanked, I changed out one of the resist rigs for additional buffer. Buffer is important on a Lach because the enemy FC will be seeking to volley you off the field. In Rote, we saw examples of a number of two LSE Lachs shot down in a single Tornado volley by a relatively small number of those ships and as a result shifted to the three LSE comp which is much sturdier. The price to be paid is reduced tackle capability...

Typically, I use a single high-end faction point and a single high-end faction scram on mine. The scram is most useful in low-sec and gate-crashing situations where you're trying to get a cheap gank or two. Double point is a much more useful fit if you know the gang composition you're going to be working with relies on longer-range DPS such as Ishtars, rail ships, or Cerbs. Your range with the RF point is 60km, which is a little bit dangerous in today's EVE meta, but a good booster pilot will push you up close to or above 80km which is safer. Unlike what I've shown above, remember to space your tackle mods in your mids in between the LSEs so that you can overheat them longer. Overheated, an RF point is good for around 95km tackle range.

I've found from long experience that Lachs tend to be just slightly pokey and like all recons, they have a pretty serious capacitor problem. I used to go with a PDS in the last low slot but finally gave up and switched to a Capacitor Power Relay instead. The Beta version is generally cheaper than its T2 counterpart. The single nano pushes your speed above 2100m/s before heat which helps your ability to skirmish and gives you an align speed under five seconds with links.

The high slots have undergone the most changes over the years.

For the longest time, I was using a HML fit, but the recent changes to RLMLs make fitting them to nearly any missile-capable recon a no-brainer, most particularly the Lachesis. Three overheated RLMLs plus three attack drones give you about 200 DPS versus a tackle frigate. Add in a defensive neut and most single ships that have you tackled will reconsider their options pretty damn quick. You can increase to five attack drones if you like, but I like having a full flight of EC drones along instead to give you an alternative option.

A cyno is considered a "must have" on roaming recons these days, even though you'll rarely or never have to light it. But capital escalations are becoming the norm rather than the exception so don't neglect to fit the thing and carry fuel.

The Lach is one of the last of the old-time skirmish ships. Stay well behind your fleet's lines using your own fleet as a screen. If your fleet is skirmishing, then you'll stay even with your logistics ship. If your fleet is close-range, then hang back behind your logistics ship. In this position you'll be somewhat vulnerable to flanking tacklers so keep a close eye on your Overview! I find it useful to sort by range. Anything that comes within 40km of you should be regarded as a mortal threat and engaged with RLMLs. If you are double-point fit, if something gets closer than 30km to you and your fleet doesn't deal with it immediately, unless you have orders from your FC to the contrary, warp off and come back in at range. Like all recons, your primary defense is mobility.

A Lach fit this way CAN withstand a pretty good amount of punishment, particularly for a non-T3 cruiser. With a Shield Harmonizing link you've got 72k EHP. And you're a reasonably good rep target with an average resist in the high 60s or low 70s. Still, smart FCs will instruct their recons to preserve their mobility. Take a rep cycle or two if you must, but use it to break tackle or just warp off. A lot of today's fleets will throw away a lot of ships to take down a shiny recon.

Point!


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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Inflation

OK. Some of you are going to want to argue with me because I'm about to say something contentious again. Ready? Theme statement first:
5-15 man fleets are dying in EVE Online null-sec except as a tool for ganks.
At ganks, I assure you they are still excellent. But if the age of the 15v15 or 15v20 or 15v25 fight isn't over, it will be over very soon. It's dying of four things simultaneously:
  1. The overall skill point inflation of EVE Online players as the EVE population ages.
  2. The prevalence of easily accessible data on fleet doctrines and the spread of those doctrines.
  3. The risk aversity of EVE Online players, particularly two- to four-year-old players.
  4. The ease of getting newer EVE Online players into T1 logistics ships.
Once upon a time, there were ~elite PvP~ alliances in this game. And these alliances excelled at using three things to defeat larger fleets ("punching up"): higher skill points, better fits and doctrines, and the ability to bring link ships. They used these advantages to take on somewhat larger fleets, or to use skirmish tactics to nibble at the edges of much larger fleets. Now everyone has those things. Is that a bad thing? No! Not at all! But it's having an impact, and that impact is to drive the size of fleets on the low end upward.

"Small gang" in this game is becoming 30-40 ships, not 5-15.

This impact doesn't seem to be affecting the "solo" pilot too much, except the solo pilot tends to have two or even three (or four) link ships. And this impact doesn't seem to be affecting what I would call "micro-gangs": five or fewer. These fleets can much more easily choose their battles -- though they sometimes run afoul of those last few 5-15 man fleets and get one or two of their number ganked. But what I would have previously called a small gang of 15 is finding it nearly impossible to find equal size fights. The opponent of a 15 man gang isn't another 15 man gang. More often than not, it's a 30 or 40 man gang.

My alliance-mate Namamai had a lot to say about this topic on somethingawful recently and I want to quote some relevant bits (edited here and there for clarity):
Here's the issue: these days, a micro-gang (5-15 people) is good for ganks only. And in particular, it has three flavors:
  1. Use moderately priced ships. You gank one or two ships at a time, and then either cloak up (in the case of black ops) or scatter (in the case of inty swarms / sniper BCs).
  2. Use cheap ships. You gank one or two ships at a time, and then die to the response fleet and not give a fuck. (Nano Thoraxes, etc.)
  3. Use powerful but slow-moving ships. Everyone runs from you until they have a proper defense fleet up, and then dunk you.
At best, you're getting a easy (almost boring) gank and then blue-balling a response fleet.

Now, if you were playing a few years ago, there were tons of examples of a small, well-comped fleet being able to take a few kills off a fleet, and maybe even do sustained fighting with a larger fleet for a bit, and then disengage. There were a couple ways to do it, most of them focusing on speed (Vagabonds, 100MN Tengus, arty Tornados/Muninns, etc) or highly flexible damage projection (Zealots, Rail Proteuses, Navy Apocs with a single triage carrier, etc). These days, trying to do this kind of stuff will largely get you killed, with little or nothing to show for it.
He goes on to list a few reasons that he sees, which I more or less agree with (again edited, this time for brevity):
  • Warp speed changes. If you're flying anything cruiser or bigger that can't cloak, hostile inties and dictors will absolutely get ahead of you, no matter where you warp.
  • Changes in fitting meta. Railguns and sentry drones provide huge flexibility in range and tracking. The strength and relative cheapness of sensor-dampening ships remove many of the advantages of kiting/skirmish fleet comps. There are relatively few "hard counters" left in the game.
  • More accessible logistics. Logistics is no longer the realm of bitter-vets who train for months to be good at repping; there are now T1 logistics ships, and most fleets with 20+ people will have 3 or more logistics ships.
  • A general raise in median SP, especially with respect to capitals. Having a carrier alt isn't the sign of an old player anymore; it's rapidly becoming the norm. Capital escalations are common.
Now again, this is not to say you can't get kill-mails with such a gang size. You absolutely can. But they'll be in singles, pairs, maybe as many as five. You can gank mining ships, you can gank ratters. But as Namamai puts it, you can't get a "really pounding-pulse we-won-a-sustained-fight-with-1/3-their-numbers PvP, of the kind that used to be possible just a year or two ago."

~Elite PvP~ is dying. It's not dead yet. But it's falling over, and the wolves are circling.

Before you yell at me, remember: I'm talking null-sec. I know this size gang is still prevalent in low-sec, particularly in faction warfare. I know this size gang is sometimes worthwhile in w-space. I know it has its place in high-sec war-decs. But I'm talking the old-style roaming gang of 2009-2010 that used to be as common as dirt: ten DPS ships, two or three tacklers, two special teams ships (usually a Lach/Arazu and a T2 logi), probably a dictor. That meta is what's dying.

Now here's the tricky part: there's not going to be a lot of metrics that can be used to prove this thesis statement. When two 15 man fleets meet in null-sec these days, more often than not a fight doesn't happen. And since the fight doesn't happen, it doesn't generate kill-mails. Therefore: no metrics. One side looks at the other and sees four Exequrors, or two Scimitars and a Falcon, or a pile of T3s and simply decides not to engage. The typical 15 man fleet out there right now is four inties, six DPS ships... and four special teams ships which more often than not are four logi. Or perhaps three logi and a dictor or three logi and a Rapier or Loki. Or if they're hunting your 15 man inty gang, maybe a Keres.

To break even two logi, you have to bring 50% more numbers. To break three, you have to bring almost double, or a couple of jamming ships. Think that 15 man gang is gonna engage if they see 25 or 30? Or if they see you brought two Falcons, Griffins, or Kitsunes with you? Hell no. They're gonna disengage, safe up, and let that gang go by. Therefore no fight, therefore no kill-mails, therefore no metrics. This thing is happening silently.

Which is why instead you're seeing these 15 man fleets dunk on a few ratters or a couple of mining ships or perhaps a solo boat or two. They're doing their hunting in renter space, usually going for things that can't fight back. Again, ganks are cool! I like kill-mails as much as the next fella, maybe more. But I also like fights and in this fleet size they're becoming a hell of a lot tougher to come by.

Meanwhile, the prevalence of cheap logistics, good numbers, alts, and high SP -- plus the ever-growing desire to dunk these 15 man gangs -- is pushing the "small gang" up to 30 or 40 ships. I'm not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing. But I am saying it is a thing. Inflation isn't just hitting the cost of things in the game. It's hitting the size of fleets in the game too.

Kill of the Week: Stabbing

For only the second time since I started doing KOTWs, absolutely nobody sent me any fun sub-cap kills. So I guess it must have been pretty quiet out there. ;-)

It's OK, though. I think for KOTW I'm gonna go with this Anshar. The kill is fairly run of the mill, a Marmite Collective gank in Ignoitton. But the Marmites seem to have refreshed an old jump freighter ganking strategy in this system. As far as I can tell, the strategy involves a Stabber with a 100MN MWD, warp speed rigs, and a probe launcher. It puts out combat probes in advance near (one of?) the two stations in this system and sits just off-grid, aligned down to one of them. When it sees a cyno light on its target station, the pilot spams scan, waits for the JF to appear, then immediately warps in.

By the time the Stabber lands on grid, the system is just loading for the new entry (remember, you appear in Local and in the system a second or two before you yourself see the grid or anything on it). If the Stabber pilot is quick enough, he can activate the MWD and get a pretty good bump on the JF before the JF pilot has a chance to collect himself. If he or she is quick with the dock button, they can still escape. But if their reflexes aren't good, the JF can sail a few thousand meters out of dock range. After that, all it takes is a web and a good traditional bumping ship like that Machariel. The Stabber trick works because of the greatly increased mass provided by the oversized MWD, and the oversized MWD isn't too hard to fit on the Minmatar hull.

This past week, the Marmites have nailed a dozen or so JFs in Ignoitton and it's always just a few pilots involved. Nice kills, guys!

I know my honorable mentions this week wouldn't be complete without a ridiculous unbuffered mission ship, a ridiculous solo wormhole SMA kill for an enormous profit, and an avoidable high-sec 10 billion ISK freighter gank. So there you go. ;-) The first guy responded to his pain by suggesting on the EVE-O forums that battleships should receive a buff of between double and quadruple their tank. Hint: it wouldn't have helped. You didn't fit buffer.

And one more in that vein just for fun: an avoidable five billion ISK Tayra loss.

Finally, someone remind the Nulli Secunda guys that when their career in high-sec starts up again soon, they have to care about things like war-decs. This Nightmare pilot can explain it.


Number of dead super-caps last week: 5

Two weeks in a row with five supers dead, only this time a pair of titans were involved! First up though was this Nyx and this Aeon, killed in Khanid low-sec. Now the politics behind this one are pretty mixed up and confused. In the larger fight that these two supers died you're gonna see a lot of different players. However, nobody seems to be arguing that Surely You're Joking was going after JIHADASQUAD moon towers with a smallish dread fleet. Psychotic Tendencies/I-RED came in with an AHAC/T3 fleet and attacked the dreads -- apparently linking up with JIHADASQUAD -- and SYJ escalated with an triage Archon and support fleet.

However, a miscommunication resulted in three(?) JIHADASQUAD supers jumping in... at 0 range on the SYJ dreads. The consequences were predictable. All would likely have died but for the fact that the SYJ fleet apparently had only a single hictor, a Phobos. From there, the fight became even more confused with drops and counter drops and dreads at short range and dreads at long range. The scent of capital blood called Pandemic Legion. But by that time, the two supers were long dead.

Next up, this TEST Avatar killed by Pandemic Legion. This one just comes down to good research. This was a known titan pilot who apparently had gotten a little bit too predictable in his cyno chain choices. The PL scout predicted what his next jump would be, burned some eyes in there and when the titan character disappeared from one system, a hictor was already in warp to the cyno in the jump-in system. Nice bit of detective work! It also features one of the more expensive titan pods I've seen lately.

Next to die was this Nyx in U0W in Detorid, killed by a massed group of SOLAR FLEET supers. No word on how this one got caught. But given that it was last seen attacking an SBU in the system it died in, chances are pretty good that someone had a good scan of his hiding place and the patience to wait a day for him to log back in.

Finally, this Avatar was also killed by PL, this time in Kinakka. Both TMC and EN24 have covered this one and the details are more or less identical: this titan was providing bridging support for a fight in another system. The pilot claims that he had safe logged-off the titan but instead SniggWaffe pilots found the Avatar drifting out of POS shields and called their big brother to deal with it.

All in all, a pretty average week on the super side!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Scroll bars?

You know, rereading my post about the Overview brought me to that line about games with scroll bars. In the post, I said I couldn't think of a game with a scroll bar, but once I sat down and really started thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized that isn't true.

Games with tech trees and player upgrades and such generally have scroll bars. And map-based games usually include the ability to grab and drag the map this way and that, which is like a scroll bar. And a few RTS games have both of these: Homeworld 2 comes to mind, for instance. When I sat down and really thought about it, I remembered I always seemed to be fighting with the scroll bar in its build interface at the exact wrong moments. I would always be searching for something I desperately wanted to build at that moment to counter some strategy the AI was throwing at me.

But of course, I could cheat: I could pause Homeworld 2. So that wasn't really real-time, as such.


Let's take tech trees and build queues, turn-based games and games you can pause, and other such games out of consideration for the moment. Besides EVE, is there another real-time mainstream game that includes a scroll bar as part of its main UI that you see while you're hip-deep in the game?

I couldn't think of one. But maybe the diversity of games I play just isn't broad enough. Can you think of one? Go!

Holding pattern

KSP update time! I still haven't gone to Duna, though Enterprise is completely fit up and ready for the trip:


The reason is simple enough: time, or lack thereof. Between RL projects, this blog, CSM duties, and some major news affecting Rote Kapelle in EVE, I just haven't had time for KSP time in large batches. I know for a fact that I'm going to want to devote three or four hours in one sitting to a Duna mission: transfer orbit there, running the mission, and coming home (or trying to). I'm not going to try to run that mission piece-meal. In particular, I know myself well enough that I'm not gonna be comfortable putting a crew in Duna orbit without at least getting them on their way home during the same session. ;-)

Still, I'm pretty confident about the mission spec, particularly since I gave Enterprise the ability to cut away her two outboard fuel tanks to conserve weight as a contingency. With the current design, I don't even lose any science by doing so. I'll just dock all the science mods temporarily to the top of the lander using those "shuttles" then cut the shuttles loose for the trip home. We'll see if that's necessary.

Still, I have had time in 30-40 minute blocks to play KSP so I haven't been completely idle. One of the reasons the Duna mission is on hold is because Duna itself is in the exact wrong part of its orbit:


I know I can warp time of course, but I can't do it in real life. So instead, I ran a quick Pathfinder mission to Moho using the same design that had successfully gotten me to Minmus, Eve, and Duna. Holy crap, Moho is a hard target to hit! It has a tiny gravity well, is fast moving, in a somewhat eccentric orbit. I never did actually succeed. As you can see from the picture above, I managed a fairly close pass, did get into Moho's influence, and almost got into orbit...


...close enough to touch, almost! But no dice. I fell short by a little under a thousand meters per second so only managed a fly-by. Still, that picked me up about 200 science so the trip was definitely worth the time and trouble. But I am really really starting to see why people use the various auto-pilot and orbital assist mods. I think Enterprise's mission to Duna is going to be the last few transfer orbits I run manually. At the very least, I need to go watch a tutorial video or two on them. I feel like there's some small knack to it that I'm not quite getting.

In the meantime, the other thing I could do in 15 or 20 minute batches involved this KSP space station that I've always been intrigued by (it's not mine!):


Now I'm sure this beast has massive, massive module lag and I know there is a way with mods to just insert stuff into orbit without launching the components. Still, I was intrigued by that huge truss. Had it been magically placed into orbit or had it been launched? And in particular, if it had been placed in orbit, why the structural spars holding it to its anchor? Then I noticed the radial decouplers about four segments from the far end of the port side. Had that thing been launched? And in particular since there were no docking ports, had it been launched as a single unit? That was a question that interested me enough to tinker with some rockets (often, my favorite part of this game) and try it.

And on a smaller scale, I succeeded:


That's four Mainsails in the center, four Skippers on the four smaller outboard fuel tanks, and eight SRBs. The truss itself has no engines. I put probe cores at either end of the truss to fly the beast, stiffened up the launcher with plenty of spars, and amusingly it got into orbit just fine...


A final push brought it up to my first station's parking orbit, trailing it by a few thousand kilometers. Probe cores at the top of each of those four fuel tanks kept them from becoming huge debris pieces and I just deorbited them one by one. I then sent my bigger shuttle from my existing station to take charge of the truss, and viola:


Of course, once I had the truss in orbit it seemed silly not to send up the pieces necessary to rebuild my station the way it should have been built the first time... So say hello to Liberty Station: half the parts, half the launches, just as capable in all respects as my first station, Freedom.


And I haven't seen part lag go yellow yet even with another monster spacecraft on its grid. While fueling it up, I also tweaked my fueler design to be unmanned which saves both parts and weight.


As you can see, the bottom 4/7ths is about empty, but the top is still full when I get it docked with either Liberty or Enterprise. Only tricky part is that I use more RCS fuel because I ditch the SAS with the second stage. I'll have to think about redesigning that, maybe. That's all for now, though! I'm still loving the game, still enjoying myself immensely, still patiently waiting for enough time to run my Duna mission. Soon(tm).

Heart transplant

There's a new blog banter out and it's a tricky one for me. Here it is:
The Overview. Is it sufficient? If not how can it be improved? Is there some way to replace it? Does it give too much information, or not enough? Please be creative and specific as the overview currently is the heartbeat of the GUI.
If I hadn't promised myself about 18 months ago to do every blog banter, I'd probably skip this one. ;-) But since I did make that promise to myself, I won't. But I'm keeping the promise despite the fact that I can hardly think of a more risky post to write from an :nda: perspective.

After all, I'm on the CSM just now. I've attended two CSM Summits. I've talked -- fairly extensively! -- with the UI team in those summits, in after-hours conversations, and on Skype. I assure you you cannot do those things without the Overview coming up, and coming up pretty significantly. As Kirith correctly states, it's the heart of the UI... the very thing that launches and reinforces the "spreadsheets in space" meme that has surrounded EVE for more than a decade. Oh my yes, it's come up. And I'd be lying if I said I haven't seen mock-ups for things the UI team was thinking about doing to it.

How do I comment on it without letting some of that slip? Answer: you don't. It's impossible.


But I can address the topic from a completely different direction. EVE's Overview (whatever its form) should at its heart do five things:
  1. It should be attractive, both eye-catching in and of itself and pleasant to look at.
  2. It should be immediately intuitive... something that can be taught to a new player in just a few minutes.
  3. It should present all the information that the EVE player needs while in space.
  4. It should not present information that the EVE player doesn't need. And...
  5. There should still be a means of manually filtering information quickly based on player needs.
Today? Well, two out of five isn't bad. Or maybe it is, I don't know.

The thing you have to understand is the Overview today does two things very very well: it is hugely information dense but at the same time it is still pretty easy to teach it to new players. And those two things make the current Overview a really terrible-for-you, but highly addictive drug. It's the nicotine of EVE. And any attempt to wean EVE players off of it -- particularly the hard-core EVE players who also tend to be the most vocal -- is going to be met with screams of rage.

Let's look at the very first goal: making the Overview attractive. Rixx Javix went out and found examples of five or six screen-caps of modern UI design. They're just lovely, lovely things. And all of them have poor information density, are really non-intuitive, or both. You could make the Overview prettier. It wouldn't even be that hard. But most of us aren't interested in pretty when it comes time to pull information out of the Overview. We need to know that the enemy has 20 ships at 10km, 15 at 40km, and 10 hanging out at 100+. Right now, I get that information at a glance because each line of the overview is only 18 or so pixels tall, each separated by a single pixel line. Make the Overview prettier and I guarantee a scroll bar becomes involved. And scroll bars are evil. Matter of fact, I'm trying to remember any other game I've played... ever... where a scroll bar was involved.

Similarly, right now the Overview presents it all: information the pilot needs, doesn't need, doesn't care about, and... the information that is absolutely critical. And it's all mixed together and chances are you're using a lot of it even if you're not conscious of it. So let's say a pretty Overview is the solution if it's also "smart." To which I say: define "smart." If I'm skirmishing in my Rapier, I might care that 20 Thoraxes at 40km have me locked up. But I guarantee you I care more about those two Crows moving at 4000m/s 65km away closing from my left and right flanks. I've learned that through experience and instinct. Let's say you're doing The Blockade against Blood Raiders. Who do you care about more? The battleships at 10km or the elite cruisers about to drain your cap dry at 45? Is a smart Overview going to be able to make the same determinations? That'd have to be a pretty freakin' smart Overview.

And that brings me to filtering. EVE players are going to demand the ability to filter even what a smart Overview presents to them. The ability to spot dictors and heavy dictors is critical for a super-cap pilot for instance. The ability to sometimes ignore everything except loot can be hugely lucrative. The ability to spot bombers quickly is sometimes the difference between your ship living or dying, whether in 0.0 or in an incursion site.

While EVE players bitch about the current Overview, will the bitch louder if these capabilities are taken away from them for a prettier, more modern, smarter Overview? I don't know about you, but I'd estimate the chances of it are roughly 104%. But that's just a planning number.

CCP has been known -- from time to time -- to push something through they know will be unpopular when it speaks to their long-term development goals. But this is something that is going to have to be looked at carefully, planned carefully, and changed even more carefully. Because if you're gonna do a heart transplant, you only get one chance to do it right.

Monday, February 17, 2014

CSM8 Status Report: Week forty-one

You know... I look at my notes and this update is going to be surprisingly short! Sometimes, the train is just running along the tracks and it's good enough to point out that it is: fuel is good, speed is good, track is good!

This week, CSM members are making their travel plans for Fanfest. This is something that has to be done a bit earlier in the process for CSM8. Past CSMs knew which of their members were going to get the free tickets and which were not. This time, with the STV mechanic in place, the choices of who was going to get those seven free tickets was a bit more subjective. Such decisions are never, ever easy. If you're very fortunate in your career choices, someday you'll be put into a position that no matter how you choose, someone is going to be upset and angry with you. That goes with the territory.

CCP Dolan is handling this with good grace. He had some particularly difficult choices this year, given that CSM8 is probably the most active CSM in the history of the organization in terms of total number of members engaged and how much they are engaged. Dolan's doing a good job of balancing this and working hard to see to it that as many CSM8 members can go to Fanfest as possible. As with the summit attendees, I'll leave it to Dolan to announce who's officially going to Reyk.

Once again, this man deserves kudos!

The devs in general continue to be heads-down working on their charters for the summer expansion. Skype has been pretty quiet all week except for a couple of the usual suspects. We do continue to hear from them in the EVE-O forums as they have questions for us or want our feedback about different topics.

There was a minor explosion from the Community/Legal team this week about alliance logos. EVE players hate to be reminded that the EULA for this game clearly states that every single little thing in this game belongs to CCP: your character name, your pictures, your corp logos, your corp and alliance names, everything. Well, this week, CCP reminded players that that includes alliance logos. The very first thing you're asked to confirm when submitting them is that they are not copyrighted. But of course that doesn't stop a group like, say, Team Liquid, from using their world-recognized logo as their in-game logo.

So CCP is asking for players involved to set up a licensing agreement between themselves and CCP for fair use of these logos on both sides. And the orgs that have the most at stake in their logos reacted poorly. Fairly reliable rumor has it that Goonswarm is lawyering up.

In the meantime, I can see the argument on both sides. After all, if CCP Seagull's vision of capsuleers flying ships with their alliance logos comes to pass someday, this issue is going to have to be resolved. If the True Stories of EVE comic includes a frame with a Dominix with a Goonswarm bee on the side of it, who owns that art? Dark Horse? CCP? Goonswarm? It's a pickle, and no mistake! We'll see where this goes.

CSM9 campaign season has officially kicked off! The day after I posted my list of interesting non-incumbents running, Jita Park had itself a little local spike. So far, nine candidates have officially declared there and that only includes one of the incumbent CSM8 members so far. So things are finally getting rolling! Good luck to the candidates! I've already started grilling a couple of 'em...

We're still nudging Dolan about the Winter Summit Minutes. (Note to self: nudge Dolan again tomorrow about Winter Summit Minutes.) As I said last week, some of that is going to be complicated by the fact that many of the sessions involve topics for a summer expansion the theme of which CCP has not announced yet. We don't want to announce CCP's plans for them, so I'm sure we're going to see two sets of Minutes published this time: a more general set not related to summer, and then the summer set once CCP has posted a video and dev-blog or two.

And that's all for this week! Hm. That wasn't so short after all. ;-)