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...

Monday, February 28, 2011

On approach

One more CSM6 post today.

Seleene has written a really good post today about the realities of how CSM6 is going to be addressing CCP.  It's not very long.  Go give it a read.  I'll wait.

OK.  Seleene makes some good points, but among the best of them, he points out that there are some CSM6 candidates that:
a) have been talking with CSM5 members, getting their advice about what has and hasn't worked when dealing with CCP; and, if elected,
b) are planning to leverage both that past knowledge and their own real-world experience to improve the CSM's dealings with CCP.

I'm certainly one of these candidates, but I'm not the only one!  Seleene himself obviously falls into this category, as does Trebor, as does The Mittani.  There are probably a few others that qualify as well.

The idea here is to bring a CSM in with a little less drama, a little less worry with individual concerns, and a lot more focus on standing together and bringing CCP real player concerns.  Unlike CCP, the CSM has the advantage that we can bring fresh faces who aren't worn out by the last year's drama.  CCP decidedly does not have this advantage; they'll have the same people at the table in 2011 that they had in 2010.  The CSM can also come together and present a unified front about the things that EVE Online players want.  And ironically, CCP does not have this advantage, either.  Each CCP team dealing with the CSM is pretty well focused on their own agendas.

But Seleene also orbits another important issue without coming in to land on it, and that's the aspect of exactly how the CSM is going to approach CCP.  There are definitely some different possibilities here!  The Mittani and Trebor have both publicly expressed interest in their respective Jita Park posts in being selected Chair of CSM6.  But comparing their posts, you can see that they favor very different approaches.  And just to be clear, I'm not going after or attacking either of these candidates.  Both of them are very strong candidates, and both of them are likely to be elected.  But it's their difference in approach that is interesting to me.

The Mittani says on his post that he wants to be a "hard-line player representative."  He quotes Helen Highwater, who says that there is "slack-jawed idiocy coming from both sides of the table" (emphasis mine), and says he wants the CSM to "band together to oppose CCP when they suggest retarded things."  Conciliatory, these statements aren't.  They advocate what is clearly a pretty aggressive approach to dealing with CCP.

Compare and contrast this with Trebor's post, and you find a very different approach.  Trebor states in his thread, "I don't think it is the role of a CSM to attempt to get CCP to implement a particular pet feature or tweak in a particular way."  He says several times that one of the key roles of the CSM is to encourage CCP "to justify their resource allocations."  He's advocating an agenda that involves "[demonstrating] to CCP how useful and productive engaging with CSM can be."  This is clearly a very different approach.

It's possible that neither of these men will be Chair.  But whomever is selected as Chair is going to have to decide which side of this issue they fall on, because it's going to be their first big decision: how to approach CCP: penitent, equal, or demanding customer?  If CCP is not open to the approach, whatever it is, then as an interested and well-informed person I know put it, they will be facing "a great big fat Reality Injection."

Quote of the Week: Enough disappointment

We're only a day and a half now from the publishing of the official CSM6 candidate list, and only nine days or so from the start of voting.  So this week's QOTW cheerfully references that.  It's from the Lost in EVE podcast distributed a day or two before the candidate application process closed:
If you don't have enough disappointment in your life, this is the time to get your application in so you can be part of CSM6!
Couldn't resist, hee.  Apparently, I don't have enough disappointment in my life.  For those that know about Lost in EVE, the quote is Jayne, by the way, not Jade.  From this, you'll gather that Jayne isn't the biggest fan of the CSM process.  ;-)  Jade and Jayne are hosting a debate/round-table for CSM6 candidates this weekend, and I'll be participating in that.  Wish me luck!  Lost in EVE in general is one of the better-known EVE podcasts.  I heard about it back when I was living in a WH about 18 months ago, and started following them at that time.  They're a bit irreverent about some aspects of EVE, but it's definitely worth a listen.

Some major players have declared CSM candidacies.  I've already mentioned White Tree from Test.  The official Goon candidates are going to be The Mittani and Vile Rat.  Both will obviously be extremely serious contenders; The Mittani is openly gunning for Chair.  There are at least three other (all apparently unofficial) Goon candidates, including CSM5 Alternate Helen Highwater.

I continue to keep track of who from CSM5 will be running by editing my original January post on the subject.  You'll note that mazzilliu has now stated in public that she is not running.  As I've mentioned before, Sokratesz is running for re-election, representing NCdot.  I continue to watch for news on the remaining four CSM5 members.  The most recent rumor is that Vuk Lau is not running due to a RL move.

In other major "I'm not running" news, Larkonnis Trassler has been informed by CCP that he will not be allowed to run.  Lark and I have crossed swords a few times, but he's a very knowledgeable EVE player about both 0.0 and low-sec, and as I've mentioned before, I respect his opinions.  His campaign website has some pretty good ideas, and I'm sorry that he won't be able to pursue them directly.

With mazz and Lark both out, the major Pandemic Legion candidate this time appears to be Prometheus Exenthal. Prom is also very popular on Scrapheap Challenge and will probably take a good percentage of that vote.  Elise Randolph appears to be running again from PL, but to date has not appeared to expend serious effort on campaigning or getting a message out other than "I'm running."

With IT in disarray, we'll probably not see a major candidate come out of that alliance.  Seleene and Trebor both ably represent the south, both have a lot of backers, and both are putting forth major campaigns (and I continue to wish both luck and endorse both).  The official Morsus Mihi candidate is Killer2.  I'm told the two drone region Russian candidates are Krutoj and UAxDeath, but I have to admit that I know nothing about them.  Given the size of the drone regions and the discipline of the members, though, one or both are sure to be elected.

Finally, as I've already mentioned, Roc Wieler is running on the strength of his knowledge developing Capsuleer.  And finally, you can find my own post on Jita Park as well, if you're interested.  ;-)  I was amused (though oddly pleased) to see myself listed as a "big name" in the running by EVE News 24.  I wasn't aware I was a big name, but OK.  ;-)  And of course there are a ton of more minor candidates, any one of which could put up a strong showing as campaigning gets going.

So, it's an extremely busy and crowded field... and the official candidate's list isn't even out yet, LOL.  It'll be interesting to see which candidates pick up the early EVE-O forum buzz.

Good luck to everyone running!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Check for yourself!

And now an important message from Jester's evil twin, Garth.  The opinions of Garth are not the opinions of Jester (unless they are).

About a month ago, Jester wrote a long-ass blog post about sentry drone tactics.  In particular, the post mentioned the fact that many ships could "assist" their drones to a FC ship equipped with Target Painter modules.  That FC ship could then use the TP to aggress on a target, and all the Sentries that were assisted to the FC would then fire on that target.

Jester linked to this blog post on Scrapheap Challenge, thinking it would be a helpful guide on the topic.  Not long afterward, Jester's mail, and that thread, turned into a river of flame.  "Nonsense," "complete bullshit," "your blog is a troll", and "you are p.dumb" were among the comments, the posters of which seemed to think that Jester could do the EVE world a favor if he just shot himself.

You can't assist more drones to someone than they have levels in Drone skill, someone said.  Someone else assured the thread that drones would not attack a target just because someone Target Painted it.  Someone else assured Jester that it was a well-known EVE fact that Sentries could not be assisted to someone else at all.  Nobody would ever use this tactic in PvP, yet another poster assured the crowd on SHC, because if you had to warp off, you'd leave your Sentries behind.

The fact that Jester seemed reasonably knowledgeable about the topic in question, had a kill-board battle report to back it up, and had tested the tactics in the field were all ignored.  Jester was obviously a moron, a belief that was championed in particular by one member of the thread.  And this is how the thread went until someone famously known to be even more knowledgeable than Jester stated that Jester was indeed right, "but I wasn't about to correct [the person calling Jester a moron] since this argument is pretty funny to watch."

"My bad", stated the "Jester is a moron" cheerleader, and the topic ended.  Did Jester get an apology?  Fuck no.  This is the Internet.  HTFU.

But absolutely nobody following the cheerleader bothered to actually check Jester's facts for themselves.  Absolutely nobody.

Now Jester has posted a guide on decloaking, and the very first comment states that everybody knows that drones don't decloak.  Did the commenter check for himself?  No, he did not.  He accepted the fact that he just knows that drones don't decloak.  Despite the fact that it takes about five minutes to confirm that this belief is false. 

Here's a stationary cloaked ship 2513m from a larger ship with drones out

Here's the very same ship being decloaked when the drones orbit within 2000m of him.  Nothing else changes, except the drones happen to come within range to decloak.

People, if someone on the Internet seems knowledgeable about the topic they're talking about, but they say something that you think is wrong, how about checking the facts for yourself before opening your mouth?  It's not that hard.

Garth out. 

The preceding has been an important message from Jester's evil twin Garth.  The management apologizes to any and all whom Garth may have offended.  He's a really bad person.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Guide: Basic Decloaking

Introduction and Definition
Decloaking is defined as the act of forcing a warp-while-cloaked capable ship out of cloak and tackling it when that ship is in close proximity to a gate after jumping into a new system.  It is also the term used when attempting to force out of cloak a non-warp-while-cloaked ship that uses a Prototype Cloaking Device and MicroWarpdrive to increase his chances of evading a gate camp.  Four classes of ships are capable of warping while cloaked: Covert Ops, Stealth Bombers, Force Recons (and their T3 super-charged versions), and Blockade Runners.  As these are all small ships with fast align times, virtually all successful decloaking is done with interceptors.

Before attempting to learn how to decloak, it is important to understand both the ships that you will be attempting to decloak and some basics about gate-jump mechanics.

Gate Mechanics
When you jump into a new system, things happen in a specific order:

1. Your pilot name appears in Local.
2. The gate that you are jumping through flashes.
3. The game chooses a random direction away from the center of the gate for your ship to appear.
4. Your ship will load grid in that direction away from the center of the gate, 10,000 meters from the closest edge of the gate model (and as a result, usually between 11 and 16 km away from the center of the gate).
5. You will remain cloaked and invulnerable until one of three things happen:
  • You choose to warp toward a celestial; or,
  • you begin moving your ship, by double-clicking in space, approaching an object or another ship, or similar means; or,
  • 30 seconds passes.
Once your ship is no longer cloaked and invulnerable, you may activate modules normally.  As a result, cloaky ships cannot simply activate their cloaking device as their first action when entering a new system.  They must move or wait out the timer first.  This gives a decloaker a second or two to determine where that cloaky ship has appeared on grid.

Understanding that you will appear 10,000 meters from the edge of a gate model is also an important part of jump mechanics.  The distance you appear from a gate only appears random because of the varying size of the jump gates.  Most gates are standard gates and are quite small.  However, some gates link constellations together.  These gates are somewhat larger in size.  Constellation gates are marked with red lines on the dotlan maps of a region.  Still other gates are "regionals", linking regions in the game together.  These gates are extremely large.

How do these facts affect decloaking?  First, understanding the order things happen in the game is important.  If you are part of a gate camp and your role is that of the decloaker, it is your job to watch Local for hostile targets.  Note that a hostile or neutral will appear in Local before the gate flashes announcing that target's arrival, and several seconds before that target can hope to load grid.  This is one of your few advantages as a decloaker, against a ship that can warp while cloaked: you get warning that combat is potentially about to occur.  The target, by and large, does not.

Gate sizes are also important to decloakers, and to gate camps in general.  It is extremely foolish to attempt decloak tactics, or gate-camp tactics, around a regional gate.  These gates can be enormous and can require the covering of enormous distance between potential decloak points.  On the largest regional gates, it is not at all uncommon for two decloak points to be 30 km from each other.  If you're going to try to decloak someone, stick to standard or the smaller constellation gates.

Cloaky Ship Characteristics
It's also important to understand the characteristics of your most common targets.  All ships able to warp while cloaked have one thing in common: they are all small, agile spacecraft.  All of them have align-and-warp times of under ten seconds, and many of them have align-and-warp times of under five seconds.   Given that they will only be visible on your screen and on your Overview for about 1.5 seconds and that it will take your decloaker some time to get up to speed itself, this does not leave you a lot of time.

Your most likely targets are going to be the four Force Recon ships, the Rapier, Arazu, Pilgrim, and Falcon.  Unsurprisingly, the armor-tanking Pilgrim and Arazu are the easiest to catch.  The shield-tanking Rapier is the most difficult.  Stealth Bombers and Covert Ops ships will be almost impossible to catch unless their pilot makes a mistake.  Happily, though, many such pilots do, so catching them is not impossible.  Blockade Runners are in the middle.  Nano-fit, they are nearly as agile as frigates and are therefore impossible to catch.  However, the models for two of them -- the Crane and the Prorator -- are extremely large and clunky, which improves your odds.  And most Blockade Runners are actually cargo-fit rather than nano-fit, which slows them and reduces their agility a great deal.

Another fact to remember about your targets is that every ship that can fit a Covert Ops Cloaking Device does not receive a speed penalty when using that device.  As a result, cloakies are fast.  This is the area where the Rapier in particular has a major advantage.  Its agility and speed allows it to make many evasive maneuvers when trying to avoid a decloaker.  These ships will also carry the momentum imparted to them by Afterburners or MicroWarpdrives into their cloak cycles, making them even faster.  However, once the active cycle ends, the modules cannot be reactivated while in cloak and that speed will rapidly bleed off.

Decloaking Principles
The basic facts regarding decloaking are simple: you must place a solid object within 2000 meters of the ship that is operating under cloak.  One second after passing within 2000 meters of a solid object, the cloaked ship will decloak and appear both in space and on the Overview as normal.  Once it appears in space and on the Overview, it can be locked normally one second after that.

Your job as a decloaker, therefore, is to put a solid object within 2000 meters of what you are trying to decloak.  Your ship is the most obvious solid object to use, and as of a recent Incursion patch, the game measures this 2000 meters from the edge, rather than the center, of your ship model, making this job easier.  However, drones are also considered solid objects, and having drones orbiting your ship will markedly increase your odds of decloaking.

Therefore, there are two ways of gaining this increase in your odds:
1. Have drones of your own out and active, orbiting your ship; or,
2. have a friendly ship "assist" drones to you.

The larger the cloud of drones around your decloaker, the better your odds of a successful decloak.

It is very important -- for obvious reasons -- that the decloaker ship be fast.  That is why Interceptors are favored.  However, because of the quirks of decloaking, the ship shouldn't be too fast.  Your most important job as a decloaker, after decloaking a target, is to get a Warp Scrambler (and a web, if possible) on the target.  This will likely prevent the target from simply returning to the nearby gate and jumping through.  Typical overheated scram range is around 10-11 kilometers, and it will be two seconds between the time you decloak a target and when it will be lockable.  Therefore, if your ship is faster than 5000m/s, unless your reaction time is very quick, even if you decloak the target, it will be unlikely that you can also scram the target.  Many decloak kills have been missed because of this simple fact and as a result, Dramiels in particular are -- in general -- poor decloakers because of their great speed, despite their large drone bays.

For these reasons, in my experience, the two best decloaking ships in the game are the Taranis and the Keres.  Second-tier decloakers are the Stiletto and the Hyena.  Third-tier decloakers are the Raptor, Daredevil, Imperial Navy Slicer, and the Ares.  These are all ships that can be fit to the proper speed regimen: about 4000-4500 meters per second with superior agility.  The key advantages of the Taranis are its unusually high DPS for a frigate and its 10m3 drone bay.  The key advantages of the Keres are its 5m3 drone bay and the unusually long reach of its scram in the hands of a skilled EWAR frigate pilot.  The Stiletto and Hyena both have remarkable agility, and the Stiletto also has a long reach on its scram, but be wary of making the Stiletto (or any other decloaker) too fast.  If your speed will carry you out of range of your scram in two seconds, your ship is too fast.

In a pinch, though, note that any frigate can try being a decloaker!  If a Rifter is all you have, a Rifter is better than no decloaker at all.  Do your best to follow the process below.  Having the right ship increases your odds, but even the most noob T1 frig pilot has a better chance at a successful decloak than a steely-eyed veteran in a combat battle-cruiser.

All of the principles above apply to decloaking whether in high-sec or low-sec wardecs, or in 0.0.  However, the best accessory that a 0.0 decloaker can have is a bubble of some kind, whether from a Interdictor, Heavy Interdictor, or anchored bubble.  This will force the cloaky ship to either reapproach the gate or approach the edge of the bubble to escape, and gives the decloaker the maximum possible time to catch its prey.  Your chances of decloaking a nimble target go up dramatically if you also have a bubble.

Decloaking Process
OK.  You are in the proper ship type and understand the rules of the game you're about to play.  What's next?  The basic process for decloaking is as follows:
  1. Place your decloaker at zero meters distance from the gate you will be operating around.
  2. If possible, shift your position on this gate so that there are as few obstructions as possible between you and the opposite side of the gate.  The idea is to maximize the number of directions you can fly in.
  3. Ask for ships near you to "assist" their drones to you.  Launch your own drones, if any.
  4. Stop your ship, setting and keeping speed at 0m/s.  Activate your MicroWarpdrive and let it cycle.
  5. Watch Local.  When you see a hostile target appear in Local, watch the gate.  If it flashes...
  6. Wait for the target to decloak.  If he's smart, he'll wait nearly the maximum 30 seconds.  If your bubbler is smart, he'll drop his bubble the instant the target decloaks.
  7. Approach the target!  There are many ways to do this, detailed below.
  8. Since your MWD is cycling, you will speed toward the target's location.
  9. The target will cloak.  This will cause you to lose your approach target and slow down.  Use the new Incursion hotkey (Ctrl-Alt-Space by default) to get back up to full speed in the direction of the target's previous location.  Do this as quickly as possible!
  10. Click your scram to begin cycling it.  If you have Thermodynamics skill, overheat your scram.
  11. Shut down your MWD.  This will prevent you from over-shooting the target.
  12. If the target wasn't too fast, you'll pass close enough that you or your drones will decloak the target.
  13. If you see the target appear in space or on Overview, Ctrl-triple-click to lock and approach the target.  If you get a successful lock, hopefully you'll also get a successful scram.
  14. If you don't decloak the target, begin spiraling, detailed below.
The key trick to this approach is your decloaker sitting at 0 on the gate, stationary.  This is a little bit dangerous, particularly if an enemy sniper HAC or battleship is nearby and so the tactic shouldn't be used if that's a worry.  However, it does allow you to keep your MWD active and cycling so that when you do move, you immediately begin moving at your ship's maximum speed.  The alternative strategy, orbiting the gate at 12km, is sub-optimal because the cloaky target can see you doing this, and pick the moment when you are furthest from him to align and warp.

As stated above, having drones out or assisted to you will greatly increase your odds of a successful decloak.  A Taranis is only a 50-meter long model.  However, a Taranis with Warrior II drones orbiting it effectively becomes a 1000-1500 meter long model.  Even if those Warriors are trailing several thousand meters behind the Taranis as it MWDs, their following presence will sweep a trail behind it for cloaked hostiles.

The best, most aggressive way to approach a target is to hold down your Control key and triple-click the target in space or on your Overview.  Control-click will attempt to lock the target.  If the target is locked, it can't cloak.  The follow-up double-click will cause your ship to approach the target.  As of the second Incursion patch, there is also an approach key, set by default to "Q".  So, if you click the target and press "Q", you will also approach the target.  You can also use the Approach button on your Selected Item display in the Overview.

Getting back up to maximum speed after the target cloaks is one of the most critical steps in this process.  I strongly recommend that you either remap the default "maximum speed" key introduced in the second patch of Incursion, or -- even better -- if you have a gaming keyboard or game pad, map that key to an easily-accessible alternate key.  I personally have a Logitech G15 gaming keyboard, and my "maximum speed" key is remapped to this keyboard's G6 key, easily accessible with my left hand.  I begin spamming this key even before the target cloaks, assuming that he's going to do so.

Spiraling and Avoiding Decloakers
An experienced Recon pilot will avoid being decloaked by sacrificing his most optimal warp-out route or time in order to reduce the chances of a successful decloak.  There are several approaches for a Recon pilot to do this, and a basic guide on decloaking can't cover them all.  Still, the two most common methods are the counter-spiral and using either an Afterburner or MicroWarpdrive module.

The latter is simpler.  An experienced Recon pilot will, instead of warping directly to his target, will align to the target instead and then cycle his or her Afterburner or MicroWarpdrive once.  This will give the ship a great burst of speed.  Only then will the pilot cloak the ship.  The average speed of a Rapier, for instance, is 240m/s.  However, the average speed of a MWDing Rapier is 1600m/s.  That is a difference of 1360m/s.  At 4500m/s and assuming a good starting point for a decloaker, it's going to take you an average of 2.8 seconds to reach the position where that Rapier cloaked.  Taking into account a Rapier's relatively slow acceleration, that still means that the Rapier in question will be able to cover more than 2500 meters in that time... enough distance to greatly decrease your odds of a successful decloak.

As your decloaker reaches the position where you saw the Recon cloak, if you do not achieve a successful decloak, you can attempt a "spiral".  Spiraling in this context means to create a cone-shaped search pattern in the probable direction you feel the cloaky ship is going.

Assume that you are decloaking in a gate in a pipe system, a system with only two stargates.  It's a good bet that the Recon is trying to reach the other gate.  As your MWD shuts down, change your alignment to approach the gate.  As you do this, note the direction you are needing to fly in order to approach the gate.  For this example, let's assume you need to fly directly upward to reach the opposite gate.  Once your ship is aligned to the gate, change your direction by manually flying about directly upward and 30 degrees to the right.  As your ship makes this course change, rotate it by 90 degrees clockwise: manually fly upward and 30 degrees "downward".  Repeat this process, altering your ship's course by 90 degrees clockwise each time until you've executed this step five times.  If you haven't decloaked the ship by this time, you're not going to.

An enemy Recon can anticipate and avoid this maneuver by "counter-spiraling."  This involves taking an unpredictable course away from the gate in a random direction immediately after cloaking the ship.  Aligning to a nearby planet is often the best option: instead of warping to the opposite gate, instead, warp to the nearby planet, then warp to the opposite gate from there, or even from a second celestial.  By cloaking and then immediately changing direction, you are imitating the old World War II U-boat Captain's method of "leaving a knuckle in the water" as your ship dramatically turns away from its last known course.  However, be warned that only agile ships can perform this maneuver successfully.  Heavier Recons such as Pilgrims will have a difficult time building up enough speed after this dramatic turn to create enough distance to prevent a decloak.

Decloaking is a difficult skill to master, and takes a lot of patience and practice.  It is strongly recommended that you practice these techniques on corp- or alliance-mates before attempting them in the field.  Talk a corp- or alliance-mate into taking their Recon out with your decloaking ship.  Choose an out-of-the-way gate and ask him to repeatedly jump into the system while you practice decloaking him.  For the first few times, ask him to wait a few seconds before cloaking to give you the maximum time needed to practice the techniques.

With skill, experience, and practice, you'll soon master the technique and earn the praise and admiration of your allies as a decloaker.  It's a valued skill, particularly in gate-camps and short roams.  Good hunting!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kill of the Week: Learn from your mistakes

Kill of the Week this week is me IRL.  ;-)  I've been struck down by a nasty flu bug and therefore wasn't feeling well enough to do proper research on this topic.  Still, I heard about a good one: an 80 billion ISK Nightmare ganked in high-sec:

But I've covered high-sec ganks a couple of times, so I won't bother doing so again for a while.  Just a couple of notes: this fit at least plays to the Nightmare's strengths.  It's a fantastic glass cannon.  And the presence of arty Apocs plus the lack of rats on the KM says that this gank group hit this Nightmare as he was undocking, while those super-expensive hardeners were OFF, rather than in a mission.  The Apocs would have tanked the station guns fine until CONCORD arrived.  Nightmares are notoriously thin-skinned with their hardeners off, and undock ganks are popular.

Instead, I'll talk about a kill that I was personally involved in, plus a kill that almost happened, because there's some interesting lessons to be learned from them.  First, the story without interruption: I was on a gate in 0.0 teaching a fellow corp-mate about gate uncloaking (note to self: post guide on gate decloaking), which is the practice of catching cloaky ships -- primarily Recons -- after they jump into a new system.  He and I were both in Taranises, a fantastic decloaker ship.  Another corp-mate was in a Falcon playing practice target.

We practiced the technique a half-dozen times and my corp-mate was getting pretty good at it when the gate flashed beneath us and a neut appeared in Local.  The regional intel channel had been very quiet, so I figured it was a gank-fit stealth bomber, which are quite common in Pure Blind.(1)  "Here's your chance on a live target," I said to my corp-mate on comms.  I figured if it was something we couldn't handle in our Ranises, our Falcon could jam it and we'd warp off.(2)  A Thorax decloaks and my corp-mate executes a perfect tackle.  I join him and we start nibbling away on this Thorax, but his armor is surprisingly strong.  "Double-plated," I have time to think, which gets me suspicious, and sure enough, the gate flashes again and four more neuts appear in Local.  Meanwhile, our Falcon reports the Thorax is jammed, but our other Ranis reports he's dying under the Thorax's drones.(3)  "Warp off," we both instruct, and he tries to do so, but bumps off the gate and explodes there.(4)

A neutral Falcon decloaks, then a second Thorax, then a neutral Guardian.  That tears it for me: where there's one Guardian, there's more.(5)  "Clear off," I say on comms unnecessarily to my corp-mate in the Falcon.  The first Thorax has me pointed, but that's not exactly a problem in my Ranis.  I overheat my MWD for one cycle, spot a celestial just off my flight path, and align.  Seven seconds later, I'm 50km off the gate as the second Guardian decloaks.(4)  I warp off.  "Ripard's off," I call on comms.(6)

45 seconds later, the five-man neut gang starts smacking us in Local, calling us a rude name for a part of the female anatomy.  I point out that there were five of them and three of us and we were in light ships.  They say no, there were five of us: Taranis x2, Falcon, Drake, Cane.  I check comms, and sure enough, two corp-mates nearby in a Drake and a Cane tell me they warped to the gate.(6)  The Cane warped in 30k off and was able to warp off successfully.  The Drake had warped to me(7), which unfortunately put that ship about 12km off the gate, where the Thorax was.  The other Thorax proved to be a blaster Thorax, because the combination of ships were able to knock the Drake to 24% shields.(8)  Still, the Drake pilot stayed cool and did the exact right thing: flew to the nearby gate and jumped through without aggressing.(9)

So, lessons:
1. I was teaching a class on a border gate to our space, which was dumb.  I should have moved the class to a less-used gate.
2. I didn't account for the fact that the Falcon's jams would be useless against enemy drones.  Still, drones are not often such a major factor in small-gang PvP, so this one's minor.
3. My corp-mate's Ranis didn't have a local rep.  This is a perfect reason for tacklers to have a local rep.  Had he had one, a few drones wouldn't have been able to kill him.
4. If you have to bug out, maintain situational awareness.  Zoom into your ship and align out toward something on your flight path.  That will keep you from bumping off structures or other ships while trying to warp off.  Also, if you're in an inty, don't be afraid to open a lot of distance before you even try to warp off.  You might not have to warp off; a hundred or 150km range might be just fine instead.  Leave your options open.
5. Know every ship in the game, even if you don't fly them.  Guardians always operate in pairs or threes, so where there's one, there's more.
6. If you have to leave the fight, tell people.  If you're coming to join the fight, tell people.
7. This was very smart: warp to the guy that has an enemy tackled, if you can.  Otherwise, you risk landing too far off to do any damn good.
8. Combination gangs are effective well beyond their strength in numbers.  This gang -- a bait Thorax, a DPS Thorax, two Guardians, and a Falcon -- could not have been killed without a pretty sizeable response fleet.  Certainly, our little scratch group with no logis couldn't have done it.  At best, we might have caught one of the Guardians, but if the Guardian didn't agress, he could have just jumped out.
9. Be smart about aggressing, particularly if you're out-numbered, alone, or in a logi.  See (8).

A key lesson to be learned from EVE is that every engagement, even a minor inconclusive one like this, is a good opportunity to self-analyze.  Judge how you did.  Decide how you could have done better.  Learn from your mistakes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jump changes proposal

The following proposal is a little rough, but it's something I posted to Scrapheap for comments.

Week 0
1. All current Cynosaural Fields are renamed to either "Jump Cyno Field" or "Bridge Cyno Field". All current POS cyno generators are renamed "Bridge Cyno Generator". Both current high slot mod cyno generators get a new script: Bridge Cyno Generator. Unscripted cynos are Jump Cynos.

2. The industrial/mining ship restriction is removed from the Rorqual. Rorquals can now carry any type of ship. Rorqual jump range is increased to match current carriers.

3. Introduction of a new capital ship class: Escort Carrier. Escort Carriers would have the following characteristics:

  • 75% of current carrier base HP. Jump range of current Dreads. 
  • One fewer "tank" slot, two more mid slots than a current carrier (so the Caldari and Minnie ones would be fairly awesome for a change); three high slots. 
  • 500,000m3 ship bay; about half the current carrier drone bay sizes. 
  • Orca sig radius. Say 650m or so. 
  • No ability to use warfare links or triage mods. Same rep bonuses as current carriers. Same number of drones/fighters as current carriers. 
  • Ability to generate Bridge Cyno field. Enough fuel to bridge in one full size capital or the comparable weight in sub-caps. 
  • Racial EWAR bonus, and the ability to have its EWAR affect super-caps.
4. All Bridge cynos now operate in reverse. The bridge ship must be in the destination system. The cyno ship activates a Bridge Cyno Field in the source system. Yes: that means your Titan/Black Ops/Escort Carrier must be on the battlefield, potentially under fire as it activates its bridge.

5. All Bridge Cyno fields -- whether Titan, Escort Carrier, or POS mod -- generate a beacon visible on the overview.

Week 2, two weeks later
1. Jump Cynos are now mass-restricted. Frigates can now generate a cyno for two Jump Freighters or Escort Carriers. Cruisers and Recons, two Carriers or Dreads (or equivalent). Battleships, four Carriers/Dreads (or equivalent). Escort Carriers: two Super-caps. Carriers: three Super-caps.

2. When a Jump Cyno has 85-90% of its mass restriction used, it collapses, allowing the ship to move (and removing the beacon from system). However, the Jump Cyno generator continues its full 10-minute cycle normally before it can be reused.

3. Current carrier jump range set to current Dread jump range (so Dreads, Carriers, Super Carriers, and Escort Carriers would all have the same range).

4. New POS mod introduced: Jump Cyno Generator.

5. Each Bridge Cyno Generator at a POS owned by an alliance may be linked to one and only one POS Jump Cyno Field Generator. Transit would be one way only, from the Jump Cyno Generator to the Bridge Cyno Generator.

Week 3
1. All current jump bridges removed from the game.

What do you think?  It hasn't immediately generated scorching piles of hatred on SHC, which I take as a reasonably good sign...  I'd like to refine it a bit and put it on the EVE-O forums for comment, but I'd like to see if I'm missing any glaring obvious downsides first.  See any?

Fit of the Week: Supertanker Orca

[Orca, Supertanker]
Reinforced Bulkheads II
Damage Control II

X-Large Shield Booster II
Invulnerability Field II
Invulnerability Field II
Medium Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 800

Small Tractor Beam I
Mining Foreman Link - Laser Optimization
Mining Foreman Link - Mining Laser Field Enhancement

Large Cargohold Optimization I
Large Cargohold Optimization I
Large Cargohold Optimization I

Vespa EC-600 x5
Hobgoblin II x5

In honor of Hulkageddon this week, I present you with the first Orca suicide-ganked in Empire during this year's event (and its rather poor fit):

Can Orcas be fitted against a gank squad?  Well, if money is no object for the gankers, no.  However, the fitting above, particularly if you have Thermodynamics skill, will be all but ungankable except against the very largest (and therefore, financially stupid) suicide squads.  It's also a really solid fit for boosting and hauling for mining ops in both high-sec and low-sec.

Carry 20 Navy Cap Booster 800 charges in cargo.  Keep the hardeners active full-time.  If you get jumped by a large group, overheat one Invulnerability Field and the Cap Booster.  As you approach 50% shields, overheat the Shield Booster.  You'll tank at almost 600 DPS for as long as your cap holds out (two minutes, if you're not neuted).  After shields go down, you'll have another 150k HP in structure.  Sic the Vespas on whatever has you tackled; see if you can warp off.

The gank squad above had about 8000 DPS going for it, which means that this Orca fit probably would have survived that gank attempt in good shape, particularly if he got off a lucky jam or two with those Vespa ECM drones.  In deep structure, certainly, but still there, and with a ton of ship wrecks surrounding him and a fantastic story to tell.  ;-)  The Orca is one of the few ships where the Reinforced Bulkheads II mod makes total sense.

The long tractor beam range means you can stay pre-aligned while supporting a mining op.  If you're using this ship in low-sec or 0.0 and you see a neut enter local, just warp off.  If you are successfully tackled in this ship in low-sec, 0.0, or a war-dec situation, this fitting will give you the maximum chance of survival, and the maximum amount of time for your corp- or alliance-mates to come to the rescue.  And by all means, go down fighting.  Five Vespa ECM drones are virtually guaranteed to break an inty or frigate tackle, so you might just be able to warp off if it's only a single ship tackling you.  If the tackler's lock breaks, just warp off, leaving the drones behind.  ECM drones are cheap.  If it's a bigger group, your tank will hold just fine against all but the most determined attacker while you clear nearby inties and frigs with the Hobs instead.

Fly safe.  :-)

EDIT (23/Jan/2013): In September 2012, I revisited the Orca with surprising results.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Incarna game-play ideas

 As promised, here are some of the ideas I have for Incarna.  This is in no particular order.  Just stuff I've been thinking about.

It would be nice if Incarna featured:
  • A window. Even if it was just a simple Overview list of players/ships/items on grid with the station, with distances from the undock, that would be awesome.
  • The inevitable bar.
  • For the inevitable bar, the inevitable private shared rooms, for a price. Use your imagination.
  • A barber. Not something to fully alter character models, but only change a toon's hair style and color, a la Fallout 3.  Hairstyle, once set, should be permanent until the player pays to change it again.
  • Clothing shop. Again, not something to alter models, but to alter their clothes.  New clothes, after being purchased, should be added to a list of "clothing options" available to the player later.  Maybe five different clothing options per toon, changeable within the CQ or when docking.
  • Ability to alter overview settings while docked.

Actual Incarna game-play:
  • For the inevitable bar, a darts mini-game.
  • Board or table mini-games. The first Incarna teaser video had two toons playing something called Secwars, which is apparently going to be very similar to Slay.
  • That's a good place to start, but the classics should be included as well.  Chess, Checkers, and Go, at a minimum.
  • "Flight simulator"/EVE "arcade game". Two pilots pay a bar bet of not less than one million ISK.  Then they "sit" at consoles and battle each other on an Alliance Tourney-style EVE grid with pre-defined identically fit, identically player-skilled Rifters/Ruptures/Hurricanes.  Winner takes the pot, minus a percentage for the house.
  • An EVE-themed in-game CCG, with player-buyable/sellable cards. A lot of people will groan at this idea, but there's a section of the player base that'd love it.
  • Betting on the outcomes of the above five items, with an in-game escrow interface for holding the wagered amounts.  Again, minus a percentage for the house.
  • A hacking mini-game that would allow you to steal items/BPCs made by the NPC corp that owns that station.  If you succeed, you get the goods.  If you fail, penalties from losing standing with that corp to being ejected from station and have the station guns open fire on you.

Things that would just be freakin' cool:
  • A "doctor" that can clear all currently-active boosters (and their side effects) from your toon, for a price. And perhaps even remove implants from you intact, for a larger price?
  • Ability to view and manipulate orders in markets in multiple regions.
  • In-game API/interface for player-run businesses, notably banks, lotteries, contests, and the like.
  • Additional mission agents accessible only in Incarna, with unique mission rewards usable in the Incarna environment.  Even better if some of those missions were "go to enemy station and hack into its computer."
  • Better quarters if you have high standing with that station's corp.

Controversial, but also fun ideas:
  • Expand the hacking mini-game to allow limited viewing of in-game corp/alliance mail for corps with an office in that station.
  • Much harder hacking mini-game to allow limited theft of items in corp hangars in stations.

Anyway, just some stuff I came up with.  What do you think?

Assistant to the Kill of the Week

Do I need to cover the same ground again?  I guess I don't:

Even when people don't learn the first time, after less than a week?

But just in case it wasn't clear before: being cap-stable in a L4 mission is over-rated, hugely expensive, and unnecessary.

And no, you are not safe in a 0.9 system in your 15 billion ISK ship.  Not in the slightest.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Quote of the Week: Brand dilution

From TeaDaze's recent blog post, "Why I quit EVE Online":
I'm more disappointed with the current trend at CCP for enforced participation in new features. The loss of the existing character portraits broke any significant investment in my eve chars and the broken promise of Incarna being optional made the decision to leave fairly simple.
In business, a warning you'll hear from marketing and PR guys is "don't dilute your brand."  Diluting your brand means taking a recognizable property, and by over-using or over-extending it, breaking what made the brand unique and desirable in the first place.  As one website succinctly puts it,
A company that owns a strong brand obviously wants to leverage it to sell as much as possible, but the very strategies used to [pursue] this end often also bring the danger of brand dilution.
Net result?  You risk losing your existing customers, and not picking up any new customers, either.

You hear a lot about brand dilution in the automotive industry.  Think of a Jeep.  You probably thought of a rugged, almost combat-ready vehicle ready to be driven pretty much anywhere on the planet.  That's Jeep's brand, and they call such vehicles "trail rated."  Think of this as the traditional Jeep.  That's their brand: "Drive 'em anywhere.  That's what we do."  Jeeps were one of the most rabidly-supported vehicle brands on the planet, with fan-base loyalty that would put EVE's to shame.  Most of us play other games, after all.  Jeep fans?  Not so much.  ;-)

In 2005, Jeep announced plans to introduce a pair of non-trail-rated vehicles, the Jeep Compass and the Jeep Patriot.  Jeep executives were quick to point out that the traditional Jeeps would still be built and would still be available.  But they also said that the company wished to expand into non-traditional markets and open the doors of Jeep vehicles to people who didn't need to drive them anywhere... just driving from here to the mall will do fine, thanks.

The Jeep fan-base was vocally outraged.

On one hand, "They will offend the Jeep purists, and Jeep will lose the loyalty it's had," said one Jeep fan.  Said another, about the Compass: "It's a sad little car."  Jeep marketing, on the other hand, said "Appeal to people who didn't consider Jeep before. We're not watering down the brand. We know what we have and we're protecting it."

How did it go?

Jeep sales told the tale: down 3% overall in 2007 -- saved from a more massive slide only by record-setting sales of the (traditional) Jeep Wrangler late in the year.  Down 30% in 2008, and down 36% more in 2009.  Sales came up 26% in 2010, but that only because of the December release and record-setting sales of the (traditional) Jeep Grand Cherokee.  The non-trail-rated Jeeps are still doing extremely poorly.  In October 2010, the (traditional) Jeep Grand Cherokee sold 12,721 units in the United States.  The (non-traditional) Jeep Compass sold 778 units.

In late 2009, Mike Manley, Jeep President and CEO defiantly stated "Each Wrangler must have all aspects of Jeep DNA, but other (Jeep) products can be true to the brand without certain elements."  "Certain elements" of course meaning the traditional Jeep trail rating.

Did Jeep stick to its guns?  Let's put it this way.  The Patriot has been trail-rated since 2010.  The Compass will be trail-rated for 2011.  Both will be discontinued in 2012.  Jeep seems inclined to stick to its strengths for the immediate future.  ;-)

Porsche and Pontiac are two other car brands that flirted with dilution.  The Porsche Cayenne has not hurt traditional Porsche sales too much.  Pontiac, on the other hand, is gone completely.

This is the dangerous line that CCP has to walk for the next year and change.  Will there be purists like Tea that abandon the game as EVE moves to expand its market with Incarna?  Absolutely.  Will they be outnumbered by people curious to try the "ultimate sci-fi simulator" that CCP promises that Incarna will bring us?  That part remains to be seen.  I personally am hopeful, but brand dilution is a tightrope that a lot of companies have fallen from.

Chasing the needle

If you want to make ISKies on the market in EVE Online, you have to watch basic commodities, particularly those in your production chain.  Two of the items I build and/or invent with my production alt are Trimark Armor Pumps, both the Tech 1 and Tech 2 versions.  As you might suspect, there isn't a large market for the latter, but the former keep me pretty busy.  Rigs are made from salvage.  T1 armor rigs are primarily made from a salvage component called armor plates.

Here's the recent price curve for armor plates for the last six months.  As you can see, the price was pretty steadily going upward until the first week of December 2010.  Armor plates are beloved by salvagers for their relative rarity.  They're only dropped by a few types of rats, are dropped in decent numbers only by battleship rats, and their drop percentage is pretty low.  So, when a salvager can bring a good load of armor plates to market, they know they're going to have a good day, ISK-wise.

Even moreso, because the price of armor plates had been going up all through 2010.  It started the year at around 200k ISK per unit, had risen to 250k per unit by July, and was above 300k per unit by November.  This was reflected in a lot of salvage component prices, which were also edging upwards all last year.  Throughout 2010, it was becoming increasingly clear to many EVE players that looting and salvaging missions or 0.0 ratting sites was no longer worth it from an ISK/hour perspective.  They stopped salvaging.  Therefore, less salvage was reaching market but demand for rigs remained steady.  Therefore, salvage prices were going up.  Basic economics.

Then the Noctis was released.

For the moment, the Noctis has made salvaging fun again.  There's a certain novelty in having a 68 kilometer range tractor beam.  The longer range tractor beams and the faster cycle times on tractors and salvagers means that salvaging is also faster, with less motoring around needed to gather all the salvage and loot.  That increased ISK/hour from salvaging and looting made the practice worth the time spent again.  More people out salvaging also meant more salvage was reaching market, resulting in the free-fall in armor plate prices since the release of the Noctis.  The price for armor plates is back down to 200k per unit.

But look at the price curve more closely, and you'll notice the descent of the price was marked by large drops separated by about a week.  The green bars at the bottom reveal that those price drops were associated with large volume sells of armor plates, spiking around 30k-35k units per day around December 5th, 12th, and 16th.  Then, around December 26th, the bottom dropped out.  Two large masses of armor plates of more than 85,000 total units were dumped onto the market, causing the price to fall 50k ISK per unit in four days.  More than 50,000 of those units were put on the market in a single day, around December 29th.

On December 1st, I personally had a large stock of armor plates that I had bought steadily over the course of 2010.  When I noticed the first dip on the 5th and realizing that thousands of Noctises was going to mean more salvage on the market, I started slowly unloading my stock of them.  I obviously wasn't the only one.  ;-)  Now that the price has stabilized again, I've started slowly rebuilding my stock.  The key word is "slowly."

Real life pilots have an expression: "don't chase the needle."  What this means is that if you're flying at 5000 feet and want to increase your altitude to 7500 feet, do it gradually and steadily.  As you approach your target altitude, reduce your rate of climb.  Otherwise, you'll shoot through 7500 feet, find yourself at 7700 feet, descend again, find yourself at 7300 feet, increase altitude again, et cetera.  Pilots consider chasing the needle to be amateurish.  So too is dumping and running when the commodity market starts running against you.  Had the pilot with 50,000 armor plates put his stock into the market gradually, over the 20 days between December 5th and December 26th, he could have sold those 50,000 units for an average price of 250k per unit.  There was plenty of market volume to accomodate those armor plates, introduced gradually at 250k per unit over a period of time.  Introduced in a single block as a mass, he crashed the market and he likely averaged 200k per unit.

In other words, that pilot lost 2.5 billion ISK chasing the needle.

Will armor plates remain at 200k?  Not a chance.  Salvaging isn't really any more fun than it was before; the extra salvage provided by the Noctis is likely temporary.  As players that got out of salvaging before realize how much they really do hate it, a number of them will again get out of it.  In a few months, we'll have a few more regular salvagers, but for the most part, the people who were salvaging in October 2010 will be the ones salvaging in April 2011.  They'll just be using a better ship to do it.  Prices of armor plates are already edging upward and passed 210k average over the weekend.  Part of this is people garaging their newly bought Noctises.  The rest is people like me rebuilding their commodity stocks while prices are low.

Therefore, it's likely that the price of armor plates has bottomed out.  If you want a stock of them, now's probably the right time to buy them.  But again, don't chase the needle!  Buy what you need slowly and gradually.  A great way to cause the price of a commodity to spike is to place a large buy order at a high price.  That causes everyone else who wants that commodity to beat your buy order.  Then someone panics and places an even larger buy order at an even higher price.  And before you know it, you're buying at 250k per unit instead of 210k.

A pilot that does this can easily lose another 2.5 billion ISK chasing the needle in the other direction.  ;-)

Go make some ISKies!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kill of the Week: Unholy Rage

I would be completely remiss if I didn't choose a kill from the massive fight in Uemon this week, so that's what I'll do:

There's nothing particularly LOL-worthy about the kill itself, unless you want to argue the relative merits of a Damage Control II on your Titan.  I don't, because the chances I'll ever fly a Titan myself are exactly nil.  If you want to debate it, debate it with someone who might fly a Titan someday.  ;-)

Something of note about the fit, though: it's 0.0-fit, despite the fact that the fight was to take place in low-sec.  DDs have been unusable in low-sec since Dominion 1.0.2, and I presume the main role of the double officer Cap Boosters is to rapidly recharge cap after a DD shot.  So, despite the large number of nearby friendly carriers, this pilot apparently chose not to refit.  I've covered "remember your mission" in the past, so I presume the choice not to refit was deliberate and reflected thinking that this was intended to be a quick in-and-out hot-drop, not a major engagement.  (Even so, I would have refit.)

The wide variety of items in the cargo bay is cute, and was also a deliberate choice by the pilot in question (he's stated in public he's now scouring the universe for another pile of fun stuff for his next Titan).  Throwing "fun stuff" into cargo for a ship that you might lose someday is a long-standing and still-growing EVE tradition.  The typical lone Exotic Dancer has given way to combinations (one pilot I know keeps one unit of Spirits and one unit of Livestock in cargo -- don't ask), or single more rare fun items like a copy of Pax Amarria or Navigation for Dummies.  I think my favorite fun item in this particular Titan loss is the Pith Guristas Spa-Card.  Don't think I've ever seen that one before, but it kind of makes sense...

And the whole fight in Uemon, if you think about it, is a hat trick.  The three biggest problems in EVE Online right now are lag, easy jump logistics, and bots.  This fight brought all three of them together in one system.  In-system lag was terrible, I'm told, and jump-in lag was so bad that some people waited hours to get into the system (and many couldn't get in at all).  The fight took place because one Recon or CovOps could light a cyno that brought in one hundred thousand times the cyno ship's mass in super-caps.  And if there weren't at least a hundred super-caps in that fight bought with botting money, I'll eat my keyboard.

However, I think the thing that really catches my attention most are the killboard comments.  My favorite quote about killboard comments (slightly paraphrased) is "Crayon them directly on your monitor; the only person that cares about them will still be able to see them."  Still, the back-and-forth anonymous rage here is pretty amusing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Baby steps

So, there's a new devblog out regarding the first iteration of Incarna.  It's quite long, but Herbicide on SHC has summed it up quite admirably:
  1. When you dock, instead of seeing your ship all alone, you see your ship, and you see yourself looking at it.
  2. You can do all the current station activities the same way you do them now.
  3. You can also walk into your captain's quarters, and do all those same things much more slowly!
  4. Nobody else can come into your captain's quarters. But don't worry, you can still interact with other pilots in chat channels!
  5. We'll add more later, this is all we've thought of so far.
We know from reading the summit minutes from June and December that number two was a point of contention between CCP and the CSM.  CCP wanted you to jump directly into the Captain's Quarters, with no view of your ship.  What we've got in number two is a compromise.  You'll presumably be able to select the Captain's Quarters (or undocking) as an option once you're standing on the "balcony" looking up at your starship.

EDIT (18/Feb/2011): And the compromise wasn't enough for TeaDaze, who is quitting EVE over this issue.  :-/

So, come summer, ship spinning will be a thing of the past.  Instead, we'll have toon spinning.

Once you're in your Captain's Quarters (which will apparently be made of modular pieces, but which you might or might not be able to move around), the interface will... well... let's let the devblog speak for itself on this one:
Captain’s Quarters will offer interactions in the 3D space like slouching on your sofa and clicking an interface on the wall to bring up the planetary interaction (PI) interface, customizing your appearance through a vanity mirror and adjusting your fittings through a holo-model of your ship.
3D buttons aren’t an impressive technological feat, yet the interactions in the Captain’s Quarters allow us overcome some old, persistent problems newbies currently have with the complexity of the EVE UI and goal setting. For example, by placing a Corp Recruitment console on the ammo crate you rest your feet on, we can explicitly tell a new player how important it is to find a good player corporation in EVE.
In other words, it sounds a bit like Microsoft Bob.  Actually, no.  It sounds a lot like Microsoft Bob.

The team is driving toward giving us a demo of this in time for Fanfest in a couple of months, so I'll be very interested,
(a) to see what this looks like; and,
(b) what your average capsuleer on the street thinks of it.

I'm a little worried, though, because EVE players sometimes pride ourselves on how hard EVE is, and wear the pain of conquering its learning curve like a badge of honor.  The relevant Scrapheap thread is growing at 15 posts an hour as I write this.  Emotions are running high...

Not a zero sum game

More CSM6 election news.  It's been pretty busy!

First, it might be jumping the gun a tiny bit, but I've gone ahead and created a post on the Jita Park section of the EVE Online forums.  I'm not an official candidate until March 2, but the post hasn't been removed after several days now, so I'm going to go ahead and point to it:

Ripard Teg for CSM6

If you have official questions for me about my run or my positions, please feel free to post them.  I'm also not above asking for posts offering support on that thread.  ;-)  So if you support my candidacy, please post there saying you do.  I would really love that.  The more I can keep that thread active, the better I feel my chances of winning are.

There are now six days left in the period to decide candidacy and get "paperwork" submitted.  In that time, a few more strong candidates have declared themselves.  Mynxee has been good enough to create a CSM6 Facebook wall for the more prominent candidates, so I think that's a great link to bookmark if you're looking for a central clearing house for posts regarding the CSM6 election.

As I indicated in a prior post, there are going to be some alliance-supported candidates coming out of Test Alliance Please Ignore and the Goons to push forward their "0.0-only" CSM vision.  The first of these candidates to publicly declare is White Tree, Test's candidate.  White Tree doesn't make any secret of his Test-supported candidacy (check out the graphics at the bottom of the page) but he will also apparently be pushing for broader support as well.

Another strong candidate is going to be Roc Wieler, one of the developers of Capsuleer.  I've been pretty clear about how shabbily I think he and PyjamaSam were treated, and I strongly support more player access and control through APIs.  Not surprisingly, a big part of Roc's platform centers on this issue, and with so many Capsuleer users out there, he's going to have an incredibly strong voting base from this issue alone.  He's now slowly putting up positions on other issues as well.  It's not a slam-dunk, though: there's a small chance he might not be allowed to run at all.

Finally, I am thrilled and honored to be one of the three candidates officially endorsed by Mynxee, the current CSM5 chair.  I'm particularly pleased to see that she noted that I'm not married to my own ideas.  I'm one of those very rare people that, if you tell me I'm wrong, and you then show me why I'm wrong... I will agree with you and change my position.  If that's waffling, so be it, but I prefer to think of it as being an intelligent human being.  ;-)

As Mynxee states, she and I have had on-going discussions on Scrapheap Challenge, but I think I really caught her attention last year during a discussion we were having about Incarna in the comments on Teadaze's website.  I had laid down some of my gameplay ideas for Incarna, and how to approach CCP with those ideas (note to self: write blog post listing Incarna gameplay ideas  ;-) ).  She read them, commented on some of them, and said "I like the way you think."  That prompted me to e-mail her about my thinking about a CSM run.  This led to a back-and-forth e-mail conversation over a few weeks, followed by a long telephone call.  Her support means the world to me, and she's been incredibly helpful and supportive.  Thank you, Mynxee!

Mynxee also endorses Trebor and Seleene, and I do as well.  I think the three of us would make quite a team.  :-)

You're not going to see me trash or go after any of the other CSM6 candidates, by the way.  This is not a zero-sum game with a winner and a loser.  There will be nine members of CSM6 and five alternates.  There's therefore nothing to be gained through any sort of negative campaigning.  As far as I'm concerned, the voting mechanic should be changed so that players can vote for up to nine candidates, then the nine with the largest stacks of votes win.  That way, we could all support all the candidates we like.  But in any case, every candidate is running because we want EVE Online to be a better game, and even if I personally lose, I will be content as long as there's a strong multi-faceted team in place for this critical term.

Good luck to all the candidates!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guide: Warp Drive

Introduction and Definition
From almost the very first moment an EVE player begins play, he or she will become used to Aura's computer voice announcing "Warp Drive, active."  Warp drive is the most important propulsion system available in your ship.  Virtually any movement of over a hundred kilometers will require its use.  Using, and preventing the use of warp drive is an integral part of EVE PvP combat.  Preventing a ship from entering warp drive will keep it from escaping destruction.  Conversely, the only time an undocked EVE starship is truly safe is while it is traveling at warp drive.

Warp drive at various speeds is available to every starship in EVE, from the largest super-capital ships to the humble shuttle and pod.  Warp disruption is available to virtually any ship, though some classes of ships are particularly effective at it.

Entering Warp
Entering warp drive in EVE requires five things:
  • A specific warp target location;
  • alignment with that target;
  • sufficient sub-warp Speed;
  • at least some Capacitor; and,
  • at least +1 Warp Strength.
A warp Target is some form of celestial object with a known location in space.  Planets, moons, stargates, and stations are the most common targets.  But a bookmark in deep space is also a known target, as is a ship or celestial object locked down by a probe ship.  Finally, a member of your fleet, a jettisoned can, or a wrecked spaceship can act as a warp target.  The target must be at least 150 kilometers from your ship.

Alignment specifies that the ship entering warp must be pointed in the direction it wishes to go to warp, to within five degrees.  A ship that is out of alignment may not enter warp.

Speed is also required to enter warp.  Specifically, the ship must be at 75% of its current sub-warp speed.  Below the speed indicator are three thin marks indicating 25%, 50%, and 75% speed.  The 75% requirement is measured based on the ship's current top speed.

The ship entering warp must have at least some Capacitor.  Any amount of capacitor over zero will be sufficient to allow the ship to enter warp.  The more capacitor available, the closer the ship can travel at warp toward its target without having to stop and recharge the capacitor before proceeding.

Finally, the ship entering warp must have at least +1 Warp Strength.  All ships in EVE have +1 Warp Strength by default.  Each race's heavy Transport ship receives a +2 bonus to Warp Strength, giving them a +3 Warp Strength by default.

Assuming sufficient capacitor and +1 warp strength, the time it takes a ship to enter warp is determined by what takes longer: aligning the ship or accelerating to 75% of the ship's current top speed.  In most cases, the latter will be the limiting factor.

Preventing Warp
As a result of the above factors, there are four means of preventing or slowing a ship attempting to enter warp: disrupting its alignment, affecting its speed, disrupting its capacitor, or reducing its warp strength.  Affecting another ship's speed is the most difficult; reducing its warp strength is the easiest.  Preventing a ship from entering warp is called "tackling", and is most often done by smaller ships, notably interceptors, frigates, and cruisers.

Preventing Alignment
Aligning is normally quite easy for a ship entering warp.  However, it can be prevented.  Some EVE pilots specialize in knocking ships attempting to enter warp out of alignment.  This is most often done by using a ship with a large mass or great speed to "bump" the ship out of alignment, literally ramming the nose or the tail of the ship attempting to enter warp.

This will slightly increase the speed of the ship being bumped, and (if done properly) will knock it out of alignment.  For larger ships in particular, the speed increase coupled by the alignment change will delay the entry into warp by as many as ten seconds as the ship struggles to re-achieve alignment.  This gives a sufficiently quick tackler ample time to bump the target again.  It is theoretically possible to prevent a ship entering warp by this method alone, though it takes great skill to master.  If you are flying a large enough ship, you will very occasionally encounter players practicing this technique on you.

Affecting Speed
The current top speed of a ship can be modified by Afterburners, Microwarp Drives, and Stasis Webifiers.  Since the former two modules increase a ship's speed, they actually make it more time-consuming for that ship to enter warp.  Ironically, a Stasis Webifier, by decreasing a ship's maximum top speed, actually makes reaching warp faster!

As a result, a tackler fitted with both a Stasis Webifier and a means of warp disruption should be very careful to engage the warp disruption first!  If you mistakenly engage the webifier first, you may inadvertently reduce the target's maximum speed sufficient for it to enter warp instantly.

It is theoretically possible to prevent a ship from entering warp through a series of head-on bumps similar to the means for affecting ship alignment.  However, this is extremely difficult to master, and few have bothered to learn the technique.  Still, since this is technically not a hostile act as EVE defines it, from time to time you will encounter griefers who will park their heavy ships in the path of your movement into warp.  This is most common at the station undocks of busy stations.

Reducing Capacitor
A ship that has been completely drained of capacitor may not enter warp.  There are several means of neutralizing a ship's capacitor, most often through a high slot Energy Neutralizing module fitted to a tackling ship.  Even though the neutralized ship has alignment, speed, and sufficient warp strength, the lack of capacitor will prevent it entering warp.

This technique is most often used by battleships against enemy tackling interceptors.  A battleship-sized neutralizer will reduce an interceptor's capacitor to zero in only one or two cycles.  This has the dual beneficial (to the battleship) effect of preventing the interceptor's escape into warp and removing the tackle on the battleship, since an interceptor with no cap cannot use its warp disruption, either.  In this manner, the hunter can quickly become the hunted.

Reducing Warp Strength
Reducing warp strength is the most common means of preventing a ship from entering warp.  The many means of doing so are covered in the Guide detailing Warp Disruption and Bubbles, coming soon.

Countering Tackling
In much the same way a tackler can negatively affect all four means of entering warp, a defender can positively affect them.

Achieving alignment is most often about reaction time.  The quicker a ship can achieve alignment, the quicker it will enter warp.  There are many means of achieving a quicker alignment:
  • Have the ship pre-aligned.  This is mostly useful when undocking, by having an undock bookmark.  However, before entering combat, a ship with long-range weapons can align to a celestial and in that way "hedge its bets" against an engagement going badly.
  • Have a more agile ship.  Don't use an Iteron V when an Iteron II will do.  Don't fly a battleship or other large ship without an escort.  Don't fly the battleship at all if a cruiser or battle-cruiser will perform the task at hand.  If the important thing is to get yourself to a location and the ship is unimportant, use a frigate, shuttle, or pod.
  • Increase the ship's agility with modules.  Nanofiber Internal Structure and Inertial Stabilizers will cause your ship to align more quickly, as will certain types of Astronautics rigs.
  • Increase the pilot's skills in Evasive Maneuvering, Spaceship Command, and Advanced Spaceship command.  Each of these skills increases ship agility, the first two for all ships, the last for particularly large, heavy ships.
  • Increase the pilot's agility with implants.  There are both specific implants and implant sets that increase starship pilot agility.
  • Increase the pilot's agility with fleet boosts.  The Leadership skill Skirmish Warfare and the related skills will increase a ship's agility, if that ship is in a fleet where the applicable booster has those skills.
There unfortunately isn't much a single pilot can do about his ship's acceleration.  A ship's acceleration, like its shield or capacitor recharge time, appears to be a constant, regardless of modules or Navigation skill.  The time needed to reach 75% sub-warp speed, therefore, will always be a constant number of seconds.

Being pre-aligned, and already at full speed toward that alignment point, is often the best defense against being tackled.  For this reason, many PvP fleet commanders will order an alignment to a nearby celestial before or as combat begins.

The good news is that modules that increase a ship's base speed, such as the Overdrive Injector, will not cause a ship to enter warp more slowly.  The bad news is that modules that decrease a ship's speed, such as the Expanded Cargohold, will not cause a ship to enter warp more quickly.  However, modules that increase the ship's speed artificially, such as an Afterburner or MicroWarpdrive will increase the speed needed to enter warp and therefore will delay that ship's entry into warp.  If you want to warp quickly, do not use these modules!

Particularly large, slow ships can benefit from having a friendly tackler nearby whose pilot is in the same corporation or alliance.  Once the ship achieves some speed and is aligned, a friendly tackler can web the large slow ship, instantly reducing its maximum speed by half or more.  The combination of this reduction in the ship's top speed combined with the speed already achieved will often cause the large, heavy ship to enter warp instantly.

This is regarded as "hostility", and will engage a 60-second timer before the tackler may dock with a station or use a jump gate, so the technique should be used with this in mind.  However, as long as the tackler is in the same corporation or alliance, one can use this technique in high-sec systems without fearing from CONCORD.

As long as there is at least some capacitor available, the ship will enter warp.  Therefore, having a Cap Booster module fitted with charges available can address this concern at the proper time, regardless of enemy neutralizers.  When the proper sub-warp speed is reached and the ship is aligned, trigger the Cap Booster, and the amount of cap injected will immediately be fed to the warp drive and the ship will enter warp.

Some scout pilots will deliberately reduce their own cap by triggering and then quickly canceling several warps in a row.  This action will reduce the ship's capacitor.  Once it's at a sufficiently low level, the scout pilot can then engage warp part-way to a location that he or she desires to scan.  Done skillfully, the scout pilot will warp part of the way to the location, but won't have sufficient capacitor to reach all the way.  He or she will therefore drop out of warp at a mid-point which -- if the mid-point is in range -- he or she can then use to scan the target location using the game's directional scanner.

Warp Strength
A low-slot module called a Warp Core Stabilizer will increase the ship's Warp Strength by +1 for each module of this type fitted.  Amarr and Gallente ships which traditionally armor tank will have quite an advantage here.  Theoretically, if you wished to, you could fill the low slots with such modules.  The Occator, with its +2 Warp Strength bonus and 6 low slots, can have a +9 Warp Strength, as can the Armageddon battleship with its 8 low slots.  The Impel, with a +2 Warp Strength and 7 low slots, can achieve +10.

Unfortunately, though, these defenses are of little use against a bubble.  Against a bubble, all a ship can do is find the closest edge and approach it at the maximum speed possible.  Microwarp Drives are invaluable here, as a bubble will not disable them and a MWD will sometimes allow a quick ship to escape a bubble.  Once out of the bubble, the ship can usually initiate warp drive normally.

Tech 3 cruisers such as the Proteus and Tengu can fit a subsystem module called an Interdiction Nullifier which will make the ship using it immune to bubbles (though not to other forms of warp disruption).

Combat Fitting versus Travel Fitting
When it is necessary to travel a long distance in a heavy ship and combat is not desired, particularly in 0.0, do not be afraid to "travel fit" the ship in question.  Travel fitting involves using modules that will increase the likelihood that a ship can escape being tackled.

There are no guarantees in life, of course, and in EVE, the tackling ship has most or all of the advantages.  Still, you can at least stack the odds in your favor.

Travel fitting is mostly done in the ship's low slots.  Two to three Warp Core Stabilizers -- "stabs" -- are desirable.  While one will prevent a single ship tackle, two will prevent a scram.  Some particularly fast tacklers use one of each type of module, giving a ship with a +4 warp strength the possibility of escape from such a tackle.  In addition, at least one Nanofiber Internal Structure II module should be used.  This will not only increase the ship's agility, but it will increase its speed.

In the mid slots, a travel fit ship should carry both a MicroWarpdrive and an Afterburner suitable to its size.  Having both propulsion mods available gives the pilot additional options if the ship is scrammed, rendering its MWD unusable.  Finally, a Prototype Cloaking Device should be carried in a high slot.

The remaining modules of the ship's normal combat fitting can be carried in cargo until the travel-fit ship reaches its destination.  Preferably, carry the remaining modules in a smaller scouting ship.  Having a scout will greatly increase the chances of a large ship survival when traveling through 0.0 by preventing it being tackled in the first place.

Fit of the Week: Endgame PvE Drake

[Drake, Endgame PvE]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Shield Power Relay II

10MN Afterburner II
Invulnerability Field II
Invulnerability Field II
Magnetic Scattering Amplifier II
Large F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
Large Shield Extender II

Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Scourge Heavy Missile
Small 'Arup' I Remote Bulwark Reconstruction /OFFLINE

Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I

Hobgoblin II x5

It is quite possible that the Drake is simultaneously the most loved and the most hated ship in EVE Online.

It routinely places in the top three most-used ships in the game, and it's not hard to understand why.  It does a lot of things really really well, but it does nothing better than PvE of all kinds.  It's popular because it's very easy to fly, requiring very little player skill, and very few skill points.  Most of the skills needed are rank 1 and rank 2, and most of the more complex skills needed require only skill level III in the prerequisite skills.  As a result, you can be a competent Drake pilot with a 90-day old toon, and an excellent Drake pilot in 180 days.

Even better, it's a ship that you can fly your entire EVE career in a variety of roles.  Thanks to its BC-best six mid slots and ridiculously high CPU, it's quite possibly the most versatile ship in the game.  The only thing you can't do in a Drake is mine in it.

This particular fitting represents an "end-game" PvE Drake.  This Drake is suitable for Level 3 missions, Level 4 missions, wormholes up to class 4, most incursion sites, and deep 0.0 ratting.  For incursions and wormholes, replace the Core Defence Field Purgers with Core Defence Field Extenders.  This will give the ship a larger buffer tank against Sleeper or upgraded Sansha volley damage.

The core of a PvE Drake are Ballistic Control Systems and Shield Power Relays in the lows.  A very young toon with poor shield skills will use three SPRs and one BCS.  As your toon ages, slowly swap out SPRs for BCSs until you have three BCSs, giving the maximum possible DPS.  As you do this, your other fitting skills should increase, lowering the CPU requirements for the mid-slot modules.  Two Invuls and a passive hardener give the best all-around cap-stable tank, but you can swap out these three modules to suit the rats that you are attacking.  If you have the CPU to fit them, use dual Large Shield Extender IIs.  If you do not, trade one or both for the meta4 variant.

Train for Heavy Missile Launcher IIs last; until then, meta launchers are fine.  The Drake receives a bonus to kinetic missiles, so Scourges will be your only viable choice.  When you move to 0.0 or to a WH (and can fit the HML2s), switch to Scourge Furies.  These are more expensive, but they will pay for themselves in the increased bounties or in increased damage done to the Sleepers.

An afterburner, drones, and an off-lined small armor repper complete the package.  The repper is used to keep your drones in good repair should the rats target them.  On-line it as needed.

Drakes are inexpensive and insurable, tough as nails, and do very decent DPS.  Unless the long-rumored "Drake nerf" ever comes to pass, they're sure to be the most popular PvE ship in the game for a long time to come.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Learn from the experts

Something I always recommend to new pilots looking for ship fittings is to look to pilots you respect, and emulate the ships and fittings they fly.  Best place to do that is to scout out their killboards on battleclinic or eve-kill, concentrating on ships that they've lost.

You can try random or high-rated fittings on battleclinic, sure, and a lot of pilots do that.  But for my money, give me a fitting that a good pilot dies in, particularly if he dies in it repeatedly but still continues to fly it.

I've been thinking about getting Ripard into a Proteus heavy tackler for armor fleets and smaller gang roams.  Tackle is a job that I enjoy a lot with Ripard, and Gallente ships are good at it thanks to the point and scram bonuses, and the related perks that many Gallente ships get related to tackle.  It's probably the last job Gallente ships are good at in the sub-capital realm.

Thinking about the Proteus got me thinking about Shadoo.  I know he flies a Proteus quite a bit.  Go to eve-kill, look him up, switch to his losses, and the first Proteus I find that he's lost...

...has two points and a scram on it, all faction.  Yeah, that explains a lot, heh.

Divided we stand

Want to give a pointer to a really good blog post.  Inner Sanctum of the Ninevah is one of the EVE player blogs I read regularly -- come to think of it, I'm going to add it to the list of blogs at the bottom of my own blog.  ;-)  He's kind of all over the map on his topics and focus, but that's fine.  I read what I like and skip the rest.

But for someone who doesn't live in the NC, he's done a really good analysis of what makes up the NC.  The only correction I'd make to it is he references "untold havoc in Pure Blind" while PL was visiting us.  The havoc was actually rather limited to a few tower trade back-and-forths and a few smaller gang fights, something that's over now that PL has moved down to Delve.  Many of the tower back-and-forths involved towers either in my alliance's space, or my alliance's towers specifically.  We welcomed NC assistance with these fights, because as I've mentioned before, PL outnumbers my alliance pretty handily, both in total numbers, and in the size fleets we can field.

However, in the general case, as I've said before, the NC is not the monolithic behemoth that it sometimes appears.  Check out the killboard for the massive Uemon fight yesterday, for instance.  You won't read a word from me about it; I wasn't there.  I've only heard from one alliance-mate that was there, and he never even managed to load grid.  There were only a handful of other Pure Blind residents there, and only three or four Goons.  "In fact, outside of a major enemy invasion they often have very little to do with each other," the blog entry says of the various components of the NC, and that's not only accurate, it obviously doesn't go far enough.  ;-)

Later in the post, he lists ways of "dealing" with the NC.  Speaking as a member of a Pure Blind alliance inside the NC, I'd say his option 4 is pretty damn accurate.  Granted, I haven't been in GOML for all that long, but from within, the NC gives off a rather sleepy vibe... unless someone comes around to wake us up.

I can't see the NC getting any bigger, for all practical purposes, and I can easily see it getting smaller, if the Goons decide to reset the NC to get some additional fights -- something that may very well happen at some point soon if the Goons don't get any fights in Delve.