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...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Promises, promises

I haven't had a lot to say about Fanfest last week yet, and the reason is simple enough: I wasn't there.  Other blogs can do a better job than I with talking about what went on.  In general, if another blog can provide first-hand experience of a topic, I'm going to let them, and stick to areas where I have first-hand experience, not second-hand experience.  I will be at Fanfest next year, though, so you can expect regular updates from me on the blog next year about it.  ;-)

That said, speaking as someone who was roughly 4300 miles from this year's Fanfest, a couple of things struck me as a viewer from afar about different approaches from CCP this year as opposed to prior years.  Both are quite positive, but both are also a little worrisome.

First, something that we didn't see at this year's Fanfest that has been a recurring theme at past Fanfests is a lot of over-hype.  In previous years, CCP had become quite good at making long strings of promises that there was no way they could deliver on, and certainly not in a year.  This year, CCP stuck to making promises about things that they could actually do, and actually do in fairly short order.  That's a very positive step, and reflects that a healthy dose of reality has taken hold in Iceland.  There's nothing wrong with getting people excited, and they did a great job of that with the EVE Forever video.  But they made it clear that EVE Forever is a vision, not an upcoming release.  It's not set in stone and a ton of things can change.

I did find it kind of amusing that EVE Forever features two things that we were promised wouldn't happen: it's been made clear that people wouldn't be attacking each other on stations, and it's been made clear to us that EVE players wouldn't get to bomb console players with impunity from orbit.  EVE Forever threw an amusing spin on an alternative: EVE players can bomb console players from orbit if console players (or their agents) can ride a rocket into orbit and shoot EVE players in the face with a pistol.  It's a funny idea, and a great one!

Other than that (and a brief tease of EVE running on Android devices), what was shown were actual deliverables in various stage of beta, most of which we'll probably be seeing on Tranquility this year.  I was a little surprised how little work there was to show from the Captain's Quarters, but CCP has demonstrated an ability to meet deadlines under pressure.  I was also stunned that there wasn't more shown on DUST 514.  DUST 514 was practically a no-show at this year's Fanfest.  No new teasers, no new demos... it was hardly even mentioned by name at all.  Only a single round-table session about the on-going work to integrate DUST 514 and EVE PI Command Centers, and the EVE Forever video itself, were the only indicators that DUST 514 is still coming.

So, positive (in the sense that CCP is not over-hyping their products and is sticking to reality), but a little worrisome (in the sense that they've got a lot of work to do yet on the CQ, Incarna, and DUST 514, with not much at Fanfest to show for any of them).

The other positive but worrisome item from Fanfest were the final minutes of Hilmar's presentation during the final minutes of the "CCP Presents" presentation on the last day of Fanfest.  Late in his presentation, he stood on stage with the new ISK 3.0 Player's Guide (which is excellent, by the way) and observed that EVE is "hard to learn, hard to explain, and hard to market."  "We need your help to take the next level to explain EVE to the rest of the world," he said.  He encouraged EVE players to help market the game, and joked that "EVE is real in the same way the Icelandic economy is real."  He then went on to point out how involved EVE players are in this game, which is certainly true enough.

Back in the early 1990s, one of the competitors to Windows 3.1 was an IBM operating system called OS/2.  OS/2 had a similarly rabid following, many of whom were IBM employees.  IBM took similar steps to CCP in that it created customer groups (and even employee groups) to encourage guerrilla marketing and sales of the product.  While well-intentioned, these efforts were not particularly successful.  They also had a tinge of desperation, a tinge that CCP really doesn't need right now.  Such things happen organically, not because you force them.  CCP shouldn't try to force.

Still, all in all, Fanfest showed that CCP is listening to players more, and is hyping what they can't deliver much less.  They're also realizing more and more that if they want more players, they need to address the "learning cliff."  This is a refreshingly realistic approach to the annual get-together, and I hope that it keeps up.

There's one other note from Fanfest that I'd like to mention, but which doesn't fit into either of these two categories.  It's also quite positive.  A few weeks ago, as one of my position pieces for my CSM6 run, I mentioned that I felt CCP should remain neutral on the question of third-party application developers monetizing EVE support apps.  Someone at CCP has decided that they feel the same way, and CCP now has a simple, coherent strategy for third-party application developers looking to monetize.  As I understand the policy, if you wish to do this, you'll pay a one-time fee of $99 to CCP to compensate them for the assistance and API access you'll need.  I'll keep watching this topic and digging into it, but for now, this strikes me as an excellent compromise.  $99 is enough to keep non-serious players out of the game, but is low enough that serious apps won't even feel it.  Well done, CCP!

As for myself, I look forward to being at Fanfest in 2012.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Great expectations

To: The Mittani
From: Ripard Teg aka Jester
Subj: Open Letter re: your Chairmanship of CSM6

Dear Chairman,

First, congratulations on your election to CSM6!  As I've said already, you ran a masterful campaign.  You literally did nothing less than point at the stands to tell us where you were going to hit the home run, then proceeded to do so.  Well done!

First, let's take a look at where your votes came from.  You tweeted that according to GF exit polls, you received 1700 Goon votes.  This strikes me as truthful.  You received 5365 votes in total, so that leaves 3665 votes or so.  I believe you received between 2000 and 2500 additional votes from to a combination of two factors: name recognition from Empire-dwellers thanks to your widely-read Ten Ton Hammer column, and votes from a base of 0.0 residents that honestly believe you want to help them.  Those votes brought you up to about 3800 votes, neck-and-neck with Seleene.

What about the rest of your votes?  Ah.  Every CSM, there has been a :lolcsm: candidate.  This is the potential delegate who is voted in because a segment of the voters pick a candidate and say to themselves "I voted for [x] because FUCK CSM."  Last year, the :lolcsm: candidate was Mazzilliu, who won a CSM alternate seat because she was willing to suck on a banana on Youtube.  Mazzilliu got about 1200 votes last year.  Once she was on the CSM, she didn't disappoint.  Those 1200 votes, boosted by 25%, are 1500 votes this year.  Guess who got those votes?  That's right: you did.  They should have gone to T'Amber (aka Serious Internet Politician).  But they went to you, because the people that voted this way don't care about the CSM... rather the reverse, in fact.  They just want some cheap laughs and e-drama... and they figure you'll deliver.

Those votes put you over the top.  Those are your overvotes.  So that's your constituency.  But that's not who you represent.

Let's tell some truths here.  You are, without a doubt, the most famous person in New Eden.  If there are as many as 20,000 EVE players that don't know your name, I'd be surprised.  While you were holding court in the Large Scale Combat round-table in Iceland last week, someone asked who you were.  "The Mittani", they were told.  "Whoa..." was the response.  But you are also a highly polarizing figure... almost Palinesque.  You, more than anyone else, should be thankful that the CSM voting process does not have a "Vote against [x]" option, because if it did, you would have received just as many negative votes as positive ones, if not more.  Hell, had someone entered the CSM6 race with a character name of "Not The Mittani" and a platform of "Vote for me if you think CCP should kick The Mittani off the CSM!", such a person would have had a decent chance of being elected to CSM6.  ;-)

But now you represent us... all of us... both the people who voted for you, and the people who would have voted against you.  You represent all EVE Online players to CCP.  You are our CSM Chairman.

That's probably easy to forget.  After all, you ran on a pretty narrow platform.  Only about 11% of EVE players live in 0.0 space, and you made no bones about the fact that it was to support this population that you were running.  A few players that aren't part of this 11% were quick to point this out in Jita Park, and ask who on the CSM would be representing them.  Some of the other delegates have responded to those posts, but you have not.

And even within your own sphere, CCP has already shown a willingness to implement major change to 0.0 without even running it by the CSM, and CCP Greyscale has promised that more major change to 0.0 is on the way.  And CCP Greyscale is arguably the one person in CCP that launched your CSM run.

But you also need to remember that you represent ALL EVE Online players.  CCP has shown they are completely proficient at ignoring CSMs when they care to.  They've arguably ignored four out of the last five.  Ignoring five out of six will not be difficult for them... it is their default position, in fact.  And if you confine yourself to the 0.0 sphere, you will soon find yourself regarded by CCP as irrelevant as a sounding board for other spheres.  CCP put out a very guarded little devblog about the impact of the CSM on CCP.  Your predecessor as Chair, Mynxee, has done a lovely job of deconstructing that devblog.  She lists CCP Oveur's comments as truthful, and a close reading of them will be rewarded:
"I don't think any single external group has had such a strong influence on CCP, EVE and how we work as a company. And they are made stronger by your vote."
- CCP Oveur, Executive Producer
Influence is not necessarily help.  Strength is not necessarily valuable.  CCP has already shown how they feel about a strong CSM sometimes.  Rumor has it that some in CCP called some in CSM5 "terrorists" after the latter published their Open Letter Regarding Incarna.  I've already indicated that this is going to make your job harder, and that's the truth.  You've promised to be a "hardline player representative" that will "shield [us] from idiocy."  That's not going to be an easy promise to keep.

In less-guarded moments, EVE's Lead Game Designer has pigeon-holed all CSM delegates as "mavens", whose "opinion" they have to "interpret".  And you are a maven of mavens.  I'd be tempted to call you the first post-EVE meta-player.  Certainly, the bulk of your fame in EVE is not for actions taken in game...

Which brings us to some of the other disadvantages you're going to face during your term.  As I've already said, you are the most well-known resident of New Eden.  You have around you easily the most unified CSM in the history of that body.  Expectations of you are not going to be small... no, they definitely are not.  You pointed out yourself, correctly, that the expectations of previous CSMs could not have been lower.  Mynxee could have shown up in Iceland with just a pulse and guaranteed herself a spot as one of the top three CSM Chairs.  But she and the other members of CSM5 did far more than that... and with far fewer advantages than you have.

CSM5 took those very few advantages and found a way to get CCP to listen to them.  You have to not only not lose this advantage, you have to build on it.  That will be very, very difficult.  CCP has already made it clear that they'd like to go ahead and close the door that CSM5 wedged open.  There are teams within CCP that have made it a habit to ignore the CSM.  You might feel that your previous relationships with some of these people will give you leverage now that you are Chairman of CSM6.

But by accepting the post of Chairman of CSM6, you've voluntarily stepped into the pigeon-hole.  Initially, those elements of CCP aren't going to see you as The Mittani, the person they've seen at Fanfest after Fanfest.  No... now you are Chairman of CSM6, with a cloud of allies around you, getting ready to camp the gate in Iceland.

No... by comparison to you, CSM5 had it very easy.  You have a much more difficult job ahead of you.  Your 0.0 bloc controls CSM6.  You have a super-majority opinion.  You have promised that you can weld CSM6 into a unified voice, and EVE's players have given you every single thing you've asked for and that you said you needed to make that happen.

You are now where the rubber meets the road.  You cannot stand aside and comment from afar.  You're in the game now.  You have to lead, and you have to deliver.  Failure is not an option.

Because if you cannot deliver, you will have few or no excuses open to you.  After all, you are The Mittani.  We all know you.  And you represent all of us.  Arguably, we're all manipulative bastards.  We play EVE.  We're scammers and griefers and exploiters and market manipulators.  You represent us better, perhaps, than any other single EVE Online player could.  And we'll be watching to see how you do... ready to help... or ready to smack-talk.

Good luck in your term as Chairman of CSM6!

Fit of the Week: Brawler Harbinger

[Harbinger, Brawler]
Damage Control II
Tracking Enhancer II
Heat Sink II
Heat Sink II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

10MN MicroWarpdrive II
Warp Scrambler II
Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II

Heavy Pulse Laser II, Scorch M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Scorch M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Scorch M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Scorch M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Scorch M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Scorch M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Scorch M
[empty high slot]

Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Core Defence Field Extender I
Medium Core Defence Field Extender I

Hammerhead II x5

This is one of my favorite goofy ships.

Most EVE Online players start out as Caldari.  The reasons for this vary, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that for about a two-year period, Caldari Achura toons had a significant advantage in early career training speed.  Those advantages are now gone, but the websites that advertise it remain, as well as the EVE players from that period who often still urge their friends down this bloodline.  And once they start down this bloodline, they naturally gravitate toward the Drake, both for PvE and PvP.

And then they get into their first few PvP fights, and are summarily informed that for PvP, "the Drake sucks", "missiles suck", and "Caldari suck".  Whether these statements are true or not, the players are thrown into confusion.  "What should I train for then?" they plaintively ask.  "Train Amarr!" they are told by some.  "The Amarr battleships are awesome, and lasers FTW!"  "Train Minmatar!" they are told by others.  "Hurricanes are pwnmobiles!"  (Hardly anyone says "Train Gallente!", but that's another story.)

And a good portion of these pilots take the first bit of advice, lured into Amarr ships by their amazing beauty and the intriguing idea of switching ammo instantly in the middle of a fight.  Problem is, they've just spent a ton of time training shield skills, and Amarr ships are armor-tankers... aren't they?

Yeah, not necessarily.  Enter the brawler Harbinger.  Armor-tanked Harbingers, surprisingly, aren't all that impressive, and it comes from the fact that both their tank and their gank have to fit in the rather sub-standard six low slots the Harby has.  Drakes and Hurricanes don't have this problem: their tank and their gank go in separate slot types.  So a few intrepid people started shield-tanking Harbingers...

...and found that they work quite well, actually!  Surprisingly, a shield-tanked Harbinger is every bit as tough as a shield-tanked Cane.  Even better, it does nearly as much DPS up close thanks to the ability to carry medium drones, or you can carry a series of light drones instead, as well as a flight of ECM or logistics drones, making it more versatile.  And best of all, the fantastic Scorch ammo makes the "brawler Harby" an effective combatant to almost 35 kilometers, well outside the Cane's effective combat range.

Granted, you're still going to find that this is an interim step.  If you're training Amarr after time spent in Caldari ships, you are going to have to build up armor skills eventually to get into the truly exceptional Amarr ships higher up the tree.  But in the meantime, you can leverage your strong shield skills in the Harby and be effective in it.  But plan on being primaried a lot.  Primarying ship types that start with the letter "H" is practically a meme in EVE Online small-gang fights.  But the Hurricanes will be right there taking that punishment with you.

By the way, armor fans, this isn't to say that an armor-tanking Harby is bad... it isn't.  It's just somewhat unimpressive due to its horrible align time, slow top speed, and the 75 DPS it sacrifices to its shield-tanking brethren.  However, as close support for an Amarr battleship fleet, armor-tanked Harbies have their uses.  But that's another FOTW.

Brawl safe.  :-)

Changing the rules

Just a quickie.

It's increasingly interesting to me how many basic rules of EVE PvP a large fleet fight can break, and how invalid standard PvP instincts are in such a fight.

I'm slowly easing back into my normal EVE play after very little EVE play time since the start of the year, thanks to my CSM6 run.  Last night, I got pulled into such a large fight to defend a pair of Pure Blind tech moons in R6XN-9 from a combined fleet of NCdot, Merciless, and Ev0ke.  The call went out for a primary fleet of alpha Maelstroms and a secondary fleet of Hellcat Abaddons.  The enemy fleet was primarily triple-plated Abaddons (that isn't what a Hellcat is, NCdot...).  I despise flying Ripard in battleships -- give me a nice, safe tackler every time -- but you get in the ship the FC asks for.  Normally, against any one of these three alliances, the Pure Blind team can handle themselves.  Against all of them together, and thanks to some bad tactics by us, and some good spying by NCdot (x up if your alliance doesn't have a spy on Morsus Mihi's Teamspeak, please... anyone?), we got our butts kicked, myself included.

It's a routine loss on a standard alpha Maelstrom fit.  The ammo is mixed because our target calls kept varying between 50km and 95km (part of the bad tactics).  That isn't the interesting part.  This isn't a thin Maelstrom.  With Ripard flying it and with the support ships we had, it has 25,000+ shield HP, good resists, and more than 125k EHP.  The interesting part is that it died in about four seconds.  I was pre-aligned, and wasn't even tackled that I noticed.  I hate large fleets, and granted, it's been a while since my last PvP engagement, but all of my instincts were dead wrong.

As soon as I was yellow-boxed, I hit Ctrl-H (my "Need Shields" broadcast).  A second later, I was at 93% shields.  I got the mouse moving toward the button to overheat, then reconsidered (one more second).  I clicked the GTFO tab on my Overview, searched for my align point, found it, clicked it, hit the Warp To hot-key... and by that time, I was in a pod instead of a Maelstrom.  There was no time to overheat defenses, and it wouldn't have mattered if I had; I didn't survive long enough for the mods to cycle.  There certainly wasn't enough time to get reps from the dozen or so Scimis and Basis we had in the fleet.  I doubt they even had time to lock me.  Same with at least a third of the enemy fleet, I imagine.  ;-)  At least the pod got out.  It was more expensive than the ship, and happily LAWN has a good ship reimbursement program.  Guess I should start training Ripard for Hellcats.

I asked one of our logi pilots later if he saved anyone.  "I think so... a couple, maybe," he said.  "It was hard to tell if they were blowing up or warping off."  Heh.

We also had a decent mix of Scorpions and Falcons in the fleet.  "Should we jam logis?" one of these pilots asked the FC.  "No!" he responded.  "Forget their logis.  Jam their DPS... as many of their Abaddons as you can."

The rules... they are a-changing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

See if it sticks

I want to write one more post with regard to the coming change to low truesec anomaly ratting, and then I'll move on to other things.  I know I've written on this once, and Garth has weighed in once (::grins::).  And there really are other things in EVE I want to talk about.  ;-)  But this is an important change, and I want to make sure my opinion is covered.  And of course, in a few months, after we see how things are going with this, I might chime in again, who knows.  :-P

But once more this week, then new topics, I promise.

Yesterday, CCP Greyscale weighed in on the huge reaction on the EVE Online forums regarding this change.
Hi again,

Update on the above post: we've looked at the concerns brought up here, and done another evaluation pass as mentioned above. The outcome of this is that, while we understand and appreciate that these changes will negatively impact residents in some areas of space in the short term, we feel that on balance they are still likely to result in a noticeably positive overall outcome in the long run. This decision is mainly predicated on the fact that we still have a sufficient degree of confidence in our models of nullsec causality.

We understand that many players have alternate models that predict negative outcomes; we will of course be monitoring developments post-deployment to confirm whether or not things are developing in the way we are predicting, with an eye to modifying the proposed system if we see unexpected negative outcomes occurring, but we don't believe that the arguments raised by players in this thread weaken our model sufficiently to justify changing our plans at this stage.

We appreciate that this decision is not going to be regarded as a positive one by most participants of this thread, and we of course respect your right to continue to express your previously-noted disapproval here in a civil manner.

That's all for today,
In other words, "HTFU, and STFU", plus a rather large implied insult to people who actually LIVE in 0.0 about how poor our collective "models of nullsec causality" are.  A few days back, you'll recall I linked to a previous devblog where the very same CCP Greyscale said this:
Firstly, let people upgrade their space, and in particular its resource density. By increasing the resource density, you increase the potential population density, and by letting players do it rather than simply seeding more resources, you open up more decisions and more emergence.  (snip)  It gets more people into nullsec - one of our objectives - by making big alliances want more people in their space. It makes it much harder to be a big, rich, military alliance...
That was :18months: ago.  How quickly they forget.

Check your e-mail today, and you'll find that in your inbox is the announcement that this change is going to be implemented in a little over six days as part of Incursion 1.4.  So if you (like me) are impacted by this change, you've got six more days to prepare.  Six days.

When the original devblog came out five days ago, there was a round-table at Fanfest that very day regarding 0.0 living.  That very day.  This change didn't come up.  Wasn't mentioned!  Seleene's reaction to this is amusing.  Go give it a read.  It's only a few dozen words.  My own reaction was a bit more snarky.  Paraphrased slightly, it was "CCP are fearless programmer Vikings... except when the possibility exists to be beaten up in real life by pissed off 0.0 residents."

So, let's make two things completely clear:
  1. CCP Greyscale has now said, in public, that Dominion's stated goal for 0.0 was a total failure.
  2. CCP has now shown, through direct empirical evidence, that their development "strategy" of "throw things against the wall to see if they stick" is also a total failure.
Those are strong statements.  I'll repeat them.  When a company, in less than 18 months, makes a 180 degree turn in a major development strategy?  That's an admission of total failure of that strategy.  The man that apparently invented "let them upgrade their space!" is now essentially dis-inventing it.  There's going to be "good" 0.0 space, and "bad" 0.0 space.  Lest we forget, this is also the man that invented jump bridges, and would apparently be very happy to dis-invent those, too.

Whether you think or I think these are good ideas or bad ideas is irrelevant to the point that "throwing things against the wall to see if they stick" is not a development strategy.  Let me say it again: even if you think this is the greatest change to the game since sliced bread, and you think this post is nothing but "tears", this strategy impacts you.  Because next time CCP throws something against the wall to see if it sticks, it's going to be your sacred cow and your tears.  This is not a business strategy.  It's just a way to piss your customers off when you reverse yourselves 180 degrees 18 months later.

Let's make one other thing clear, and then -- as promised -- I'll shut up on this topic.

This change is going to do nothing to reduce the blob, or to hurt large alliances in EVE Online.  Large alliances, even those in poor space, could care less about ratting income.  It'll be a blip on their radar, nothing more.  This change hurts two entities in EVE Online:
  1. the small 0.0 corp that relies on ratting taxes to pay for sov upgrades, towers, and reimbursements; and,
  2. the individual pilot, new to 0.0 and PvP, who uses ratting to pay for their own ship losses early in their PvP career.
Those small 0.0 corps and new 0.0 players are going to respond in the only way they can: by looking for new sources of funding.  In some cases, those new sources of funding will come from joining larger 0.0 alliances with better ratting space.  In others, those new 0.0 players are going to fall back to jump clones and Level 4 missioning in Empire.  Either way, the small 0.0 alliance and the small 0.0 gang is who CCP Greyscale is hurting here.

But maybe my "model of nullsec causality" is just flawed.  Then again, when people break out big, impressive-sounding phrases to justify their positions rather than explaining them in plain language, I have a tendency to automatically feel those positions are bullshit.

For him to predict that this change is going to somehow help these smaller, newer entities is deranged.

For the change to go in with 11 days of warning (between his blog and implementation) is unnecessary and cruel.

And for the change to go in without even being discussed at Fanfest or before the CSM -- old or new -- is cowardly.

For me, that's what stuck to the wall.


Warning: this is a long post, and probably mostly of interest to people who are thinking about running for CSM7.  If that's you, or you're reading this in late 2011 or early 2012, welcome!  Everyone who wants to forget about the CSM6 election cycle now that it's over can come back in a couple of hours.  I have a few more thoughts on the "equal space is boring space" change that's going in next week.

Yesterday, I said I'd spend some time talking about how I felt the CSM6 campaign went in the general sense, and give my thoughts on the campaigns run by some of the other candidates.

It's a timely topic because ealier today, CCP Diagoras, who's been managing the election for CCP, released the full results of the CSM6 election.  As you can see, I came in 15th.  This is particularly relevant to me, given that there are nine full delegates, and five alternates.  ;-)

So, what can we learn from the CSM6 election?  First, The Mittani's strategy worked.  It worked, I'll bet, better than he hoped it would.  The 0.0 alliances were remarkably motivated, organized, and effective.  There were one or two wrinkles, which I'll talk about presently, but in the aggregate, the campaign by the large 0.0 blocs to take control of the CSM was completely successful.  And it was obvious that it was likely going to be successful from the first few days of voting.  CCP Diagoras was good enough to start a EVE Online thread with the numbers, and the numbers were shocking: more than 21,000 votes in the first 48 hours, more than triple the voters of last year in terms of both raw numbers and percentage of the EVE player base.

A number of people that I correspond with were excited by this.  If 40,000 people had voted last year, and this trend toward triple those numbers continued through the end of the voting, then that signaled two things: first, an amazingly higher awareness and interest from EVE Online players regarding the CSM in general; and second and more specifically, that the 0.0 bloc's efforts to control the CSM would fail.  After all, the 0.0 population in total represents only a small fraction of the EVE player base (more on that tomorrow).  If more than 100,000 people voted, that would mean that the Empire players were voting in force.  That seemed a very hopeful sign for more generalist and newbie-friendly candidates such as myself.

I, on the other hand, was much more cautious.  When I was sent these e-mails, I responded that it was just as likely to me that the initial 15,000 voters in the first 24 hours were, in my words, "4000 Goons, 4000 from Test, 3000 Drone Russians, and 4000 for everyone else.  Remember: the first voters are the most motivated voters.  Who is the most motivated this year?"  Reluctantly, my e-mail partners agreed that I had a point, and we settled in to watch the next 48 hours of voting.  And sure enough, the "voting velocity" slowed to a crawl.  By the 12th, four days into voting, the number of voters settled into a number 10,000 more than the number that had voted in that amount of time during the previous election, and that's exactly where the count stayed for the rest of the election.

This was excellent news for the large 0.0 bloc candiates who, for the most part, got proportionally about as many votes as their home alliances have members.  Only the distribution was a potential stumbling block, and cause a stumble it did, with the two Drone Russian candidates.  One got in, one was an alternate.  You can bet they'll work on coordinating their voting better next time.

Vile Rat and The Mittani were the obvious exceptions to these proportions, but the vote started with four Goon candidates, not two.  Helen Highwater had been an active member of CSM5 (though an alternate, not a full voting member).  Still, he had very good name recognition and garnered nearly 800 votes.  However, about a week into the voting, he mysteriously stopped campaigning and let his previously active Jita Park post languish.  I will let the conspiracy theorists among you wonder why.  ;-)  Kalrand, the fourth Goon candidate, picked up about 300 votes and then also dropped out, quite a bit more publicly.

The Mittani let slip in a Twitter post that he received 1700 Goon votes, and Vile Rat received 1600 Goon votes.  This strikes me as truthful.  Add up all four of these vote counts, and you have a proportionally good match for the number of Goons in EVE, too.

So, as I said, the 0.0 bloc turned out remarkably well, voted exactly as they were supposed to, and guaranteed their slate was elected with no problems.  I'll have more to say about The Mittani's run specifically tomorrow.  For now, let's turn our attention to other candidates.

I have very little to say about Meissa's run.  He's a quiet, effective campaigner... and much the same can be said about his performance on the CSM generally.  His vote count and percentage of the vote has tracked very consistently with the total number of voters the last several elections.  He's not flashy, but he gets the job done.  I for one would love to know how he does it.  ;-)  But I suspect a ton of his time is spent with individual Empire corps or alliances in batches of 20 or 40 or 60 people, one corp or alliance at a time, building on his base from the prior year.  If he keeps it up, there's no reason he can't be on the CSM for as long as he likes.  For the purposes of this election, though, he's an outlier.

Trebor came into the election the early favorite, and was a shoo-in to take one of the CSM6 seats.  He had great endorsements, solid name recognition, good accomplishments from CSM5 to brag on, and was really the only solid, experienced voice from CSM5 running for CSM6.  The only question would be: would he take Chair?  This question became particularly relevant after The Mittani also made it public that he would accept nothing less than the Chair for himself.  The war was on.

And in my view, in this contest, Trebor stumbled and The Mittani did not.

The Mittani made a very smart choice, endorsing people he supported: he picked two other candidates that he liked, he endorsed them strongly, and he backed them all the way.  He did this even going so far as to spend six billion ISK on an EVE News 24 ad called "Three Wise Men" that was the top banner ad on that site throughout the election.  I don't think the ad worked exactly as intended -- more on this in a moment -- but it was a masterful move.  I wondered initially if Mittens would over-reach by trying to support too many candidates.  He did not.  He trusted the other candidates that he supported to handle their own campaigns, chose what were arguably his two weakest potential allies, and supported them totally.  And as a result, all three got in.

I said in my first initial impulse post after the election results were announced that I felt Trebor should have picked his allies and stuck with them.  And I hold to that.  Trebor spent a lot of time and energy -- to greater or lesser degrees -- promoting five candidates, among them Meissa, Seleene, and myself.  It was the "greater or lesser degrees" that was important.  In short, Trebor over-reached.  He had the coat-tails to support two, not five.  He supported some candidates early in the election, others late in the election.  By the last few days, he presented the appearance as someone who was sort of flailing a bit.  Some mass EVE-mailings he sent, and those that he helped others send, probably hurt his credibility somewhat.  They were certainly reacted to negatively by some that received them.

The Mittani made another smart move in casting Trebor as the "anti-Goon" candidate.  I've written on this before, as well as on Trebor's responseThe Mittani bragged that this aspect of the campaign was successful, claiming that Trebor drained 1500 votes from other candidates that could have gotten into CSM6.  I'm not so sure, and I'm going to call this one a draw.  It was a smart move, but I think Trebor did a good job of deflecting and dissipating this attack.  In the end, a lot of people voted for Trebor not because they wanted to see him on the CSM (though of course, they did) but because they wanted to see him as the Chair.  Trebor didn't receive 1500 votes he didn't need.  He fell short of 2000 votes that he needed.

Before I talk about Seleene, I want to talk about the impact of ISK on the race.  This might be a bit controversial, but I think this year, the impact of ISK on the race was minimal or non-existant.  I didn't spend a single ISK on my own race, and yet I still managed to get 300 more votes than T'Amber, who spent an estimated (conservatively) 16 billion ISK on his race, assuming he goes through with his PLEX drawings in a couple of days.  Trebor, The Mittani, Seleene, and other candidates all spent sizeable sums on their respective races as well.  While there might have been a measurable impact of all this spending on Seleene's race, for everyone else who dumped fortunes of EVE gold into the race, I don't think you got very much for it.

Of course, in an election NOT dominated by 0.0 power blocs, who can say what impact that ISK would have had.  This will be the second factor to watch for in the CSM7 election, after the question of whether the 0.0 blocs will try for control again.

No, I don't think ISK had much of an impact this year.  What did unquestionably have an impact this year were endorsements.  Endorsements were everything this year.  They increased exposure, credibility, and vote counts for everyone who had one.  Of the losing candidates, there's no question at all that I benefited the most from this.  Mynxee's endorsement, as well as those from aideronrobotics, Keith Neilson, and EVE Tribune definitely helped with my campaigning.  Other candidates that received significant endorsements such as Prometheus Exenthal and Roc Wieler, also had excellent runs.

But endorsements helped Seleene most of all.  Seleene would have had a good run simply from name recognition, as the former CCP Abathur.  However, the early endorsement from Mynxee put him on the map in a big, big way.  Seleene had a real shot at taking the Chair right out from under The Mittani.  Had he made a stronger showing earlier in the election, it might well have gone down that way.  Early in the race, it wasn't clear if Seleene was going to break out of the pack or not.  By the end of the race, his name was on everyone's lips as a front-runner, and you couldn't mention the favorites without mentioning his name.  The huge amount of hard work he did campaigning was of course the major factor, but the early endorsements were the force multiplier on that hard work.

Of course, there were other candidates that got what some people felt were unfair endorsements.  To me, there's no such thing.  People can't vote against you; only for you.  If you're reading this in late 2011 or early 2012, and you're thinking about running for CSM7, and can get someone influential to support that run, go for it!  Similarly, I'm not going to talk about the "hours for PLEX" thing, either.  It might have been a factor in the race; it might not have.  There's no way to measure, so I'm not going to try.

Let's talk about a couple of other losing candidates, then I'll shut up.  ;-)

First, Elise and Prometheus.  This was a terrible missed opportunity.  Pandemic Legion really should have a voice in this CSM.  They're a major factor in 0.0 politics, the meta game, and mercenary work.  They deserved a seat.  The fact that they don't have one is very unfortunate, and this is coming from someone who has his reasons not to be a fan of them.  ;-)  I'm quite sure that there's going to be some fall-out from this; it's probably no coincidence at all that Genos Occidere is out of PL and back into Hydra Reloaded as of a few days ago.

In my estimate, there were 1500 :lolcsm: votes to be had this year.  They should have gone to T'Amber (aka Serious Internet Politician).  They were his for the taking, and would have put him over the top.  But for reasons that I'll talk about tomorrow, I think those votes went to The Mittani instead.  I think the 500 or so people that did vote for T'Amber voted for him as a serious candidate, which is amusing in its irony.  I'll be watching to see if he gives away all those PLEXes in a couple of days, but I'd bet he will.  I do find it very ironic that the candidate most opposed to micro-transactions essentially tried to buy a CSM seat, though.  Kettle?  Pot's on the phone and he'd like a word with you.

Did Roc Wieler deserve a seat on CSM6?  In a normal year, he might have gotten one.  Certainly, he thinks he deserved one.  ;-)  Personally, I think he hurt himself with several mis-steps in his Jita Park post.  He had one extremely solid area of expertise -- third-party development.  He tried to jump from that to saying he had expertise in areas of the game where he didn't have any, and I think that came back to bite him in the ass.  When I didn't know something about a topic (piracy, for instance), I said so and deferred to other players with more expertise.  Roc took a different tack.  It clearly cost him.  Would he have gotten a full seat despite that, this year?  In my opinion, no.  In a more normal year, though?  He probably would have squeaked in, yes.  It'll be interesting to see if he runs next year.

Two Step did a great job of harnessing the wormhole vote, that voice deserved an alternate seat, and it got one.  Alternates have access to help discuss issues on the internal CSM/CCP forums, and hopefully Two Step will use this to his advantage this year.  There weren't enough wormhole votes to put him in a full delegate seat, so it's not at all surprising that he didn't get one.  And finally, the less said about Darius III, the better.  It annoys me quite a bit that the only person standing between me and an alternate seat is a guy that got a solid core of his votes by scamming people for those votes in Jita.  I'm not a big fan of the meta-game on my best day, but to be beaten by it in this contest is aggravating.  He's certainly not apologizing for the tactic, and even I have to admit that it's a valid tactic in EVE Online.  That said, he's not going to be a factor in either CSM6 or any future election, so I'm content.

Whew!  Long post.  Tomorrow, I'll wrap up this series with an open letter to Comrade Chairman.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Power blocks

This blog started as a way to document and publicize my CSM6 run.  And I'd like to complete that mission by March 31.  Don't worry; there will still be blog posts on April 1 and beyond.  Just not CSM election-related posts.  ;-)

With that in mind, I'm going to write three final posts on this subject.  One, today, will be my general feelings about my own run.  The second, tomorrow, will focus on the campaigns of some of the other candidates, and my thoughts on the CSM6 campaign process in general.  And the last one, on Wednesday, will be a sort of open letter to The Mittani as he begins his term as Chairman of CSM6.  So, on with the first post.

By February 8 of this year, I had a pretty good idea that I was going to lose my run for a CSM6 seat.  Really!

The official paperwork-filing period hadn't even started, much less the campaign period, much less the voting.  But I was still reasonably sure that I was going to be fighting a losing effort.  You see, the morning before, on February 7, The Mittani had sent several instant messages to the Goons and others in the NC, informing them of what his overall strategy for the CSM6 election would be.  This was the first indication that the major 0.0 alliances would be banding together to control CSM6.  His messages were posted in public that afternoon on Scrapheap.

I sent an e-mail to the people I'd been working with on my run (Mynxee among them).  The title of that e-mail, as I recall, was "Holy shit!"  ;-)  The Mittani's messages seemed entirely game-changing.  In a regular old CSM run without cooperative 0.0 blocs, I felt like I had a really good chance of winning a seat.  I had a good plan, good endorsements (including Mynxee's), people had been responding well to the blog, and I'd made solid in-roads with a lot of people who could help me publicize my run.  I had my current alliance behind me, and at least one of my former alliances, as a pile of votes to build from.  Now all of those plans looked like wasted time.  I'd been counting getting a solid block of 0.0 voters.  If those votes were now going to go to "official" candidates, I'd get none of them.  What to do?

EDIT (29/Mar/2011): The full results have been posted, and seem to confirm my suspicions.  In a regular old CSM run without a coordinated large 0.0 bloc take-over, I would have won a seat.  Ah well.

I spent some time on the 7th and 8th counting up the numbers.  There are nine CSM seats.  The Goons would take two.  TEST would take one or two.  The Russians would take two.  The large NC alliances would take two.  It seemed reasonable to assume that if The Mittani contacted them to be part of his effort, Stainwagon would take one.  Trebor would almost certainly take one (if not the Chair).  It seemed reasonable that Pandemic Legion would take one.  And one or two other CSM5 members would probably take seats (remember, at this time, only six out of the 12 remaining CSM5 members had declared one way or another if they were running).  That was between 11 and 13 seats taken... out of nine.  Therefore, anyone not in the 0.0 bloc wasn't getting a seat.  My own chances of signing up to be part of this effort were nil.  In the greater NC, I'm a nobody.  So I wasn't going to win a seat.  It was as simple as that.

The only way to counter-act the numbers coming out of the 0.0 blocs would be to get the Empire voters out in force.  It seemed a difficult or impossible task.  Empire dwellers had almost never voted in real numbers before for a single candidate.  Mynxee tried to convince me that I could do it; she'd done it, after all.  She was the exception that proved the rule.  But she already had a popular blog running for a good long while before her run.  I didn't have that.  And I'd be fighting for those Empire voters with CSM5 members that had much more experience courting this bloc than I did... and a lot more ISK.  More on that in tomorrow's post.

By February 14, I consolidated these thoughts into this paragraph, which I posted on this very blog:
So, will the effort by the large 0.0 alliances to control the CSM be successful?  It has a good chance.  It's going to take about 1500 votes, in my estimate, to ensure a CSM6 seat.  The Goons control 5000 votes.  Test, another 5000.  The Droneland Russians can put together about the same, or perhaps even more.  The NC, ironically, is much more fragmented and it's likely that several of the major alliances will each put forward a candidate.  Smaller alliances like mine in the NC won't even register on that radar at all.
I underestimated slightly on the number of votes it would take to get on CSM6: turned out it was 1750 that would be needed, not 1500.  Everything else in that paragraph, though?  Entirely accurate.  I had estimated on Twitter on January 22 that there would be about 25% more total votes in this election than in the previous one, and that also turned out to be entirely accurate.

So, why continue to run when I knew I didn't have much of a chance?  Three reasons:

First, "there's many a slip", et. al.  It was entirely possible that The Mittani's plan wouldn't come together for some reason.  Coordinating taking over the whole CSM?  Now that it's done, Mittens made it look easy.  But in early February, it seemed a Herculean task of coordination.  Just getting the Goons alone to vote on an approved slate seemed naive.  And indeed, when the official candidate list was posted, there were four Goons on it, not two.  So, The Mittani couldn't control everything.  There was a chance I could slip through that crack with some hard work.  There was even a chance that the plan would fail partially or completely, and that a more or less normal slate of delegates would be elected... including both people in the 0.0 bloc and people not in it.

Second, I figured there would be one surprise candidate that would get through despite everything.  Why not me?  I had good publicity, some good endorsements, and a positive rep building.  Seleene hadn't popped up on my radar yet (that happened the following week).  Even after he did, the first couple of weeks of his campaign were surprisingly weak (sorry dude, but they were ;-) ).  He wasn't a foregone conclusion until well into March.

Third, I was willing and able to work throughout the campaign, looking for any vote I could find, any way I could find it.  I promoted myself on blogs and podcasts, I contacted Empire corps and asked to speak to their members, and I ran PvP classes and round-tables for any EVE player willing to listen.  It was the PvP classes that finally convinced me that I still wasn't going to win, though.  Despite more than 3000 people looking at the thread I posted on the EVE-O forums advertising the class, and almost 500 people looking at the blog post I put here advertising it, a grand total of six people showed up for that first class on March 12.  I taught that class to the best of my ability, and the same with the classes following it, but at that point I knew that CSM6 would be going forward without me in it, despite all my hard work.

Overall, I'm very happy with the campaign that I ran.  If the CSM election process allowed people to support multiple candidates, I think I would have done much better.  I can't even begin to count the number of times I was told "Yeah, what you're saying makes sense, but I'm voting for Trebor/Seleene/Roc/Jonathan/two step."  In 0.0, what I heared more often than I could count was "Yes, you've got a good platform, but I'm voting for Killer2/Draco."  There were just too many good candidates fighting for too few non-0.0 bloc seats.  As I said on Saturday, though, it was a great experience, and one I wouldn't trade.

Will I run next year?  Way too early to say.  I feel like this year was my moment, the time I could have had the most influence on EVE development.  Once Incarna is released and development starts on giving it actual game-play, that ship will have sailed.  Still, it will be very interesting to see how CSM6 does.  If they screw up, who knows?  ;-)

Thank you again to everyone who supported my run for CSM6.  All the support that you shared with me really means a lot.  Thanks in particular to Mynxee (<3), Seleene, Trebor (gl guys), Jade and Jayne from Lost in EVE, Garheade and the rest of the team at EveCommune, Marcel and the guys at , Locin and company at Red Frog, my old alliance mates at Sturmgrenadier, my current alliance mates at Get Off My Lawn, and everyone who took a few minutes out of your days to send me an EVE mail or a Twitter to keep me charged up all during February and March.  It worked.  ;-)

More about the election (and much less about me) tomorrow.

Quote of the Week: Competitive advantage

This week's Quote of the Week comes from Fanfest, held last week in Iceland.  But it doesn't come from any of the official presentations.  I'll have more to say about those in a post or two.  No, the source of the Quote of the Week will probably remain anonymous:
Some guy: "It's about changing the mentality away from large scale warfare."
"But we LIKE large scale warfare; that's why we're here!"
Have truer words ever been spoken about EVE Online?  The quote is from the EVE News 24 transcript of the Large Scale Combat round-table that was held on the 24th.  Ironically, this round-table was held in the smallest conference room in the conference center.  Have a look at the picture in the link.  There seems to have been a little bit of interest in this topic.  ;-)

In a few days, it will be April 2011.  And the most difficult 12-18 months in the history of CCP will begin.  CCP faces enormous challenges over the next year and change.  They have at least two major releases that have to go perfectly: Incarna and DUST 514.  And they have to release them right in the faces of three major competitors: World of Tanks, Jumpgate: Evolution, and Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO.  All three attack EVE Online from different angles.  WOT has the "instant-on" combat thing going for it, and is enormously popular with EVE players, particularly the casual PvP EVE player.  Jumpgate: Evolution has the potential to be a terrific space combat shooter, and to completely dwarf EVE's "oh wow" factor for space combat.  And of course, I need not say a word about TOR.  I'm not even much of a Star Wars fan and I'll be trying that one.  TOR can kill EVE all by itself if it doesn't completely suck.

And if it's good?  If it's really good?  Yeah.

EVE has one advantage going for it right now, and Incarna isn't it.  Next to TOR, even the best possible release of Incarna in 2011 is going to seem laughably inadequate.  The first release of Incarna is a promise of potential, not a game.  CCP realizes this, and that's where the "EVE Forever" video sprang from.  But again, I'll have more to say about that in a couple of posts.

No, EVE's major advantage is e-drama.  It's the sandbox, and the fact that every EVE player plays on the same server as every other EVE player.  It's the fact that major battles in EVE Online draw gaming media scrutiny, and even the EVE meta-game gets articles in gaming websites written about it.  Small gang PvP is fun, and is my first love in EVE, but outside of the dozen or so people involved in those fights, nobody cares.  No, it's the enormous battles, the sov warfare fights, the betrayals, the successful campaigns and the reversals that everyone wants to hear about, read about, and watch that are EVE Online's big advantages.

Almost two years ago now, CCP released a trailer called The Butterfly Effect that was a beautiful illustration of this concept.  And it wasn't the 1v2 combat that opened that trailer that the trailer was selling.  Every trailer since has only expanded upon and broadened this concept.  For my money, the best trailer CCP has ever put out is the Dominion trailer a little over a year ago.  There are no small fleets in that trailer.  It advertises and brags on the fact that massive fleet battles are EVE's stock in trade.  Very ironically, people who hate blobs no doubt spend a good portion of their time reading EVE News 24 and other websites that keep EVE players up-to-date on what the blob has been up to.

Whomever said that in just a few words during the Large Scale Combat round-table gets that, and CCP needs to stop running from it.

CCP might bemoan the blob, but they need the blob.  It's the only competitive advantage they've got.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shadowy reflections

Actually, I have one more initial thought about CSM6 that I want to get out right away.  Then I'm taking the rest of the weekend to actually play EVE instead of talking about it.  ;-)
Belloq: You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.
Indiana Jones: Now you're getting nasty.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my favorite movies.  It works on so many levels.  And one of its best characters (in a movie not exactly lacking for great characters) is Belloq, Indiana Jones's sly competitor.  It would have been easy to make Belloq a mustache-twirling villain in the piece, but Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas opt for something much more complex.  Belloq is absolutely right: there's not all that much difference between himself and the "hero" of the piece, Indiana Jones.  Of course, Indy isn't exactly a stereotype hero either...

Which brings us to Seleene and The Mittani.

Six out of nine chairs in CSM6 are held by 0.0 power blocs.  The Mittani is the obvious leader of that coalition, and given how much he's done to get so many of those people elected, we can be sure that all five of the others are going to fall in line rather rapidly.  That not only gives The Mittani a solid majority of CSM opinion when CCP asks it a question, it also does an excellent job of making Trebor Daehdoow completely irrelevant.  The Mittani has done nothing to hide his utter disdain of Trebor.  But I'll bet you a sizable sum of ISK right now that TM will throw Trebor a bone: he'll offer to have his bloc vote Trebor in as Secretary at the first CSM meeting in a week.  TM needs someone to do the actual work, after all.  Trebor would be wise to tell TM "thanks, no," he's not interested in that position, but we'll see if he does.

Meissa Anunthiel is also irrelevant, but Meissa seems to like that just fine.  He pops up to win elections, shows up at Summits to give an honest, balanced opinion of the industrialist in EVE, and then disappears until the next election.  TM can and will ignore him.

Which leaves Seleene.  The Mittani needs Seleene on his side, desperately.

I still haven't said exactly what I do for a living, and now, I probably won't, ever.  And I've never met The Mittani.  But here's a hint about what I do for a living: I've met, talked with, and worked with Steve Jobs on several occasions, the first almost ten years ago.

Here's a little secret about Steve Jobs.  He has two ways of dealing with people: using them, or seducing them.  Steve Jobs can be incredibly seductive when he wants to be.  And don't get your panties in a twist, Apple fans.  Steve Jobs is brilliant, charismatic, has a fantastic knowledge of facts, a superb memory, and a great way of looking at the world and at technology.  But when dealing with people?  Yeah.  He uses them, or he seduces them.  And sometimes, an individual can bounce back and forth in Steve Jobs's eyes between these two extremes, several times.

I'd bet a second sizable sum of ISK that The Mittani in real life is exactly the same way.  And Seleene is going to get the full effect of TM's seduction over the next week or so, if this hasn't started already.  TM needs Seleene's credentials and knowledge as a past dev.  Unlike Trebor, TM had a very high opinion of Seleene even before Seleene ran for CSM.  That opinion is only strengthened now.  The Mittani is going to (possibly correctly) believe that having Seleene on his side will increase his credibility in the eyes of CCP.  Seleene does have strong opinions about the issues that The Mittani cares about, so it's a potentially very interesting alliance.

After the election results were announced, Seleene excitedly tweeted that he'd been elected as Vice Chair.  Mynxee quickly (and correctly) pointed out that the Vice Chair will be elected at the CSM's first meeting.  But count on TM using that initial excitement.  I'm sure TM would rather have White Tree or the like as Vice Chair.  But he's no dummy, so he'll offer the post to Seleene first.  It's going to be very interesting to see if Seleene accepts.

Will Belloq and Indiana Jones be working together?

Two outta three ain't bad

The results of the CSM6 election have been posted:

Two out of three of Mynxee's endorsements won full sets.  I was number three.  ;-)  No full seat, no alternate seat.  After thinking it through post-election, I didn't think I would win.  I feel pretty good about those predictions.  Manalapan wasn't anywhere in the running either, and very surprisingly, neither was T'Amber.  Draco and Killer2 took those slots.  And my choices for alternates were way off.  But once you count people who are going to get 1500+ votes, counting the "tail" is a lot tougher.

The overall "feel" of my predicted CSM6 was very accurate, though.  The 0.0 power-bloc had no problem taking every seat they wanted to take.

I'll have lots more to say about the election now that it's over, but here are some other quick initial thoughts:
  • I find that I'm not upset at all.  The CCP Hammer interview and the stealth change to 0.0 rats (which wasn't even mentioned in the 0.0 summit that very day at Fanfest) drained some of my enthusiasm for dealing directly with CCP.
  • Happily, I'll have five to ten more hours per week to play EVE.  ;-)
  • Trebor should have picked his allies and stuck with them.
  • The Mittani has no idea what he's in for.  This is gonna be fun to watch.
More next week.  :-)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Speculative fiction

The following post is purely speculative.  But it's been bouncing around in my head for several months now.  Today's devblog has caused it to start to bounce with the force of (::grins::) a Titan pinball DD.

Would CCP develop their game in a way to deliberately try to influence the politics of New Eden?  I'm really starting to think they would, and do.

If they would, and do: I think it's backfiring every time they try, and they should consider... you know... stopping.

Back in October 2009, CCP Chronitis wrote a devblog announcing upcoming massive changes to Tech2 production, and (to a lesser extent) the changes that would be made to moon goos, and the various moon goos that would be needed for it.  By late October, watching the Singularity test server, a number of people had noted that there would be new bottlenecks in the types of goos that would become rare, ignoring the "rarity" numbers that are assigned to the various goos.  Akita T woke up the New Eden populace to the coming bottlenecks in an early November post on the EVE-O forums.  One of my own corp-leaders at that time posted on our forums a (as it turned out, accurate) list of goos and alchemy products that the corp and corp members should begin to stockpile until 2010.  Technetium was high on that list, and came into the broader New Eden consciousness by the last week of November or so.

And where is technetium found?  Almost exclusively in Northern Coalition space, considered all but worthless prior to the launch of Dominion.

By late December, I was part of a massive war over the technetium moons in Geminate.  At the time, as a member of Gentlemen's Club, I was on the side attacking the NC, which included Atlas Alliance and their allies (of which GC was one).  It was my first introduction to true sov warfare.  It seems like a long time ago now.  ;-)

The invasion failed, and smarter people than I can say why with much more assurance than I can.  However, I can say that in the intervening months, the NC has profited hugely from control of both their previous R64 moons, and now the new stock of tech moons.  For a while, they were unquestionably the richest coalition in the game. 

But a lot of people, including myself, seemed content to believe that the war in Geminate was an unexpected development of the Dominion sov changes coupled with the moon goo changes.  A coincidence, in other words.

But was it?  After all, theoretically, Chronitis could have made any mineral the new bottleneck.  But after seeing so many devblogs and so many notes in the CSM Summit meetings throughout 2010 how the existence of the blob pains CCP, I started to wonder last year if technetium was chosen deliberately, recognizing that the bulk of it was in NC space.

My silly little conspiracy theory went like this: Chronitis chose technetium specifically to be the most valuable.  He hoped that its value would cause a large coalition to spring up, break up the NC, and claim these new riches for several new sov-holding alliances.  And indeed, for a few months there, it seemed like that's exactly what was happening.  A group of former enemies banded together to attack the NC and take some of these tech moons away.  Even The Mittani weighed in on it at the time, calling the attack on Geminate "Chronitis's War".

But the attack failed, and now the NC is bigger and richer than ever.  This particular change in Dominion, if it was intended as an attack on the blob, backfired massively.

Who is the richest coalition in the game today?  These days, I suspect the DRF holds that honor.  And ratting -- particularly bot-ratting -- is an enormous reason why.  Take a look at this chart listing where the newest rich regions in New Eden are going to be.  Fully eight of the top nine are in the hands of the Drone Russians!

Am I going too far in thinking that this "equal space is boring space" change was made partially in the hopes that a new coalition would rise up to break up the DRF?

If so, I think the plan is going to backfire just as massively.

By the way, that first devblog I posted links to two of the first devblogs talking about the major changes Dominion would introduce to the game.  The first devblog was written by CCP Abathur... also known as Seleene... also known as an almost-certain delegate to CSM6.  ;-)  The second early Dominion devblog was written by CCP Greyscale, the now-implementer of "equal space is boring space."  Eighteen months later, both of those devblogs now make for some interesting and really ironic reading.

I'll likely continue this theme in Monday's QOTW, which of course comes from Fanfest.

Join the blob!

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

CCP, what the fuck are you thinking?!

Today, just after Fanfest closed for the day, CCP Greyscale put out a little blog post about upcoming changes to sovereignty.  At the end of this devblog, Greyscale casually states:
Some alliances will immediately start wanting to look for better space
Yeah, no shit.  Thanks for the hot tip, Greyscale.  Know how they're gonna "look"?  They're gonna look by disbanding their current alliances and joining the enormous alliances that already hold space with low truesecs.  Because if they don't, they're going to watch themselves bleed corps and individual members... who are going to move as corps or individual members to the enormous alliances.  This devblog's only been out a couple of hours, and I've already got a corp-mate who's bragging that he's happy that he's got a foothold with an alliance with access to a -0.86 system.  Departure of this member from my corp in 3... 2... 1...

Why's he likely gonna leave?  Well, hidden in this innocuous little devblog is this short line:
0.0 to -0.2 systems won't get any high-end sites after the change
In plain English, what this means is that Havens and Sanctums, the most valuable types of ratting anomalies in 0.0, will be disappearing from -0.01 through -0.24 systems.  You can make 25-35 million ISK from a Haven or a Sanctum.  As a result, they are generally regarded as being the only anomalies worth doing.  The next type of anomaly down, the various Hubs, are worth about 9-10 million ISK each and take about the same amount of time to run.  Currently, a typical player can make about 30 million ISK per account per hour running Havens and Sanctums if he can get a system with them to himself for any length of time.

Without those Havens and Sanctums, those low truesec systems just became much less valuable.  They'll have so little value without those Havens and Sanctums, in fact, that they're not going to be worth the ISK it costs to upgrade their Military indices at all.  Every system of -0.01 through -0.24 truesec just became the home of miners.  And every small alliance PvP corp and member living in a -0.01 through -0.24 system is -- as of now -- "look[ing] for better space".

Then there's this innocuous little line in the innocuous little devblog:
the -0.9 to -1.0 band can potentially gain an extra six top sites with full upgrades
Guess who owns these -0.9 and -1.0 systems?  Yeah, that's right.  THE FUCKING BLOB.  Know what this is change to sov mechanics is gonna do?  Make THE FUCKING BLOB even bigger.  Why?  Because every PvP corp and member living in a -0.01 through -0.24 system isn't going to fight the blob to try and take these systems.  They're going to quit their current corps or alliances and JOIN THE FUCKING BLOB instead.  Because there will be seven or eight Havens and Sanctums in their systems instead of four.

CCP has just admitted, in public, that Dominion's major change to the sov system -- the ability to upgrade systems and entice Empire-dwellers into 0.0 to gain these riches -- was a total failure.

And soon, CCP is going to reap the whirlwind of THIS failure.  Every time their servers cry because a system has 5000 players trying to enter it, I'm going to laugh and laugh and laugh...

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 was clearly dropped on his head as a baby by his mother.  If he even had a mother.

EDIT (28/Mar/2011): If you've come directly to this post, welcome.  As you've gathered by now, Garth is a bad person, and very rude.  If you want a somewhat calmer perspective on this topic, here's Jester's take on it.

Assistant to the Quote of the Week: !Apathy

From EVE News 24's live blogging of CCP Soundwave's Keynote Address at this year's Fanfest:
We would rather have you happy or annoyed than not care, and that’s what Incursions do.
The quote might not be 100% accurate since it's from the transcript, but HELL YES!  Well said.  As I've said before, pissed-off frustrated players are better than a) apathetic players and b) players that don't log in at all.  Even if that causes pissed-off, frustrated devs.  ;-)

Glad to see Soundwave realizes it.

Play to your strengths

My strongest single negotiating and business skill is my ability to read between the lines, and to make connections between four or five apparently completely unrelated facts to come to a new conclusion.

Let's talk PvE in 0.0 this time, but come at it from an interesting direction, shall we?

Kirith Kodachi, over at Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah, has written an examination of the Revenant super-carrier, comparing it to the similar Caldari Wyvern.  The subject comes up because the first Revenant BPC publicly available for auction has been advertised on the EVE Online forums.  Starting bid?  50 billion ISK.  And the price is only going up.  After examining the two ships and comparing them in a number of ways, Kirith concludes that the Wyvern is the superior craft.  And in the process, unfortunately, he misses a key point to the ship.

Over at Fiddler's Edge, Mord is also in the mood to talk about PvE.  He's talking about the current war in Geminate between the DRF and the NC -- a topic I'll probably have a bit to say about next week sometime -- and the enormous losses that the two sides have taken in super-caps.  More than 1.8 trillion ISK in Titans alone, by Mord's math, and I can find nothing wrong with his math.  He points out that major super-cap losses are no longer life-threatening to an alliance.  He then spends a great deal of time talking about the ways and means for developing the ISK flow needed to finance these losses when they occur.  And while Mord is an excellent writer and blogger, he also kind of misses the point, at least when it comes to the NC.

Super-capitals were initially intended to be an alliance-owned asset with no capability for individuals or even corps to purchase them.  A well fit super-carrier and the implants needed to sit in it cost more than a full-on 0.0 station egg, for Heaven's sake.  But things have changed since super-carriers were first put into the game.  I mentioned on my own blog a couple of weeks ago that 0.0 ratting has become the tail that wags the dog when it comes to 0.0 income.  A typical 0.0 alliance these days uses moon goo to finance its PvP reimbursement programs.  The corps that make up that alliance typically get their funding from tax on 0.0 rats, and it doesn't take a particularly high tax rate to be viable if you have enough ratters in your corp.  Mord and others have written about striking the right balance between PvPers and carebears in a single corp to balance the funding needed for this model, and that's certainly still challenging (note to self: write a post about funding a 0.0 corp).  But the fact remains that a viable 0.0 corp gets a significant portion of its on-going funding from ratting.

But as we've already learned in that very same blog post, the value of those 0.0 rats is about to change... and it's likely going to change the whole dynamic of how 0.0 corps are funded.

Over at Scrapheap, there's been a thread talking about the various use of carriers.  Also on SHC, in another section, there was this question:
If a carrier with fighter bonuses Thanatos/Nyx assigns fighters to someone who is off grid, does the fighters get the damage bonus still?
The answer is "yes."  I've done numerous tests on this one myself (and said so in the thread), and in the very next post, teds formalizes those tests thanks to the fact that you can now see drone damage in your combat log as of a recent patch.  That apparently also includes damage from assigned fighters.

I should write a full post on this one as long as I'm in a PvE mood, but one of the most common ways to rat in 0.0 with two accounts is to have your first account launch in a carrier, set up shop at a safe POS somewhere, and launch five fighters.  Then your second account launches in a fast ship with minimal need for drones (Machariels and Tengus most often, but even a humble Drake will do fine) and heads for his first asteroid belt or anomaly.  The carrier pilot then assigns these fighters to the second account.  Again, I'll write in more detail on how this works because I have never seen a decent guide on it elsewhere (note to self: write a guide on carrier uses and tactics).  For now, take my word for it: the ratting ship gets an additional 500-600 DPS from the fighters that are assigned to it.  This makes even our humble Drake a 1000 DPS ratting power-house.

And the fighters retain the damage bonus of the carrier pilot that launched them, and the bonuses of the ship that he's sitting in.

I don't rat very often at all (my corp-mates will back me up on this), but on those rare occasions when I do, I do it in a Tengu with five fighters assigned in just this way.  My carrier of choice for this is a Thanatos, and my carrier pilot currently has Gallente Carrier IV and Fighters V.  The Tengu does about 600 DPS, and the fighters add about 600 DPS.  I find that this 1200 DPS total is good enough for me to push through a Sanctum (the highest level of rat anomaly) in about 20 minutes, which is good for about 22 million ISK per "tick", or about 65 million ISK/hour.  But if I really feel like getting serious about ratting (even more rare), I'll use my third main to add even more DPS: about another 500 plus another 600 DPS from five more assigned fighters, for a total of 2300 DPS.

And while it's rather more stressful to dual-box this way, I find that doing it allows me to boost my ratting income to 100-110 million ISK/hour.

I rarely rat like this more than once or twice a month, but I've got alliance-mates that do it for hours at a time, for days in a row.  It's money like this combined with time like this that has made the personally-owned super-carrier possible.  And this is the fact that Mord isn't aware of: the bulk of the expense of replacing a lost super-carrier in the NC is probably being carried by the pilot that lost it.  Because they can.  I'll bet you real-life money that it works much the same way with the DRF.

Let's put all of these apparently separate, unrelated facts together, shall we?

The reason you get 500-600 DPS from the fighters assigned to you (rather than a non-variable value) is because two factors influence fighter damage: the Fighters skill of the carrier pilot, and whether the carrier pilot is sitting in a ship that receives bonuses to its fighter damage.  The Thanatos does receive this latter bonus; a Chimera (for instance) does not.  Therefore, you're going to receive more additional DPS from the assigned fighters of a pilot with Fighters V and Gallente Carrier V, flying a Thanatos, than from the fighters of a pilot with Fighters V and Caldari Carrier V, flying a Chimera.

There is absolutely no reason that I can see why the Revenant will be any different.  All Sansha ships have the bonus of doubling the damage output of their primary weapons.  This is one of the reasons that the Nightmare is so feared: each one of its four Mega Pulse Lasers or Tachyon Beam Lasers does double damage.  The Revenant has the same bonus to its fighters:
Revenant:  Special Ability:
100% bonus to fighter, fighter-bomber damage and hitpoints
Welcome to an unexpected macro-scale outcome of the Revenant's bonuses.  Assuming that a Revenant can assign fighters the way a standard carrier can, that means that a Revenant pilot with Fighters V skill (which every Revenant pilot should have) will be able to assign five fighters that add more than 1000 DPS to any ratting ship to which they are assigned.

Or put another way: I probably wouldn't need that third account any more to make 100-110 million ISK/hour while ratting, with only one Tengu at risk.

Put yet another way: if I ratted for three hours/day like this, I'd make about 10 billion ISK a month.

And that's assuming the Revenant only assigns five fighters to one ratter.  Put five Drone Control Units in the highs, and the Revenant can assign five fighters to three ratters, creating 120 million ISK/hour just by existing.  Remember: while doing this, it can be sitting just outside the shields of a deathstar POS deep in an alliance's controlled space.

I can't even imagine how quickly I could go through a Sanctum if I assigned ten fighters off a Revenant to my two mains.  And a Sanctum, once killed, respawns almost immediately.  Bet my income then would approach 20 billion ISK/month if I ratted like this for a few hours a day.

The Goons are gonna get a ton of money for this first Revenant BPC, but whomever buys it will be getting that money back in fairly short order.  I don't think we're going to be seeing a lot of Revenants in PvP.  That's not what it's good at.  Ships, like players, should play to their strengths.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guide: Solo L4 Missioning, Part 1

As promised, this will be the first in a series of posts about solo L4 missioning.  This post is written in the form of a series of tips for L4 missioners.

First and most obviously, get a battleship.  The battleships that will be most effective at L4 missions are the Raven, Maelstrom, Dominix, Megathron, Armageddon, and Apocalypse.  Take the Caldari sub-BS ships.  You can do L4 missions in a Drake.  You can do L4 missions in a Nighthawk.  You can even do L4 missions in a Tengu.  But sooner or later, you're going to want the DPS of a battleship platform.  It really is the only way to do L4s quickly and effectively.

Forget about cap stability for L4 missions in a battleship platform.  Being cap stable is over-rated, hugely expensive, and unnecessary.  Damage in L4s comes in in waves and most battleships will have no problems managing the damage as long as you're smart about a) which missions you accept, and b) how you manage the aggro of the rats in that mission.  More on that in a later post.

To solo L4s, you'll want a combined "gank plus tank" of around 1000 DPS.  Any combination of the two will succeed, but gank is preferred and will allow you to complete missions much more rapidly.  Gank is standard DPS taken from EFT, including drone damage.  Tank is your peak recharge/repair rate for either shields or armor, also taken from EFT.  For instance, a typical L4 mission Raven Navy Issue with a decent pilot aboard does 600 DPS, and has a peak shield repair rate of 700 DPS.  This is a 1300 "gank plus tank" and this ship can therefore do L4 missions solo with no problems.

Get a faction battleship.  While it is possible to solo L4s in standard Empire battleships, for most, it isn't easy and it isn't ideal.  You will be much, much happier in one of the various faction battleships, which are tougher and quite often do much more damage.  Some of the non-faction battleships are incapable of meeting the 1000 gank plus tank in the previous rule except with a highly skilled pilot aboard.  Yes: faction battleships are expensive.  Get used to the idea.  If you fly it smart and fit it smart, you'll only need one.  Faction battleships are actually usually more effective than Marauders and are just as cost effective, often even moreso.

Related to the previous two points, the more DPS you can bring to bear, the faster you will be able to complete a L4 mission, and therefore, the more ISK/hour you will make doing L4 missions.  This is sometimes referred to as a "gank tank".  In other words, you will kill the mission rats so quickly that they cannot bring their own DPS to bear on you.

With that in mind, plan on buying three to four navy faction weapon upgrades for the type of weapon that you will be using.  These are Caldari Navy Ballistic Control Systems, Imperial Navy Heat Sinks, or Republic Fleet Gyrostabilizers, or the equivalent.  Shield-tanking ships will have the advantage in DPS, and this is why shield-tanking ships are so preferred for running missions.  In addition, plan on also buying faction weapons.  You may not have to; for some faction battleships, T2 weapons are more effective than the equivalent faction weapons.  But initially, plan on this added expense.

Keep telling yourself that over time, these expensive mods will be paying for themselves, hopefully many times over.  ;-)  The other good news is that these mods do not degrade in value over time (or at least, they haven't over the last three years).  If you ever choose to sell your L4 mission ship, chances are excellent that you'll get every ISK you put into these mods back, if not even more ISK.

You will also almost certainly want to purchase a faction or dead-space repper for whatever type of tanking that you're doing.  This is a Caldari Navy X-Large Shield Booster, Imperial Navy Large Armor Repairer, or (more likely for an armor-tanked ship) a C-Type or B-Type Large Armor Repairer.  Faction and dead-space reppers are much more effective than their T2 counterparts.  Over time and as you build up your DPS, you will not need these strong reps.  But initially?  They will be invaluable.  And again, they retain their value well and can later be sold if you like.

Good faction battleships for L4 missions include the Raven Navy Issue, Tempest Fleet Issue, Scorpion Navy Issue, Apocalypse Navy Issue, Dominix Navy Issue, Rattlesnake, and Nightmare.  Most of these are shield tanks because of the reasons above.  However, the two laser boats have the advantage of being able to use inexpensive faction ammo.  The Nightmare is particularly horrific in missions, because it is able to both shield tank and use faction laser crystals, and is therefore able to achieve or exceed 1000 DPS in gank alone!

Start with missions against pirate factions that emphasize your ship's strengths and their weaknesses.  Don't be afraid to travel to regions that support these rats!  For instance, the Raven is strongest against Sanshas and Angel rats thanks to its long-range weapons and versatile weapon damage.  Sansha/Angel rat missions are most common in Minmatar and Ammatar space, so travel there!

Build up your faction standing so that -- over time -- you can do L4s throughout the galaxy.  Initially, this will be the easiest in Amarr space.  Doing Amarr missions builds up your faction standing with the Amarr, Caldari, Ammatar, and Khanid factions.  Amarr space is the home of Blood Raider rats, which will be the easiest to kill in the Raven Navy Issue, Scorpion Navy Issue, and Tempest Fleet Issue and their non-faction counter-parts (including the Maelstrom).

Avoid accepting missions against the six Empire factions.  Sooner or later, you're going to want to build up standing with these factions.  It's much easier to do if you haven't spent weeks killing their ships at some point in the past.

Agent mission quality is (currently) very important.  However, it is more important to have access to several agents in close proximity with relatively high quality rather than one agent with extremely high quality.  If you only have a single agent and that agent offers you two poor missions in a row, your night's missioning is over.  However, if you have two or three nearby agents with decent quality, you have many more chances to accept only good missions, declining poor ones.

Confine yourself to 0.8 and higher security status systems, 0.7 at the very lowest.  Suicide gankers live for finding expensive faction battleships, particularly glass cannon faction battleships, in 0.5 and 0.6 systems.  It doesn't take very many T1 battleships to take you out when you are heavily engaged in a L4 mission.  Keep it in mind.  By the same token, do not officer-fit your L4 mission battleship.  Yes, I know it's popular among the set that has more ISK than brains.  Don't be like them.  Officer-fit battleships aren't even safe in 0.9 systems.

Don't risk your money-maker!  Do not take your expensive faction-fit mission ship on any PvP op whatsoever.  If a war-dec occurs, your money-maker stays docked and does not undock until the war is over.  EVE lore is full of missioning and ratting ships getting killed because they were brought in on ops they had no business being brought in on.

Finally, get a second account!  Completing L4 missions with two accounts is much easier than doing it with one.  You will complete missions more than twice as quickly due to DPS stacking and earn more ISK overall this way.  You can also use remote rep tactics, remote rep drones, and can choose two battleships with complementary damage and styles.  For instance, a Maelstrom and a Raven work exceptionally well together.  A mission-fit Maelstrom can do 10,000 HP or more volley damage, devastating rat battleships with a single salvo.  The Raven then finishes that target off with cruise missiles while the Maelstrom's next volley goes against the next rat.

Hopefully, this guide has been helpful.  In my next post on this subject, I'll talk about specific tactics once you have your battleship (or battleships) in a mission.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fit of the Week: Mission Raven

[Raven, L4 Missioner]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Power Diagnostic System II

X-Large C5-L Emergency Shield Overload I
Invulnerability Field II
Photon Scattering Field II
Heat Dissipation Field II
Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron
Caldari Navy Shield Boost Amplifier

'Arbalest' Cruise Launcher I, Paradise Cruise Missile
'Arbalest' Cruise Launcher I, Paradise Cruise Missile
'Arbalest' Cruise Launcher I, Paradise Cruise Missile
'Arbalest' Cruise Launcher I, Paradise Cruise Missile
'Arbalest' Cruise Launcher I, Paradise Cruise Missile
'Arbalest' Cruise Launcher I, Paradise Cruise Missile
Drone Link Augmentor I
Small 'Arup' I Remote Bulwark Reconstruction

Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I
Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I
Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I

Hammerhead II x5
Hobgoblin II x5

I'm going to stay on the PvE trend with the FOTW for another week.  In fact, watch for a number of PvE posts over the rest of the week and probably into next week (depending on the results of the election).  My last main passed 42 million skill points last week, which is an important threshold: it's the highest minimum number of skill points required by the truly elite PvP corps in EVE such as Pandemic Legion.  So, I think it's important to document what got me here.  ;-)

So let's start with the basic missioning Raven.  If you do missions for ISK, as you develop your mission character and get him or her closer and closer to the end-game PvE Drake I posted a few weeks back, you're going to slam into the wall of the Drake's relatively anemic DPS.  The Drake's tank is outstanding, and fit properly, is more than capable of handling any L4 mission there is and virtually any type of 0.0 rats as well.  But while it can take a punch, it can't really throw one.  Minus its drones, the best Drake in New Eden can't do much more than 360 DPS.  For L4 missions, you're going to need more.

In my next post, I'll talk about some basic rules of thumb for L4 missioning, but the first one is this: your tank plus your gank need to add up to 1000 DPS or more to successfully solo L4 missions.  The Drake's tank plus gank peaks at about 700 without its drones at the very high end, and 775-800 with.  It's not enough.  So you'll start to eyeball the Raven or be pointed toward one by your corp-mates.

Initially, DPS-wise, the Raven is probably going to feel like a step down.  While it can launch medium drones, out of the gate, its DPS without drones is about equal to the Drake's... and its tank is initially going to be much thinner than your Drake.  But think of it like shifting gears in a car: you've maxed out the possible speed at the gear below.  At this new gear, you're just getting started.

First things first: don't consider getting into the Raven until you can use Tech 2 light and medium drones.  These are going to comprise a good portion of your DPS now, and Tech 1 drones aren't going to cut it any more.  You've also got what is probably going to be your first painful-feeling skill train in front of you: Shield Management V.  It's more than 600,000 skill points to go from IV to V, and at the end of it, your reward is a paltry 5% bonus to shields.  However, it's probably the most important skill there is for a new Raven pilot.  You're also going to need Shield Operation V, Energy Systems Operations V, and -- if you can bear the pain -- Energy Management V as well.  At the very least, train that to IV.  You'll also need Shield Compensation III at least (IV is better), and Tactical Shield Manipulation IV.

Welcome to the wonderful world of active tanking and capacitor management.  If you don't train these skills, you're going to be spending a lot of time listening to Aura say "The capacitor... is empty." and feeling your stomach shrivel every time she does.  In virtually any battleship, capacitor is king.  The good news is that all of these skills (with the exception of Shield Compensation) will be very useful in any PvP ship you sit down in.

Once you have these skills in place and have your Cruise Missiles skill to at least III, you're ready for a Raven.  This is also probably the first ship that you're going to buy, fit... and then steadily upgrade as your wallet balance grows.  But start with the fitting above.

The Arbalest launchers are relatively cheap, and since your drones are so important, the Drone Link Augmentor will ensure you can bring them into battle.  The small armor repper is also for your drones.  Upgrade it to a medium as soon as your fitting skills allow.  Your low slots are all about increasing DPS, though the single Power Diagnostic System boosts both capacitor and shields and recharge for both... quite a boon for the Raven.

The mid-slots are the important ones for the Raven.  They're also going to be where you make your first expensive purchase: the Caldari Navy Shield Boost Amplifier.  Meta SBAs almost never drop as loot and are quite expensive.  It honestly isn't that much of a increase in spending to get the faction SBA instead, and it makes a world of difference.  You can use the Tech 1 SBA until you can afford the faction version, but make sure that's your first upgrade!  The Target Painter is vital for making sure the large cruise missiles do the maximum damage to cruiser-size rats.  One Invulnerability Field and two rat-specific hardeners round out your mids.  The hardeners and missiles I've chosen are specific to Sansha rats.  Remember to trade out your hardeners and missiles for the next mission's rats when you dock up!  Unlike your Drake, the Raven does equal damage with any type of missile, so you'll want to carry the proper missiles for each type of rat you're going to fight.  It's probably a good idea to just load up 1500 or so of each type.

Finally, the rigs are going to be somewhat skill-dependent.  If you've taken my advice about training cap management skills, then the Semiconductor Memory Cells are your best choice.  They will boost your maximum cap and allow you to run your shield booster much longer.  However, they are skill-dependent and expensive.  Initially, you can consider three Capacitor Control Circuits instead and slowly upgrade to the SMCs.

Missioning in a Raven is all about cap management.  Light attacks can be ignored -- your Raven's base shield recharge will handle them fine.  More serious attacks will start to drain the Raven's shields.  Let them.  As your shield approaches 40% or so, start pulsing your shield booster.  The natural recharge of your shields is maximized at about 33% shields, so take advantage of this by letting your shields naturally drop to this level before using your booster.  This is going to feel scary and alien after so many missions in a Drake, where your shields might not have ever dropped below 80%.  You'll get used to it.

You're probably also going to have to warp away from your first few L4 missions as you learn the tactics of using a Raven properly.  Don't let it bother you.  Just make sure you use your drones to clear off any potentially warp-scrambling frigates, just in case.  You're also going to have to learn about aggro management.  More on that in my next post.

Once you're sitting in your Raven and have done a L4 mission or two, the next thing you're going to want to think about are the upgrades.  In rough order of importance, the upgrades you're going to need:
  1. First, as I said above, get the Caldari Navy Shield Boost Amplifier.  This one is critical.
  2. Second, start trading out your Ballistic Control Systems for Caldari Navy Ballistic Control Systems.  These will cost you about 80-85 million each.  You want three of them.  The fourth BCS can remain Tech 2.
  3. Finally, upgrade your Cruise Missile Launchers to the Caldari Navy version.  Buy seven of these.
  4. You can also start thinking about the Caldari Navy X-Large Shield Booster as well.
As you do steps 2 and 3, your DPS will steadily rise from about 360 to about 440 without drones.  Add your Hammerheads and you'll approach 600 DPS total.  Not bad at all!  Don't bother training up to T2 CMLs.  The Caldari Navy launchers are superior, less skill-intensive, and you're almost certainly not going to be using cruise missiles in PvP often enough to justify the long train.

Why did I say to buy seven Caldari Navy CMLs when the Raven can only carry six?  Ah.  Well, if you're going to be serious about soloing L4 missions, you're going to need one more upgrade before long: a Raven Navy Issue.  This might be your first truly expensive purchase in EVE Online.  And it's very much worth every ISK!  The Navy Raven is superior in almost every respect to its non-faction counterpart... and it can carry seven launchers.  Happily, you'll be able to carry all your other Raven fittings except for the rigs straight over.

The Navy Raven can not only easily solo virtually any L4 mission in the game, it's also a lovely wormhole ship.  But that will be another FOTW...