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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Quote of the Week: Entitlement

I think the quote of the week becomes deeper and more meaningful the more you think about it:
The problem is that too many people in EVE are risk averse and feel entitled.
The quote comes from S.W. at Confessions of a Closet Carebear, and the context is the anger that ice miners being denied blue ice are displaying in a variety of fora over the GSF interdiction.  It's a great quote, and it's true... as far as it goes.  The only problem with it in my view is that it doesn't go nearly far enough.

Avoiding risk is something that virtually all EVE players share.  When PvPers are denied "their" kills because the other side sees they cannot win, that's the most common risk adversity in EVE, of course.  And it's rather amusing to note that the level of invective directed at such "cowards" often increases in inverse proportion to the likelihood that they could have won the fight.  When two relatively evenly matched fleets almost meet, but one side chooses to avoid the engagement, you rarely hear them being dismissively and collectively called much more than a rude term for a part of the female anatomy.  But if a single recon or nano-HAC slips through a large gate-camp without getting himself killed, the verbal rage can be entertaining.  ;-)

Even Goons themselves are risk-averse in their own way.  Turn-of-the-century anarchists had philosophical discussions about whether one anarchist could give orders to a second anarchist on what misdeeds should be carried out, or how they should be done.  Goons skip the philosophy.  Their gank-ship fittings and tactics are as regimented as anything chosen for large fleet combat.

But the more I think about it, the more I think a sense of entitlement is the one and only thing that every EVE player shares:
  • ice miners feel entitled to mine as much of "their" ice as they like in peace;
  • ore miners feel entitled to "their" belts and become angry if someone comes along and denies them "their" rocks somehow;
  • site runners and those that live in wormholes become furious if someone runs "their" sites;
  • incursion runners become angry if someone closes "their" incursions prematurely;
  • high-sec corps rage if a war-dec prevents them from conducting "their" business in high-sec;
  • players running the market get angry if someone comes along and tries to take over "their" market;
  • PvPers and gankers rage if something -- even enlightened self-interest on the part of their enemy -- prevents them from getting kills;
  • non-sov-holders in null become angry if someone moves into "their" pocket of NPC null;
  • God help anyone who tries to push a sov-holder out of "their" space; and,
  • all of us, and I do mean all of us, feel entitled to non-stop never-ending spaceships from CCP until the end of time.  ;-)

PvPers will protest most loudly at being lumped into this camp, I suspect.  But the most common term for being denied expected PvP is to be "blue-balled".  This happens to be a colorful western euphemism for what occurs to the male anatomy when that male is denied expected sex... sex to which the man in question surely felt entitled to...  ;-)

And the level of rage that EVE players can display when we are denied what we feel entitled to can be quite entertaining.

So, great quote!  But it didn't go nearly far enough.  ;-)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pharoh's heart was hardened

As you're probably aware, every five or six weeks, I actually have to step away from my keyboard to sleep, and my nefarious evil twin Garth has the opportunity to take the controls of Jester's Trek.  Unavoidably, this happened yesterday.  But happily, I'm now good for another five or six weeks of uninterrupted blogging and gaming.  Which I'm sure Garth thinks is a shame, because now he can't weigh in on a new issue happening on the EVE-O forums, as much as I'm sure he'd like to.

Here's a protip: never embarrass CCP too badly.  Programmer Vikings are tough, hardy souls used to hardship, and used to being treated badly.  Beat them, curse them, set them on fire if you must... but do not embarrass them, for this they cannot abide and cannot forgive.

We know this because almost five years ago now, an EVE player known as Kugutsumen badly embarrassed CCP by revealing the real name of an EVE Online developer known as t20.  In the process, he also revealed that t20 had undermined the Tech2 BPO auctions that existed at that time to provide the alliance that he was a member of with ten of them.  The fallout from that incident is still ringing through the game five years later, with broad results from the creation of the CSM to the fact that CCP devs who play EVE almost invariably keep their RL jobs a secret.

And there's another bit of fallout that can be detected to this day: the EVE-O forums will censor any attempt to even use the word kugutsumen, in any context.  That includes linking to the website kugutsumen.com, created as a clearinghouse for EVE news, discussion, and meta-gaming.  If you include the word kugutsumen in a post, it's replaced by asterisks, as if the word itself were profane.

When the new EVE-O forums were brought on-line, players were quick to test if this restriction was in place, and sure enough, it was.

Now, I'm not much of a kugu poster myself.  I think I've posted there twice.  The community there is as tightly sealed (and as dangerous) as a wind tunnel, and has a bias in a particular direction that's extremely easy to spot.  Still, it's a valuable website for the EVE community and I lurk there pretty extensively.  Often, if I'm in the midst of a blog post, I'll visit kugu to get insights and information for the post that would otherwise be unavailable to me.

For CCP to treat its very existence as profane is silly.

One of the admins of kugu, Xutech, posted a plea about a week ago on the Assembly Hall (as a formal proposal) for CCP to stop this practice.  As you can imagine, it got a fair bit of traction, both from true kugu supporters and from those trying to stir up a little bit of e-drama.  Still, the likelihood of it going anywhere was pretty much zero.  CSM alt Two step said that he had asked when the new EVE-O forums were put on-line why the restriction was still in place and was told that "CCP was afraid that kugu.com would be hosting some sort of browser exploits to hack into people's computers."

Two step said he'd ask someone from CCP to respond directly.

I'm afraid I had a bit of a laugh about this.  There was no way anyone from CCP was going to directly address this.  Why should they?  It's a lose-lose situation for anyone that does.  Who in their right mind at CCP would directly inject themselves into this discus-- oh.  All right, then.

The thread isn't locked yet, but look for that to happen in the next 24 hours or so, if it takes that long.  CCP isn't going to budge on this one, even if kugu (by its advertising standards) weren't daily giving them an excuse.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't include this little bit of fun:
K is for Kneejerk reactions
U is for Uncensored (requires mod approval)
G is for Greenbars
U is for Useless attempts at whitewash
T is for Techno viking
S is for Small-minded feuds
U is for U mad bro will get you infracted
M is for Mulla
E is for Exponentially more Entertaining than Eve-o
N is for Never stop posting
CCP: free kugu!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy medium

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

Hey!  You!  Asshole!

Yes, you knew I was talking to you, didn't you?  Because you're an EVE player.  More to the point, you're a long-time bitter-vet "been playing since beta" EVE player.  Know what?  The rest of us don't give a shit about your opinions about how hard EVE should be to learn.  This comes out in particular every time someone like Jester proposes simplifying this game in some way and making it a tiny bit easier for newbies to understand.  Any time anybody says something like this, you assholes start carping about how "I had to learn how the sandbox worked, and it was fucking hard.  So should the new guys.  If they can't learn it, they should GTFO."

You know what?  It's elitist shit like this that is strangling this game.  Have you looked at the PCU count lately?  Even more than that, though, you remind me of a cliché: the old dad saying that there weren't any new-fangled school-busses when they went to school.  Oh no.  They walked to school!  In the snow!  Uphill!  Both ways!  And so should you!

You're a cliché and you're pathetic.

CCP had about five minutes where they thought this would be a good recruiting strategy for new players, then they wised up and realized how idiotic that approach is.  FFS, even the phrase "EVE is hard" has 212 million links on Google.  And some of you assholes think that EVE isn't hard enough.  Know what I think about this opinion?

You know what?  I'd just as soon not shoot at the same 50 guys in the same eight alliances for the rest of my EVE career, thanks.  I'd like to get some new blood in here, and if removing unnecessary difficulty from the game is how to do it, then guess what: that's what should be done.  And you assholes that think EVE should be hard just for the sake of being hard because it's always been hard can go screw yourselves.

That said... hey!  You!  Asshole!

No, not you assholes.  You other assholes.  You assholes that get all whiny when your ship gets blown up.  You assholes who have somehow convinced fucking programmer Vikings that maybe their game makes space a little bit too unsafe.

You know what?  Space is supposed to be unsafe, so maybe you should just shut your mouths and HTFU.  "Q" told you this all the way back in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and if you didn't believe him, a guy named Gus Grissom is at the door and wants to explain it to you.  Just because I think that maybe this game should be made a little bit easier for newbies to understand doesn't mean I'm gonna advocate putting training wheels on your Tempest or making your Hulk gank-proof.  If you do seriously dumb shit in this game, not only are you gonna get blown up, but you deserve to get blown up.  Hopefully, it'll teach you not to do something quite so dumb the next time.  I've had ships ganked.  I've been podded in expensive implants.

Know what I didn't do?  I didn't whine on the forums that the mean man hurt me.  I learned from the experience.  Maybe you should try it.

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.  It takes a rare gift to piss off both bitter-vets and carebears at the same time.

Kill of the Week: Use it or lose it

Man, picking a KOTW for this week has been really hard.

At first, I was gonna go with this:

"Theme roams" are always fun.  Encountering them can be even more fun.  I've never been on a "noobship" roam myself, but I feel like I've been on just about every other type of theme roam there is.  And certainly, I've encountered them.  I think my favorite theme roam to fight was a big group of Ospreys that came into Pure Blind about a year ago, escorting a combat-fit Orca.  Basically, it was a "fake miners" theme roam.  The combination did surprisingly well before it was caught and killed to pretty much the last ship.  ;-)

But I can't go with this theme roam kill for KOTW, because it happened eight days ago.

So, I was gonna go with this:

Now that's a Mackinaw kill, don't you agree?  If ice-mining were like L4 missionining, you'd expect to find something this expensive in high-sec, not in null.  I've been hearing from acquaintances living in DRF space that they're making serious bank bringing in and compressing null-sec thick blue ice from drone region space.  However, this guy apparently didn't get the memo, or maybe dark glitter is still worth more?  It's hard for me to believe, but I haven't run the numbers lately.  Either way, though, it's gonna take him some 60-80 hours of non-stop ice-mining to recoup this particular loss.

It's also an interesting kill because the old NC didn't bother roaming through DRF or IRC space very much at all.  But apparently NC Reloaded feels somewhat differently, which is nice.  Still, Mackinaw kill?  For KOTW?  Meh.

"Shuttlecraft Dramiel" and "PvE Vagabond" were also worth a few laughs, but I decided against both of those, too.(1)

No, I think I'm gonna go with this:

Now that's a nice kill.  Dramiels are pretty tough to fit and to fly properly today, but in a couple of months with reduced CPU and grid, increased mass, and reduced speed, they're going to become really tough to fit and fly.  When CCP gets out the nerf bat, they really don't mess around, do they?  Drams stand a good chance of going from the most-used faction frigate to the least-used one in the blink of an eye.  Expect the Daredevil to take up the mantle.  It was a pretty good boat before the coming hybrid buff, and fitting them is going to become easier.

In the meantime, if you have a much-loved Dram fit, now's probably a good time to go out and get some last kills in it.  Use it before you lose it.

(1) Though if you're out there using my beloved Vaga hull for PvE, shame on you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Death to attributes!

Here's something odd.  I'm still getting mail from Perpetuum Online.  I started to delete it, then the second paragraph caught my eye:
As announced in our Sept. 28 devblog (http://blog.perpetuum-online.com/posts/2011-09-28-attributes-extensions-and-sparks/), we are revamping the extension and attribute system, and as a consequence, the account reset feature will be removed from the game.
Revamping the extension (skill) and attribute system?  Let's look at this devblog and see what they're doing--

Perpetuum Online is deleting attributes from their game entirely!

Here's their reasoning, and it's custom-designed to make an EVE player laugh:
We've been internally debating the issue for a long time now and we have finally come to the conclusion that attributes are not necessary. They are pretty much an unneeded annoyance, and while they seem to make the game more complex and deeper, they do not contribute to it in an entertaining or useful way.
You're removing complexity for because complexity in and of itself doesn't add anything to your game?  There are several thousand EVE players here with pitchforks and torches that would like to have a word with you, Perpetuum.  ;-)

But if that wasn't bad enough, there's more!  They're gonna try to use logic on us:
The problem with attributes has always been that you have to make important choices at the very beginning of the game. However, at that point you usually don't have the slightest idea what they will mean for the future, and you don't even have any chance to make adjustments later on. Obviously this can be a very frustrating experience for our new players.
Stop making sense, Perpetuum.  I don't like it.  :-P

The more I think about this announcement, though, the more that it's driving me nuts.  Stop and think a minute.  What are you training... right now?  What are you planning to train over the next month or three?  If you're like me and you have more than one account (I have four), then that list is probably pretty long.

And I'll bet there's skills on it you have absolutely no interest in whatsoever.

My second combat main is a good example.  Six months ago, I shifted him over to an Intelligence/Memory configuration.  There were some key skills that I wanted to fill in, particularly in the Mechanic track, where it was time to train his four armor comp skills to Level V.  I also wanted him to have Astrometrics V, Cynosural Field Theory V, Jump Fuel Conservation V, and Jump Portal Generation.(1)  There were also a few other odds and ends for those attributes that I wanted.

But now, that's pretty much done.  I can't remap his attributes again until early April or so.  So, his skill plan is now full of... well... crap.  Astrometrics support skills.  Electronic Warfare.  Shield Comp V.  Higher shield comp support skills in general.  If I want to do these things, I have other characters that can do them.  Since there were eight months of skills to train that I really wanted, it made sense to move him to the INT/MEM configuration.  But now that the things he needs are done, now I'm effectively gonna waste four months or so training skills that I have no plans to use with this character.  They might come up, sure.  But they probably won't.

I'll bet this happens a lot with characters in the 40 million to 60 million SP range (where this character is).  There are no skills that he needs right now that are critical enough to switch to off-attribute training to get them.  Still, there are skills that he's picking up that he probably won't use.

Some time back, there was a plan within CCP to allow players like myself in this situation to buy a PLEX and then use that PLEX to buy an attribute remap.  But that plan was (rightly) kiboshed as being a form of pay-to-win.  When it came up, I joked on Scrapheap and then on Failheap that I was completely against it... but if CCP did it anyway... ummm... I would take advantage of it.  ;-)

But if you stop and think about it, what are attributes doing for EVE except slowing down the fun I want to have in the ship I want to be flying?  What are they doing for skill training except occasionally slowing it down and rerouting it in a lot of directions that we as players don't necessarily want to go?

In that context, this move by the Perpetuum devs is brilliant.  And sure, I could mimic it in EVE by simply flattening all my attributes, and some EVE players do just that.  But I'll bet a lot more don't.  I'll bet a lot more are like me, and reconfigure toward INT/MEM or PER/WIL, and then build skill plans to focus on those areas for a year before reconfiguring back.

But really, we're only doing it because we're gaming the system.  We're min-maxing, the same thing we do with everything else in EVE.  We hate to see that we're training at 1980 SP/hour instead of 2520 SP/hour, and so we rig things so that doesn't happen.

In the process, though, we're making life a hell of a lot harder on new EVE players, and we're directly supporting one part of the learning cliff that keeps people from wanting to join us in New Eden.  We're making the game unnecessarily more complicated than it really needs to be.  There's really no particular good reason why EVE Online can't just give all of us 2500 SP/hour all the time and be done with it.

Removing Learning skills was a brave first step by CCP in knocking the learning cliff down somewhat.  It'd be truly :fearless: to take the next step, though.

Death to attributes!  Death to attribute implants!  Let's drop them both from the game, and open up implant slots 1-5 for more set/bonus implants.  Discuss.

(1) Guess what his next ship is.  Go ahead.  Guess.  ;-)

Consistent much?

Just a quickie.

When I ranted about the CSM "emergency summit" minutes, one of the things I went off on was a paragraph in that document in which CCP said:
CCP noted that, while they understand that this is a common thing for players to do, there has not been any official multi-client support for EVE thus far...
I then pointed out:
CCP directly endorses multi-client use every September or October by marketing a promotion called "Power of Two". This marketing promotion strongly encourages EVE players to start an additional account for the express purpose of supporting their existing account. This promotion has been running for the past four years at least.
Power of Two is back this afternoon, and among its advantages:
Many MMO gamers often purchase a second account for their games and the Power of 2 is designed with that playstyle in mind.

CCP doesn't officially support multi-client use... unless there's $49.95 to be made.  ;-)

P.S. When did "playstyle" become a word? This is the third time in the last week that I've seen "playstyle" used as a word by someone associated with CCP. There's a space in there somewhere, please.

Deliberately, purposefully

It's got to be just a little bit annoying to be a certain Goon on the CSM right now.

Everything is going so well, after all.  The players spent all year collectively screaming at CCP and that screaming finally made itself heard.  CSM6 was asked to come to an emergency summit in Iceland to start to deal with player discontent.  Mittens went on what was essentially a crusade against Incarna, making it clear that the players didn't want it and CCP wasn't seeing any business benefit from it anyway, so it should just be dumped.  And between that crusade, the player support for it by turning off the CQ en masse, and the technical challenges of actually delivering Incarna, CCP folded its hand.  The bad news of the lay-off aside, every other piece of news coming out of Reyk has been incredibly good news for Mittens.

"Trebor's updated the list of reasons why you should get out your kneepads," Mittens wrote on Failheap, and yes, he meant that in exactly the crude way it sounds.  ;-)  He then added that he'd have to "unironically stump for Trebor" come the CSM7 election season.

With CCP turned definitively back toward spaceships, Mittens apparently decided that he was really being too responsible and mature(1) and turned his attention back to doing Goony sorts of things.  The response has been electric, and has given Mittens even more reasons to smile.  Those that aren't freaking out about getting blown up are freaking out because the Chairman of the CSM -- the Chairman -- is the one blowing people up!  And encouraging others to do the same!  In my EVE!  Can you imagine?

Needless to say, Mittens was delighted at the response.  The :smug: has been strong, but he's also cheerfully made inside jokes about it ranging across the geek reference spectrum from 1984 to Arthur C. Clarke's 2010.

The very same Trebor even decided to try to make a little bit of political hay over the issue.  If tears could be sold for money, Mittens could retire for a second time.  And if all of that wasn't enough good news for Mittens, his new least favorite person on the CSM, Darius III, also managed to completely marginalize himself.

The CSM December Summit is rapidly approaching, and there was every indication that it was going to essentially be a victory lap.  The CSM could graciously acknowledge that CCP was taking player concerns about spaceships seriously.  Once that was done, the entire summit could then be turned toward what to do with all those newly freed-up developers and the total lack of concrete plans for 2012.  Life was looking very, very good.

Until the whiners got themselves an unexpected ally.

[sweeps plate of cookies off table]
Agent Smith: Maybe you knew I was going to do that, maybe you didn't. If you did, that means you baked those cookies and set that plate right there deliberately, purposefully. Which means you're sitting there also deliberately, purposefully.

During the interview Hilmar Pétursson gave Eurogamer last week, the following question came up:
Eurogamer: The Council of Stellar Management [CSM] has been increasingly vocal and rebellious in recent months. What's your relationship with them like at the moment - your personal feelings and those of the company as a whole?
Now let's be clear.  This was one of the last questions in the interview, and other than the leading wording, it was meant to be a softball.  That's how you close out interviews like this, with a few easy, low-impact questions to relax the interviewee.  It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Hilmar to reply with platitudes.  Something like this was probably what the interviewer expected:
Hilmar Pétursson: The CSM has been and continues to be a valuable aspect of how we receive player feedback.  If they've been more vocal than normal this year, that's just a reflection of our players, who have also been quite vocal about how we can become a better company.  We appreciate their continued support as we look for ways to make EVE a better game, and their input will be one of many important factors as we get focused on our plans for next year.
It would have been the easiest thing to say in the world.  But Hilmar didn't say that... did he?

No, here's Hilmar's actual response:
Hilmar Pétursson: The CSM has been under constant evolution based on what's going on in the current environment, what's going on with CCP and Eve, who's on the Council and all that. The CSM has helped greatly through the years in getting feedback for aspects of the game.

But some of my concerns right now relate to whether the CSM is maybe focused on a particular aspect of the game and I'm starting to get feedback from players that they worry the CSM is too pre-occupied by a certain playstyle. That might mean we may need to change the structure, but definitely the CSM has worked as a feedback tool greatly throughout the years. We will have them over at the end of the year, after everything that's gone on, and we will have a chance to talk about that. We'll just see where we are and take it from there.
Baaaaahahahahahaha.  Man oh man.  I would have loved to have seen the interviewer's face when he was gifted with this particular pillar of flame in response to a softball question.  Even the one sentence that sounds conciiliatory about how the "CSM has helped greatly" is tagged with the qualifier "through the years."  That qualifier is so important to him that Hilmar uses it twice.  The message is pretty clear: yeah, the CSM has been helpful... but maybe not so much this CSM, who are "pre-occupied by a certain playstyle."  Therefore, CCP "may need to change the structure" of the CSM. 

Hilmar had to know the softball way that question was intended, and while he didn't go full Viking in his response, the response he did go with makes it clear that this is the second CSM in a row that's annoyed him late in their term.   ;-)  And he did it knowing that the interview was going to go public only a month or so before the December summit.

It was done deliberately... purposefully.

Mittens's good mood has been a bit more... subdued lately.  The discussion about CSM7 on Twitter and various fora has now turned from whether a good portion of CSM6 will be reelected in toto over to how the election mechanic itself should be changed to ensure that doesn't happen.  Mittens has even been spotted arguing that CSM members who live in null-sec full-time don't really count if they live in null-sec full-time somewhere other than "the DCF".  ;-)  While he's gotten support from a few unexpected quarters, it's clear that the tenor of the December summit will be a little less victory lap than he was probably hoping for.

How should the election mechanic be changed?  Well, there's one idea that appeals to me, but let's talk about that in a day or two.

POSTSCRIPT EDIT (27/Oct/2011): Two sources for that Mittens reference (note that it is not a quote): here and here.  Trebor is in Dirt Nap Squad (and was previously in Initiative Mercenaries).  Meissa is in Rooks and Kings.  All three are alliances that operate in null.  Two Step lives in a WH, which is considered by players living in high-sec to be effectively null space, not high-sec space.

POSTSCRIPT TO THE POSTSCRIPT: Rooks and Kings operates freely in null, low-sec, and WH space, but apparently actually lives in low-sec, something I didn't know.  I apologize for the error.

(1) I kid, I kid.  ;-)

Find a post, win a PLEX

Want to win a PLEX?  Warning: it'll probably be really hard.  As a matter of fact, it might be impossible.

This is probably a forlorn hope, but hey, I'll give it a shot.  In mid-December 2010, I made a long series of predictions about how EVE would go in 2011.  I made those predictions in a thread about such predictions on Scrapheap Challenge, the precursor to Failheap Challenge.  The post itself was made on SHC before I started this blog, and when I did start the blog, I pointed to one of those predictions in an early blog post here.

Were I making such predictions today, I'd obviously blog about them.  But it never occurred to me that SHC would go down.  I just made a copy of the link where my predictions were there and figured I'd come back to them in January 2012 and see how I did.  Of course I can't do that now, because SHC is gone.  And when I blogged about the predictions, I didn't pull a full copy of them into the blog.  I can remember a lot of the predictions I made, but certainly not all of them.  But now that the year is coming to an end, I'd like to see how I did.

So, that's the contest: find and produce a copy of my EVE 2011 predictions before 2012 January 15, and I'll give the person who does it either a PLEX, or ISK equivalent to a PLEX, their choice.  First person to put a link to the predictions in the comments for this blog post wins.  Who knows, maybe someone reading this just has a copy and was waiting to throw it in my face.  If that's the case, pastebin links are just fine and not only can you throw my predictions in my face, I'll pay you to do it.  ;-)

For everyone else, here are some clues that might help.

First, the post was made to the old Scrapheap Challenge forums.  Were they still up, you could go right to the post here:

You can't do that, so here's the surviving archive that I know about for the SHC forums:

My user ID on SHC was "Jester".  I'm almost positive the thread I made the post into was in the "EVE General" section, and I'm almost positive that the thread was called "2011 Predictions" or something very close to that.  I'm also pretty sure that I made my post sometime between December 10 and December 15 of last year.  My post wasn't on the first page.  It was on page five or so of that thread.  Unfortunately, you can't search that archive as far as I can tell, and even worse, I can't seem to go more than 5 pages back in the "EVE General" section.  But even that seems fairly random.  Try clicking the "117" to go 117 pages back, for instance.  That works.

You can get the full text of one of my predictions in the first link of this blog post, but don't bother Googling it.  Wayback Machine also appears to be of no help.  It looks like they did their last actual pull of the database in October, before my post was made.

Finally, you can't seem to pull all the posts made by an individual member, either, but if you want to try going that route, here's my user profile on the SHC archive:

Anybody think they have the solution to this?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fit of the Week: Utter fail

I'm going to wrap up "Hybrid month" at FOTW with a ship that is almost completely fail in every way:

[Eagle, Gotta Beep Somebody]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Power Diagnostic System II

10MN MicroWarpdrive II
Sensor Booster II, Targeting Range
Invulnerability Field II
Photon Scattering Field II
Large Shield Extender II

250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
Standard Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Bloodclaw Light Missile

Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Ancillary Current Router I

Dear Heaven, does this ship suck.

On paper, you'd look at the bonuses the Eagle gives you and think "huh, that's not so bad", right?  It's a sniper with a strong resist tank... heywaitaminute.  It's a sniper with a strong resist tank?  Yeah... sorta.  It's reasonably clear that when the stats for the ship were being put together, someone had "Beagle" in mind: blaster Eagle.  In short, the Cerberus was likely intended as a long-range missile thrower whereas the Eagle was intended as a shield version of the Deimos.  And in that configuration, there's an argument to be made for the boat, since it does 400 DPS, about the same as a Vagabond, and it has a stronger tank thanks to the resists.

Unfortunately, the Vagabond goes quite literally twice as fast as the Eagle and has a drone bay, so Beagles never got any traction.  The standard Beagle fitting currently relies on an ACR rig and usually on a PDS2 as well.  With the grid requirements for Heavy Neutron blasters going down by 20% or so, that ACR should soon no longer be required.  It'll be quite interesting to see if the Beagle gets a new lease on life, perhaps in a dual-Polycarb rig/Overdrive Injector configuration.  I'm not counting on it, though.  That same 20% grid buff is going to do wonderful things for the blaster Deimos.  We're gonna see some wicked web/neut/heavy tank Deimos fits in a couple of months.  I've already bought my first Deimos hull in preparation.

So, OK, maybe the rail Eagle was the intent of the designer.  That's why there's no drone bay: it doesn't need one because it's going to stand off a good ways and snipe.  Right?  Right?

Maybe.  I doubt it.  But maybe.  And certainly not now.  After December, the sniper Eagle is done, done, done.  In a couple of months, there will literally not be any reason, whatsoever, to undock in a sniper Eagle.  A sniper Catalyst will have a good chance of out-damaging an Eagle with all the buffs destroyers are getting.

And that's just sad.

I compared the Eagle to a similarly-configured Muninn in a post ten days ago, so I'm not going to do it again.  Instead, I'll just lay down the pathetic stats: 170 DPS at 136+14km.  37k EHP tank.  1350 m/s.  No drone bay.  A utility high that you can put a Standard Missile Launcher or Small Neut into.  Dual Ancillaries are needed today.  In a couple of months, they can be removed.  But the only thing that will help is either further increasing the tank (at the cost of blowing up its sig even more and making it Oracle meat), or maybe extending the locking and firing range a bit.  DPS will also increase thanks to the rail damage buff... to a whole 187.

As the target closes range, you can switch to Caldari Navy Antimatter.  That'll get you close to 300 DPS (330 this winter), but hell, a Drake can do that, at one-fifth the cost, longer range, and with many fewer skill points needed.

Funny, true story: there was a stretch of almost a year there where the Eagle's description didn't have the ship's class name in it.  I reported it as a bug, the bug was acknowledged as valid, and a half-dozen patches large and small went into the game before anyone bothered to change this little bit of text field.  Guess the devs figured that nobody else would notice.  ;-)

I own an Eagle hull to this day: it was the only sniper hull I could fly back when fast shield snipers were popular.  But I haven't undocked in it in two years.  This ship sucks, and winter isn't gonna help.  To be even somewhat even close to worth considering, the Eagle needs CCP to put a 280mm Railgun mod into the game and add a sixth turret slot.

Whew!  So much for "hybrid month."  Too many Caldari and Gallente ships lately.  It'll be nice to get back to the other races for a while.  I haven't done a pirate faction ship in a long time.  But that'll be the second week of November.  The dice roll for next week's FOTW came up "Amarr/PvE".

Take your game up a notch

Since my promise (or threat) to increase my blogging frequency a bit, I decided to move the blogs and websites I'm linking to from the bottom of the page to the right side of the page below the archive.

This gives both sections room to spread out a bit.  I've already started combing through my EVE website list looking for additional sites I want to add.  I want to concentrate on factual sites, general references, and stuff that's pretty newbie-friendly, plus the obligatory links to Failheap and Kugu.  If you can think of any obvious websites I'm missing along those lines, please feel free to make suggestions.  I'm looking to expand that section to 20 sites or so.  At this time, I don't particularly want to link to really specialized sites, though I might start a second list of links for that kind of thing later.

Which brings me to my linked blogs.  I've decided I'm gonna split my linked blogs into two sections.  The first will be "Important but Infrequent": bloggers that I think have important things to say but are rare posters.  People like Mord Fiddle, Seleene, Trebor, Mynxee, TeaDaze, and the like will go into this section.  That will allow me and people who visit here to keep an eye out for posts from them without cluttering up my main blog section.

For the main section, I'd like to list a dozen or so total blogs.  I could obviously just start linking to blogs in the EVE Blog Pack, but I don't want to do that.  I'm already linking to both EVEOGANDA and the Blog Pack itself.  Besides, I want to do something a bit different with my linked blogs.  I read a ton of blogs right now.  I directly follow about 15 or so, and indirectly follow another 15.  Most are EVE Blog Pack members today (and most, amusingly, are pirate blogs(1), but that's another story).  But the typical posting frequency of the blogs I read is four or five times a month.

I'd like to link some blogs from writers who are willing to take their game up a notch.  And given the number of people cheerfully willing to tell me how "retarded" I am, I'd also like to link some blogs from writers who really know what they are about when it comes to EVE Online.

Are you?  Do you?  Link in the comments, please.  :-)

(1) And most of those are Tuskers.  Go Tuskers!


I want to take one more pass at the CCP lay-off topic before I leave it alone, because I feel like something's being missed.(1)

Last month, I wrote a pair of posts looking at CCP's "refocusing and reprioritization" devblog from an alarmist's view and an optimist's view.  I'm going to do the same thing in this post, but don't worry: this is short enough that it'll fit easily into one blog post.  And indeed, there are two equally correct ways to look at this lay-off in terms of EVE's future going forward.

The truth, however, is going to end up being somewhere in the middle.

Seleene, a former CCP employee, lays out one view (edited slightly):
Even with the 20% layoffs, CCP is still much bigger than it was in the past when the company was solely focused on one product...  With no Incarna or MT bullshit to distract them, and with ALL of the remaining resources devoted to EVE development? Even bad math says that the number of people / teams working on EVE is about to triple or quadruple. That equates to the potential for an Apochrypha-like expansion every 6 months.
And this is absolutely true.  We've been told for months how many teams CCP had working on EVE.  We were told that several teams were "loaned" to the Incarna effort and that after :18months: were over, that flying-in-spaceships would be getting them back.  I'm hearing reliable rumors from virtually every source I have that while FiS, DUST, and even some very limited WoD development will be continuing, it's Incarna and establishments that are going on the far back burner.

New players will be shown the Captain's Quarters, to be sure, but it looks like that is going to serve as just a more gentle introduction into the game.  Once you figure out where Corp recruiting and the Agent Finder (which is excellent, by the way) and Planetary Interaction and ship fitting are in the normal EVE interface, it seems expected for now that you'll dial back or eliminate your use of CQ.

Therefore, that should indeed leave a hell of a lot more people free to work on FiS, which should result in a lot more development for it.  So that's one view, and it's totally valid.  It's also a view that CCP has publicly embraced, with CCP Soundwave stating:
We used to have very rich expansions, and that's what we're going back to. The number of people working on things related to flying in space has probably tripled, so we are ready to start delivering a load of content.
"Let's go back to doing what we are good at," he adds in the same interview.  Great stuff.

Now let's flip the coin.

In a well-written blog post written by Shae Tiann of Veto, she reveals "I am one of the 20%."  I encourage you to go out and give it a read.  It's worth your time.

Now that you've read it, I want to focus on the second half of it.  The first half, regarding the NeX and what Shae calls "Bonused Gear" and its effect on non-consensual PvP, is a very important topic that's going to become even more important as this year draws to a close.  Still, it's not something I want to cover right now.  No, I want to stick to the other half, regarding the lay-off itself.  Here's the key phrase:
Some of these people have been here for YEARS and were right in the middle of important projects for the upcoming expansions. They know more about their part of game development than anyone else in the company.

When you have a lay-off, particularly one that takes place very quickly with little notice as this one was, you lose a ton of what's called "tribal knowledge."  The phrase is just a tiny bit condescending-sounding, but is accurately describes things in a company that are known only to a few, that generally are not documented and are only kept in someone's head.  EVE is chock-full of tribal knowledge, and I'd bet money that CCP is as well.  And when you lose those people, you lose that tribal knowledge.

The net result of this is that while Seleene's statement that the FiS team is sure to grow rapidly, I'm not sure we should expect great things from this expanded EVE team right away.  They're going to need some time to discover, account for, and adjust for all that's been lost.  And that's before you take the morale hit that the team is taking into consideration.  As Shae correctly points out, a lot of CCP employees are getting it from both ends right now: from management, cutting costs, and from players themselves, raging at the situation, or raging at CCP, or simply unsubscribing (again).

In the meantime, CCP is doing what they can do right now: filling the existing player's wish list.  I've talked about that already.

There was a widely circulated article in Massively the other day that included information provided by one or more insiders affected by or familiar with the lay-offs.  Most of the information in that article was stuff that we already knew.  More was (understandably) bitter insider railing against management that is still "talking down" to players.  Over the years, I've come to learn that I need to take these sorts of things with a very large grain of salt.  The insider doing the talking is almost certainly extremely angry at what he's been put through.  Still, one quote struck me as both insightful and probably true:
"All prior release planning is basically in the trash."
Yeah... that one I can believe.

So expect good things to come from EVE, by all means.  Just don't expect them fast.

(1) Before I start, full disclosure: the blog I'm going to reference in this post is written by a member of Veto alliance, who are blue to Rote Kapelle, of which I am a member.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Welcome to the jungle

The sound you just heard was that of every single bittervet PvPer in EVE's history planning to resub, so they could use tier 3 battle cruisers as suicide ganking platforms.  ;-)
Obi-Wan: I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.
The other sound you just heard was that of every carebear in Empire starting to freak out.

Today has been full of news about the four new tier 3 battle cruisers that will be released as part of the winter expansion:
  • the Amarr Oracle;
  • the Caldari Naga;
  • the Gallente Talos; and,
  • the Minmatar Tornado.
I last wrote about the Tornado about a month ago, and I can't help but wonder if including it in this expansion was part of the original plan, or if I nudged someone important into thinking "oh yeah, that".  ;-)  About a month before that, I wrote a post that formalized the concept of a "heavy stealth bomber."  This is an idea that's been around for a long while: a battle cruiser platform that would be a credible threat to capital ships.  In my proposal, I suggested thin tanks and use of a larger version of the bombs that can be used in null.

CCP went another direction with the idea.(1)  But sure enough, that's the concept behind these four ships: battle cruiser platform, check.  Threat to capital ships?  Check check.

The Tornado was reintroduced in a devblog a few days ago, after a very coy picture of the ship appeared on Twitter.  This morning, early, a second such teaser picture was released.  It's hard to say which of the remaining three ships we're looking at here (concentrate on the monitor to the left).  The lines and the goofy profile strike me as Caldari, but go through the comments on that pic and you'll see just as many guesses for Gallente and Amarr.

An hour or so after that, we got the first surprise database leak.  And a few hours after that, the leak became a flood.  See my own first blog post this morning for that.

But let's step back and look at these four ships in isolation.  And let's be clear right now: these ships are terrifying monsters that are going to change the face of EVE Online.

I've been focusing on the Tornado today, but others are looking closely at the remaining three, and it's entirely possible that the Tornado is going to end up being the weakest of these ships.  The Talos is going to do upwards of 1400-1500 DPS at under 12km, making it the single most powerful gank ship in the game if it gets close to you (and it's the only one of the four with drones).  The Naga is going to be doing upwards of 750 DPS with torpedoes and moves at 2500m/s, which may bring back a new age of "cavalry fit" ships.  Certainly, it will likely become the new go-to class of ship for quick undefended tower bashes.(2)  And with its tracking bonus, the Oracle should have no problem striking down cruisers beyond Drake range with 500 DPS... or doing 350 DPS at 190km with beams...

But in their actual role... yeah.  These are scary ships.  In the game of rock-paper-scissors that often characterizes EVE, they are one hell of a big rock.  And they're aimed firmly at every carrier, dreadnought, super carrier, and titan in the game.  Mittens is already planning what to do to supercaps with these.  ;-)

I, however, am looking somewhat closer to the center of the universe.  Make no mistake: once this expansion hits, the age of officer-fitting or deadspace-fitting L4 mission battleships is OVER!  These are the ultimate suicide gank platform.  With battle cruiser priced insurance and suicide-gank fitting, even small groups of these will end anyone silly enough to undock with too-shiny fittings.  We might even see the loss of whole incursion battleship fleets in lower-security Empire systems.  Anyone flying a freighter carrying much of anything is going to have to look over their shoulder.  You're going to see whole fleets of these wandering the Jita pipes and the mission hubs looking for someone to kill.

Yeah, these are scary ships.  Maybe just a bit too scary right now.  I'm just guessing, but I think we're going to see these ships get dialed back a bit before they get released.

One last thing: someone at CCP has a really great sense of humor.  There's a hidden joke in the names of these ships.  While tornadoes are obviously real enough, the other three names deal with things that are primarily mythological.  ;-)

EDIT (25/Oct/2011): One other last thing.  I just realized what the destroyer buff was partially about.  ;-)

(1) That said, I'm totally OK with some version of my proposal being the tech 2 versions of these ships.  ;-)
(2) If my math is accurate, with good skills, one Hydraulic Bay Thrusters rig will get those torps out beyond 30km.

Bonus FOTW: Pre-launch Tornado!

I present to you the very first Tornado fit ever:

[Tornado, Alphafleet]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Tracking Enhancer II

Y-T8 Overcharged Hydrocarbon I Microwarpdrive
Warp Disruptor II
Invulnerability Field II
Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II

1200mm Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP L
1200mm Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP L
1200mm Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP L
1200mm Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP L
1200mm Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP L
1200mm Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP L
1200mm Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP L
1200mm Artillery Cannon II, Republic Fleet EMP L

Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Core Defence Field Extender I

If my math is accurate, this fit requires a 3% CPU implant, and that's all.  That's no problem for me, because Ripard keeps one of those in his head at all times.  If your character doesn't, then a Nanofiber Internal Structure II can go where that Tracking Enhancer is on mine.

Again, if my math is accurate, this ship will have just shy of a 5000 point alpha, will do about 500 DPS, and will have an absolutely freakish falloff... 24+88km with EMP L... but I'm not sure I believe that.  24+55km would seem to be the minimum that I can expect out of this boat.  Not too shabby at all!  And there's plenty of cargo space for holding that large ammo.  No drone bay at all that I can see, though.

The downside?  Dear Heaven, is this ship thin.  Again, counting on my math to be accurate, I think you can expect about 35k EHP, centered on a shield of 6500-7000 HP with 60-70% resists.  That's not as bad as a Recon and it's better than virtually any cruiser, but it's nothing like what we've come to expect from EVE battle cruisers.  Yesterday on Kirith Kodachi's blog, I brought up the comparison of the 15 U.S. "heavy cruisers" of World War II, and I think that's going to be the most apt comparison.  U.S. heavy cruisers featured very fine guns but their armor was laughably thin and their torpedo blisters were non-existent.  That's about what you're going to be able to expect from these "battle cruisers".

EDIT (25/Oct/2011): I've renamed this one "Alphafleet".  The more I look at the 800mm AC version, the more I think CCP is going to have to gimp this ship before it's even released.  It's too scary.

EDIT (25/Oct/2011): Here's the auto-cannon fit:

[Tornado, Autocannon]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Tracking Enhancer II

Y-T8 Overcharged Hydrocarbon I Microwarpdrive
Warp Disruptor II
Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II

800mm Repeating Artillery II, Hail L
800mm Repeating Artillery II, Hail L
800mm Repeating Artillery II, Hail L
800mm Repeating Artillery II, Hail L
800mm Repeating Artillery II, Hail L
800mm Repeating Artillery II, Hail L
800mm Repeating Artillery II, Hail L
800mm Repeating Artillery II, Hail L

Medium Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Core Defence Field Extender I

Still needs a 3% CPU implant.  Basically a super-Vagabond with no drones. 775 DPS at 3+30 or so. About 40k EHP. I'm having a hard time with the speed calc. It keeps coming up 1800m/s with Acceleration Control V, and I keep not believing it... Can someone check my math? I'm having a hard time with the mass.

EDIT: Math confirmed.

I'll have more to say about the Tornado and its cousins shortly.

I'm detecting a leak

Warning: what's below might just be a troll.

However, if it is a troll, it's a remarkably well-written and -conceived one.

From what I understand, there was a database update affecting the Singularity test server in the last couple of days.  The database update was only in place for a few hours, but EVE players being what they are, someone did a pull of the database.  I've saved a copy for my own use.  I myself was pointed to it on Twitter at Pastebin.

Again, there's nothing saying that the changes listed in this pull are anything approaching accurate.  Still, this has the feeling of being legit.  All of the changes we were told to expect are included, there's nothing particularly outrageous included, and the format and structure look correct.  So, feel free to go through the list at your leisure.  I certainly will, and I'll have more to say about it.

EDIT: OK, looks like it's not a troll!  CCP Konflikt has confirmed that these numbers are legit, but they haven't been balanced and they'll change before these changes hit TQ.  Still, the gist of what's here is probably accurate.

The good news: these changes represent, in my opinion, some well thought-out and deliberated rebalances to a large number of ships and modules in the game.  With any luck at all, these changes are just the first iteration of what will hopefully be repeated and frequent ship rebalancing going into 2012.

In the meantime, here's what appears to be changing, from a quick read through:
  • Most Caldari and Gallente ships (i.e., naturally hybrid-using ships) are getting slight agility buffs.
  • Many ships are getting slight speed increases (5-10m/s, mostly).
  • The Logistics warp speed bump is included.
  • The Dramiel nerf is included: increased mass, decreased speed, decreased scan res, decreased grid and CPU.
  • The capital and super-capital changes previously advertised are included, including the Siege Module I change.
  • All destroyers are getting buffed: greatly decreased sig, more buffer, more cap.
  • It also looks like the destroyer ROF nerf might be getting removed.
  • The Oneiros is being almost completely reworked, with +200 grid(!), +1 low slot, -1 mid slot, higher speed, and slightly lower sig.
  • Hybrids in general are getting greatly decreased cap needs, plus slightly lower CPU needs.
  • Railguns are getting +10% more damage.  Most will need less grid.
  • Blasters are getting +20%(!) tracking.  Many will need less grid.  No additional range.
  • Some T2 ammo types are being further tweaked.  For instance, Javelin is getting a tracking bonus and Hail is getting a fall-off bonus.
  • The Naga, Oracle, Talos, and Tornado are included (more about these in my next post).
  • There are Tech 2... gang links included, in all four types.
  • MAPC, Core Probe Launcher, Expanded Probe Launcher, Siege Module, Triage Module, and Remote Hull Reppers are getting T2 versions.
  • All of the above modules need Level V in their respective skills.
  • There's a new mod included called a "Process-Interruptive Warp Disruptor", whatever that means.  Might just be a test mod, or might be a new meta mod.
  • There are also new mods included that are "5-player" versions of the current T2 Remote Reppers.  Again, might just be test mods.
  • But there's also a "Data Subverter I" mod, which might not be a test mod.  It's a mid-slot module.
  • Drone Navigation Computer, Omnidirectional Tracking Link, and Drone Link Augmentor are getting T2 versions, requiring Level V skills.
  • Capital and Small Tractor Beams are getting T2 versions, requiring... you guessed it... Level V skills.
  • Bomb Launcher and Warp Disruption Field Generator are getting T2 versions.  More Level V skills needed.
  • Various meta modules are being renamed to remove their Roman numeral Is.
  • A few officer fitting mods are getting buffed.
  • Something is happening to the Rook, Falcon, and Onyx (but not the Eagle), but I'm not sure what: "gfxBoosterID: 397.0 => 395.0".
  • Something might be happening to the Deimos.  There's a DB entry here marked "Deimos Old" but no corresponding "Deimos New" (yet).

As I said, all very good changes!  I could wish for the blaster range buff that I advocated for last week, but the increased ship speeds and agility are a good first step.  I'm worried a bit about that +20% tracking being used to one-shot small ships that stray too close to a large blaster boat... but hell, maybe that's what should happen to them.

What do you think?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quote of the Week: Spaceship business

There's really only one quote that I can pick:
Hilmar Pétursson: We are back in the spaceship business.
This, of course, from the interview that Hilmar gave Eurogamer late last week.  And in any other context, this single statement would have been cause for wild, raucous celebration.  Except...

...dear God, has this been a schizophrenic week for CCP.  When I was in school, I studied Communications because I was really interested in it as a topic.  But I quickly realized I didn't want to get into it as a career.  This past week illustrated a lot of good reasons why.  Every single day last week was full of good news for EVE Online.

Every single day except one, that is.

And that one day ended up setting the tone for CCP's week.

Hell, until that day happened, I was going to go with this for the QOTW:
More importantly it feels like CCP has finally started to gain the upper hand again on the news front, and that is good news for everyone.
That one is from Rixx Javix at EVOGANDA five days ago.  I not only agreed with Rixx, I said something very similar myself last week, stating that if it hadn't been for the lay-offs, we'd all look back on this week as the week that CCP finally turned it around.  Man, how the news cycle changed in such a short time.

Communications is such a subjective topic when it comes to mixing good news and bad news.  Even when the good news was delivered with the bad, as it was in the Eurogamer interview, a lot of players didn't want to hear it.  I've heard from so many people this past week telling me variants of "I'm so pissed at CCP's actions right now that I'm thinking about unsubbing again."  Not only does that render the 20% sacrifice worthless (and might even hurt those who were forced to make it), but it shows off in stark contrast how much one piece of horribly bad news can overshadow any amount of good news.

Fortunately, people seem to have calmed down some over the weekend, so we'll see how things go heading into the winter expansion.

Best in class

RixxJavix and I (and others) are having a discussion this morning on Twitter about "best in class" ships for each ship class.  He's bemoaning the fact that the Gallente have few or none of them, which set me thinking about the topic.  And if I had to choose best ship in each class (excluding pirate and faction ships), I'd probably go with the following:
  • Assault Ship: Tough one!  Jag would be up there, as would the Ishkur, Enyo, and the recently-upgraded rocket Hawk.  I'm gonna go with Gallente/Enyo.  It's hard to argue with that much DPS and tank, and it can take its DPS with it if it has to run away.
  • Battle Cruiser: No question.  Minmatar/Hurricane.
  • Battleship: Another tough one.  I'm gonna go with Minmatar/Tempest, though, for its versatility.
  • Black Ops: Amarr/Redeemer, for the DPS.
  • Carrier: Gallente/Thanatos.  Though the Archon's abilities as a triage carrier are undeniable.
  • Command Ship: Minmatar/Sleipnir.  Claymore is also awesome, though the Amarr ones are also excellent.
  • Covert Ops: Caldari/Buzzard, again for versatility.
  • Cruiser: Not even a contest.  Minmatar/Rupture.
  • Destroyer: Same.  Minmatar/Thrasher.
  • Dreadnought: Right now, Gallente/Moros.  After the dread drone nerf, though, Amarr/Revelation.
  • EAF: Maybe a controversial choice, but I'm gonna go with Amarr/Sentinel.  Death in a tiny package.
  • Frigate: No question.  Minmatar/Rifter.
  • HAC: Another tough one.  Probably Amarr/Zealot, though the Vag and Ishtar are also quite good.
  • HIC: I personally like the Caldari/Onyx, though the Broadsword has a lot of fans.
  • Interceptor: My personal favorite is Gallente/Taranis, though there are LOTS of good ones.
  • Interdictor: Minmatar/Sabre, though all of them have their charms.
  • Logistics: Minmatar/Scimitar, though all of them except the Oneiros are fine ships.
  • Marauder: Amarr/Paladin.  Does everything a Marauder needs to do, and nothing it doesn't.  Though the Golem is also great.
  • Recon: Toughest choice, for me.  I love them all.  But I think I'll have to go with Caldari/Falcon.
  • Rookie Ship: Gallente/Velator, for the drone bay.
  • Stealth Bomber: The Caldari/Manticore is so versatile, it's hard to pick anything else.  But the Minmatar/Hound with its POS-bashing DPS is soooo tempting.
  • Strat Cruiser: Caldari/Tengu, again for versatility, which is what strat cruisers are supposed to be about.
  • Titan: For my money, the Gallente/Erebus, though the Avatar has a definite cachet.

And for the non-combatants with more than one race to choose from:
  • Capital Industrial: Caldari/Orca.
  • Freighter: Caldari/Charon.
  • Industrial: Gallente/Iteron Mark V.
  • Transports: Gallente/Viator.

Those are my choices.  Where did I fail?

EDIT (24/Oct/2011): Certainly failed by forgetting freighters.  Added my choice.  Almost chose the Provi for how nice it looks and its (relatively) quick align time, but at the end of the day, what is a freighter about?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bad press

Why did you start playing EVE Online?

Some of my new alliance-mates and I, in between two roaming fleets and a home defense op today (<3 Rote so far, but that's another story), got into an extended conversation, one of the topics of which was how and why all of us started playing the game.  I raised the opinion that I bet a lot of people in the Teamspeak channel started playing EVE because they had heard about or read about or listened to a story in which some EVE player had been horribly awful to some other EVE player.  There is a certain type of person, that once they hear about such a story... want to do the same thing.

And so they start playing EVE so that someday, they can do that.

I've mentioned this concept before, briefly, when I was looking at EVE log-in numbers as part of my "Some curves aren't" piece, but didn't really delve into then.  And I'm not really sure I can do the topic full justice now.  Still, it deserves some exploration.

For many EVE players, the story that brought them in was the first great heist/assassination by the Guiding Hand Social Club.  It's not outside the realm of possibility that this single action brought in more EVE players than any other single action in the game's history.  It garnered huge, huge press in the gaming websites at the time.  And it caused thousands of budding assassins and corp thieves to start playing this game.

And when I raised the opinion that many of the people on Teamspeak had joined for this reason, I got general agreement.  One even directly reminded me of the GHSC story as his reason for joining.

EVE hasn't had such a story make the news in some time.  And that's really kind of funny if you think about it.  Because the news just this year in terms of failed or back-stabbed alliances, corp theivery, and scamming, has been huge.  We've had the DRF take-over of the NC thanks in part to someone up north leaving the back door unlocked for them.  We've had a near trillion ISK corp theft.  We had the biggest Ponzi scheme theft in EVE history.

Not only did none of these items make the gaming press, but the last had become so obscure (in only two months!) that I had forgotten the name of the site that pulled it off!(1)

But of course, we know what the gaming press has been covering about EVE this year, don't we?

It's been bad press, all right.  But it's been out of game bad press.

Today, on his Sins of a Solar Spymaster column at Ten Ton Hammer, Mittens wrote a short piece about a Titan buy scam, and about the GSF interdiction of blue ice.  It strikes me as nothing less than an attempt to jump-start the EVE in game bad press engine.

Now that EVE is going to be a flying-in-space game to the potential permanent exclusion of other opportunities, EVE is gonna need something to bring new players into the game.  Is bad press the way to go?  It does have the virtue of having worked for EVE in the past.

Why did you start playing EVE Online?  Discuss.

(1) Thanks to Mara Rinn and others on Tweetfleet for remembering for me.  :-)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

There's a really compelling interview with Hilmar Pétursson out, published by Eurogamer.  If you haven't read it, you simply must.

Go read it in full.  I'll wait.

OK, first thing.  This interview is really just an extension of Hilmar's very public falling on his sword 16 days ago.  Has it really been so short a time?  Yes.  It really has.  I don't know about you, but that devblog feels like it was released an age ago.  In particular, Hilmar says three times, in three different ways, that he feels accountable for the decisions that he had to make for the survival of the company.  The big, big question is going to be how clearly that feeling of accountability is going to translate itself to the managers below Hilmar.

Trebor asked the question this way on his own blog and it really is a key question:
Are you really sincere about this change of direction by CCP, or do you consider the refocusing on EVE just a temporary bump in the road?
This is just gut instinct on my part, but I personally feel like the message is going to get through loud and clear.  This is a major refocus, not a speed-bump.  My gut instinct does have one small basis in fact: one of the people let go was CCP Hammerhead, aka Noah Ward.  Ward, you'll recall, was not only the main champion of Incarna, he was also what appeared to be the main champion of metric-focused game design and of pigeon-holing players into groups and designing Skinner boxes for their play styles.

A lot of people seem to be sad to see him go.

I have to be honest with you: I'm not one of them.

I think letting him go was the right move.  He was a major driver that took EVE down what we can now see was the wrong road.  But whether you think I'm right or wrong about this, one thing is clear enough: it signals a major shift in CCP policy, not a minor speed-bump.  So while Trebor's question was right on and kudos to him for asking it, I think we've got a pretty good idea of what the answer to it is.

If you doubt it, go re-read Hilmar's answer to the questions about the NeX store and about Establishments.  That answer seems to underline the fact that we shouldn't expect to see Establishments for a good, long while.  If the focus is being removed from the NeX, it stands to reason that the focus is also being removed from the main reason for the NeX: the clothes that we'd be able to show off to each other in the Establishments.  I think there's a damn good chance at this point that we're going to see the Establishments code moved to the DUST platform and the concept introduced there first, where micro-transactions were built into the game design right from day one.

Hell, at no point during the interview does Hilmar even use the word "establishments".

When asked about developers specifically tasked to EVE, Hilmar had this to say:
So I would say we have never had as many people adding direct product value to Eve. We're way more focused on that than we've ever been. The really big change here is that we're now more focused on the classical Eve experience that people have come to know and love. That's the go-forward plan.

I've heard a lot of unsubstantiated rumors from various sources indicating that the EVE team was hit harder than the World of Darkness team by the lay-offs.  Honestly, even if that's true (and I have serious doubts), I think it's just as likely that the best of both teams were kept and those developers that were on WoD that survived are going to find themselves retasked in pretty short order.  So, even if that rumor has some truth to it, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's a non-issue.

What is an issue, though, is the overall feel of the interview from start to finish: this is a man that has -- at least temporarily -- lost his mojo.  The interview really underlines something that I had been feeling, but couldn't really put into words.  Now I can.  When it came out, I called the devblog by CCP Zulu a "love letter", and that's what it is.  But that phrase "love letter" has a second, darker context when used in this way.  It represents a ploy that's just a little bit... desperate.

The list of things going into the winter expansion is a practically a wish-list of player desires going back years, and that's no bad thing.  But CCP has always put out its best expansions when it has swung for the fences, aiming at their own vision.  For many years, Kevin Smith was one of my favorite writers and directors.  Then he put out a movie called Jersey Girl.  He later revealed that it was supposed to be the movie that launched him out of the niche director market and into the mainstream consciousness as a major comedy writer.  He was looking for an order of magnitude jump in his fan-base.  He tried again with a second movie a couple of years later.  It didn't happen then either, and it shattered his confidence.  He's never recovered, and his career has been in a death spiral ever since.

Don't get me wrong: the winter expansion has a lot of really exciting, fun stuff in it.  It's stuff that the players have asked for, and that's no bad thing.  I'm as excited about a lot of these features as anyone.

But not a single player asked for Apocrypha.  There needs to be a balance between what we as players want, and CCP blowing our socks off with what they want.

So let's collectively hope that Hilmar and the rest of CCP gets their mojo back in short order.

P.S. There was a fire-cracker of a question asked in this interview about CSM6, but I think that question and its response deserves its own blog post.  But don't look for it any time soon.  I want to think on that one a bit.

Friday, October 21, 2011

No-win scenario

Let's look at the other side of the loss of a good portion of the Community team.

By necessity, this is going to be a shorter post than yesterday's.  Why?  Because by the very nature of what happened, there aren't a lot of positive things I can say about it.  A lot of good people have lost their jobs, and that is a tragedy.

Still, let's look at what positive things we, as EVE players, can pull out of this mess.

It's tempting to look at this loss from the stand-point of a very circular argument.  Here's how it goes.
  • CCP does a lot of really dumb things.
  • I am a customer.  This makes me angry.
  • CCP responds by laying off important members of the customer support team.
  • I think this is a really dumb move.
  • I am a customer.  This makes me even more angry.
Get into this circle and you will soon find yourself getting madder and madder and madder.  It's completely understandable.  People right up to Mittens himself found themselves on this circle.

But let's take a step back.  Remember: as I said yesterday, this lay-off was the inevitable result of poor management decisions that led us to this point.  20% of CCP employees were going to lose their jobs.  That became unavoidable once the scope of CCP's activities were going to be reduced.  Remember: Incarna was supposed to bring in a whole new type of EVE player.  It isn't happening.  Incarna was supposed to increase subscriptions.  That for the most part also isn't happening, either.

Given this, and given that the 20% reduction was inevitable, as a customer, which would you prefer?  Pick one of these options, and be honest with yourself.  Which would you rather see:
  1. A 20% reduction affecting developers, resulting in fewer expansions to the game we love, but a near-full-sized Community team trying to explain to us why EVE wasn't being developed; or,
  2. A 20% reduction affecting the Community team, resulting in a near-full-sized developer team, more expansions to the game we love, but a situation where we have to wait to learn about those expansions until they're ready to be announced?

Pick one.  Be honest with yourself.

It's a trick question.  I don't have to hear your answer to that question, because I already know the answer, for two reasons:
  1. We saw option one all last winter into this spring.  Lack of EVE development -- coupled with great communications about how long the lack would last (:18months:) -- was what caused you to be pissed off in the first place, remember?
  2. We're seeing option two right now.  If it weren't for the lay-off, all of this surprise good news about what's going to be in the winter expansion would be sending EVE players into unqualified celebrations of joy.
Make no mistake: the loss of so many faces so familiar to the EVE community was a severe blow.  But there are a lot of EVE developers out there that the community has never met that are still on duty, producing remarkable results with only a few weeks left before the winter expansion must be delivered.  As for the remaining Community team in CCP, they are pulling back together and trying to bring something positive out of this mess.

All we can do is try to help them, and try to help those who have started looking for the next step in their lives.

This was a no-win scenario, with no good choices.  I've offered the advice to try to stay positive to everyone I've heard about who is affected by this.  And that includes you if you're reading this.


As I've said a couple of times since I resubscribed, I knew that sooner or later, I was going to want to get into a new corp.  After more than a month of searching and considering, I'm pleased to report that I have applied to and been accepted to the Selective Pressure corp [FOVRA], part of the Rote Kapelle alliance.

This wasn't an easy choice, and I again want to thank all of you that sent me recruitment offers over the last several weeks.  But FOVRA's offer was one of those, and it immediately jumped into my top tier of possibilities.  It was incredibly flattering to me to receive an offer from them.  I've had a ton of respect for Rote for a long time.  They have a terrific, well-deserved reputation as some of the best -- if not the best -- small-gang PvPers in EVE, and small-gang stuff was my first love in this game.  I was then thrilled to discover that they're very active in my California TZ, a criteria that disqualified a lot of corps that I was considering.

Rote has a downside, and that downside would be devastating to a lot of players: they expect and demand that you leave your ego at the door until you've proven yourself with them.  They also expect perfect ship fitting, and they expect total discipline from their pilots.  I knew this going in.  I followed Rixx Javix's adventures with Lucifer's Hammer in Rote when they happened.  Still, I pride myself for being an anomaly on the Internet: if you tell me I'm wrong, and show me why I'm wrong, I will admit and accept that I'm wrong and change my position.  I also have an incredibly thick skin.  And when it comes to discipline, I'm a machine.  This blog proves that.  ;-)

Jimmy Dugan: Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!
Doris Murphy: Why don't you give her a break, Jimmy...
Jimmy Dugan: Oh, you zip it, Doris! Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pig-shit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry?
Evelyn Gardner: No, no, no.
Jimmy Dugan: Yeah! NO. And do you know why?
Evelyn Gardner: No...
Jimmy Dugan: Because there's no crying in baseball. THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No crying!

So yeah, I'm definitely in "shut up and learn" mode.  But... holy shit.  Holy shit, these guys are pro.  Again, I knew that going in.  But this is not a corp for beginners, or even intermeditate players.  Two years ago, I wouldn't have even been able to follow the conversations that I'm hearing.  A year ago, I could have followed the conversations, but I wouldn't have understood or accepted the conclusions.  And there's an expectation in Rote from the get-go that you know what you're about and you can handle yourself and your needs.  A lot of alliances -- most alliances -- have mentors to help you through your first month.  Not Rote.  If you need that kind of hand-holding... there are other alliances.

When I joined and was told Rote's home system, I immediately packed a couple of carriers with a broad selection from my stable of PvP ships, 15 ships in all, all BC and below.  I got API access to the forums as this was happening, and started trucking the carriers in.  My habit when I join a new alliance is to start with the ship-fitting section of the forums, and as I expected, this part of Rote's forums was extensive.  I started taking notes, concentrating on my first 15 ships.  Now of those 15, three of them were pretty specialized and not really anything where standard fittings are likely to exist (Buzzard, for instance).  Another was a type of ship that Rote doesn't even fly.  Of the remaining 11, I discovered to my horror that eight of them were fit in ways that Rote would find unacceptable for some reason.  Another, I classed as "maybe".  Only two of the 11 -- both faction frigates -- were clear "yeses", meaning that Rote would find them acceptable.(1)

Morpheus: Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize -- just as I did -- that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

Now granted, in a lot of cases, the problems with my fits were small ones.  5% here, 5% there.  But in EVE, sometimes 5% is the difference between winning and getting podded.

I didn't argue for my case.  I immediately started packing a Giant Secure Container in Empire with all the modules I'd need to make those eight ships right, and made plans to bring it in with the second wave of ships.  It pained me to watch fleets go out without me.  ;-)  But I wasn't about to take a non-approved fit out on a roam.  I could have asked to buy or borrow a ship, of course, but I gritted my teeth and accepted that the time would be better spent making my own ships right.  I'm really looking forward to getting out there with Rote, though.  These guys are going to teach me a lot.

So that's a big reason that I joined Rote: I want to take my game to the next level.  I recognize that there are a lot of ways that I can improve as a PvPer, and I feel certain that these guys can help me.

Other reasons?  As I said, an active California TZ was huge.  I've bitched before about how few corps have this.  Active small gangs were another big plus.  Pretty much every corp I was looking at focuses on either solo or small gang.  But there was one other factor that was also decisive: I decided I wanted to stick with null, rather than low-sec, wormhole, or joining a high-sec PvP corp.  I'm like a moth to a flame on this subject, and I know that I want nothing to do with sov fights any more.  But my instincts as a PvP pilot are always going to be around null-sec space.  I like dictors and bombing runs and not having to look over my shoulder for CONCORD or gate guns at every gate.  It also helped a lot that several in-game friends recommended Rote to me after I told them some of the corps I was considering.

A couple of guys have been nice enough to notice that I've been around, ask me questions, and find out what I'm up to.  One of Rote's more senior pilots did this the other night.  I'm pretty sure he didn't know me.  But he saw that I was new, asked what I thought and what I'd been doing, then asked a lot of pointed questions about my mind-set and attitude.  It was like a second interview, and I'd already been through a first (rather extensive) interview.  ;-)  I answered his questions, and he concluded "yeah, you'll do OK here."

So yes, Rote Kapelle feels like an excellent fit for me, and I'm thrilled to be a part of them.

Jennifer Mack: What's it doing?
David Lightman: Learning.

It's already had funny side-effects, though.  I have a pretty extensive collection of tactical bookmarks around Syndicate(2), where Rote lives, already.  Still, you can always have a better set, and there were a few systems where I didn't have any.  So since my faction frigates and the inties I brought in the second wave were in pretty good shape, fitting-wise, I've been using them and the time that I can't be in fleets profitably to get this task done.

Just last night, I was screaming around a pipe system in a speed-fit inty, building the tactical library, when I spotted a 14-man gang T1 cruiser and BC gang in-bound to Rote's home system.  I got on the intel channel and on TS3 and reported it, then warped to one of my tacticals to get a closer look at them and see how they were fit.  It was just 16 of us in system: this 14-man gang, a guy that had been hanging out in this system for a while, and me all by my lonesome in a Rote Kapelle-flagged interceptor.

The gang turned around and went back the way they came.  ;-)  Apparently, this isn't unique for a Rote-flagged pilot.  While I was listening in on TS3 a day or two ago, Bacchanalian, a well-known Rote pilot, did the same thing... in a pod.

Ah, Rote Kapelle, your reputation doth proceed you.  ;-)

Hopefully, one day, I can start adding to it.

(1) Now, that said, almost all the initial 15 were pretty standard go-to DPS ships.  I did a lot better with my special team ships, fortunately.  For instance, I was pleased as hell to note that my Falcon was fit dead on, as were my dictors, by and large.

(2) This will be my third time living here.

Kill of the Week: Attitude

This just made me smile:

Why?  Because it has a funny story to go with it.  I shall summarize, then we'll get to the post itself.  This player, who claims to have five million SP (and I have no reason to doubt him, based on the fit), decided to go into low-sec for a mission.  There, he ran afoul of The Tuskers, a very well-known low-sec piracy corp, who were in a fleet of shield BCs with a couple of scouts.  The Tuskers, as is their custom, demanded a ransom.  The pilot said no (more about this in a second).  The Tuskers proceeded to destroy him.

Now, the fit itself is rather awful: it's a (failed) attempt to make a drone-using Dominix cap-stable enough to run on MicroWarpdrive while running tractor beams and salvagers.  The pilot involved is not the first person to try this, but he might be the first person to fail quite this badly at it, and if he's out there reading this, I strongly encourage him to find a corp... or you know, at least find Battleclinic.

Now let's put that aside.

As I've implied several times on this blog, my job often involves hiring people, and I have a hard and fast rule when I do it.  If you've got the right mind-set and mental attitude coming into a job, I'm going to overlook a lack of training.  It's a quirk that I have.  If you're the very best at what you do, but you've got a bad attitude or a bad mind-set, that trade-off to me is not worth it.  Speaking as a manager, you're going to cause me more problems than the worth of those problems your technical aptitude will solve.  Whereas a person with a good attitude and mind-set... well, that person, I can train.

Let's look at his post in full:
Hey there, I was in 3 sec space doing a mission. I had a fleet warp in on me and request money to save my ship. First question, can someone link the site that lets me see who all killed me? So I can put them on my shit list. And second, would being in dreddit have made them not do what they did?

Edit: I had the money, but told them to shove it up their collective asses.

Edit: And sorry, I forgot the Eve sub is more active than the Dreddit sub. I'm just bummed right now that some dude named "CannibalCorpsZor" is selling my crap right now.

Let's look at it more closely:
Edit: I had the money, but told them to shove it up their collective asses.

Yes... yes.  This person... can be taught.  :-D  He's certainly got the right attitude.  It's just possible that he has a bright future in EVE.

I'll have more to say about this in a bit, but being in EVE is a constant journey, and you have to keep learning.  Your attitude about this will define your success or failure.  And life is just exactly the same way.  The instant you think you know everything about everything, and then let people know it, is the instant that some jerk like me is going to hire the know-nothing instead of you because your attitude sucks.  This person gets that, and was at least smart enough to start asking questions about why he lost his ship instead of raging that he lost his ship.

Skills count for a lot.  But mind-set and attitude count for more, because skill can be taught.