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...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I want to add a little clarification to my post earlier today regarding Clarion Call 3 (see below).  I posted this in the comments thread for that post, but I want to make sure this point does not get lost.
To all those that say I shouldn't expect to learn something from a video called "Clarion Call": you don't call something a sequel to something else if you're not going to follow the same pattern as the previous iterations. You just don't. The previous two CCs were chock full of good fights, educational information, and specific tactics. If CC3 wasn't going to deliver on that structure, then RnK should have called it something else. Simple as that. When you go to watch Scream 4, you expect it to bear more than a passing resemblance to Screams 1, 2, and 3.

Let's use a very basic, easy to understand example: CC1 and CC2 gave specific tactics surrounding triage carriers and spider-tank carriers, respectively. CC3 could have easily explained the tactics regarding all-neut Bhaalgorns. It would have both fit the previous CCs and would have fit within CC3 just fine. Why wasn't this info included? What would have been more useful? All the filler crap that was there? Or specific combat tactics that you could put to work in your own corps?

That's why this objection is not a "straw man." The very definition of sequel is "a work that is complete in and of itself, but continues the narrative of a preceeding work." Clarion Call 3 does not qualify.
To that I would add that RnK has put out a non-Clarion Call video lately.  It's called Ironclad.  It has 6000 views on YouTube.  CC3 has nearly 80,000.  A cynical man(1) might be tempted to say that CC3 got that name because the producer wanted to make sure that people would go out and watch it.

(1) Hush.

Call of the wild

Full disclosure: the following blog post is written by someone who is in an alliance that has Rooks and Kings set red.  I don't think this unduly influences the opinions below, but I have disclosed the relationship.  Judge for yourself.

In a comment regarding my dictors post on Monday, an anonymous commenter said (edited slightly):
It's easy to say "bring more dictors" until you are the guy who needs to bring the dictor. The biggest change isn't the aggression mechanic -- I don't have a big problem with that -- it's the fact that you can no longer jump, then bubble. So basically, if the dictor drops a bubble on a gate and and the fight isn't already won, the dictor is going to die.

And since nobody really like dying, people are going to stop flying dictors.
Yep.  That's a factor, all right.  Which brings to mind the Clarion Call videos.

Let me say straight out: I am a big, big fan of Clarion Call 1 and Clarion Call 2.  Both videos are -- simply put -- masterpieces.  Not only are they gripping, cinematic stuff, highlighting EVE combat in many forms, they are both highly educational videos.  The tactics used are explained, justified, and demonstrated, and it's left to the viewer to come to their own conclusions as to how effective those tactics are.  Even moreso, the viewer is then invited to -- and shown how to! -- implement those tactics themselves.  Both movies are also tightly written and edited, with nary a wasted minute.

Compared to them, Clarion Call 3 is garbage.

Yes.  I said it.  Clarion Call 3 is garbage.  It is arrogant, windy, over-hyped, under-edited, over-narrated, hugely over-long, and other than nine minutes late in the proceedings that actually shows a fight, it is dull dull dull dull dull.  And that's before you get into its obvious rewriting of history, with everything from skipped losses to not accepting responsibility for bad tactics to its obvious, obvious over-dubbing of Teamspeak conversations during its few battles to make that Teamspeak chatter more dynamic and dramatic.

If that wasn't bad enough, though, in my view, CC3 demonstrates nothing, teaches nothing, encourages nothing.  You could come out of CC1 excited about and ready to use triage tactics, and come out of CC2 excited about and ready to use spider-tanking carriers.  Both videos are terrific advertisements for Rooks and Kings because both of them cheerfully throw a hard fast ball right into your strike zone and dare you to try and hit it: "We're so confident in our tactics and our strategies that we're gonna give them away.  Sure, you could try to copy them.  But instead, you might even consider joining the inventors."

Neither of them tried to be Rooks and Kings ads, and as a result -- in very Zen fashion -- I'll bet they were fantastic Rooks and Kings ads.  By trying to be a Rooks and Kings ad, Clarion Call 3 fails at it.

But really, there's an even worse sin than this going on.

Clarion Calls 1 and 2 had a fatal flaw in my view, in that they overly romanticized risk aversion.  When CC3 was advertised on EVE News 24 as being a video produced by one of "the best PVP corps in the game" and involving another, it was pretty late at night, and in an off-hand way, I posted a comment before I'd even watched it:
"... two of the best PVP corps in the game ..."

Uh... OK. All respect to R&K. Their videos are spectacular and well-produced, and they are utterly fantastic at what they do. But what they do is provide risk-averse EVE players with a godhead to worship.

That isn't PvP. That's PvBrickWall.
Dear Heaven, did I catch a lot of flak for that comment.  ;-)  EN24 allows visitors to rate comments, and that comment's rating varied wildly between a high negative number and a low positive one.  One response asked me why I was hating on Rooks and Kings.  And I was stupid enough to actually answer:
It's not hate. I'd have to care more to hate. ;-) But you said it yourself: they pick their fights carefully, and plan how to win them with minimal or no losses. The converse is also true: if they aren't pretty sure they can win a fight, they won't take that fight. Hell, this video itself points out that the events in it span almost a year of planning.

I find it to be a rather stultifying way to play a game, that's all.

If I'm gonna play backgammon with a buddy, I don't take a month to watch how he plays backgammon, watch videos of him playing backgammon with others, learn his strategies and how to counter them, etc. I just get out the board. R&K operates differently, and if that's all it was, that'd be fine.

But they also have the unintended effect of convincing others that this is how everyone should play the game, with an eye toward planning and planning and planning to minimize loss and maximize victory chances. It's an effect on the game I could do without. EVE players are pretty risk-averse as it is without having that philosophy celebrated and championed.
And if my first comment drew a lot of flak, that second one generated a river of flame in my direction.  ;-)  It started out with a negative rating, and the more people that read it, the more negative the rating got.(1)

And that said, I stand by the comment.

Go to the Rooks and Kings Youtube "channel", and you're going to find the background image (as of this morning) is this:

It's a lovely screen-cap from CC3 of a couple of dozen battleships in the midst of a POS bash.  You'll find the actual POS bash in the CC3 video at about the 14:25 mark(2).  But the predominant feature of the image is yellow lines criss-crossing the screen like mad both in the screen-cap and the video.  The source appears to me to be at least eight Guardians.

Guardians... at a POS bash... representing a significant portion of the fleet.  Granted, a lot of them appear to be capping up Abaddons(3), but you know, there are equally valid ways to bash POSs that don't involve Abaddons.  Given the choice between 18 Abaddons and 6 Guardians, or 24 cap-stable POS-bashing Apocs, give me the Apocs.  The job will get done faster.

But of course, using the Apocs will be riskier.

There's a difference, both in life and in EVE, between managing risk and being completely risk averse.  And in my view, far too many EVE players err on the latter side.  EVE players, as a group, are too risk averse and celebrate risk aversion.  An example will suffice.  In the most recent changes to the new player experience before Incarna, CCP added a PvP-focused "combat tutorial" where the intent of the tutorial would be that you would lose your ship to a superior opponent and would have to get used to the idea of losing a ship.

EVE players quickly devised tactics and means of beating that mission without losing one's ship.

I'd say the intended message of that mission was lost during the strategy sessions.  ;-)

The other night, I was among a Rote Kapelle fleet that took on a much bigger Flatline. fleet.  We had no Logis and only one support ship.  Our opponents had multiple logis (not shown on the BR) and overwhelming support.  The only way this group would fight us was if we jumped into them.(4)  They already had an overwhelming numbers and support ship advantage, and wanted the field advantage, too.  We could have, and should have, walked away.  We had that option.

But what the hell kind of fun is that?

Despite a lack of Logis and support ships, we jumped in, took the fight, and thanks to superior FCing and superior skirmish tactics, we won the fight.  And I have to say, it was one of the most fun fights I've ever had in EVE.  My heart-rate just went up just reliving it.  Did we lose ships that night?  Sure!  But our losses were acceptable and replaceable.  And because we don't typically bring tons of support ships, other fleets will actually... you know... engage us.  So we actually get fights.  So we actually have fun.  Granted, not losing ships is nice, and planning is always a good thing, but I'd rather lose a ship or two and have fun then the alternative... which is not get a fight at all.

And even when it comes down to a fight, Logistics and Falcons are not the only way to win them.  Any PvE'er will tell you that you can beat a mission just as often by bringing lots of DPS and good tactics.  Enough DPS and enough good tactics, and you won't need to cycle that repper you brought along at all.  ;-)

You can manage risk without being risk averse.  The Clarion Call videos send a different message.

Sometimes, you have to answer a different sort of call... the call of the wild.

(1) One commenter told me "they'll stay and fight even if they might lose, you can hear it on their TS in the video!" completely missing or ignoring the rather obvious fact that a lot of the TS chatter in the video was over-dubbed later.

(2) No, POS bashes are not exciting even when they are in a Rooks and Kings video.

(3) Hell, to me, a couple of them appear to be 6x Large Energy Transfer fit, which is interesting.

(4) Which we would do only after we asked them nicely, multiple times, to back off the gate a little to give us at least somewhat of a fighting chance.  ;-)

Fit of the Week: Brawler Punisher

Part of CCP's push with Crucible is another attempt to bring newer players back into the game.  In honor of this, for the rest of 2011, my FOTWs are going to be focused on T1 ships that are a little bit easier to get into.  Let's start with one of the most basic combat frigs in the game, the Punisher.  Here is my favorite 1v1 or small-gang Punisher fit:

[Punisher, Brawler]
Damage Control II
Adaptive Nano Plating II
200mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Small Armor Repairer II

1MN Afterburner II
Warp Scrambler II

Dual Light Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S
E5 Prototype Energy Vampire
Dual Light Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S
Dual Light Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency S

Small Ancillary Current Router I
Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Energy Burst Aerator I

It's generally regarded that there are three types of fighters in the world of boxing: the inside fighter, the outside fighter, and the brawler.  Make no mistake: the Punisher is the brawler among the T1 frigs.  With only two mid-slots, there simply isn't a lot of room for finesse.  Kiting is a traditional counter-strategy for T1 frig fights in EVE, but Punishers aren't having any of that.  Even with Scorch fit, their max range is only 13km or so.  Punishers are among the slowest frigs, only able to get over 1000m/s on AB when over-heated.  There's so little finesse available to Punishers, in fact, that there are really only two successful strategies I've seen for winning frig engagements with them:
  • have someone in a friendly frig keep a point or scram on the target and drop the Punisher's scram for a web; or,
  • win a 1v1 engagement by winning the cap war.

This fitting goes for the latter strategy: you're attempting to pound both your enemy's ship and their cap into submission at the same time.  The idea is that once they realize the engagement isn't going to go their way and try to escape, they won't have enough cap to get away from you.  The alternative is depressing: if they realize early enough what you're doing, chances are they'll get away from you and you won't get a kill.

But, what brawlers generally excel at is fighting above their weight class.  That's the advantage the Punisher has over a lot of other frigs.

Therefore, the key success factor to using this fit is to use (almost overuse) overheating.  You have to burn down your own cap as you burn down the cap and ship of your enemy.  The Small Armor Repairer will be the key to this tactic.  Get it cycling as soon as the fight begins.  Your NOS is only going to affect your enemy after your cap percentage drops below theirs and you want the NOS working on them as soon as possible.

It's traditional to fit Medium Pulse Lasers to a Punisher.  By accepting the smaller guns, you're giving up about 15% of your potential DPS.  But you're gaining in both tracking and tank.  A Punisher fit this way tanks 50% more than any other T1 frig out there.  This will make you a credible threat above your weight class.  Close to about 3000 meters and fight there.  Since your target will probably be somewhat faster than you are, you'll almost certainly have to overheat your AB to stay in range, particularly if they try to kite you.  Once your cap and theirs drops to below 50% or so, overheat your guns.  You'll be able to overheat for 100 seconds or so, allowing you to pump out about 10k damage in that time.

Don't burn out your guns!  You're just trying to dry up their cap.  As you see that start to happen (i.e., as your own cap drops toward 30%), stop overheating your mods and finish trying to wear them down.

You should be able to do enough damage to break the tank of T1 cruisers, and the combination of your heavy tank and your SAR will let you tank those cruisers, too.  Like I said, we're brawling here.  ;-)  As you start to take armor damage, overheat the SAR.  It will also last about 100 seconds before burning out.  The accelerated cap usage from the SAR will accelerate your cap drain, which will accelerate the cap drain you inflict on your enemy via the NOS.  This is a battle of attrition.  First one to run out of cap or tank loses.

See to it that this happens to them, not you.

Good match-ups in this ship are non-kiting T1 and T2 frigs, and many T1 cruisers.  In addition to kiting ships, ships with multiple tracking disruptors will also give you trouble, particularly if those TDs are scripted for range.  Stay away from ships with four or more mid-slots.  Caldari Navy Hookbills (kiting ships with five mids) will be your worst enemy.  Rifters and other very fast frigs will probably just out-run you unless they badly misjudge your ability to wear down their cap, but they shouldn't be able to kill you, either.  I haven't checked this ship against the new Crucible destroyers, but I suspect destroyers are now also a very poor match-up for Punishers, particularly the Cormie.  And like all AB ships, you're particularly vulnerable to swarms, so chose your fights.

In multi-frig roams or situations where you really want to run with a MWD, you can fit a Catalyzed Cold-Gas Arcjet Thrusters MWD to the ship by down-shifting to a 100mm plate.  However, be advised that the cap penalty for MWDs hits the Punisher hard.  You're only going to have about 75 seconds of endurance, not 100.  Compensate by overheating your NOS along with everything else to speed up its cycles.  You have 75 seconds to either win, or burn out every little module on your ship.  ;-)

Amarr frig fans can hope that someday, the Punisher and its closest T2 cousin, the Retribution, will get another mid-slot each. That will open up some finesse options that its other T2 cousin, the Vengeance, has already.  In the meantime, your best hope with these pretty little ships is to tank hard and take on things above your weight class.

Good hunting!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Affable indentured servitude

Happy Crucible day, everyone!

In the midst of the new EVE Online expansion, this morning, Rixx Javix pointed the #tweetfleet on Twitter to... an article about Skyrim.  ;-)

It's a great article, and if you have time today while you're busy checking out Crucible, I recommend it.  It's worth your time.  Maybe you can read it while Crucible downloads or something.  ;-)  And as I've said on this blog already, I've been an Elder Scrolls fan-boy since the beginning.  Is Skyrim basically Oblivion with a new (and awesome) coat of paint?  Essentially, yes.  Does it suffer from Oblivion's slogging mid-game problem?  Yes again.  Is it hurt by an over-abundance of skills, and an over-reliance on crowd-control and DPS magic over actual tactics and strategy?  Yes a third time.

Is Skyrim awesome despite all this?  Why, yes.  Yes it is.  ;-)

Still, before rocketing off on his main point about fantasy RPG writing, characterization, and story-lines(1), the author of this post teases me with the following paragraph, which I quote in full:
Except for one thing. Despite how much gripping, odd, surprising, and otherwise enjoyable content the Elder Scrolls games contain, you cannot escape the repetitive and somewhat entropic nature of the core experience, which is dozens of hours of heading into caves/dungeons/forts to kill bandits/necromancers/skeletons to find a tome/rune/amulet, after which you beeline for the nearest merchant/alchemist/blacksmith to sell/trade/repair all the picked-up crap you've arranged and rearranged your inventory to accommodate. Is this enjoyable? Of course it is. But there's a point at which this brand of enjoyableness becomes indistinguishable from compulsion, and it seems fair to ask when a game's expansiveness becomes an affable form of indentured servitude.
The paragraph just a tangent to the main article.  But it's a hell of an interesting tangent, made even more interesting when you realize that he's not just describing Elder Scrolls games.

He's describing every RPG-based video game, ever.  And I include the MMOs I've played among them, EVE most of all.

At the end of the day, no matter how you play EVE, you are essentially "heading into caves/dungeons/forts to kill bandits/necromancers/skeletons to find a tome/rune/amulet, after which you beeline for the nearest merchant/alchemist/blacksmith to sell/trade/repair all the picked-up crap you've arranged and rearranged your inventory to accommodate."  Only, PvPers call it roaming and what they're killing are other players, and what they're selling is the stuff that formerly belonged to those players.  PvEers call it missionining, or wormhole-running, or incursion-running, and the stuff that they're selling is rat loot and salvage.  And unless we have an alt with a hauler along, we're all arranging and rearranging our cargo bay to bring home the best types of stuff we grab.

But describing this as a compulsion is kind of missing the point.

I have this unfortunate and incurable condition in which I can usually understand and empathize with a lot of different types of EVE players.  In particular, at heart, I am an evil evil PvPer... but yet I can still understand and explain why total EVE care-bears play the game the way they do.  This is something that doesn't usually endear me to my PvPer friends.  ;-)

"How can people solo mission all day long?" I always hear PvPers complain.  "How is that fun?  Why don't they just go play single-player games?  The first 'M' in MMO stands for 'multi-player'," they always add.  I have an analogy that I break out at moments like this.  I generally reply, "They're basically playing a single-player game... but they're playing a single-player game with a persistent score-board.  They're using ISK to keep score.  Think of it like playing Tetris... only this version of Tetris keeps track of your total lifetime Tetris score."  I understand this mind-set just fine: there are a ton of people out there that just want to play EVE casually for a couple of hours after work.  Sure, they could play Sins of a Solar Empire or some other spaceship game, but Sins of a Solar Empire doesn't keep score.  ;-)

To me, that's every bit as valid a way to play EVE as those who get home from work and the first thing they check is the Fleet button to see if there's a gang going out.

I love open world games.  The closer the game is to a sandbox, the more likely it is that I'll like it and I'll play it.  EVE and Skyrim both qualify.  But in both games, the "affable indentured servitude" isn't the game play.  It's just the process for keeping score, not the end result.  The end result is the fun we have while the scoreboard ticks up or ticks down.

Have fun with Crucible today, everyone.  :-)

(1) I cannot wait to see how the Kingdom of Amalur games address the interesting and valid complaints raised in the article.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Quote of the Week: Friends with benefits

Going pure philosophy for this week's QOTW:
It is not important what the players, as a whole, can live with. It is what they'd rather like to see happening. The CSM is to argue for the perfect game, not scale down their arguments to what they think is 'possible'. CCP can do that quite well on its own.
That is courtesy of Bartholomeus Crane on Failheap.  Barth wrote this Saturday morning (my time) and it sure gave me a lot to think about over the weekend!(1)  In the end, for reasons that I'll get into, I disagree with this way of doing things, but it was definitely interesting to think about from a tactics perspective.

CSM6 is coming up on the last major work task of their term, the December Summit.  This year, it takes place December 7-9.  The schedule of the events of each day has been published.

Barth has been highly critical of the CSM, but this is really a matter of perspective... a bitter-vet perspective, to be precise.  From this perspective, it isn't the CSM's role to be "friends" with CCP.  Members of CSM6 would say they have been extremely successful because they've fostered a good, friendly, relaxed relationship with CCP where informal contacts have mattered much more than the formal summits, and developing the relationship has mattered more than hammering on CCP's foibles.  Barth would say that CSM6 has been a failure for pretty much those same reasons: that by putting the relationship with CCP ahead of player desires, they've essentially just functioned as a sycophantic mouthpiece for the company.  Barth goes on to point out (edited for grammar and clarity):
If you give the players the choice -- EVE with MT (even vanity), or EVE without MT -- they'd overwhelmingly vote against MT. And that argument can be made on a business level as well. It is not a windmill to tilt at. But you like to present it that way because speaking up is hard, and you'd rather be 'friends'. Well, guess what: being friends is just not good enough, because it is not what the CSM is supposed to be about. It is just the coward's way out. The CSM trying to be 'friends' is the reason why nothing this CSM has tried to do thus far has really amounted to anything.
As I said, a very different perpective on what the CSM has and has not done in 2011!  But as I've said already, I disagree.

The CSM this year has pointed out in multiple ways and on multiple fora that a more relaxed, "chill" CSM is more likely to get a more positive response from developers and decision-makers in CCP.  The irony, of course, is that Hilmar has been negative about this CSM despite that.  Check the schedule for the December Summit, and you'll find this topic is the wrap-up topic on Wednesday, the 9th.  ;-)

News reporters are often slow to point out the foibles of political candidates and representatives.  The unspoken fear is that if you are too critical of a politician, you'll lose access to that politician.  Does the CSM have this problem?  To an extent, yes: past CSM members -- notably Mynxee -- have made it clear that some CCP developers avoid the CSM if the CSM gets too negative or demanding.  But of course, if the CSM doesn't push, then player concerns get ignored.

Trebor has pointed out several times that from CCP's perspective, a CSM that points out game issues is much more valuable to CCP then one that tries to propose solutions to those issues.  But of course, Barth gives the CSM no credit at all for this.  That's why I disagree with Barth's position while simultaneously finding it quite interesting.

Speaking as a professional negotiator, it's also an interesting position to be in.  The CSM has virtually no leverage or power with CCP that CCP doesn't voluntarily give them.  CSM6 has played with this paradigm a bit by taking advantage of player rage and unsubs over this summer.  They've also done a good job of leveraging real-world business results to motivate CCP away from Incarna.  But with CCP turning their full development toward directions the players want while simultaneously doing everything they can to hide internal and external metrics, combining player rage with business metrics is not something that's likely to be a repeatable process.  ;-)

As I said, a little Monday philosophy for you.  Gave me a lot to think about over the weekend.

(1) You get one guess why.  :-P

I'll just leave this here

Quick one.  There's something interesting (and to my knowledge, unannounced) hiding in today's Crucible patch notes:
Launching a warp disrupt probe will give you aggression and prevent you from docking or jumping.
I'm still thinking through the implications of this, but there's no question that this casual little change is going to massively alter the dynamics of how Interdictors are used and flown.  Double-bubble ships will be most affected, particularly double-bubble ships that are used to aggressively block both sides of a gate.

A very common tactic when a fight happens on a gate (and most do) is for the double-bubble ship to bubble in the aggressed ships, then quickly jump through the gate and bubble the other side as well to slow down escapes in that direction.  Another common tactic when the fleet is to "jump into" a held stargate is for the bubbler to drop one bubble, then jump in, decloak with the fleet, and drop the second.  Both of these tactics will now be effectively unusable by a single dictor.  To implement them will now require two dictors: one to drop the bubble on either side of the gate.

There are going to be a lot of unintended escapes over the next few weeks as FCs and dictor pilots get used to this.  FCs will order their dictor pilots to "jump through and catch them" and have to be reminded that the dictor can't, if it's already dropped a bubble.  There will also probably be a lot more unintended dictor deaths as their pilots forget that they are now aggressed when a bubble is dropped no matter what they do.  There's also going to be guys like me needlessly attempting to warp in bubbles to aggress dictors; that tactic isn't needed any more, either.

On the flip-side, though, there will be fewer dropped bubbles in general, notably fewer fail bubbles.  Right now, dropping a bubble is an almost casual move by a lot of poor dictor pilots.  They'll do it instinctively even if there's little chance of that bubble catching anything.  Since even a completely unused bubble will cause aggression, there will be fewer of these unthinking drops happening.

Overall, though, I have to say that I think this is a poor move on CCP's part.  It's also a puzzling move: I can't see where this change is coming from or why.  What problem is being solved by completely rewiring how an entire ship class has to be flown now?  Is there something that's been going on with dictors that I'm not aware of?  Discuss.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday definition: Cyno alt

And now, an EVE term definition for the newer EVE players.  You vets can move on to the next post.

There are two definitions of the phrase "alt" in EVE:
  • any character that is not your main pilot, the one which you spend most of your time playing EVE with; and,
  • any character on any of your accounts that is not actively being trained in a skill.
The latter definition is the more correct one.  Any pilot that you are actively training, whether you realize it or not, is one of your "mains".  Any character that you are not actively training is one of your alts.  Each EVE account can have up to three characters associated with it, only one of which can be trained at any given moment.  It is the emphasized phrase that is the important one.

As you advance in your EVE career, you'll find that you'll need lower skill point characters.  For instance, low SP "scout alts" can be useful right from the beginning of your EVE career if your high-sec corp is war-dec'ed.  A neutral alt in a shuttle with very few SP can then be used to scout a much more expensive ship through high-sec jumps.  Setting negative contacts with this alt with the corp that has war-dec'ed your high-sec corp will allow the alt to determine if hostiles are camping a gate before your expensive ship comes through.  Later, if you move to low- or null-sec space, the same alt can determine if the path that you're moving through is safe.

And if the scout alt is killed, then you have little reason to care: after all, it had very few SP and was in a shuttle.  Even if the alt is podded, most alts can get along with the free 900k SP medical clone.

Still, as your scouting needs become more advanced, you might decide that you want your scout alt to be able to fit a MicroWarpdrive, or a Warp Core Stabilizer, or other mods so that the alt can avoid gate camps.  At that point, it's useful to pause skill training on the main on this account to give the alt a few tens of thousands of SP to be able to fit and use these mods.

As you gain access to capital ships, this alt will need another skill: the ability to light Cynosural fields for the cap ships to jump to.  Cynosural Field Theory is an Electronics skill requiring Electronics V as a prerequisite.  An alt that is capable of lighting cyno fields is called a "cyno alt".  Training Cynosural Field Theory to Level III is usually sufficient for a cyno alt.  The preferred ships to light cyno fields are frigates with a good cargo capacity: the Caldari Kestrel and Minmatar Probe are particularly good cyno ships.  At Level III skill, the cyno alt will burn 350 Liquid Ozone per cyno.  Because cyno ships die frequently, it's a good idea to keep a spare cyno ship of the appropriate type, plus a spare cyno mod and 700 Liquid Ozone, in the cargo bay of any capital ship you expect to need the cyno alt.

Training a good cyno alt takes about a week away from the training of the main on the associated account.  A good additional skill to train for your cyno alt is one level of the Cloaking skill (which only requires Electronics IV).  This will allow the cyno alt to also use Prototype Cloaking Devices and sit cloaked off gates.  In this way, you can gather intelligence for your corp or alliance.

Cyno (and scout) alts are by no means the only type of alt, but they are among the most common.  Alts are also commonly placed in Jita or other large markets (called a "market alt") so that you can check Jita prices whenever you like.  And a few hundred thousand SP into science skills will create a "research alt" that can research and copy simple BPOs (for ammunition or mining crystals, for instance) in high-sec stations.  This process often takes weeks or months per BPO, but can generate decent passive income when you sell the researched BPOs.

Happy alt'ing!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kill of the Week: Attack of the clones

There are two tempting choices to go with for Kill of the Week this week.  In the end, though, I'm going to go with this one:

We all knew this day was coming, right?  Why yes, that is eighteen essentially identical Apocalypses, being piloted by eighteen essentially identical pilots.(1)  The player involved, who I know as Zhek Kromtor, has his own 28 pilot corp in Goonswarm.  As far as I know, all 28 pilots are active in separate accounts, and as far as I know, the same human controls all 28 of them.

Often at the same time.

Here's the guy's home set-up, if you want to have a look.  It's an impressive engineering accomplishment.  He's proven his ability to multi-box PvP... well, sort of, anyway.  Oh, I didn't mention that kill is part of a larger fight?  Here's the larger fight:

Yes, go ahead and start giggling, if you haven't already.  That would be eighteen essentially identical Apocalypses, and it turns out that all of them were -- yes! -- shield tanked.  And they were all supported by four identically fit Basilisks.  They came up against a roughly equal-sized Flying Dangerous fleet.  One hopes that the latter fleet had more than one pilot.  ;-)

Anyway, unlike the old-school Star Trek episode "The Ultimate Computer", this time The Ultimate Computer basically got its ass kicked, losing all four Basis and 11 out of the 18 Apocs.  Still, Zzek took on an entire fleet and got seven kills, including five Maelstroms including the one I chose as the KOTW.

On his website, Zzek says he's going to try running incursions solo next, but hey, he might have already done that and gotten bored with it.  There's no date on that website entry.  ;-)

Finally, what's above is my KOTW, but it's worth mentioning one other kill that happened this week:

Ouch.  Hope you wormhole residents have enough Sisters Core probes to last you a while.  I can't even begin to imagine what possesses someone to put 16 billion ISK into a tech 1 hauler.  But even more than this, I actually feel sorry for the ganker.  Talk about being hated on by the loot gods.  ;-)

(1) Though if you look closely enough at the various Zzeks, you'll see subtle differences in expression.  ;-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Well, that was predictable

The CCP Fleet PvP Live Event appears to be over.  How did it end?

I wasn't there(~), but it appears that Pandemic Legion jumped a super-capital fleet heavily supported by their signature heavy tackle Lokis and Proteuses into the system and murdered everyone they could get their hands on, including the bulk of the CCP fleet.

Typical.  And it presumably left PL in control of the field and raking in of dozens of PLEXes and other high-value loot items, including faction loot, dropped by the CCP ships.

Way to prove the super-capital nerf is not only needed, but doesn't go far enough, PL.  Good show, there.

CCP, now that you've seen it demonstrated into your face, how about nerfing the ability of super-caps to project power next?  I'd say you've now been given conclusive proof why this needs to happen.

Fit of the Week: Cheap, fast gas mining

As promised, let's talk about gas harvesting, particularly in wormholes.  Here is one of two Moa fits that I would use for this job:

[Moa, Gas Cloud Defense]
Warded Gravimetric Backup Cluster I
Warded Gravimetric Backup Cluster I
Expanded Cargohold II
Co-Processor II

Y-T8 Overcharged Hydrocarbon I Microwarpdrive
Eutectic I Capacitor Charge Array
Conjunctive Gravimetric ECCM Scanning Array I
10MN Afterburner II

Gas Cloud Harvester II
Gas Cloud Harvester II
Gas Cloud Harvester II
Gas Cloud Harvester II
Gas Cloud Harvester II
Prototype Cloaking Device I

Medium Cargohold Optimization I
Medium Cargohold Optimization I
Medium Cargohold Optimization I

Hornet EC-300 x3

This fit has four big advantages for gas-mining: it's cheap, it's fast, it's agile, and it's cloaky.  And it's quite good at the job at hand, which is to harvest gas as quickly as possible.  As I mentioned in the KOTW last week, a gas mining ship pretty much must mount five Gas Cloud Harvester IIs to make gas mining worthwhile, requiring Gas Cloud Harvesting V skill.  At Level 5 in this skill, you gain both the ability to use the T2 harvesters and the ability to use five of them.  At Level 4, your "yield" as measured in EFT will be 20m3 per T1 harvester per minute, or a maximum of 80m3 per minute.  The yield for the T2 harvesters is 50% greater, and if you use five of them, the maximum becomes 150m3 per minute... almost double.

So yeah, if you don't have Gas Cloud Harvesting V, your gas mining experience will be painfully slow.

In wormhole gas sites, there are typically two gas pockets placed 80 kilometers or so apart.  A lot of guys warp out of the site when they finish one pocket, then warp back to the other one.  I wouldn't bother.  A MWD on a cruiser makes the run from one pocket to the other only about a minute long, and having the MWD made escape and evasion easier.  For similar reasons, I also fit an AB on my gas mining ship: dual-prop is a hallmark of escape and evasion ships.  If the ship that drops on you is a battle cruiser or battleship, an overheated AB might just let you squeak out of point range before you die.  It's a small chance, but that's better than no chance.  The cloak is also a pretty typical escape and evasion mod to fit, and I found it quite useful both against potential gankers and against Sleepers.  I'd typically warp into a new site and go ahead and start mining for 15 minutes or so.  The Sleeper spawn in gas sites typically appears at the 20 minute mark after you start mining.  If you mis-judge the time (and I did, a time or two), a quick pulse of the MWD or AB to get out of range of the gas pocket followed by cloaking would give you time to set up your warp-off.

Three ECCM mods are there for one reason and one reason only: while you're gas mining in a wormhole, you'll want to spend most of your time spamming your directional scanner, looking for ships and probes.  Three ECCM mods on this ship didn't quite make you unprobable in the old days before this mechanic was nerfed, but it made you damned hard to probe down, particularly if you were overheating the mid-slot ECCM.  Gas sites are pretty hard to probe down; usually, it was easier to probe down the ship that was mining, rather than the gas site itself.  Having ECCM on board made that a painful process for the potential ganker.

Everything else on the ship is about cargo, and I found that this fit gave enough cargo room for three cycles on the gas miner.  My Myrmidon could hold a lot more, but in the end, I was going to have to bring in a cloaky hauler to take out the gas anyway, so I found the Moa's cargo room more than sufficient.

Later in my wormhole career, as the holes become more populated, I found that people started pre-scanning the gas sites and bookmarking the gas pockets, then waiting for someone to come along and try to mine them.  When that started happening, I started moving more toward this sort of fit:

[Moa, Gas Cloud Offense]
Expanded Cargohold II
Expanded Cargohold II
Expanded Cargohold II
Co-Processor II

Y-T8 Overcharged Hydrocarbon I Microwarpdrive
Eutectic I Capacitor Charge Array
ECM Burst II
10MN Afterburner II

Gas Cloud Harvester II
Gas Cloud Harvester II
Gas Cloud Harvester II
Gas Cloud Harvester II
Gas Cloud Harvester II
Prototype Cloaking Device I

Medium Particle Dispersion Projector I
Medium Particle Dispersion Projector I
Medium Cargohold Optimization I

Hornet EC-300 x3

The similarities and differences will be apparent.  The main difference is an ECM Burst module, plus rigs to support its range.  I got jumped in a couple of gas sites late in my wormhole career after I started using this fit.  There was no prior warning on directional, so I presume that in both cases, the ganker pre-scanned the site I was in.  In both cases, I charged toward the gankee on overheated Afterburners, launched and engaged ECM drones, waited to get within 10km, aligned off, then triggered the ECM Burst.  In both cases, the potential ganker was momentarily jammed and I warped off, leaving the drones behind.  ;-)  I left wormhole space a few days after the second gank attempt.

As a result, I've never lost a gas mining ship and I still have this Moa today, almost two years later, and it's currently fit in the second configuration.  Still, I consider both fittings quite useful for different things.  If you have a home wormhole that you're reasonably sure hasn't been pre-scanned and stick to gas mining there, I'd use the first fit.  If you frequently venture out of your home hole into neighboring ones, I'd probably use the second.

Happy gas mining!

Three quick ones

Just a quickie.

CCP is still throwing last-minute things into Tuesday's Crucible expansion, which is interesting.  I thought the code was locked to new features a week or so ago for the QA team.  But hey, whatever.  That said, three of the new things being thrown in (or not being thrown in) are worth mentioning for different reasons.

First, a "bug fix" is now available in Sisi involving cloaking.  Right now on TQ, if you are cloaked using a cloaking device, and any solid object comes within 2000 meters of you, you will be decloaked.  This applies even if the solid object that comes within this distance of you is also cloaked, in which case both of you will be decloaked.  On Sisi, this "bug" is now "fixed".  Two or more cloaked ships within 2000 meters of each other will no longer decloak each other.  Apparently, this used to be the case, but was "broken" at some point 18 months or so ago and since then, cloaked ships would decloak each other if they got close enough.

Now, I can look at both sides of this issue and I'm again going to demonstrate my ability to believe two contradictory things at once:
  • This is a bad thing because it's going to make bombing runs and Black Ops drops too easy.
  • This is a good thing because more, easier bombing runs are going to make blobs (particularly tier 3 BC blobs) more risky.
On the whole, I'm leaning toward this bug fix being more negative than positive.  Over the last year or more, bombing runs have required some skill.  You had to manage your perch points, your warp-ins, and had to act as a collective unit while still being careful not to disrupt each other.  It took planning, and it took an FC and pilots that kind of knew what they were doing (though beginners could still learn it easily enough).

Now, bombing runs are going to be easy enough that this tactic can be programmed into bots or easily used with identical multi-client set-ups.  The FC will be able to warp the whole bombing squad to a perch together, then warp them down to the target together.  The only thing missing will be the push button for launching the bombs, then the FC can warp the whole bomb squad out of danger together, too.  The bomb squad can cloak up as a unit and warp off as a unit.

Like I said, part of me thinks this is going to be way too easy.  Still, on the other hand, with tank-less tier 3 BCs likely to be roaming in large numbers, a counter to this in the form of easier-to-use bomber wings will probably be a good thing, too.  So, yeah, I'm conflicted about this one.

Second, there was some grumbling from occasional booster users like myself about removing the side effects from boosters, and other changes to boosters that CCP was planning for Crucible to make them more ubiquitous.  While I don't dispute that as a worthy goal, CCP was taking it too far.  Had this change gone through, everyone would have had to use boosters just to stay competitive, particularly in the small-gang PvP fights that I favor.  The risk factor was the only thing preventing that.  Today, CCP agreed and they've backed off those plans.  For now, no changes to boosters in Crucible.  This is unquestionably a good thing.

Third and finally, a change that is just unquestionably dumb, and I'd like to encourage people to speak up about it.  Today, in your General Settings when you hit Escape, there is a check box that will allow you to lock windows when pinned.  Today, in EVE's UI, pinning a window to the screen renders it semi-transparent but doesn't really do anything else.  It can still be moved by either the player or the UI, which is rather silly.  To get the pin button to work as you would expect it to work (you know... actually pinning that window to where you've chosen to put it), you have to actually get into the Graphics settings and click this check box that locks pinned windows in place.  Once you do that, a pinned window stays where you put it.

This is a valuable consideration, particularly in PvP, where one mis-click or mis-drag of a mouse can move a window across your screen and get you killed.

Well, that entire option has been removed from Sisi.  Here's the official reason, quoted in full:
This was removed on purpose. The feature was becoming increasingly hard to maintain due to technical reasons, and given the fact that very few people even knew of it's existence, we decided to remove it.
Yeah.  That's it.  That's the whole reason.  It was hard to maintain.  I guess I don't have to express how poor I find this reasoning, and I encourage people to post to this thread

So, if you'd like a button that pins a window to actually... you know... pin the window, I encourage you to get on this thread and say so.  ;-)

EDIT (23/Nov/2011): CCP is listening, and the ability to pin windows will be reintroduced ASAP, though it's apparently too late to stop the removal of this feature before Crucible.

We're still on course for a huge number of positive changes to EVE on Tuesday, the 29th, though!  Can't wait!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pic of the Week: Professional killers

If you haven't been following the news today, a group of CCP employees took a small gang through New Eden today.  I've been working, so I haven't heard how it went yet, but given this hilarious pic, courtesy of on Twitter, I can guess:

I loves me this picture.  ;-) EVE has created quite a cadre of professional killers, hasn't it? Hee! If someone has some of the kill-mails, feel free to post them in comments. I'd love to see them.

Guide: Moving to Null-Sec, Part 3

This document continues my Moving to Null-Sec Guide, from Part 2. You should read that document before reading this one.

Trust, but verify

In Part 2, I talked about the recruiting process that will get you into a null-sec corp. Sooner or later during this process, you will be asked to provide two related things:
  • the API key for your primary characters; and,
  • the names (and potentially the API keys) for any alt characters you have.
This is a step that can happen at any point in the process. More paranoid corps or alliances will ask for it sooner. More relaxed ones will ask for it later. But sooner or later, you will be asked, and you will be required to provide this information. If nothing else, you'll have to provide API access in order to access your new corp's forums and possibly their Teamspeak or Ventrilo server.

Make no mistake: this verification process is an essential part of any null-sec corp's security. It is done for several reasons, among them:
  • to confirm that you have the skills you say you do, and to confirm you can fly the ships you say you can;
  • to confirm that your SP total matches the corp's minimum; and,
  • (if a more stringent API key is asked for) to confirm that you haven't been taking or receiving ISK from one of your new corp's enemies.
There will also be extensive searches done on the names of your characters, looking at past corp affiliations. A search of your character's names will also be done on the EVE-O and on other forums, to determine your maturity level and to determine if your character has ever been bought or sold. Simply put: your new corp is checking to see if you are a spy for one of their enemies. Different corps have different thresholds when it comes to this sort of thing. The largest corps tend to be pretty relaxed about it, admitting anyone and everyone until they prove themselves hostile. The smaller corps will tend to be a bit more vigilant.

If you know of an issue in the past history of your character that might be a problem, it is always best to be up-front and honest about it right from the start. An example will suffice here: when the alliance I was with in 2009 was pushed out of sovereignty and declined to get further involved in the Great Game, I made a conscious decision to seek out a new alliance that did have sovereignty.(1)  My time zone issue was foremost in my mind, and I also wanted a corp that was active in small-gang roaming PvP. I started scouting kill-boards, but that proved unnecessary.

Night after night, my current alliance would run into roaming gangs belonging to Get Off My Lawn alliance in Pure Blind. That combined with a little bit of research showed right away that they met my three primary criteria at that time: they were active in my time zone, they held sov, and they were active in roaming small-gang PvP. I sought out one of their recruiters, indicated an interest, and then told him flat-out that I had found their alliance because a couple of nights before, I had FC'ed a small gang fighting against them. The recruiter was a bit taken aback, but immediately thanked me for my honesty. ;-) Sooner or later, the fact that I was a past hostile was going to come out. Better that it come directly from me. They could have chosen to reject me because of it, but better to be rejected up front rather than to be rejected after I had moved lots of ships!

In much the same way, it is a good idea for you to spend your first couple of weeks in your new null-sec corp going slow, and being patient. You need to verify the facts that you've been told about them, too. Once you've joined, concentrate on moving smaller, scouty ships to your new home. Don't move everything right away. There will be plenty of time. Instead, concentrate on cheaper ships that you can easily afford to replace. Meanwhile, start checking out their forums and start listening in on Teamspeak. At first, it will be best if you remain pretty quiet in both areas. Get a feel for the culture of the place. Make sure it's still a good fit.

The maturity level of null-sec alliances and corps varies wildly. Although virtually any null-sec corp or alliance will be well-organized, often it's a small cadre of dedicated players providing that organization. The bulk of the player base is what you're evaluating here. Make sure the people on-line in your TZ are ones that you're going to feel comfortable talking with and flying with. If you do speak on TS, stick to asking questions. Confirm and verify the information that your recruiters told you. Make sure everything is on the level with your expectations. As you do so over the first week or ten days, you can start moving ships into their home stations.

Moving day

This is the most ticklish part of joining a new null-sec corp. Sooner or later, you're going to need ships. Almost certainly, you're going to want to move ships from your existing hangars to your new home or homes. How do you get them there?

First, I'm going to make another suggestion: for your first null-sec corp or alliance, I strongly recommend that you seek one out that lives somewhere on the border regions of null-sec. There are many excellent null-sec corps and alliances that live on the edges of New Eden, and this recommendation is no slight toward them. Still, for a first null-sec corp or alliance, you're going to be happier if you can operate a bit more independently. Moving to a distant null-sec region right from the get-go is going to make you extremely beholden to your new corp or alliance, utterly reliant on them for virtually all of your needs. If you are 100% certain that you can trust them -- say, because you have friends there -- then this is no problem.

But if you're joining them cold...? Yeah. As I said, it's a bit more ticklish. ;-)

Second, start moving your main(s), plus an alt or two, into your new home system ASAP. If you're not comfortable getting around null, this is best done in a quick, travel-fit frigate. Fit a meta MicroWarpdrive, a meta Afterburner, perhaps a Warp Core Stab or two (or three), and that's it. You're not trying to fight. You're trying to pass through. Use a cheap clone, and if your new home station offers medical clone services, go ahead and move your medical clone to your new home system. That way, even if you get killed on the way, your new clone will appear in your new home station anyway. ;-) As you gain confidence in your ability to get around null solo, you can start moving clones into null in T2 frigates like Covert Ops, Stealth Bombers, and Interceptors.

People hate it when I say this, but it's true nonetheless: the best way to learn how to get around null on your own is to try to get around null on your own. Move through some boring areas. Flee from some gate-camps. Learn to watch Local. Learn to warp to off-gate celestials instead of directly to gates. You'll get killed a few times as you learn, but you'll find those deaths quite instructive.

Ideally, once you make the decision to start moving more major ships, you have your own carrier or carriers. If you don't, either make training at least one character for a carrier a priority, or strongly consider buying a character with these skills. You can join and operate in a null-sec corp or alliance without your own travel carrier, but I'm pretty sure that you're not going to enjoy the experience very much. If you have your own carrier, this step becomes much easier, particularly if you join a null alliance that's within one jump of some low-sec station. It's a relatively simple matter to smuggle ships into low-sec, and once there, they can be loaded on your own carrier, which is then jumped into the proper system with a cyno lit by one of your own alts. Make sure to carry a spare cyno ship or two in your carrier, plus spare Cynosural Field Generators and Liquid Ozone, and you're all set.

Alternately, if your new null-sec alliance is sov-holding, and has their own POS-based Cyno Generators creating a path to their home systems, I find this to be an extremely civilized way of moving into null. All you have to worry about then is scouting each system in turn (again, with an alt) to make sure they're clear or relatively clear of hostiles, and you can jump from Cyno Generator to Cyno Generator, slipping into a nearby POS's shields while your alt goes on to the next system. If this is the case, your corp might ask you to contribute fuel for these generators. Again, keep LO in your carrier to do so.

If you can provide your own carrier, but not your own cyno for some reason, a corp- or alliance-mate might offer to provide you a cyno. This is a generous offer that shouldn't be refused, but you should confirm the location of that cyno before using it. Stories of capitals and super-capitals jumped to bait cynos are legend in EVE Online. If you can't personally verify the exit location of the offered cyno, don't use it! Again, all this means is getting an alt in a cheap ship into the target system, warping to the cyno, and confirming that the cyno pilot has placed that cyno where promised, and that the location offered is relatively safe and free from a surrounding ring of Nyxes and Erebuses. ;-) A cyno within dock range of a station is best, particularly if that station is an NPC station.

If you don't have your own carrier, that's more ticklish still. You're going to have to rely on the generosity of your corp- or alliance-mates to get a significant number of ships moved into their home systems. Again, I counsel patience.

Figure out the top three or four ship types you're going to need once you're situated. Start with those ships. It's not a bad idea to check the markets in your new home region with the alt or main you've already moved in. See if ships are already for sale relatively cheap. Check local contracts as well. Many null-sec corps keep approved ships and fittings in contracts, ready to go in the home station, often as contracts that are only available to corp members. This can greatly speed up your first couple of weeks in corp without putting yourself in undue risk. If you can buy the ships cheap but not the fittings, do so! It's much easier to bring piles of ship fittings into null than it is whole ships. You might even be able to do so yourself with a cloaky Blockade Runner.

If all of those options are not available, then your last choice is to ask your recruiter about logistics. Virtually any null-sec corp will have some kind of solution to this problem. Most often, it will involve setting up Courier contracts with corp-mates from some relatively convenient high-sec station to your new null-sec home. This is almost never free, so be prepared to pay ISK for this service. In addition, this process probably won't involve putting a Collateral on the Courier contract. This is where you're going to have to trust your new corp-mate.

Again: be patient. Start with a few ships, and make them cheap ones. Scout Interceptors, a shield BC or three, maybe one armor HAC, maybe one battleship. If you're joining a more PvE-oriented corp, stick with a couple of cheaper ships to start.  Don't commit more than a few hundred million ISK to 0.0 at most, total, in your first few weeks. You don't have to move your faction-fit Machariel or your Tengu to 0.0 right away. Hell, even if you could easily do so, you probably don't want to have access to that ship your first few weeks in null anyway. ;-) Allow yourself a learning curve. If this is your first null-sec corp, not only does nobody expect you to be flying anything shiny right away, good null-sec corps won't let you and will be suspicious of you if you want to. They'll want you in nice, safe, standard DPS ships at first. They want to limit their losses, too, in case you don't know what you're doing...

On the flip-side, you should be openly suspicious of anyone who encourages you to start moving too-shiny ships to 0.0 too fast. One more time: be patient, and move at your own pace, and only as much as you feel comfortable.

The first two weeks

Move your medical clone for any character you intend to move full-time into null-sec. Your corp will have specific stations they want you to do this.

Once that's done, get both some additional jump clones, and at least one or two alts into your home system as well. Sooner or later, you're going to get a ship separated from the rest of a null-sec fleet and you're going to need to scout yourself home. Having alts available to do that will be a Godsend. Having an alt already in your home system to make sure things are quiet, even more so.

This is an important one: get into ops! Whatever you've joined your new null-sec corp to do, get busy doing it right away. Most null-sec corps either officially or unofficially have a 30-day evaluation period. Even if they don't say so, they're checking you out. Being patient is one thing, and that's fine, but you also have to be productive and show that you're willing to support the corp's mission, whatever that is. If you have joined a PvP corp, that means using those first few cheap ships to X up for fleets and provide a DPS or scout role. If you've joined a more bearish corp, that means joining their ops, whether that means ratting, mining, doing sites, or whatever. Show them what you can do. ;-)

Don't be afraid to ask questions, and ask for help! Many null-sec corps will have some kind of mentoring program for newer members, to ease the transition and answer any initial questions. Still, even if your new corp does not have this, ask questions of anyone who will talk to you. No matter how experienced you are at null, you're going to trip over something in your new corp that "everyone knows". If you don't know something, ask!

I've said this a couple of times already, but I want to emphasize it one more time: during your first few weeks, don't worry about not being in a special role. Whatever ops your corp is active in, it's best for the newest members to be in the most generic role. Another example will illustrate: I am an experienced scout, an experienced Logi pilot, and an experienced Recon pilot. But I've done none of these things in Rote Kapelle so far, even after being with them for more than a month now, and despite having appropriate ships for all of these roles staged. I was content to stick with flying basic line DPS to start, confident that my time in flying a specialized role in something shinier would come.(2)

A good way of getting around the issue of a lack of ships is to ask to borrow ships from corp members. You'll find that in most corps, members are pretty casual about this sort of thing. Just make it clear that you'll replace the loss if you die in the ship, and don't ask to borrow something that you can't afford to lose!

It's also a good idea to get a good firm handle on your new corp's reimbursement process, if any, sooner rather than later. Different corps will handle this differently. Many will have no reimbursement program at all. A few will reimburse anything. Most will reimburse select ships: logis, scouts, and dictors, usually.

Finally, it's usually a pretty good idea to spread ships out a little bit. This will happen naturally to a certain extent as you move additional jump clones into your new corp's home systems: each clone is going to need its own station. If you're joining a sov-holding corp, this will mean you have jump clones in multiple systems. It will only be natural that you fly to these different stations in a ship. Therefore, when you jump out of that clone, a ship will be there waiting for you to come back. This sort of thing is extremely useful to avoid getting camped into a single station without useful response ships to fly. A good means of handling this: if you have one clone that's good at armor HACs, and another that's good at shield BCs, put all your armor HACs with the appropriate clone, wherever you decide to leave it. Ditto with shield ships for the shield clone. As you start to get ships staged in your new home, make plans to do this sooner rather than later.

This concludes Part 3 of this guide. Part 4 will wrap up with a series of longer-term considerations.

(1) That was what I wanted at the time. ;-)

(2) And it did.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Corp-mate to the Kill of the Week

I would like to celebrate a bit of truth in advertising:

I amused myself by submitting the word "awoxer" to urbandictionary.com and was rather surprised when my definition was accepted and published.  As I posted there, an awoxer is a short-term spy that, once accepted to your corp, goes after your corp's ratters or miners, attempting to sow mistrust.  As I understand it, the term is named after the original practitioner, who would set up these kills for his main with his various alts.  The alt would join a fleet with the PvE'er in a cloaky, warp to the PvE'ers location cloaked, then leave that fleet and join the main's fleet, at which point the main would warp in and destroy the PvE'er.  Easy kills.

Anyway, the name of the character involved in this kill was "IfYouInviteMe2Corp IWillAWOXYou", and sure enough, that's exactly what he did.  Like I said, you have to appreciate that level of truth in advertising.  In case the affected corp's CEO letter gets deleted from the KB, I reproduce it here in full (sic throughout):
Corp Ganker in our Corp
From: phae torch
Sent: 2011.11.21 19:59
To: Krannon of Sherwood,

ok folks... my fault... i Recruit thisa pilot.... IfYouInviteMe2Corp IWillAWOXYou, He is a corp Ganker as we suspected..... So be aware of him when he is online..... Ehan he dock/goes off line he will be out of corp.... HAve a good day folks. 
Whoops.  Why do I get the impression that while this is IfYou's first kill, it won't be his last?  ;-)

Quote of the Week: Bonnie and Clyde

EVE players are in a good mood these days.  For the second time in a row, the QOTW just made me laugh:
At the end of Act 2, they are on the run from Concord; a famous criminal couple, The Bonnie and Clyde of New Eden, yet they are happy as never before. An artificial, booster-induced happiness, but happiness still.
It's one of the last lines from a post on the EVE-O forums by Krios Ahzek, and references the soon-to-be "Unholy Union" between Helicity Boson and The Mittani when Hulkageddon V starts early next year.  There's not going to be a mining ship safe anywhere, heh.  Traditionally, Hulkageddon starts in February, but of course, the Goon Blue Ice interdiction has been going on for about two months now.(1)

I've seen good evidence to show that large scale Blue Ice mining is moving out to "safer" systems in low- and null-sec, though, which is interesting.

The post itself is funny, a little "story-time" response to Helicity's announcement of the coming Hulkageddon on the EVE-O forums.  It's cute and not very long, so it's worth your time.  Go give it a read.

I don't have much more to say about this quote, so I'm going to wrap this post by nominating myself for a quote of the week credit for last week.  Like many EVE players, I've been spending far too much time in Skyrim.  My friends will tell you that I've been an Elder Scrolls fan-boy since the beginning.  While I don't currently think Skyrim is going to be the best in the series (that honor stays with ES3: Morrowind unless Skyrim's end-game really blows me away), it's definitely a lot of fun and I'm enjoying it immensely.  The #tweetfleet on Twitter has been full of Skyrim talk, which led me to comment:
The secret reason EVE players love Skyrim: they think they're saving EVE devs from dragons. It's the voice actors.
For those who haven't played it, Skyrim's voice actors have taken on Nordic accents of greater or lesser quality.  ;-)

Finally, expect the post count this week to be somewhat less than average.  In the U.S., this is Thanksgiving week, an annual holiday around here (and throughout the New World in different parts of autumn) in which we celebrate the fact that we're not Europeans.  ;-)

(1) Yes, I continue to track this.  No, it hasn't shown any signs of slacking off.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vive la résistance!

A lot of people don't like flying Logistics, but I do.  It's not something I've done in Rote Kapelle (yet), because Rote generally flies with only a few Logis and those few positions are considered prestige positions and the pilots in them are well-rewarded.(1)  Sooner or later, I suspect I'll get there.  In the meantime, I've got a good bit of PvP Logi experience with past alliances, as well as PvE Logi experience in wormholes and incursion fleets.

For incursions specifically, it's no accident that my incursion guides speak specifically to how to tank for incursion fleets, and of my two dedicated incursion guides, one is a "How to be a Logistics in incursions" guide.  ;-)

There's a good rule of thumb that it's smart to follow when you're flying in a fleet: if you have a decent number of Logis, fit for resists.  If you don't, fit for buffer.

It's not a hard and fast rule.  For instance, if you're flying in a fleet with Logi, you should still have enough buffer that there is time for the Logis to lock you and hold you up.  And of course, even the most buffer-fit ship you have, if it's a cruiser or bigger, it should have at least some resists.  There are exceptions to every rule, and situations where you want to fit for buffer even if you have a ton of Logi support.  Still, it's a good rule of thumb to keep in mind.  I will illustrate why.  Warning: scary math follows.

If I'm sitting in my Logi, chances are pretty good that I can apply somewhere between 85 and 105 hit points of shield and/or armor to your tank, per second, per repper that I apply to you.(2)  Let's average it out and say that it's 100.  I generally have four reppers.  Let's say I put all four on you.  That's 400 raw hit points per second.  But that's only 400 EHP if you have no resists at all.  Most ships have resists.  The more resists you have, the more effective that 400 raw hit points is going to be:
  • If you have 80% resists, then that 400 raw hit points effectively becomes 2000 EHP (400 divided by 20%).
  • If you have 68% resists, then that 400 raw hit points effectively becomes 1250 EHP (400 divided by 32%).
  • If you have 47% resists, then that 400 raw hit points effectively becomes 750 EHP (400 divided by 53%).
The difference between 68% and 80% resists is not very large: 12% on your resistances.  But if you don't have that 12%, that means I have to work almost twice as hard to keep you alive.  And if you haven't fit for resists at all, I have to work almost three times as hard.

This is why you'll hear Logi pilots tell you again and again, resists > buffer.  You only need enough buffer to give me time to lock you after you broadcast for reps.  Any buffer you have above and beyond that is wasted mid- and/or low slots, depending.  I would have rather you fit another Invul instead of that LSE, another EANM instead of that plate.  Again, this isn't the situation every single time.  There are exceptions to every rule.  But if you're in doubt, that's the factor you should keep in mind.

Back when I wrote about various ways of fitting Vagabonds, I covered this topic.  A solo/quick response Vaga should have two LSEs in the mids.  However, a Vaga for fleets where you expect there to be good Logi support can fit Anti-Explosive and Anti-Kinetic resist rigs, and an Invulnerability Field II as well (replacing one of the LSEs).  The lowest resist on the first Vaga will be 48% (but it will have a very large buffer).  The lowest resist on the second Vaga will be 73% (with about 60% of the buffer of the first).  Quite a difference!

Finally, this rule applies to mission ships as well, particularly L4 mission ships, using self-reps.  You only need enough buffer, whether shield or armor, that you feel comfortable with your ability to keep yourself repaired.  All your other mid- or low slots, depending, should either go to additional resists, additional DPS, or additional utility e-war.  The first will mean you take less damage, so you have to cycle your repper less often.  The second and third will mean you kill the rats faster, with the same net result.  Watch how your ship does during a mission to judge this.  If you never dip below 50% armor or shields, depending, you should consider making some changes.

To summarize, it's just a good rule of thumb to keep in mind: if you have a decent Logis or self-rep, fit for resists.  If you don't, fit for buffer.

(1) In Rote, if there are no ship losses, the Logis get to split the loot.  As a result, Rote almost never has problems getting Logi pilots to X up.  Other alliances that are having this problem, take note.

(2) A lot of factors play into this, including whether the reppers are meta or T2, whether I'm receiving boosts, whether those boosts are coming off a dedicated Fleet Command Ship, whether that Command Ship has a pilot with a Siege Mindlink implant, et cetera.  Soon, another factor will come into play: whether the ganglinks on that boost ship are T1 or T2.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guide: Moving to Null-Sec, Part 2

This document continues my Moving to Null-Sec Guide, which I began in Part 1.  You should read that document before reading this one.


Part 2 of this guide centers primarily on choosing a null-sec corp and alliance.  Part 3 focuses on your first few weeks in that corp or alliance.

Again and again during this section, I'm going to make reference to your "primary driver" for moving to null-sec.  This is the reason, chosen in Part 1, that you want to move to null-sec.  What is it that you want to get out of the experience?  Whether it's the sovereignty war, PvP, null-sec care-bearing, or whatever, it's important that you keep this primary driver in mind as you choose, join, and start to participate in the activities of your new null-sec corp.

This is not a step that you can skip!  If you can't quickly and briefly lay out why you want to move to null-sec, not only should you not do so, but you probably won't be doing so.  Every recruiter in every null-sec corp in EVE is going to ask you why you want to move to null.  Have a reason.  Be able to express it.  If you don't or you can't, then that recruiter or his corp's directors are going to reject your application.  And don't be disappointed if your reason causes a recruiter to say that his corp or alliance is probably not for you.  As I said in part 1, don't chase someone else's dream.  If the way you want to have fun in EVE doesn't match the way members of your dream null-sec corp have fun, then getting into that particularly prestigious null-sec corp isn't going to matter to you after a few weeks or months anyway because you're not having fun!

One other thing.  The best piece of advice I can give you during this part of the guide is: be patient.  Take your time and move slow.  I will be repeating this advice frequently, in a variety of situations in Parts 2 and 3 of this Guide.

Choosing a corp

This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.  Choosing a new corp to join in EVE is one of the most difficult tasks there is in this game, even when null-sec isn't involvd.  Even if you only consider corps that live 100% of their time in null-sec, there are still hundreds to choose from, at all activity levels, time zones, and styles of playing the game.  Many -- but certainly not all! -- corps in null-sec will also be members of alliances, even if that alliance is limited to the corp itself and a very few satellite, allied, or alt corps.  As a result, most of the time you make the decision to move to null-sec, you're making a choice not only to join a corp, but that corp's alliance.

I recommend starting by reading this excellent article at Ten Ton Hammer.  Some of the points in that article, I made in Part 1 of this guide.  But you'll find other tips in that article that are also quite helpful.  In particular, though, if you are new to null-sec, I recommend in the strongest possible terms that you seek out a viable, existing, long-term null-sec corporation.  Many null-sec corps and alliances that are accepting new members, you'll find, are new to null-sec themselves, or are otherwise just getting up to speed in null.  This can be a fine choice for someone who is experienced in null-sec.  But if you're just starting out, this is not the right choice for you.  You want to first learn null under the wings of players who have lived there for a while.

In Part 1, I urged you to consider your primary driver toward null-sec: that single most important thing to you that you wanted to get out of the null-sec experience.  Once you decide that, though, there are certain minimums that you should expect from your new null-sec corp or alliance before you should even consider joining them as someone who is new to null-sec:
  • They need a private message forum of some kind.  This is non-optional.
  • They need a private voice communications method of some kind.  This is also non-optional.
  • Even if they are not involved in PvP at all, they should have some form of kill-board.  And,
  • They should have a good number of members publicly active in your time-zone.
These are all things that you should ask about as you scout corps, and you should expect straight, verifiable answers to each of these questions.  We'll talk about how you'll verify some of these things a little later.

There are four or five ways you can start to look for an ideal null-sec corp.
  • Recruiting threads on forums are a good place to start.  Often, the first post in these threads provide detailed information of what that corp is about and the activities that they pursue.  I find the recruiting threads on Failheap Challenge and on the EVE-O forums themselves the most useful.  Still, there are lots of other similar places to look.
  • Often, you'll have an idea of a null-sec corp that you want to join for some reason, either because you like their videos or because you've fought them or because you've read news stories about them and like how they operate.
  • You can seek out advice from people that you trust (for whatever reason) regarding corps that they should consider.  This probably happens more than all the other ways of choosing a corp combined, I suspect.
  • You can watch killboards, looking for corps that are active at time periods that you are able to play the game.
  • If you're looking for a more null-bear experience and have some type of bearing in mind in particular, you can look at the dotlan maps of null-sec to find corps that participate in these activities.  For instance, if you want to take financial advantage of GSF's Blue Ice interdiction in high-sec, you can seek out corps that have access to Thick Blue Ice in null.
As you start to find corps that can provide activities around your primary driver, join their recruiting channels!  Virtually every null-sec corp has these, and publicly advertise them in a number of ways, either through their forum posts, their corp or alliance information screens, and often, even in the bios of their members.  Be warned, though: most of these recruiting channels will be inactive until you speak up in them.  Don't sit around and wait to be noticed!  Take it from me: even if I'm sitting in the Rote Kapelle public channel much of the time (I am), I'm not watching it for new people coming in.  ;-)  You're the one that's looking for a corp.  You're the one that's going to have to speak up and say hello.  Do so.

And then start asking questions.

Getting closer

Once you start narrowing down your list of potential corps, start expressing more interest!  This will almost certainly lead to some form of "first interview".  First interviews in null-sec corps happen in a variety of ways.  Sometimes, you will be explicitly pointed toward that corp's forums.  In the public section, you'll find a recruiting thread that you're asked to post to.  Other times, a recruiter in the corp's public channel will conduct a first interview either in a private chat channel, or right there in their public channel.

However it happens, this first interview is just that: a first interview.  You probably aren't speaking to a corp director or other decision-maker.  Most of the time, in fact, you'll find that you're talking to someone who's been in the corp himself for five or six months and has been asked to act as the corp's recruiter.  This happens because recruiting for null-sec corps is hard work, and is a thankless job.  Nobody lasts in the job for long, and they are replaced quickly with newer players.  It's a path to corp leadership, though, so if you're at all interested in corp leadership, you'll probably have to spend at least some time as a recruiter, learning the challenges the corp faces in this area.

Expect to be asked variants on the following questions:
  • Why do you want to move to null-sec and/or what do you want to get out of null-sec?
  • Why should we recruit you?  What do you have to offer?
  • Why are you considering us?
  • How do you make ISK?  Can you continue to make ISK if you move to null?  If so, how?
  • Can you provide ships, mods, ammo, and the like for yourself in null if needed?
  • What are your long-term plans in EVE?
  • Why are you leaving your current corp?  (if you have one)
You might also be asked very "test-like" questions.  This will be particularly prevalent in PvP-focused corps.  For instance, you may be asked to provide your favorite fitting for an armor HAC or a shield battle cruiser.  You might even be asked to provide a link to your past kill-boards.  Even though they are a low-sec corp rather than a null-sec corp, those joining The Tuskers have the most stringent first interview requirement that I am aware of: you are required to submit five solo kill-mails that you have inflicted, at least two of which must be against ships a class size greater than the ship you used!

However, during the first interview, it is also perfectly acceptable for you to ask questions of your own.  These questions should rank high on your list:
  • How many players are active during my time zone?
  • What kinds of scheduled ops should I expect during my time zone?
  • Are there required CTAs, and if so, what kind?
  • What kind of freebies or assistance does your corp offer its members?
  • (If you're applying to a PvP corp...)  What is your corp's reimbursement policy?
  • What is your corp's logistical backbone?  Jump bridges, jump freighters, carriers, etc.?
You should also ask about a corp kill board, forum, and voice chat server at this time.  It's also not out of bounds to ask where the corp lives, if that's not knowledge you can get for yourself either from dotlan or other sources.  Most null-sec corps will tell you flat-out where they live.

Once you learn where a null-sec corp lives, you are absolutely within your rights to put a cheap clone (or possibly an alt) into a Warp Core stabbed, MWD-equipped fast frigate and travel to your potential new corp's home space!  Get a feel for the area.  Learn how many camps that you can expect to encounter on the way.  Once you're there, scout around a bit, see what ships are being flown, how many people are in local and (if the corp you're considering lives in NPC null) dock up and see how many are docked up with you.  This is part of your verification that the information that you're being provided is true.  If the corp still looks promising at this point and you get an alt into the proper system, go ahead and log out, leaving that alt there.  If you can dock up your main and jump clone out, do so.(1)

Assuming your first interview goes well, expect there to be a second interview.  Expect this second interview to be carried out by one of the corp's directors or more senior recruiters.  It will probably happen on Teamspeak or Ventrilo, and will probably go over much the same ground that was went over in your first interview.  Don't be discouraged.  This is how the process works.  Many null-sec corps are infiltrated by spies, and this process is used to try to weed them out a bit.  In addition, I'll say again: be patient.  Often, it will be a few days between the first interview and the second, and a few more between the second interview and your hearing a decision.  In fact, I daresay that as long as your waiting period isn't excessive, this wait of a few days or even a week is a sign of a healthy corp with a good recruiting process.

It's important during these interview to keep your mind fixed on your goal: again, what is your primary driver for wanting to move to null?  Make sure your potential new corp is compatible with this goal.  Do not let anyone make fun of you or make you feel bad for this goal, whatever it is.  EVE is a game!  It's supposed to be fun.  You're allowed to have fun in EVE in whatever way you like, even if that way is incomprehensible to others.  If your recruiters don't see the value in your primary driver, then you're interviewing with the wrong corp.  Don't get discouraged.  The right corp is out there.

One last thing: avoid corp recruiting scams!  No matter what anyone tells you, no reputable null-sec corp or alliance has recruiting fees.  You are doing them a service by joining.  Null-sec corps and alliances need members.  They need you, or if they don't need you, they need some other EVE player.  When they find the players they want, they're not going to charge those players a recruiting fee.  Membership fees and taxes may be charged, once you're in a null sec corp.(2)   Some corps have this, some don't.  But these are very different things.  Taxes are moneys taken off your mission and rat bounties.  They're used to pay corp expenses, depending on the services that the corp provides.  Membership fees are usually monthly dues of some kind, generally payable to the alliance to which the corp is a member of (Alliances currently don't have automatic means of making ISK to pay their own expenses).  However, this sort of fee or tax gets assessed after you've joined, not before.  And it will not be arbitrary or excssive where it exists... a few million ISK at most per member is typical.  Almost always, if this sort of fee is being assessed, there will be a clear method that you're expected to use to make the ISK to pay it (such as ratting).  And always always always, there will be some delay until the fee is first expected of you, usually the first of the month after you join.

Corps might be charged a fee to join a prestigious alliance, or alliances might be charged a rental fee to move into null-sec.  But individual players will never be charged such a fee, at least not by reputable corps or alliances.  If you're asked to pay such a fee, run... do not walk in the other direction.

Sooner or later, you'll make a decision.  Sooner or later, the corp you've chosen will also choose you.  And that's where Part 3 will begin.

(1) If you get killed on the way, try again, and again, and again, until you make it.  Trust me, this is going to be good practice for getting around null on your own.  And for null-sec newbies, don't try to use direct high-sec to null-sec gates.  Find a path to get you to the right location using low-sec as your means of entry.  Most high-sec to low-sec gates aren't camped, whereas most high-sec to null-sec gates are.  Take a few more jumps and get where you're going via a few (or not so few) jumps through low-sec.

Checking in on your new potential corp-mates in this way is an excellent means of seeing if they "rattle".  If they tell you during the interview process that they are a PvP corp, but then you jump into their system in a frigate and you see lots of Ravens cloaking or docking up...

(2) This is after you are accepted into the corp and are wearing that corp's ticker, not before.