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, December 31, 2012

December junk drawer

Welcome to the junk drawer, part of a series of monthly posts in which I dump all the stuff that I couldn't develop into full blog posts this past month.  As I mentioned in my last post, for whatever reason there were a lot of these this month...


Something I'm seeing more and more frequently on the more shiny ship fittings I look at are three faction damage mods.  A common one is three Caldari Navy Ballistic Control Systems on a Raven Navy Issue, Tengu, or the like.  Nine times out of ten, this is overkill and overly expensive for the pilot involved.  What to do instead: fit two faction damage mods and a tech2 damage mod.  The total remains the same: three damage mods.  But thanks to the diminishing returns inflicted by EVE on ships using multiples of the same type of mod, the lost DPS and volley are usually insignificant.

For instance, on a three BCS Tengu, DPS drops from 610 with three faction damage mods to 602 with two faction damage mods and a single T2 damage mod.  The volley lose is likewise insignificant, usually about 25 points of damage.  Similarly, on a Raven Navy Issue, DPS drops from 560 to 553.

Meanwhile, the ship itself costs 100 million ISK less with two faction damage mods instead of three and becomes that much less gank-worthy.  A similar effect comes into play with PvE ships fit with four damage mods: use two faction and two T2.  At most, your total DPS loss will be about 15 or so, hardly worth getting concerned about.

There are certainly exceptions.  My Moros uses three faction damage mods, because the third faction one adds 200 DPS over a T2 version.  That's significant enough to incur the expense.  ;-)  And I'm sure there are incursion and wormhole scenarios where the extra DPS -- even if slight -- is desirable.  But for general ratting, missions, and the like, it's a good idea to judge cost/risk...


Several unrelated quickies:

With the new bounty system, some of us may never see our character's chin again...  ;-)  I can't decide if I want to adjust my character picture or hope that CCP will eventually adjust how wanted banners are displayed.  It seems silly to permanently sacrifice 25% of the avatar display area.

If you don't have a bounty, don't worry: you will soon.  There's a guy that puts a 100,000 ISK bounty on every person that passes through Jita that doesn't have one yet.

Is it just me, or are the drone MWD bonuses on the Algos and Dragoon annoying as hell?  I really want to like the Algos but it's hard when my drones whip right past the target they're supposed to be attacking and have to tail-chase it back down.  It wouldn't be an issue if CCP had given the Algos a 50 Mbit/second bandwidth but they didn't do that so I'm forever stuck with Hobs or Warriors that can't settle down and attack the thing I want them to attack.  Annoying.

Similarly, I kinda like the new circular targets when you lock things up in all applications but one: when I'm piloting a logistics ship.  When I'm doing that, those circles suddenly become a nightmare.  When I'm flying logi, I'm used to sweeping my eyes across the structured bars of all my locked targets in one smooth pass looking for who needs reps the most.  With those circles, I can't do that any more, particularly when I'm in a Guardian or triage carrier.  That means it's both higher stress being a logi pilot and my reaction time to changes is down slightly.  That's going to make things tougher on new logi pilots.

Why does the Wing Booster not get Fleet boosts?  Has there ever been a good reason given for this?

Yule Lads?  Really?  Iceland is weird.  ;-)


Finally, a longer one.  PL's campaign to recruit EVE's best FCs appears to be going well with the pick-up of MukkBarovian (and by extension the rest of Blackwater USA).

I can't speak to Mukk's work over the last year or so, but when I first encountered him in 2009, he was one of the finest small-gang PvP FCs in New Eden.  He was particularly good at baiting tactics and skirmishing tactics, and is pretty good at hiding his numbers and managing gate lag.  Yeah, he was a little ragey at the people in his fleet if they made mistakes but I didn't mind that.  I'm used to dealing with strong personalities.(1)  I learned quite a lot about this game flying with him.

I flew with him in Gentlemen's Club, and again in Random Violence.  We only parted ways when I decided I wanted to go back to sov warfare and headed north.  At the time, Mukk said he had absolutely no interest ever doing sov again.  ;-)  That seems to have lasted a grand total of about five months before he moved to BUSA and with that move, to Against ALL Authorities.  Had I been a bit more patient, I guess it's likely I would have made that move, too.  The road not taken, and all that.

And PL's campaign to recruit as many strong FCs as they can is certainly also very smart.  It does kind of beg the question who's going to be left for them to shoot at, of course, but that's a whole other issue.


And that's all for the junk drawer this month, and my final blog post for 2012.  On to 2013!

(1) See: Rote Kapelle, et. al.  ;-)


Just a quickie.

So my junk drawer post for December is coming up, and it's a ridiculously busy post with a lot of little items in it.  But one of them, on reconsideration, struck me as something that deserves its own post, if only a little one.

For those of you who aren't World of Tanks players or aren't keeping up with WoT, they're running a very interesting little promotion.  Running until 10 January, Wargaming.net (the developers of WoT) are giving away a free t-shirt to everyone in North America who:
  • has a tier 10 tank in their garage at the end of the promotion period; and,
  • plays five matches during the promotion period.
As someone who dallied a bit with WoT but never became a convert, I can tell you that having a tier 10 tank is a major commitment to the game and its developers.  It's unlikely, in fact, that a player would be able to do it without spending some fairly significant money.  It's not quite the level of having an EVE super-capital ship, but it's pretty damn close.

Which is why giving the players that have hit this plateau some "free stuff" is a genius move on several levels.

At one of the past CSM summits, CCP toyed with the idea of loyalty bonuses for long-term players, and what Wargaming.net has done is a logical extension of that idea.  These t-shirts aren't free: they've been bought and paid for with a lot of micro-transaction money.  The devs are even letting the players choose the design, though they're quick to point out "the World of Tanks logo will appear on the shirt, even if you don't see it in the design below."

And come the spring and summer convention season this year, those t-shirts are going to be everywhere.  Bet you anything we'll see a not-insignificant number of them at Fanfest, for instance.  So giving them away is not only a smart player loyalty move, it's a smart marketing move.  They'll be on the backs of thousands of committed World of Tanks players and should someone ask what the story is about that t-shirt, what are these ultra-committed players going to say?  That the game is terrible?  Not likely.  They're immediately going to launch into a sales pitch, probably without realizing that they're doing it.

Meanwhile, the duration of the promotion is short enough that what do you suppose all of those people who are this close to a tier 10 tank are doing?  Hell, the t-shirts might get paid for with the micro-transaction money Wargaming.net makes during the promotion period alone.  And what do you suppose all those lapsed players that got their tier 10s a year ago are doing?  Scrambling for their WoT passwords, that's what, bringing hundreds or thousands of players back to see what's changed in the game since they logged in last.

Like I said: this is a genius move, on any number of levels.  CCP, if you want your players to sell your game, something like this is how you go about it...

KOTW: If at first you don't succeed

"If at first you don't succeed, try try again" is a folksy little encouragement toward persistence.  But the joking version goes "If at first you don't succeed, maybe skydiving isn't for you."  That one cautions against taking persistence into the realms of madness.  Kinda like this guy:

And OK, this is not a particularly impressive loss-mail in its own right.  Just a badly-fit Buzzard with a pile of EVE holiday gifts in the cargo hold, plus a few odds and ends obviously picked up in scannable sites.  I assumed this guy was just carrying this little junk pile to Jita to sell, got caught on a low-sec gate on the way, and bang.  It probably wasn't smart carrying all of that in a Buzzard with no Covert Ops Cloak, but hey, it happens in New Eden every day.  The kill originally came to my attention because it came with a lot of player rage.  Like this:
DrugsDen> cunt
DrugsDen> fuck you
DrugsDen> skillless sack of shit
and this:
From: DrugsDen
Sent: 2012.12.31 11:38
To: Reilly Smallz,

fuck you skillless ganker go play in the fuckin road!
and this:
From: DrugsDen
Sent: 2012.12.31 11:53
To: Don Dark,

what a dumb fuck you are i had no time to do anything at all as i had just jumped from the gate you pair of skillless wankers was sitting on! prick
To answer the eternal EVE question: yes, he mad.  Happy holidays to you, sir, and may your new year be pleasant and cheerful.  And honestly, if that's all that there was to it, I would have smiled, gone on with my life, and picked something else to be kill of the week.  But digging a little deeper, I found that it isn't all there is to it.

It turns out this guy dies all the time... to the tune of some six billion ISK lost in the last two years alone... and only five kills in all that time.  This isn't even the first time he's died in a Buzzard with no Covert Ops Cloak.  Maybe he doesn't know about Covert Ops Cloaks at all: he's lost at least six Buzzards without one in the last year.  Or how not to die in a low-sec Drake (5+ losses) or a low-sec Raven (4+ losses).  Or how to fit a cloaky Tengu (also with no Covert Ops Cloak, and no Interdiction Nullifier).  Or that a Venture that has a Harbinger land nearby can just... you know... warp off.

But he keeps going out there in these same ships and these same fittings and dying over and over again.

This is a hard game.  I'm not one to bash on a new player that's having difficulties.  I specifically try to avoid bashing on these kinds of fitting problems, in fact.  But DrugsDen, if you're out there, join RvB or EVE University or another EVE teaching corporation.  Please!  You'll enjoy this game a lot more and you'll be much less angry.  'cause as it stands right now, if at first you don't succeed, maybe skydiving isn't for you.

Number of dead super-caps this week: 0

Not a single super-cap appears to have died between 24 December and 30 December.  But an Anshar popped up on my radar that died to an interesting tactic.  And since JFs seem to be becoming just as expensive as super-caps, it will stand in until some super-caps die.

This Anshar was the most expensive thing to die this week, and it died due to an interesting tactic.  At the time of this kill, TNT alliance was under a war-dec by Disposition Matrix.  If you insist on getting your JF through high-sec despite the war-dec, you might think it's safe to scout each system on your route with an alt scout.  If there are no war targets in the next system, you jump in your Anshar and send your scout to the next system on.  This guy, however, gets around that by having his main logged-off near in-gates.  He uses his own alt scout to see a war-dec'ed JF coming.  Once the JF jumps through, he sacrifices the alt in a tackle ship to ensure the initial tackle on the JF while he logs in his main DPS.  Main DPS warps in from one million kilometers off the gate, initial tackle dies to CONCORD... but it doesn't matter because by that time the main can reapply tackle and ensure the JF doesn't escape.  Kinda clever!  It's something to keep in mind if you're ever in this situation yourself.

Hopefully, we'll have some super-caps die this week.  Here's to more fun kill-mails in 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday definition: Skirmish

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

From time to time in EVE PvP circles, you'll be told to "get into a skirmish ship" or you will hear about skirmish tactics.  At its most basic, EVE skirmish tactics are the use of long-range DPS along with ships using bonused points or webs in order to inflict kills on a larger -- often much larger -- enemy gang.  In short, skirmish tactics are essentially guerilla tactics but applied in a specific way to reduce risk to the skirmish gang and maximize their chances of getting some kills.

The specific definition of "skirmish ship" has been changing over the last year or so as the game evolves.  However, the basics of a skirmish gang remain relatively unchanged: you need a central core of high volley, medium- to long-range ships such as Tornadoes, Oracles, and railgun-fit Nagas.  To that, you add one or two long-range point ships (usually a Lachesis), one or two long-range web ships (Rapiers), and a small number of heavy missile ships, usually Drakes.  To this basic composition, you then add usually one logistics ship (nearly always a Scimitar), one light interdictor, and a pair of anti-tackle ships (these used to be Vagabonds, but these days Zealots are becoming more popular).

The default "skirmish ship" used to be a Drake or an artillery-fit Hurricane and indeed, the tactics were built around small- to mid-size Drake/Cane fleets.  Typical skirmish engagement range used to be about 50km or so but with the increasing numbers of ships that can counter at that range, the range of skirmish tactics has been increasing to approach 90km and that has put standard Drake/Cane skirmishers out of business.(1)  Still, while Hurricanes are now more or less unheard of in skirmish fleets, Drakes still maintain a role as "PODLA Drakes" fitting double webs and protecting the rest of the fleet -- often at the cost of the Drakes...

Skirmish ships must be nano-fit, and must be able to hit at long range, which is where the new tier3 battle cruisers excel.  A skirmish fleet will attempt to engage its prey off gates at the 70-90km range mark.  Most often, you will encounter a skirmish fleet either already sitting this range off a gate, or burning at high speed off a gate as you enter a system behind them.  The entry gate itself will quite often be bubbled by the dictor who has already done this job and then cloaked up about 20km off the gate.  The entire remaining group will be burning at 2000-2200m/s or so, depending on exact ship, fitting, pilot skill, and implants.  The logi, Lachs, Rapiers will be 15km behind the main mass.  The Drakes and anti-tackle ships will be 10km in front of the main mass, like so:

The white graphic represents a stargate.  Purple dots represent your fleet, which will generally outnumber the skirmishers by 2-1 or more but will often start the engagement bubbled by the skirmish dictor.  Large red dots are Tornadoes, Oracles, or Nagas.  Large blue dots are Drakes.  Small yellow dots are anti-tackle (Zealots, Vagabonds).  Small red dots are two Rapiers and a Scimitar.  Small green dots are Lachs.

The skirmish fleet will give its enemy two choices, both of them bad: either burn back to gate (and in so doing lose several slower ships as they burn back to the volleys of the DPS ships) or try to burn after the skirmish gang.  The former will guarantee the skirmish gang some kills and no losses.  The latter is dangerous because it reduces your transversal to the skirmish ships AND you have to push through Drake and Rapier webs in order to reach the group's main DPS.  Either way, even if you outnumber the skirmishers by a sizeable margin, their high speed and positioning will guarantee that you lose several ships no matter which of the two choices you make.  Many FCs, seeing their large advantage in numbers, will simply accept a small number of lost ships as acceptable tactical losses in an attempt to inflict losses on or to break up the skirmish group.

The skirmish fleet, meanwhile, will attempt to hold its range advantage with higher speed.  Certainly the group has a single logistics ship but that ship's role is to keep the Recons alive, not the DPS ships.  Any DPS ship that is primaried will be expected to burn out of tackle range and warp off to a nearby location and then return to the fight as quickly as possible, warping back to a friendly pilot already at the correct range.  A correctly-run skirmish fleet will show this dynamic: the ships you primary will warp off, you'll primary a new ship, that one will warp off, you'll primary a third ship, that one will warp off.  Meanwhile, the first ship you primaried will return (warping back to one of its brethren that has been burning away from your fleet) and rejoin the fight.

And that's a skirmish fleet's main drawback: a skirmish fleet tends to be small and as a result, any mistake made by any of its pilots will probably guarantee that ship is lost.  If a pilot warps in too close or doesn't burn hard enough away, it will be killed.  If it burns away too hard, it won't be doing any DPS and the skirmish fleet won't get any kills.  The anti-tackle ships must be on the ball striking down any interceptors attempting to tackle any of the skirmishers.  The Drakes and Rapiers must likewise be on the ball webbing down anything heavier that attempts to tackle a DPS ship.  Due to their forward positions, the Drake pilots must be particularly careful.  And if the enemy gang has a Lach or an Arazu of its own, the skirmish fleet will lose a ship or two regardless of what the skirmish fleet FC does unless the pilots pointed by the enemy Recons make no mistakes.

Regardless of what the skirmishers do, if a larger fleet under attack skirmishers pushes its numbers advantage hard enough, sooner or later, they will break the skirmish fleet's perfect formation.  At that point, the skirmish FC will probably call for the entire group to warp off.  Whether they can do so will greatly depend on if the skirmish pilots have made any mistakes.  If three or four tacklers have infiltrated the skirmish group, for instance...  On the other hand, if all or the majority of the skirmishers get away, they will attempt to reset the trap in "the next system" along its path of advance and the dance begins again.

In short, operating in a skirmish fleet demands near-perfect flying from every pilot involved: any mistakes will cost the pilot that makes them their ship.  And if the skirmish FC loses enough DPS ships or loses even one or two special teams ships, the skirmish fleet will have no choice but to avoid any engagements and run.

So the good news is that a properly-run skirmish fleet can successfully up-engage fleets of two, three, or even four to one and successfully get kills.  The bad news is that such a fleet is always flirting with the ultimate disaster that will result in their deaths.  ;-)  This is an extremely fun and challenging way to play EVE.  If you're going to try it, make sure your fleet composition is up to snuff and you'll probably want to practice it a little...

Occasionally on Sundays, I will be defining a common EVE term for those who might not have heard it.  If you have a suggestion for such a term, please drop it into the comments.

(1) As a matter of fact, the Hurricane has now been pushed out of most roles and its sales volume is down more than a third over the last year, but that's a different story.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The ten and the one 2012

Last year at this time, riverini from EVE News 24 was asking a bunch of people who we thought the most influential EVE player of the year was, and what the ten most important events of the year were.  And it was such an interesting mental exercise that I think I'm going to make it an annual feature around here.  Here's my list for last year, if you want to check it out.

Picking the most influential EVE player was much tougher this year than last year.  It wasn't Mittens.  Mittens was certainly important (see below), but he wasn't influential.  After Fanfest he kept a pretty low profile, in fact.  And it wasn't anyone on the CSM, and for the same reason.  Had eveiseasy.com been successful, then its developers would have been an easy choice.  Likewise, if there was a public face behind somer.blink, that person might have been a good choice.  It also might have been tempting to pick someone from among EVE's "media" presence -- it was tempting to go with Marc Scaurus, for instance.  But as with all questions of this type, once you find the answer the answer becomes self-evident.

This year's most influential EVE player was Raivi, formerly of Pandemic Legion, now known as CCP Fozzie.

Is that cheating a bit?  You betcha.  But it's the truth nonetheless.  Raivi was already an important presence in EVE's player community when the year started, both for his influence on early-year ship re-balancing on the forums and acting as a commentator at Alliance Tournament 10.  One of Raivi's strengths as a player is that he's been playing the game for many years, but he's still able to put that aside and easily and clearly explain the most basic EVE concepts to new players.  But he also has the skills and the knowledge to argue very esoteric points of EVE mechanics with veteran players.  Though he doesn't have the encyclopedic knowledge of EVE's ships that his former corp mate and CSM member Elise Randolph does, he has shown the ability to look beyond the stats to where each ship fits in EVE's overall game mechanic.

Nowhere was this shown more clearly than in three things Raivi wrote about once he became CCP Fozzie:
  • the re-balance of EVE's electronic warfare cruisers just before Retribution's launch;
  • alchemy for technetium; and,
  • the trampling on heavy missiles and the Hurricane in September.
There was also ample evidence that Fozzie took a look at CCP's long-term ship re-balancing plans and seems to have almost single-handedly altered their course in May and June.(1)  Whether you agree with these moves or not,(2) you can't argue that Fozzie didn't take a mix of things that players wanted and things that CCP wanted and struck a great balance with getting those things pushed through.

EVE PvP combat has been benefiting from this since.  We don't have access to CCP Diagoras's stats any longer, but I'd be willing to bet a large sum of ISK that they would show a very large upswing in PvP combat since Retribution's launch.

The top ten events of the year?  As with last year, the top five events are going to have continuing impacts on the game well into the future.  The bottom five were important events, but not so influential as the top five.

1. Faction warfare button orbiting
This one had an enormous impact on EVE's economy, PvE, and new player expectations.  It's still reverberating around the game and is going to continue to do so for years to come.  Trillions of ISK were transferred into the hands of newer players (and into ISK sinks) through this mechanic, which ought to be a good thing.  But sooner or later, all of that money is going to run out and all of those players are going to be stuck with EVE's remaining PvE options... which aren't nearly so lucrative.  What happens then is going to be interesting (and probably alarming) to watch.
2. Alliances become coalitions
First, there were corporations.  Then there were alliances.  Then there were agreements between alliances.  And now we as EVE players don't even talk about alliances any more.  We talk about the Clusterfuck Coalition or the Honey Badger Coalition or the "drone Russians" (many of whom are not) or a half-dozen once-active-now-dead coalitions of alliances.  I've been chatting with a couple of old friends from the CFC, both of whom are bemoaning the fact that they are quite literally running out of things to shoot at.  This one can't help but have a massive impact for years to come.
3. The Mittani at Fanfest
Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode called "Darmok" about an alien species that communicated entirely in metaphor.  If you knew the story behind what the person was saying, you didn't need to have its impact or implications explained to you.  For EVE players, the phrase "The Mittani at Fanfest" is going to be just this sort of metaphor.  If you know the story, nothing more needs be said.  I doubt anyone can argue that CSM7 would have been an entirely different entity with Mittens at the wheel from the CSM we've actually had.  This one can't help but have an impact on the next couple of CSMs and the influence they can have on CCP.
4. RIP Vile Rat
And that starts right here.  Mittens had reportedly already chosen Vile Rat to be Goonswarm's representative to CSM8, which effectively means that had he not been killed in Libya, Vile Rat would have almost certainly been Chair of CSM8.  Whomever is eventually selected, whether it's another Goon (perhaps Mittens again) or someone else is therefore going to owe his position to this event.  That can't help but have a marked impact on the focus of the next CSM.  Just as important, VR's loss as the CFC's chief diplomat is still having an impact on the CFC and their actions (or lack thereof) late in the year.
5. The clash of EVE player media sites
We began the year with five functional -- if not always frequently updated -- EVE news websites.  We end the year, for all intents and purposes, with two.  Likewise, we've lost a number of bloggers and other important voices in the EVE player community this year, several of them to arguments with other bloggers or with one or the other EVE news website.  In addition, the two "EVE news" websites make no secret of their intent to expand beyond EVE into covering other MMOs.  It's been interesting to watch which ones will carry stories about important events in New Eden and which cover what is going on in other games instead...  The impact to the EVE community will be felt in the years to come.
6. Burn Jita
Once removed from the CSM, Mittens for a while set out to become the best Goon he could possibly be, and that started with this breath-taking attempt to shut down major trade in EVE's largest trade hub.  It became an event that lasted almost 100 hours in total and had a remarkable impact on both the players and CCP.  The latter -- for the first time ever, so far as I can tell -- issued a public player warning not to travel to one of New Eden's systems unless you had to.  And the former learned -- for a couple of days at least -- just how fragile the bedrock the EVE economy rests on is.  This one, however, did not have the lasting impact that it potentially could have.  Mittens said further events would follow to attack EVE's market hubs unannounced, but those events have not materialized.
7. The fall of Red Alliance and -A-
I wrote a good bit about these when they happened, and like the fall of IT Alliance in 2011, showed that nothing lasts forever in EVE.  But these events really showed the impact of the coalition in the new EVE meta.  Red Alliance started the year as one of the game's most powerful and resilient entities, with 70 outposts, sovereignty in 150 systems, and more than 2000 members.  They'd been on the map for so long that it was tempting to call them a permanent feature.  But they were relatively isolated and relied more on persistence and pure grit than "having friends".  That cost them, and it presaged the fall of Against ALL Authorities late in the year for the same reasons.  Whether either will ever recover remains to be seen.
8. Peaceful transitions
However, these falls were the exceptions and not the rule.  Most of the sovereignty changes this year happened peacefully, even between enemies.  As I've said a few times this year, null-sec is not "stagnant"; it is changing all the time.  But much of that change happened not through open conflict but through back-channel dealings that have become the norm for null-sec diplomacy.  In several cases -- notably Querious in the south and Tenal in the north -- whole regions were invaded, conquered, and parcled out to new owners in the space of only a handful of days.
9. CCP slays the incursion community
One of the most important events of 2011 was the creation out of whole cloth of New Eden's first true integrated high-sec community.  This block of players, in terms of size and common goals, was nearly equivalent to the size of a null-sec alliance and could have potentially had the same impact in terms of influencing CCP or selecting a CSM delegate to represent them.  Then CCP came along and drove a spear through its heart with the game's first quadruple nerf.  The community has spent all year trying to recover.
10. The New Eden Open
I choose this one provisionally.  Certainly, it was an important event from CCP's perspective and their first toe in the water of eSports.  CCP shows every sign of wanting to continue tournaments into the new year and patiently push this initiative through.  I think it has a lot of potential.  But at the end of the day, only about 4000 people watched any part of this, only 27 out of 32 potential teams joined, and it's arguable that few or none of the teams put their full effort into the enterprise.  But in an interesting sort of way, even if this effort is ultimately unsuccessful, that has an influence all its own, doesn't it?

That's my ten and one for 2012.  Anything that I missed?  Discuss.

(1) "You will also see that the direction we're going with these frigs means that our plans have changed somewhat since the dev blog a few months ago," the ship-balancing dev-blog from June says, rather blandly...
(2) I myself think in the aggregate, all of these changes were positive steps.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kill of the Week: Guardian-Vexor

This isn't the KOTW for this week -- it isn't over yet -- but rather me catching up with events of last week.  Let's start with the KOTW.  At the risk of being beaten up for picking a hauler again, there really wasn't anything else that compares:

The big part of this loss was the Guardian-Vexor, a relic of the ancient EVE era.  Originally a tournament prize ship in 2003-2004, the G-V was not a particularly impressive ship: it was a Vexor that had an extra missile launcher hard-point.  However, in those ancient days, many ships had the ability to launch more than five drones.  As a lag-fighting measure, CCP removed that ability.  The ships that had it were instead given drone damage bonuses.  The Drone Interfacing skill -- which originally allowed all ships to launch +1 additional drone per level -- was instead changed to give pilots that have this skill trained +1 drone's damage for each level of the skill trained.

But in the sweep to remove the bonus for ships that could launch more than five drones, the G-V was missed.  It therefore retained the unique ability to launch more than five drones and the benefits of the new Drone Interfacing skill.  This greatly enhanced both its DPS and its value.  With ten Hammerhead IIs, today's Drone Damage Amplifier mod, and a pretty standard shield tank, the G-V is capable of 935 DPS... not too bad for a T1 cruiser.  ;-)

That said, there are estimated to be fewer than 20 of these ships left in the game out of the original 50... and Entity is estimated to hold at least five of those.  Its value is therefore about equal to a titan.

So... yeah.  Finding one inside a T1 hauler landing on Jita was a bit like finding a T1 hauler carrying 100 PLEXes or a full set of researched capital ship BPOs.  I'd say it deserves KOTW honors.(1)  themittani.com carried the story on this one with a few more details.

Number of dead super-caps this week: 3

Pretty slow week on super-cap deaths this week.  First to die was this Nyx... while ratting.  Brought in to "save" the ratting Nyx was this Aeon... which didn't have any remote reps.  Do I have to report that this is a special kind of stupid?  I guess I don't.  Both themittani.com and EVE News 24 carried the story on this one.  themittani did a better job with the text; EN24 has a video.  But the story basically goes: Nyx rats, Nyx is caught because Nyx pilot is dumb, Aeon warps in to "save" Nyx, Aeon dies with Nyx because pilot is equally dumb (or is the same person).

Shadows of the Federation got a nice early present with this UndeadDOT Nyx kill in 98Q-8O just a few days after Rote Kapelle ended our campaign in that very system.  Yes, I'm jealous.  ;-)  EVE News 24 has the story on this one too, but again I'll summarize.  SOTF spotted an Undead Thanny doing some POS repping so asked for assistance from I-RED one system away with a bait fleet, which I-RED provided.  The Nyxes came in -- with a decent support fleet -- to attempt to knock down some of the SOTF dreads on the Thanatos kill.  However, with the help of the I-RED support fleet, the Undead bubblers were killed and the SOTF capitals escaped.  But one of the Nyxes was caught by SOTF prober, so the SOTF capitals undocked to kill it, again with a small I-RED support fleet.  Nice job, guys!

Next KOTW post will be this Sunday-ish as normal, covering kills and super-cap kills from 24-30 December.

(1) Someone claiming to be the pilot who lost the G-V claims that he didn't know what he was carrying and thought he had a normal Gallente faction Vexor.  If you believe that, I have a titan to sell you...

Fit of the Week: Bloa

It was tempting -- oh so tempting! -- to go with the HAM Caracal.  But honestly, the fit is not all that different from the Bellicose that I posted a month ago.  The DPS is about the same, the tank is almost exactly the same, and the overall capabilities are about the same.  But I like the Bellicose better for the bigger drone bay and the higher speed.  The only thing you pick up with the Caracal is another 10km of range.  And that's nice, don't get me wrong, and I own a HAM Caracal for that reason.  But my favorite of the new Caldari cruisers?  No.  That honor goes to...

[Moa, Bloa]
Damage Control II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Tracking Enhancer II

Experimental 10MN MicroWarpdrive I
Large Shield Extender II
Warp Disruptor II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II

Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M

Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I

Hobgoblin II x3

Yes, I have a weakness for blasters.  And with that in mind, the Moa upgrade with the additional mid and the increased grid has a lot going for it... particularly if you cheat a bit and fit dual Ancillary Current Router rigs.  At that point, you have enough grid to fit maximum size weapons, a MWD, and two LSEs.  That makes this boat a big tanky beast for a T1 cruiser.  In that regard, it's just as good as last week's Omen: it gets close to 40k EHP, almost all of it in a thick resistant shield tank.  But last week's Omen can't do 500+ DPS in a brawl and this Moa can.  You can fit a Core Defence Field Extender rig instead of the Anti-EM rig to enhance it still more.  But I like the EM rig.  Not only is it a lot cheaper (particularly right now!) but it closes this ship's weakness to lasers very satisfactorily.

Overheat your MWD and your Invul as you close range; the biggest weakness of the Moa is that it is still sllllooooowww on the approach.  Why CCP didn't fix this, I have no idea.(1)  Null ammo loaded as you close range will let you put out very decent DPS to about 12-13km.  That's why I've fitted a TE in the final low instead of a third MFS.  If you routinely fly with a lot of speed implants though, you could go with the third MFS no problem.  If you really find that speed is an issue, fit a Nanofiber (or even an Overdrive Injector) in the final low slot instead.

As you cross 11km, swap out Null for faction anti-matter -- taking only five seconds, thank you CCP -- and your DPS increases beyond 500.  Remember to shut down the overheat on your MWD, but you can keep the overheat on the Invul running as you take damage.  You'll also want to release your drones at about this range.  I go with Gallente drones on brawling ships rather than the faster Minmatar drones for the increased DPS and the ability to take advantage of the thermal hole that most ships still have.  If you're flying with a T1 shield fleet, you'll be flying alongside that Thorax fit from a few weeks ago.  The advantage the Moa brings is its much stronger tank.  Shield Thoraxes are fantastic initial heavy tackle and outspeed the Moa by almost a third.  But once the Moas land, the target isn't going anywhere and the Moas are going to be a lot tougher to peel off.

All in all, this is a pretty easy ship to fly, has a lot of advantages in a brawl, and best of all does not require high-end fitting skills like the Caracal does.  It's a ship that an EVE beginner can get into and be very effective in.  It's tough and resilient and responds particularly well to reps.  Fly a bunch of these with a few Scythes and a few Thoraxes for tackle, and you'll have a cheap shield fleet for your enemies to fear.

Good hunting!

All Fits of the Week are intended as general guidelines only.  You may not have the skills needed for this exact fit.  If you do not, feel free to adjust the fit to suit to meet your skills, including using meta 3 guns and "best named" defenses and e-war.  Ships can also be adjusted to use faction or dead-space modules depending on the budget of the pilot flying it.  Each FOTW is intended as a general guide to introduce you to concepts that will help you fit and to fly that particular type of ship more aggressively and well.  

(1) Most likely, because they didn't realize that this is far and away the Moa hull's biggest weak point.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Where's Jester?

Note from the management: I'll be away on my Christmas holidays for a few days, with normal blogging expected to resume on Thursday.

So if you're stuck working, I'm sorry, but there's not going to be any help to be found here.  I might slip in one post in between family events -- a fit for my favorite Caldari T1 cruiser on Wednesday -- but don't count on it.  You'll have to be a productive member of society for a couple of days.  Sorry about that...

A few more pledge drive thank yous: thanks to Zaxix, HairyOldMan, and Asterith (who were all particularly generous), Kirith Kodachi, Flynn Ikeya, Edward Teague, Lady Gwendolyn Antollare, Noslen Nosilla, and Crannach.  Special thanks to one anonymous contributor who had a request: "More Garth!"  Hm, I'll see what I can do, but often that isn't up to me...  ;-)  Also, I want to apologize to Fenn Herstal; I misspelled his name in a previous thank you to him so I want to make sure the apology and the correction are public.  Thanks again, Fenn!

For those that go in for it, Merry Christmas!  To the rest of you, enjoy your own Winter Solstice-related holidays of choice, and I'll see you back here in four days.  There are a couple of big posts that I want to get finished before the year ends.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Narrow the gap

Suppose for a few minutes that you were a veteran EVE player with six or seven years experience.  Maybe you even are.  You might have a super-carrier, a jump freighter, a good size capital fleet with a half-dozen carriers and a couple of dreadnoughts, and a very large selection of sub-capital ships scattered across three or four home systems.  You've also got a large inventory of assets scattered across space and even if you don't use them all, you probably would have become very comfortable with all of your ships, assets, and potential capabilities.

Now suppose that CCP came along and told you that in order to balance the game for newer players, they were going to take away two thirds of your assets.  Super-carrier?  Gone.  They're going to take that away.  You can keep the jump freighter, but you have to give up most of your carriers and all but one of your dreadnoughts.  Then you have to give up a large swath of your sub-cap fleet and your stored modules.  And you have to downsize to only a couple of locations instead of three or four.  Anything that you're not actually using disappears and you only get to keep those things that you undock in every week.

Wouldn't care for that much, would you?

The simple truth is that humans are humans and we're all genetically wired to expect uninterrupted growth... expanding empires... expanding capabilities.  Nobody wants to downsize and people become downright resentful if they're told that they have to.  If CCP tried to do this to players, there would be a howling from the player base that would dwarf the summer of rage.  People get used to having a lot of toys, assets, and capabilities and don't want them taken away.

And this is why people who say "If DUST 514 fails, CCP should just cut it loose and concentrate on EVE" (and with it, strongly hint that CCP should cut loose their staff in Shanghai along with DUST) are kidding themselves.  You would become resentful of CCP tried to take away a few internet spaceship pixels.  So you can imagine how CCP probably feels about people who think they should drop half their company and what they're working on.

Last year at Fanfest, grand dreams were painted by CCP of possibly needing multiple venues to hold all of the fans that would be coming to Iceland to celebrate EVE and DUST 514 for their tenth anniversary Fanfest this April.  It isn't going to happen.  Sure the tenth anniversary Fanfest will be a very important event, and sure there will be some DUST 514 fans in attendance.  But they're not going to eclipse the EVE crowd the way I think some people at CCP thought they might.  Last year at this time, I was concerned that DUST might very well become the tail that wags EVE's dog.  That doesn't look likely to happen, either.  I still think DUST is going to be at least somewhat successful and CCP is an incredibly patient company who have shown with EVE that they're willing to wait and let a market develop for their products.

But at the end of the day, CCP also reports to investors, and those investors expect results.  And this is probably why we've heard CCP talk a couple of times this year about doing an IPO.  If DUST 514 were a massive success, then an IPO would spread out their investment base so that CCP executives weren't answerable to such a small number of people.  But even if DUST isn't an immediate success, spreading out the investment base is desirable for exactly the same reason.

In the meantime, if DUST 514 doesn't deliver on its promise of a greatly expanded player base in the combined EVE Online universe, that means CCP has to turn back to EVE to deliver on it.  Because otherwise, they're forced into a situation where they have to downsize (again).  And as I covered at the top of this piece, they won't want to do that.  You wouldn't either if you were them.  They want to keep the staff, assets, and capabilities they have today, working to make DUST into something that can be successful.  They just need a way to pay for them.  That means more revenue coming in, and if DUST can't bring it in, EVE has to.

This is one of the reasons why I think we've seen such a focus this year on trying to draw more new players into EVE Online.  In an unguarded moment in conversations between matches during the New Eden Open, CCP Fozzie let slip that one of the goals of the ship rebalancing this year has been to "narrow the gap" between T1 and T2 ships.  We've seen greatly expanded capabilities from the T1 frigates and cruisers, and when we see the rebalancing hit the T1 battle cruisers, I think we're going to see the same thing there.  Meanwhile though, I'm not holding out a lot of hope that the T2 ships, when they are eventually rebalanced, are going to be receiving such revolutionary changes as their ancestral counterparts.  We can probably expect them to be 20-25% better.  But not very much more than that.  The veterans are just going to have to decide if 25% better is worth four or five times the cost.

As I mentioned when I posted my favorite Thorax fit, if any of you out there are looking at that ship and thinking "if this is what they've done to the Thorax, I can't wait to see what they do to the Deimos!", you might want to rethink.  The Deimos refit will probably be pretty good.  But amazingly good?  No.  CCP wants to narrow the gap between veterans and newer players.  That means keeping the upgrades to the Deimos and the other T2 ships to a minimum.

Now this isn't anything new with other MMOs.  Lots of other MMOs try to balance their game between newer players and veteran players so that they can jointly enjoy the experience.  EVE has never bothered.  Two players in the same ships can have markedly different success with them in the same situation.  We've all been told for a long time that one low SP player that specializes in a Rifter is going to be just as good at it as a high SP player with lots of skill points spread broadly.  But I think we all instinctively realize that isn't quite true.  The veteran player is going to have much better fitting skills, more ISK for good implants, and if he is veteran enough, has probably trained support skills to Level V that the new player can only dream of.

I can easily see CCP wanting to narrow that gap, too.

In short, if DUST 514 struggles to find an audience, CCP is going to do everything they can to keep the DUST 514 development staff working regardless.  That means finding the revenue that they need to support those developers from other sources... namely EVE.  That means increased and continuing efforts to bring new players into EVE even if they have to do so to the detriment of the investment of veteran players.  It's going to be a tricky balance to master: some veterans are already grumbling about running out of things to do.  In the meantime though, we can see the first steps: newer players encouraged to get into T1 support cruisers that are nearly as good as their T2 counter-parts.  Even with the down-grade, a Scythe which takes a few months to master is about two-thirds as good as a Scimitar which takes a couple of years.  And some of the e-war cruisers are arguably better than their T2 counter-parts.  Whether this message can be delivered to potential players is going to be a marketing challenge... which brings me back to that previous couple of posts where I argued that CCP is probably looking for a Jesus feature for 2013 so that marketing will have something big to work with.

Yeah, this stuff is all connected.  It's hard not to see the connections.

Don't get me wrong: the news for veteran players certainly isn't all bad.  If CCP can succeed in bringing in a lot of new players wanting to take advantage of this narrowed gap, then that's a lot more content for those of us who have been here a while, right?

At the beginning of 2012, I said that this past year was going to be CCP's most challenging yet in terms of striking a balance between these competing factors.  Like DUST 514 itself, that prediction is going to be a little delayed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Best of 2012: 1

I wrap up this year, as I did last year, by saying thank you to all of you.  Thank you to everyone who's read my stuff, commented on it, agreed with it, argued with me about it, explained to me why I'm dumb, or thanked me for educating them.  You guys are why I do this.

Again, I've been absolutely overwhelmed and humbled by the response to the pledge drive.  All of the donations rock, as do all of the notes of encouragement, questions, and flat-out atta-boys.  The number of you encouraging me to run for CSM8 is kind of scary and gratifying as well...  Anyone who thinks EVE players are bad people is wrong.  Your support means a lot to me, particularly those of you who are newer players.  Personal thanks today go out to Aodh Saighdiuir, Marc Callan (who sent me a nice toy), HARD STEEL, Draimin (who contracted me several piles of toys and unknowingly is going to be sending the quite awesome Black Frog Freight some business ;-) ), Zivandra, Neetiri, and Fenn Herstal.

There will be one more "thank you" post before the end of the year.  I sent out some EVE mails to contributors asking if they wanted their contributions to be public or not, and some of those EVE mails haven't yet been replied to.

This is the last post of the pledge drive, so there will be no further shaking of the tin cup after this.  Of course, any time you want to send contributions to Ripard Teg, I won't say no.  ;-)  Again, thanks very much to those of you that have contributed.  To those and the rest, thanks for reading, and I hope you'll continue to do so!

Like last year, #1 was not at all hard to choose:

#1: Hats
In a week or so, I'm going to post what I thought were the top ten EVE-related events in 2012, and one of them will be obvious.  During Fanfest 2012 and while highly drunk, The Mittani -- already reelected to the Chairmanship of the CSM -- encouraged EVE players to goad another potentially mentally unstable EVE player into a rash act.  It was an unprecedented slip-up, and it put CCP in a very difficult position, particularly since they had announced a partnership with a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate not long before.  That left "sweep it under the rug" off the list of possible responses.

In this post, I laid out exactly what happened, put Mittens's outburst into context, and then argued that while CCP should punish him, they should not throw him off the CSM.  That said, this entire post was also about why a good CSM Chairman is not necessarily a good leader of the Goonswarm alliance, and I laid out exactly the reasons why.  All in all, Mittens didn't seem to mind this post and in fact encouraged people to read it via his Ten Ton Hammer column and his Twitter account.  In Mittens-speak, I'd say that equals agreement with what I wrote here.  This was -- far and away -- the most read post here at Jester's Trek in 2012.

We all know it it ended: CCP indeed threw Mittens off the CSM and Mittens responded soon after by becoming the best Goon he could possibly be.  ;-)  More on that in the top ten events of 2012 post.  As I said, look for that in a week.

I hope you've enjoyed this year's retrospective.  I've caught heat for it two years running, but I enjoy doing it, and I know a lot of new readers appreciate being pointed to some of my older stuff.  If you want to look at last year's list, feel free to read the appropriate posts tagged "Pledge Drive" from last year.

Thanks again for reading and I look forward to writing a whole lot more for you guys in 2013!

Guidebook 2012

Thanks to everyone who sent such kind words about the Implant and Jump Clones Guide that's been my obsession for the last couple of months.  I'm glad I was finally able to finish that one.  ;-)

As a reminder, I publish a ton of guides.  At any particular moment you want to see all of them, you can search for posts under the tag "EVE Guides".  Here's an overall look at the major guides that you'll find on this site:

Single Part Guides

Basic Decloaking: how to decloak a cloaky ship after it jumps into your gate-camp

Carrier-supported Ratting: using a safe carrier to enhance null-sec ratting ISK

Data Centers: what are data centers and when should you visit them?

Fast Warps: how to use a MicroWarpdrive to get any size ship into warp in 10 seconds

Gate Camp Basics: how to conduct a low-sec or null-sec gate camp for beginners

Incursion Tagging: how to follow tags in an incursion fleet, and how to tag rats yourself

Keeping Score: how eve-kill and Battleclinic calculate how many points a kill is worth

Overheating: how and why to overheat modules, optimizing the use of overheating

PvP Voice Communications: EVE battle language

Quick and Dirty Tacticals: how and why to create a library of warp-in bookmarks

Utility High Slots: what should you fit in the unused high slots of your ship?

Warp Drive: how you enter warp drive, how to prevent others from doing so

Multi-part Guides

Implants and Jump Clones: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5: What implants are and what they do, and how to create and manage multiple implanted jump clones

Incursions: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4: How to get involved in EVE's best source of PvE income

Moving to Null-Sec: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3: Once you've decided to move from high-sec to null, how do you go about it? What should you watch out for?

Solo Level 4 Missioning: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3: How to fit a ship to run L4 missions solo

PvP Class Notes

PvP 101: Fundamentals: some notes about the fundamentals of EVE PvP

PvP 102: Fleet Scouting: notes about how to scout for a PvP fleet and what types of ships are good at it

PvP 103: Electronic Warfare: notes about the use of the various types of e-war in EVE

Guides that I'm planning to write in 2013 include:
  • Moving to null-sec, part 4
  • Solo Level 4 Missioning, part 4 (plus an update for part 3)
  • Projectile ammo
  • POSs
  • Boosters
  • Basic T2 manufacturing
And I'm definitely going to scrap the current PvP Class Notes documents in favor of some really deep guides on this topic.  Matter of fact, those will be the first guides I do in the new year.

Have other suggestions for guides?  Let me know!  In the meantime, I hope all the guides I've written this year have been helpful.  :-)

Happy Apocalypse Day!

Sign of the end times

Well, OK not really.

Did I mention that I ordered one of the Apocalypse models right before the EVE Store went down for the year, when it was $30 U.S.?  I did.  And it's pretty awesome.  Much higher quality and much heavier than I was expecting.  Was it worth $130?  Erm... no, not really.  But for what I got it for, it was a steal!  And The Art of EVE book that I picked up for $1 U.S. was a revelation.  It's a lovely coffee table sort of book, very well made, depicting the first six or seven years of EVE Online in a beautiful way.

I also bought an deck of EVE playing cards (meh) and a Guristas 2.0 shirt (awesome, but the fabric is a bit too thin for my taste).  Be interesting to see what the store has to offer when it reopens next year!

Best of 2012: 5 - 2

As I've been saying this week, I'm combining a "Best of 2012" retrospective with a good old-fashioned pledge drive.

I want to again say how overwhelmed I have been with all of your support.  The number of donations is gratifying, of course, but just has gratifying have been the very nice EVE mails that dozens of you have sent to me.  A good third of them start "This donation isn't much, but I want to say how much you rebooted my enthusiasm for EVE" and then go on to tell me their stories, which I love reading.  But I love just as much that I've been able to help a lot of you just getting started in the game or returning after long absences.  Blogging is a lonely business and knowing that the stuff I put out there is of value is a tremendous comfort to me.  So thank you.

As always, contributions to go Ripard Teg.  And let me know in an EVE mail if you want the fact that you contributed to be public or not.

Thanks today go out to SG1B, WarpToMe AtZero, Budnacho and Boba Fart (excellent name!), SkinCorp (who built me some nice toys!), Freelancer117, and Ugbe Yvormes.  Special thanks this time to Teroh Vizjereij, who not only sent a donation and a very complimentary EVE mail, he also contracted me "this Doll to help Garth relax a little ;D".  n1, mate!  Problem is, a Doll that's in a station that Garth can't dock in is only going to make him that much more grumpy, doncha think?  ;-)  Thanks also to the many contributors who wish to remain anonymous: you guys rock!

Today's the last day of the pledge drive, so there will be no further shaking of the tin cup after today.  Again, thanks very much to those of you that have contributed.  To those and the rest, thanks for reading, and I hope you'll continue to do so!

#5: Bottleneck
Sometimes, I feel the need to break out some :scary math: and really dig into some subject that nobody else wants to sit down and take the time to.  These are generally posts that anyone could do, and lots of people have a pretty good idea how the math is going to turn out.  But the proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding.  I sit down, spend an afternoon doing the work, and usually come up with something surprising.  And then I learn what the word "viral" means as the post is suddenly everywhere.  That was this one, where I sat down and asked myself the question: on a value basis, how much technetium is there in a Hulk?  Once I came up with the answer, everyone was talking about it.  It was even in the OTEC advertisement during Alliance Tournament 10.  ;-)

#4: Slow bleed
Speaking of scary math, I sat down early this year and finally wrote an API-driven program to pull averages of EVE logged-in user data.  This is something that I've been interested in and talking about since blog day one, but I had been reliant on the work of others for the data that I was using for my analysis.  That changed this year with a kludgy little program called Snapcount.  And I spent the rest of the year sharing that data and analysis with anyone who was interested.  Apparently a lot of you were.  The final post in the series was read one thousand times in the first seven hours after it was posted, a new record.  It would not surprise me if the two charts in this post were printed out in tacked up somewhere in Reyk...

#3: That's just the way it is
Sometimes, I just feel the need to rant.  And sometimes, so do the rest of you, apparently.  ;-)  Driven out of my skull by a couple of things that I'm forced to deal with in EVE on a daily basis, I started writing a list of the minor issues in the game that drive me nuts.  The list turned out to be two dozen items long.  Then all of you added more than seventy more items to it over 105 comments.  This was the most commented-upon post I wrote this year, and with good reason.  CCP, here's your next "little things" list!

#2: Pride goeth before a chainsaw to the face
I didn't write very many battle reports this year.  It isn't my thing, generally.  But this was one, laying down the Rote Kapelle perspective before, during, and just after our Alliance Tournament 10 match with Pandemic Legion.  I still say it was the most exciting match of AT10.  ;-)  I'm really pleased with how this post came out from an emotional stand-point.  I think it really conveys the emotions all of us on the Rote team were feeling going into that match and how calm, steady, and ready to wreck someone's day we all were.  I'm still damned proud of how we carried ourselves in AT10 and can't wait for AT11.

Later today: #1.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guide: Implants and Jump Clones, Part 5

As I covered in part four of this guide, as you train up the Infomorph Psychology skill and as you pick out skill hard-wirings and other implants that you want to start using, sooner or later you're going to have to come up with a...

Jump Clone Strategy

The first question you're likely to ask once you start down this path is "What level should I train Infomorph Psychology to?"  And there's a basic guide that will answer at least part of that question for you.  It's a decision that you're going to have to make for every one of your mains and every one of your alts.  For each of them, count up three things:
  1. the number of roles that this character is going to have;
  2. the number of specialties that this character is going to have; and,
  3. the number of constellations that this character is going to be living in, not counting the first constellation.

What is a role?  In this context, a role is a duty that that character performs or a set of skills or ships that the character will be flying while in that clone.  Some common roles are:
industrialist or miner, reprocessing modules or ores;
  • PvP interceptor, frigate, or interdictor pilot;
  • command ship pilot (each racial type counts as a separate role); and,
  • capital ship pilot (each of dread, carrier, and super-capital counts as a separate role).
Regardless of your final jump clone strategy, each of these roles is going to demand a separate jump clone because of the nature of the needs of each role.  Command ship pilots, for instance, require mindlinks to be effective and each mindlink is going to require its own jump clone.  PvP interceptors, frigates, and interdictors are highly risky roles and are almost certainly going to require a blank or near-blank clone in order to mitigate the risk of this PvP style.  Mining becomes much more effective with the appropriate skill hard-wirings in place, and so on.  Each of these roles will almost certainly demand a separate clone.

What is a specialty?  Specialties are even deeper subdivisions than roles, often associated with pirate implant sets or pilots dedicated to a specific type of ship.  Some common specialties are:
  • scanner alt;
  • freighter alt;
  • super-capital pilot;
  • high-end Crystal PvP or PvE pilot; and,
  • dedicated skirmish pilot.
Each of these specialties is also going to demand a dedicated jump clone to perform these duties to their fullest, again regardless of your eventual jump clone strategy.  A dedicated scanner alt living in a wormhole will need to have at least one set of skill hard-wirings related to scanning plus perhaps a Virtue set.  A dedicated freighter alt will benefit greatly from a Nomad set and skill hard-wirings to increase ship agility.  Super-cap pilots simply must have a Slave clone, and so on.

Each constellation that the character operates in after the first will probably be worthy of a jump clone just to save travel time.  This sort of thing is going to apply to:
  • market alts that operate in multiple high-sec markets;
  • PvE players that alternate between missioning in one constellation and mining in another;
  • PvP players whose corp or alliance is spread across a wide area of space;
  • PvP players who wish to spy on an enemy corp or alliance or have a cyno alt in a different constellation; and so on.
This count is mostly going to be of use to players that follow a more generalist model when it comes to their jump clones (see below).

Count the number of constellations that the character has to operate in after the first.  For each role and specialty, add one to that number.  That is the total number of jump clones that you'll need.  To that, add one if you wish to have a dedicated training clone.  This clone carries a set of +5 attribute implants and rarely undocks, or only undocks in the safest of scenarios.  Subtract one from the sum of these factors and that's the level to which you need to train Infomorph Psychology.  And yes, if you get greedy, you might come up with a number that is greater than five.  In this case, you're going to have to scale back your ambitions somewhat or combine roles or constellations into a single jump clone.

Let's use one of my own mains, Ripard Teg, as an example.  He only needs to operate in a single constellation in Syndicate, but the first constellation doesn't count so his initial count is zero.  However, he has four roles: he flies Vultures, Claymores, and Damnations; and he often flies interdictors.  In addition, he has one specialty: he often operates as a dedicated skirmish pilot.  Finally, he has one dedicated training clone.  Four roles plus one specialty plus zero additional regions plus one training clone is six.  Subtract one from that is five, so Ripard is required to have Infomorph Psychology V, associated with six jump clones:
  • a Vulture clone with a Siege Warfare Mindlink;
  • a Claymroe clone with a Skirmish Warfare Mindlink;
  • a Damnation clone with a Armored Warfare Mindlink;
  • a skirmish clone with a set of Low-Grade Snake attribute enhancers;
  • a training clone with a set of +5 attribute enhancers; and,
  • a more or less blank clone for flying interdictors.
With the current limitation on the Infomorph Psychology skill, Ripard can't have any more roles or specialties without giving up one of his current ones.  If I wish to get him a Crystal clone or a scanner clone, he'll have to give up one of the clone roles he already has.

This is what I will refer to as a "specialist" jump clone strategy: each and every jump clone has a stated purpose.  Before I talk about specialists and how they differ from generalists, though, it will be instructive to talk once more about the jump clone timer.

As of this writing, there exists in EVE one of the worst mechanics in the game: the jump clone timer.  Once a player begins acquiring jump clones, the process for moving between them was covered in part two of this guide.  However, managing the timer is a very important part of a player's jump clone strategy.  If a player has an announced CTA using shield ships on Tuesday night, it will be very important for that same player not to jump into his armor capital ship clone on Tuesday morning.  If he does so, he might not wish to risk this sub-optimal clone on the CTA op and as such will be forcibly required to miss the op.

Likewise for a generalist, if a CTA is called in a distant region for Saturday afternoon, it won't do for the player involved to jump into a clone in a distant region on Friday night.  I have been on Teamspeak many, MANY times where ops have been delayed because a key participant only has "10 more jumps" before their distant clone can cross New Eden to reach the location that the op is actually departing from!

As a result, specialists and generalists alike need to keep their jump clone timer in their thoughts at all times.

Specific strategies

"Specialization is for insects", according to one of Robert Heinlein's beloved characters.  Players that follow the generalist strategy live by this mantra.  Particularly for PvP players, the generalist model specifies that all the player's jump clones be kept as similar as possible, providing a broad base of benefits that will be applicable to as many ship types as possible.  For instance, if a player is a PvPer and nearly always flies turret-based ships, then a good generalist clone is:
  • Slots 1-5: whatever attribute enhancers are desired;
  • Slot 6: 'Rogue' Navigation NN-603;
  • Slot 7: 'Gunslinger' Motion Prediction MR-703;
  • Slot 8: empty, or Zor's Custom Navigation Hyper-Link;
  • Slot 9: 'Gunslinger' Surgical Strike SS-903;
  • Slot 10: empty.
This is a relatively inexpensive implant set that will nevertheless provide significant benefit to virtually any turret-based ship that it is used in.  It's a clone that you don't have to think about.  If your corp or alliance has stations scattered across a wide region and you or they base ships in all of them, then you can store one clone per constellation using this model and be quite happy with its performance every single time.  The only type of ships that this clone will not be as useful for will be recons and drone- and missile-based ships.

In these situations, an even more generalist clone can be designed, perhaps one only using speed, agility, and ship capacitor implants or the like that are truly universal to all ships.

Many PvPers following a generalist strategy eschew skill hard-wirings altogether and go with basic attribute enhancers and that's all.  This is also a perfectly valid strategy and will limit that player's potential losses, particularly in null-sec.  However, in high-sec or low-sec PvP, it makes perfect sense to go with at least a basic skill hard-wiring set that provides a few benefits to as wide a range of ships as is possible.

The generalist strategy is also quite useful for alts designated for specific purposes.  For instance, a mining alt that ice mines in widely scattered constellations depending on what type of ice is needed can fit a basic ice-mining skill hard-wiring set:
  • Slots 1-5: whatever attribute enhancers are desired;
  • Slot 6: empty, or 'Gypsy' Electronics EE-6## if needed;
  • Slot 7: 'Gnome' Shield Management SM-703;
  • Slot 8: empty, or 'Squire' Energy Management EM-803;
  • Slot 9: Shield Operation SP-903;
  • Slot 10: 'Yeti' Ice Harvesting IH-1003.
And again, this is a clone that will serve well for a dedicated ice-harvesting alt no matter where in New Eden it flies.

The advantage of the generalist strategy is that the player that follows it has less book-keeping, lower potential losses, and a much easier logistical needs (particularly if they go with blank or near-blank clones).  Generalists will also be much less beholden to the jump clone timer unless they have a need to be in a different constellation.  However, even if that is the case, the generalist model works well here also given that the generalist jump clone will be suited to whatever ship type is needed once the distant clone arrives.  Generalist clones are generally also cheaper.

The disadvantage to the generalist model is that the generalist player gives up specific advantages to the specialist.  If two players of equal character skill and player skill meet, both are in equivalent ships, but one player is in a generalist clone and the other is in a specialist clone, chances are excellent that the specialist will take the match.  Specialist clones have a significant advantage in PvE as well, able to tank longer, do more damage, track faster targets, or use tighter fittings thanks to specialty implants fitted for that purpose.

The specialist, by contrast, as noted above will have a jump clone tied to each role or specialty that they play.  Usually, the strategies for fitting such clones will be self-evident.  For instance, a Siege Warfare clone associated with a Vulture or command ship-fitted Tengu will look like this:
  • Slots 1-5: whatever attribute enhancers are desired;
  • Slot 6: 'Rogue' Navigation NN-603
  • Slot 7: 'Snapshot' Heavy Missiles HM-703 or 'Gnome' Shield Management SM-703;
  • Slot 8: 'Squire' Energy Management EM-803
  • Slot 9: 'Deadeye' Target Navigation Prediction TN-903;
  • Slot 10: Siege Warfare Mindlink.
Such a clone is going to be expensive, and it's only going to be useful in four or five classes of ships.  It's certainly not going to be useful in any sort of armor fleet unless you're flying a Sacrilege or Legion and not even then if you elect for the 3% additional shields in slot 7.

This is the danger of the specialist strategy: your clones are going to tend to be over-specialized to given roles.  And if you're trapped in this Siege Warfare Mindlink clone when a T1 cruiser fleet starts, while your Caracal or Bellicose is going to be impressive, you'd best pray you don't get podded.  ;-)  In a few cases, you're going to find yourself in a clone that is so poorly constructed for a fleet that's going out you're going to be left with little choice but to wave good-bye as the fleet leaves without you.

Of course, if you're more of the PvE or mining type, then ultra-specialized clones will be no problem at all.  Consider a clone for an L4 mission runner/incursion-runner that strictly uses a Nightmare:
  • Slots 1-5: Low-Grade Halo set;
  • Slot 6: 'Squire' Energy Systems Operation EO-605;
  • Slot 7: 'Gnome' Shield Management SM-705;
  • Slot 8: 'Squire' Energy Management EM-805;
  • Slot 9: 'Lancer' Gunnery RF-905;
  • Slot 10: 'Lancer' Large Energy Turret LE-1005.
This is a fantastically expensive clone (and some incursion-runners will enhance it further with a 6% implant or two), but will create tremendous benefits for the pilot involved.  The Halo implants will greatly reduce the Nightmare's signature while the rate of fire and damage implants substantially increase DPS.  The capacitor implants will help a great deal for the cap-hungry lasers or the occasional X-Large Shield Booster, and the benefit of 5% extra shield HP will be useful in both scenarios also.  This is an expensive specialty clone, and worth it to the specialist.  The abilities of the Nightmare are greatly enhanced by it.

That's the advantage to a specialist strategy: your ship and implants work together to provide optimal performance.  The disadvantages are listed above, and there's generally one more: specialist clones are more expensive.  You're paying for all of those extra benefits.  Even if you settle for 3% implants, chances are good you're going to have four or five of them instead of the two, three, or four of the generalist.  The specialist is also much more likely to use mindlinks, pirate implants, and other specialty implants.

Which strategy you choose will make a big difference in what ships you fly and how you fly them, so choose wisely!

This concludes the five part Implant and Jump Clone Guide.  I hope it has been useful!

Coal in my stocking

So just as a reminder, if you're curious what today's holiday gifts are about, you can read about them in my Special Edition Assets post from a couple of weeks ago.  Spoiler warnings on that post are now OFF.  ;-)

How CCP chose to implement giving these assets, I really really like a lot: everyone seems to have received one Genolution implant, one special edition ship, another big pile of snowballs, and then seven items mixed between the Special Edition Assets and the New Eden Open "trading cards".  +50 points to CCP on that.  That's a really fun way of doing this.  Sadly, between my four subscribed accounts, I did not receive either of the NEO teams that had Rote Kapelle members on them.  Ah well, maybe I'll buy them.  Interestingly, there appear to be zero trading cards for The HUNS team in New Eden.  Whoops.

EDIT (20/Dec/2012): HUNS trading cards began appearing in Jita at 21:30 today, so either a new mix of gifts was created that included this card or it was just an amazing coincidence that there were literally zero of these cards for sale in Jita until then.

I did receive both Special Edition Assets that I particularly wanted: a Postcard from Poitot and an Animal Medical Expert.  Yay!  I didn't receive any of the new Catalysts, which was the ship I really would have asked for but I guess almost nobody did.

That brings me to the second most interesting thing about the way these gifts were distributed: they appear random, but they're not.  Two of my accounts received:
  • Tank of Honor;
  • Genolution Core Augmentation CA-1;
  • Model of a Fighter;
  • NEO trading cards for: EFS, Expendables, Goggle Wearing Internet Crime Fighters, Why Dash;
  • Sarum Magnate;
  • Snowball CXIV; and,
  • The Mini Monolith.
And I've heard from several other players that encountered similar situations, with different mixes.  The chances of that happening randomly are astronomical.  So there were specific mixes of gifts created and it was those mixes that were distributed randomly.  But when creating the mixes, I think the person whose job it was to create them (a) didn't create enough; and (b) forgot to include a HUNS trading card in one of the mixes.  I think I'll leave my second set of the above gifts unredeemed for a few days.  CCP, if you want to change it to a new mix that includes a HUNS trading card, I won't stop you.  ;-)

All in all though, very cool idea!  I hope everyone enjoys their gifts.

First most interesting thing about the gifts?  The first set I redeemed had one unit of Carbon in it mixed with the other items.

That's right, boys and girls: CCP put a lump of coal in my stocking.

Best of 2012: 10 - 6

I'm combining a "Best of 2012" retrospective with a good old-fashioned pledge drive.

If anything you've read on this blog this year has made you smile, made you laugh, saved your ship, made you some ISK, or otherwise got you through a boring work day, gate camp, tower bash, or fleet op, I'm here asking that you throw a little ISK my way.  It doesn't have to be a lot; just whatever you can afford.  Alternately, if you have assets scattered around that you have been too lazy to get rid of or don't want any more, those are just as valuable to me.  Contract them over and I'll find new owners for them or I'll put them to work myself.

Either way, send your contributions to Ripard Teg.  And let me know in an EVE mail if you want the fact that you contributed to be public or not.  Thank you to kazabu Uchonela, ash veratis, Nimbor, Kaycee Deegee, Marethyu Ghostfire, Grey Stone, Kenpachi Viktor, Aeryn Sith, Kana Casul, and Raven Fenx on behalf of the Deadly Bunchak Hunts corp.  Special thanks to Slver Wolf who was particularly generous.  I've been completely overwhelmed by the number of really nice comments and EVE mails I've received, guys, particularly from those of you that are new players.  There have been several times the last couple of days that I've had to stand up, walk away from the computer, and... ummm... have Garth forcibly remind me what terrible people EVE players are.  Yeah, that's it.  ;-)  Thank you.

I'll be shaking the tin cup for one more day in the "Best of" posts, concluding with what I thought was my best post of 2012 on Friday.

#10: What Alliance Tournament training is like
For those who have never participated in an Alliance Tournament, I decided to document my experiences with it this year.  I'd been on AT teams before, but never as a primary member so I covered a lot of ground with it.  None more than this post, though, which wrapped up all of my experiences of several months of AT training: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It was a really great time, and I'm looking forward to AT11, and perhaps participating in the next New Eden Open...

#9: Stool
In April, CCP announced the biggest change to mineral acquisition in all the time I've been playing the game: mission and other rats would no longer drop standard meta 0 modules.  It was no exaggeration to say that this was a breath-taking change that had the potential to impact every facet of the game.  This post was my first analysis of the impacts, and pretty much all of those impacts came to pass, except that I predicted that meta1 through 4 modules would drop more often.  CCP changed the loot table instead so that drop rates on those metas stayed flat.  The most direct impact: mineral prices throughout New Eden doubled, and they've been very slow to fall...

#8: Farmville
The same month, CCP announced a series of "changes" to the way incursions would operate.  I called it what it was: CCP's first quadruple nerf.  I predicted a couple of days later that it would shatter the incursion community: a rather dramatic prediction, but one that turned out to be essentially accurate.  By May in the Farmville post, I laid down exactly why and how the changes were breaking the incursion community and predicted it would be months -- if ever -- before more than one incursion was being run at once.  CCP eventually backed off a couple of these changes but the damage was done: incursions became an ultra-niche play style and still hasn't recovered.

#7: Things the CSM thinks
In January, CSM6 posted their minutes for the December 2011 Summit.  They were so blandly written and so devoid of accountability that I essentially threw down the guantlet, listed every controversial thing "the CSM thinks" in the document, and said that they should be attributed to the entire CSM... even when some of the statements directly contradicted each other ("wormhole stabilizers").  It caused quite a stir, and my value on the Mittens scale dropped down to "shitty blogger" for a while, but eventually "the CSM" agreed that I might have a point.  Minutes since have attributed CSM statements to the individual CSM member responsible for them, something that I hope will continue in this December's minutes.

#6: IQ test
Faction Warfare "button-orbiting" had become such a scourge on New Eden by August that I again threw down the gauntlet and basically told players that if they weren't doing this... welllll...  As I put it in the post itself:
...every once in a while, CCP makes a PvE game design decision so gloriously irrational that not to take advantage of it is an obvious error.  I hate to put it this bluntly, but it's like an IQ test.  If you don't take advantage when CCP makes this sort of decision, you're dumb.
Dear Heaven, did this post get me yelled at.  ;-)  Needless to say, when CCP finally got around to fixing this two months later, my first comment was "the damage is already done."  And that's still the case.  There are thousands of EVE players out there now who believe only PvE that makes them 300 million ISK/hour is acceptable...

Tomorrow: #5 through #2.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fit of the Week: Retribution Omen

As promised -- twice -- here is my current favorite among the new Amarr cruisers:

[Omen, Brawler]
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Heat Sink II
Heat Sink II

Experimental 10MN MicroWarpdrive I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Faint Epsilon Warp Scrambler I

Focused Medium Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Focused Medium Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Focused Medium Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Focused Medium Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Focused Medium Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M

Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
Medium Trimark Armor Pump I

Valkyrie II x4

Picking a favorite among the Amarr cruisers was tougher than most: I'm actually a fan of all four of them, and I nearly went with the Arbitrator.(1)  But it's tough to argue with the Omen.  In the same way that the Thorax puts the Vagabond out of business, the redesigned Omen very nearly puts the Zealot out of business.  It doesn't, thank Heaven... but it's a close thing.  For a small fraction of the cost of the Zealot and without needing any faction fittings at all, you get a faster ship with more DPS and more versatility thanks to the large drone bay.

The primary thing you sacrifice is tank; a properly fit Zealot approaches 70k EHP.  Out of the box, the Omen has half that.  But the Omen has nearly as much armor HP.  The difference is in the Zealot's T2 resists.  Get a Damnation into the fight and the Omen's EHP rises to 50k... and that's just silly but in a truly awesome way.  Remember, this is a 10m ISK T1 cruiser.  I suspect we're going to be seeing a lot of these during Alliance Tournament 11.

Anyway, the tank fit is "basic armor starter": DC, one plate, two EANMs and two Trimarks.  The third rig needs to be an Ancillary to fit DPS.  If you want, you can further tank this beast and get it even closer to Zealot country.  I like having two Heat Sinks instead.  They push the Omen's DPS close to 500.  Tracking is quite good and the ship's sig is small enough that if you fly smartly, you can switch to Conflag ammo, overheat for the first 30 or 40 seconds of a brawl, and do 529 DPS once your Valks get into the fray.  That's not equal to a shield Thorax, but it does out-DPS a HAM Caracal and the EM damage from lasers will slice right through a shield gang.

If they kite you, switch to Scorch crystals and you're still doing a very respectable 360 DPS out to point range.  That said, this is a brawling ship.  Overheat your MWD and you're 250m/s faster than an overheated Zealot, apply scram and a web and you'll find that that Conflag ammo is quite appropriate to a greatly-slowed target.  If your enemy runs, let them.  If you have even minimal logi, almost anything that can kill your ship has to get close to your ship to do it.  Anything else, you can wait out your aggression timer and jump through a nearby gate, dock up, or whatever.  The main worry is arty Tornadoes; it only takes three or so to cut down this ship in a single volley.

The Omen's one of the few T1 cruisers that I'd suggest boosters for, simply because it can benefit from so many of them.  Mindflood will help with the ship's cap issues, Frentix is great for the laser range, and X-Instinct is a good choice to cut the ship's sig.  You can even approach AB HAC territory by taking away the web and fitting a meta afterburner instead.  If you do that, then the X-Instinct is absolutely appropriate.

Cap management is the Omen's biggest issue and is the most difficult thing about flying this ship.  Like its big brother the Abaddon, the Omen is tough but lacks endurance.  Two minutes into the fight, you're going to be suffering.  If your fleet is Omen-heavy, that might very well drop your fleet's DPS to low levels.  In this case, it's a good idea to have an extra Auguror along with orders to send cap to any Omen that calls for it.  I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to skip the issue entirely and replace the web with a Small Capacitor Booster and charges.  That's what Abaddons do and it's not a terrible idea here either.  Still, you can mitigate the issue somewhat through smart use of your MWD: only have that thing cycling if you absolutely need it.

All in all, the Omen is very nearly as scary as the shield Thorax, though for slightly different reasons.  Fit it properly and you'll be rewarded with a tough, high-damage brawler that will be difficult for the enemy fleet to take down.

All Fits of the Week are intended as general guidelines only.  You may not have the skills needed for this exact fit.  If you do not, feel free to adjust the fit to suit to meet your skills, including using meta 3 guns and "best named" defenses and e-war.  Ships can also be adjusted to use faction or dead-space modules depending on the budget of the pilot flying it.  Each FOTW is intended as a general guide to introduce you to concepts that will help you fit and to fly that particular type of ship more aggressively and well.  

(1) The Arby has created a new niche for itself in fleets, that of a kiting e-war ship for armor fleets, similar to a properly-fit Falcon.  It'll be the FOTW another time.