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, February 29, 2012

Skulls piled up

Quick one: Yahtzee at Zero Punctuation has done one of his video reviews of Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning.  Like all of his reviews, it's quite amusing.  Go give it a watch.

I find that I can't argue with many of his points...  ;-)  I assume someone will let him know that it will be an MMO before too long.

Fit of the Week: Super ABHAC Legion

I wrote last year about afterburner-fit Zealots and how dangerous they are if they're used properly.  This is that Zealot's bigger meaner brother:

[Legion, Super ABHAC]
Damage Control II
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I

Federation Navy 10MN Afterburner
True Sansha Warp Disruptor
Stasis Webifier II
Conjunctive Radar ECCM Scanning Array I

Heavy Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency M

Medium Trimark Armor Pump II
Medium Trimark Armor Pump II
Medium Trimark Armor Pump II

Legion Defensive - Augmented Plating
Legion Electronics - Tactical Targeting Network
Legion Engineering - Power Core Multiplier
Legion Offensive - Liquid Crystal Magnifiers
Legion Propulsion - Fuel Catalyst

In terms of fleet compatibility, the two ships and the tactics to use them are virtually identical.  AB ships need either good warp-ins or they'll want to fight on a gate.  For every three to four ABHACs, you add a Guardian, though if a significant number of those ABHACs are Legions like this one, you can reduce the ratio substantially.  The reason?  While the Zealot tanks well and has a great signature radius, this Legion is nearly as tiny, nearly as resistant, and has three times the buffer.

That's going to give you lots of extra time to get kills, and the Legion has a major advantage over the Zealot there as well, doing between 50 and 100 more DPS at the same range, depending on skills.  Certainly, this Legion is a hell of a lot shinier than the Zealot that it's based on, but the high DPS and tough tank means that even in small groups, the Legions will justify their greater expense.  Tech2 Trimarks are also coming down in price thanks to slowly increasing popularity of T2 armor ships of both types (and the salvage that comes off their wrecks).

With your Legions, Zealots, and Guardians, you'll need a number of utility ships, notably a gang-link ship for bonuses and a solid tackling team made up of either nervy inty pilots or better still, a small group of web Lokis and heavy tackle Proteuses.

As with the Zealot, there's lots of room to accessorize your mid slots.  Point-Web-ECCM is pretty typical, but it's equally typical to use the same Phased Muon ECCM Caster mod the Zealot uses to increase the sensor strength of your Guardians.  Alternately, you can go with a Small Cap Booster for anti-neut defense.  Some guys even use Tracking Computers to assist ABHAC range.

There's another utility fit that's a bit more unorthodox, though.  The Tactical Targeting Network sub-system, while extremely popular, really mostly serves to make your ship kill-mail-whore friendly in a large group of other HACs.  It's tough to match this Legion for lock time.  However, if you're willing to sacrifice that, there's an interesting alternative: the Emergent Locus Analyzer sub-system.  This will cause your ship to lock no faster than a Zealot and will cost you a mid slot.  However, it opens up an additional high slot in which you can fit an Expanded Probe Launcher, either a Sister's version, or the new T2 version.

In smaller gangs, the probe launcher provides an intriguing ability to have your cake and eat it too: the full DPS of a combat ABHAC mated to a bonused scanning platform to provide the warp-ins the rest of the fleet needs.  Who needs to lock the targets fast if you're the first one to warp in on them?  Fair warning, however: fitting this sub-system to your Legion will make it hideously ugly.

But I've been joking for more than a year now that the uglier a T3 is, the more effective it is and vice versa.  ;-)

Fly scary!

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.

February 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 month...

Back in January, Kirith Kodachi of the Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah blog had himself a "Redesign the Eagle" contest.  The premise of the contest was to see who could come up with the best redesigns and tweaks both for the Eagle's mechanics, and for the look of the ship itself (which he finds obnoxious).  I actually kind of disagreed with his assessment of the Eagle in the looks department.  I think it has a Serenity from Firefly vibe going for it which is appealing.  I noted that I'd mostly make cosmetic changes to the design, mostly around the engines (which have always struck me as unbalanced and asymmetrical) mirroring what was done with the Raven's engines last year.

For my changes themselves, you can read the rest of my entry in full.  Short version, though, I bemoaned the fact that the new Oracle outshines the Eagle in its own role far more inexpensively and requires fewer skill-points.  Then I pointed out it was measurably inferior to every other HAC, and proposed a series of changes on how to address that.  For my entry, Kirith awarded third place in the contest, which was good enough to win a pirate faction frigate (I chose a Dram).

I have to admit, though, that I had a bad few minutes when I realized that had I come in second in that contest, Kirith could have easily said "You win a pirate cruiser. And since you like what the Moa looks like, you win a Gila pirate cruiser. :-P"  Heh.

Thanks for running the contest, and thanks for the Dram, Kirith!


Reading this article on EVE News 24 about a recent Titan "abortion" -- the word used when a POS and CSAA with a suspected super-cap under construction within is destroyed -- it occured to me to wonder something rather simple.

Given the proportionately high number of 0.0 bloc candidates on the CSM this year, why haven't any of them proposed that CSAA kill-mails show what was under construction within?  Seems like a simple enough thing for CCP to implement.  Mittens, get on this.


I forgot to include cynos in my Utility High Slots guide.  This has been corrected.  The Overheating Guide has passed 5000 page-views, which isn't the most page-view of any of my guides (the Incursions Guide holds the record by a wide margin), but it is the fastest any of my guides have hit that milestone.  The Overheating Guide did it in a little under 60 days.

Next guide will be part four of my "Moving to Null-Sec" guide.


A bit of a follow-up on my comments about "Absurdist Theater" vis a vis the CSM7 elections.  There have been various articles and posts in the various fora about Darius III's and Riverini's campaigns with regard to the non-disclosure agreement that CSM members are expected to sign.  How can we expect these candidates to keep to the NDA, particularly when "everyone knows" that Darius III already violated it?

To the latter question, CCP Diagoras simply said "We have not seen evidence of any NDA breaches. Should you have any, please feel free to contact us via the petition system."  As for Riverini, the topic came up during his participation in the Lost in EVE CSM debates.  (I'll have more to say about those when I've listened to all four of them.)

The underlying assumptions in the question are just funny to me because we currently have and have had EVE bloggers and EVE news writers on the CSM before.  I myself was concerned about the NDA when I was thinking about a CSM7 run, but I was more concerned over the fact that the NDA might prevent me from writing about something that was public knowledge, not that I would have trouble with breaking the NDA over something private.  Nobody's asked Riverini that one yet that I've seen, and to me, it's the more interesting question.  Could CCP use the CSM NDA to keep something damaging, but public, from being widely disseminated?


The Eat the Minmatar blog's inaugural post was an interesting look at a possible Caldari ice interdiction that's happening under everyone's noses.  Go out and give the piece a read.

Additionally, I've had to bounce a couple of blogs out of my "Must Read" list due to inactivity so I'm again looking for very active blogs to advertise.  If that's you, post your blog in the comments and I'll take a look.  You don't have to be e-famous or anything.  You just have to blog frequently about EVE or MMO topics, and by frequently, I mean every day or two.


Finally, a short one about CCP.  Mike Tinney, President of CCP Games North America, resigned his post this past week.  Tinney was previously with White Wolf Publishing and was hired by CCP when they acquired White Wolf in 2006.  I assume he was the most senior executive at CCP's Atlanta facility.  Given the impact of the lay-off and the fact that we won't see a World of Darkness MMO until at least 2013 (if not longer, or ever), it's not surprising that he decided to step down.  I doubt there's very much more going on with this than that.

His final statement seems to imply pretty strongly that he's going to jump into the "gaming + exercise = achievements" craze that's so big right now.


And that's it, junk drawer is empty again.  ;-)


Just a quickie.

"Look for what is missing" is #4 in Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management, which I've referenced here before.

The Mittani wrote an interesting piece Monday at Ten Ton Hammer that talks about what he calls "EVE born" players versus "community born" players.  Go give it a read.  It's quite short.  As you read it, though... look for what is missing.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

The piece is kind of a love letter to the external communities that play EVE, but set up corps within EVE and within those corps retain their external identities.  It then goes on to describe all of the benefits of playing the game in this way while subtly denigrating those that do not.

But did you find what was missing?  It's kind of subtle, and tied into the language and phrases used.  In the first paragraph, Mittens talks about the "EVE community", then immediately flips the word on its head and after that, almost every time he uses the word "community", he says or means "external community."  External, in this case meaning "situated or being outside something, or acting or coming from outside".  What are these communities outside of?  EVE itself, of course.  It's a subtle irony: what's missing is the connection of these communities to EVE itself.

When Mord Fiddle was blogging about EVE, one of the best posts he ever wrote -- maybe the best -- was a brilliant piece he called Fever Dream.  It describes a hypothetical conversation between Mittens and Hilmar Pétursson.  At the end of the hypothetical conversation, Hilmar asks Mittens what the Goons would do without EVE Online.  The hypothetical Mittens replies "There are other worlds than thine.  If New Eden falls, I will lead my minions forth and play at World of Tanks."

It was intended to be humorous, but there's a grain of truth to it, too.

Viewed from this perspective, Goons don't have to care of EVE Online succeeds or fails, and Mittens's post in praise of the virtues of the "community born" kind of dances around this without touching it.  Don't get me wrong: I'm sure most of them do care if EVE Online succeeds or fails, but by describing them as "community born", this caring is greatly deemphasized.  On the other hand, the subtly denigrated "EVE born" -- who, remember, outnumber the "community born" by ten-fold or more! -- are just as subtly accused of not being part of the "community" when they in fact are the ones that make it up!  Cute, right?  It's a kind of verbal judo.

As I said it's a very subtle distinction, but an interesting one.

Comment of the Week: Choose two

I opened a Pandora's Box with my post yesterday about moon-goo, but I didn't expect anything less.  The most common reason for people to tell me I'm full of it?  Obviously, I'm butt-hurt because Rote Kapelle lost a tech moon.  Uhhhh... no we didn't.  So far as I know, no EVE alliance under 1500 people owns a tech moon unless they're a pet, though I'm of course willing to be shown that I'm wrong.

Second most common reason for people to tell me I'm full of it?  Tech moons are risky because if you take one, you risk losing it and a lot of ships when the inevitable fight over it spawns.  This concept struck me as really funny, since the very nature of tech moon use in most alliances that have them is to mitigate or flat-out eliminate risk.  In other words, most alliances that have tech moons use them as fodder for their ship replacement programs.  As a result, if you lose a Maelstrom (say) in a fight over a tech moon, profits from other tech moons will be used to replace your Maelstrom.  Even in my short stint in Pure Blind, I took advantage of this twice.  It's quite common.  As a result, the essential risk to the individual pilot drops close to zero.

Even more, though, the argument that "tech moons are risky to hold" is a straw-man.  My concern and my post was about individual pilot risk.  Show me the kill-mails!  Every other commodity, from ice to ores to minerals to wormhole loot to data-cores to L4 mission reward tags and implants gets suicide-ganked before reaching market.  Why doesn't moon-goo get ganked?  Show me the kill-mails!  Show me the risk!  Nobody could, or at least nobody has so far.

Ender summed it up in a way that made me smile:
Riskless vs Rewarding vs Effortless. Choose two.

It can be risky and rewarding with no effort.

Keeping a tech moon and managing logistics does take lots of effort.
Yep, that's a pretty good way of putting it, all right.  Is that the way it should be, though?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Scary math

Remember how I said a week or so back that your humble moderator was busy with some math-related projects that would come up in future blog posts?  Yeah, I'll just leave this here.

That little red line in December is encouraging, innit?  Expect more in a couple of days.

EDIT (29/Feb/2012): I did a fly-by, I guess.  What if I suggested that you compare this graph to the second one in this post?  Does that make it easier?

Risk-free ISK

I'd like to go back and revisit an old topic: that of sovereignty.  It's something I haven't talked about in a while.  Happily, I'm not a CSM7 candidate, so that means I can be direct.  That's right: I'm gonna go after some sacred cows.  And I'm not only gonna go after them, I'm going to take an M-2 machine gun to them over the next few days.  Should be fun.  Feel free to blast me in the comments.

Let's start with a really fun topic: risk-free ISK.

Risk-free ISK is bad, we're told again and again.  L4 mission-runners, incursion-runners, miners, and high-sec complex-runners are all bad people because they are only involved in EVE for risk-free ISK.  For this crime, they should all die (or be encouraged to kill themselves).  People right up to Mittens say this.

And this statement hides gross hypocrisy, because the most risk-free ISK in EVE is made in the most distant possible space from the L4 mission-runner.

One of my own means of making ISK is Tech2 production.  One of the items I produce are anchorable bubbles.  To make a Tech2 anchorable bubble requires, among other things, Graviton Pulse Generators and Nanomechanical Microprocessors, two "ship components".  Both of these components have as a key ingredient "Nanotransistors", an "advanced moon material" that is 0.25m3 per unit.  Nanotransistors are made from a mix of three "processed moon materials", sulfuric acid, platinum technite, and neo mercurite.  Platinum technite is a mix of two "raw moon materials"... platinum and technetium.

Technetium is the "tech" of legend.

Essentially, moon material processing just is like PI, where Base Metals and Noble Metals (raw) become Reactive Metals and Precious Metals (processed) become Mechanical Parts (advanced).(1)  Except that one unit of Mechanical Parts is six times bigger than one unit of Nanotransistors.

A single unit of Nanotransistors costs about 6300 ISK on the market today.  Even in their raw form, they go into building an absolute ton of stuff, including every single ganglink.  Put them into a Nanoelectrical Microprocessor, though, and they go into an enormous pile of T2 modules, including virtually every Amarr module such as the Cap Recharger II.  Put them into a Graviton Pulse Generator instead and they go into another large pile of T2 items... including every type of T2 kinetic missile.  Nanotransistors into Oscillator Capacitor Units?  Virtually every Gallente T2 ship.  Nanotransistors into Electrolytic Capacitor Units?  Virtually every Minmatar T2 ship.

You're using technetium right now and you might not even realize it.  It's in lots of products you use every day, as the commercials say.  And because it's only found a few places in the galaxy and is so widespread in its use, it's hugely valuable.  A single tech moon -- one -- is worth 7.3 billion ISK profit per month to the one that holds it.(2)

That means that there's 240 million ISK pouring out of every single tech moon in New Eden, every single day.  That's a lot of Nanotransistors.

Know something you almost never see, though?  A hauler full of Nanotransistors go splat.  You almost never see a moon-goo ship ganked.  Sure, it happens from time to time, but it's extremely rare.  There's 240 million ISK flowing out of 0.0, per tech moon, every single day of the year.  Given the amounts of ISK involved, we should be seeing this stuff go splat all the time.

Know why we don't?  Two reasons:
  1. Nanotransistors are 0.25m3 per unit, which means that a cloaky hauler can very comfortably haul that 240 million ISK daily take in a single load.  No freighter needed.
  2. The process of gathering, producing, and putting those nanotransistors into the cloaky hauler is in all other ways also completely or nearly risk-free.

Technetium comes from technetium moons, which are spread around the galaxy with a much larger concentration in the "northern" part of 0.0.  It is automatically brought into a POS (behind the POS shield) by a moon mining array in a constant hourly stream (no player input needed), then stored in a silo (likewise behind a POS shield), there it is combined with platinum which is mined at a second moon.  This, incidentally, is why when you do see moon-goo haulers ganked, more often than not it's platinum that they're carrying.  The platinum gets carried to the tech moon, not the other way around.  Platinum isn't as valuable.  Platinum is dumped into second silo and the two are combined into platinum technite in a simple reactor (also behind a POS shield).  From there, the platinum technite is put into another reactor and either combined with sulfuric acid and neo mecurite to make Nanotransistors, or it's combined with carbon polymers to make Fullerides (also behind a POS shield).(3)

The combined products are moved into another silo, and from there, to a Corporate Hangar Array.  A jump freighter is brought in, and the final product is loaded (both steps behind a POS shield).  The JF is then jumped to a nearby low-sec system near a station, immediately docked, and the final products are loaded into fast cloaky haulers for delivery to market (assuming the owning alliance doesn't just pump the products right into their own T2 production lines).  Short version: advanced moon materials are so small that there's no need to use a non-cloaky hauler, much less a freighter, to bring it in.

The entire process is remarkably risk-free.  There's far more risk involved running a single L4 mission than there is making that final cloaky hauler run into Jita or Amarr or Rens.  And the bulk of the process of gathering and generating that moon-goo requires no human intervention at all.

So, until moon-mining requires a mining fleet to warp to a moon and run active moon-mining modules for a couple of hours outside a POS shield, the next time someone rails about "risk-free ISK", feel free to keep in mind that the person doing it is probably a beneficiary of the most risk-free ISK in New Eden.

If I haven't ticked you off yet, come back tomorrow.  I'll talk about how sov should work, but probably never will.  In the process, I'll expose some more hypocrisy.

(1) Well, technically, it's the other way around: PI was modeled after the refining of moon materials.
(2) Hell, even platinum isn't terrible.  A single platinum moon is worth almost 300 million ISK profit per month.
(3) Fullerides -- and the tech that goes into making them -- go into the making of virtually every T2 turret ammo, among other things.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Quote of the Week: Cutting edge

Hilmar Pétursson and David Reid, CEO and CMO of CCP respectively, have been busy doing interviews lately.  This week's QOTW comes from one they did with Rock Paper Shotgun over the weekend:
RPS: Every time you’ve updated the game, you’ve kept it cutting edge.
Pétursson: Exactly. Some could argue that we’ve brought it too close to the cutting edge. (laughs)
Having a sense of humor about your company's mis-steps in the last year?  Who are you and what have you done with the real Hilmar?  ;-)

I don't have too much more to say about this interview -- it mostly covers business topics -- except to point to a section in which Hilmar points out some of the technical aspects of the DUST servers.  That made me wonder if we've been told anything specific about how DUST 514's back-end would operate.  We were told way back in June (and we're told here again) that DUST and EVE will essentially run on the same server (the Tranquility cluster in London).  But in June, we were told that more regional clusters would handle the actual DUST ground combat.  It'll be interesting to see more details on these technical elements when CCP feels comfortable releasing them.

The other thing that caught my attention: at one point, Hilmar -- while talking about multi-platform support and multiple "gateways" into the EVE Online universe -- says this:
Just to show the desire to access Eve through multiple devices, the Android applications have as many as 500,000 downloads on the Android app store.
Uhhh... OK.  What EVE-related app has 500,000 downloads?  Aura has "100,000+", which appears to be far and away the most popular EVE-related Android app (if you have an Android device and you're not using Aura, you are a bad person and should feel bad).  No other EVE-related app that I could find came close to that, much less had five times as many downloads.  Even Vendetta Online only has 100,000...  ;-)  Am I missing one?

Oh, and when the question of subscriptions versus micro-transactions comes up, Reid brings up that hoary old golf analogy!  Gee, I wonder where he heard that analogy?  Hilmar, please stop using that golf analogy and please stop sharing it with people.  We don't like it...

Huh.  I guess I did have a few things to say about the interview.  ;-)  Anyway, if you're interested in the technical aspects of the MMO business and market-place, go give it a read.  If you play EVE to play EVE, you can skip it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday definition: Disco

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

From time to time, you'll hear people talking about "disco tactics."  The term refers to using either a single or a small group of smart-bomb fit battleships as the primary damage to a target.  The reference is to the rotating mirrored balls that would be mounted to the ceilings of 1970s dance clubs.  Alternately, you'll also hear about "disco fitting."  This one is similar, and refers either to fitting a ship for disco tactics or fitting a support ship whose role for a PvP fleet will be to sweep hostile drones off friendly Logistics or specialty ships (such as Bhaalgorns).

In high-sec, smart-bombing is used with good effect against mining operations, particular ice-mining ops using Retrievers.  These ships are almost literally nothing but tin-foil wrapped around their mining lasers and fall swiftly to even a single smart-bombing battleship.  This was demonstrated admirably by fmercury a couple of years back when he wiped out dozens of Retrievers (and more than a few Mackinaws) using a single smart-bombing Armageddon.  This is why you should spread out your mining fleet.  ;-)

In low-sec, smart-bombing battleships sitting at the out-warp locations on the system's star-gates are what make the Rancer system practically a no-travel zone.

A pretty common null-sec disco tactic is the use of Abaddons with EM damage-dealing smart-bombs.  The Abaddon's high base resist can be supplemented to make them all but immune to EM damage, allowing a group of these monsters to sit in close proximity to each other.  A bubble or two is then added to force the target ships out at ideal range of the smart-bombing battleships and off you go.  This was used to good effect last year by AGONY Unleashed against a group of hostile HACs.  It was also used two weeks ago by Rooks and Kings against a RvB destroyer fleet with rather spectacular results.

Let's go to the video:

(It's not typical with disco tactics to jump in a couple of carriers to provide reps, by the way...  ;-) )

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.


Here's one of those trivial little things that might be of interest only to me and a few guys on FHC.

On February 22, CCP Diagoras tweeted:
00:00, 22nd Feb: 865 characters in titans; 3,391 in supercarriers. 726 titans and 2,633 supercarriers on active accounts. #tweetfleet
In response, I asked: "Does that mean there are 140-odd Titans on *inactive* accounts?  Wow."  He responded that yes, that was correct.

That set me to wondering: how many Titans have been killed in the history of EVE Online?  And that bit took a little research.  I knew from one of Diagoras's previous tweets that the number of Titans killed in 2011 was 86.  I also remembered that there had been a discussion of super-cap proliferation in the Q42010 QEN.  Rereading that (damn, I miss QENs) indicated that as of the end of 2010, 292 super-carriers and 80 Titans had been destroyed, 45 of those in 2010.  It also referred me back to the Q32010 QEN for further information.

That document indicated that there had been eight Titan deaths in 2008 and 24 in 2009.  8+24+45=77.  So three Titan deaths in 2007?  Dunno (I've asked Diagoras to clarify the math).  But it seems clear that between 163 (77+86) and 166 (80+86) Titans have been killed by weapons fire.

And 139 have been killed by player disinterest.(1)

(1) By the way, at the end of 2010, that number was 37 (QEN Q42010, page 14.)


Let's say you have a profitable technology company, founded thanks to funding provided by venture capitalists or another small pool of large investors.  You have one extremely successful product and are looking to branch out to a second.  You've hired staff rapidly to support this initiative and to keep your bread-and-butter product rolling.  But because your funding is limited and your staff is growing, your average employee salary is considered sub-par in the marketplace.  Because of that and because your second product hasn't started selling yet, your margins are falling.  Your investors are getting nervous.  Still, you do have that successful product, you are still making a solid profit, and you have positive buzz for your second product.  What's the next step?

Well, suppose you decide to launch an initial public offering (IPO), which essentially means that you're going to go from having very few large investors to a larger number of smaller investors.  This will get you out from under the thumb of your very few investors, so that's an advantage.  And you'll have an expanded funding pool from which to retain your best employees and bring in more industry pros, and that's good too.

What does this have to do with anything?  It turns out CCP is mulling an IPO.

In this interview, CCP announced $66 million in revenue for the year 2011.  That's a pretty substantial increase from their $57.4 million in 2010.  Their cost of sales last year was $6 million and their operating expenses were $46.6 million.  Salaries last year were $21.3 million, but CCP had a pretty significant lay-off in 2011.  So let's assume that cost of sales went up a couple million (they were paying outside firms for marketing, particularly web marketing, last year), and that operating expenses were reduced $4 million total between the lay-offs and other cost savings.

That means CCP ended the year with about a $15 million profit, more or less.

Of course, everything but the revenue numbers are guesses.  We won't know the real numbers until someone in Iceland picks up CCP's financials for the year.  If someone on FHC doesn't think of it, I've got an alliance-mate in Iceland now and I'll ask him to.  Or maybe the financials will be published before Fanfest this year (hint hint).

But even if they are guesses, those numbers are probably pretty good guesses.  That means the $15 million profit was probably consumed paying off their $12 million capitalization loan in October.  That would seem to confirm that without the lay-off, CCP would have ended the year in the red.

So yeah, it's not surprising that they're thinking about an IPO and getting out from under the cycle of those loans.

If CCP goes this route, though, it'll be very interesting to see what they do with those initial shares.  Go back to the first paragraph of this post and read it again.  It applies, almost word for word, to lots of other companies, notably Microsoft and Google.  We'll use Microsoft as our model.

After being founded in 1975, Microsoft operated as a privately-held company for almost ten years before its IPO in 1986.  Microsoft initially had many of the problems CCP has, notably with employee pay.  Well into the 90s, it was quite common for them to recruit large portions of the Computer Science graduating class of local universities, burn them out over two or three years, then replace them with new incoming grads.  They even built and used a software development model that could sustain itself against this continuous churn.

But over time, Microsoft's management learned that you can't sustain and grow your business without consistent leadership.  How to solve this problem, then?  How do you retain strong leaders in your company without a lot of money to pay for them?  The answer was shares in the company.  Initially, these "shares" were outside of the true stock market structure.  They were in the way of promissory notes that could be replaced with actual shares later when Microsoft eventually did have its IPO.  But Microsoft put off its IPO for years, resulting in more and more and more of these "shares".  It got so bad that rumor had it that employees were buying and selling these shares amongst themselves for mutually agreed-upon prices.  At that point, the rumor goes, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stepped in and suggested to Microsoft senior management that it was time to go ahead and have that IPO.  So Microsoft did it, a little bit reluctantly.

And in the process, made thousands of on-paper millionaires overnight.

That, of course, created its own morale and retention issues.  A persistent urban legend started going around that employees that were a little bit sick of the company would start wearing buttons or t-shirts that read "FYIFV"... "Fuck You, I'm Fully Vested".  That meant that that employee's stock had fully matured in value and the employee could leave Microsoft at any time he liked and still remain financially independent.  The buttons and shirts were almost certainly apocryphal, but the morale problem was real enough.  As a manager, you can't treat a rich employee the same way you can someone who is reliant on his or her pay check.

Communication from upper management have always been a big problem at CCP.  So has equity and fair treatment between employees from managers.  Virtually every review of the company at Glass Door mentions these factors, and lots of ex-CCP employees mention these problems.  CCP is often more of a fraternity house "boy's club" than a professional business (though this seems to finally be changing).  I kind of shudder to think of this kind of morale and equity problem mated to the big pile of money that an IPO could bring in.

So, if CCP does seriously ponder an IPO, it will be interesting to see how the equity problem is handled, particularly since a public company has to be public in how they do so...  In my opinion, it'd be smart to fix the equity and communications problems first.

Of course, it's also possible that CCP has already started distributing paper "shares" in the company, the same way Microsoft did...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kill of the Week: Gank the gankers

This week's KOTW is a quadruple feature, but they're all in the same "battle report":

Uedama, a 0.5 system on a direct line between Jita and Amarr, is becoming a common spot for suicide-ganking, even more so lately than Niarja.  Pass through Uedama and you'll see a variety of battleships, Thrashers, nano-fit haulers, and Remote Sensor Booster-fit ships all waiting for the big prize to go by.

But increasingly lately, I'm seeing another two other varieties of kills happening in this system and other suicide gank friendly systems.  The first are kill-mails generated by tossing a bullet or two into a suicide ganker as he gets blown down by CONCORD.  It's a perfect crime, after all.  You can sit at one of the gates in Uedama, and while you yourself wait for whatever it is you want to suicide gank, lock up the other destroyers and battleships in close proximity to the gate.  If they find something worth ganking before you do, you get a swell consolation prize: free and legal fire on a flashy red target, risk-free, as CONCORD ends him.

You get a kill-mail.  He gets the annoyance of seeing his kill-board efficiency drop because his suicide gank losses are showing up next to his PvP losses.  It's an amusing and perfect crime.  Ask your corp or alliance director to do an API pull to your kill-board so you can see it.

The second type of kill that's becoming increasingly common is the sympathy gank.  In this scenario, you warp to the gate with the suicide gankers and when you see them start to gank something... help them!  This is most amusingly done with a frigate or even a noob ship.  Of course, you're going to take the sec status hit along with them, and you're going to lose your ship along with them.  That's why you should make it a cheap one.  But of course, your kill-board gains the amusing spectacle (and increased kill-board efficiency) of you helping gank a freighter with an Ibis.

If your sec status is 5.0 already and you're at all interested, there's just honestly not that many reasons not to do this.  ;-)  Go out, get yourself on a kill-mail, watch your sec status drop back down to mere human levels, and grind it back up again...


Last October, I threw a post out there where I stated the opinion that I thought EVE Online should follow Perpetuum Online's lead and delete attributes from the game.  It prompted a really good discussion in the comments about the pros and cons of the idea.  I still like it, myself.  I got trolled here and there in the comments about dumbing down EVE, so let me be clear: I really like that EVE is a complex, deep game.  That's why I play it.

But there's a difference between complexity that adds richness to a game, and complexity that adds confusion and makes things harder for new players.  Attributes, in my opinion, are the latter.  It's a hold-over from pen and paper role-playing games, honestly, and doesn't have much bearing on how all of us play EVE.  After all, how do you think about your character?  As a "PvP character that can fly HACs, Recons, BC, and Inties with maxed out Nav and fitting skills"?  Or "Gallente male with high willpower and perception"?

In the meantime, I solved the problem I mentioned in my previous post on this matter using one of the holiday gift remaps.  ;-)  And I totally get the side of the discussion that says that the problems with attributes and how they impact skill training should be fixed with more frequent remaps.  But I think that solves the symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself.

So yeah, I still think attributes should be dumped.

That said, I've started playing Reckoning, the first Kingdoms of Amalur game.  One of the most interesting mechanics in the game is the ability to remap your skill-set any time you like.  This comes straight out of MMOs like Rift and Global Agenda, which allow the same thing.  In my experience, it's unique for a single-player RPG, since these games traditionally live and die by their replayability.  Who among us didn't play the first Knights of the Old Republic twice, for instance.  The Elder Scrolls games build replayability right into the structure.  In Morrowind, there were three competing "great houses" in the game, and joining one of them forever precluded you from joining the other two with the same character.  As a result, if you wanted to try out those quest lines, you were automatically signing up to replay the game.  Skyrim has a similar mechanic: a civil war (with associated factions and quest lines) is built right into the underlying structure of the game.  You can take one side, take the other, or ignore both, and no matter which choice you make, you leave a few quests, shouts, and unique items behind.

Reckoning does things quite a bit differently.  Within the game itself, there are NPCs called Fate Weavers who offer a service that allows you to remap all of your skill choices.(1)  Want to stop being a mage for a while and be a kick-ass up-close-and-personal melee type?  Pay some gold and a Fate Weaver can make this happen.  It has one risky side-effect for the game right away: a lot of the replayability value of the game immediately drops to zero if you can quickly undo the choices you've made.  However, it has the positive effect that you don't have to worry too much about picking "the wrong thing" since redoing all those picks is possible, easy, and not particularly expensive.

Weirdly, Reckoning doesn't buy into its own mechanic: I've already run into some guild quests that should be difficult for a character with skills incompatible with that guild.  Think of a Fighter breezing through a Mage's Guild quest line, say.  In Morrowind, if you weren't a damn good mage, you simply weren't offered the high end mage quests.  You were promoted in line with your skills.  Later ES games dropped this mechanic, something that I thought was a mistake.  With Reckoning's "rebuild at your leisure" mechanic, the designers could have taken a lot more risks and gone with the Morrowind approach, but they didn't.

Here's the big question, though: when the Amalur MMO is released will it have this remap mechanic?  Smart money says yes.  After all, other MMOs get away with it, and a couple of micro-transactions here and there will solve any equipment problems of rebuilding your character from scratch.

Which brings us back to EVE Online.  I've been asked a few times in the past couple of weeks (usually by CSM candidates asking what I think about a series of topics) what I think of the idea of limited or full remapping of skill points in EVE.  In four words: I hate this idea.  I hated it when it was brought up as a way for super-carrier pilots to reclaim some of their "useless" drone SPs, and I hate it in every other way, too.  As I said above, I think most of us think of our characters -- for better or worse -- in terms of what they can do and what they can fly.  I got a real sense of accomplishment when I sat in a carrier for the first time, or maxed out a particular skill tree, or fired POS guns, or found myself moved up to a Fleet booster position.  These are rights of passage that -- though they're somewhat Skinner box-y -- are still quite satisfying and some of the best rewards EVE has to offer.

It would be a very different -- and measurably worse -- game if that were not the case.  Just my opinion, though.

(1) Why a world whose back-story has it that every person's fate is set would have people called Fate Weavers (rather than Fate Readers, say) is something that either isn't explained, or is further along in the game than I am, but never mind.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tracking Computer fit to the QOTW

Ship balancing is slowing down a bit because CCP Tallest is now the father of twins (congratulations, Tallest!).  Someone joked that perhaps having more than one person doing ship balancing would be a good idea, to which CCP Soundwave replied:
We actually have three people dedicated to it now, the other two are just working on other areas (titan tracking, anyone?).
Needless to say, the very next post in the thread was:
\o this is now a "Titan nerf thread" o/
Guess I don't need to tell you how I feel about this one.  ;-)

It wasn't long before the first tears appeared:
God, I hope you're kidding about this titan nerf business. It's a 100b+ isk ship. What do you think it SHOULD do? Have you ever tried to accumulate that kind of isk in game? From start to finish, everything about a titan is epic -- the cost, production time, risk involved, etc. I think it's been nerfed enough -- too much even. Shouldn't the outcome of all that work be something equally epic?
Hm, let me thi-- no.  It's been nerfed enough?  Too much even?  Aheh.

And it wasn't too much longer before Vheroki (FinFleet) opined:
I DARE you to nerf that tracking the result you will see it in the monthly bills. When i see you guys post i just want to ask for my money back after 9 years.
Your stuff.  Please give it to me before you quit.

Anyway, the thread on EVE-O is quickly turning into a rage-bomb, so expect it to be locked fairly soon.  There's a thread on FHC you can follow if you want, and I'm sure it'll come up on kugu as well.

Guide: Gate camp basics

OK, this is not a full guide to gate-camping.  I am not a gate-camping expert, and someone who is should write the guide on how to do it.  However, after some months of living in Syndicate and after several months of wandering around low-sec and shallow 0.0 late at night,(1) I'm being exposed to an increasingly and distressingly large number of total fail gate-camps.  It's clear that people are forgetting the basics.  So at the very least, I can cover those.

This was really highlighted for me last night because one of my more insane alliance-mates (Hi Brent!) has started running a live video stream of his EVE-related (and occasionally, some of his... ahem... unrelated) activities.  A couple of jumps out from his staging system, he encountered one of the worst gate-camps I've ever seen.  I won't mention the alliance that was running it to avoid embarrassing them, but:
  1. you've heard of them; and,
  2. you would think, from their reputation, that they could do this better.
Over the course of about 15 minutes, he jumped into them twice in two different ships, one of them a armor-tanked battleship, and they never came anywhere near making his heart-rate go up, never mind killing him.

Now, to start, gate-camping is the silliest form of PvP.  There's not much in the way of skill or tactics needed.  It's just a late-night activity that a lot of guys do that is almost exactly akin to mining in groups.(2)  You get a bunch of people together, have many beers in the safety of your own homes, and BS about a variety of topics while waiting for something interesting to happen.  It's a social activity, not a PvP activity.  And it's usually done entirely casually, without FCs or traditional strong fleet compositions.  But so many people bring the wrong ships and the wrong tactics to a casual gate-camp...

So let's cover the basics, shall we?  Here are the top ten things you're going to need to do to run a successful camp:

(1) Camp the right gate.  Most people like to camp entrance pipes to null-sec, and there's nothing particularly wrong with that, but it should be done properly.  In particular, camping a regional gate -- a gate that jumps you from one region to another -- is nearly always a bad idea.  I said the same thing in my decloaking guide, and it's for the same reasons.  It's too hard to position your gate-camp ships tactically in the right places on an enormous regional gate where ships might end up 30 or 40km away from each other, unable to provide mutual fire support.  In Syndicate, for example, a lot of guys camp the Orvolle gate in PF-346.  But a better place to camp this pipe -- if you must -- is the PF-346 gate in FD-MLJ.  The Keberz gate in HED-GP is another popular camp location, but more successful camps are run on the HED-GP gate in SV5-8N, and so on.

Besides the fact that regional gates are much tougher to control from a mutual support stand-point, regional gates are nearly impossible to bubble, and usually, the region they lead back to is either high-sec or low-sec which means that your cross-jumping tackle (we'll get to that in a second) aren't going to be able to do their jobs.  That means to escape you, all someone has to do is successfully burn back to gate, which in this day of 100MN afterburner fits, cloaks, nano, and Snake implants, they're almost certainly going to be able to do.

(2) Bring DPS.  I feel silly even saying this.  It's the equivalent of saying "put food in mouth, not in anus".  "Bring DPS to your gate-camp."  Duh.  But it's amazing to me how many people don't.  You're there to kill things.  How do you expect to kill things without DPS?

Too often, when someone finishes their first beer and says "Hey guys, let's go camp this gate," a lot of guys say "Great!" and then they undock in assault frig, or a cruiser, or a cloaky Recon, or a Rifter, or the like.  A lot of this is risk-aversion, particularly semi-drunk risk-aversion.  People flying casually don't want to risk expensive ships.  If the situation goes casters up, a Rifter can definitely get away where a Hurricane might not.  But for Heaven's sake, bring a few ships that can put 500 DPS or more out there.  And with a few exceptions, ships that can't put out at least 300 DPS should not be welcome in your camp.  The number of 500 DPS ships you bring is going to define the biggest thing you can kill in 60 seconds assuming they aggress.
  • One 500 DPS ship: one T1 cruiser.
  • Two 500 DPS ships: one weak battle-cruiser, or two T1 cruisers.
  • Three 500 DPS ships: one strong battle-cruiser, or three T1 cruisers.
And so on.  You don't need a fleet to gate-camp successfully.  But you need enough DPS to kill an aggressed ship in 60 seconds or less, because he's either going to jump out, or the fleet he's baiting for is going to land on your face with both feet in 60 seconds and you're going to lose more than you kill.  So bring DPS.

(3) Bring the right Recons.  They're called Combat Recons.  A gate-camp without a couple of Combat Recons is a failed gate-camp before it begins.  Rapiers and Huginns are most required, and of the two, the Huginn is much preferred because it can apply decent DPS, because that's what Combat Recons do better than Force Recons.  A good Huginn pilot can prevent enemies burning back to gate or burning out of your catch bubbles.  A good Lachesis pilot with a long-range faction scram can prevent a lot of people escaping you.  Hell, even a Curse can do some good with its drone damage and its ability to shut down active tanks and MWDs through neuting.

Don't overdo it with Combat Recons, though.  One or two is sufficient, since they only add about 200-250 DPS each.  See (2).

(4) Bring some anchorable bubbles, and maybe even a single dictor.  This obviously applies only to null-sec gate-camps.  But for these kinds of camps, a few bubbles are vital.  If you're smart, you'll camp a pipe system: only one way in and out.  In which case, three medium-size bubbles are ideal.  Put one 60km or so on the line from the other stargate, on the opposite side of the gate you're camping.  Put one 60km or so on the line from the closest celestial, on the opposite side of the gate you're camping.  And put one 60km or so on the line from the celestial most "off-angle" from everything else, on the opposite side of the gate that you're camping.

Why on the opposite side of the gate?  So that the ship that lands in it will have to take a few vital seconds turning around if they choose to make a run for the gate.  Bring mediums because they're easier to work with in this configuration, and are annoying to casually kill (whereas even a very small gang will make short work of a small bubble).  Put your bubbles in line with these celestials because a lot of people will warp to the closest celestial or the most off-angle celestial before warping to your gate.

If you have more than one other gate in the system that you're camping, you'll also want bubbles aligned from those gates, too.  And yes, I know it's more annoying to put them on the opposite side of the gate that you're camping.  But what else do you have to do with your time?  Take a few more minutes and do it right.  ;-)  And don't worry too much about the size of the Medium bubbles.  Most people camp the same systems pretty regularly.  If that's the case, you should take a half-hour at some point, load a cloaky hauler with a Giant Secure Container or two full of medium bubbles, make a safespot, anchor the GSC(s) in that safespot, and bookmark that location.  There, now you can pick up replacement bubbles with no problems and you have a place for excess loot you collect.

A light dictor is quite useful to have along for bubbling in cloakies that jump into your camp.  This gives your decloakers a few extra vital seconds to try for a decloak.  They're also very useful, if you do get something firmly tackled, for making sure you get their pod, too.  Single-bubble Sabres with a lot of AutoCannons are the best ship for this sort of work because they're fast and they do fairly decent DPS.  See (2).

(5) Bring light tackle with scrams.  Train them in decloaking techniques.  Gate camps most often happen in null-sec, which means that light tackle can do their job by tackling ships.  Once the aggress order is given, the light tackle should be burning toward the target with an eye toward getting a scram applied.  Scrambled targets will have a harder time burning back to gate, or will have a harder time burning out of the catch bubble they've just been caught in.  High DPS interceptors and interceptor-like ships are the best for this sort of work: the Taranis and Daredevil are particularly favored, but Imperial Navy Slicers and Drams are also pretty good at this.

As with Recons, don't over-do this.  Three or so light tackle is what you should be aiming for, and one of them should be sober enough to follow suggestion (6), below.  A gate-camp should also be a sea of light drones, and the bulk of these light drones should be assigned to your light tackle.  This not only helps them if they have to decloak something, it will greatly increase the amount of DPS that's applied to the target once the scram has been applied.  Anyone who is bad enough to bring a Rifter to a gate camp falls into the light tackle category, by the way.  Too many Rifters circle gates at long ranges, hesitant to engage.  People, it's a Rifter.  If a Rifter pilot refuses to mix it up, call him primary.  That will relieve your boredom.

(6) Bring people willing to cross-jump and/or avoid aggressing.  A good gate-camp should have two or three light tackle, but once a given target is tackled, at least one of these light tackle ships should not attack the target!  Instead, this ship should jump the gate in case the target makes it back to the gate and jumps through.  This will give your gate-camp a chance to catch that ship despite its attempt to escape.  It's also smart for one or two of your DPS ships to hold their aggression as well so that they can follow the target through.

This is a thankless job and should be rotated among the small ships in your fleet, with one interceptor or the like holding aggression on one target, another holding on the next, et cetera.  This light tackle doesn't have to tackle the target on the other side in case of a trap, or a target that it's clearly not equipped to handle.  But gosh, if your gate-camp catches and nearly finishes off a ship, only to have it jump through the gate in structure, wouldn't it be nice to have a chance to finish it off on the other side?

The ability to cross-jump and still tackle a wounded target with a frigate, by the way, is a key reason you want to establish your gate-camp away from a regional or low-sec/high-sec gate.  If you're camping a low-sec gate and the target makes it back into low-sec, your unaggressed light tackle frigate is going to do you no good whatsoever when the gate guns reduce him to slag.  You'll have to rely on your ability to...

(7) Bring at least one heavy tackle ship with scrams and webs.  At least one of your DPS ships should be a quick, ferocious ship equipped with a scram, a web, and a good tank.  A Proteus is ideal for this task, but nearly any tough T3 or close-range HAC or quick-locking BC will serve this role admirably.  This ship's job is to make it possible for your light tackle to get away from a target once the initial tackle has been established.

If you do choose to gate-camp a low-sec entry into null, this ship will be particularly useful.  A heavily tanked cruiser or fast-locking BC can act as your cross-jumper.  These ships will have an easier time surviving gate gun fire long enough to reestablish tackle on a target that has gotten away from you by jumping through or back through the gate you're camping.

(8) Bring a couple of alt scouts.  This one should be fairly obvious.  A low skill-point cloaky alt should be placed in the systems on either side of the camp to detect incoming ships, and to detect whether that lone battleship that is jumping into your camp is really alone, or just the bait scout of a much larger gang.  Many, many gate-camps use a character that is in the same corp as the camp as the out of system scout.  This is nearly always a mistake, and will simply serve to reveal the nature of the trap in the next system.  An alt in a neutral corp isn't ideal, but it's certainly better that tipping your hand from the get-go!

If the lone battleship jumps into your camp, you aggress it, and it fights back, the alt can report if the system behind the battleship is filling up with the fleet that the battleship is the bait for, and can give you the composition of that fleet so you have a good understanding of whether you can take that fleet on or not...

(9) Don't bring the wrong Recons.  If a Falcon joins your gate-camp, there's only one correct procedure for it.  Ask your heavy tackle to move to close range to the Falcon.  Then call the friendly Falcon primary and kill it.(3)  Know why?  You'll get a good kill out of this, and as long as a Falcon is with your gate-camp, you're not going to get any other good kills.  People bring Falcons to a gate camp for only one reason: they intend to leave the rest of you to die if anything even remotely dangerous happens.

Falcons add almost nothing to a gate camp.  They add no DPS, they prevent ships that jump into your camp from aggressing on you, and they cause people who might otherwise be tempted to fight you to call you names and deliberately avoid fighting you.  If your alt scouts are paying attention to their jobs, you're not going to need the Falcon's jamming ability for anything.  If you aggress on a bait ship and your alt scouts report the entry system is spiking, that information is more valuable than any Falcon jam.  Tell the Falcon pilot to bring a DPS ship instead so that you can kill the bait ship and be off the gate before the bait ship's fleet arrives.  Hell, even a Rook is better than a Falcon: it brings the same jams, and also brings at least some DPS.

That said, if your Rook gets excited and jams a target that hits your camp and the target has the opportunity to escape while he's forcibly deaggressed, he's going to do it.  And the rest of the fleet may well decide that a Rook kill is nearly as good as a Falcon kill.

The other Force Recons have similar disadvantages, though the Rapier is least objectionable.  At least it brings webs.  But if you have a choice between a Rapier and a Huginn, bring the Huginn.  Force Recons don't bring significant DPS.  See (2).

(10) Bring a Remote Sensor Booster or two.  Apply them to your tackle and web ships.  This one should also be fairly obvious.  Somewhere in your gate-camp should be a ship with a spare mid-slot or two, and those spare mid slots should be applied to Remote Sensor Boosters.  Drakes are good for this, and a lot of gate-camp Drakes bring RSBs as a matter of course.

The best place to apply these RSBs is to your Huginn, Ashimmu, Vindicator, Vigilant, or whatever you're using as your webber and/or heavy tackler.  You want those webs or scrams on whatever you're moving to kill as quickly as possible.  The RSBs only work to your advantage here.  If you do have to abandon the camp and pull range, a boosted web ship (particularly the Huginn) can do a great deal to keep enemy tacklers off your gang as you escape.  And of course, used offensively, an RSB on a tackler can make sure that very little will escape the camp.

What was the gate-camp that my alliance-mate jumped into?  A gate-camp on a low-sec regional gate into null with a couple of Hurricanes, a Tornado, three or four tackling frigates, an Eris interdictor, and two Falcons.  The first time he jumped in was in a Hurricane.  What can a Hurricane do against a pair of Falcons?  Absolutely nothing.  He burned back to the gate and jumped out after the entire gate-camping fleet aggressed on him.  He returned in a Hyperion thinking he might be able to separate out and kill one of the tackling frigates before jumping away.  Nope, the two Falcons again made mincemeat of the mere idea.  He again had no problems burning back to gate (not even going into half-shields, let alone armor) and jumping through.  Again, the entire gang aggressed on him.

In short, this gate-camp had no webbers, no heavy tackle, nobody able to cross-jump, not enough DPS, too many Falcons (i.e., more than zero)... and was being scouted directly by a member of their corp in the low-sec entry system.  As it is sometimes put on Twitter... #fail.

So that's it.  Ten suggestions that will make your gate-camps -- if you must gate-camp -- better.  Happy camping!

(1) And a big shout-out to everyone who says hello to me during these late-night wanderings.  :-)  I hardly ever get to shoot at someone who says hello, but it's always nice to chat with people for a few minutes while I'm scouting around "your" system...
(2) Yeah, I went there.
(3) This is a joke.  You probably should not do this.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Comment of the Week: Last word

Seleene took exception to my comments attached to my endorsement post.  I'm not going to try to refute it point-for-point.  I am, in fact, going to give Seleene the last word and quote his comment in its entirety.  I will, however, refute one point and let that stand for the rest: Seleene mentions below that in June, the CSM was busy with torches and pitchforks, and he got 32k hits on his blog.  I remember being rather aggravated with Seleene back in June, and I reviewed my own blog posts to remember why.  It turns out that some of the CSM was actually doing work in June... on a little thing called the May Summit minutes.  Let's go with Trebor's account of who was actually doing that work, shall we?
Delivered: Trebor 7, Mittens 4, Vile Rat 2, Two Step 2
Assigned but not delivered: Elise Randolph 3, Killer2 1, Diagoras 1
At the time, I said of this, "Feel free to use this information for your CSM7 voting needs."

In late June, at the height of the Summer of Rage, I agree, Seleene got back to business: all of his posts were posted starting three days after my post above over the course of five days, the five days that anchored the Summer of Rage.  His first posts after a month of nothing.  And those were his last posts for two more months.

Again, I like Seleene.  I respect Seleene.  He's a great guy, great to talk to, extremely knowledgeable about the game, has an excellent perspective on the game, and all the rest.  As Trebor correctly says in his own endorsement of Seleene, a vote for him will not be wasted.  He's almost certainly going to win a full CSM seat regardless of what I think.  But for my endorsements, I had to pick the seven people I most want to see in those top seven seats, without getting emotionally involved.  It was hard.  It was damned hard!  Seleene didn't make the cut.  Do I want Seleene on CSM7?  Yes, absolutely.  But if I had my way, he'd come in eighth.

If I get emotionally involved in my endorsements, I endorse Seleene and I don't endorse Mittens.

As for the rest, again, I will give Seleene the last word.  Here it is:
Okay, I don't mind the 'endorsement' bit, but your given explanations are just off the reservation m8.

First off, I'm kinda confused as to how ANY of us could have wasted the "first few months" considering we spent the first few months in a near daily fight with CCP over... ummm... everything. That just doesn't make any sense at all. Within a month of taking office, we were in Iceland. Within weeks after that, EVE exploded into torches and pitchforks. My blog had over 5k hits in April and May. It had nearly 32k hits in June.

No, I do not blog with regularity but I do try to make it a point to do so when major events involving the CSM take place. It's a CSM blog, and it was still more detailed in terms of actual CSM events than any other candidate.

Additionally, as with other CSM 6 members, the advent of the Skype channel with CCP means that there is quite a lot that goes on which you cannot see. I know that this is a sore spot with many people, but short of copy / pasting some of that stuff, there isn't really a way to reflect efforts made there.

You say that I 'lost my focus'? How does that reconcile with the corner EVE has turned in the past 4-5 months? If anything, because of everything that went down, my focus has gotten sharper, as has that of the other serving CSM members. This comment feels as if you took something I said to you in confidence and then turned into something else.

As for my 'heart not being in this'... I don't even know what to say. What sane person that has been a developer for the game, been to Iceland countless times already and has nothing to really gain by running (fame? money? a pony?) would do this again whose heart wasn't 150% 'in it'? My heart is just fine, m8. As for being happy with an alt position, if that's where I land, fine. I won't be happy about it, but I won't work any less hard because of it.

I honestly feel as if you have taken part of the recent conversation that we had, along with other past comments, and let my willingness to be very blunt and open about certain things color your thoughts. As I said, the 'endorsement' bit isn't what I'm upset about; it's your perception of my dedication to this that I take issue with. Now you can dissect that assertion all you want, but nothing you say is going to change the fact that I feel completely sucker punched by some of your recent comments.

You can say whatever you want about what you think has or has not been done but questioning where my HEART is with regard to all of this? You have GOT to be joking?? :(

BTW - If you've been following the RU community at all, you'd know that Death is being trolled to oblivion and beyond and his chances of re-election are, sadly, not so great.

FOTW: Mission Support Dominix

I'm going to go with something that's just goofy for my FOTW this week:

[Dominix, Mission Support]
Damage Control II
Armor Explosive Hardener II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Large Armor Repairer II
Large Armor Repairer II
Co-Processor II

Omnidirectional Tracking Link II
Omnidirectional Tracking Link II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Heavy Electrochemical Capacitor Booster I, Cap Booster 400

Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Medium Remote Armor Repair System II
Small Remote Hull Repair System I /OFFLINE
280mm Prototype Siege Cannon, EMP S
Drone Link Augmentor II

Large Sentry Damage Augmentor I
Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I
Large Semiconductor Memory Cell I

Hobgoblin II x5
Hammerhead II x5
Garde II x5
Heavy Shield Maintenance Bot I x5

Eventually, almost every long-term EVE player gets themselves a support character.  And whether this support character does science, mining, industry, trade, or manufacturing, chances are two things are true:
  • this character probably doesn't have a lot of combat skills; and,
  • they aren't going to be getting them anytime soon.
But, if your definition of support character also includes "carrier pilot" and has the drone skills to back that up, there's a way to make that character useful in high-sec, too.  It's everyone's favorite upside-down running shoe ship, the Dominix.

While soloing L4s can be a little nerve-wracking at times, dual-boxing L4 missions is a relatively easy and low-risk way of building up ISK for newer players.  But if your second account doesn't have a character that can add DPS in the traditional way, a support Dominix is an amusing alternative.  Most of the skills required for this fit are easy trains -- in particular, until the support character can use T2 Sentries, T1s are fine.  Ditto the three new T2 drone upgrade modules, which can be replaced with their T1 versions.  This is just an end state fit.

Once in this end-state, the support character can add up to 500 DPS to an L4 mission pair, can tank new spawns with no problems, and can even provide reps to the primary character.  This allows your primary shield DPS ship (a Nightmare or a Machariel, say) to refit mids to include more Tracking Computers, Target Painters, or more resists, and go without a self-rep capability.  Instead, the primary DPS ship just orbits the Dominix which provides reps as needed from the two shield transfers it carries.  Supporting an armor main ship is such as a Paladin or Apoc Navy Issue even easier: replace the Medium Armor repper and the shield reppers with a trio of Large Armor reppers.  Or you can replace one or more reppers with Energy Transfers if you want to go that route instead and set up a mini cap-chain for those cap-hungry laser boats.

In short, this ship allows your support character to both be useful in and gain the standing benefit from running L4s right alongside your main without having to train any gunnery or missile skills whatsoever.  Cute, right?

DPS is provided by either launched sentries (assist them to your main for the greatest effect), or the support Domi can just clear frigs and cruisers with lighter drones.  Shield rep drones are included in case of an emergency.  There's 50m3 of drone space left... fill that in with whatever you like, but the smart move is extra light drones for your main in case of losses.  The support character can deploy these replacement drones, then abandon them for the main to pick up.  Fit this way, the sentries have an optimal range of 48km or so, or light frigate-clearing drones have a long range.

A strong active armor tank is part of the package, and the explosive hardener can be replaced with something mission-specific if you like.  The additional remote armor repper and off-lined hull repper are primarily for repairing drone damage, but can be replaced with other support modules to taste.  The small gun is for drawing aggro before deploying drones if you want to use this Dominix as the initial tank.  Finally, the cap booster provides a little bit of insurance to make sure the local or remote reppers can continue operating in an emergency.  The Domi has plenty of cargo space for cap booster charges.  The strong active tank on this Domi will allow you to go full glass cannon with your main.  Warp the Domi in first, draw aggro with the gun, launch the Sentries, bring in the main DPS ship, assist the Sentries to your main, profit.  You'll be amazed how fast mission rats melt.

It's a cute concept, very cheap, low effort, easy to train a support character into, and surprisingly effective!  If you're looking for a way to boost missioning income but don't want to devote a main combat character to it, give this idea a shot.

Happy missioning!

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.

First checkpoint

Aaaand here's the first list of CSM7 candidates.

38 people as of 1300 on February 22, which is a bit fewer than I expected.  Apparently a few people had a problem with the "real name" thing or the passport thing.  Other than that, very few surprises on the list.

Things that jumped out at me:
  • Two Goonswarm candidates, The Mittani and Lyris Nairn.  No idea if Lyris is at all an official candidate.  Last year, the Goons ran four candidates, two of which were official.
  • Three TEST candidates, Dovinian, michael boltonIII, and Akirei Scytale.  Dovinian is the official candidate from what I understand.  Akirei appears to strictly be a troll candidate.  MB3 was directly not selected as an official candidate, but is apparently running anyway, on name recognition.  Be interesting to see if he draws TEST votes away from Dovinian.
  • Mintrolio is an Aussie.  That may be interesting only to me.  ;-)
  • A little surprisingly (again maybe only to me), there doesn't really seem to be a strong contingent of null-sec bloc candidates this time around.  Maybe they're better at hiding this year?  But there's only the one Russian bloc candidate, and other than the Goon and TEST candidates, there appear to be only one or two other true bloc candidates.
  • How'd you like to be on the list of the six people that passed the real name and passport requirement, but couldn't get 100 likes?  Given the list of people who did get 100 likes, this is not a strong endorsement for their candidacies.  ;-)
  • There don't appear to be any surprising missing candidates, with the possible exception of Iam Widdershins (who couldn't get a passport in time).  Everyone seems to have made it through this step without any problems.
  • And finally, I wouldn't want to be Leboe, Prom, Alekseyev Karrde, or Elise.  I think it's entirely possible that these four candidates might compete each other right out of a seat...

Looks like the final ballot is going to be between 38 and 44 candidates total (depending on how many of the final six get their 100 likes).  There were 57 candidates last year.  As a result, the goal of having fewer candidates this year than last was surprisingly successful.  But I'm definitely not convinced the petition mechanic had anything to do with it.  What did?  I think there were three factors involved.

First, I think a lot of people like myself that were considering running decided not to, either because they didn't feel they could get the votes, or because they'd take votes away from other candidates.  Part of this, I'm sure, is the extremely strong slate of CSM6 candidates running for reelection.  But a lot of it was almost certainly the number of alliances that crashed and burned this past year, or have suffered membership problems.  There aren't enough old-NC survivors to field a candidate, for instance.  Nor does NC Reloaded have a strong enough presence to field their own candidate (Raiden, not at all surprisingly, has endorsed super-cap friendly candidate Elise Randolph).  Much of the Russian bloc is in disarray, as is much of the southern bloc.  Without a strong base to start from, getting the needed votes would be tough.

Similar, but related, I think the Summer of Rage had an impact here.  There are tons of people that unsubbed from EVE over the summer, only recently resubscribed, but had enough lingering resentment about CCP to not want to go anywhere near CCP HQ.

Finally, I think there was an unspoken strategy among some of the CSM6 members to gently de-emphasize the overt public relevance of the CSM over the course of the year.  I've said a couple of times that I think this was a political ploy, and I think we can call it a successful one.  While CSM5 was extremely public over the entire course of their term (resulting in strong interest in running for CSM6, even among non-bloc candidates), CSM6 has been much more outwardly private, particularly late in the term.

What impact is this going to have on voter turn-out?  I initially thought that we'd see an overall 25% increase over last year's turn-out.  Now... now, I'm not so sure.  While I still think Mittens will pass the number of votes he got last year, I think overall turn-out might actually stay about the same or even go down a little.  Maybe I'm just a little more distant from this campaign than I was last year?  But there doesn't seem to be as much enthusiasm for the process as there was this time last year.  Could be wrong.  We'll see.

Anyway, one more CSM7 related post in the next few days -- my endorsements for non-incumbents -- then I'll get off the topic for a couple of weeks unless something interesting happens.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wabbit season!

Tomorrow, CSM7 election season begins in earnest with the publication of the list of approved candidates and the "beginning" of the nomination stage.

In reality, of course, the nomination stage has been going on for a few weeks now, so what gets published tomorrow will -- for most purposes -- be the candidate list.  As a result, I'd like to issue two sets of endorsements this year for candidates that I'm going to support, either vocally or directly, with one or more of my votes.

I'm going to start with the CSM6 incumbents.  So far, ten of the fourteen current CSM6 members have said they're standing for reelection, and as far as I can tell, all ten have easily passed the 100 "likes" needed to be considered official candidates.  We can pretty safely assume that since they've been on the CSM for the last year, they're also not going to have any trouble with the other required qualifications.  It's equally safe to say that of the remaining three that haven't declared, none of them is likely to be a major factor in the election since their bases of support appear to be gone.  So let's go with what we have.

As I said a couple of weeks back, I'll be endorsing seven candidates: the candidates that I hope get the top seven seats when CSM7 is elected.  These aren't necessarily who I think will be elected.  These are who I want to be elected to those top seven seats.  I'll write an additional post later on who I think will be elected and why.

Of the ten CSM6 candidates running for reelection, I am endorsing four of them: Two Step, Trebor Daehdoow, The Mittani, and UAxDEATH.

When looking at the current candidates running for reelection, I looked at three factors:
  • Have this candidate done the work?
  • Does this candidate best represent an important segment of the player base?
  • Does this candidate deserve to represent us?
With this in mind, let's look at each candidate in turn.

Two Step, more than any other member of CSM5 or CSM6, demonstrates the fundamental correctness of Mynxee's goal of making the so-called "alternate" members of the CSM part of the process.  Barely elected to CSM6 at all and dismissed as a wormhole specialty candidate, Two Step showed that he didn't really know or care what the word "alternate" meant.  He simply did the work.  More than any other single member of CSM6, he has been visible to the EVE Online player base in a variety of places, and has shown interest in multiple play-styles, not just his own.  Two Step still represents an important segment of the EVE player base, but I'd now argue that it's larger than simply wormhole dwellers... it's every EVE player that has no interest in sovereignty-based play and super-cap blobs.  Two Step deserves a full seat at the table in CSM7, and will be a terrific balance against these powerful forces.  Two Step not only has my endorsement, he'll be receiving at least one of my votes.

Trebor Daehdoow, despite my teasing, has shown that he also deserves a seat at the table.  Trebor's greatest strength is his ability to get along with and balance a lot of disparate elements that have made up the last two CSMs.  Yes, he's a little bit stubborn when he wants to get his way, but he balances that with the ability to listen, and the willingness to directly challenge CCP employees when it's clear they're on the wrong track.  He might not agree with you (or them) when the discussion is over, but he can prove that he's listened to the arguments on both sides.  I'm not convinced that very many other CSM6 members did that this year.  Trebor has also shown a continued willingness to engage with the EVE player base in a variety of ways.  He's also one of CSM6's strongest communicators and has done more work than the others in terms of documenting the results.  Trebor will also be receiving one of my votes, the same one he got last year.  ;-)

If I gave Trebor a hard time this year, that's a quarter of the hard time I gave The Mittani this year.  Still, if your definition of success is "engaged with CCP", then The Mittani is the most successful CSM Chair in the history of the CSM.(1)  Yes, he's frightfully arrogant, and yes, he's way more interested in his own ideas than anyone else's, but the simple fact is that where previous CSMs talked at CCP, Mittens talked to them and with them.  He's also in a perfect position to use his in-game power, his out-of-game name recognition, and his personal knowledge of a lot of the CCP devs to channel player annoyance with CCP into constructive avenues, and he understands just enough of the business side to get by.  If Mittens has a weak point, it's that he regards virtually the entire EVE player base as dumb-ass pubbies, but he seemed to mellow somewhat in the last year, and we can hope that he'll continue to do so in the coming year.  ;-)  Mittens won't be receiving one of my votes, but he doesn't need it anyway...

I don't have as much to say about UAxDEATH as I do about the other three, but it's clear that Death has done a better job engaging with the Russian portion of the EVE player base much more successfully than past Russian CSM members.  He also made an effort, particularly late in 2011, to start to talk to people who don't play EVE in Cyrillic as well.  There's no question that he best represents this important part of the player base.  More impressive to me, though, Death has shown real open-mindedness when it came to attacks on his core play style.  He's open and honest when it comes to botting, has been open to the discussion of removing drone alloys, and has a great sense of humor that even a westerner can appreciate.

Now let's talk about the people that I'm not endorsing, and why, starting with the hard one.

I'm not endorsing Seleene.  Now, don't get me wrong: I really like Seleene, and of the CSM6 members, he's probably the one that I've actually spent the most time chatting with this past year.  Hell, he and I had a terrific two plus hour Skype conversation not a month ago (he urged me to run, even when I told him my belief that I'd just take votes away from him).  But somewhere along the way in the last year, Seleene has slipped sideways and lost his focus.  I don't know any other way of putting it.  Part of it is simply how darn busy the guy is.  I gave him a very hard time about wasting the first few months of his term, but even over the course of the rest of the year, it was pretty clear that he wasn't 100% engaged.  His blogging was greatly diminished, and his posting to the various fora decreased substantially.  I'm not even convinced that his heart is in this run.  I think in his heart of hearts, he'd be more than happy with an alternate seat this year, and honestly: that's probably the place where he can do the most good.  The full members need his insights into CCP and the development process, yes... but I don't feel like they need his presence.

I'm not endorsing Meissa Anunthiel.  This year, Meissa abandoned his traditional neutrality on political topics and on at least two occasions, directly advocated for positions where he personally or his alliance generally would directly benefit.  The more glaring example was his advocacy for "wormhole stabilizers", which would do only one thing: bring the blob to the one and only part of space that is still mercifully blob-free.  Meissa needs a break, and some perspective.  He'll probably win a seat regardless of what I think, but I hope he doesn't.

I'm not endorsing either Elise Randolph or Prometheus Exenthal, and that is just freakin' sad.  Either of them could have, and should have, been a vocal champion for non-sov-holding small-gang play.  Neither has demonstrated an ability to do this.  Prom is particularly disappointing... after ignoring his post for six months, when he did finally become engaged with the process, it seems pretty clear that he drank the sov Kool-Aid.  Neither have been strong representatives for non-blob play.  Hell, Pandemic Legion is practically embracing the blob.  If you're tempted to vote either of these candidates thinking they will be champions for the small gang, I urge you to put your vote elsewhere.

And finally, neither Draco Llasa nor Darius III are representative of any particular group of EVE Online players, and neither distinguished themselves during the year that they've already had to represent us.

That leaves three endorsements, which I will be giving to three new faces running this year.  Watch for that post in a few days.

(1) If your definition is "brought player concerns to CCP", then the most successful is still Mynxee.


Here's one for you casual, occasional miners out there.  The pro miners already know this information.  Hell, they might even get annoyed with me for talking about it.  ;-)

Quick: other than Mercoxit, what are the three most valuable ores in New Eden?

Arkonor?  Yep, absolutely.  Bistot?  Aye, say thankya, you speak true.  And of course, Crok--Yeah, not so fast.

After quickly jumping from 300 ISK per unit to 500 ISK per unit in 4Q2010, and increasing to 550 at the end of 1Q2011, the price of Nocxium actually dipped down to 400 or so over the summer.  It's been coming back up again and is now where it started last year, at 500.  Nocxium is found in seven different drone alloys in different concentrations.  When I last wrote about noc a year ago, I recommended that miners seriously consider training the skills for Hedbergite and Hemorphite Tech2 crystals...

Megacyte and Morphite have similar curves to noc: aside from some mid-year fluctuations, they've been pretty stable.  Zydrine has actually lost about 25% of its value this past year.  However, drone alloys are not big factors in the production of these three minerals.

But then there are the high-sec minerals... you know... the ones that are big factors in drone alloys.

Here's Tritanium, up almost 33% since the start of the DRF civil war, volume steady (dropped in only five drone alloys):

Here's Pyerite, up about 20% in the same period, volume steady (also dropped in five drone alloys):

Mexallon, up 65% and still rising (ditto):

And finally Isogen, up about 13%... but like Nocxium, fully seven types of drone alloys contain Isogen, so the fact that it's less affected is easier to understand:

What's the net result?  Here's the money chart:

Prices along the top are based on Jita highest Buy orders as of 00:00 on 22 February 2012.  The ISK/hour figure is the one you should look at.(1)  Put Mercoxit aside since it's kind of a special case, and the top three ores in New Eden today are Arkonor, Bistot... and Hemorphite.  Crokite is now sixth, just barely ahead of Pyroxeres, which is a high-sec ore!

I can't recall that happening... pretty much ever during my time in New Eden to date.

Now, without QENs and without data on the sources of minerals over the last year and change, we have no way of knowing for sure that the DRF civil war is behind these increases.  But the timing is sure coincidental, ain't it?

In the meantime, if you have any interest in mining at all, now might be the time to dust off the old Hulks.  At least until Hulkageddon V gets rolling, that is.(2)  Still no date on that that I've heard.

(1) I assume 1900m3 per minute of mining, which is easy to hit in an unbonused Hulk with decent skills.  Your values might be even higher.
(2) For reference, high-sec ice is back down to the 10-11 million ISK/hour range.  Yes, even Blue Ice.