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...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 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...


Want to move a super-cap around, or move a capital ship around in a stealthy fashion?  The preferred method is the "3-second cyno".  It requires that you sacrifice your cyno ship.  Here's how it works:
  1. Undock in cyno ship and warp it to the cyno location.
  2. Activate "self-destruct" on the cyno ship.
  3. Wait until the self-destruct has about 5-10 seconds left.
  4. Activate the cyno.
  5. Jump to the cyno.
  6. Watch the cyno ship self-destruct taking the cyno off the map with it.
As I said, it's the preferred method for moving capital ships in a stealthy fashion.  People who monitor the map for cynos to kill or capitals to tackle (and there are many such people) have the minimum amount of time to spot your cyno.


CSM Chairman Seleene let slip in a blog post some months back that CCP was going to be eliminating the Ethnic Relations skill.  That's a decision I agreed with, because the skill itself was ridiculous.  (It allowed corp CEOs to allow more characters from other races to join their corp.)

There have been many such skills eliminated in the game over the years... and skill-books for those skills are now tremendously valuable.  I was a little bit curious if that would happen to Ethnic Relations.  Since the skill-book only cost 36000 ISK, on a whim, I decided to invest in a thousand of them.  It was a 36 million ISK investment with the possibility for a very nice return if CCP did eliminate the skill.

Well, they did eliminate it, but they replaced it one-for-one with the Diplomatic Relations skill that does something completely different.  And the price of the skill-book remained the same, sadly.  That left me sitting on a thousand Diplomatic Relations skill-books.  Well, I finally sold the last of them in Jita and elsewhere throughout the galaxy this week, making a small profit instead of my hoped-for really large one.  Oh well.  When it comes to trying to speculate on new EVE releases, you pays your money and takes your chances.  ;-)


And finally, some unrelated quickies...

Anyone else noticed another slow-down in the development of third-party tools for EVE?  EFT is usually running several weeks behind actual ship fitting, and now EVE HQ development has been discontinued.  Further development on Aura for Android phones is also slowing down.

This is a pretty nifty link: similar to the EVE Online Blog Pack, this one is a pointer to EVE Online pod-casts called (appropriately enough) the EVE Online Pod Pack.  As I've said a couple of times, I'm not a pod-cast guy myself, but I've added it to the "Must Visit Links" off to the right for those of you that are.

Remember how I bitched at the Declarations of War pod-cast that the CSM didn't have a periodic place advertising their activities?  Hans Jagerblitzen has remedied that for September.  Go give it a read.  It's worth your time.

Another amusing link.  This one's a list of EVE's "educational organizations" on the EVE Online official wiki.  It amuses the hell out of me because Goonswarm Federation is listed.  Now granted, they certainly educate new players, but I think the new player off the street that takes their entry on this wiki literally is in for a surprise...


And that's all for the junk drawer this month.  Pretty quiet one, junk drawer wise.

Paid for the Kill of the Week

This week's KOTW sums up a lot of stuff I've covered before in one convenient Christmas gift-pack:

The obvious ones:
  • Don't fly what you can't afford to lose.
  • Don't fly it through obviously camped systems (Miroitem is the system on the other side of freakin' Rancer, for Heaven's sake).
  • Don't move PLEXes around during EVE's peak times.
  • Use the right tool for the job.
You might think a "cloaky Loki" would be a good ship to move PLEXes around in, and if the fit were even close to good, maybe.  But so many things are wrong with this fit that I'll start by pointing to the only thing that's right about it.  The Amplification Node subsystem on a Loki will greatly increase the amount of time needed to lock up your ship.  That's kind of a nice bonus for escape and evasion.  Too bad this pilot completely destroyed that bonus by fitting five(!) Inertia Stabilizers to the ship, which increased the sig radius of this ship by more than a third.  That meant a half-second quicker lock time for those enemy Rapiers.  That's why everyone uses Nanofibers instead.

No buffer, no 100MN Afterburner, and no Warp Core Stabilizers did the rest.  The Interdiction Nullifier is also completely useless in low-sec.  Had the Intercalated Nanofibers subsystem been used instead, this ship probably would have escaped.  All in all, this was a mercy killing.  Fortunately, those that killed it did not profit from the idiot behind the wheel.  Chris Cottle was thrown out of his corp a few hours later, and good riddance, particularly since he did all of this in a full set of +5s, too.

Number of dead super-caps this week: 2

Only two dead super-caps to write about this week.  Uanzin is renowned throughout Derelik as the worst possible place to undock a capital ship and this week it cost a player an Aeon.  Looks like a pretty straight-forward PL gank.  It's a former SniggWaffe player, so he probably made the mistake of telling someone he was moving his Aeon, or the bigger mistake of asking for help with it.  If there's no fleet involved, know how many people need to know that you're moving your super-cap?  One.  You need to know.  Nobody else does.

And this Goon Nyx died to an NCdot fleet, the result of a very straight-forward gank.  themittani.com has a listing of the dumb mistakes made (I count six).  The Nyx certainly didn't get any kills.

Number of dead super-caps last week: 2

And since I missed this feature last week, let's cover the two dead super-caps from last week.  The first is kind of entertaining: a Legion of xXDeathXx Ragnarok ganked by a combined NCdot/Nulli Secunda fleet in Venal.  An old friend of mine and very fine pilot, Enthropic, was in on that kill.  Congrats, mate!  EVE News 24 has the story on that one.  Pretty straight-forward gank, and the Titan didn't get any kills before it went down.

Second super-cap to die last week was this Nocturnal Romance Wyvern, lost to a Goon fleet in Syndicate.  Word around the campfire is that this is an alt of the pilot TinkerHell, who's famous around Syndicate for some occasionally... ummmm... unorthodox "solo" PvP techniques.  Whether this was actually TinkerHell or not, looks like this Wyvern was dropped to ensure the death of a Goon carrier... failed to get on that KM because the carrier was already in structure... and then got itself tackled by the supporting Goon sub-cap fleet.  That fleet then held the Wyvern for quite a while before the eventual Goon capital ship fleet could come in and finish it off.

Still, that's the closest thing since I've started tracking super-cap deaths to an actual "super-cap fight" so congrats to this pilot whoever he was for being brave enough to drop your super into an actual battle.

Who knows, maybe someday soon we'll have a week in which more than two super-caps die...  And just maybe more of them will be used in actual fights, instead of just getting themselves ganked.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The dog that didn't bark

I apologize in advance.  This post is written slightly off-the-cuff.  I've only had about a half day to think about it, but the topic is important enough that I want to get some initial thoughts out as quickly as possible.  I might have more to say on this topic in the next few days that might amend, change, or destroy some of what follows.  You have been warned.

In the Sherlock Holmes story "Silver Blaze", a major plot point revolves around a dog that doesn't bark when expected.  Ever since then, thinking about the dogs that don't bark has been an important element of being able to think outside the box.  If something is missing from a business plan or proposal, why is it missing?  As Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management puts it (it's #4), "Look for what is missing. Many know how to improve what's there, but few can see what isn't there."

Keep that in mind as you think about the EVE Online cash PvP tournament announced this week.  Is this Alliance Tournament XI?  No... because we're told that CCP wants alliances to be less of a factor.  CCP wants players to be able to participate regardless of alliance affiliation.  What will the tournament be called, then?  We don't know that, either.  The title of the dev-blog is "New Eden Open $10,000 Tournament", but that's kind of a mouthful.  But we're given some hints.

CCP Navigator, in the EVE Online forum thread about this tournament, provides a little gold mine of such hints and as such I quote the relevant forum post in full:
Steve is right to a large extent but I really want to spend some time talking about this as EVE tournaments and eSports are something that CCP Bro and I talk about at length.

In an ideal world we want to expand eSports to become a really big deal in EVE Online and allow players access to a host of tournaments of different sizes with a range of prizes. This is a long term goal and, if I am being completely honest, we have a lot of decision making and planning to do to make this a reality. We want to see tournaments involving everyone from small groups to huge alliances but this is will be much further down the road.

20 PLEX is not a bid every player can make and, as Steve pointed out, there needs to be a barrier of entry otherwise we would end up with a random drawing of hundreds of teams. We are aware that a tournament of this size will attract some of the best pilots from multiple corporations and alliances and we would expect that these teams will be sponsored by their respective corps and alliances.

This tournament is about celebrating individuals who can form a team, not necessarily from the same corps and alliances, and guide those teams to greatness.
There's a lot there, but before I talk about it, let's add one more hint.  Back in May when the relationship between own3d.tv and CCP was announced, CCP said that they were going to shift the entrance fee to PLEXes -- and in doing so, effectively substantially raise the entry fee -- because they wanted to use the RL money those PLEXes represented to provide a much higher-quality tournament experience.  Now in the end, AT10 turned out pretty well but I think we all know the most memorable thing about some of those tournament fights, and it wasn't the fights.  It was all of the problems actually broadcasting them.

This time, CCP Sreegs skips all that and flatly says:
What we do have is a cost of entry in order to ensure that those who are stating they wish to compete have enough skin in the game to take it seriously.
OK.  With all of that in mind, let's talk about what I think CCP's goals are here, and what's likely to happen that's going to effectively subvert those goals.

Electronic sports, or "eSports" are an increasingly big deal in video games these days.  Video gamers are rarely able to be rock stars or professional sports legends, so who can resist the appeal of being a rock star professional sports legend playing video games?  To use one example, League of Legends, quite literally millions of dollars are involved per year and tens of thousands of dollars are paid in prizes.  Compared to this, CCP's dunking one toe into the eSports pool is pretty small beer, and League of Legends is far from the largest eSports venue in the world.

And of course, these kinds of tournaments are great advertising for the games themselves and go a long way toward attracting new players.  When you get right down to it, for instance, LoL is a quite limited repetitive game.  If it didn't have the eSports cachet, would it have the player base that it does?  I think a reasonable argument can be made that the answer is "no".  LoL directly benefits from its eSports reputation and I'm sure that CCP would like to get in on some of that action.

CCP Bro says:
During ATX we received positive feedback and were asked multiple times, why don't you do more tournaments? We took that question to heart and are here to offer you, you guessed it, more tournaments. Any constructive criticism, pointers and observations are of course completely welcome and will help us better this service to you in the future.
And I'm all for that.  But there's a problem: so far it doesn't look like this tournament has been thought through.  At all.

EVE Online has the most competitive meta-game of any MMO on the planet, bar none.  Even in the hyper-competitive world of eSports, you usually don't hear about players going after other players in real life.  But this sort of thing is part of EVE even before real-life money was thrown into the mix.  Fortunately for this first test, the amount of RL money is extremely small.  Split 16 ways, $6000 U.S. is $375, and I can tell you from experience that the players involved will have to put in at least a hundred hours of work if not much more to claim that $375.  And that assumes that the prize money would be split evenly amongst the players.

You can quite literally make more money running a lemonade stand over the summer or working in a fast-food place than you can make from this tournament.  So every person who is focusing on the RL money involved is missing the point.  You're listening to the barking dog.  Instead, look for the dog that isn't barking.

CCP Bro, CCP Navigator, and the other organizers are looking for concrete suggestions about this tournament.  I have one: get busy writing some rules around meta-gaming this tournament.  Because you've only written four tournament rules and only one of them is looking at EVE's meta-game.  That's the dog that isn't barking.

$6000 U.S.?  That's chump change.  For an EVE player that wants to make some money on this tournament, I can imagine dozens of ways for them to meta-game this format, each one of them able to bring in dozens or even hundreds of PLEXes worth thousands of dollars for each method.  Well-known EVE PvPers will have the ability to quite literally print money in the run-up to this tournament... and then still participate in the tournament with whatever teams they like.  And right now, there's no rules against any of it.

Say you're Garmon, for instance, and you're looking to make an absolute ton of ISK over this.
  • What's to stop you from advertising yourself as the Captain of a neutral, noob-friendly team, charging four PLEXes per entrant, and privately signing up hundreds of entrants before walking away with all their PLEXes?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from advertising yourself and selling yourself as a free agent to a dozen teams, charging 20 PLEXes per team, and then not showing up for any of them?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from advertising yourself as a professional team coach and adviser, charging 25 PLEXes per team you're coaching, and then not coaching any of the teams?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from advertising yourself as a team coach for a dozen teams at 25 PLEXes per team, coaching and advising them in good faith but also sharing everyone's strategies with everyone else?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from acting as a practice partner for a couple of dozen teams?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from acting as a practice partner for a couple of dozen teams, and then taking notes and using their strategies against them with your own team come the actual tournament?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from advertising a dream team with a half-dozen or a dozen sponsors and asking for and getting 100 PLEXes from all of them, then not acknowledging any of them?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from getting all of these sponsors and then acknowledging them in good faith?  Nothing.
  • What's to stop you from running all of the scams above and then running a legitimate team too?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.
As far as I can see, none of these things are against the rules.

And all of these questions are ones you can ask before you ask the sillier questions like "what's to stop someone from buying up and/or sponsoring every team so they can RMT PLEXes for $10000 U.S.?"  That dog is barking and I'm ignoring it, thanks.  I'm too busy listening to the dog that isn't barking.

On these kinds of topics, CCP Soundwave had this to say:
Sure, but we're going to be even harsher on colluding and foul play this year, so any sign that you're even remotely doing that and you're getting disqualified (and we'll keep the plexes of course)
But right now, none of these things are against the rules because there are hardly any rules.  So what's legal and what's illegal?  We don't know.

Like I said, running more frequent EVE tournaments is a great idea.  But this one hasn't been thought through very well yet.

POTW: Everything feels a little strange

Everything feels a little strange when you get back from a longish vacation, doesn't it?  I mean, I thought I was flying in New Eden and everything seemed normal and fine until I got a close look at planet six in D85-VD:

Now I'm wondering if I had a little too much fun on vacation.  ;-)

I swear I am not making this planet up.  To make things even more interesting, it's a temperate planet.

But then, Rote had a very enjoyable fight with our old nemesis Flying Dangerous there (gf FIGL!).  And after that, everything was nicely back to normal.  Well, except for the planet that is.  Anyway, I'm back and catching up.  Anything interesting happen while I was gone?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Where's Jester?

As I mentioned last year, many Californians like myself like to take their vacation when the tourists head back to their home states.  That's now happened, and the water's still warm, so I'm off to the beach for a few days.  I expect I'll be back on Saturday or so.

Sadly, this means that all of you are going to have to find ways to be productive members of society for a while.  I might write a blog post or two between now and the end of the week, but don't count on it.  Go try to get some real work done or something.

QOTW: Pat yourself on the back

Quote of the Week honors goes to CCP Fozzie, of course.  I mean, who else could I pick?  Still, in the broad field of stuff he said last week, it was hard to pick just one.  ;-)

Still, in the end, I think this amused me the most:
Whenever we need to change something this powerful it will always be painful because so many players will have done the smart thing and flocked to the best game mechanic. If it feels like CCP nerfs you a lot that's just a sign that you're doing it right and getting good at staying on top of the best trends so pat yourself on the back.
The context of the quote was as an answer to a series of sample questions about the Heavy Missile damage nerf that's upcoming in the winter expansion.  This particular question: with the Heavy Missile nerf happening, are EVE players going to be reimbursed for skill points put into Heavy Missiles?  The answer, of course, is a long version of the word "no" with a CCP-standard side dish of "Chances are you've gotten your full value out of this over the years."  Then Fozzie ends with the two sentences above.

That's the first time I can recall a game designer saying that if the game features you like are getting nerfed all the time, you're playing the game correctly...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kill of the Week: All or nothing

Number of dead super-caps this week: ???

For those who aren't keeping track (mission-runners, Incursioners, industrialists, you know who you are), eve-kill.net has been down most of this week.  As a result, people who keep score in EVE by keeping track of their kills are having a harder than usual time doing so.  Battleclinic is still there, of course, as are the various corporate and alliance kill boards.  But in the view of myself and many others, Battleclinic has many serious deficiencies and it's a lot more fun having a kill board if you can keep track of what all the other alliances and corps out there are up to, too.

Try to imagine being an industrialist who can't check his ISK balance, or an incursion alt that can't check his LP bank, and you start to understand what this feels like.

Anyway, eve-kill seems to be down due to a hardware issue and presumably when that's fixed it'll be back.  In the meantime, one of the various minor effects of this is that it's harder for me to find a KOTW.  Still, I came across this one which I think is amusing in the absence of something more impressive:

I've talked briefly about "theme roams" in the past and this looks like the result of one of those.  You might have missed it, but in one of the recent expansions, all of the existing "noobship" bonuses were tossed in favor of four racial bonuses per ship.  And the new bonuses are actually interesting and kind of useful!  This has created a new and rather ironic market: mass contract sales of noobships in Jita.  You can find either groups of all four noobships or larger groups of a single model.  And of course, they're created with the simple expedient of warping a pod back and forth from one Jita 4-4 station to the other, simply packaging and moving the newly created noobship into a Station Container or the like after each docking.

Each noobship comes with four "signature" bonuses for their respective races.  If you want DPS, though, the Gallente Velator still leads the pack handily with its 10% bonus to hybrid damage, 20% bonus to drone damage, and double-size drone bay.  It even has an armor rep bonus now.

Still, one of the Ibis bonuses is amusing: a flat 30% bonus to jamming strength.

ECM is a topic guaranteed to inspire rage in PvPers, particularly attempted solo PvPers, because it's so all-or-nothing: heads you win, tails you lose.  And this Ibis bonus means that even the most raw noob in the game, with absolutely no skills at all, can easily put two jammers on the field with a 5.2 jam strength each.  The jamming strength jumps to 6.5 or higher with a good ECM pilot aboard.  And that's sufficient to jam out most frigates and destroyers in the game pretty reliably... with a free ship.

And that's apparently what happened here.  This Sabre, with its Sensor Strength of 9, stood no chance at all against three jam-fit Ibises, and once jammed out, even the best Sabre fit in New Eden can only tank about 50 DPS or so.  This is definitely not the best Sabre fit in New Eden, so it didn't last long.  Fortunately, the pilot in question had a good sense of humor about it:
Damn noob ship with jamming bonus!!! LOL
So, not a dramatic or particularly important kill, but a fun one...  I'll catch back up with super-cap kills and a more impressive KOTW next week.  Hopefully.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Declarations of war

Two quick CSM7 posts, of which this is one.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to participate in Alekseyev Karrde's Declarations of War podcast and have a debate about CSM issues, between myself on one side and he and Hans Jagerblitzen on the other.  I've said before that I'm not much of a podcast follower... with everything else I do, I often don't have a lot of time to listen to podcasts too.  But I haven't been invited to be on a podcast since my CSM6 run and Heaven knows I was interested in this topic, so I agreed.

The invitation followed a string of previous posts about CSM7 where I'd been critical of their collective opinion of tech, super-caps, and their communications strategies.  So I sat down and wrote down some notes about stuff I wanted to talk about, and topics that I figured would come up.  When you're me, this is the sort of thing you do.  ;-)  I outline most of my blog posts before I write them and I felt like this should be no different.  Here are the notes I went to the recording session with:
Town halls/communications
  • Why isn't the CSM using more communications opportunities to talk to players?
  • Why isn't the CSM being more publicly communicative in general?  (CSM blogs, posting on Jita Park, interviews)
  • Why does the CSM not announce town halls farther in advance?  4 days isn't enough
  • Why isn't the next town hall (which should be in 3-5 weeks) being announced NOW?

  • Why was "kicking the can down the road" not OK for Titans, but perfectly OK for tech?
  • Change the make-up of nanotransistors or fullerides to not require platinum technite any more
  • Alchemy just takes tech back one year, to the days before OTEC was price-fixing
  • Doesn't solve the base problems at all
In a game that needs more conflict drivers, describing alchemy as a "nerf" for tech is rather ridiculous. It's worse than a nerf: it's the equivalent of a NASCAR yellow flag, making tech moons not really worth fighting for. In the meantime, everyone keeps driving but nobody passes. The incredible bank of these things just keeps going to the same dudes.

  • CSM6's concerns about super-caps were just dropped
  • Does this CSM really think "the genie is out of the bottle" and there's nothing to be done?
  • Did Elise and Seleene really argue at the town hall that super-caps should be BUFFED?
  • Perception is that people don't buy super-caps because they can't be used
  • Instead of the real reason, they're too freakin' expensive for most players
  • One Internet hiccup or computer freeze, and you're potentially out $1000 U.S.
  • Also doesn't address the concern that supers now operate in enormous packs
  • What happened to making super-carriers "super-carriers" instead of being good at everything?

Player income
  • Players have too much ISK because the richest players on the CSM think the players have too much ISK
  • There's such a thing as going TOO FAR over to CCP's side on this one

  • The CSM should be doing a better job of holding CCP accountable, and tracking past action items
  • How does the CSM feel about devs going directly to players and skipping the CSM?
  • What does CSM7 see as their accomplishments to date?

I arrived on Skype at the proper time.  Aleks greeted me and immediately asked if I minded if Seleene joined the discussion.  "I'll understand if you say that's too many of us," he told me, "and we can have him on next time insteaad but he really wanted to talk to you."  I laughed and said as a member of Rote Kapelle, I'm used to being blobbed.  ;-)

The results can be found as the latest Declarations of War entry.

I was available for about two hours total, then had to leave to go to a fleet that I definitely was not going to miss.  As a result, I had to leave rather abruptly, which I felt bad about.  Still, it was a quite good discussion, I thought.  Short version of a long pod-cast: we spent virtually the entire time on the first topic, CSM Communications, we unfortunately didn't discuss super-caps or player income at all, and only had about five minutes for tech.  So my notes turned out to be wildly optimistic.

And as a result, the discussion is really basically a debate between three policy wonks about what we feel CSM communications policy should be.  If you're into that, go listen.  ;-)

In the process of the discussion, I made lots of concrete suggestions about things I feel like the CSM could be doing to communicate to more players more publicly, among them:
  • If a CSM member has a blog, they should write at least one post a month saying what they're up to on the CSM.  "Here are the things I did this month."
  • Write a weekly "This week in the CSM" post on Jita Park with shorter notes about what the CSM did the previous week, blog posts, pod-cast appearances, links to significant forum posts, and the like.
  • Create a place to find upcoming podcast or other appearances, upcoming activities, the next town hall, et cetera.
  • Get back into the business of updating their entry on the EVE Online official wiki frequently with an activities page.  Here's CSM6's.
  • Share conversations that they're having with individual players more publicly.  In other words, if Hans has a good discussion with three players about FW changes, he should ask permission to write about that conversation -- even briefly -- on his blog.
  • Contact whole corps or alliances, ask to join their Teamspeak at some scheduled time, and chat with them about their concerns.
  • Solicit interviews with gaming websites or an actual column on a gaming website similar to what former CSM members Mittens has at Ten Ton Hammer, White Tree has at mmorpg.com, and non-CSM member Nyphur has at Massively.
  • I also shared examples of how The Mittani had used the "bully pulpit" of his CSM Chairmanship to nudge CCP in a direction he wanted them to go.
I tried to present each of these as examples of things and repeatedly stated "I don't care which ones you use, just pick a few of them and run with them."  All three CSM members present were uncomfortable with that last suggestion, but they acknowledged that CSM7 can improve in this regard overall.  So that was a nice net positive.

For their part, Aleks, Hans, and Seleene said that I have the ability to spin CSM activities positively or negatively and indicated they felt that I was going negative too often.  They also said that if I'm going to complain about what CSM is or is not doing, I should at least ask them about it first.  Hans did a particularly good job of it, so much so that when he was done I joked (Saving Private Ryan style), "Aleks, Seleene, this is how you bitch."  And I have to admit that they had a point, and said so.  As a group, I've probably been harder on CSM7 than they deserve.

Anyway, if you're interested, the whole conversation is out there.  After a short introduction (I talk about how I got started playing EVE and how I got started blogging), the meat starts at about the 10 minute mark and goes through about an hour and sixteen minutes.  As I said, then there's a short discussion about tech but unfortunately there really wasn't enough time to do the topic any sort of justice.  I probably shouldn't have started the conversation at all, since I had to get to that fleet.  ;-)

I want to write one other post about this, kind of putting this discussion I had with these CSM members in the larger context.  I was particularly intrigued by what the three CSM7 members see as their goal and (they hope) eventual primary accomplishment as a group.  But this post is already too long.

Thanks to Aleks for the invite to the podcast and thanks to he, Hans, and Seleene for arguing with me.  I do like a good argument.  ;-)

RAGING assistant to the QOTW

I cannot even express how much this makes me laugh:

Short version, a pilot from my old alliance LAWN got into an argument with alliance leadership.  Knowing what I know about LAWN alliance leadership, this does not surprise me in the slightest.  And like wronged and vengeful corp directors across EVE, he responded by dropping Blueprint Haus sov in nine systems and stealing 47.5 billion ISK.  This sort of thing is so routine in EVE that normally it wouldn't even be worth talking about.  By corp theft standards, the amount of BPH's loss doesn't even count as paltry.(1)

And yet the response of Viger, Blueprint Haus's CEO, is nothing short of nuclear melt-down and unending eternal hate hate hate so much vile hate.  There are teenagers that can't summon up this level of righteous smiting anger.

Best quotes:
We intend to make your toons blacklisted for most of EVE.
We will protect EVE from you.
For the record, Blueprint Haus members for the most part fit the old cliche of Northern Coalition no-PVP-all-care-bear-all-the-time to an absolute T.  There are certainly exceptions, but a lot of the time you couldn't drag them into fleets if your life depended on it.  They were miners and industrialists and plexers and proud of it.  The average security status of BPH's 137 members is 2.3, for Heaven's sake.  They would build capital ships and super-caps for alliance members... as long as you didn't mind paying over market value for them.  Don't like it?  Don't buy them!

There's a commonly bandied-about word for this sort of EVE player, but I won't repeat it here.  But I'm sure most of you know the one I mean.  I normally avoid stereotypes, but this time it fits.

From this, you'll no doubt recognize and appreciate the amount of ISK flowing around BPH at any given time.  So to see this level of rage over barely enough ISK for one super-carrier... yeah.  I found it funny.  Really funny.  Oh no!  Blueprint Haus might hunt down and destroy Legras wherever he goes... forever and ever and ever and so much vile hate.

...unless he sells the character the very next day, of course. 

Presumably, he's secured a new e-mail address as well.  Gods, I love this game sometimes.

(1) Though having this amount of personal ISK would certainly be gratifying.

Breaking stuff to look tough

The latest dev-blog is out, and it's one of those that's designed to hurt my brain.  Go give it a read.  I'll wait.

Short version: CCP is changing all non-wormhole, non-Incursion rats so that they will target-switch the same way wormhole and Incursion rats do.  As a side effect, the rats will "try" to target player ships of about the same signature radius as the rat ship.  So frigs will try to attack frigs, cruisers will try to attack cruisers, et cetera.  In addition, rats will now switch targets to drones if drone threat goes high enough.

First off, we're told by CCP FoxFour that this is -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- the first step of many.  The old AI code is going to be thrown out in favor of the "Level One" AI code.  Once in place, the devs will then be able to make modifications to the AI that they're not able to or uncomfortable doing to the old code.

All well and good, but I can't help thinking that breaking this without some initial positive steps is going to end up hurting more players than it helps.  In the section of the dev-blog titled "Why we are doing this", there are five reasons listed.  Three of them are for the benefit of CCP, not the players.  The other two aren't being implemented this winter.  That's worrisome.

Let's look at the positive first, though, because it's a big one.  This change will make it functionally impossible to AFK sites using drone boats.  Try it and eventually the AI is going to go after and kill all the drones leaving the AFK boat doing no DPS.  CCP lists this among the five reasons: "to try and close some exploits."  That is undeniably a big huge positive step, the mission equivalent of going after mining bots.  You'll get no argument from me that this is a good thing.

Still, there's some worrisome negatives and they come in a lot of flavors.

First, it's going to make it a lot more difficult to bring new players into high-level missions while more experienced players tank them.  Somewhere out there, Marlona Sky is saying "good!" and yeah, I understand where this perspective comes from.  But in a game where prices are increasing rapidly, new players are in danger of getting priced right out of the markets.  Effectively taking away a major income source for new players is not exactly a step in the right direction here.  CCP FoxFour's response to this is that newer players should bring frigates into the L4s instead of battleships, but this strikes me as no solution at all.  If the Level One AI is going to set its frigates attacking player frigs, isn't that going to mean the new player is going to find himself webbed, scrammed, and attacked by the mission's six or eight or ten rat frigates?

Second and related: it's pretty common these days for an initial tank ship to enter a site or mission and be followed by a lot of glass cannon DPS ships.  It's obviously CCP's intent for that to change so that any ship entering the mission or site can potentially tank it.  But that's also going to mean that the total DPS of a mission/site group will be reduced... maybe substantially reduced.  That's going to reduce mission/site income for everyone.  That effectively makes this change a PvE nerf for everyone.

Third worrisome factor: in mission groups today, it's also quite common for a tank ship to be followed by salvaging looting ships.  This change is going to delay Noctis pilots and other salvage ships, further slowing down their work.  Salvage prices are already a little bit nuts and making salvaging even MORE annoying isn't a good thing.  Still, initially this is probably going to be a somewhat more minor issue since salvage prices aren't anywhere near historic highs yet.

Fourth, this is going to require a lot of testing at the high-end.  The site that kinda sprang to mind for me is the Guristas 10/10, called "The Maze".  Despite living in the north for about a year, I've only done this site once.  But I still have vivid memories of that Citadel Torpedo firing station that ends that site.  When I would hear NC pilots talk about doing this site on comms, there was always a very specific custom-tanked ship that was brought in just to manage the enormous ship-breaking DPS coming off that torpedo.  There are a number of other null-sec sites and missions that fire similar weapons.  Something's going to have to be done about them because asking everyone in the site/mission to be able to tank that isn't practical.

Fifth: people who make a living out of ninja salvaging or can flipping in missions are going to have to be a lot more careful.  But who cares about them, right?  If they're put out of business, that's no big deal.

Finally, as I mentioned at the top of the piece, this change doesn't really do anything to make the missions more fun, interesting, or engaging.  For that FoxFour tells us we have to wait for the next iteration and of course we've seen how CCP can sometimes forget that part...

So overall, I'm cautiously optimistic about this one for putting AFK drone boats out of business.  But it's also going to hurt a lot of legitimate players who are just using PvE to make ISK for other needs.  And the newer you are at the game, the more this change is likely to hurt you.  So let's hope the second iteration of this change happens very soon after the first.  I'm all for making PvE more engaging, but this change alone doesn't do that.

Rock you like a

And finally, let's talk about the Hurricane nerf.  I'll make this quick.  Here's the change:
Since we planning to reduce the powergrid needs of all medium artillery by 10% across the board, we are also planning to subtract 225 PG from the Hurricane, leaving it with a base powergrid of 1125. 
The upshot is that fitting a full rack of 720s with a MWD and LSE and full mids and lows will require a RCUII and either an ACR or PG implant. Also fitting a standard shield autocane with neuts and LSE will require dropping a few guns down to 220mm.
Here's my reaction: this is a non-issue, and it's for a series of really amusing reasons.

First things first: as CCP Fozzie says, reducing Hurricane grid by 225 is going to make fitting a full rack of 425mm AutoCannons impractical.  Remember yesterday, when I was making the comment about "_____________ in EVE is over-powered"?  "425 Canes" or "Welpfleet Canes" as they are variously known are definitely over-powered.  I think we've all known that for quite a while.  It's no mistake that for quite a long time this was probably the single most popular PvP ship in EVE Online.

Until it was replaced by something better, of course.  More on that in a second.

But the truth of the matter is Canes have always had too much grid.  You don't have to make a single compromise fitting a Hurricane pretty much no matter how you fit it.  Fit the biggest medium guns in the game of either stripe, fit links if you want, fit dual medium neuts, armor tank it, shield tank it, whatever you like... it will all fit and usually without using a single fitting mod and usually with room to spare.  At worst, you have to fit one ACR to put in a full rack of 720s.  Every other BC has to make serious fitting compromises, but the Cane has never had to.  So yeah, I think we all knew that the Cane was just a little too easy.

Therefore, making it a little tougher and making players make a few compromises is no bad thing in my opinion.  It will have one major impact: it's going to make armor Canes much tougher to fit and quite a bit more rare, but the meta has passed armor Canes by so that's not necessarily a bad thing, either.

But that brings me to the other thing that's funny about this change.  Armor Canes aren't the only thing the meta has passed by.  Fozzie indicates that fitting out a full rack of 720s to a Cane will require an RCU2 plus either an ACR or a grid implant.

You know... in the very unlikely event that you even want a 720 Cane.

You really should have switched to a Tornado for this by now, you know.  720 Canes are essentially obsolete in today's EVE and if you're still flying them, you're doing it wrong.  650s still have a place, but this change isn't going to change the fitting dynamics of 650 Canes very much at all.

So to summarize, this is a very minor change and not really worth getting excited about in my opinion.  425 Canes are going to be fitting 220s instead, and will lose a little bit of DPS in exchange for even more ferocious tracking against smaller targets.  Net result: I think Welpcanes are going to be effectively even more dangerous, not less.  Those last few 720 Cane pilots that haven't gotten the message by now will hopefully figure it out and start fitting out Tornados come winter.

Whew!  CCP Fozzie pretty much completely short-circuited the stuff I wanted to blog about this week.  Let's get back to that.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Comment of the week: Homogenize

I'm not 100% sure I agree with this anonymous comment, but it's damned interesting nonetheless.  Read it in full.  It's worth your time.  When talking about CCP Fozzie, the commenter says:
Clueless, not fearless.

This does not just apply to CCP Fozzie and CCP Ytterbium, but to the Eve players who have been supporting this so-called tiericide rebalancing nonsense, which is actually just a homogenizing of the entire game.

As long as CCP piddled with frigs and didn't touch everyone's favorite ships, it looked good on paper. But, as predicted in an earlier Jester comment, the shit hit the fan as soon as they started dicking with the ships that veteran players actually do fly.

Keep in mind, too, that every time CCP has made a major change to the caps & super caps, much rage ensued. And, that was from just the relatively few players who can fly those ships. Let's see what happens when *all* of the BCs get "rebalanced".

And, as also predicted, CCP Fozzie is homogenizing the weapon systems, as well. Read his OP carefully, and behind the changes to such things as the TEs and TDs, you'll see the goal of making missiles work more like guns. Effectively dumbing them down, so that, as clearly stated by CCP Fozzie, "missiles will act in a way that is more intuitive to newer players."

CCP's goal here is *not* balance. The goal is to make the game much easier for the DUST players, whom CCP expects to convert into a new Eve player base - incidentally, one which is willing to P2W - thus replacing the existing flat-lined, sub-only no-P2W player base.
Emphasis mine.  I didn't think of that, but you might have a point there...  Thanks for the great comment!

Misses the target... again

Way back in January, I wrote a post called "Misses the target".  Go read it, or at least remind yourself of what it was about.  It's funny how relevant it is eight months later.

Back yet?  Good.  Just to summarize, back in January as part of the reading of the CSM6 December Summit (remember them?), CCP revealed that they were looking at four changes to rebalance the Drake:
  • it would lose the shield resistance bonus and the 5% Kinetic damage bonus; and instead,
  • gain a rate of fire bonus and a missile velocity bonus.
And maybe CCP does that and maybe they don't.  We don't know because battle cruiser re-balancing is not on the menu for this year (but see below).

Put "the world's shortest book" into Google and you'll be greeted with a lot of sardonic humor: "Detroit Travel Guide", "America's Most Beloved Lawyers", "Making Your Parents Proud" by Lindsay Lohan, that sort of thing.  Ha ha, really amusing, cue uncomfortable laughter.  But say you were going to complete this sentence:
___________ in EVE is over-powered.
I'm sure all of us would have a half-dozen or a dozen things with which we could fill in the blank.  Know what would be chosen exactly zero times?  Long-range missiles.  Nobody has ever said the words "Light missiles in EVE are over-powered", "Heavy missiles in EVE are over-powered", or "Cruise missiles in EVE are over-powered."

But CCP despises them anyway.

The platform firing those missiles might be over-powered... in its way.  But I suspect if Goons could find another ship that tanks as hard as a Drake or a Tengu while delivering reliable DPS at skirmish ranges, they'd use it.

CCP hates long-range missile platforms, Heavy Missile Drakes in particular, because they create an additional load on the server.  So when CCP declared in December that they were going to take away the Drake's kinetic missile damage bonus, and give them a range bonus and a rate of fire bonus instead a lot of people declared that added up to a massive Drake nerf.  Me, I wasn't so sure.  Sure, the fact that they were taking away the resist bonus wasn't ideal but after doing the math I determined that the main people that were going to be hurt by that were newer players using Drakes to run missions.

And who cares about them, right?

For people using Drakes in PvP, the resist nerf wasn't going to be that big of a deal (PvP Drakes fit Damage Controls) and the various missile "nerfs" really added up to a reason to use Drakes even more in long-range skirmish fleets.  I pictured a lot of Drakes firing Nova or Mjolnir Rage Heavy Missiles to near 100 kilometers.  I thought it'd be a nice buff for the way Drakes actually get used in PvP.

Someone in CCP appears to have read that post, said to themselves, "Hell, he's right.  We need to nerf the crap out of Heavy Missiles right away!  How does a 20% reduction in damage and a 25% reduction in range sound?  Oh, and by the way, Fury Missiles have been broken in a good way for a long time.  We're going to fix that glitch too, so they suck against equal-size like they're supposed to."



And we can't even count on the CSM6 December Summit re-balance to come along and try to fix things later because:
The "less shields more gank" thing was a discussion at a previous CSM summit, not a finalized design.
CCP Fozzie again.

Is CCP deliberately trying to wipe Drake and Tengu blobs off the map?  Sure feels like it!

Now of course the news isn't all bad.  These changes all essentially reflect a massive buff for Heavy Assault Missiles:
  • the acceleration change will increase their range;
  • Rage T2 missiles are getting a damage buff; and,
  • Tracking Enhancers and Tracking Computers will further increase HAM range.
So get to training HAMs if you haven't done it already, because HAM Drakes are about to become unrefined awesome out to point range.

The amusing thing about all of this is that Fozzie tells us that the idea here is "a nerf to heavy missile range and damage to put them in line with other long range cruiser weapons."  Now granted, we haven't seen what TEs in particular are going to do to missile range.  Currently a single TE2 is good for +15% to range and +30% to fall-off.  Assuming HMLs on Drakes are reduced in range from 79km to 59km, a single +30% TE will bring them right back up to 77km range.  That's presumably the intent.  But in the process, that's going to reduce HML Drake damage from about 410 to 325 (20% damage reduction) to 295 (remove one BCU from the Drake to put a TE in).

For reference, an Artillery Cane or a Beam Harby both currently put out about 260 DPS at 70km, and a Rail Brutix (were someone to build one) about 245.  In short: Drake still wins.

Think we should tell them?

Pictures of the Week: Rixx is busy

For those that haven't seen them yet, some new art is leaking out of the test server.  I apologize in advance for not putting these videos up directly, but most of them are "you must know the link to visit" videos.  Here's the new Minmatar destroyer:

That one needs to have its art redone before it's even released, as far as I'm concerned.  Ew.  ;-)  Here's the new Caldari destroyer:

This one has kind of a nice U-boat feel, and other than the pointy snout kind of looks like a mini Naga.  Still, besides the Rokh, which Caldari ships had this look before the Naga came along?  It's like dlamont, who designed the Naga is the new Chief Caldari Ship Designer.  ;-)  I dunno, I guess I'm used to Caldari ships spreading either along the Y- or Z-axis.  All of these Caldari ships spreading along the X-axis are reminding me too much of Amarr ships.

Cough.  Just my opinion.

Anyway, there's also these, which I'll just leave here:

And this, which appears to include an early version of a third (Gallente?) destroyer as well as a closer view of the new Tempest:

And finally, here's the new ORE mining frigate:

I really like the look of that one.  It has a huge Homeworld vibe going for it, which I approve of completely.  I could look at two-tone bumblebee-colored ships all day and all night.  If this ship were dropped into Homeworld as a mining ship, it wouldn't look out of place at all.  Even though I'll probably never undock in it, I'm still gonna buy one...

Anyway, looks like Rixx Javix has been busy continuing to motivate members of the art team.  Keep up the good work there, Rixx.  ;-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sow the wind

In looking at the cruiser re-balancing, I'm going to start with a bunch of seemingly unrelated statements, then tie them all together.  Stay with me.  This is one of those posts.

If there's one thing that EVE players of all stripes are obsessed with, it's DPS.  That's the first (and sometimes, the only) thing we want to know about our ships: how much DPS does it do?  When we build a new ship, first we maximize its DPS.  Then we look for ways to improve the range and time in which it projects DPS, or the likelihood it will apply DPS through tracking.  Then we add a bunch of drones to improve it still farther.  And usually only after all of this is done do we start to think about how we're going to tank the ship.

It's the pretty rare EVE ship where we start with a tank and then add the other stuff onto that.  Drakes.  Dominixes.  Fleet Command ships.  Capital ships.  The occasional bait ship.  But that's about it.  With the majority of players and ships, DPS far outweighs tank.  A lot of ship classes in EVE aren't flown at all either because they can't generate DPS or they can't sufficiently project it.  That's number one.

Second, I'll remind you of something that I said about the Ares FOTW last week: "Quite often, a beginner will be killed in a T1 frigate in a single volley without even realizing they've made a mistake or what that mistake was.  That makes learning from one's mistakes a lot tougher.  Sure, you can lose a dozen Rifters, Incursi, or Merlins casually, but if you don't learn why you lost them, you're not going to get better at the game."  Keep that in mind.  It's about to become important.

Number three: one of the nicest EVE players I ever played the game with was a guy in his mid-60s in LAWN.  He was retired... a relaxed, friendly guy who was apparently way ahead of his generation in terms of computer savvy.  Still, he admitted freely that his reflexes weren't what they used to be and he appreciated the fact that EVE was a game where one's reflexes were secondary to ones skills, tactics, and instincts.

Finally, compare and contrast that to some of the more recent EVE trailers, starting with the Dominion trailer through the Crucible and "I Was There" trailers.  Whenever CCP shows EVE from an individual pilot's perspective, there's generally some attempt to show the game as fast-paced when those of us who play it know that it's usually anything but.

Reading through the threads on the new "attack" cruisers and "EW" cruisers (and even the "existing destroyer re-balance" thread), the thing that has been striking me is how CCP is falling into line with how players look at their ships.  Virtually every weapon is seeing its grid requirements reduced and ships across the board are either getting additional grid, additional low-slots and CPU (which will invariably go to damage mods), or both.  Across a wide number of ships, utility bonuses are being dropped in favor of damage bonuses or damage projection bonuses.

Granted, we haven't seen the "combat" cruisers yet but the "combat" frigates provide some clues as to CCP's thinking.  And it's pretty consistent with what's above.  Way back in March when this journey started, we were told there would be "combat", "attack", and "bombardment" ships.  Later, "bombardment" went away but it seems to be making a come-back in a big way.  By the time CCP is done with it the Tristan, previously the premiere get-in-close-and-slug-it-out ship, is going to have exactly two turrets and a bigger drone bay than most cruisers.  "Stand off" and "skirmish" are replacing tank.  "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," CCP Fozzie says, rather blandly.

Yeah.  Got that, thanks.

"Shield-tanking Gallente ship" was a joke at Alliance Tournament IX.  But I strongly suspect the Thorax is going to be the most commonly shield-tanked ship in EVE by the time 2013 starts.  Those Thorax low-slots, meanwhile, are going to be damage and projection, projection and damage, DPS DPS DPS.  Armor tanking is for... well... someone.  Somewhere.  Go away and stop bothering me.  I'm trying to fit my ship here.

Net result of all of this?  With all of this new DPS, I think we're going to see this round of ship re-balancing start to deliver on that implied promise of EVE being a bit more action-packed and -- dare I say it -- twitchy.  "Good!" I can hear a lot of you saying out there and yeah, I don't suppose I disagree too much.  But one of the things that EVE's always had going for it is the tactical nature of play.  If you are primaried by an opposing fleet, you usually have some time to decide on the best course of action.  The amount of time you're going to have for that is going to be reduced now: the ships firing at you will be able to fit bigger guns, with more damage mods, firing at longer range and with better tracking.

The industrialists will be happy.  More stuff to build and replace.

But as EVE players realize this, will we see even more risk aversion?  Will we see even more unwillingness to get into a fight because once you start to lose, you'll tend to keep losing, and keep losing even faster than before?  That's going to be a big question in 2013, I'm thinking.  We'll have to see what sort of whirlwind CCP reaps from sowing the wind.

Next up, Canes and Drakes.

Fit of the Week: Travel Orca

One of the very first FOTWs I ever did was the "Supertanker Orca".  It was something that I put together in honor of Hulkageddon which was happening at that time.  But with some of the new strategies and mods that have come up in the last 20 months or so since I posted it, it's probably a good time for a quick refresh.  First, let's talk about "super-tanking" an Orca.  These days, the optimal way to do it is probably this fit:

[Orca, Supertanker ASB]
Reinforced Bulkheads II
Damage Control II

X-Large Ancillary Shield Booster, Navy Cap Booster 400
X-Large Ancillary Shield Booster, Navy Cap Booster 400
Limited Adaptive Invulnerability Field I
Limited Adaptive Invulnerability Field I

Prototype Cloaking Device I
[empty high slot]
[empty high slot]

Large Processor Overclocking Unit I
Large Cargohold Optimization I
Large Cargohold Optimization I

Vespa EC-600 x5
Hobgoblin II x5

With the advent of the Ancillary Shield Booster, any purely defensive ship that is looking to avoid being ganked should probably be using one or two of them.  Once you activate it, it will run for about 45 seconds.  That's a bit longer than the average gank in high-sec so the ASB(s) will either save your ship... or they certainly won't do you any harm in their attempt to do so!  I have a Medium ASB on my null-sec Badger.  ;-)  Seriously, if you have a ship that you don't want to get into a fight in, this is the mod to fit.  For right now, it's the ultimate defensive tactic.  Which means it's gonna get nerfed come winter, of course.  But we'll see where we are then.

For now though, if you want to tank an Orca this is how you do it.  Carry 26 Navy Cap Booster 400 charges in cargo (plus the 26 loaded in the ASBs).  If someone tries to gank you in high-sec, overheat and then activate the entire mid rack.  In addition to more than 200k EHP, your shield tank will reduce the incoming DPS by about 2000.  You'll be able to keep up this overheating for a little over two minutes, which will either see your Orca safely past the gank or will at least be plenty of time for the attempt.

You lose about 7000m3 cargo space fitting the Processor Overclocking Unit.  If you don't want to do that, then you can either go with a CPU implant in slot six, or down-shift the Reinforced Bulkheads and Damage Control mods down to meta4, then run with the cloaking device off-line.  You lose about 12% of your tank this way but if you really need that 7000m3 of cargo space, it's still a perfectly viable way to go.

If you get tackled in null- or low-sec, the strategy is a little bit different.  Your best option if you can do it is to activate one of the two ASBs, managing use of charges as your shields go down.  Try to keep yourself at about 50% shields or so.  Each pulse of the ASB will return about 7.5% of your shields.  Once you have three charges left, go ahead and burn the last three charges immediately and let the first ASB start its reload cycle.  Then start using the second ASB the same way once your shields fall back close to 50%.  Don't overheat the ASBs unless you have to.  Instead, overheat the Invuls only.  This will give you a tank of about 800 DPS or so (1000 DPS if you overheat the active ASB).  And your heat damage will be more manageable.  Of course, you'll have to judge this based on how well your tank is holding up.

Anyway, if you're going to tank an Orca, that's the way you do it.  But suppose you feel the chances of being ganked are much lower and you just want to get where you're going as quickly as possible?  There's another fit for that...

[Orca, Speed warp]
Reactor Control Unit I
Damage Control II

Prototype 100MN MicroWarpdrive I
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
EM Ward Field II

Improved Cloaking Device II
Salvager II
Small Tractor Beam II

Large Cargohold Optimization I
Large Cargohold Optimization I
Large Cargohold Optimization I

Vespa EC-600 x5
Hobgoblin II x5

The longest wait associated with traveling in an Orca is the long wait time for the ship to get up to speed before warping.  Depending on your skills, this is likely going to be more than 30 seconds.  But it turns out that if you can wedge a battleship MicroWarpdrive onto an Orca, you can take advantage of the Battleship Fast Warp guide.

And in so doing, you can get an Orca into warp in ten seconds.  Every time.

Obviously, the tank is seriously reduced in this version.  Other than your high resists particularly against lasers and EMP projectile ammo, you're not any less gankable than any other Orca.  But getting to warp in ten seconds certainly has its charms, and if you have perfect timing you can mess around with the cloaked acceleration portion of the battleship fast warp guide, too...  It's just the thing for getting up to 100,000m3 or so of whatever to Jita.

Haul safe!

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.


Daaaaaammmmmn.  You have to hand it to CCP Fozzie, don't you?

First he -- with his very first dev-blog! -- firmly places both hands on the third rail of EVE economics, technetium.  Now whether you think that response was strong or weak, you have to admit that he handled it fearlessly and deftly.

And now yesterday, in the midst of what was supposed to be a post about cruiser rebalancing, has managed to casually and unintentionally announce that the two most popular EVE PvP ships of all time are both being massively nerfed.

In short, after ticking off pretty much the entire north and west of EVE null-sec, as an encore Fozzie is now ticking off pretty much every PvPer in EVE.  Way to make a name for yourself there, Fozzie.  ;-)

Needless to say, a lot of EVE players have jumped straight to "Let's just take off and nuke the site from orbit.  It's the only way to be sure."  And Fozzie is dealing with it as best he can.(1)  How things will play out, I don't know, but I do have some thoughts about this series of forum posts that I'll publish a little later today in two posts.  Just wanted to let all of you know that I acknowledge that it's happening and I want to give it a little more thought before I bang out a post myself.

(1) One thing he said is going to make a rather hysterical QOTW on Monday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ugly ducklings

Just a quickie, but it made me laugh and then got me thinking.

Kirith Kodachi wrote a blog post today in which he blames CSM7 for something that they had little or nothing to do with: the new Stabber model that was shown off in the recent cruiser re-balance dev-blog.  As far as I'm concerned any credit or blame for this has to go to Rixx Javix who led a blogging crusade against the recent re-skinning of the Stabber model that -- as a side effect -- resulted in the "frill" of solar panels being removed from the neck of the Vagabond.  I said as much a week or so ago and said that I was pleased with the redesign.

Why does Kirith want to assign blame?  It isn't because he dislikes the new Stabber model -- he likes it.  That's the problem.  As far as he's concerned, it's his old enemy the Moa model that should have been updated instead.  Rixx teasingly asked him in comments if he should start a crusade against that next.  After all, Rixx got one of the art team to respond to his crusade directly.  I teased Rixx myself saying "He nearly single-handedly motivated the art team to fix a ship model and of all the ship models in the game, he chose the Stabber model?!?  I mean, c'mon, how thick can you get?"

It's a funny exchange but it did get me thinking.  There are certainly a lot of ugly ships in EVE and the ships based on the Moa model certainly qualify.  But in terms of ships that actually get flown my own opinion is that the Moa has much bigger problems than how ugly it is.  People wouldn't fly it if it were pretty because the ship itself is bad, though hopefully that will be getting fixed this year.  That set me wondering, of the ships people actually fly, which are the ones most in need of face lifts?

It's an interesting question, I think.  Here's my list:
  • Osprey model.  For my money, this is the ugliest ship in the game, and it's commonly flown as the Basilisk.
  • Blackbird model.  Falcons are based on this and with Blackbirds are among the most commonly-flown ships in small-gang PvP.
  • Aeon model.  Far and away both the ugliest capital ship in the game and the ugliest Amarr ship... and yet is probably the most common super-carrier.
  • Imicus model.  The basis of the Gallente Helios Covert Ops ship is, for my money, the ugliest frigate in the game.  What is with that kick-stand?
  • Megathron model.  It isn't too bad, but it deserves the same kind of low-level tweaking that the Raven model got last year.
  • Rupture model.  The ugliest Minmatar ship is simultaneously the best and one of the most common T1 cruisers in the game.
  • Reaper.  Yeah, I know it just got an update.  But the thing looks like it was made out of clay, not scrap metal.  In my opinion, it should be rebuilt to look like something between a Slasher and a Rifter.
If I were going to start a crusade about this, I'd probably start it about the Blackbird model.  The thing is just hideous.

What about you, Dear Readers?  What commonly-used ship would you start an art crusade against?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Serpentis Military Complex

Another weekend, another quick impression of EVE PvE.  This is a continuing series of posts in which I record my impressions in support of my overall opinion that EVE PvE is sub-par compared to other MMOs and why that might be.  Again, I chose a scanned down site in 0.0, this one called "Serpentis Military Complex".

Before I begin, I want to address a couple of comments that came up in my last post in this series.  First, I was accused of being a bit hypocritical when I described the content as "easy" despite the fact that I first looked up the content on Google.  And sure, this does sound rather hypocritical when viewed at face value... but that isn't what I meant.  In a lot of other PvE for a variety of games, it doesn't much matter whether you look up what to expect on Google or not.  As examples, consider the player guides to the various Halo or Elder Scrolls games, for instance.  These guides let you know what's coming in much the same way an EVE guide lets you know what's coming.  But fore-knowledge of what's approaching generally does not make the content of these games easier.

When I would run Global Agenda's PvE, I got to the point where I had the overall flow of each site more or less memorized.  But that didn't make those sites less difficult.  They were still fun and challenging thanks to the game's AI.  Each run-through was just different enough that even if you ran the same site twice in a row, you could expect differences in the AI's actions and player counter-actions to make each run different and challenging.

I'll grant you that it's a subtle distinction but I think it's an important one, particularly for an MMO where by design to make any significant money you need to repeat the process of running a site, spawn, dungeon, or whatever.  When I said the site I ran last time was "easy", then, I didn't mean that the difficulty was reduced by the fact I knew what was coming.  I meant that the site was easy because it did not in any way tax my abilities or put me in danger of losing a ship.

Second, a couple of people gave me a hard time because I described a site in null-sec as risk-free and was told that I was discounting the risk of travel to null-sec.  Know what?  I am... because the risk incured traveling to null in most ships can be substantially reduced or eliminated these days.  The simplest way to get even the heaviest ratting ship into null-sec is of course a carrier.  If you use this option, it is quite easy to slip even the largest slowest battleship into a quiet low-sec system, load it into a carrier, and then jump it as deep into null-sec as you like.  The only risk you take is to very inexpensive (or free!) cyno frigates along the way.  Alternately, it's child's play to get a cloaky T3 ship into null-sec carrying all of the fittings that it needs to convert to a combat T3 once its reached a target system.  Don't try to jump directly from high-sec into null: those gates are always camped.  But if you use a quieter high-sec to low-sec entry, followed by a low-sec to null-sec jump, you'll often find those routes deserted.

So, I stick with the position in my first post that many of these sites are easy to run, risk-free PvE despite them taking place in null-sec.  Certainly, my first experiment with the Radiance site was far easier than most high-sec L4 missions, carried higher rewards, and was less risky.

This tradition carried into my second experiment with null-sec PvE, the "Serpentis Military Complex".

Initially, I was going to write about another scannable site, the "Serpentis Fortress".  But that site turned out to be short, easy, and boring.  I was told that the Military Complex was the Fortress's big brother (irony) so I read about it, and decided to find one and try it out.  I was rather intrigued because every bit of writing I could find about it described the site as much more difficult than it initially appeared.  Knowing that Serpentis rats are generally either short-range blaster boats or highly inaccurate rail boats, I decided to stick with kiting the site in a Tengu.  I then wandered Syndicate in search of one.  And to my surprise, I found two in a single system.

I'd judge the difficulty of scanning the site down as moderately difficult to difficult.  Call it an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Again, this site is gated with two rooms.  The second room ends with a structure shoot, this time a "Control Tower" at the center of the second room.  In the second room would be only one missile battery but there would also be a large number of spawns of new rat ships that would come in on a timer rather than as a result of actions of the player.  The information on the site also indicated that Serpentis rats would make heavy use of damping.

I therefore went in expecting more of a challenge from this site than the last one and was unfortunately disappointed.  The first room reminded me even more of a low-difficulty L4 mission... The Score, perhaps, which requires you to travel from one gate to another as two groups of ships plink away at you.  The most difficult part of the first room was -- again -- a large number of missile batteries that comprised much of the reliable DPS of the room.  Once cleared, my Tengu was in absolutely no danger but its somewhat low DPS against elite damping cruisers meant that it was slow going.

That also described the second room accurately.  True to the information on the web, initially the room looked extremely easy.  Still, over a surprisingly short period of time, six new spawns were generated by the site regardless of my actions.  Each spawn was made up of three or so battleships and a moderate number of support ships.  Still, I was in even less danger in this room than I was in the first room.  None of the rat battleships were equipped with webs or MicroWarpdrives and as a result I had absolutely no difficulty kiting them.  As a matter of fact, I could spend the entire site aligned to a safe-spot while I turned three grey bars into three red bars.  The rats obligingly lined up in a long row for slaughter.

Fearing boredom, I brought in a second Tengu to add more DPS which proved a smart move.  The cruiser rats were the dampers, so I could use one Tengu (the non-damped one) to quickly destroy them while the second Tengu cleared frigates and then started on the battleships.  At no point did the shields of either Tengu (both cap-stable active fits) drop below 95% in the second room.  At only one point in the first room did it happen: very early in the first room while I was clearing missile batteries.

Of the two sites, one escalated.  I maintain my position that all null-sec complexes should escalate at least once to encourage more null-sec travel by PvEers.  The other did not escalate at all.  The one that did escalate did so for only two steps before failing to escalate the third time.  The follow-on sites were of a comparative difficulty with the first room: quite easy.

Once I committed my second Tengu, I was able to clear both sites rather quickly.  The Control Tower to complete the site took only six volleys split between the two missile boats.  Over a period of about 75 minutes, I made about 110 million ISK.  About 15 minutes of that was travel time for the escalations.  As I could kite the sites while I was in them, I was in no danger of being caught by the two roaming gangs I saw during this time.  Neither gang found either site or any escalation site.  The most dangerous part of the operation was four jumps of traveling to pick up the escalation location.

In short, I made far more ISK than I would have made from running L4 missions in high-sec, and was at far less risk.

Out of curiosity, I salvaged the sites and came away from that experience deciding that it's not worth the bother.  The spawns, particularly in the second room, come out at such widely divergent locations that, combined with my kiting, I ended up with wrecks scattered across a 85km area.  A Noctis (I didn't have one) would probably make short work of it, but even if I'd had one I don't think it was worth the trouble in the end.  I finished salvaging one of the sites with a destroyer after about 15 minutes with an game-estimated value of about 20 million ISK.  I probably could have made better use of the time.

I think the original intent of this site was to bring in that large number of spawns to make it a group effort to run it.  And certainly, if you stick with close range ships to take on this site, a group will be what you need.  But a Tengu, Raven, Nighthawk, Drake, or other missile ship, or a quick drone ship like an Ishtar should be able to run this site solo with no problems whatever.  Still, a second ship to take out the Sensor Dampeners active on the first ship will more than double the speed at which you can run the site.  So either bring one friend, or bring a second account to run this site.

Quote of the Week: Absurdity

I always try to avoid real-world politics on this blog.  It's one of those topics that no matter what you write, you're going to end up being wrong.  Still, I can't help but tiptoe into real-world politics slightly with the QOTW this time:
As you grieve, remember that Vile Rat died doing what he loved, eating Libyan food and enraging people to the point of absurdity by his bare existence.
It's purported that the source of this quote was a Goon, but I've been unable to find him.  If you know the source, please say so in comments.

EDIT (18/Sep/2012): Thank you to a pair of commenters who provided the source of the quote: Hratli Smirks, on the Goon forums.  The full text of his post has been provided in the comments.

I was pointed to the quote by the leader of my EVE corp.  And it sums up the situation admirably: everything about VR's death is absurd.

I've used the words "senseless tragedy" to describe what happened in Libya, and that also sums things up.  From the film-maker to his stupidly amateur film to the reaction that it's causing around the world to the fact that the protests around the film were allegedly used to mask a planned attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, everything about this is senseless and stupid.  I am sad for our species that this sort of absurd chain of events results in the deaths and injuries of good people, and the pain this will cause their families.  If anything shows that we're not yet collectively ready to go into space or converse with those that do, this is it.

Hopefully at some point in the future, we can put this sort of absurdity firmly into the realm of fiction where it belongs.

A fund has been set up for the benefit of Vile Rat's family:

I encourage you to participate and help if you can.  You can confirm its validity here and here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday definition: Dick star/death star

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

In my carrier-supported ratting guide (thanks to all of you you posted comments on that, BTW!), I mentioned a type of POS, a "dick star".  And it occurred to me after I did it that a lot of players might not know about the two common types of EVE POS defenses.

POSs in EVE today are nearly always established to serve some single function.  Some common ones include moon mining, refining, manufacturing, invasion staging, and defensive positions for super-caps.  But when it comes to defending POSs, there's three optimal ways to do it:
  • don't care;
  • dick star; and,
  • death star.
The first one is pretty much defense through lack of defense and is mostly used with minor moon mining and refining POSs.  The idea is that if the POS is attacked, the defenders will allow it to die, probably using its death to gain intel on the type of fleet that the attacker uses to destroy it.  Once the POS is destroyed, if the attacker doesn't place their own POS there, the defender simply replaces it.  The intent is that the loss of the POS is counted as a cost of doing business.  Such POSs invite attack and are being used as intelligence tools.

And of course, there's always POSs out there with casual defenses, but these aren't optimal.  Still, you'll encounter them pretty frequently: a few guns on top, a few guns on bottom, perhaps a warp disruptor or two.  It's the equivalent of locking your house's back door.  It's not going to stop someone determined to rob your house for more than a few seconds but it will deny casual attacks.

That leaves dick stars and death stars.  They're two quite different means of POS defense.

The dick star is usually a Caldari POS built with shield resistances and ECM in mind.  A large number of shield hardeners of all types are on-lined within the shields.  That takes up the bulk of the POS's fitting grid.  Meanwhile, outside the shield, a large number of ECM batteries are mounted and on-lined.  The large number of shield hardeners makes attacking the POS a morale-breaking effort in frustration.  Even with enormous numbers of ships, it can take several hours to knock down a single POS.  Meanwhile, the defender has the option of placing a new dick star in the system far faster than the attacker can destroy the old one.  The ECM batteries make the job of attacking battleships even more frustrating as their lock on the dick star POS is constantly broken.

A properly fitted dick star POS in high-sec is nearly impossible to break, since the attacker won't be able to use dreadnoughts.  That will leave a lot of battleship pilots with several hours of work.  And even cap-stable Amarr battleships can't just go AFK because they'll constantly be losing their lock on the POS.  Dick stars are excellent for invasion staging POSs and are used quite frequently for more important manufacturing POSs

A death star represents the opposite extreme.  It is usually a Minmatar POS built with a large number of offensive modules, notably guns and energy neutralizers.  The death star will also have a larger than average number of warp disruptor and warp scrambler batteries installed.  They will usually also have POS gunners (characters with the Starbase Defense Management skill trained) who can operate key parts of the POS's arsenal.  Death stars are usually used as super-capital ship staging POSs either defensively or offensively.

Unlike ship fittings, which are traded pretty casually, POS fittings are usually kept fairly secret.  Still, they can't stay secret for long because to determine how a POS is fit, one need only warp to it at range cloaked.  It will immediately give up all of its secrets.  In this way, if you're interested in putting up your own POS, it's nearly always a good idea to look at moons and get a feel for optimal fittings from how others do it...

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.

Kill of the Week: Jackpot

Number of dead super-caps this week: 2

Again, two super-caps dead this week and again both of them died in ganks rather than in real fights.  First to die was this AAA Citizens Nyx in Querious.  That one died to a TEST gank.  The pilot managed to use fighters to clear three hictors.  But there were two other hictors and two dictors and TEST brought in two Titans and seven super-caps to finish the gank.  Then on Saturday, this Goon Wyvern died in UMI as part of the Vile Rat tribute (most of its killers are blue, fittingly enough).

That brings me to this week's KOTW, and there's really only one thing I can pick:

There's not really anything else I can choose.  The value of the ship and the value and the highly salable nature of the drop probably makes this the kill of the month.  Still, there's not a lot I can say about the kill itself.  Under normal circumstances, Blockade Runners are all but uncatchable in low-sec.  This pilot made a pretty big mistake trying to move this large of a load in an non-nano-fit BR.  As I've said repeatedly, if you are getting ready to un-dock and you're not willing to lose your ship and everything in cargo, don't un-dock.  There are a half-dozen other ways to get this load to where it needed to go.

As to the loss itself, I'm sorely tempted to believe that this is a corp- or an alliance-level loss, not a personal one.  Overseer Effects of that level are dropped as the basic loot associated with mid- and high-level null-sec sites.  Almost a thousand such drops means a lot of these sites.  ;-)  The person doing the transport did one thing sorta right: 0920 when the gank took place is a pretty quiet time in EVE (though I can attest that 0430 is better).

But the remarkable thing about the Loki is that a cloaky-fit Loki can be fit in such a way as to have an extremely high Scan Res (1600 to 1800, depending on how many sacrifices you wish to make).  It can also easily be fit to do 450 DPS, which is far higher than the other cloaky ships and cloaky Strategic Cruisers.  While the ship won't have the best tank ever, it will have one sufficient to gank a high-value target and then get off the gate.  That makes such a ship an ideal low-sec assassin.  In this case, this person was in a pipe which makes this sort of kill easier.  Use neutral alts to see what's coming from both sides, the Loki gets on the appropriate gate, and you cross your fingers.

Sometimes you hit the jackpot.  ;-)  Congrats to InspireOne on the excellent kill!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Counting crows

Snapcount is still off doing its thing and this strikes me as a good time to provide an update of what's been happening since May and March.

Short answer?  Not a lot.  After peaking at an average logged-in user count around 31000 just before summer began, there's been a long very slow decay.  What I believe is the explanation for the pronounced dip in late May and early June is below.  But we're now at 90-day rolling average of about 29000 logged-in players and that's where things seem to be trapped.  Things are so flat on this metric that it got me curious how long that's been the case now.  The answer turns out to be 40 months, since right around 1 May 2009:

The mountain in early 2011 is the release of the Incursion expansion.  That still currently holds the holds the record for the highest sustained logged-in user counts particularly during the incursion live events that were frequent at that time.  The deep valley later in the same year is the summer of rage, ending with the announcement of "all spaceships, all the time" that happened that autumn.  But overall, the curve remains remarkably flat.  CCP is not having any luck breaking out of this deadlock at present.

I didn't show the 7-day rolling averages on these charts because if one thing has changed, it's that the data is much more volatile this year.  There's been a lot of competition in the MMO space in the last 12 months, and I attribute the volatility to that.  Every time a new competitor is released you can see massive dips in EVE's logged-in players, particularly on the weekends.  Very prominent on the upper chart starting in late May is what I've started thinking of as the "MechWarrior depression."  There was a less-pronounced "Star Wars depression" and the September Snapcount data so far shows there's going to be a fairly pronounced "Guild Wars 2" depression as well.

Still, EVE seems to survive each depression and bounce back to its previous average.  So the game doesn't seem to be losing we hard-core players to other MMOs.  As I said, we're just not having much luck adding many new players to that core.

So as I said, not a lot to talk about.

The question does come up, though: how much longer is Snapcount data going to valid and measurable?  This has come up in my thinking because the data is about to get goosed pretty hard.  Look at the Singularity logged-in user data and you'll see that the average logged-in users over there has been running between 100 and 200 for a couple of years now.  This was the case right up until mid-August this year, when DUST 514 testing was moved to Singularity

Now that that's taken place, daily logged in averages on Sisi are running at about 1200 with peaks to anywhere from 1700 to 2500 logged-in users.  Last weekend, the peak logged-in users on Sisi pushed more than 3000.

So... yeah.  We can expect this means that the same thing will happen with the Tranquility API once DUST 514 goes live presumably later this year.  So, unless the API is tweaked to differentiate between EVE players and DUST 514 players -- and I don't see any reason why CCP would want to -- there will probably be one more Snapcount update based purely on EVE players this year.  After that, there will be a new normal and any changes will probably be influenced much more by DUST 514 player count changes than EVE player count changes.

I'll have to decide what to do with this little project when we get to that point, but I'll probably keep it running.  Why not?  It'll be a very nice measure of how successful DUST is in the marketplace.