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, October 31, 2012

Fit of the Week: Basic Pantheon Archon

I've never done a capital ship as a FOTW.  And once I decided to go ahead and do one, a carrier was the obvious choice.  Once I decided to do a carrier, the Archon was the obvious choice.  But then that begs the question: what sort of Archon?  Because there are roughly as many carrier fits -- particularly Archon fits -- as there are types of battleship fits.  A self-rep carrier?  Triage?  The so-called Slocat?  In the end, I decided to start basic, universal, and most useful:

[Archon, Basic Pantheon]
Armor Explosive Hardener II
Armor Kinetic Hardener II
Armor Thermic Hardener II
Damage Control II
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Imperial Navy Capacitor Power Relay

Sensor Booster II, Scan Resolution Script
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Warp Disruptor II

Capital Remote Armor Repair System I
Capital Energy Transfer Array I
Capital Remote Armor Repair System I
Capital Energy Transfer Array I
Capital Remote Armor Repair System I

Large Capacitor Control Circuit I
Large Capacitor Control Circuit I
Large Capacitor Control Circuit I

The basic "Pantheon" carrier is named after the Rooks and Kings video of the same name, still one of the best videos that R&K has ever produced.  Over the last couple of years, the exact fit has changed here and there, but the basics involve a point, Sebo, and Cap Rechargers in the mids, a mix of remote armor repair and energy transfers in the highs, and a strong resist tank in the lows.  What I've provided above is a basic starter that will get you going.

Obviously, on its own such a carrier is easy meat: there is no local tank.  So if you bring this ship, you're going to have to bring at least two of them.  However, for each such carrier on the field, 6200 DPS of reps are provided to whatever the enemy fleet's primary is (minus 6200 if the target is one of the carriers).  That's rather extreme repping power, and nearly twice as strong as a typical dual-rep carrier can provide itself.  The Pantheon carriers can also sustain those reps for a lot longer, thanks to multiple energy transfers from each Archon.  As a result, such a group scales remarkably well.  Three such carriers can provide 20000 DPS of reps to a fourth such carrier under attack and can sustain those reps for many minutes if not under neut pressure.

That gives a friendly dreadnought or battleship fleet a lot of time to inflict some kills and reduce the incoming DPS of the enemy group.

As I said, this is the basic fit.  You're going to have to supplement it with significant remote ECCM, friendly neuts (to prevent enemy neuts), and a smart-bombing battleship or two to reduce incoming DPS.  It's also quite smart for the pilots involved to use Mindflood boosters to increase their native cap strength.  The faction Capacitor Power Relay is also a help there, and the faction EANMs provide additional resistance which is going to be very important when tanking a large enemy fleet.  More advanced players still will use dead-space hardeners to increase resistance still further.  The exact exact fit is going to vary based on how many carriers can be committed and the skills of the pilots involved.

Get a large enough Pantheon group, and you're going to face cap issues because there's likely to be more armor reppers than energy transfers.  To solve that, you'll have to comp a full energy transfer fit Archon or two: carriers devoted to keeping the capacitor flowing for all.  One such "battery Archon" for every five or six repping carriers is about the right ratio if an all-Archon group is used.

Needless to say, by that time, we're in the realm of pretty significant fights.  Even two such Archons isn't exactly routine.  This isn't a ship you pull out for the average Friday night roam.  Still, a pair of these carriers can provide significant support to a roaming battleship gang if you don't mind the risk of being escalated or counter-dropped.

If you face such a group of spidered carriers with your own gang, your best defense is to break the spider chain by bumping the carriers away from each other.  Rote Kapelle has used this technique with some success on a few occasions: push the carriers far enough away from each other, or far enough away from the ship being repped, and you'll be able to break this sort of tactic.  But of course, you have to stay alive long enough to implement this plan, which might mean either Pantheon or triage carriers of your own.  Once you have the Pantheon carriers separated, they're easy kills.

The big advantage that Pantheon carriers provide over triage carriers, besides the ability to scale up well beyond what triage carriers can do, is that Pantheon carriers can provide fairly significant DPS in their own right.  Confident carrier pilots should carry 15 fighters: five each of Firbolgs, Einherjis, and Templars.  The Firbs get launched regardless of the target.  If the target is armor-tanking, add the Einherjis.  If the target is shield-tanking, the Templars.  To the fighters, add ten each of Bouncers, Gardes, and Curator sentry drones of either T2 or T1 (and preferably both, so you have some throw-away DPS).  It's also smart to add several groups of jamming drones.  You can also add a small stock of rep drones if you care to.

A Pantheon carrier is not something you need to fit in isolation.  As I mentioned, a single one alone is not at all useful.  But if your corp or alliance has the means, even a very small number of these ships working together will both make you capable of up-engaging pretty significantly... and make you a fairly tempting target.  If you're looking for a fight, sometimes that's the wisest course.

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.

Cognitive dissonance

EVE players are masters of cognitive dissonance.

Defined, the term describes a mental state in which you convince yourself that a situation is an overall net positive despite having many more negative aspects than positive ones.  The simplest example is "I didn't want that ship/moon/system/region anyway."  Of course, if you really believed that you would have sold the ship or given away the moon, system, or region months ago.  You didn't, but you convince yourself that the loss is really for the best.

With that in mind, I invite you to read through this somewhat unintentionally amusing blog post "The War Against Super Capitals" by Wilhelm Arcturus at The Ancient Gaming Noob.  Well, it's amusing in context.  I count no fewer than ten examples of major cognitive dissonance (they're quotes from the piece):
  • By the time it came to Drake Fleet, there were few pilots willing or able to jump into Scimitars.  I was able, I just wasn’t willing.
  • ...it would take as many as five titan bridges to get us to our destination.  As it turned out, due to bad planning, we were not even going to get one.
  • Then we jumped into chaos.  And TiDi.  And Lag.
  • ...the EVE client doesn’t really like [it when you try to use the game's UI under heavy TiDi].  It starts to get erratic...
  • ...[for our Drakes], a single volley being enough to destroy most of our targets.
  • But this time my EVE client was starting to come apart...
  • I got in there and tried to loot some and ended up grabbing wrecks full of Scourge missiles...
  • We didn’t kill the CSAA.  Mission failed on that front.
  • We then turned for home, which was trial only because TiDi chased us most of the way home.
  • Both sides will no doubt declare victory.
  • All in all it was a heck of a fight, and a nice way to end the month.
That last one is the one that really sells it for me.  ;-)  "This fight sucked in ten different ways, but it was fun!"  That's cognitive dissonance.

I'm not trying to make light of TAGN's experiences; he's a great blogger who I admire a great deal.  His post does a better job of describing the fight than themittani.com's coverage.  You can see many Goon pilots also saying how much fun this was.(1)  It's funny how good humans are at convincing themselves that negative experiences are actually positive ones.

And EVE players are masters at it.  We've all got this particular skill trained to V...

(1) The few IRC/NCdot pilots that try to comment are almost instantly shouted down by Goons.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Theme park

While I understood the pejorative phrase "theme park" to describe some MMOs in theory, until Guild Wars 2 I've never quite locked on to the concept.

Matter of fact, I don't think I really understood what the phrase really meant until I was approaching the site of one of this game's dozen or so dungeons.  This particular one is right in the middle of a little village and I was clued into something being not-quite-right when as I approached, a female voice welcomed me to Caudecus Manor and asked me to be polite and follow the rules.

And there was a line to get in.

It was at that moment I had the requisite epiphany and I really understood the term "theme park."  I honestly felt like I was standing in line for Pirates of the Carribean at Disneyland in Los Angeles.  Fortunately, the line was a lot shorter but the impression immediately put me into what turned out to be exactly the wrong frame of mind.  At that moment, I was expecting an easy little side quest, amusing from a story perspective but not particulary dangerous.

The little group that was forming determined that I was playing a Guardian, immediately signed me up to their party, and then it was time to sit down in the little cart and watch the cardboard doors open before us.  I managed to retain this smug little frame of mind for about four minutes, the length of time that the dungeon needed to set the atmosphere, tone, and stakes of the conflict that was about to be presented.  Then the pain started.

Holy crap, dungeons in Guild Wars 2 are hard!

I've done some difficult quests/missions/whatever in the various multi-player games I've played.  And I've been playing EVE for five years, which has made me more or less immune to the pain of death.  But whomever designed the GW2 dungeons should be complimented on their ability to enforce player cooperation and teamwork.  I've talked about how GW2 subtly encourages you down the correct path?  This was encouragement of a different sort: a repeated bludgeon to the head.  Adapt or die.  A lot!

I wonder how many people stumble out of their first GW2 dungeon and silently promise themselves "never again!"  I'll bet it's a significant number.

But as my little group enforced their will on this nasty little bit of PvE, I have to admit that the sense of growing accomplishment was palpable.  The level design was great, the AI design was better, and the balancing of the opposition we were facing was nearly letter-perfect.  As long as we pulled together and used our joint skills smartly, we advanced.  If we didn't, we got steam-rollered.  It's yet another impressive example of smart game design from a game that has no lack of smart game design.

However, the one problem of the "theme park" remains.  Once you ride Pirates of the Carribean, it can't hold further surprises for you.  Aside from slightly different parrot squawks, I can't see the point of exploring that particular dungeon a second time, even with another type of character.  The game is more miserly with rewards from this type of PvE than EVE is (yes, it's possible).  The reward of the GW2 dungeons is the sense of accomplishment you get from completing them, not the material rewards.  So I can definitely see where the disparagement of this sort of content comes from.

Still, there's eleven or so rides I haven't ridden yet, so I don't think I'm going to get bored too soon...

Everything old is new again

About four years ago in EVE, there were these things called "RR sniping battleships."  The "RR" stands for "remote repair."  For those not familiar with them, they were ships that would fit the largest, longest range guns in each arsenal.  Then they would stand off in big groups at about 130 kilometers and plink away at you with 250 DPS or so until you died of shame.  This led to really dynamic fleet combats where two such sniping battleship fleets would plink away at each other while the ship taking damage would call for repairs from all the other friendly battleships nearby.

Then a much-improved, much faster scanning system came along in early 2009 and it came to pass that a whole fleet of short-range, low-signature HACs could be warped right on top of such a battleship fleet and destroy them to a man.  And that was pretty much the end of sniping fleets in EVE.

Except for what's been happening since that moment, which is that PvP ranges have been slowly, steadily increasing again.

I need to sit down one Sunday and really explain "skirmish tactics" along with a couple of visual aids to make it clear what's going on when fleets use them.  But until that fine Sunday, let me summarize by saying that when you're in a skirmish PvP fleet, your goal is to out-range our opponents such that at least some of them have to come into your kill envelope without you necessarily entering theirs.  The advantage to a skirmish fleet is that even if you're massively out-numbered or out-gunned (as often happens), you can still score a few kills... and then run away if the fight starts to go against you.

In theory and in practice, it's a fine tactic.  It's also one of the few remaining ways in EVE that a small fleet can successfully up-engage against a much larger fleet.(1)

What's been happening all through 2011 and 2012 though, is that larger and larger fleet doctrines are being designed around longer and longer ranges.  Traditional skirmish fleets originally used 650mm or 720mm Artillery Hurricanes supported by Drakes.  That had an effective combat range of 50km or so.  Then Drakes alone became favored, increasing the doctrine by another 10-15km to about 65km.  Making them Tengus instead added another 20km.  These were paired with Maelstroms that were also effective at 80-95km.  Then Tornadoes, Nagas, and Oracles came along that were effective at about the same ranges or longer more cheaply.  These are slowly being replaced with even longer-range Tornadoes that can alpha just fine out to about 110km, fighting increasing numbers of twin Tracking Computer Pulse Apocs and Navy Apocs that can punch out to 100km for 400-500 DPS.

And all of them are about to be out-ranged by the triumphant return of large numbers of 425mm Railgun Rokhs... only this new version does 300 DPS at almost 200km or 400 DPS at 100km.  Welcome back to 2008... intensified.

Given the potentially enormous sizes of the fleets involved on the modern EVE battlefield, this is threatening to put skirmish tactics and up-engaging out of business entirely.  I guess that would solve the problem of having to write a blog post defining the term.  ;-)

And into this environment CCP is almost literally tossing the Micro Jump Drive.

If you haven't heard about it yet, you will.  It's a battleship prop mod that has a 12-second spool up, followed by a 100km jump in the direction that the ship is facing.  Target locks are retained, as is the ship's current velocity and direction at the moment of the jump.  Therefore, in theory, were you to fit out some super-close range battleships -- Megathrons, say -- you could fit this mod and use it to get a quite literal jump on sniping battleships that are tearing you up.

The problem of course is that in practice, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Sniper ships invariably align away from their targets and the MJD has a quite beautiful, quite visible visual effect as it spools up.  Therefore unless I'm terribly mistaken, that means that the sniper battleships that also have this mod fit can simply activate theirs the moment they see their targets activating the mod.  Both fleets, with only a few seconds lag between, will jump 100km.  Only the very unlucky or the very stupid will get tackled, and we're going to be left in the same situation we are today, with snipers and cloaky warp-ins.  At worst, the snipers will use the MJD as an additional GTFO option preliminary to warping off.

But of course anything smaller than a battleship is also going to be left behind... including any long-range tackle in both fleets.

So, the MJD is theoretically a great idea, but it's going to be quite amusing to see how it's actually used in practice and how successful it will (or won't) be.  Definitely looking forward to it!

(1) The others are either over-doing it on logistics or over-doing it on e-war, two things that will get you called all sorts of names for... you know... wanting to win a fight.  And yes, I've been known to call people names who do such things myself.  I am inconsistent.  I've covered that before.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Best in class 2012

A year ago in October, I wrote a little post in which I listed what I thought were the "best in class" ships in each ship class.  With Retribution coming up and a lot of ship changes in store for us at the T1 frigate and cruiser level, I thought it would be fun to update that post for the new year.  This isn't anything I'll be doing often, but "once a year" feels about right for this kind of post.

Last year, I excluded faction ships of all kinds from the list.  This year, I'm going to include them in their own categories.  But I'll still be excluding tournament ships this year.  Without further ado...
  • Assault Ship: Last year, I tentatively picked the Enyo.  This year, I would be tempted to drop the "tentatively".  The thing has just become a monster thanks to the hybrid buff.  That said, the Caldari/Hawk has become unbeatable in a 1v1 thanks to ASBs.  So if you want a fleet of AFs, Enyos.  But if you're gonna bomb around low-sec looking for targets, the Hawk.
  • Battle Cruiser: Last year, I chose the Hurricane but this year, it's not even in the top three.  The new tier 3 BCs are so much better than the previously existing types.  Which one of the four is the best is a topic for lots of argument, but for my money, the best of them is the Gallente/Talos.  It's just so versatile and hard-hitting.
  • Battleship: Last year, I chose the Tempest for versatility.  With the changes to hybrid damage though, I'm gonna go with the Rokh this year.  Its range, tank, and punch in the right fleet doctrines is tough to beat.  It's also become much more viable in PvE, displacing the Raven in a lot of applications.
  • Black Ops: No change.  Amarr/Redeemer, for the DPS.  They all still stink, though.
  • Carrier: The Amarr/Archon has supplanted the Thanny for this position with the increasing importance of triage and pantheon carrier tactics.
  • Command Ship: Still a tough category.  It's definitely still an Amarr or Minmatar entry.  Last year, I chose Minmatar/Sleipnir and it's hard to change my mind about it this year.  It's a nasty little boat.
  • Covert Ops: Remains Caldari/Buzzard for versatility.  No change.
  • Cruiser: Until December 4, Minmatar/Rupture holds this title.  After December 4, I suspect it won't even be in the top five, but which ones will supplant it remain to be seen.  If I had to guess, I'd say the Thorax will be the best one.
  • Destroyer: Again, Minmatar/Thrasher holds this position until December 4.  It's too early to say what it will be after, though.
  • Dreadnought: Gallente/Moros.  It isn't even a contest.
  • EAF: I continue to admire the Amarr/Sentinel quite a lot.  It proved its worth during Alliance Tournament X.
  • Frigate: With the hybrid weapon changes and its awesome versatility, the Gallente/Incursus wrested this position from the Rifter.  It might not hold it long after December 4, though.  We'll see.
  • HAC: This class of ship has been absolutely destroyed this year, so any choice I make is kind of irrelevant.  Still, I think the Gallente/Ishtar has taken over this position thanks to the new Drone Damage mod.
  • HIC: The Onyx won last year for versatility, but armor fleets have been so important this year that the Amarr/Devoter has slipped into the top spot.
  • Interceptor: Most of them are damn good, but I remain a big fan of the Gallente/Taranis.  The hybrid buff only made it better.
  • Interdictor: The Minmatar/Sabre still holds this position, and by a wide margin.
  • Logistics: All four ships in this class are now quite good, until they get supplanted in one way or another on December 4.  Until then, the Minmatar/Scimitar remains the best of them.
  • Marauder: With the introduction of XLASB tactics, the Minmatar/Vargur wrested this slot from the Amarr and doesn't show any signs of giving it up any time soon, even with the gentle nerf that's coming.
  • Recon: This is always going to be the toughest choice for me.  They're almost all great ships in their own ways.  Still, the Caldari/Falcon remains the best of the eight in my opinion.
  • Rookie Ship: This was the Gallente/Velator before that ship got some nice buffs.  Still, the Caldari/Ibis is now a close second thanks to its "LOL ewar noobfleet" upgrade.
  • Stealth Bomber: Still a close call between the Caldari/Manticore and the Minmatar/Hound.  I continue to favor the Manti for versatility.  That extra mid-slot is so useful.
  • Strat Cruiser: Again, this remains the Caldari/Tengu for versatility.  The HML nerf isn't going to hit them particularly hard, so it will probably keep the title after December 4.
  • Super Carrier: I didn't choose a winner of this category last year.  This year, I'm going with the Amarr/Aeon.  It loses a slight bit of versatility and DPS compared to the Nyx but that's made up for by its enormous tank and supercap fleet role.
  • Titan: I picked the Gallente/Erebus last year and I see no particular reason to change that opinion.

For faction ships:
  • Faction Battleship: There are 13 faction battleships, and it's hard to pick a bad one.  Every single one of them has a lot of fans.  For my money though, the best in class is the Serpentis/Vindicator.  There are few roles it can't be applied to, and it excels in most of them.
  • Faction Cruiser: Last year, had I chosen one, I would have gone with the Angel/Cynabal.  On reflection, I still think it's the best of them, though the Blood/Ashimmu and the Minmatar/Stabber Fleet Issue are both tied for a close second.  The latter two ships do damn good jobs of supplanting a Recon and a HAC, respectively, for a fraction of the cost.
  • Faction Frigate: Again, there's lots of good choices in this category, but the only one of them that actively scares me is the Serpentis/Daredevil.  The hybrid buffs really helped this ship and the massive nerf the Dramiel got finished the job of putting the "devil" on top.

For non-combatants:
  • Exhumer: No contest: the ORE/Mackinaw easily wrested this title from the Hulk this year.
  • Freighter: Last year, I chose the Charon.  This year though, the Fenrir gets the nod thanks to the increasing importance of Nomad implants.
  • Industrial: Gallente/Iteron Mark V.  No change.  More space = better, or if you don't need the space, you can make the flying stick align and warp like a blockade runner.
  • Transport: Gallente/Viator.  Again, no change from last year.  It holds up to 10000m3, aligns just as quick as the competition, and looks great.  I understand the argument for the Prowler thanks to its class-leading second high slot.  If you live in a wormhole, it's the best in class for your use.  But if you don't, how often do you actually need that high?

Those are my choices for this year, though of course the frigate, destroyer, and cruiser categories are subject to change in about five weeks.  But that'll be in next year's update.  Most improved in 2012?  Definitely the Gallente.  That hybrid buff allowed them to take over three very competitive categories.

Dissenting opinions?

Kill of the Week: Expensive Week!

The last solid information we have for the number of super-capital ships in the game came from CCP Diagoras and is currently about 10 months old.  In late January, he indicated that there were 3384 super-carriers in the game and 829 titans.  He further indicated that the total statistics for supers built and lost in 2011 was as follows:
2011: 1,646 supercarriers built, 370 titans built. 269 supercarriers destroyed, 86 titans destroyed. That's a lot of supers. #tweetfleet
"That's a lot of supers" was a QOTW back in February.

Looked at from a pure math stand-point, then, that's 5.5 supers built per day in 2011, and 1.0 supers destroyed per day.  That's every single day in 2011.  That's a net increase of 4.5 super-capital ships per day.  And 2011 was a much bigger year for super-cap battles than 2012 has been.  For instance, there were several very large super-cap battles in the north last summer, with many dead supers on both sides of those battles.  We've had no major battles this year so far that I can recall.  We can therefore pretty safely assume that the proliferation rate for this year is far above what it was last year.

So when I'm going off about supers in this part of the KOTW weekly feature, it's because the rate at which supers have to die to make up for their proliferation means that I should be reporting on more than 35 dead supers a week, not just two or three.

All that straight?  Good.

I started tracking super-cap deaths in the first week of September.  In the first seven weeks of my tracking, fourteen of them have died total.  This week alone, the count is...

Number of dead super-caps this week: 14

So, 28 super-caps have died in this two month period... or put another way, in that two month period which included two big piles of dead super-caps, we're only at half the rate of super-cap death from 2011.  28 dead supers in two months is 0.5 dead supers per day.  So, don't get me wrong: while 14 dead supers this week is great news, don't get too excited.  ;-)

With so many dead supers, I can't provide any real details on them individually, but here's the gist of the various groups.  First to die?  This Ragnarok, which got titan-alphaed by PL exactly right at downtime trying to slip into a POS with a few seconds to go before the servers shut down.  Number of titans needed to alpha a badly-fit shield titan: about four (there are ten on the mail).  Needless to say, this Titan didn't get any kills as it died, ergo gank.

Next to die was a whole passel of SOLAR FLEET Nyxes and Aeons, seven in all.  This was the first batch of supers to die in 1V-LI2 in Scalding Pass this week, this batch to Pandemic Legion.  PL brought a simply insane 27 titans alone, along with so many Aeons, Nyxes, and Wyverns that I'm not even going to attempt to count them.  One of the SOLAR Aeons has 622 people on the mail, with 17 alliances represented by nine or more pilots.  EVE News 24 calls this a "Super Capital Fight" but I would characterize it as more of a massive curb-stomping, given the balance of forces involved and the lack of PL deaths.  The only surprise is that PL allowed so many SOLAR supers to slip the net.  I guess too many of their pilots wanted to fly their supers instead of their hictors and dictors.

Next to die, this Avatar.  EVE News 24 has the full story here, too.  Gank.  Then this Nyx, who apparently died of stupid while trying to bring a former NCdot toon directly into Goonswarm.  Major gank.

SOLAR then took their earlier-week frustrations out on Red Alliance, also in 1V, apparently for switching sides in the northern conflict.  Not sure I understand the full story here, but I can hardly follow RL Russian politics, much less EVE Russian politics.  But the net result was three dead Nyxes.  The only surprise is how relatively inexpensively they're fit.  The Nyxes managed to kill only one Sabre before dying.  Gank.

And finally, number fourteen was this Nyx killed by Fatal Ascension of all people.  As far as I can tell, this pilot's crime was apparently to leave Fatal Ascension and try to take his super-cap with him.  Gank.

And finally, the actual kill of the week is this little pile of fail.

It's API verified here.  The ganker that killed him will no doubt be in his or her own super very very soon thanks to that particular loot drop.  All in all, a quite expensive week!  If only it had been expensive enough...  My congratulations to all of you who got in on a super-cap kill this week and for those of you who did it in supers yourselves, I hope I'll be featuring your ship dying soon.

QOTW: My corp sent him to his death

OK.  I usually don't like to make fun of people who are clearly struggling to learn this game, but sometimes the urge becomes too strong.

Yesterday, an alliance-mate of mine ran into this:

And yeah, you'd be forgiven for wondering why I'm highlighting such a poor ship fit.  Well, the player behind it is new, having only joined the game 26 days ago.  EVE's learning cliff being what it is, the guy joined a corp.  The player probably reasonably expected some help.  That corp gave him this ship and this fitting.  The pilot involved flew it into null-sec, and the events that happened next followed each other like "B" follows "C".  Then the guy starts a conversation with the pilot that killed him.  All conversations edited slightly...
starmaser darkborn > i was just traveling what did i do to you
Dradius Calvantia > Why do you think you had to do something?
starmaser darkborn > just tell me why u did that
Dradius Calvantia > Because I wanted to...
starmaser darkborn > that was all i had and i don't have and i couldn't afford insurance
starmaser darkborn > and i'm broke
starmaser darkborn > can u at least give me some isk to get a new ship
starmaser darkborn > please man
Dradius Calvantia > Why should I do that?
starmaser darkborn > because u want to be nice after u left me BROKE
So, you know, lesson learned I'm sure.  Welcome to EVE.

The guy goes back to his corp, gets a new ship... and you can probably guess the rest:

Another death, another conversation...
starmaser darkborn > i was trying to ask u not to destroy me
Funkert > oh
starmaser darkborn > why did u
Funkert > i would have totally stopped shooting if you asked
Funkert > i don't like to kill people
Funkert > but its stronger than me

So then the guy that provided the second ship starts in on the conversation...
Funkert > i kill ppl because i'm a bad person
Darsec Tracer > I figured
Funkert > but your friend shouldn't go into 0.0, and not in bad ships either, my corp mate got him earlier today in another 0.0 region
Darsec Tracer > Yep with a Brutix which i also fitted and bought for him
Darsec Tracer > My Corp sent him to his death

The player in question?  He's been playing the game for 93 days.  The corp is four months old.  Needless to say, the guy who lost two ships in one day to the same null-sec corp is now back in an NPC corp himself.  Has he quit EVE?  Probably.  Wouldn't you?

Overall, I'm not sure if I should be welcoming this sort of new blood, or using it as an example of why EVE Online is definitely never going to break into the mainstream.  Should the game even be allowing new players to be starting corps so soon?  The game wouldn't be a sandbox if it didn't.  "Hey guys, let's all play [X]!  I'll start a guild!" is the sort of enthusiastic call to arms that works in virtually any MMO... except for this one.  In this MMO, such a call is just sending level 1s to be killed by the closest level 80, and causing people to quit shortly thereafter.

Anyway, just something that caught my eye this morning.  It'll be a busy couple of days on the blog today and tomorrow: lots of supers killed last week, I want to write about Guild Wars a bit, publish part three of the implants guide, do an update to my "best in class" post from last October, and talk some more about "tug of war" sovereignty.

EDIT (2/Nov/2012): Darsec Tracer is not the CEO of the corp in question as I wrote, but just a friend of the player that lost these two ships.  I regret the error.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Things worth blowing up in D5IW-F

Several people have been asking me how Rote Kapelle's "scouring of the Shire" is going, and I'm pleased to report that it's going well so far!  Our first target was Damned Nation, living in D5IW-F in Outer Ring.  On Friday and through the weekend, we started the final assault on their home system, and finished it by destroying their most heavily-defended POS, their most-contested POS, and an Orca that contained what appeared to be the bulk of their station Corporate Hangar in quick succession.  Their membership is badly demoralized, and I can't say that I blame them.

I do blame their leadership, though.

In any case, D5 is now swept clean, and we made a good start yesterday and today on cleaning out their main care-bearing system, A2V6-6, as well.  We've made a tentative informal agreement with a new occupant for these two systems, and we'll see how they do in terms of growing their organization into a group credible to be living in 0.0.  Needless to say, we and the other occupants of Syndicate will be looking forward to seeing some small roaming gangs out of them.  For now, we'll cross our fingers; certainly, they can be no worse than Damned Nation.  If nothing else, the new occupants can learn their trade preventing Damned Nation from taking back the systems we're pushing them out of.  And maybe a third party will come along and try to push the new occupants out too.  We can hope.

The really interesting thing about this campaign so far, at least for me, is both growing my own skills and watching my alliance-mates do the same.  As befits an organization living in NPC 0.0, Rote's always been slightly undisciplined.  What can you do with a bunch of goofy individualists?  But in order to equip consolidated heavier-hitting fleets, subdue structures, and change tactics on a dime, the goofy individualists are having to pull together as a group more.  It's been fun to watch!

For myself, I finally decided to let my light out from under the bushel I've been hiding it for the last year or so, CTA'ed a fleet, and led it.  The type of fleet -- stealth bombers -- is something that I know a little bit about.  Rote Kapelle hasn't used bombers for anything other than scouting in the full year I've been a member, so it was quite fun to teach them something new.  I think a lot of the guys gained some respect for these little monsters.(1)  It was also kind of amusing to be accused by our opponents of not fighting fair when I suggested and executed the tactic change.

I also started the campaign off on the right foot by scouting out every single structure in D5.  The post I put on our forums had the title of this blog post as its title.  ;-)

The other interesting thing about this campaign so far is how it's both revitalized Rote Kapelle and recommited us to the alliance's mission not to hold sov.  We're having to use so many tactics that are required for sov warfare: the blobs, the hell-camps, the alarm clock ops, the bridging.  Most of it just isn't our style and never will be.

This is and remains the biggest problem with this game, and the one that threatens to eventually wreck the whole thing.  The number of EVE Online super-powers continues to dwindle from eight to six to four to three... and now threatens to become two over the next year.  The blobs are getting bigger and bigger and bigger while ironically the targets for them dwindle.  Where does that leave those few groups like Rote Kapelle that just have no interest in being part of that game?  This isn't practice for sov warfare for us.  This is a distraction, a new play-style that we're pulling out of the closet, trying on for Halloween, and then putting back when we're done with it.

I learned this past week that CCP Diagoras left CCP of his own volition this year to pursue other personal goals.  That leaves the company without a face to publish statistics on the game.  But I really can't help but wonder what the PvP numbers look like.  Even if the numbers are going up, are the number of fights going down?

::coughs::  But that's definitely not what this post is about.

Anyway, that's how the campaign is going so far.  Alliance leadership deliberately picked a soft target to start so we could get a feel for what tactics we wanted to use and how we'd use them.  We feel like we've cracked the shell of this partcular nut and we're going to finish out feasting on the meat.  Then it will be on to target number two.  I'll no doubt be scouting out some targets and making a forum post about them soon....

EDIT (29/Oct/2012): One comment on this post was inadvertently deleted thanks to a mouse misclick on my part.  If you commented on this post and you do not see your comment, please post it again and I'll publish it.  My apologies for the problem.

(1) My favorite kill of this part of the campaign was this Basilisk, taken out while repping a POS and right under the POS's guns.  We smashed it with ten bombers, torps... and ten Target Painters.  So they brought in an insta-locking Tornado to defend their logi and kill our bombers.  You can guess how that worked out.  I'd forgotten how much I love bomber tactics.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Faustian bargain

Sometimes you make a deal with the devil for a short term gain in exchange for your eternal soul, hoping to outwit him later on a technical point before you have to pay up.

On this blog, I first pointed at the button-orbiting FW alt issue four months ago in late June.  I personally expected it to be an extremely short-term issue with a quick fix.  That is why I indicated it was an "enormous bone-headed decision" but then stupidly commented in early July that those taking advantage of it "should make hay while the sun shines."  I let things sit that way for about six weeks, when in utter disgust I finally indicated in late August that those not taking advantage of this enormous wealth fountain were failing a basic EVE Online IQ test.

CCP, meanwhile, made it clear enough that they were aware of the problem, but it wouldn't be fixed until December 4 before deciding to surprise-implement the fix this week.

But that was two months after my "IQ test" post and four months after I first mentioned it on this blog.  As I said earlier this week, the damage has been done.  We're almost certainly never going to know how much hard ISK has been exchanged for implants, data cores, and Navy Cap Boosters, but you can rest assured that the number is in the tens of trillions of ISK, if not more.

Why did CCP let this blatant, obvious wealth fountain persist for so long?  I have a few theories, each slightly more cynical than the last.  First off though, I reject the notion that CCP was unaware of the problem.  People were being very public about cash-outs, methods, and tier 5 spikes as early as mid-July, more than three months before CCP got around to fixing the problem.  The word "push" had firmly entered the EVE lexicon by August.  Hans Jagerblitzen on the CSM was writing about it all through late July and into August.  He seemed to lean less toward destroying it and more toward simply making it much, much more risky (and therefore presumably spreading the benefit to more players).  So I find it impossible to believe that CCP wasn't aware of this issue.  Strike that theory.

I also reject the notion that CCP was aware of the problem but unable to fix it.  The net fix we're left with is pretty typical CCP heavy-handedness.  But there were a dozen simpler ways they could have addressed this issue temporarily, the simplest being to reduce the pay-outs per site by a factor of ten while they decided on a permanent solution.  Doing so would have made running these sites worth 30 to 50 million ISK/hour, still high but not outrageously so.  People would have continued doing it in the interim but wouldn't have been left with the hundreds of billions ISK in assets they have today, merely tens of billions.

No, the simplest -- though cynical -- explanation for CCP taking four months to fix this issue is that while they may not have wanted people taking advantage of the fountain, they were willing to accept that it was happening.  Remember the old CCP axiom that "players are always richer than you think"?  I describe FW alt button-orbiting as a wealth fountain and not an ISK faucet, because it wasn't an ISK faucet.  It was an ISK sink of the highest order: tens of trillions of ISK have been drained from the EVE Online economy.  Every implant purchased during a tier 5 spike had to be purchased with ISK, and a lot of it.

It's well within reason to think this was the goal of the exercise.

I believe that CCP was willing to take a short-term hit to the implant and data core markets to facilitate that.  After all, implants and data cores are pretty small beer in terms of the larger EVE economy, implants in particular.  If the short-term hit of implants being unreasonably cheap for a year or so is the price that CCP has to pay to drain tens of trillions of ISK from the EVE economy, I could see them seeing that as a very small price to pay indeed.

But it's a Faustian bargain, for a couple of reasons.

First, a good portion of this wealth in assets went to generally newer players.  Older players probably weren't as quick to jump on this opportunity, seeing it as short-term and having well-established income methods already in place.  The overall number of players taking advantage of the wealth fountain was also relatively limited to a low four-digit number.  One player within my own alliance has been playing EVE for less than a year and took advantage of this big-time.  He hasn't publicly revealed exactly how much ISK in assets he's sitting on.  But it's easily the equivalent of him holding on to a personal tech moon for every hour of every day he's been playing EVE so far.

Needless to say, he's a little bit ragey about losing his wealth fountain two months earlier than he expected.  Other short-term players made it public that they'd bought high-end industrial characters, high-end PvP characters, and very expensive ships with their new gains.  These players are publicly ragey.

This is a problem because EVE is a long-term game.  If you are piloting a Nyx after less than a year playing EVE... where exactly do you go from there in year two?  What can possibly hope to match that?  That's Faustian bargain number one: CCP might have made themselves an entire generation of players who feel entitled to wealth fountains on this scale.

The second Faustian bargain they've made concerns their richest players.  A lot of these players were already extraordinarily rich, and the players that took advantage of the wealth fountain generally weren't among them.  Problem is, these item-rich players are now ISK-poor: the tens of trillions of ISK that were pulled out of the EVE economy came out of the wallets of these early- and mid-level players, not the richest ones.  Whether by loans from richer players or by rapidly converting a percentage of their initial stocks of implants into ISK at very low values, the players that took advantage of the wealth fountain are now generally sitting on livable amounts of ISK... and large piles of assets that -- on paper! -- are worth enormous amounts of ISK.

CCP even made it easy to salivate over their piles of leprechaun gold by putting a wealth estimator right on the unified inventory... where they can see it every day.

Only these players don't want to sell those assets until their value increases dramatically over current levels.  Today, you can buy a full set of +5 implants for about 400 million ISK, not much more than their ISK cost of 325 million (plus LP, of course).  A full set of +4s can be had for 75 million, or only 30 million if you limit yourself to +4s for just the skills being currently trained.  A very large net positive of this is skill training speed will be up for quite a while all across New Eden.  In the aggregate, this benefits newer players more than older richer players due to the law of diminishing returns for EVE skill points.

But the negative is that there are going to be hundreds of players out there playing chicken with those implant values, all struggling mightily to turn their paper wealth into real wealth.  Only all of them will also be struggling mightily to be the last to sell.  The first people that sell their stocks, after all, will probably end up selling them to very rich EVE players who are willing to hoard those implants for a year or two if need be to get a good return on their investment.  Already, I'm seeing offers out there to buy large stacks of implants and data cores for just over their current market values.  The potential buyers are obviously willing to play a long game.

The newer players won't have this kind of patience.

As a result, in the long term, the second Faustian bargain that's going to result here is that very old, rich EVE players will be able to convert their liquid ISK almost en masse into a pile of liquid ISK of double the (already enormous) size through the exercise of just a little bit of patience.  They just have to wait for implant and data core prices to normalize... however long that takes.  If CCP thinks some players are too rich now... just wait!

The good news here is that both of these problems have been firmly exported into the future, which is why this bargain is Faustian.  For now, those that took advantage of the wealth fountain might be grumbling, but they can't be too unhappy sitting on piles of implants that they believe will eventually make them barons of EVE.  The even richer players won't be able to cash in on investments made now for a year or more.  So these are future problems, not current ones.

Which brings me back to my initial conclusion: by doing this, I believe CCP was solving a short-term problem hoping to avoid the long-term problem later on.  We'll see how successful they are.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fit of the Week: Incursion Scorpion

I thought I'd go with something simple and non-controversial for FOTW this week, plus I haven't done a PvE fit in quite a while.

[Scorpion Navy Issue, Incursion]
Damage Control II
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Caldari Navy Ballistic Control System
Ballistic Control System II

Sensor Booster II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
EM Ward Field II
Thermic Dissipation Field II
Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II

Cruise Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Cruise Missile
Cruise Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Fury Cruise Missile
Large Energy Transfer Array II

Large Core Defense Field Extender II
Large Warhead Rigor Catalyst I
Large Warhead Rigor Catalyst I

Hobgoblin II x5
Medium Armor Maintenance Bot II x5

There's never enough snipers in Incursion HQ fleets, and while gun snipers are obviously preferred, there's certainly never enough of those.  As a result, virtually every HQ fleet will accept some cruise missile fit Raven Navy Issues and Scorpion Navy Issues.  And other than the T2 Cruise Missile Launchers, it's a simple and relatively inexpensive Incursion fit to get into, too.  The tank is also ridiculously good, so you can use this to tank HQ sites at any Sansha influence level with no problems.

The core of the sniper capability is obviously the CMLs, and the T2 versions are preferred not only for their extra DPS but for their ability to launch Fury missiles to 150km range.  This is often sufficient for most incursion sniper applications and allows you to put 600 DPS down range.  Not too shabby!  But carry some faction or T1 missiles (the former is preferred) as well in case you need a little more than that.  I'm finding increasingly when you're going to fit faction damage enhancing mods in your lows, two is enough.  All other damage mods can be straight T2.  In this particular case, using a third faction mod instead of T2 increases your DPS by eight.  If you have untold piles of money lying around, sure, go ahead and buy the third one.  But for most people, 8 DPS is not worth the extra expense.

Your final DPS is provided by a flight of T2 light drones, which will be assigned to the incursion's "drone bunny" to manage and use as his own.  Fill out the rest of your drone by with either spare light drones or preferably, a flight of medium armor drones.  You'll often hear about someone bleeding into armor due to either sub-par fits or failure to ask for reps in a timely enough manner.  I find when I fly this ship I'm often the only one in fleet that thought to bring some armor bots along.  It gives you another job to do since sniping is pretty easy at the end of the day.

Warhead Rigor rigs do a nice job of reducing your CML explosion radius from 400+ to under 300.  That will help quite a lot with the sniper cruisers and occasional incursion command ship you'll be shooting at.  It also shows your FC that you have a good understanding of your targets and what you actually need for a tank.  Way too many SNIs go full tank in the rigs, which is silly.  Still, one CDFE is a smart choice, and upgrade it to T2 as soon as your means allow.  If you're particularly wealthy, upgrade one of the Rigors as well.  It takes another 20-25m off the CML explosion radius.

Your tank is extremely impressive, but not ridiculously so.  Under links with the T2 rig, it's good for about 230k EHP with 26000 shield hit points and a minimum resist of nearly 85%.  As I mentioned, that's sufficient to HQ sites under any level of Sansha influence.  It's also sufficient to anchor most HQ sites if your FC is looking for that.  Learning how to anchor is easy, and is a valued position in an incursion fleet.  Keep an eye on what your anchor is doing the first few sites and you'll get the hang of it fast.  For sites where you're asked to fit an afterburner, take off one of the LSEs to do it under low Sansha influence (unless you're the anchor) and the Target Painter under high Sansha influence (or if you are the anchor).  The rest of the time, keep the afterburner in cargo.

The Sensor Booster is there so that you can launch Cruise Missiles to the extent of their flight range.  Under normal circumstances, you can keep it unscripted so it will help a bit with your lock time, too.  Put in the range script if you're shooting at things beyond 130km or so, and put in the scan-res script once everything's close.  You'll be one of the few ships on the field with a Target Painter.  The other snipers will particularly appreciate that when you're shooting at Incursion sniper cruisers like Antem Neos.  When you have the means, upgrade this to the Republic Fleet Target Painter.

The single Large Energy Transfer Array will allow you to be an emergency logi cap buddy, or cap buddy with a Nightmare in the sniper squad.  A single return LET will render you more than cap-stable and render you more or less immune to Sansha neuting.  So it's handy to get a cap buddy even if you don't necessarily need one.  If you do transfer back and forth with a friendly Nightmare, keep a close eye on it on your locked targets list.  Don't shoot CMLs at him by mistake.  ;-)

In the unlikely event that your tank strains, overheating one of the Invuls should solve the problem.  Carry a small bit of paste for this eventuality.  It's also not that bad of an idea to carry and use Synth Crash, particularly with high Biology skill.  They're cheap, and they do further nice things for your explosion radius.

All in all, this is a pretty simple boat to get into, both effective and cost-effective.  You won't have too much trouble getting into fleets, you'll have a useful role in them, and you'll make some ISKies.  Not much more you can ask of your PvE ship than that...

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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Keeping up with the Joneses

There have been lots of dev-blogs and dev-posts from CCP lately.  Some of them, I want to cover in some detail.  Others, though, don't really need a deep look.  So I thought I'd cover the more important dev-blogs in the last ten days or so that I just wanted to briefly comment on.  Consider this post sort of "Junk drawer light".  ;-)  In reverse order:

Evil Nasty NPC (23 October).  This one details that the devs are going to make secure containers, station containers, and all other boxes and freight cans manufacturable by players, as well as the three classes of survey probes.  These are all positive changes, in my opinion.  One thing that isn't mentioned is whether these containers will be recyclable.  It seems very likely that the answer is "yes".  So if the values at all encourage this, expect to see a lot of NPC low- and null-sec alliances buying containers by the wagon-load now with the intent of recycling them on December 4 and have hundreds of millions of m3 of minerals or PI products or whatever appear in their null-sec stations quite literally overnight.  Hopefully CCP will keep this little trick in mind.

New Eden Open Update (19 October).  CCP is greatly increasing the prize pool for the tournament, as well as offering prizes for watching the tournament, as well as lowering the minimum entry fee.  It's of course incredibly tempting to say that this is just desperation on CCP's part to have this tournament engage player and participant interest as much as the Alliance Tournaments.  That said, I'm not going to say that.  I also don't buy that CCP is trying to cash in with this tournament.  I do sincerely believe that CCP as a whole and the devs participating in this in particular want this tournament to succeed and want it to launch a whole series of EVE tournaments.  I honestly think CCP wants to profit from it by a larger player base, not by making money on the tournaments themselves.  It's a worthy goal.

The simple fact, though, is that there are two chilling effects this tournament is having on that goal.  First, having the tournament take place during the U.S. Thanksgiving holidays is -- quite simply -- a dumb move.  CCP has always favored their European contingent in everything from mass testing schedules to Live Events to dev fleets to the Alliance Tournament itself.  I myself had to get up at 5:15am to participate in one of Rote Kapelle's AT10 matches this year.  But blatantly effectively disenfranchising a third of the player-base from participating in this tournament at all?  That's a new low.

That said, with the rules in place for this tournament, it was always going to be a rich player's play-thing.  This is polo or horse-racing, not NASCAR.(1)  In all of AT10, we saw only one team field previous AT tourney prize ships once.  That's not going to be the case for this tournament.  For these reasons, Rote Kapelle isn't even going to attempt to field a team, nor have I heard about many of our best pilots being picked up by other teams.  I know that some of this problem was supposed to be solved with sponsors, but really how many "outside" sponsors are there with the kind of means necessary to support a team?  Only three come to mind for me: themittani.com, somer.blink, and EVE Online Hold 'Em.  EON Magazine might try to prove some kind of point about independence by sponsoring a team.  After that, I expect you'll mostly see internally-sponsored alliance teams, sprinkled with a few free agent ringers.

So the idea is fine, and I'll definitely be watching bits and pieces of the tournament when I can, but overall execution on this one rates about a "C+" and this slightly panicky dev-blog shows it.

Look Who's Talking (16 October).  CCP karkur has forever cemented the meme "DUST bunnies", I think.  It was floating around a bit before, but now it's official.  ;-)  I only have a couple of things to say about this one.  First, I think that EVE players -- pretty much en masse -- are going to shut off showing infantry players and chat in the chat channels.  I just can't see a lot of interaction happening at this level in the short term and the DUST bunnies are going to interfere with the use of Local as an intel tool if they aren't shut off.  That means bye bye DUST bunnies.

Even more than that, though, does this UI strike anyone else as really wonky?  I have to go to one settings menu to show who is displayed and how their names are displayed, then another settings menu to show how their text is displayed?  Do I have that right?  Assuming I do, it's a strange way to do business and I can't help but think that someone's going to have to come along at some later date and rework the dual menus to make sense.  No doubt there will be another dev-blog about it then.

I also get a kick out of the fact that the only option for highlighting other than your own messages are DUST bunny messages.  As opposed to highlighting just about anything else.  Gimli joked in The Lord of the Rings about trees having little to gossip about except squirrel droppings.  I just can't imagine anything a DUST bunny saying that's going to be important enough for an EVE player to highlight everything every DUST bunny says.  In this case, the option to selectively highlight text from certain posters (say, those on your personal contact list) would have made a lot more sense.  Just my opinion.

Finally, the Bounty dev-blog (11 October).  I've been looking for something to say about this and honestly, not very much is jumping out at me.  I just don't think that bounties are going to be that big of a deal.  I've had three different CSM members ask me jokingly what I think the bounty on Ripard's head will be after December 4.  I answered honestly: "Zero, same as it is now."  People have been able to put a bounty on me for about a year now and haven't done it.  Hell, aside from the vanity of seeing your face on CONCORD billboards and the obvious scamming opportunities, I've just never really understood bounties.

Are people really going to pump hundreds of millions of ISK into this system with only vague returns?  Particularly when the alternative exists to use mercenary contracts for the same thing?  I mean, I hope that someone puts a 500 million ISK bounty (the minimum) on Goonswarm or TEST or Solar or PL or NCdot right from day one, but will anyone actually do it?  I have my doubts.  And those are probably the alliances that are most begging to be bountied.

The one interesting thing about this dev-blog to me is that Bounty hunters will be given a separate ranking which the game will keep track of.  I think there's the potential there for a truly new EVE career to spring up based on those bragging rights.  But the success of that career is going to be fundamentally inherent on players pumping their hard-earned ISK into this system, presumably with the expectation of return on investment.  Again, I've got my doubts but I'm willing to be convinced.

Whew!  That went longer than I expected, and I wanted to cover a few dev-posts too, so I'll split that into its own post.  I also want to talk in a little bit of detail about the FW change yesterday and what I think it means in the bigger picture.  But that, also, will get its own post.

Lots of CCP activity in the lead-up to Retribution!

(1) Hell, it's arguable that even NASCAR isn't NASCAR.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quote of the Week: SURPRISE!

So, you have to appreciate game developers that are ticking people off, and know they're ticking people off.  You have to appreciate it all the more when they decide to rub some salt on the wound so that they can communicate to these players that they know they're ticked off, really don't care, and are in fact enjoying their pain:
That's CCP Soundwave, actively trolling Faction Warfare AFK farmers.

That pain starts in 15 hours and an odd number of minutes from the moment this post is published.  The rest of the announced FW changes are being pushed out six weeks early, on 18 hours notice.  No more 4x LP discount on FW items at tier 5.  No more ISK discount at all, at any tier.  In short, the sorry, sordid mess of AFK FW site button-orbiting and the incredible wealth fountain that it created will finally be over by this time tomorrow.

Me, I think the damage has already been done.

The thing that's kind of interesting about all of this to me is that this is a major rework, top to bottom, of how FW sites and pay-outs work.  And all of the work on this major change seems to have been done in about ten weeks.  Meanwhile, the technetium situation will be three years old, at least, before it gets solved.  It really kind of highlights what CCP can do when they agree that a situation is a problem.

In the meantime, it's probably safe to say that the implant market has either bottomed out or will be bottoming out shortly...

Kill of the Week: Too much money

What can you say about this:

How about:
You have too much money,
and that is crazy.
But there's the exit,
so rage-quit maybe?
No?  Maybe an explanation is in order.  Remember how I said last year that Mittens used to advertise himself out as a super-cap escrow service, only from time to time he kept the money?  Yeah, well, this guy was a victim of that.  Same... freakin'... guy.  And word around the campfire is that he's also got another super.  So for those keeping score at home, he's managed to put together 20 billion to give to Mittens, 40 billion to buy one super, and 60 or 70 billion to lose another.  At least 130 billion or so total.

And he's an idiot.  Total mouth-breather.  Moron.  Waste... of... synapses.  And I'm not the sort that uses these sorts of insults lightly.  But dear Heaven do they apply.

Anyway, if you want to read the whole sordid story of how a Titan came to have mining lasers fitted to it and how it died, EVE News 24 has it.  Me, I couldn't read more than a few paragraphs without it threatening to make me sick to my stomach.

Number of dead super-caps this week: 3

So that was one dead super this week.  And it was a gank, obviously.  Not going to shoot down a lot of people with mining lasers, even if you have an Auto Targeting System.  Second super kill was this Avatar that I mentioned at the end of my post last week.  This super has the distinction of being the very first super killed to actually score a kill in exchange for its death since I started keeping track of dead supers about two months ago.  This Titan killed one Moros, courtesy of a DD.  Kind of a bad trade, but at least the Avatar got a kill, no?  And that would be glorious, except for the fact that the Moros was assassinated.

Oh yeah.  Story here is that the Avatar warped to a station at maximum range intending to DD the Moros un-docked outside.  The DD went off without a hitch.  But then, the Avatar was stuck there.  Apparently, this dude forgot that he couldn't jump away after firing a DD, nor could he just cloak out there.  Had the Avatar been aligned, just maybe he would have gotten away with it.  Only he wasn't.  Ergo, dead Titan.  Dumb people 0, smart people 2.

Third super loss of the week was this Nyx yesterday, also a gank.  It's been implied this one died due to a spy in this guy's alliance but I obviously haven't been able to confirm that.  First comment on the kill-board claims that this super didn't even belong to the pilot in question.  If so, I'd say he's got some explaining to do...  If you know more details about this gank, please add them in the comments.

Glad that there were three super kills this week instead of two, at least!

EDIT (22/Oct/2012): As I went to publish this article, I noticed that EVE News 24 seems to be having some sort of difficulty, at least for me.  If it's still down later today, I'll modify this post accordingly.
EDIT (22/Oct/2012): Whatever problem EN24 was having overnight has been sorted.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Quote of the Week: Actual flying skill

themittani.com got themselves a phone interview with Chris Roberts, whom I talked about the other day.  There isn't a whole lot of new information in the interview if you've read the Star Citizen website, but there IS this little nugget.  When asked if mining in Star Citizen will be as boring as mining in EVE Online, Roberts says:
[Laughter] Mining and trading will take some level of actual flying skill, whereas in Eve you are just sort of clicking a button every once in awhile to make money. It’s sort of like playing Farmville and I hate that stuff. I feel that the first person, active flying experience in Star Citizen will turn, for instance, a boring trade run from Eve Online into a more immersive and exciting experience.
I'd say the guy knows who the competition is, wouldn't you?

As I write this, the project has now raised more than $1.1 million U.S. on their main website in less than a week, and $200,000 on its Kickstarter page in less than 24 hours.  More than 17000 people have contributed so far, and I encourage you to do the same.  Even if you never intend to play it, wouldn't it be nice if EVE had a little competition to get CCP's blood moving?  It's pretty clear here the goal is less about the amount of money raised, and more about demonstrating to potential investors that this game would have hundreds of thousands of players and that there's a market out there.

Just something to think about...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Communicating with the pic of the week

Just a quickie.

For those of you who haven't gone looking for them, here's what the new "District Satellites" look like:

Simple.  Clean.  Elegant.  I like it a lot.  Kudos to the artist that created it, and hopefully we'll see this same sensibility brought to the modular POSes next year.  It's pointing down to one of this planet's 19 Districts, which are warp-ins scattered all around this particular planet.  My assumption is that the District Satellites will be used for orbital bombardment.  DUST bunnies tell you, system X, Planet Y, District Z.  You warp there, then bombardment happens once the logistics and communications are worked out.

Meanwhile, those that want to stop the bombardment have to determine the correct District either from scanning, directional scan, or being told by their own DUST bunny forces which is the right District.  It'll be interesting to see if these District warp-ins get camped.  I can only assume they will be in due course.  This is EVE, after all...

Possession is 9/10ths of your soul

I'm pretty sure I first encountered the expression "soulbound" in RIFT.  I had no idea what it meant.  The game sure wasn't interested in telling me what it meant, either.  Instead it just warned me that if I picked that item up, it would be soulbound.  It sounded slightly scary to me at the time, if I recall correctly.  ;-)  Later, I started encountering "bound" items in Global Agenda and in due course I discovered what the expression means.

And it's dumb.  Dumb dumb dumb.  Dumb as a box of rocks.

I don't praise EVE enough -- mostly I assume you guys are smart enough to figure out that if I'm not blasting something, I must like it at least a little -- but this is some of the true genius in EVE's game design.  There's not really any such thing as possession in EVE.  If any of us saw the dialog box to the left, we'd laugh.  It makes me smile just looking at it because this concept is so foreign to the EVE universe.

There's three things going on here.  First, it takes a really smart game to let you do really stupid things.  Want to fit meta 1 guns to a Vindicator?  Go for it.  Officer rocket launchers on your Kestrel?  By all means.  Get into a cap fight in a Chimera with Carrier II skill?  You bet.  Hull tank a Tengu?  Fine by me.  Select all the mods in your hangar and click "Fit to Active Ship"?  You can do that.  Fit the Powergrid Subroutine Maximizer rig to a ship for any reason whatsoever?  Absolutely.

Something I'm running into in GW2 that I find amusing is that it's trying to have a vibrant economy with a player-driven marketplace, but as long as the game insists on having soulbound items and leveled items, it's never going to get there.  Oh sure, there's stuff for sale there, even useful stuff.  It's mostly good for filling in your gear pieces with sorta-OK items because the game insists on randomly giving you fourteen items of one type and zero of the one you need.  But the good stuff is invariably level-limited, soulbound or both, which means at the end of the day you're probably not going to find something on the market that's better than the random drops.

Only if a character picks up a good item and resolves not to use it and puts it on the market immediately will you get a crack at it... and even then you'll only be able to use it if your level stacks up.

This is another genius of EVE, copied straight from the real world: we're all using the same gear.  It's just that some characters are better at it than others.  GW2 really really really should have gone with this sort of model.  Let us all use the same great swords and axes and rifles, with some models having advantages in one direction and some having advantages in the other.  And then set the damage and the scale of those advantages to character level.  A master swordsman can take the very same wooden practice sword a novice uses... but is much more effective with it.

And conversely, if the novice picks up a pair of nunchakus or a scimitar while untrained (insufficient level), dumb (and fun) things happen.  Level 1 novice picks up a level 1 sword, fine.  1-10 points of damage plus other bonuses.  Level 1 novice picks up a level 40 scimitar, not so good.  1-3 points of damage.  Make it clear (with bright red text or something) that the novice is being badly penalized for reaching beyond their training.  But if they insist on flying a hull-tanked Tengu or a Vindicator with meta 1 guns, let them.  And if they want to spend every piece of silver they have to buy it, let them do that too.

It's one of those few places where GW2 made a dumb design choice.  EVE made the smart one.

The second and related place is this whole "soulbound" business, though.  There really should be no room in a game with an open marketplace for soulbound items.  Let players buy and sell what they want.  If you want to make a few (and I do mean a few) items lock to characters because they were won in particularly nasty PvE challenges, PvP tournaments, or whatever, fine.  But as this percentage of items gets over a few percent of your total items, you're just limiting your in-game marketplace and limiting by two or three the number of careers that players can have in your game.  Let there be a guy out there buying and selling vast quantities of high-end items and making a profit.  Let him stand in front of the Trading Post agent all day and all night if he wants to.  If he's creating content for your players, why not?

I can't tell you how pleased I was when I realized that most NPC merchants in GW2 sell run-of-the-mill crap and you have to go to the Trading Post to get the good stuff from other players.  And I can't tell you how disappointed I was when I realized that only a small fraction of items in the game are actually available there, and only a small fraction of those are actually useful things a player might buy.  This is a place where the game can definitely stand to grow and develop in the future if the developers choose it.

Third item?  Upgrades.  Another very smart bit of game design in EVE is that ships are infinitely customizable, all of the customization can be removed, and only a small fraction of that customization is destroyed when doing so.  When you realize hull-tanking your Tengu or fitting meta 1 guns to your Vindicator is a daft idea, you can strip the ship to bare metal and try again.

GW2 has upgrades too, but once you fit them, as far as I can tell all but the richest characters are locked into them.  This is also as dumb as a box of rocks.  I can't even express how dumb this is.  Granted, we're dealing with "magic" here, but removing a gemstone from the hilt of a sword is a trivial exercise.  Military officers in the late Renaissance and early modern age would be asked to surrender their swords as a token of the surrender of their command.  But more often than not, the victor had a somewhat baser purpose in mind: it was a simple matter to pry the gold filigree, gems, and seed pearls off a vanquished gentleman's sword if you had it in hand...

In a similar way, if you find an upgrade superior to the one fitted to a particular piece of equipment, you should be able to pop off the old upgrade and put in the new.  This has the bonus of giving novice crafters in the game a ready-made stock of low-level upgrade items to work their craft with as they reach the mid-level ones.  Again, there might be a simple way to remove these upgrades that I'm just missing and it's a relatively minor issue compared to the other two.

Sometimes you play a game and you don't appreciate the good, correct choices the game developer made early in the process until you're presented with the alternative choices they could have made.  Let's all sit down and offer a brief note of thanks that our EVE strategic cruisers aren't soulbound, shall we?

COTW: Scouring the Shire

Mord Fiddle has written a thing, which you should go read, because it basically comprises the longest comment to a blog post around here that I can recall in a while.  ;-)

His post, which he calls "Scouring the Shire" (and dear Heaven do I love that reference) essentially makes the argument that Rote Kapelle is angry because people will not PvP in Syndicate the way we want them to.  In other words, just like I said yesterday morning he's essentially asking "how dare Rote tell other people how they should play EVE?"

Told you that perception was getting around.

Then Mord accuses me of closing my mind to the argument while at the same time making a series of ancillary points about how:
  • maybe Rote Kapelle has outgrown Syndicate; or,
  • maybe we shouldn't get angry because people want to moon-mine atmospheric gasses; or,
  • maybe people really are fighting us, they're just doing it in tech 3 ships supported by ECM.
That last one isn't happening, by the way: I'm sure I'd remember if I saw that.  And Rote Kapelle is smaller than we were a year ago, so I'm pretty sure that first point isn't the case either.  Matter of fact, all of the alliances in Syndicate are smaller than they were a year ago, where they haven't disappeared entirely, or been absorbed by this or that blob south or east of us.

Maybe it has something to do with this entire play style getting crushed.

A commenter on Mord's blog named Hoarr summed this up by saying:
Unfortunately, Mord, you are completely wrong. Syndicate actually IS the ancestral home of 'elite ' pvp. The only reason people moved (or at least used to) to syndicate is for the small gang pvp. Shit true sec, shit moons, and really hostile neighbors.

And I think my reply there deserves a hearing here.  I've edited it slightly:
Yeah, you've got it exactly Hoarr.

As I as telling someone [outside of Rote Kapelle] yesterday on Teamspeak, while it's fun to hurf-blurf on forums over this, in reality RK has no emotions associated with this maneuver at all.  We're not doing this because we hate people but because we love a certain type of play style and we don't want to see it (quite literally!) ganked.

Outside of Syndicate, fights only seem to happen any more because there's a reason for them.  Well as the old Billy Crystal(?) joke goes, "Women need a reason to have sex, men just need a place."

Syndicate has always been a good place.  ;-)

Mord's article is built partially on the false assumption that bigger is better and RK has somehow "outgrown the pond"... even though we're smaller than we were a year ago.  In truth, that's never how RK or Syndicate has operated.  One guy contacted one of our "diplos" yesterday or the day before and basically argued that instead of pushing out all of these alliances, RK should be trying to build a coalition out of them to go take some null-sec space.

Something more foreign to an alliance that has lived in Syndicate for years, I can't even imagine.  We don't want to NAP our neighbors, we want to shoot them!

Last night, the first Damned Nation POS timer was up and for the first time in memory, I-RED showed up in a fleet with no logi to help DAMN.  Of course, they did it three hours before our TZ and they left system the instant our pilots started logging in in any numbers, but hey, you've gotta start somewhere.

In the meantime, RK soloists and one small gang zipped around a system where we were outnumbered 3:1 assassinating stragglers and having a grand old time.  I-RED even got themselves a nice kill out of it.  Maybe they'll find that addictive and come back, and just maybe next time they won't flee the moment the POS is re-stronted and they'll take their logi-less fleet into a fight with us and get even more kills.

That's what this is about.

At the end of the day, we don't care if people moon-mine, rock-mine, run sites, or grow tangerines, as long as they form up to fight us occasionally.  But if they won't do that, then we're going to do something about that other stuff until they do.  The RK campaign really is just that simple.
Guess I was gonna reply to a question about play styles.  Oh well.  ;-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Logistics V

As almost everyone knows, skills in EVE are arranged into pyramids or tiers.  Most often, training two lower tier skills both to level V unlocks the next tier skill.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Spaceship Command skills.  Train the lower tier skills of racial frigate and Electronics Upgrades to level V and Covert Ops are unlocked.  Train the lower tier skills of racial frigate and Evasive Maneuvering to level V and Interceptors are unlocked.  Lower tier skills of racial cruiser and Signature Analysis and Recons are unlocked.

It's not quite that simple, of course: there are usually lots of levels to the pyramids.  Recons, for instance are actually two steps up the Level V pyramid because you have to train the prerequisites for Covert Ops first.  This is something that CCP has promised to change when they get around to rebalancing the first tech 2 ships hopefully before late next year.

Still... today, train the lower tier skills of racial cruiser, Long Range Targeting, and Signature Analysis to V and Logistics are unlocked.  But to be useful, you pretty much have to train Logistics V.  Flying a Scimitar is all but impossible without it and flying a Basi or Guardian under any sort of neut pressure at all is, too.

Logistics was the very first tech 2 ship skill I trained to Level V.  I trained Logistics V before I trained HAC V, or Recon V, or any tech 2 frigate skill to level V.  It was entirely a practical choice on my part, coupled to my inclination to play support roles in PvP while I learned how to do it properly.  The practical part was that I figured logis were useful anywhere.  That didn't turn out to be completely true: in early wormhole play, logis were shunned.  But everywhere else there was usually a place for them.

At just shy of a month, it was my first truly long skill train, too.  And now for the next eighteen months or so, it's going to be all but useless.  Remember how I said that CCP could nerf single role ships and I wouldn't be too concerned because they'd still be good within those roles and the training time loss wasn't that big of a deal?

Yeah.  I might have misspoken.  Take a look at this:

[Scythe, AB Larges]
Damage Control II
Capacitor Power Relay II
Capacitor Power Relay II
Capacitor Power Relay II
Capacitor Power Relay II

10MN Afterburner II
Sensor Booster II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction

Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
125mm Gatling AutoCannon II, EMP S

Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Semiconductor Memory Cell I

Don't bother putting it into EFT yet.  It won't work.  This is a Retribution-era Scythe.  If things stay as they are, when Retribution drops on December 4, this ship will be flyable.  It won't tank like a Scimitar.  It won't move like a Scimitar.

But it will rep about 40% better than a Scimitar will, and it will do it at longer range: 92.4 kilometers.  With no gang links, a standard Drake receiving three Scimitar large reps can tank 818 DPS.  The same Drake receiving two Scythe reps on December 4 will tank 1141.

Let me say that again so as to be completely clear: on December 4th, two Scythes will be just as good as three Scimitars at repping a fleet, and will be able to do it from 20 kilometers further away.

The hull cost of a Scimitar is 140 million ISK and requires Logistics V to be trained to use it properly, plus two lower tier support skills also at level V.  The hull cost of a Scythe is 4.5 million ISK.  Skill needed?  Minmatar Cruiser V.

Hang out at a planet.  Wait for the fight to start.  Manually set your warp-to range to 90km.(1)  When the FC calls you in, right-click the FC on your watch list and warp in.  Lock targets at 93km+.  Start repping.  Things will head for you but ha, you're 90 kilometers away.  Light your afterburner and make a significant finger gesture in Local.  Warp off if you want, or you know what?  Don't.  That's OK too.  Your ship cost 4.5 million ISK and was insured for pennies.

Somewhere in Iceland, someone sat down and apparently thought, "Guys, you know what this game really needs?  LOL-T1 cruiser fleets with reps.  Way better reps than you can get off a T2 ship."  The beer in Iceland must have been very good this summer.

Before you ask, yeah, the Osprey is going to be very nearly as awesome.  The Exequror and Augoror are also impressive though they suffer a bit because of the lack of maneuverability of armor ships.  Still, who cares right?  Hull cost of an Auguror is 4.4 million ISK.  High-end meta reppers drop at rates undreamt of a year ago.  Large S95 Partial Shield Transporter?  400k.  Large 'Solace' Remote Bulwark Reconstructor?  700k.

I take it the idea here is to make the T1 logistics cruisers "attractive alternatives" to actual Logistics ships.  I'm also completely convinced that the hidden idea is to make brand new players just as valuable in fleets as players who've been in New Eden for years.  Problem is, the Scythe is not an attractive alternative.  It's a replacement.  It turns all that time training the actual Logistics skill into wasted time and is going to put 75 million SP characters into T1 cruisers.

Why not?  Sell one Scimitar.  Replace with 30 Scythes.

This is a really good idea.

My thanks to my alliance-mate Namamai for doing much of the :scary math: for this post.  Thanks, Nam!

(1) Right-click the "Warp" button in your Selected Item dialog.  You'll be asked to set a default warp distance.  Set it to 90000.  Click "OK".  Remember to set it back to 0 when you're done.  Any time you select "Warp to" by right clicking on the Overview or a celestial, instead of warping to 0m, you'll warp to 90000m.

Fit of the Week: Small gang Scimitar

You know, it surprises me that I've never gotten around to a good PvP Scimitar fitting.  Here you go:

[Scimitar, Buffer Scimi]
Reactor Control Unit II
Power Diagnostic System II
Power Diagnostic System II
Power Diagnostic System II

Experimental 10MN MicroWarpdrive I
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Medium Electrochemical Capacitor Booster I, Navy Cap Booster 400
Large Shield Extender II

Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
Large S95a Partial Shield Transporter
200mm AutoCannon I, EMP S

Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I

Light Armor Maintenance Bot I x5
Warrior II x4

This is a tight fit.  It needs Energy Grid Upgrades V right out of the gate.  And if you don't have Shield Upgrades V, you'll have to downgrade the gun to the smallest AutoCannon available, but that's OK.  You're obviously not flying a Scimitar for DPS.  The point to the gun is to get on kill-mails until CCP gets around to correcting the fact that logi aren't on kill-mails.  Otherwise, this fitting is about two things: staying in the fight as a healer, and staying alive while staying in the fight.

If you have the fitting skills though, this is a high-resist, high-buffer fit: 41k EHP.  It's lowest un-boosted resist is to Kinetic damage, so you'll have to be careful of Drake spam for a few more weeks (after that, you can stay out of their range).  But on the modern EVE battlefield, the two bigger dangers to logi are alpha and neuting.  So a lot of speed and range is called for, as well as a good buffer to avoid being blapped off the field by Tornadoes or Oracles.  This fit can do that admirably.  Logi cargo is usually empty on the trip out, so it's handy to have a cap booster both to ensure the reps keep running and the resists keep operating.  Being cap-stable is a luxury that you don't really have to buy.  If you can stay in a fight for three or four minutes, that's plenty.  If you need more time than that, bring Basilisks instead.

While it's easy for AB-fit Scimis to fit four reppers, it's tougher for a MWD one to do so.  It can be done, but it requires sacrificing a lot of buffer to do it which isn't a smart move in the face of modern volley ships.  It doesn't help you to have four reps if you get blapped right off the field before you can apply them...  So for the moment, three reps is pretty standard for PvP Scimitars.

You can carry shield repair drones if you like, but a lot of roaming Scimitars carry some damage drones and a flight of armor drones instead.  That gives you the potential to field-repair armor damage that might get inflicted during fights.  This is particularly handy in fights in sov null-sec space where station repairs may not be available.

Carry a single Mindflood and X-Instinct booster in cargo for your biggest fight.  The first will give you a little more cap.  The second will somewhat reduce your signature radius, particularly under MWD.  They're both very handy for this ship given its cap use and three mods producing sig bloom.

In addition, do remember that after December 4, you're going to have to be a little more careful about how you use this ship.  Repping will cause you to inherit the flags that the ships you rep do, with the same timers on those flags.  If they're firing weapons, effectively so are you.  That means no jumping and no docking.  If they're Suspect, so are you.  That means anyone can shoot you.  Et cetera.  This "flag inheritance" will take away the logi's main defense right now, which is to orbit the nearest gate at 500m, wait to get primaried, wait to get reduced to 40% shields or so, then jump.  Unless you're not providing reps for at least 60 seconds, you won't be able to do that any more.  Instead, you're going to have to burn to the edge of the battle and try to stay out of the effective range of your attackers.

All in all, a single Scimitar is the perfect companion to a small (10-12 ship) roaming gang... until December 4.  At that point, the Scimitar will become pretty much useless and you'll want to throw them in your hangar and forget about them for a year or two.  More on that in my next post.

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.