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...

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 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... and interestingly enough, there's only three.


This isn't an ad.  I don't do advertising, and I'm not being paid to promote this product.  But every once in a while I'm asked "what headphones should I buy?"  Answer: Sennheiser PC350s.  I have the PC350s and I can't recommend them, or Sennheiser, strongly enough.  They're expensive, and worth it.

The sound quality (both input and output) is great, the comfort of these headsets is fantastic, the build quality is tremendous.  They feel heavy and firm without being heavy and firm.  In point of fact, they're remarkably light and flexible but still strong enough that I've dropped mine off my desk a score of times with no damage taken.  I've taken them on and off hundreds of times and they refuse to pick up skin oils.  They've been wrapped around my ears for hundreds of hours and the cushions still look brand new.

My first set of PC350s did break about a year after I got them: the left speaker stopped working.  I called Sennheiser and they sent me a brand new replacement pair.  No arguments, no receipts, no questions, just a brand new set of PC350s in retail packaging at my door in four days.  I've now had the second pair for about two years.

Again, can't recommend them highly enough.  Don't buy cheap headphones.  Buy yourself one nice set and keep it for years.


Note to CCP: make boosters and liquid oxygen "charges" for the purposes of ship cargo for carrier moves.


I can't possibly even begin to tell you how obnoxious it is to have to remove all the boosters from all my ships and all the LO from all my cyno ships before loading them into a carrier or Orca.  Please please please fix this.


I passed two milestones this month, but for some reason, I didn't really feel like making big huge deals of either one of them.  Making small deals of them feels about right.  First, I passed 1000 blog posts this month.  And second, I passed two million total hits this month.

I'm still very comfortable with the output level I'm maintaining, about 500 posts per year, or about 45 per month.  Some months will be a little bit busier, some less so.  I generally plan six posts per week and then end up writing ten per week as things pop up on my radar or interest me.  For instance, this week the FOTW, the KOTW, the QOTW, the two CSM posts, and the memo to I-RED were planned.  Everything else was written based on things that happened in-game or in the larger EVE meta.

So if Kirith Kodachi is still out there hoping I'm going to burn out?  Sorry, mate.  ;-)

It took me 16 months to reach my first million visitors, then about six more months for the second.  That said, hits around here have plateaued, I suspect because there's only a limited EVE audience to draw from and because hits on the Global Agenda links have died off to nothing.  I'm not writing enough Guild Wars 2 posts to really appear on the radar there yet, but that's fine becuase during the current Rote Kapelle campaign I haven't been playing GW2 all that much.

Thank you to all of you that keep visiting, and those who send me kind words on comments, EVE mails, and the like.  You guys are why I do this.


And that's all for the junk drawer this month.  Part Four of the Implant Guide will definitely be published this weekend.  I apologize for the continued delay in getting it out.

Second coming of the Comment of the Week

So far, three CSM members that I'm aware of have responded to my posts this week about CSM history, activism, and the CSM "strategy document."  But the most interesting by far is from Alekseyev Karrde..  It wasn't necessarily for what he typed -- he mostly had a point-for-point refutation about a few things that I said -- but for what he didn't type and what's kind of hiding between the lines.

Let me take a couple steps back, because this could get complex.  CCP Unifex has been promoted.  Did you know that?  Me neither.  CCP seems to be keeping it quiet, but Unifex is now some sort of Executive Producer of CCP's games.  Now I don't work for a game design company but I have friends who do and they inform me that Executive Producers are much more about management of a company's whole stable of games rather than single games here and there.  That puts Unifex ultimately in charge of EVE, DUST 514, and World of Darkness.

Guess where his focus is likely to be for a bit.  Hint: not EVE.

Taking over for CCP Unifex as -- on paper -- the "Senior Producer for Release Development" is CCP Ripley, who was in that most recent CCP video dev blog.

That's why she was in that video instead of Unifex, who was in the last one.  As far as I can see, that role functionally makes her the chooser of features that will be included in EVE's next couple of expansions.  Remember, Hans Jagerblitzen tells us that the CSM document came to be born because Ripley was...
[struggling] with hitting the "sweet spot" between Jesus Features and more iterative patch-like expansions in the style of Crucible, Inferno, and Retribution.
Got all that?  Now read this piece of Aleks's comment:
  • You put the emphasis on "already" instead of publicly. The irony of trying to make a point about things unsaid and then going on to miss the reason such a document needed to be made in the first place. Things are in flux, persuasion was (and is) needed. Unless you don't LIKE that little list you summed up...
  • Likewise, making the assertion this was "giving a warm fuzzy to decisions CCP already made" is laughably inverse to reality.
Is it just me, or does it sure sound like Jesus might be back in da house?

Very interesting comment, Aleks...  Puts a document called "EVE Online Development Strategy" in a whole new light.

Plastic wrap all the things!

CCP Greyscale really is my least favorite person at CCP.

He singularly evidences all the bad habits CCP shows collectively from time to time: his unflinching belief in his own :excellence:, his frequent pushing through of changes apparently without checking them with anyone, a tendency toward "CCP lazy mode" programming (simply deleting troublesome features instead of fixing them), tone-deafness and arrogance in his forum posts and dev blogs, and a strong tendency to double down on bad policies when challenged on them.  He also has one aspect all his own: a desire to go "all or nothing" when it comes to making changes, a true irony in someone whose CCP name is... you know... Greyscale.  I'm sure he's a lovely guy in real life, but in terms of CCP tendencies he's the total package.

It probably doesn't help that until recently, he was in the middle of every controversial change that CCP was making.  So it was probably a relief for him when someone else got technetium alchemy and he started working on less controversial changes.  Except that Greyscale seems to be making them controversial because :Greyscale:.

The latest example are the changes being made to ship Corporate Hangars in Retribution, talked about in today's dev-blog, along with a couple of surprise changes that seem to have been thrown in last-second.

Now I've written about this before and in general I think the changes are probably -- overall -- a net positive.  They're going to be a short-term and continuing annoyance, particularly to triage pilots like myself.  But over time, I could probably get over my annoyance and go on with my life if I wasn't punched in the face with the insufferable arrogance this dev-blog displays in part.  About the impact to veteran triage carrier pilots and Orca pilots, Greyscale has this to say:
We acknowledge this, and we understand that the changeover will be frustrating for some people, but we need to get the complexity of EVE under control and doing so is going to require functionality downgrades in certain areas. This is annoying but unavoidable.
Oh... I see.  This isn't CCP lazy mode.  This is removing unnecessary complexity from EVE Online.

Greyscale, come here a second.  I have something really important to tell you.  Come closer.  It's OK.  I just want to whisper it in your ear.


What.  A load.  Of crap!  I am 100% in favor of reducing unnecessary complexity from EVE Online, but to couch this change in those terms is disingenuous at best and flat-out deceitful at worst.  If you want to eliminate unnecessary complexity from the game, how about deleting attributes?  How about rebuilding the skill trees?  How about deleting jump clone timers?  How about letting me trash a Station Container I have in my own freakin' hangar instead of forcing me to wait three weeks for the audit log to clear?  How about nuking the whole damned corp management interface and rebuilding it?  How about letting us buy whole ship fittings at once on the market instead of piece by piece?  How about fixing the 50 or 60 annoying complexities that all EVE players are dealing with every single day?

By the time a player gets to triage carriers and Orcas, unnecessary complexities in EVE are such a way of life that we veteran players put them to work and use them.  So if you're going to go after unnecessary complexity, how about taking on the ones that are driving off subscribers?

Cough.  Sorry about that.  But yes, I do feel better now, thanks for asking.

Anyway, the dev-blog itself is mostly full of the changes we're already aware of, with a couple of nice improvements:
  • Freighters will have most of their special-case restrictions removed: they will now be able to perform cargo operations in space, including moving items into and out of containers, moving things to and from containers in space, and jettisoning items
  • We're removing the restriction on simultaneous users for *all* ship fitting arrays, both on ships and on starbases: an unlimited number of pilots will be able to refit at a single ship or structure
I like those.  Those, you can classify as removing unnecessary complexity from the game.  I also like the changes to POS shield passwords and audit log containers.  Those also qualify.  And the little buttons for "allow fleet usage" and "allow corp usage" for Ship Maintenance Bays and Fleet Hangars are also going to be quite good, and quite useful new features.

But that brings me to the two changes which are not so good in the aggregate: Orcas will now be completely cargo-scannable, and Blockade Runners will now be completely cargo-un-scannable.  Let's talk about the latter first.

As I've mentioned a time or two, with the massive increase of DPS and volley damage over the years, industrial ships and haulers of all kinds are now woefully under-tanked.  As a matter of fact, a single meta-fit Tornado with the proper mid- and low slots has a nearly 100% chance of locking and killing virtually any Blockade Runner in a single volley unless the BR pilot does absolutely everything right every single jump.  The level of high-sec security is irrelevant.  Not only will the gank suceed, but in terms of ISK efficiency, if all the Tornado pilot wishes to do is cause grief, a gank on even an empty Blockade Runner will result in a net positive ISK efficiency for the Tornado pilot if the Tornado is fit properly.  Anything that the BR is carrying will be pure gravy in terms of the ISK efficiency of the kill.  A similar relationship exists between BRs and a sufficient number of Catalysts to destroy one.

The only reasons that Blockade Runners aren't volleyed off the field routinely as they try to ply their trades is two-fold:
  1. half of all BR runs are generally empty ships; and,
  2. most gankers aren't looking to cause pure grief: they want to trade their security status for profit.
The gankers I know are religious about scanning their targets.  If they're going to gank someone, they want it to be a profitable gank and more so they want to "spend" their security status secure in the knowledge that they're getting something useful for their "investment."  They gank for a few weeks, then return to null and rat their security status back down, then they return to high-sec and the cycle begins again.  Each gank is a loss of a precious renewable commodity, but the commodity is flat-out annoying to renew so they don't want to gank for no good reason.

Knowing this as I do, when I'm running empty I often run my personal BR uncloaked through dangerous systems like Niarja and Uedama, and even more often, I let my empty BR sit aligning outside the Jita undock for several seconds again allowing myself to be scanned.  This reduces the danger that my BR pilot will be in later on in the pipes.  I get yellow-boxed, I sense a little remote disappointment and when the yellow boxes disappear I'm on my way.  It saves me time, it saves them time.

Greyscale appears to be taking that away.  Blapping BRs will now become a game of roulette where sometimes there are winners and sometimes there are losers, but over time, only the house is going to win consistently.  BR pilots are going to have move even empty BRs assuming that they can be blapped at any time.  Orcas being unscannable was no big deal because it required a very significant investment to gank an Orca.  Only the most serious were likely to try it, and they'd probably only do it with good intel on what was being hauled.  But ganking a Blockade Runner only requires a 90 million ISK or so investment in a game where the most veteran players and alliances are fabulously rich and fabulously bored.

So you can probably expect to see a lot more BR ganks in the future, and a lot of those ganks will be empty ships.

On the flip-side, Orcas will now be scannable, but Greyscale's dev-blog includes this little caveat:
 (We're not making any changes to plastic wrap right now, but it has significant technical issues which will likely see it being reworked at some point down the line.)
So on the bad-news side, your Orca Fleet Hangar contents will be scannable.  On the good-news side, you can go ahead and start putting the "plastic wrap" code to work to make yourself unscannable again.  Greyscale, you won't mind if we spend the next few months putting a little bit more stress on that code, right?  Here's how:
  1. Buy a large stock of either "compressive" or "non-compressive" cans and store them permanently in your Orca.
  2. Whenever you want to move something in your Orca, place it in these cans.
  3. Set up a Courier contract for these cans to your destination, either to an alt or a corp that you control.
  4. The Courier contract will result in a "plastic wrap" that will appear as an available contract for that alt or corp.
  5. Have someone accept the contract and place the plastic-wrapped cans back in your Orca.
  6. Deliver them to their intended destination and have the alt or corp accept delivery by right-clicking the plastic wrap (or just break the contract if you don't care).
While en route, your Orca cargo in these plastic-wrapped cans will be unscannable same as it was before Retribution.  Have fun with it: plastic wrap all the things!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fit of the Week: Ninja Salvager

To wrap up "that ship can do that?" month, rather than going with my first instinct -- Battle Badger! -- I'm going to go with my second:

[Rapier, Ninja Salvager]
Damage Control II
Expanded Cargohold II
Expanded Cargohold II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Experimental 10MN MicroWarpdrive I
Large Shield Extender II
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
Large Shield Extender II

Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Salvager II
Salvager II
Salvager II

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

Vespa EC-600 x3
Hornet EC-300 x2

Battle Badger absolutely looks amusing -- and Marlona Sky was the undisputed master of them -- but I think their days are numbered.  Frigate and Cruiser DPS is going up across the board and even a inexperienced high-sec frigate pilot may be capable of putting Battle Badger down.  Even if you went with a double ASB fit, that is also getting nerfed.  Double ASB fit is probably the thing to try, but I'm not going to recommend a fit that I haven't flown myself.  Maybe it'll be featured as some future FOTW.

No, I'd like to look at a ship that's definitely going to be useful far into the future.  I'm kind of embarrassed to say that I own a ship fit just like this... only I'm kind of not embarrassed, too.  I made an absolute ton of ISK flying this ship, and you can too.  Let's talk about what's on the fit, then talk about how to fly it.

At the core, you start with a basic combat Rapier with a basic Rapier shield tank: rigs, two LSEs, Invul, Damage Control.  That gives you enough tank to GTFO if you start taking fire.  The ECM drones are intended to be your primary GTFO option, the dual webs your secondary.  Most of the time you get attacked in this ship, it's going to be either tackle frigs or destroyers of various types.  The idea is to burn away from them, ECM them off you if you can, or double-web them off you if you can't.  Continue opening range with them double-webbed and overheat your MWD.  In this case, you go 2107 m/s; a tackle-fit Ares goes 817 m/s after it's double-webbed.  Keep opening range until you get out of his point range, then warp off.  Treat anything else the same way and hope that your tank can handle their volley damage if that's what they're using.  Overheat the Invul if you have to.  Rather than making the mid-slots neat, I have listed them in the order you should fit them for maximum overheating performance.

The low slots are additional nano and two Expanded Cargoholds to get your cargo above 500 cubic meters.  This is not a combat ship: this is an odd sort of PvE ship.  You'll need at least Recon III to fly it, though I recommend Recon IV for the web range.  At Recon III, your range is only 28km, which means your webs have to be overheated to work well.

The best place to use this ship: Low-sec and shallow null-sec.  Open up the star map and bring up the Statistics display for "pilots killed in the last hour."  Then look for bubbles on your map.  These are your target systems.  Particularly in low-sec, you can move around in near complete safety thanks to your cloak and your fast align time.  In null-sec, you'll eventually get bubbled and have to learn how to evade decloakers.  As you gain confidence, you can head for deeper null-sec where the really big fights happen.

As you reach systems where fights -- particularly big fights -- have taken place, start looking for the wrecks.  Those are your targets.  The bigger the fight, the easier the wrecks will be to find.  Check stargates and stations first, then customs offices, Infrastructure Hubs, and other warpable objects.  Most of the time, the remains of the fight will be 50 or 75 kilometers off a stargate: a pile of wrecks almost always surrounded by cargo cans and abandoned drones, stretching away from the gate in a fairly straight line.  Go for full wrecks and T2 wrecks first.  Put your Salvagers to work.  The new display showing you how much loot is worth is a God-send to this profession.  Save your cargo space for the good stuff.

If you're working in low-sec or shallow null, you can use NPC stations to dock up frequently and store your loot, then come back later in a Blockade Runner to pick up your haul, or assign the piles of gold to Black Frog Freight and let them take care of it for you if they're valuable enough.

There are enough fights happening in Faction Warfare space right now to make this a perfectly valid profession.  Even a few years ago when I did it, it was quite easy to make a few hundred million ISK in just a couple of hours during EVE's busy hours with pretty low risk.  Once a fight wraps up, by about 15 minutes later, the system where the fight took place is often deserted.  You can use the star map to get around, or you can use recent kills on eve-kill.net or the "most violent systems" section of dotlan to guide you.  These days, fights featuring large groups of battleships and HACs are pretty common!  Even in the old days, I could come home with a dozen or two Intact Armor Plates without too much difficulty.

Will your PvP friends make fun of you for using such a premiere PvP ship for bearing?  Absolutely!  But if you can stand the shame, you can make a pretty damn good income this way just picking the scraps from other people's fights.  It's an inexhaustible income stream in EVE that doesn't rely on you having to blow up little red crosses.  Those of you that are being kicked out of this profession in high-sec next week should definitely consider a change of ship and venue.

And if you get addicted enough to this kind of "PvE", you can always upgrade to a tech 3 ship to do it in... but that'd probably get me branded as an abomination by a lot of my readers, so you can work out that fit yourself.  ;-)

Good hunting!

These "theme month" FOTWs are kind of fun.  I think I'll do it again next month, with my favorites from each of the race's "new" cruisers.

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. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Talkers and doers

With the history lesson out of the way, let's talk about the document that CSM7 published the other day.

Before I get rolling though, I'd like to point out that CSM7 is made up of a lot of really smart people.  Even more, the large majority of CSM7 are past CSM members.  Besides CSM7 (in order of votes received this year):
  • Two step was on CSM6;
  • Elise Randolph: CSM6;
  • Greene Lee: (none);
  • Trebor Daehdoow: CSM5, CSM6;
  • Kelduum Revaan: (none);
  • Seleene: CSM6;
  • Hans Jagerblitzen: (none);
  • Meissa Anunthiel: CSM2, CSM3, CSM4, CSM5, CSM6;
  • Dovinian: (none);
  • Issler Dainze: CSM3;
  • Alekseyev Karrde: CSM4; and,
  • Darius III was on CSM6.
So, there are nine returnees out of thirteen CSM7 members.(1)  And virtually all of the returnees were part of what I describe as activist CSMs.  One of them directly engaged in activism himself.  During CSM5, Trebor launched an effort that he termed prioritization crowd-sourcing.  It involved directly polling large numbers of the EVE player community to determine their interest in a large selection of potential iterations to the game.  This effort was popular enough with the players that Trebor ran the effort one, two, three times.

Check out the list of items that were top vote-getters.  Just glancing through the lists and sticking to the top items, I count eighteen that are in the game we're playing today.  Another comes up twice: Modular Starbases... first submitted three years ago this month.

We'll get back to that.

But let's stick to the crowd-sourcing effort itself: in this case, Trebor made a conscious effort to survey the EVE player base completely independently of any CCP mechanism.  He wanted player input, so he sought it out, creating an independent mechanic to gather the data, then presented the data to CCP.  It was a lot of work, yes, but it was work that generated and continues to generate tangible business results for CCP.  That's activism at work.

The document EVE Online Development Strategy (CSM Public) is quite dense.  In fact, I daresay that its six pages cover more ground than the 165 pages of the CSM7 May Summit Minutes both in what they say and by what they don't say.  But in essence, there are three parts to the document:
  • In part one, CSM7 subdivides the EVE player base into four categories.
  • In part two, they define to what proportion each player category wants EVE development to focus on new features versus iteration of existing features, and why.  This results in five "pillars" of game development, and how eager each player category would be for each one.
  • In part three, they examine three "critical issues" facing the game and how to focus development within the five pillars to improve them.
The three critical issues are null-sec sovereignty, mining and industry, and POSes.  Let's start with that and work backward.

Yes, I realize I'm wandering well off-track here.  Stay with me.

CSM7 nearly immediately took a fair bit of heat for the choices of their critical issues.  High-sec players, in particular, pointed out that they were being ignored "again".  Null-sec players pointed out that the last several expansions have already been high-sec focused -- yeah, other than TiDi, they actually have been, weirdly -- and they deserved some love too.  The forum threads (there are one, two of them) have become somewhat of a food-fight.  A number of people accused the CSM of being too focused on relatively minor issues and ignoring the larger game.  By the 24th and 25th, CSM7 Chair Seleene was getting positively cranky responding to such posts.  The document wasn't a be-all, end-all of the CSM's opinion on the game, he kept saying.  It was just intended to be focused on a few areas they were asked about.

OK... got that.  So why call the document "EVE Online Development Strategy" then?

Needless to say, the document sent an unconscious message about the CSM's focus, and the CSM's focus happens to be... what CCP has already publicly stated as their development goals for next spring and summer: ring mining, modular POSes (remember them?), the balance between null-sec and high-sec industry, and forcing alliances to make money from the space they hold via their players instead of via passive towers.  Other than giving CCP a warm fuzzy about decisions they've already made, it's kinda hard to see the value-add the CSM is bringing in part three of the document.

In terms of the transparency CSM7 said they'd deliver, part three is a success.  But as I've mentioned before, CSM7 has also suffered from accusations that they're much more interested in the relationship with CCP than they are in rocking the boat when it needs rocking.  "If everyone is thinking alike," as the old saying goes, "then someone isn't thinking."

Meanwhile, the subconscious message delivered in part three is that those things not mentioned are not important.  When super-cap proliferation came up as a potential critical issue, for instance, both Aleks and Hans both jumped in and implied that supers need to be buffed to be made more "fun" and "useful."  Both then pointed out nearly simultaneously that supers don't need a maintenance cost because the cost of the account sitting in them is in itself a maintenance cost.(2)  I think we can safely say that Seleene's and Elise's views on this subject have now infected the entire active CSM: obviously super-cap proliferation is not a critical issue. That's why it wasn't included.

In logic classes, this sort of thing is called the independence of irrelevant alternatives: i.e., anything not included in this document isn't important.(3)  I truly believe this was subconscious, not intentional.  But I won't fault you if you want to argue it that way.  ;-)  A lot of players did just that, and that's what's got Seleene so cranky.

Let's move backward to part two.  I promise my discussion of it and part one aren't nearly as long.

When I first read part two, my instinct drove me to e-mail a CSM member and ask him when CSM7 had taken a survey of what the players wanted:
During a meeting where CCP indicated that they were beginning the process of zeroing in on the scope of the expansion content to be tackled in the coming year, we offered to share feedback about what we were hearing from the players in terms of both the big issues to be worked on as well as the expressing the restlessness many of you have described regarding CCP's struggle with hitting the "sweet spot" between Jesus Features and more iterative patch-like expansions in the style of Crucible, Inferno, and Retribution. CCP Ripley said she was interested and gave us a window of time to get a statement together, which we than spent the weekend working on. The result is what is linked in the OP.
That's basically the theme statement to part two.  Problem is, the CSM kind of built this matrix of five "pillars" themselves.  Remember crowd-sourcing?  It would have been a relatively simple and precedented step for the CSM to put their five pillars on the forums, ask players to self-describe themselves within their four categories, and then ask them which were important.  That would have been valuable data, based on factual input.  Granted, you can't do that on a weekend, but the survey would have been (and still could be!) a valuable follow-up.

What CCP got instead was a guess based on the experiences of the document's four authors, perhaps with some additional input from other CSM members after the fact.  It was representative democracy, not democracy.  Which is fine if your representatives are either themselves members of all four player categories they defined or have over time surveyed them: "bittervets", veterans, newbies, and "potential" players.

Only, by definition, they're not and they couldn't have!  How can you survey a "potential" EVE player?  And therefore, how can you claim to have factual information about what they want to the level of specificity of these five pillars?  You can guess, certainly.  And that's what this is: a series of estimations.  Problem is, CCP surveys its current and ex-players all the time through the surveys in their monthly e-mailed EVE bulletins and almost certainly has better data on this than the CSM does.  Again, where is the value-add?

And that takes us backward to part one.

The former CCP Hammer -- he was EVE's Lead Game Designer in the first half of 2011 -- was infamous for pigeon-holing players into various categories and then developing to those categories.  As I wrote at the time,
Apparently, CCP has built up a database of player "behaviors" in game, and there are "about seven personas" that the bulk of EVE players fall into.  [Hammer] then goes on to describe characteristics of two of the seven, the "unwinding professional" and the "maven."
The CSM strategy document says:
The goal is to tempt Potentials and Bittervets to subscribe, and to prevent Newbies and Veterans from unsubscribing.
Last March, I pointed out that it's sort of bad form to stereotype your players, and then try to find ways to develop your game to keep each stereotype playing it.  Know what's changed in my opinion since then?  Nothing.  I assume someone in CCP agrees, thus the whole "former CCP Hammer" thing.

As I said yesterday:
The best CSMs, for both players and CCP alike, have been activist CSMs... the more activist, the better.
I think I proved my case for that yesterday.  Members of CSM7 on past activist CSMs have been quick to take credit for past activist CSMs.  But how does this CSM stack up?

Unfortunately, in my opinion, to find a CSM this passive, we have to go all the way back to CSM3.  That several of them are putting in a lot of effort is obvious.  But are they getting results out of it?  Are they being a true value-add to CCP?  So far, the major stated goal of their term is to "be more transparent" and to "expand the CSM's stake-holder status".  Those are benefits to the players and to future CSMs, respectively... but what does CCP get out of it?  What, indeed...

As I was doing the first editing pass on these two posts, I -- completely independently -- had a bit of a lightning bolt of a perspective thrown into me via e-mail that sums it up better in a small number of :words: than these entire two posts.  The lightning bolt: "The CSM has devolved into being 'talkers' instead of objective-driven 'doers.'  And CCP would discourage anything else now, because talkers are easy to deal with... doers are tough."

Call it the Comment of the Month... maybe of the year.  And it sums up my opinion of CSM7 so far rather admirably.  Five months of their term to go.

(1) The Mittani would have made it ten out of fourteen.
(2) It would be hard to over-state how hard I face-palmed when I read this.  Guys: super-cap mules.  Heard of them?
(3) Warning: link contains scary math.

Amazing Level 2 Mission Boat

Just a quickie while I do the final editing pass on the second CSM post.  But I had to share.  This ship does Level 2 missions like nobody's business:

...well, the Level 2 missions you can warp a battleship into, anyway.

I've seen bad fits before.  I've killed bad fits before.  I've posted bad fits on this blog.  And I try to avoid publicly shaming stupid people.  But never before have I seen a ship where, quite literally, nearly every single little thing on the kill-mail was wrong.  There's literally only a single thing fit to this entire ship that's right.  Can you guess what it is?(1)  Everything, and I do mean everything else is wrong.  The guns, the smart bombs, the hysterically bad shield tank, the even worse armor tank, the drones, the cap power relays, the dead-space MWD...

It would be very difficult to fit a Napoc more badly than this.

Know how hard this ship tanks?  111 DPS.  That's it: 111.  Except against lasers (he was in Blood Raider space).  Against lasers, it tanks 87.  But hey, it's cap-stable, right?  That's the important thing.(2)

If only that were his only loss, but there's another...

(1) It's the Semiconductor rig.
(2) No it isn't.

Note to Ishuk-Raata Enforcement Directive

To: Ishuk-Raata Enforcement Directive
From: Rote Kapelle

Tell you what, gentlemen.  This goes down one of two ways.  You can fight Rote Kapelle, with 250 members.  We're about half your real size and uninterested in moons.  We reinforced your towers so that you would fight us.  We don't particularly want your moons.  We want you to fight us!  Even if we take your moons, you'd probably eventually get them back.  We're a flighty bunch: eventually we'd get bored and go away, leaving your moons behind.

Even though you outnumber us two to one and you're more disciplined than us, you don't want to fight us.  Fine, that's totally fair.  To ensure you didn't have to fight us, you stronted all the towers we reinforced for times that we're weak, which is also fine.  That's also totally fair.

But it turns out we know how to use EVE mail the same as everyone else.

So, you can set your stront timers for USTZ and fight us.  Or you can keep stronting them for EUTZ and fight Ev0ke, who is four times your size, and in so doing permanently lose a 1.8 billion ISK per month passive income stream:

You might want to think about it the next time you set a stront timer.  In any case, let us know which you prefer, because we can do this night after night until you fight us or you run out of moons, whichever happens first.

For everyone else: yeah, we're still out being bullies... if the word "bully" still applies when it's someone twice our size.  Sorry about that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


OK, fair warning: this is going to be a goofy little post, the first of two.  The topic is EVE Online's CSM generally, and eventually, that little document they produced the other day specifically.  We're going to delve into communications theory, the history of the CSM, and a little bit of politics.  During the course of these posts, I might seem to get off track quite a ways but don't worry: it all gets tied together at the end.  Are these two posts long?  Are they tagged "geek philosophy"?  You betcha.

For this first post, I'm going to use a somewhat old-fashioned writing technique: the old school "theme" statement, complete with 1950s-syle moral judgement.  Ready?
The best CSMs, for both players and CCP alike, have been activist CSMs... the more activist, the better.
Now all I have to do is prove it.  Before I get rolling in earnest, it will be useful to:
  • talk about the word "activist"; and,
  • remember a little bit of the CSM's history.
The dictionary definition of "activist" I like is "a policy of taking direct and often militant action to achieve an end, especially a political or social one."  It's a loaded word, particularly in the U.S., often with negative connotations: it's associated with judges that overstep their bounds.  Am I suggesting that the CSM do the same?  More or less, yeah.  Matter of fact, I've suggested it to members of this CSM on several occasions and every time, they've been extremely hesitant about it.  But I never really realized that was what I was doing or why.

I'll get back to that.

Let's talk history.  Created in the wake of the t20 scandal, the CSM was CCP's atonement for sins past.  In public, the CSM's declared aim was -- quite frankly -- to be a check on CCP's arrogance.  This is a disease that CCP is genetically prone to.  Whether you call it :fearless: or :awesome: or :excellence: or whatever, sometimes CCP just goes a little nuts.  This sometimes manifests as CCP collectively developing the game while ignoring what the players want, and other times manifests as individual developers going off on insane quests.  The CSM was intended to check this disease; CCP would share their development plans with a group of players and look for feedback before implementation.  Truly nutty stuff would be stopped before too many resources were spent.

That was the theory, anyway.

A funny thing happened almost immediately, though: the CSM itself morphed into a communications medium.  That was partially by design.  The CSM White Paper(1) set the initial goals for players to use the CSM as a feedback channel into CCP.  Within a year of the CSM's implementation, that became the group's primary focus.  Players would write proposals in the Jita Park section of the EVE Online forums.  The CSM would pick ones that they liked, discuss and debate and modify them, then theoretically submit them to CCP.  This function of the CSM exists in the White Paper to this day.  If you managed to get enough people to up-vote a Jita Park post, the CSM is today technically required to read, review, and vote on it.  But even funnier, as a communications medium, the CSM became a one-way channel.  The direction of communications was from players to CSM to CCP.  While there was a lot of information flowing from CCP to CSM(2), there wasn't a lot of information going to the players.

That changed with CSM4, with the selection of TeaDaze as that group's Secretary.  As part of his work in that post, Tea did something really remarkable: he started the trend of CSMs talking to players.  He did it by establishing a formal database of CSM members, meetings, and proposals.  Prior to that, such things were available, but they were scattered through various forum postings.  Tea took it all in, and consolidated it, then started tracking it.  His database exists to this day though it only shows the activities of CSMs 4 and 5.

But in so doing, he made CSM4 the first activist CSM... because tracking past proposals and holding CCP accountable for them, and asking for the status of work on some of them, was quite literally overstepping the CSM's written bounds!  You'll not find anything like this in the White Paper or in any past precedent for how the CSM should behave but today it's accepted as part of the CSM's role.  Likewise, the first steps toward stake-holder status were also made on CSM4's watch, another activist act.

In doing this, CSM4 drew a bright clear dividing line between "good" CSMs and "bad" CSMs.  The early CSMs were regarded as little more than a student council.  This one-way communications flow can be held as one reason why: without true two-way communications, players had little reason to care what the CSM did and without player involvement, CCP had little reason to care, either.  The top vote-getter for the CSM4 elections received fewer votes by nearly 50% than the top vote-getter for CSM3.  Matter of fact, only four CSM4 members received enough votes to even qualify for CSM3.

Needless to say, that hasn't been the case since.

When Mynxee was elected Chair of CSM5, she received nearly triple the votes of the CSM4 Chair.  Some players began to see the value of the CSM.  And again, activism reared its ugly head.  CSM5 did a number of things that had never been done before:
  • alternates were viewed as essentially equal to full members; but,
  • CSM members that didn't do the work were called out -- in public! -- for it; and,
  • players by the thousands were suddenly pulled into the process through CSM public meetings.
None of this was in the White Paper.  Hell, some of it was in direct contradiction to the White Paper!  By that summer, Mynxee was the first CSM Chair to be actively interviewed by a member of the gaming press.  Again, we later came to accept this as common-place, but for EVE at the time, this was unprecedented.  An EVE player?  Being interviewed?  Even more unprecedented, Mynxee and other CSM5 members spoke out in public to the gaming press about commitments CCP was making and then... whether they were meeting those commitments or not.  Again, in public!

I've mentioned that you don't want to embarrass programmer Vikings, right?  But it worked.

It's arguable that CSM5 was the most activist in the game's history.  They certainly opened the flood-gates to the CSM as a two-way communications channel.  And yet there's absolutely no question that both CSM4 and CSM5 produced results that were of inherent business value to CCP.  Take a look at TeaDaze's database of CSM4 proposals and CSM5 proposals.  Virtually every single one... complete.  They're in the game you're playing today.  They were the birthplace of :iteration:.  CCP drew tangible benefits from these activist rebels.  Activist CSMs were better for the players, and better for CCP.

CSM6 continued the trend, expanded on it... built from it.  The Mittani actively sought out the gaming press to push CSM6's agenda.  Even more so, they had an agenda that they made public at every opportunity.  CSM6 was quite remarkable in this regard, in fact.  Granted, not every EVE player would agree with or even benefit from the agenda.  But the process of pulling more players into the CSM's activities continued with relatively frequent "fireside chats", pod casts, and frequent blogging and forum posting from a solid majority of CSM members.  By the time CSM8 election time rolled around, more people voted for the Chair-elect than voted for all of CSM4's voting members... combined.

There's no question that several elements of the game we're playing today -- notably Time Dilation -- are the direct result of CSM6 activism.  And when the summer of rage happened and players unsubscribed from EVE by the thousands, it was this activist CSM6 they called to Iceland to help try and smooth the waters.  The CSM came, and were integral to not only the stabilization of the situation that autumn -- remember that video? -- but in encouraging a complete change in direction in the development of EVE Online that continues to this day.  If you really wanted to pad their resume, you could make an argument that CSM6 saved EVE Online.  Certainly, it was an unprecedented shift, brought about by a group of people that were just supposed to be an occasional check on CCP arrogance.

I'd say they succeeded in that, wouldn't you?

Let's trot out that theme statement and look at it again:
The best CSMs, for both players and CCP alike, have been activist CSMs... the more activist, the better.
I think I've proven it.  That brings us to today.  How does CSM7 stack up?  How does that document they published a few days ago fit in?  Let's talk about that tomorrow.

(1) I don't know if I've ever said this before, but the White Paper is a truly goofy document.  You want geek philosophy?  Read it.  It's practically a sociology paper trying to disguise itself as a proposal trying to disguise itself as a process document.  A more schizophrenic document, I have never encountered.
(2) Enough information to get a CSM3 member sacked for taking in-game financial advantage of it, for instance...

Kill of the Week: Escalation

It was tempting to go with the Malice.  It was tempting to go with the Titan.  But this just beggars description:

Why oh why oh why oh why would you ever do that?  Ever?  On paper, this is a guy that's been playing EVE almost quite literally since there has been an EVE.  His last major loss was in 2008.  According to the comments on the KB, he's been trying to corner the market on Orcas.  Ergo, we're theoretically not dealing with a dumb ass here.

Except we are.  'nuff said.

Runner up were the three Malices killed on Sunday.  I've talked about those already.  Second runner up was part of the...

Number of dead super-caps this week: 2

By now, you've probably heard about this Erebus that lost his life in low-sec.  If you have not, here's the EVE News 24 story and here's the back-story, sent to me by an old friend from LAWN.  Short version: it looks like this Titan died thanks to a FW escalation gone a little out of control.  Read the thread if you're interested.  Drop became counter drop became counter-counter drop and the Erebus appears to have been dropped to settle the matter decisively.  Only Shadow Cartel had their own idea of what "decisively" meant and the moment the Erebus appeared, they came in with a good size capital fleet and enough dictors to ensure the Erebus's destruction.  So Shadow Cartel gets the main credit for this one.  n1, guys!

Here's the video.  It took about six minutes to take down the Titan with that fleet:

Also dead this week is this Nyx, also lost in low-sec, this time to Rooks and Kings.  I'd appreciate it whomever knows the story on this one would share it.  It sure looks like a pretty straight-forward hot-drop on a traveling super-cap... except it also sounds like the start to a joke.  "A Nyx, a Chimera, a triple-plated Domi, and a ratting Machariel walk into a bar..."  Uh, what?  So yeah, I'd appreciate knowing the story on this one if anyone knows it.

And that was it for super-caps this week as far as I could tell...  Sorry that the CSM-related post is a little late.  It's turning out to be a more complicated post than I anticipated.  It wasn't helped when I got quite a surprise today.  I'll get into what it was about tomorrow...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Malice toward none

It seems I have to issue a correction regarding my New Eden Open Day 4 post.  My error was understandable but deserves some explanation.  When refering to the XXXMity Malices fielded in their match versus RONIN and Pixies, I described the Malices as being part of the primary DPS of the team.  And if you see three assault frigates on an otherwise DPS-light team, each capable of delivering 165 DPS or more, it's only natural to assume that the Malices were there to deliver some pain.

But of course we all know about assumptions.  The first API-verified killmail for the Malices used in the match has appeared:

It also appears that the other two Malices were fit essentially identically: DPS free, fit only with short range neuts and NOSes.  I will grant you that this renders part of my opinion of XXXMity's comp wrong.  But what it means is their comp was even more painfully inept than I thought.  I can only ask again: what the hell were they thinking?

When you put together a tournament team, you've got to include DPS.  It's sort of the point to the endeavor: blowing up the other guy's ships.  With the fleet sizes we're looking at here, that means -- at minimum -- you need to put 2000 DPS in the air if you expect to get anywhere.  Anything under a thousand DPS is going to be negated by enemy logi; to break tanks in the face of enemy resistance, you're going to need double that.  The two most common main sources of DPS we're seeing are Sleipnir-Sleipnir-Claymore and either Kronos-Kronos or Vindi-Vindi.  These setups can generate 2000 DPS by themselves so adding an assault frigate or three is just gravy.  Some of the Harpy- or Enyo-heavy teams have approached 3500 DPS.

So when I see Damnation-Oracle-Oracle-Oneiros-Malice-Malice-Malice-Keres, the first thing I do is start adding up DPS.  Armor Oracles put out around 500 effective DPS each.  So I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the Malices must be providing DPS as well since you're certainly not going to get any out of a Damnation, Oneiros, or Keres!

I apologize for my assumption being in error.  But you can hardly blame me for seeing 1000 DPS and looking for more!

So given that these Malices were apparently entirely neut fit, I have to wonder just what the hell their intended role was.  Neut out the enemy logi for the Oracles, certainly.  But then what?  Even the most basic AF comp would have quickly and easily overrun this team, and that's exactly what happened.  Only these AFs were backed up by Sleipnirs, probably the most common tourney DPS ship and a ship that hits frigates like a freakin' hammer.  So if XXXMity didn't practice this comp against that, what did they practice against?  Vindicators?  What were the Malices supposed to do when they were 90% webbed down and covered in light drones?  What was the team supposed to do if they lost one of their two Oracles?  What, in short, was the plan?

So yeah.  I'm sorry for my error, but I think you'll agree that it was at least understandable...  Thank you to everyone who commented on my D4 post pointing out the error!

QOTW: Active members of the CSM

Quote of the Week honors this week goes to CSM delegate Alekseyev Karrde.  I haven't been blogging about the CSM lately because, quite frankly, they haven't had a lot to say other than Aleks on his pod-cast and a few forum posts here and there.  In short, there wasn't much to write about.  So I have to admit to being a little bit amused when four CSM members -- Aleks, Hans Jagerblitzen, Trebor Daehdoow, and Two step -- produced a document on the CSM's opinion of where CCP should focus their development efforts in the new year.  Needless to say, if planning for the spring expansion hasn't started yet, it will very soon, so the timing of the doc is good.

The document itself deserves its own blog post which I'll publish later today, but the forum post announcing the availability of that document to the EVE public featured this amusing line:
It was unanimously endorsed by all active members of the CSM.
I'm trying not to laugh at that.  I really, really am.  How many of those are there now besides the four authors?  Three maybe?

This is kind of highlighted by the fact that very few of the CSM members have actually posted in this thread with their specific thoughts on the document.  As I said, I'll publish my own thoughts on it later today.  Go read it if you have a moment.  It's not very long.

By the way, the date for the December summit is out, too.  It's two weeks from Wednesday, 12-14 December.  Watch for CSM members to suddenly become more active, for a few weeks at least...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New Eden Open D4: Keep things fresh

So, CCP Dolan was out today as a commentator.  In public, the reason is "to keep things fresh."  Hm, OK.  CCP Soundwave says Dolan will be back.  But today, his replacement was CCP Falcon, the former Verone of Veto. alliance.  In the interests of full disclosure, I'll remind you that VetoDOT was a Rote Kapelle ally until their alliance was disbanded.  But Verone himself is before my time in Rote.  I've never talked to the guy.

And that's a symptom of the problem.  Falcon is clearly a smart guy, but he's just as clearly behind the times when it comes to the current in-game fleet metas, and it shows.  A lot of my alliance-mates have come to the conclusion that you can't be a good tourney commentator unless you're thrown into the middle of training for that tournament, and I'm starting to think there may be some truth to that.  That isn't to say that Falcon was bad... he was fine, as far as he went.  But he's got a lot of homework to do if he's going to continue to be a commentator next week.

Specifically, I was reminded of an aspect of CNN's coverage of the U.S. Presidential debates last month.  During CNN's coverage, they had a small focus group of voters watching both candidates with a little dial they could turn.  When these voters agreed with what was being said, they could turn the dial up as high as +10.  When they disagreed with what was being said, they could turn the dial as low as -10.  CNN then showed their reactions in real time.  Dolan's score on such a graph would probably vary wildly, from say -8 to +5.  For me, Falcon never went all that negative, but I don't think he scored higher than about +3 all day.  Dolan has lower lows, true, but he also has higher highs.  As Falcon gains experience, he should get better.  'nuff said, moving on.

CCP Fozzie continues to be great, and now that he's not pulled off track by Dolan all the time, he gave the best commentary of the New Eden Open so far: incisive and informed in all the right places.  Soundwave is back to being his old relaxed self, which was an improvement over yesterday.  The green screen work gets better every day: the lighting on the table is good now, but the ghostly shadow was back, this time behind Falcon.  Sound and video were also fine; in particular, I only counted one bad transition from lapel mics to headsets.  So the technical aspects of the tournament are getting better and better: near perfect this time, in fact.  Keep it up!

I do have one other technical suggestion: take another look at the code that fills the attack bar.  I don't think I've ever seen it more than about 40% full, even when it was all-missile teams, or when Vindicators were fighting Kronoses at perfect range.

The day started at about 2000-2500 viewers, but peaked at a little over 3300 at the end of the day.

The matches today were quite good, I thought, some of the best of the tournament so far!  Again, not a lot of rock-paper-scissors, which was nice.  And a lot of really good flying was being shown on the screen, which was even better.  I was particularly impressed with the flying of The Expendables team, and they particularly against Africa's Finest.  I do have to wonder what the latter team were thinking when they brought Paladins, though.  You're never going to sell me on that ship as a good tourney boat.

Much Crying Old Experts again had an amusing moment; they shared with me that they tried to ban the Opux Luxury Yacht during their second match.  Much like trying to ban CCP Dolan, this request was denied.  ;-)  There weren't a lot of other funny moments today -- the proceedings were much more serious all in all.

Which brings me to those three Malices.  What.  The Hell.  Was the XXXMity team thinking about.  Wow.  Those ships simply had no business being fielded with such a frigate-light team.  When PL used them against Rote Kapelle in Alliance Tournament 10, they were protected in a variety of ways:
  • They were supported by not one but two Bhaalgorns; and,
  • they had a terrific logi pilot backing them up; and,
  • they had significant defending assault frigates; and,
  • PL wasn't relying on them as primary DPS; and,
  • they had PL's best pilots aboard flying them.
Other than the logi, the XXXMity Malices had literally none of that.  So once their logi pilot was killed, the Malices were completely exposed to the death that quickly came for them.  They had no other defenses, and the XXXMity team had to rely on them as the team's primary DPS.  That was just an excellent way to get them killed, particularly given that the RONIN and Pixies team was not exactly lacking in assault frigates on their side.  Nice kills, guys!

EDIT (26/Nov/2012): I have issued a partial correction to this part of the post.

Finally, I'm told that the XXXMity Damnation pilot didn't turn on his five links.  Kinda makes you wonder what he was thinking about, considering that a Damnation pilot has exactly one job...

Six teams left, I believe?  Something like that?  And one of them still has a Rote Kapelle pilot or two on it.  On to day five!

New Eden Open D3: Why you ban Broadsword?

So, I surprised myself by actually being able to watch the matches today.  That's not what I expected at all, so that was a pleasant surprise.  So I watched all the matches today.  And at first, I didn't think I was going to have a lot to write about for today.  Then I really read through my notes and realized there was actually a lot going on.

First, the good.  CCP Dolan settled back down this week, visibly reining himself in at several points.  CCP Soundwave was right there ready to pounce on him if he said something outrageous.  But Dolan resisted and didn't rise to the bait.  He was not only more careful about not launching into too many irrelevancies, he was also more careful about his facts.  All in all, much improved.  Thumbs up!  Soundwave and CCP Fozzie were also fine.

The background image on the green screen was better, as was green screening in general.  No shadows and no ghost images today, which was nice.  However, I still recommend either taking a rotary sander to the table top or painting it with some kind of matte color.  We're still seeing a lot of weird reflections off the current table surface.  I was also very pleased to see that CCP has dropped their attempts at the illusion of separate studios for in-match commentary versus between-match commentary.  The sound guy was also generally better, with fewer thumps and bumps as headphones were taken on and off.

So all in all, the technical aspects of the tournament improved all around!  I also like the new display with the pilot name, ship type, and distance from beacon.  Thumbs up for that as well.

The not so good: viewership peaked today at about 3300 people, so viewership continues to be down week by week.  Hopefully, the big portion of that was the U.S. Thanksgiving Day weekend.  We'll see next weekend.

The matches themselves were... OK.  As a matter of fact, I was kind of surprised how little drama there was surrounding most of the matches.  And this was a day where there were a variety of prior Alliance Tournament ships in matches.  From memory, there were a Cambion, two Vangels, and a Malice fielded by various teams today.  But the only one that made a big impression was the Cambion.  Dear Heaven does that thing shred frigates!  The Cambion did its job, but if memory serves the team it was on lost its match.

So that was kind of the problem today: most of the matches just weren't all that memorable.  One reason for that was there was a near total lack of rock-paper-scissors matches today.  But even without that, a lot of the matches today were lost due to pilot error of one type or another, rather than being outright won by the winners because of good flying or good strategy.  I think the most exciting match today was the Much Crying Old Experts last match which featured three Bhaalgorns and five Enyos split between the two teams.  Despite being outnumbered in both Bhaalgorns and Enyos, the MCOE pilots won the match through good tactics and good flying.  It was quite a tactical match... if you understand the game well.  If you didn't, it was probably not all that interesting.

It didn't help that there was almost no time given to wrap up or talk about the matches before flowing into the next match, particularly late in the day.  I know this is by design for the New Eden Open: CCP wants there to be a lot of exciting fights throughout the day and not as much chit-chat.  But some chit-chat is needed to put the matches into context and allow players -- particularly new players -- to understand what they're seeing.  Hell, at a couple of points today, the devs running the matches rushed slow matches along or threatened to end matches early when nothing was happening.  Quite a change from past Alliance Tournaments!  The ATs are positively leisurely by comparison.

My favorite comp today was one of the Something Else comps.  Listed with point values for each ship: 2xKronos/17, 3xKitsune/5, Oneiros/13, 2xEnyo/4.  I think that was a nice use of the definitive Kronos comps that littered the matches today.  But it was such a nice mix of fast tackle, Kronos DPS, and the ability to jam out enemy Kronoses, which is exactly what the comp was used for.  ;-)

Funniest moment today was again in the second Much Crying Old Experts match.  During a preliminary match in AT10 versus Nulli Secunda, the Failheap Challenge team got torn up pretty hard by a three Broadsword team.  So during their match against the Nulli-sponsored team today, the MCOE team (made up partially of FHC pilots) banned... the Broadsword.  It was an in joke.

But it was a funny in joke.  ;-)  On to day four!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stagnation revisited

With Marc Scaurus's "EVE blogger of the month" contest on hiatus for now, I wanted to highlight a few blog posts that have caught my eye this month, then wrap up with a brief "what it all means".  Yeah, this is one of those posts where I link several apparently-unrelated topics together.  And unsurprisingly, all of them have to with Retribution and what impact I think it's going to have on EVE.

First up is this interesting little throw-away post from Susan Black over at gamerchick.  I describe it as throw-away because it really doesn't have all that much to say.  It's the briefest of opinion pieces about stuff that's being implemented on December 4.  As a result, the full piece probably isn't worth your time.  That said though, it wraps (or close to wraps) with one of the most interesting quotes of this week:
Probably one of the first things I will do is put a bounty on my alliance. Come and hunt us people!
And I have to say that's one hell of an idea.  I'm going to suggest it to my alliance leadership in Rote Kapelle.  I think Susan might have stumbled on to the one thing in the whole sorry bounty system that actually makes sense as a new game play mechanic.  Paying other people to fight you.  It really is kind of genius.

I'm sorry.  I let a little bit too much sarcasm out at the end there.  The momentum carried me.  But the idea of bountying your own alliance to get other people to fight you really is pretty smart.

Moving on and somewhat related is this post from Kirith Kodachi over at Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah.  And this piece is really pretty brilliant.  It's probably the best thing that he's written all year so far, and he's written some pretty good stuff this year.  Go read it, as it's well worth your time.  That said, I'm going to sum up a bit.

I've already covered that I think "stagnant" is the wrong word to describe null-sec.  I wrote on that topic at this time last year, and my opinions from that piece are more or less unchanged.  "Stagnant" is the wrong word to use when there's so much change in null-sec sov, and there's been even more change this year than there was last.  The fact that sov is homogenizing into one big blue ball might argue for stagnation to be the right word when I revisit this topic next year.  But not this one.

Still, all that said, it's one of the best posts that Kirith has written in a long time and I think it's because it coalesces a lot of reasons for null-sec's decline into one big reason.  As Kirith puts it, and again, this was a candidate for the quote of the week:
The reason for the stagnation is that the null sec alliances at the top have been too successful for their own good.
And that's a very concise -- and the more I think about it, very accurate -- summation of all the problems facing null-sec sov right now.  Anyone who came into null-sec without a sponsor would get absolutely smashed by ones that do, but in the process of conforming to their sponsor they lose any internal uniqueness.

Results: FCs burn out, only the best of them train replacements, and those replacements are just like the old ones.  Kirith notes that Elise Randolph of all people is concerned about this.  It's probably no coincidence I'm hearing rumors that Pandemic Legion is scooping up all the large-scale FCs they can get... and I'm not sure I blame them.

Which brings me to the third blog post that caught my interest, this one from Hans Jagerblitzen.  It's an update on CSM activities.  It's also probably not a coincidence that only five CSM members are mentioned prominently.  You can check, but it's the same five that are always mentioned prominently.  Three others are mentioned in passing, and a fourth is mentioned exactly once.  Me, I was pretty sure there were thirteen CSM members.  I'll have more to say about that on Monday.

Guess the game isn't the only place that's a little stagnant.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fit of the Week: Salvage Myrmidon

"That ship can do that?" month continues, this time with a PvE-focused fit.  With Retribution finally, finally releasing the long-awaited salvage drone and the Catalyst about to lose its small drone bay, it's sort of my last chance to trot out a goofy little creature: the salvage Myrmidon.  This one has a story, that starts in the dawn of mission-running.  Keep in mind as you read that all of this is long before the Noctis was ever dreamt of by CCP.

Back in those cold, dark days when tractor beams were fitted to Ravens and before every mission-runner had a salvage alt, someone got the cute idea to fit salvagers and tractor beams to destroyers.  They had eight high slots, after all: perfect for four of each.  Salvage destroyers quickly became a thing and they were so easy to train into.  And over time, that's what encouraged a lot of high-sec players to actually get a second account in the first place.  A cheap alt could follow the mission-runner around in said salvage destroyer and greatly increase the missioner's income, more than doubling ISK/hour.  That more than paid for the cost of the account... and later caused CCP to nerf salvaging because some players were becoming wealthy (for that time) using this tactic.

It was quickly decided which destroyers were particularly bad at this (Coercers) and which were particularly good at it (Catalysts).  The funny thing about the Catalyst, though, is that it had a drone bay.  And in those ancient days, some beneficiary to the missioning community figured out that you could put a drone in it.

Because every person in a mission that shoots a rat gains both bounty and sec status regardless of the amount of damage done, this created an entire generation of alts that had high sec statuses.  These alts also later contributed to the creation of a lot of corporations for players needing high standings with this or that faction.  The Catalyst itself also added a tiny bit of DPS, and encouraged players to further train these alts into other pursuits.

Initially, that meant looking for ways to add even more DPS to missions.  The Catalyst could scarcely tank a level 4 mission, so a lot of players turned to battle cruisers, including the Hurricane (which could fit four salvagers and four tractors beams and added 100 DPS in drone damage) and the Myrmidon:

[Myrmidon, Salvage Myrm]
Damage Control II
Expanded Cargohold II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II
Power Diagnostic System II
Power Diagnostic System II

100MN Afterburner II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II

Salvager II
Salvager II
Salvager II
Small Tractor Beam I
Small Tractor Beam I
Small Tractor Beam I

Medium Salvage Tackle I
Medium Salvage Tackle I
Medium Salvage Tackle I

Light Armor Maintenance Bot I x5
Medium Shield Maintenance Bot I x5
Hammerhead II x5
Hobgoblin II x5

Today, this fit seems ridiculously quaint.  Still, at the time, there were a ton of them out there.  The mid-slot tank was sufficient to tank most L4 missions, particularly with the PDS's increase to shield buffer.  Nanofibers both increased the ship's speed and improved the align time made high by that 100MN Afterburner.(1)  The Expanded Cargohold made the ship's cargo capacity equal to the Catalysts it was replacing.  The large Myrmidon drone bay added not only some 225 DPS to a mission, but also the possibility for emergency reps thanks to a flight of shield bots, and the ability to repair damaged drones either on the main missioning ship or the Myrm.

The only downside of this fit, in fact, was that it had only six high slots for salvagers and tractor beams, but good flying could overcome that small weakness and the additional Myrm DPS more than made up for it.

Again, this isn't anything that I'd recommend people fly today (unless you really want to).  This kind of fit is part of EVE's history and just a fun little "that ship can do that?" sort of fit.  Still, a lot of pilots that flew this Myrm and the Hurricane that mirrored them went on to be Dominix and carrier pilots, or full L4 mission BS pilots, or full PvP pilots in their own right.  All it took was the encouragement to go ahead and get a second account... and then to train that salvage pilot to be useful in other areas since you had the account anyway.

All in all, this is just a goofy little bit of EVE history that I thought some of you might enjoy.  And when the various BCs get their upgrades next year, who knows, this kind of fit might even become viable again for a new generation of players.

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

(1) Matter of fact, this type of salvaging battle cruiser was the first ship type I heard about that used an over-sized AB.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Reality check for the Quote of the Week

While I was researching potential KOTWs, this quote just made me laugh:
When Rooks and Kings are willing to fight you, it's a good sign they have something big up their sleeves. Fighting them is only suicide unless you have absolutely overwhelming superiority, that eschews any difference of tactics.
Ain't that the truth?  It's a comment on this kill-mail that's associated with this fight.

These days, Rooks and Kings seem to only have two tactics:
  1. dropping a large number of Abaddons supported by two triage carriers and four to six Guardians on your face.
  2. dropping a large number of smart-bombing battleships on your face (example one, example two).
In both cases, they're probably not going to engage you at all if they can't get a perfect or near-perfect sweep with no losses on their side.  As a result, they only get one or two fights a week.

If you have no plan to fight their tactic of choice for your particular death, why do people fight them at all?  I normally despise blobs, but maybe Red Alliance had the right idea for how to deal with R&K.  Otherwise, all you're doing is volunteering to be embarrassed in one of their videos.  Discuss.

Venture capital

Just a quickie.

CCP Fozzie says "We know that our customers are amazingly creative with ship fittings and tactics and that if we give them a new set of tools they’ll do things better than we could have imagined with them."  One of the upcoming ships in Retribution is the ORE mining frigate, the Venture, which is described this way:
The Venture is the first dedicated Mining Frigate released by the ORE corporation. It boasts strong capabilities for mining both asteroids and stellar gas clouds, and can enter and leave hostile territory effectively thanks to exceptional agility and a class leading +2 warp core strength bonus that allows it to escape some forms of tackle.
Note to Fozzie: I've now asked the best small-gang fleet scouts I know from all across New Eden and all of them agree on a small point.  Know what we're going to do with a ship with exceptional agility and +2 warp core strength?

We're going to scout for fleets with it.  We're going to tackle that fleet's initial target with it.  And we're going to immediately warp off once the back-up point is established.  No need to worry about that target keeping our scout tackled, after all, right?  Or, if the fleet can't land in time, we're going to warp our scout out before he can get himself exploded.  That's going to be our creative use of ship fittings and tactics: keeping fleet scouts alive a lot longer.  Mining?  Tsh.  The fact that it looks like a ship out of Homeworld is just a bonus.

Anyway, just... you know... FYI.

Can we have this +2 warp core strength bonus added to all of the Interceptors when they're rebalanced?  What's good for the goose is good for the gander after all, right?  This is a fine idea with no downsides whatsoever.  Thanks!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kill of the Week: General principles

Freighter and jump freighter pilots beware: the current CFC null-sec campaign has pretty much wound down, which means there's going to be a lot more Goon gank fleets roaming high-sec looking for things to shoot at.  This week, they were hitting freighters and jump freighters in abundance.  Often, the freighters weren't even carrying particularly good stuff.  If the giant pile of stuff in the freighters looked promising, they seem to have been shooting it first on general principles and asking whether it was worth it later.

This Obelisk and this Charon were nice examples.  And there were lots of other examples not quite so impressive.  As I said, Goons were out in force.  And of course there was the occasional raving idiot that made himself an obvious gank target, including this.

I literally have no words for that one.  gg, Ville DeJeep.

ANYway, for the actual KOTW I thought I'd go with this Impel:

You don't see a lot of Deep Space Transports because by and large, they're almost ridiculously bad.  Sure, they carry a lot, but an Iteron Mark V generally carries more and it's a tech 1 industrial.  And of course, the more that you're carrying, the more likely it is that you're going to get ganked.  In the past, DSTs might have been able to hold off a determined gank squad.  But in these modern days of volley damage, the best-tanked Impel in New Eden can't hold off more than eight or so Tornadoes.  And this was not exactly the best-tanked Impel in New Eden.

Needless to say, carrying this much crap in a ship with no cloak is a poor idea.  Carrying it in a ship with a 20 second align time and no prop mod is even worse: DSTs have the worst align time of any non-capital ship in the game.  And the amount and variety of faction and dead-space gear aboard was simply a guarantee of this ship's death.  Do I have to say one more time that Red Frog Freight is a good thing?  I guess I do.

In the meantime, friends don't let friends buy or fly Deep Space Transports.  It's arguable they're currently the most useless ship class in New Eden.  Use a cloaky hauler, use Red Frog, or use an Orca instead.

Number of dead super-caps this week: 1

This part of the report is really easy.  Exactly one super-cap died this week, this Nyx ganked by the CFC in low-sec.  It's funny how standardized the fits on these things are becoming, don't you think?  Extra neut here, slight variation in the exact fighters or fighter-bombers carried there, maybe an officer mod or two in the mids or highs, but that's about it.  Story on this one is straight-forward: he was out solo, destroying reinforced Customs Offices in low-sec.  As one of the comments on the KM puts it, it's not hard to find your target when there's a little timer counting down to the moment you can tackle it.  You settle into a nice comfortable align, get a little sleepy because it's so late, and before you know it, something decloaks in front of you and lights a cyno.  If you don't react instantly, you're doomed.  Needless to say, he didn't kill anyone before he went down.

And that was it.  Super-cap proliferation proceeds unimpeded by loss-mails.

Quote of the Week: Piece of metal

Quote of the Week honors this week goes to CCP Soundwave, who pretty much hammered CCP Dolan yesterday:
Are you smarter than a piece of metal?
...he asked of Dolan.  Context will help.  By the time the day was about half over, Soundwave, Dolan, and CCP Fozzie were all having a somewhat difficult time predicting the winners of matches.  There were a lot of upsets!  Soundwave and Fozzie took this in stride, but CCP Dolan started flipping a coin before each match to predict the winner.

And he was serious.

He'd flip the coin, then write down what the coin told him to write on his prediction page.  Soundwave became somewhat less of his laconic self as the day wore on and Dolan kept doing this.  And he finally asked in exasperation if Dolan felt he was smarter than a piece of metal!  It was a classic moment.  Even funnier: Dolan responded by tossing his coin across the studio!  Kudos to Soundwave for controlling his facial expression at this moment, but you could tell he was not happy.

It wasn't the only time that Soundwave got a little exasperated with Dolan, either.  At another point, Dolan was about to launch into an irrelevant side note and did so by saying "Funny story about that..."  Soundwave snapped, "Is it actually funny?"  Dolan had to admit that maybe it wasn't and lapsed into silence.

The point here is that CCP Dolan is supposed to be a tournament match expert.(1)  And it's a bit disconcerting to have an expert commentator choosing winners based on a coin toss.  Any moron can toss a coin.  If the coin toss had been part of a gimmick that would have been one thing, but it wasn't.  It was used in earnest.  The tournament commentators in the booth are supposed to use intelligent analysis to predict a tournament match winner and then explain why they're making the choice to the viewers.  The reason doesn't have to be serious, but it does have to be non-random.

Speaking of non-random: irrelevant commentary at several points today actually prevented intelligent commentary on the match in question.

At one point in a match between Kronoses and Machariels, a Kronos managed to web down a Machariel and the match looked likely to turn on this moment.  Problem was during that time, Dolan had Fozzie involved in a conversation about... I can't even remember.  But it definitely wasn't relevant, nor was it important enough to remember.  Meanwhile, a great piece of EVE Online piloting was happening in the actual match.  The Mach pilot called on a friendly Griffin to jam out the webbing Kronos, which was apparently successful and this allowed the Mach to escape tackle and side-step a second enemy Kronos.

Both commentators missed the whole thing.

That's not to say that Dolan was bad all day.  At another point, he used a very interesting analogy to compare the many, many Kronoses we saw today to tar pits.  It wasn't all that terrible of an analogy for a new player because in essence that's what a Kronos or a Vindicator is: a tar pit that will drag you in closer and closer and eventually kill you.  But then encouraged by this small success, Dolan launched into a steady stream of irrelevant stories and analogies.  Included in this was one very uncomfortable moment where he talked about two Curses involved in sexual relations, and some months later some baby Sentinels would appear--

I swear I am not making this up.

Anyway, all in all it would not surprise me if Dolan found himself having "technical difficulties" next weekend.  At the very least, he's likely to get a bit of a talking to this morning...  If he returns, let's hope he dials this behavior back some because today, he was virtually unwatchable.

(1) Laugh later.  He is.

New Eden Open D2: The illusion is lost

So, day two of the New Eden Open is in the books, and I thought I would again share my impressions.

First off, those impressions are going to be split into two posts, one related to everything except CCP Dolan, one specifically related to CCP Dolan.  That said, I do want to cover one thing that Dolan said that had me face-palming.  Like day one, day two early matches were again dominated by pretty bad Logistics.  But this was turned around at mid-day by two logi pilots that both did excellent jobs.  In one case, a logi was able to save three out of four of his team's frigates with judicious use of early locking, preemptive repairs, and quick repair-switching when it was needed.  It was a great job.

Even better was XXXMity's logi pilot tofucake secundus.  As far as I'm concerned, he was the MVP of the day: he did everything right.  He opened by putting one repper on each of his team's four frigates right from the outset, then pulling off the reps once they had their speed and transversal up.  He then did a simply outstanding job keeping everyone on his team alive under tremendous pressure through the first half of the match.  He really showed off what a clutch logi pilot can do and made possible XXXMity's victory.

And then CCP Dolan criticized his work, calling out the preemptive reps in particular as a point of criticism.  gg Dolan, gg.  Maybe people who don't understand logi should not comment on how logi should be used.  I'm told that The Reputation Cartel half-joked that they wanted to ban Dolan as one of their two pre-match bans.  It wasn't permitted.  ;-)  Cough.  Moving on.

Funniest moment for me today was the constant switching of audio gear between the commentary section and the matches themselves.  Yesterday, I caught CCP Fozzie ready to take off his headset once.  Today, it happened several times including one quite amusing moment where the "big" screen switched away from Dolan and Fozzie both with their hands coming up to their heads waiting for the camera to cut away... only they were still on the little screen in the bottom corner as they switched.  Several times today, headsets were dropped or thumping noises were audible as the switch was made.  At another point, CCP Soundwave joked that "The illusion is lost."

Yeah, I think so.  ;-)

Speaking of set design, the green screen was slightly better today, but still needs a lot of work.  Ghostly shadows were constantly, constantly visible behind Fozzie and Dolan throughout the day and the fuzziness of the lights reflecting on the gloss tabletop is getting to be very distracting.  Hopefully, the set can be improved with a week to work on it.

Good stuff: much more care today was taken by everyone concerned to segregate the concept of the New Eden Open and the Alliance Tournaments.  Someone either read my comments from yesterday or more likely had the same thoughts themselves and passed it on to all three CCP employees.  Amusingly, it was Soundwave that gaffed a couple of times on this topic today.  Dolan and Fozzie (the latter in particular) were a lot more careful about it.  Nice improvement there.

Second most amusing moment for me?  Elise Randolph of the Why Dash team getting tackled in a Machariel by a Kronos about a minute into their match with The HUNS.  The PL team pretty much completely came apart soon after.  That means that both Why Dash losses in the New Eden Open can be placed firmly on Elise's broad shoulders.

Viewership was down today compared to yesterday.  It seemed to peak at 3900 viewers or so.

Best comp of the day was RONIN and Pixies excellent one (with points for each ship): Widow/17, Vulture/16, Basi/13, Cyclone/11, Harpy x2/4, Sabre/3, Merlin/2.  I'm not a big fan of Sabres -- their sig is so large that it's very difficult to actually apply their very nice DPS.  But I think every other part of this team was a very nice balance of "attack, defense, control", to use the new tourney meta.  It was a joy to watch this team in action against Expendables.  Second favorite was the 8 CAS team twin shield Vindicators.  Those things are completely ferocious and awesome.  I have one myself though I have very few kills in it as yet.  It's a ship that's just as scary for the pilot as it is for his opponent.  ;-)

Finally, I'd like to add a few notes about how bans are impacting fleet comps, particularly since Soundwave specifically asked for comments about it.  I have noted several times on this blog that this is a rich player's tournament, and the bans are one of the reasons why.  Because you have to be able to account for four bans per match, that greatly expands the stable of comps that you not only have to practice in, but that you have to have purchased and ready to go at a moment's notice for a match.  That makes it much more difficult on poorer teams to compete at this level.  Today, the range of ships that were banned was simply staggering.  In practice, I strongly suspect this means you have to have five comps purchased and ready to fly before every match.

I assure you that Rote Kapelle did not have five comps ready to fly before everyone of our AT matches.

That's what I mean about this being a rich player's game.

Anyway, other than one factor (which I'll talk about later today), overall day two was an improvement over day one.  Let's hope things keep getting better as we go along!  That said, I'm not sure I'll be able to watch or comment on next weekend's matches.  As I've stated several times, this is U.S. Thanksgiving week and chances are I'm going to miss much of the proceedings of week two.