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...

Thursday, February 28, 2013

February junk drawer

Welcome to the junk drawer, part of a series of monthly posts in which I dump all the stuff that I couldn't develop into full blog posts this past month.


I've got about a 50% batting average with EVE Online bug reports over the years: about half of what I submit gets tagged "Attached to a defect" which means that it's going to get fixed sooner or later.  But about another third get tagged "Filtered."  Over time, I've come to learn "Filtered" means "Yes, we acknowledge that this is a bug in the game, but it's not hurting anybody and we can't be bothered to fix it."

My favorite "filtered" bug of my own: I found a way to train two characters at once on the same account.  But the process for doing it is super-obscure.  I only found it due to a fluke, and while it's quite easily reproducible, it's not anything that any of you will ever want to reproduce yourselves.  The downside of the exploit is bigger than the upside.  I almost wrote a blog post about it this month, then I decided that by a fair appraisal, CCP could judge it as me encouraging someone out there to violate the EULA, so I decided not to publish it.  ;-)


I'm still compiling a list of the "first things" I'm going to ask of CCP devs if I'm elected to CSM8.  I mentioned one of them last month: I'm going to ask CCP Fozzie why all ships have to accelerate to warp at the same rate.

I'm going to beg CCP Punkturis or someone on her team to change the directional scan distance text entry field into a distance slider or maybe just include a slider as an option that sets the number.  Under the slider, little ticks for 1m km, 100m km, 1AU, 5AU, and 10AU.

For CCP Optimal or someone on his team, please save my watch list on the client somewhere and if I disconnect and rejoin the same fleet within a few minutes, try to reestablish my watch list.  It's so annoying to have to rebuild it manually.

And finally, I'm going to ask CCP Soundwave to either abolish clone timers or create a skill that shortens them, and also create a second tier Infomorph Psychology skill so I can have more jump clones.

I'm not a junior game developer and if I go to Iceland, I'm going there to represent players.  But it ain't gonna stop me from putting in a few requests of my own.  ;-)

EDIT (1/Mar/2013): Two quick notes on this section.  In the original version, I mentioned CCP Guard instead of CCP Soundwave.  I regret the error.  For some idiot reason, I sometimes confuse these two men despite what they look like and what they do being completely different.  It probably has to do with them being the two most frequently filmed CCP employees.  Also, I was reminded that Punkturis is soon to go on maternity leave so her request will have to go to a member of her team.  ;-)


Since I'm running for CSM anyway, I decide to apply to be an EVE Online Community Fan Site.  And I'm happy to report that I was accepted.  My independence is going to be under some debate anyway while I'm on CSM8 (if I am), so I decided I may as well benefit from a few extra visitors from that page.  And I'm not the only one to jump on the band-wagon lately.  I was informed some months ago that the Community team was going to clean up that page and then expand it.  They're fulfilling that promise!


A few quick ones, all unrelated and short:

My favorite fix in the most recent Retribution patches is silly, but important to me: the Corporation hangar load time fix works!  Loading time of my industry corp's hangar dropped from nine seconds to just under three.  Obviously, I'd prefer sub-second response time but three seconds will do.  For now.

Know what the dumbest mechanic in the game is right now?  The fact that the Safe Log-off button has conditions under which it can't be used that have nothing to do with your flags.  You can't use the Safe Log-off button if you're in a fleet, you have active modules, or you've just logged on.  That is dumb, dumb, and dumb, respectively.  Here's a thought: when I click the button, shut off my modules, kick me out of the fleet that I'm in, and add my session change timer to my safe log-off timer.  It's a pretty fair bet that if I've clicked the Safe Log-off button, I want to... you know... log off, and I'll accept the consequences of turned-off modules and being bumped from fleet.

And finally, a correction of sorts: for the Syndicate Competitive League, I pointed out that the info graphic provided by CCP Fozzie was about seven seconds behind Apathetic Brent's stream of the matches.  I suggested that maybe delaying Brent's stream by seven seconds would synchronize them.  But it turns out that wouldn't work: since the data coming from Fozzie is already seven seconds behind, adding a seven-second delay to Brent's stream would just add that seven seconds to Fozzie's stream, too.  Duh.  I should have thought of that.


And that's all for the junk drawer this month.  There were a couple of other items, but now that I look at them, I think they do deserve to be full posts, one about ships crews and one about something that's always bugged me about the New Eden communications network.  Look for those in March.

Recycling day: Signature

EDIT (3/March/2013): Please consider the bulk of this post retracted.  While the stuff about tracking is reasonably accurate, the stuff about damage and in particular my assertion that something is wrong with the gun damage math currently in the game is embarrassingly wrong.

Just a quickie for everyone arguing with me about how large gun signatures aren't effective doing damage against a target with a small signature radius.

Guys, I know what the math says should happen in these circumstances.  Really: I'm familiar with it.  But I'm telling you that out in the field where guns hit ships, what's supposed to happen isn't happening.  The math is failing.(1)  Maybe it's the fact that virtually every fight these days happens under MWD.  Maybe it's the fact that EVE pilots are a lot smarter and are holding their fire until transversal drops.  But mostly, I think something's a little wonky in the actual code that governs how much damage large signature guns should do to smaller targets.

It's not operating the way it should operate, which is why we had titans blapping frigates some months back.  When it was happening, I wrote a whole post about it.  In that post, I wrote in a lot of detail how my large artillery Tornado managed to land three volleys with large guns on an Ares, including the final blow that killed it:
There are 23 ships involved in the KM. Billy was running parallel to the main body of the fleet's path of advance at a range of about 35km. He was there for about 10-12 seconds; I and the Tornados only had time for a single volley, but ships like those Zealots and that Claymore got several volleys off. Based on the evidence, I believe he was double-webbed, once from each of our Rapiers. His speed when I took my shot was about 1600m/s, at a signature of about 100m. He was running parallel to the right side my ship, ahead of me at an angle of about 45-50 degrees, range from me was roughly steady. I do not know when the other ten or so Tornados in the KM took their shots. My guns were grouped 4-1-3, and I fired them in that order. All three groups hit; the group of three caused the KM. 
I'm having a very hard time believing that it was just dumb luck that caused ten other Tornados to all miss and me to hit, particularly when I took a lot of trouble to ensure I'd be able to hit a target in this situation and nobody else in the fleet did.
Not only did my large arties track the Ares (the point to that particular exercise), but I was #4 damage on it, ahead of a ship firing 425mm ACs.

Again: I really do know how it's supposed to work.  It's not working that way.

Now just today, this kill-mail happened.  Anyone want to say again how large rail signature is ineffective against ships with a small signature radius?  I assure you that Ranis pilot knows what he's doing.  And that's a Ranis, not a Ferox.

Solution: the actual code in the actual game needs tweaking.  Something like the nerf currently applied to titan gun signature would do.  But don't look at me to suggest it to CCP.  I'm too busy shooting small targets with big guns.  ;-)  I kid, I kid...

(1) And trust me, I know math.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fit of the Week: Worst v. Worst

For the month of March, I'm going to examine all of the new battle cruisers that have been upgraded in the latest Retribution patch and tell you about my four favorites.  But as sort of a lead-in to that, I thought it would be amusing to revisit an old concept, the sniper Ferox.  CCP Fozzie says he wants to fix the intended role for this boat, so let's take a quick tour of how far it has to go, shall we?

[Ferox, Obsolete]
Damage Control II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Large Shield Extender II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Sensor Booster II

250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
250mm Railgun II, Spike M
Small Energy Neutralizer II

Medium Ancillary Current Router I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I

Hobgoblin II x5

I last visited this ship in 2011, and things haven't changed all that much.  You can now fit a seventh gun, which is intended to help DPS.  And practically nobody fits links to T1 BCs any more outside of tournament settings; on-grid or off-grid boosters have taken over the role for virtually every type of fleet.  That combined with the lower grid required for rails means that you can dial back a couple of fitting mods.  So, if you go without a point, Feroxes are a lot tougher.  They're now tougher than a Drake, in fact, at 71k EHP!  But are they any better?  That, sadly, would continue to be a giant no.  They're still ridiculously slow at just over 1000m/s and DPS has only increased about 10% or so, to 227 at a sniping range of 100km.

It used to be a joke in the tournament setting that the only thing a Drake was good for in a tourney fight was "dying slow".  That accolade can now be moved to the rail Ferox.

To zoom in on how bad the Ferox is in this role right now, let's bring in its closest racial competition, the rail Naga:

[Naga, Basic Rail]
Reactor Control Unit II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Sensor Booster II, Targeting Range Script
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large F-S9 Regolith Shield Induction
Large Shield Extender II

425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Thorium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Thorium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Thorium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Thorium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Thorium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Thorium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Thorium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Thorium Charge L

Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I

This is a fairly easy fit: you need AWU IV and Shield Upgrades IV to make it work, so once you have the T2 rails trained, it's within the reach of a relatively unskilled player.  In my opinion, this fit isn't optimal, but since it's within reach of many players and it's more forgiving of piloting errors than other Naga fits I like, it'll do for this comparison.  Let's start with the basics: the Naga is the worst attack BC currently in the game.  The Oracle, Talos, and Tornado are all better and further all have solid roles for which they are the best ships in EVE Online.  The Naga is the ugly stepchild.  It's ridiculously slow for an attack BC at 1400m/s, its agility is very poor, and its DPS is anemic.  At 100km, it's capable of just under 500 DPS, which a PL "TiDiCat" Oracle can do at literally double that range.

And yet it stomps the crap out of a Ferox, doing more than double the DPS of the combat BC... and its tracking is more than 50% better.  Yeah, you read that right.  Thanks to that Spike ammo, a Ferox with 250s has a 0.0075 tracking; the Naga has 0.0126.  The Naga has only 38k EHP but there's not much reason to care about a sniper's EHP.  You can solve the tracking issue by downshifting to Iron ammo but if you do that, you lose about 10km range and 60 DPS.  It's rather pathetic.

Close to 65km skirmishing range, and the Naga's DPS increases to 600 or more while the Ferox's DPS doesn't change; only its tracking improves.  And keep in mind that the Naga is the worst attack BC.  The Oracle is downright terrifying in this regimen, as I've covered before.

Anyway, the whole thing underlines and bold-faces how terrible medium railguns are.  All of the attack BCs give better combat results than this weapon.  All of the other combat BCs -- and particularly the Hurricane and the Harbinger -- give better combat results with their long range weapons systems.  Ditto Spike ammo, whose drawbacks still overwhelm its advantages.  A few tweaks isn't going to do it.  The medium rails need to be torn down to bare metal and rebuilt so that they're actually useful to EVE Online players.

And saying "there's no point to doing it because nobody uses them" is ironic and not allowed.  ;-)

In the meantime, here's my current favorite Naga fit:

[Naga, Advanced Rail]
Power Diagnostic System II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Sensor Booster II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Tracking Computer II, Optimal Range Script
Large Shield Extender II
Tracking Computer II, Optimal Range Script

425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Uranium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Uranium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Uranium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Uranium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Uranium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Uranium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Uranium Charge L
425mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Uranium Charge L

Medium Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I

I'm still not 100% convinced this fit is optimal either, but this is the one I'm flying these days.  It has a lot of compromises intended to boost DPS and survivability in skirmishing situations, and it's a much tougher fit than the Naga above as well as being tougher to fly.  The tank is minimal: just enough for you to take a few laser shots given that the likely opponent of this ship are going to be Oracles and things that act like Oracles.  Overheat your Invul as you take fire then once you're dropped to low-to-medium shields, warp off and warp back.  Total tank is about 20k EHP, or less than a cruiser, so be careful.  But the Polycarb rig starts to correct some of the Naga's major speed and agility issues.  The PDS is there both to add a bit of buffer and to extend cap endurance under MWD.

Carry Antimatter and either Thorium or Uranium ammo.  The AM is good to skirmish range and allows the Naga to push about 650 DPS... not too shabby!  As your range opens to about 100km, switch to either Uranium or Thorium.  The latter is good for 500 DPS out to 135km.  If you're pushed out farther than that, you can carry Iridium which will drop your DPS to 380 but works out to the edge of your fleet-boosted lock range of 165km.

As with all skirmishy ships, the important thing to remember is to warp off when seriously threatened.  As you warp off, make a bookmark near the site of the fight.  That bookmark will be your warp-off point for any future warp-offs.  Once you land, get a good warp back to the site and rejoin the fight.  Like all skirmishing ships, there's no need to go down fighting.

Remember again: this is the worst attack BC.  For these tactics, Tornadoes and Oracles are better.  But this is the first ship that the Ferox has to be competitive with to even be in the same game.

Happy sniping...

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.

Feature-relevant election

One more CSM8 election post, then I'll move on to other things for a while.

Lots of people have asked what I think about the CSM election changes announced in the blog post last week.  And honestly, I really wanted to sit down and think about it before I wrote about it.  This is one of those topics where one's first impression is probably going to be wrong.  I really wanted to think it through.  The result is this horribly long blog post.  I apologize in advance.  ;-)  Ready?

There's four things going on in this dev-blog and I have different feelings about all of them.  The four things are:
  1. There's going to be a primary election before the "main" election;
  2. the voting system itself is using a "Single Transferable Vote" system;
  3. CSM8 will be choosing its own officers; and,
  4. there's a new process for choosing which CSM8 members will be traveling to Iceland for Summits.
That's a lot going on in one dev-blog, so it's no surprise that it prompted a lot of reactions.  Let's get to it.

First, anyone who wants to vote for me is going to have to vote for me twice.  Seriously.  The dev-blog specifies that instead of the "likes" mechanic that was used on EVE Online forum announcement posts for CSM7, anyone who wants to run for CSM8 first has to run for CSM8 to see if they're going to be allowed to run for CSM8 and I wish I was joking about this.  There will be a primary election and during that primary election, you have to get at least 200 votes to be eligible to run for the "main" CSM8 election.

Granted, I made fun of the "likes" system last year.  But this replacement.  Oi.  This.  Is.  As dumb as a bag of hammers, and there's really no way of getting around that.  Look, I get why CCP wants to do this: they want to narrow the field of candidates a bit to those with a serious chance of winning and in so doing reduce their own workload in terms of checking candidate qualifications.  Get that.  But there has to be a better way to do it than this, and besides, it strikes me as unnecessary.  Last year, there were 40 CSM7 candidates.  Know how many didn't get 200 votes?  Three.

What makes this step worse are two things, both related to the fact that the only people this step is going to hurt are non-null-sec bloc candidates.  Those are going to be the people that have the hardest time marshaling their voters, and then marshaling their voters again when the real thing happens.  Null-sec candidates aren't going to have this problem.  Second, those are going to be the only candidates that are going to have to worry about whether they get the 200 primary votes or not.  From what I hear, there's not going to be any indication in the primary voting system about whether candidates have their "200" or not, so to be on the safe side a lot of non-bloc candidates are going to have to treat the primary like the real thing.  This is dumb.  Let's move on.

And we're moving on to the STV system.  The purpose to this system is to try to ensure that no vote gets wasted.  In a typical CSM election, 30% of the votes go to non-winning candidates.  This has been very consistent for the last seven elections.  STV pulls that 30% into the process.  If you end up voting for a non-winning candidate, you can choose a second-choice, third-choice, and so on down to a 14th-choice if you want and in that way virtually ensure that your vote counts for someone.  The only way that player's votes will not count under this system is if you somehow manage to vote for 14 people, none of whom gets elected.  This is unlikely.  And you can reduce the probability of this happening to zero by selecting someone sure to get elected as your last choice.  Pick your top five, or your top ten, or whatever, honestly.  Then as your #6 or #11 or #14, pick the high profile candidate you dislike the least.  If all of your preferred choices get knocked out, at least your vote will apply to someone who you can then pester all year.  ;-)

In practice, this system is going to have three downstream effects.

First, it's going to level the playing field for the null-sec blocs.  Last year, Goonswarm had an absolutely masterful exit polling system that allowed them to very accurately predict how many votes The Mittani would take out of the CSM7 election process.  It was clever, well-done, and worked beautifully: they used it to manage votes through the whole election.  Meanwhile, whatever "system" TEST Alliance used to try to do the same last year failed them miserably.  This year, all the null-sec blocs are going to have the same advantages Goonswarm had in terms of marshaling their votes to their preferred candidates.  You can think of this as a parliamentary sort of system: if you come into the voting process with 3/14 of the total votes in play, you are guaranteed to win 3/14 of the available seats as long as all your voters vote the same slate.  And if they vote the same slate in the same order, the one on top will have the best chance of going to Iceland.  More on that in a bit.

Second, this system is going to guarantee the null-sec blocs safe seats for every election where this system is used.  It's also going to leave independent CSM candidates fighting for the scraps of whatever null-sec leaves behind.

Last year, there were about 60000 votes total, and Mittens famously got 1/6 of them.  If the Goons can marshal the same number of votes this year and the number of voters doesn't increase, as long as all their voters vote the same slate, Goons are guaranteed two seats on the CSM.  If TEST can do the same thing, they also get two seats.  And so on.  The only thing that's going to matter in this part of the process is the percentage of the total vote you can get to the voting booth.  As long as all your voters vote the same way, you'll get the seats.  You can choose a basketball to fill them and it won't matter.  A basketball will be on the CSM.

So the only way to change that outcome is going to be to increase the number of voters and CCP has said they're going to try to do that.

My gut instinct is that this means we're going to see two Goon CSM members, two TEST CSM members, two Drone Russian CSM members, one or two N3 CSM members, and one or two wormhole CSM members.  If it goes that way -- and there's no reason why it shouldn't -- that's eight or nine CSM seats filled out of fourteen and we only have names for perhaps two of them right now.  Unless I've missed it, TEST and the Russians haven't even announced who they're going to run yet, and I believe there's only one announced Goon, mynnna.

It also means that your humble narrator is fighting for one of five or six remaining CSM seats.

Third and finally, this is going to force anyone who wants a CSM seat into a political party.  Sure, players with ultra-high name recognition can try to run as true independents and sure, you might get a seat that way.  But it's a huge gamble and I can't see it working realistically for just about anyone in New Eden, myself included.  That means that every non-bloc CSM candidate is going to have to "fleet up" with at least two or three others and try to convince their voters to vote a slate.  The strongest candidate in each "fleet" will have the best chance of getting a seat, drawing support away from weaker candidates in their fleet until they're assured that seat or the entire fleet fails because all of that fleet's votes weren't enough for even one seat.  If they do get a seat, then the next-strongest member of each fleet will have a chance, and so on until they run out of votes.

So when I get around to endorsing candidates, you're going to see me essentially trying to convince you to vote not only for me, but for the other candidates I'm endorsing, and in a specific order.  This not only increases my chances of getting elected, it increases the chances for one or two other candidates that I endorse.  You'll also be seeing me trying to convince those CSM candidates to ask their voters to do the same for me.  In short, if I'm the strongest candidate I endorse, I get elected on their backs.  If some of them are stronger than me, then they get elected on my back.

That's the system we have now.  Overall... I think it's a net positive.  But only just barely.  And if you don't like political parties, then you'll have good reason not to like it.  It sure makes things easy on the null-sec candidates!

Damn, this is a long blog post.  Stay with me; I'm almost done.

Third thing in this dev-blog is that CSM8 will be choosing its own officers.  That means instead of the Chair of CSM8 automatically being the CSM member with the most votes, the Chair will be the CSM member with the most CSM votes.  The other officers will be picked the same way.  It's a big deal.  In a vacuum, this is a tremendous change and I'm 100% in favor of it.  But we're not operating in a vacuum, are we?  We're operating in an STV system where the "big blue doughnut" is going to finish out the election possibly -- probably -- holding eight seats out of 14.

Which means that if they choose to, the BBD candidates can pick all the CSM8 officers and leave everyone else out in the cold.  Will they do that?  In practical terms, almost certainly not.  But this voting mechanic combined with the current realities of null-sec space does leave open the possibility of gaming the officer positions.  At the very least, it makes it very likely that the chair of CSM8 and the chair of all future CSMs using the STV system will be a null-sec bloc candidate.

The same possibility to game the system also exists for the tickets to Iceland.  The dev-blog specifies that seven people will be going to the summits in 2013, and two of them will effectively be the top two vote-getters.  In practice, this will probably mean one seat each for the two biggest null-sec blocs.  The remaining five seats will be chosen by "CCP and the CSM working together to pick the 5 hardest working and most feature relevant CSMs."  In the December Summit Minutes, this possibility was brought up and Hans Jagerblitzen pointedly asked if he was only relevant as a faction warfare feature candidate.  He was hurriedly told no, that wasn't the case... and yet here we have "feature relevance" being mentioned again anyway as a criteria for going to Iceland.  Guess that means I have to pick "features" that I'm "relevant" about.  The sound you just heard were my eyes rolling.  ;-)

Now in practice with past CSMs, it's been very very easy to spot the five hardest-working CSM members.  It's been the five CSM members that actually do work.  Usually on a CSM, you have five or six hard workers and the rest of the group are mostly baggage.  That's been pretty consistent in the past CSMs, and CSM7 is no different.  It's pretty easy to figure out who the seven that would have gone to Iceland in December would have been.  Hint: the group would have gone would have been very different from the one that actually went...

Again in practice, this system can be gamed by the BBD candidates.  That said, attempting to game this sytem is unlikely to get anywhere.  CCP Xhagen is going to have the final say on who goes to Iceland and I'm quite sure he's going to take a dim view of CSM8 members who try to pack the Summits with only their selected candidates.  So I'm not particularly worried about it.

So, to sum up?
  1. The primary idea: dumb as a bag of hammers.  Hopefully, it will die in time for CSM9.
  2. STV?  It's a good thing but it's going to guarantee both safe seats for the null-sec blocs and political parties for everyone else.
  3. The CSM choosing its own officers?  Also a good thing, but given current null-sec politics, it's possible to heavily game the system.  Even if it's not gamed, it will be unlikely for any future CSM chair not to be a null-sec bloc candidate.
  4. And the 2+5 system is a good idea, but let's hope that CCP doesn't invoke that "feature relevance" thing because that's a little silly.
Sorry it took so long to get this post out to you, but like I said, wanted to think it over...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mafia scum

I was so busy with my other posts and activities last week that I completely missed that Freebooted has another blog banter out.  Here it is:
In a socially-driven game environment such as EVE Online's, everyone has an agenda. CCP promotes its products and has an army of volunteers to do the same; corporations and alliances deliver entertaining recruitment drives, CSM election candidates solicit for voter favour, bloggers and podcasters opine to their audiences.

In this intricate web of communication, influence and control, what part does propaganda play in your game?
Yeah, OK: this is another loaded question.  The blog banters seem to specialize in them.  ;-)  I have three answers to this one, and they relate to my various personae: that of myself within EVE Online, that of myself as a blogger, and most recently that of myself as a CSM candidate.

Let's start with the purely in-game answer, because that's the easiest.  I am a member of Rote Kapelle, which is a small NPC null-sec organization specializing in small-gang warfare.  The vast bulk of our fleets are ten ships are fewer; many are five ships or fewer.  As a result, my in-game propaganda presence is virtually nil, as is the in-game propaganda presence of my alliance.  We just don't need such a thing.

Rote Kapelle speaks in actions, not words.  Either our fleets and tactics are successful or they're not.  We don't have much of a diplomatic corps, and we have no propaganda corps at all.  Propaganda from Rote means we hang out and make fun of you in your Local chat for a few minutes because you won't undock and fight us.  Our only real public presence, in fact, are our activities around PvP tournaments such as AT10, the NEO, and the Syndicate Competitive League.  I'm not directly involved in the SCL, so I'm not part of any propaganda arm for them either, other than I'd personally like to see it succeed both because the guys running it are terrific and because I think its success would help EVE Online.  So much for answer number one.

As for my presence as a blogger, I've made no secret of the fact that part of the reason I write for this blog is to influence CCP's direction of development of EVE Online.  And of course, in my many opinion pieces on this site, from time to time I'll try to convince you, Dear Reader, of something that I'm writing about.  That said, the definition of the word propaganda revolves around presenting opinion intended to help or harm a specific long-term agenda.  Do I have one of those?  I'm not so sure.  Unlike Roc Weiler or James 315, I don't have a "brand" as such.  I'm not trying to promote a product -- unless it's the games I'm playing at any given moment.  I'm not trying to harm another product or push a specific agenda.

Who knows?  Maybe I should try to develop a brand.  Maybe it's happening already by accident.  That brings me to answer number three.

I often say that EVE Online was my first MMO.  I never played one before EVE and in fact tried to avoid the genre for various reasons.  But on further reflection of this BB topic, I realize that's not quite the complete truth.  Because for a while, I played an on-line forum-based version of a game called Mafia Scum.  Go check out the full rules to this game if you're interested, but the basic game has nine players.  Seven are good guys, two are bad guys.  Each player knows their own role, but not anyone else's.  It's the job of the good guys to identify the bad guys; if they identify both bad guys successfully, they win.  It's the job of the bad guys to eliminate the good guys one by one.  The game is played in rounds.  Two players are eliminated from the game each round: all of the players (good and bad guys together) vote to eliminate one player.  Then the bad guys talk privately and eliminate another.  Then a new round begins.

In this way, this entire game is about propaganda.  If you're a good guy, can you defend yourself from elimination during these votes while also logically identifying and outing bad guys?  And if you're a bad guy, can you get the good guys to vote to eliminate more troublesome players by casting suspicion on them without it reflecting back on yourself?  Needless to say, it's a fun game and when I was playing it, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

And running for CSM is a bit like playing Mafia Scum.

I am empathetic by nature: it's easy for me to put myself into the thought process of another person.  In EVE, part of the reason for this is because I've played the game in so many ways.  It's easy for me to understand how an incursion-runner thinks because I've been one and I've talked to lots of them.  Ditto miners.  Ditto mission-runners.  But when I point this out in a EVE Online forum post promoting my CSM run, I get trolled by my alliance-mates about it.  In Rote Kapelle's Teamspeak, we have two channels for ops.  Both of them are subtitled with an amusing reference to things happening within the alliance at that moment.  Think of this like naming conference rooms.  For the last ten days or so, one of these two ops channels has been subtitled "Ripard is a filthy carebear!"

In an alliance with definite "bad guy" leanings, my own CSM "good guy" propaganda makes me (jokingly, of course) a good guy that needs to be eliminated from the game.  ;-)

Meanwhile, CSM candidates also get trolled by players that don't want to see them elected.  You can't vote against a CSM candidate, but you can try to encourage other people not to do so.  Trebor Daehdoow and The Mittani got most of this last year (from different camps, obviously).  I'm getting a good bit of it this year.  A group of players is having a bit of fun at my expense taking virtually everything in a recent post I wrote out of context and attacking me with it.  In particular, I've been accused -- wrongly, of course -- of being insensitive to victims of rape and slavery.

Which is why for the last ten days the other Rote Kapelle Teamspeak ops channel has been subtitled "Rape and slavery".

Clearly, I can't win the propaganda war no matter what I do.  ;-)  But obviously I'm trying to do so by getting myself elected to CSM8.  That involves generating support among as broad as possible of a player base... and that's definitely pushing a specific agenda.  So propaganda -- positive and negative -- is definitely having an impact on that part of my game-play.

Thanks for the question, Mat.  Gave me something to think about over the weekend!

Monday, February 25, 2013


Just a quickie, but really fun.

How do you torpedo your own CSM campaign?
  • Step one: be a wormhole candidate.
  • Step two: declare that you have no principles of your own whatsoever.  Er, whoops: tell EVE players that you'll bring them everything CCP tells you to them for direct votes on each item.
  • Step three: be told that the CCP/CSM NDA definitely doesn't work that way.
  • Step four: tell the current wormhole CSM representative that you know more about the CSM's job than he does.
  • Step five: watch yourself get trolled right into the ground, then declare that your entire CSM campaign was really a sociology experiment of some kind and that you will be publishing a paper about it at some later date.
Aheh, whoops.

I really shouldn't chuckle at another candidate's misfortunes, but watching the drama surrounding prospective wormhole representative Night Beagle over this past weekend was really amusing.  Now obviously, I'm not competing with the various wormhole candidates (there are five of them).  I wish all of the remaining ones well, they're obviously a good fit to "group up" (more about this tomorrow), and sooner or later I will be endorsing one or more of them.  I feel it's going to be just as important for CSM8 to have a dedicated wormhole candidate as it was for CSM7 to have one.  I know a few things about wormholes from my six months living in one, but I'm no expert on the subject at all.  So it will be great to have an expert on the team... assuming I'm on the team myself, of course.  ;-)

Anyway, watching his fellow wormhole residents turn on Night Beagle... wow.  I thought null-sec were masters of personal-level drama.  You wormhole guys have the null-sec coalitions beat!  I usually groan at the Downfall Hitler parody videos, but this one is really well done and even those that don't follow WH politics will be able to follow this video:

It does show off one interesting aspect of wormhole CSM8 candidate politics, though.  Originally, there was going to be a "wormhole primary" and the various major wormhole corps were going to have an internal election to decide who the "official wormhole candidate" was going to be.  Two step himself announced the thing when he announced he wasn't running.  With the wormhole primary out of the picture, he is in the obvious position of kingmaker here.  It feels like he has the ability to sway the wormhole vote tremendously.  It'll be interesting to see what -- if anything -- he does with this power...

KOTW: Undiscovered levels of wrong

I hate doing this twice in one year.  But look at this Legion.  It's the Kill of the Week.

Now look at this one, this one, and this one.  They all died in February.  Sometimes, he armor tanks.  Sometimes, he shield tanks.  Usually, he does both because that's clearly better.  The combination of beam lasers and a warp scrambler is very poor.  Beams are sniping weapons with very poor close-range tracking.  A scrambler assumes that you are going to be in close combat with your foe.  Which you should not be with only one medium armor repairer.  Those Ancillary Current Routers?  Almost certainly not necessary.  Faction Heat Sinks are fine, but there's almost never a reason to fit four of them to a PvP ship.  Fitting the neuting Legion subsystem is fine... as long as you fit more than ONE neut.

In short, virtually everything about this ship is bad... and this pilot keeps doing it again and again.  As I said the last time this came up, if you're not succeeding at this game and it's happening again and gain, get some help.  Please!

Two honorable mentions this week.  The first one goes to this Nomad.  Apparently this pilot was PvPing in low-sec but then decided he was done with that.  He docked up, jumped into his Nomad, warped it from a safe undock directly to a high-sec gate, jumped it into high-sec... and only then found out he still had a suspect flag from his low-sec PvPing.  Whoops!

The second honorable mention goes to this Orca killed by a new group called New Order Logistics.  This is a new bunch that specializes in mining ganks.  Some gankers do it for profit.  Others do it for strategic objectives.  New Order Logistics is doing something new: ganking for the sheer joy of ganking.  Only Catalysts and other ships with blasters need apply...

Number of dead super-caps this week: 1

EDIT (25/Feb/2013): I completely screwed up on this one.  The original version of this blog post had a version of how this Nyx died that while it had a detail or two correct, was wrong in so many particulars that I'm really quite embarrassed.  Thank you to Snorkel for setting me straight.  I regret the error.

Another quiet week for dead supers, with only this ratting Nyx falling to a Northern Coalition black ops drop.  The full story plus video is available on EVE News 24 and makes for great reading!

From the booth

Just a quickie.

Only a day after the first tournament of the Syndicate Competitive League, SCL commentator (and my alliance-mate) Bacchanalian has produced a thoroughly fascinating first-person account of being an EVE PvP tournament commentator.  It's rambling, stream-of-consciousness, brutally honest... and worth every moment of your time if you're at all interested in the topic of PvP tournaments, streaming, or running live player events.

Go give it a read.

In particular, it's a terrific portrait of how to run a live player event while dealing with all sorts of adversity, but then overcoming that adversity in creative ways.  Persistence and endurance counts for a lot in the real world.  ;-)

The intent of the SCL is to have much more frequent EVE PvP tournaments, something that's a hallmark of other eSports but which EVE has been unable to match.  The team's next expected tournament will be in mid- to late March using the same or a very similar format to this past weekend's tourney.  Bacch's posts will give you a new appreciation for just how much hard work that's likely to entail...

CSM8 Interview: EVE Stratics

I received the following set of questions from EVE Stratics.  They'll be publishing the answers along with their interviews with other EVE candidates, but I also thought I'd post them here as well...

1) Who are you?
I am an EVE player running under the name of one of my three mains, Ripard Teg.  I have five years of experience in a wide array of play styles from incursions to missions to mining to industry/invention to sov warfare to small gang PvP.  I am also one of EVE's most active and prolific bloggers, something that I've been doing for two years at my blog, Jester's Trek (http://jestertrek.blogspot.com).  There, I've written hundreds of blog posts about the EVE experience, and more than 40 guides to playing EVE, all of it free and without advertising.

2) Why do you want to burden yourself with the workload that is CSM8?
This is quite an amusing way to put this question!  But the real answer is to help improve the game that we love, and to represent a broad array of EVE Online players.  I believe that I can help CCP, and I believe I can help EVE players.  It probably sounds corny, but if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't run.  In particular, though, I'm jumping into the fray because I felt like CSM7's communications strategy was a little weak and I'd like to help develop a more formal communications strategy that future CSMs can follow.

3) Can you dedicate 10-30 hours a week for the position and the occasional weekend travels?
Yes.  I've proven it with the work I already do on the blog I write in virtually every day.

4) Did someone suggest you put your name up for CSM?
Before I ran for CSM6, I had a long conversation with Mynxee, Chair of CSM5, who after hearing what I hoped to accomplish during the following term, encouraged me to to run for CSM6 and provided me with a lot of insights and advice.  For CSM8, I've been encouraged to run by a large number of my readers and by several CSM7 members, notably Hans Jagerblitzen and Trebor Daehdoow.

5) Have you represented other people before, in a similar or different capacity?
Yes.  I have been a play-tester and a player advocate for the developers of several miniature and tabletop war-gaming games.  In addition, in my real world experience, I am a leader and professional negotiator in the IT industry with almost three decades of communications experience.

6) If not, do you have any leadership experience, negotiating experience, teamwork experience, a high level of group dynamics knowledge or other relevant experience that can benefit the CSM (and can be documented)?
See above.  In particular, in real life, I have presented before hundreds of people at technical conferences, and presented to and worked with C-suite level executives of Fortune 500 companies.

7) How often do you participate in events in EVE to meet other players? (ie. social, player gatherings, fan fest etc)?
Of course, most of what I'm known for is writing one of the most active blogs in EVE Online.  I enjoy quite a bit of back and forth repartee with my readers, other EVE bloggers, and EVE players in social media on Twitter's #tweetfleet.  I'm going to my first player gathering in a couple of months, my first trip to the tenth anniversary Fanfest!  So I'm looking forward to meeting and being met by a lot of EVE players there.

8) What is the players top 5 issues currently?
In my opinion and in no particular order:
  • the "big blue doughnut", as it's called, and the general lack of things to shoot at among the largest null alliances;
  • related, the slowing down of conflict within the game generally;
  • trying to draw new players into the game without breaking the nature of EVE Online itself;
  • the necessary POS revamp; and,
  • the need to shake up income sources at all levels in the game and put them "bottoms up" into the hands of the players and corps instead of "top down" to the coalitions and mega-alliances.
I'm not running for the position of junior game developer, of course, but if I were asked this question by CCP, these are the items that I'd list.  There are other issues I'd probably also bring up, like super-cap proliferation, the problem with EVE's rather boring PvE, and the lack of creativity involved in mining.

9) Which method of addressing issues do you believe is the most effective?
I believe the best approach to make suggestions to CCP is to show them how both they and the players benefit from suggestions, particularly if you can frame suggestions to CCP in the context of bringing new players into the game, expanding their revenue, or expanding the scope of EVE's audience.  On the player end, I believe the best approach is to involve as many types of players as possible in issues and make sure their voices are heard.

10) In which bar in Iceland does a CSM member have a higher chance of adressing issues for his constituents; effectively?
As I noted above, I've never been to Iceland and the tenth anniversary Fanfest will be my first trip there.  To take full advantage I'll be there for a week, two days on either side of Fanfest itself.  That said, I'm told Islenski Barinn is the place to be to encounter CCP devs.  I look forward to visiting it.  Hopefully, they have a good stout on tap because that's the type of beer I drink.  I hear Olvisholt Lava is drinkable.

11) Piggybacks fixes are common but can appear out-of-the-blue; How do you plan on creating and reacting to opportunities for bug-fixes/issues?
Good question!  I want to return to a bit of an "old school" CSM4/CSM5 approach to this issue.  Directly, I'd like CSM8 to have a monthly meeting, preferably on text chat somewhere.  Each of these meetings would be no more than an hour.  The point to this meeting would be that all CSM members would pull ideas that they like out of Features and Ideas, other forums, players they talk to, or their own ideas.  Those ideas would then be brought before CSM8 to vote upon.  The ones that pass this vote would be submitted to CCP as a new list of "little things".  If you look at the items on CSM4/CSM5's lists, you'll find virtually all of them are now in the game we're playing.  CCP needs a new list.  ;-)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

SCL Day Two: Photo finish

Know what?  Chances are pretty good you missed some of the best EVE tournament matches in a long, long time.  Syndicate Competitive League Day Two was today and the good news was many of the matches were fantastic.  The bad news is that for most of the day, there were only 575 or so people watching (it peaked at about 750 during TEST Alliance's matches).

That's a pity, because one of the matches featured what I believe is the closest finish in EVE tournament history (look at the clock):

The winner's bracket in the SCL, unsurprisingly, was dominated by the Hydra Reloaded-heavy Warlords of the Deep team.  Needless to say, that team won in the end.  They were so much stronger than the other teams that I didn't feel like any of the other teams could seriously challenge them.  Hydra has simply shown that they excel at the prep stage, and often, tournament matches are decided in that prep stage.  Hopefully, we'll see some strong teams in follow-on tournaments.  So yeah, the winner's bracket wasn't very dramatic.

The loser's bracket, though?  There were some fantastic matches in that one, including Match 12 between The Reputation Cartel and Insurance Fraud Inc.  In that match, hard-fought very close matches eventually came down to a tactical maneuvering match.  On the IF side, triple Proteus plus Oneiros, the ultimate brawl team.  On the RC side, Minmatar speed setup with a Drake instead of a Cyclone, a great kiting team.  The teams danced and danced trying to find tactical advantage and it was a virtuoso display of tactical maneuvering from both sides.  During this period, the RC team lost their slowest ship, the Drake in exchange for a IF Griffin.  But in the final few minutes of the match, the RC team managed to isolate and tackle the IF Oneiros.  Kill the Oneiros before time runs out, Reputation Cartel wins the match and advances.  If the Oneiros lives, Insurance Fraud wins the match and advances.

The screen-shot above was the result: when the match ran out with zero seconds remaining the Oneiros was still alive with a tiny sliver of structure hit-points.  It quite literally died a half second later.  Here's the logs from Local during the fight...
[ 2013.02.24 21:36:02 ] EVE System > It's on like Donkey Kong!
[ 2013.02.24 21:46:02 ] EVE System > 13 points awarded to The Reputation Cartel for the destruction of Eraya Silverstone's Oneiros
Matches last ten minutes exactly.  The Oneiros died in the final tick of the match.  CCP Fozzie had to quite literally check the server logs to determine on what side of the clock running out the Oneiros had died on.  Turned out it was the wrong side for The Reputation Cartel.  As I said, it's likely to go down as the closest finish in EVE tournament play ever.

And that wasn't the only close fight.  The day -- mostly made up of these loser's bracket matches -- was awash in close fights, close tactical fights, and great tactical maneuvering.  When the final match came, it was about an hour late due to a couple of issues (more on them presently) and only 500 people were there to see it.  But the final match where Warlords of the Deep put away the Exodunks team in two straight slaughters, was anti-climactic to say the least.  So, a hearty congratulations to the Warlords team and the Exodunks runner-up!  But that's not what's fun to write about.  ;-)

Instead, I want to focus in on two other matches that I was very impressed by.  Once Insurance Fraud put away The Reputation Cartel, they then had to fight Exodunks.  Very ironically, their deciding match was very similar comps: Exodunks with a Minmatar speed comp (with a Cyclone this time) against the same Insurance Fraud Proteus comp.  By the end of the match, IF was down to three Proteus cruisers versus an Exodunks Scimitar, Harpy, and two Merlins.  It was very easy to dismiss the Exodunks team, but the Exo frigs didn't konw that: they finished off one of the Proteuses!  Suddenly, it was again a very exciting match with the three Caldari ships (under masterful reps, of course) trying to wreck a second Proteus.  Only smart flying saved that one for Insurance Fraud: they separated their two remaining cruisers to counter the transversal of and kill the frigs.  Close, great fight!

In another case... not so impressive.  ;-)  But it really showed off the importance of managing the bans that are part of the modern tournament format.  In the fight in which Warlords pushed Exodunks into the loser's bracket, Exodunks brought a triple Ferox, triple Moa team.  This is a tough close-range blaster setup with a lot of DPS.  So you think that you would use your bans to ban long-range comps, right?  Not so much.  Exodunks banned Sleipnirs and Vindicators.  Granted, Warlords are good with those comps, but those aren't the comps that a Ferox/Moa comp should be afraid of.  Warlords brought Tengus and absolutely wrecked the Caldari blaster gang.  It really highlighted the importance of really thinking through your bans.

Unfortunately, the way the SCL was set up, there wasn't a lot of time to talk about the bans, and that's a shame.  That's an area they can definitely improve next month.  It will also be good if the SCL organizers put "announcement music" of some kind to announce the fact that a match is about to start.  This is a smart thing that CCP does, and allows tournament watchers to know even from across the room when a match is getting ready to begin.

Two other annoyances: first, the loser's bracket matches should have been done before the first Warlords match today.  I mentioned that yesterday, mentioned it to the tournament organizers.  Didn't happen.  They now agree that things will be shuffled for next time.  The second problem was the schedule itself: most late day matches were an hour late.  This happened because of two things.  First, in the first match between Reputation Cartel and Insurance Fraud, Reputation Cartel seemed to win.  But then someone pointed out the RC team was three points over what was allowed.  The judges had to void the match and the fight was replayed.  Then, the decision above about the Oneiros took some time, which delayed things further.

Root cause for these incidents: more people are needed to run this.  And the organizers recognize that, too.  Had there been more people involved, there could have been more people to confirm comps, more people to handle judging, more people to handle conflicts, et cetera.  In this case, a small group had to handle everything and there just wasn't enough time to do it all in a timely manner.  The next SCL tournament will be better in this regard.

Some random notes:
  • Another close tactical maneuvering fight was decided when an alliance-mate of mine, Bob Shaftoes (flying a Sabre) executed a really sweet diversionary move to draw three enemy Enyos away from their own fleet and into the mass of his fleet.  Great flying!
  • The trivia questions today were ridiculously easy.  They were so easy I had to restrain myself from logging into the SCL-Public channel in an alt and try to win some of the prizes myself.  :-P
  • One of the trivia questions: "What is the name of the Jovian shuttle?"  Bacchanalian, who asked the question, then mentioned that he was flying one.  Then Apathetic Brent, directing the stream, focused on Bacchanalian on screen.  And it was on the screen for thirty seconds.  Heh.
  • Nagas are much more like combat BCs than attack BCs.  Even overheated, a perfectly fit Naga doesn't go even 2000m/s.  That's kind of sad.  This was highlighted by a not particularly well thought-out TEST Alliance comp that included three Nagas.  Three Oracles would have been better.
  • Paladins suck.  I've never seen a Paladin kill anything of consequence in a tournament setting.  Why do people use them?
  • PC Gamer included information about the SCL in their article about eSports this week.  That was nice.
  • Major kudos to the European TZ players, particularly members of Insurance Fraud.  These guys were machines.  Insurance Fraud in particular had to do TEN fights in a row.  Wow.
  • Even more major kudos to CCP Fozzie.  This guy gave up a weekend with no pay to help with this.  It's clear to me that Fozzie is just a genuinely nice guy.  There aren't supposed to be very many of those in EVE.  He was also apparently sick as a dog today.  Get well soon!  CCP Soundwave, CCP Unifex, pay this man for his work over the weekend!
  • Seldarine's still a great commentators, but gah... his puns became worse and worse as the day went on.  At one point, Bacch had to blatantly cut him off to remind him that his job wasn't to come up with inventive puns; his job was to comment on matches.  At that moment, a Paladin was dying amazingly fast...

But again, these are relatively minor quibbles.  I believe the event was a fantastic success overall!  Big congratulations not only to the two winning teams, but to Dradius Calvantia, Bacchanalian, Seldarine, Apathetic Brent, GunniiH, Ituralde, CCP Fozzie, and all the other organizers of the first Syndicate Competitive League tournament!

SCL Day One: Think on your Sins

Granted, I'm probably a little biased, but I think the Syndicate Competitive League had a pretty fine first day.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the SCL is an EVE PvP tournament set up and run primarily by EVE players.  In that, the event was a rousing success.  I can tell you that everyone involved did a huge amount of work to make this happen, and then did a huge amount of work throughout the day to make it run smoothly.  Bacchanalian and Seldarine did a great job commentating throughout the day, and Apathetic Brent and Dradius Calvantia ran the back-end with help from CCP Fozzie, who was running the information panel at the bottom of the screen.  More on that in a few.  All did a really great job.

In particular, Bacch and Seldarine did a fine job commentating.  I teased Bacch that he spent the early part of the day speaking at "Rote speed" instead of normal human speed.  And both need a bit more polish in terms of putting context around ships, tactics, and fleet compositions.  They assume that their listeners know what they know.  If you're an experienced tournament watcher, this was no problem.  But if you're newer to tournaments or to PvP, then you were probably pretty confused about some of what they said.  And Seldarine's puns... oi.  ;-)  At first, they were dropped in casually and infrequently.  By the end of the day, the poor guy seemed unable to open his mouth without firing one.

Still, they're a great team and I thought they did a fine job commentating the matches.  It was quite refreshing to have two people who clearly know the game inside and out talking about the proceedings.

The matches themselves were fine, though many of them were pretty one-sided.  Still, there were enough close fights and interesting compositions to make the day a lot of fun.  Weirdest composition of the day went to one built around three Sin black ops battleships.  That's the sort of thing you'd probably only see on the test server.  ;-)  But there were more standard compositions as well.  Double Sleipnir made several appearances, as did double (and even triple Vindi), and tournament favorites Kronos and Vargur comps.  But some of the new ships were also well-represented.  The Algos was far and away the most frequently seen new ship, but there were also some T1 logistics cruisers as well as one nearly all T1 cruiser comp (it lost, and badly).

Second most amusing comp of the day was brought by The Reputation Cartel -- it was centered on three Curses.  Bacch is a well-known fan of the Curse, so it was kind of amusing to see his reaction...  There was also one Venture brought by one of the teams who clearly recognized they were over-matched and just brought fun ships to their ultimately unsuccessful run.

Viewership was 750 to 850 throughout the early part of the day, peaking at the last match before the break before sliding to about 550 or so for the remainder of the day.  Still, not bad at all for a nearly-completely player run event!

There were also a few glitches but only one major one.  The second set of matches of the day was interrupted by the same old teleporter glitch that failed the New Eden Open a couple of times.  We all know by now that this is not exactly production code, and in this case, it delayed one of the matches by about 45 minutes all told.  No big deal, all in all, but it gave Bacch and Seldarine some time to try to chat about the format, rules, and generally fill dead air time.  They did a pretty good job, though one of the challenges of this format was a lack of "all day" content.  CCP does this particularly well by having booth commentators and studio commentators.  They can keep the content going throughout a full day because they have a full crew to swap back and forth to.  The SCL had no such luxury.  Everything was being done with a handful of people and those people had to work all day.

That said, there was one cute idea used: some pre-recorded interviews with the captains of some of the teams played between a few of the matches.  This was a great idea!  Hopefully as SCL gets its legs under it, this will be done more extensively giving the team a broader base of content to present in-between matches.

There were a few other interesting glitches.  Most noticeable was the fact that the information graphic at the bottom of the screen, while identical to the one used for AT10 and the NEO, was lagged by about seven seconds relative to the on-screen action.  The commentators would announce the death of a ship, or that one had been caught, and it took seven seconds for the info graphic to confirm their commentary.  This is caused by a quirk in how the stream gets to the viewers.  The match is "directed" by Apathetic Brent, who controls what we all see from the center of the grid.  However, the info graphic is provided by CCP Fozzie.  Fozzie streams the info graphic to Brent, who then has to add it as an overlay to his stream (think of it as a big advertisement).  Then it gets restreamed to all of us.  From Fozzie to the satellite to the Brent, then back up to the satellite and down to us... that accounts for the seven second delay.  If Brent delays his stream tomorrow by seven seconds, that might correct this minor bug.  I suggested it to him.  In the meantime, it wasn't too distracting.

The commentators work similarly: they're sitting in Gallente shuttles at the center of the beacon, nearly invulnerable to weapons fire and smart bombs, using standard locks and views to commentate on the action.  It's a little kludgy, but it's clearly working just fine!  But it does result in a few minor glitches, particularly when smart-bombs went off around Brent and his PvP flag audibly and repeatedly went off during one match...

In addition, the info graphic itself still has the weird fact that the attack bar -- used to show how much of the potential DPS of a team is actually being applied -- still never goes above 50% or so.  Apparently EVE players are bad at applying DPS.

All in all though, these are minor quibbles.  SCL had a great first day and a great inaugural set of matches for what I hope will be a continuing EVE PvP tournament league!  On to day two!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Week in the Life: PLEX

Well, more like three months in the life.  Check out the price of PLEXes over the last 90 days:

That's right, boys and girls: PLEXes are almost back down to the price they were a year ago.  What's going on?  Well, we can only speculate.(1)

We know from past behavior that PLEX volume after popular patches tends to spike at one-month intervals after a large number of resubs.  I've circled two places where we can see that happening in the volume data.  This represents people who joined or rejoined to play Retribution, which was released on December 4.  These players put down PLEXes a few days before the release, then buy them as their subscriptions run out 30 days after that and 60 days after that.  The late December PLEX buy was interrupted by a major holiday around that time, but the January PLEX buy shows a nice bell curve centered on January 23-24.  After that, you can usually see "mini-spikes" on seven day intervals centered on Saturday and Sunday when server load is the highest.

Volumes are still safely up after the increase in volume following the late autumn price spike, so we can rule out lack of demand as a reason for the falling prices.  Retribution remains popular among these fair-weather EVE players.  I'll have more to say about that in my next Snapcount post, either this weekend or early next week.

We do know that DrEyjoG has said that he would manipulate PLEX prices "if needed".  As reported on page 102 of the CSM December Summit Minutes, this has happened once:
Dr.EyjoG also provided CSM with a report on PLEX intervention(s) made by the EVE Central Bank since the last CSM Summit. The major intervention was related to a PLEX price spike triggered by a large FW payout, and PLEX prices have remained stable since that time. The CSM was satisfied that the ECB had acted appropriately and in line with the procedures previously described. Dr.EyjoG noted that he hopes to have a devblog out in January that discusses this topic in more detail.
January has come and gone.  If there was a dev-blog on this topic, I missed it.  Remember that this discussion took place on December 14, so when DrEyjoG says prices were "stable", he means "high."  The price of a PLEX on December 14 was 580 million ISK.  So we can safely assume that CCP didn't intervene in PLEX prices since that time, either.

Only they have.

One of the clever means CCP has of tweaking PLEX prices without direct manipulation is through sales on PLEXes.  And sales on PLEXes have been more or less continuous since late December right up to today, starting with the holiday season sale before the end of the year and currently with the "dueling sale" that was probably advertised when you logged into EVE today.

I've covered before why high PLEX prices are bad for CCP and they're motivated to keep them relatively low, and I'm pretty sure this is what we're seeing: CCP manipulating once after the FW button-orbiting debacle, and now using PLEX sales to increase supply and gently tug prices down that way.  It's only a guess, but it's probably a pretty good guess.  Check out the price of PLExes bottoming out briefly during the late December spike as all those holiday PLEXes got sold...

The only question is how far down is this going to go?  One thing's for sure, though.  That number won't be 380 million.  Those days are likely gone for good.  The other thing CCP is motivated to do is to keep PLEX prices inflating with the overall rate of inflation within the game's economy.  I think we'll know CCP is comfortable with the price when the PLEX sales stop.  At that point, I think it'll be time for you investors to stop selling PLEXes and start buying them again.

(1) Sorry, had to.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Comment of the Week: Official word

Earlier in the week, I gently bitched about CCP Fozzie publishing a graph of ship use without giving us numbers to go with it.  I compared a graph without numbers to a map without street names: you might know the general direction you have to go, but that's it.  Fozzie encouraged me on Twitter to post my concerns directly into his EVE-O forum thread, so I did so:
Hi Fozzie,

Great work compiling all the stuff from the F&I thread into one dev-blog, and I commend you for that! Also, thanks for taking player input so seriously during this process. I am still annoyed at my beloved Canes getting nerfed so hard, but at least you provided good explanations at each step why you were doing it. :-P

I do have some questions about this dev-blog though, as I blogged about yesterday:
  1. Why did you guys publish a graph with no indication of where zero is and no scale? Is the bottom of the graph zero?
  2. As a result, how many more Drakes are there than Feroxes, and how far has Drake and Cane use dropped (in percent) since their respective nerfs?
  3. Will you be providing another updated copy of this graph before the summer release?
I was a big big fan of the former CCP Diagoras and the stats that he published on ship use, number of ships destroyed in PvP versus PvE, and decreasing and increasing use of ships. These same sorts of stats also used to (in the ancient past of two years ago) be published in QENs. Today, the players have do not receive these sorts of stats at all.
Fozzie was good enough to reply, and I quote his reply in full.  It's effectively the "comment of the week":
Excellent question about the graph, and it is something I should have noted in the blog.
The bottom of the graph is 0, and the scale is linear. I am however going to take a pass on providing exact numbers at this time.

I've been intentionally careful when it comes to distributing statistics that have significant potential economic value. When possible I'm trying to keep any such information to the official forums and dev blogs, and when in doubt I'm leaning on the side of caution. I know that can be frustrating for people who are used to the huge amounts of information that used to be distributed via twitter, and there's nothing wrong with patch speculation aided by cleverly following public CCP communication (that used to be one of my best income sources) but I don't have the time or education that a dedicated researcher like Diagoras could bring to bear on this kind of communication so I'll be fairly conservative in the foreseeable future.

It's very possible that we may provide some updated graphs as the results of our ship balance changes settle over time, but I can't make promises to that effect right now.
Those are about as gentle a pair of "no"s as I've ever read, but that doesn't stop them from being "no."  And honestly, I haven't decided yet how I feel about it.  I do absolutely remember at some point, somewhere, Fozzie saying exactly how much Drake and Cane usage has slipped in percent since the nerfs.  I just can't find the reference.  So taking a pass on the question was rather unfortunate.  However, it doesn't much matter because knowing the bottom of that graph is zero and the scale is linear, we can use a little :scary math: and solve for the answer to my second question.

From November 25 to February 8, Drake use dropped 10% and Cane use dropped 12%.

We can also solve for a few other things.  On February 8, there were more than twice as many Drakes as there were Canes, and there were ten times as many Drakes as there were Brutixes.  There were more than 20 times as many Drakes as there were Prophecies.  And I expect both of those numbers to change dramatically because Brutixes and Prophecies are now pretty damn awesome.  ;-)

But we may or may not ever know, because Fozzie won't commit to telling us.

I ask again: why is CCP so afraid to share information with players?  Fozzie effectively admits right in this post that using economic reasons to not do so, while safely conservative, ultimately hurts players.  After all, this information was the source of his own income when he was playing!  By blocking that information, CCP is effectively blocking the next generation of Fozzies out there.  ;-)  Isn't it kind of ironic that he himself argues that way?

Player-driven content

This weekend, something unique in my experience is happening in New Eden: the first player-driven, CCP-sponsored EVE PvP tournament.

Last year around this time, you might recall that I participated in the "Syndicate Alliance Tournament."  This was an informal player-driven PvP tournament of eight alliances that lived in Syndicate at that time.  This tournament was put together by by Apathetic Brent from Rote Kapelle, with some help from pBump and TimNeilson from Clockwork Pineapple.  It was a fun, informal event that took place on a system in Tranquility.  Syndicate alliances provided security for the event, but it was probably low profile enough that it didn't draw too much attention except from players that participated in it.

As you're all aware, CCP is really wanting to break into the eSports market and hosted the first officially-sponsored, non Alliance Tournament this past year.  This time, instead of a PvP tournament of alliances living in Syndicate, Apathetic Brent and Dradius Calvantia (both from Rote) and famed PvPer GunniiH have organized a true open player tournament.  Like last year's tournament, eight teams are participating, but this time they do not officially represent their alliances.

Further, this group intends to host continuing player-sponsored PvP tournaments under the banner of the Syndicate Competitive League.

The first tournament is this weekend, February 23 and 24, with matches starting at 1600 EVE time on Saturday and the final match scheduled for 2300 EVE time on Sunday.  This is apparently going to be typical of SCL tournaments: small groups of players, with fast matches taking place over a single weekend.  You can find more details on the SCL website, but the rules are essentially similar to Alliance Tournament/New Eden Open rules.  Matches will be streamed live by TwitchTV, and will take place on the Singularity/Buckingham test server, taking ISK out of the equation.  This will put the tournament participants on much more even footing, which ought to make for some interesting matches.

All of this would be fairly extraordinary... but there's one more interesting wrinkle: CCP is providing substantial support to this tournament!  In addition to the matches taking place on the test server, CCP has graciously agreed to provide logistical support in the form of allowing fights to take place in the test server's Jove space.  They will be providing GMs to teleport tourney participants to the fight systems in a manner similar to their own tournaments, which will prevent uninvolved parties from interfering with the proceedings.  Matches will be fully commentated by players as well.  For this first tournament, the commentators will be Brent, Bacchanalian, Seldarine, and Lazarus Telraven.

The teams involved this weekend are a nice cross-section of New Eden, with a lot of familiar names involved.  In particular, the Rote guys will probably be rooting for "The Reputation Cartel" team, captained by Bob Shaftoes, that had a strong showing during the NEO.  That said, the "Warlords of the Deep" team, captained by Duncan Tanner, has to be regarded as the favorite to win this thing.  They're made up of a lot of famous tournament names from Hydra Reloaded "and a few friends."  Amusingly, this team describes itself as having been "over-qualified" for AT10...

Pretty cool stuff all the way around, sez I!  I'm only sorry that I can't participate this time around.  My recent trip interfered with my ability to practice for this, and that whole CSM thing is happening too... ah well.  I'll enjoy being a spectator for this one, I guess.  ;-)  Good luck to everyone involved this weekend!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fit of the Week: Armor Tackle Loki

I promised for FOTW 101, I'd do something serious, so let's do some serious AHAC gang tackle:

[Loki, Armor Tackle Pimp]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Corpum C-Type Energized Kinetic Membrane
Corpum C-Type Energized Explosive Membrane
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Federation Navy 1600mm Reinforced Steel Plates

Domination 10MN Microwarpdrive
Republic Fleet Warp Disruptor
Federation Navy Stasis Webifier
Federation Navy Stasis Webifier

220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Barrage M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Barrage M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Barrage M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Barrage M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Barrage M
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II, Barrage M

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

Loki Defensive - Adaptive Augmenter
Loki Electronics - Immobility Drivers
Loki Engineering - Augmented Capacitor Reservoir
Loki Offensive - Projectile Scoping Array
Loki Propulsion - Chassis Optimization

Warrior II x5
Hornet EC-300 x5

As I've mentioned on the blog several times, every couple of months I like to buy myself "something nice."  Not long after joining Rote Kapelle, the "something nice" period corresponded with my birthday so I decided to buy myself something especially nice.  And so this Loki was born.  It is horribly expensive: nearly everything aboard costs a pretty penny.  But the Loki is definitely a ship that rewards pimp fittings: everything on here -- particularly the expensive parts! -- makes the ship more effective and more survivable in combat.

Let's start with the tank.  I like armor Lokis more than their shield counterparts; fit right, you don't even lose all that much speed except to nano Lokis.  This time, resists are provided by a DC, a single faction EANM, two C-type passive hardeners to strengthen the Loki's explosive and kinetic holes.  This results in a tank that has average 85% resists before armor links, which is damn tough.  Buffer is provided by three T2 armor rigs (which I built myself) and the little-known Federation Navy plate.  The T2 rigs are optional, of course, but they bump EHP by an incredible 5000 EHP each thanks to those resists.  That makes them worth it: you're much more survivable.

The advantage the faction plate provides is lower mass than the ubiquitous RRT, which increases your speed.  Your speed starts at 1477m/s under MWD.  Every level of the new Armor Honeycombing skill adds about 7m/s to MWD speed.  You'll have to decide how many levels of that skill are worth it to you...

The soul of a combat Loki are the webs.  Mine started with three thanks to the Supplemental Coolant Injector Engineering subsystem, and sometimes I swap out for that.  Still, you lose a gun that way and have to manage your capacitor much more closely.  Rote Kapelle gangs tend to be very small and usually every ship has to at least try to pull its weight in DPS.  Dropping your sixth gun drops about 70 off your DPS.  You can balance that a little bit by using a faction Gyro if you like.  Fit it the way that appeals to you.

Whatever you decide, with no skirmish links, you start with a 30km point and a 35km web.  These ranges jump to 40 and 46km with Claymore links, and 47 and 58km with overheating.  That's a terrific addition to any AHAC gang, and that range is why you're spending so much ISK on your mid slots.  Nobody's going to get away from you.  The Domination MWD is intended to reduce your cap penalty.  If you're richer than me, go dead-space.  The Loki needs a lot of cap to use its kiting tactics.

Speaking of guns, AutoCannons, of course.  With Barrage, your range is 2.7+24km for 328 DPS.  With EMP/Fusion/PP, your range drops to 1.4+16km, for 412 DPS.  Add drones to taste; I like one flight of Warriors and one flight of ECs in expensive ships.

The great thing about Lokis is how fast and tough they are for armor ships.  You're twice as tanky as a typical AHAC and when not under MWD you're the same signature as a Zealot.  Obviously, you're particularly resistant to lasers with a 95% resist, so if you're fighting an enemy AHAC gang made up of a Zealots and Legions, you're going to be in really good shape.  I've used this Loki as a bait ship, no problem.  It's tough as hell.  During the bait phase, use your webs to keep dangerous stuff off you.  Once the fight starts, web on primary, point and web on secondary, web on tertiary (if you fit three).  Operate right at 23-25km and be ready to pop tacklers.  The Loki's a very easy ship to fly.

All in all, the Loki is fun and easy to fly, tough as hell, and unlike a lot of other effective tech3s, it actually looks good.  Yes, this fit is expensive... and worth it.

Point, web!

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.

Two announcements

First off, Trebor Daehdoow has finally made it official: he's going to be running for CSM8.  Trebor will definitely be receiving one of my six endorsements this year.  As I've said several times on this blog (most recently here), he's a proven CSM work-horse, has an important perspective on the game, provides needed continuity and experience from the past three CSMs, and will be critical in helping to formulate both CSM8's communications strategy and how this whole stake-holder thing is going to work.  Here's to hoping he'll be re-elected!

At this point, there are only five members of CSM7 that haven't announced for CSM8.  And most of them are unlikely to be re-elected even if they do run.  The exception is UAxDEATH.  It'll be interesting to see which way he goes.

The second announcement concerns your humble narrator.  Thanks to CCP Tyr who made it possible, I can now share the following...

Gee, I wonder where I might be going between April 22 and April 29...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Greyscale again

When I wrote my post the other day listing the features in Retribution 1.1 that surprised me, a number of people gave me grief for not mentioning the following two lines:
  • Active armor hardeners and shield hardeners no longer give a passive resistance bonus when not active.
  • Armor and shield compensation skills no longer give any bonus to active armor or shield hardeners.
Had I just not noticed those lines, they demanded to know?  Had I not seen the forum post from Greyscale defending these changes?


For the record, yes I did see this change coming, and yes I did see CCP Greyscale's post on the matter.  Here it is almost in its entirety:
This bonus came to the top of our work due to a defect, which prompted us to discuss whether we even wanted this feature in the first place. After fairly extensive discussion, we decided we would prefer to just remove it outright, for the following reasons:
  • We're not, in general and with exceptions, fans of multi-function modules. EVE fitting is about trade-offs, not about having your cake and eating it. In this particular case, it was making the decision to take an active hardener over a passive one easier than it otherwise would be, which isn't a particularly good thing.
  • The UX of this feature as implemented is pretty bad - there's two sets of resist attributes on the hardeners with very little explanation, the skill descriptions need to be unusually complicated to explain exactly what's going on, and it's not at all obvious from the modules that this feature even exists (see Liang's comment above).
He then posted essentially the same thing in the same thread the next day.

Sigh again.  Guys, I really don't want to be in the business of bashing Greyscale.  So yeah, I did notice it.  But I think I blocked it out.  ;-)  Obviously, this change has now been implemented, and there's only one further dev post in the thread, Greyscale doubling down.  That's it.  There's no other replies from Greyscale and no other replies from any other devs.  And of course, these changes are in the game now, and they're not coming out.

One of the reasons listed by Greyscale for making this change is that CCP are not "fans of multifunction modules."  This is such a silly justification that it's hard to believe it was written down.  EVE is full of multifunction modules, of course.  In the very same thread, EVE player Sinzor Aumer does a lovely job of listing most of them.  My particular favorite are Cap Batteries.  Until very recently, these were single-function modules.  Today, they're dual function: increased cap, and resistance to neuting and NOS'ing.  And that was a change that CCP implemented very recently!

As I said, there's no reply to Sinzor.

The second reason strikes me as much more telling.  Essentially, it's saying: "We were told about a possible bug in how these hardeners work and when we looked at the code we couldn't figure it out.  That prompted a philosophical discussion about whether active hardeners should have a passive mode."  And that strikes me as being much more likely to be closer to the true reason.  Call it "CCP lazy mode" if you must, but I feel like someone said "Fixing this is going to be hard... do I have to?"  But I've written enough about that sort of thing.  Let's ignore what prompted the philosophical discussion and jump instead to the philosophical discussion.

Should active hardeners have a passive mode?

The module I kept coming back to when I thought about this myself are the various forms of the Damage Control mod.  This mod is the ultimate multifunction module, having three functions (or even 12, if you prefer).  It's so useful in PvP that it's the very rare PvP ship that doesn't have one fitted.  And that's kind of where this philosophical discussion starts, isn't it?  Adaptive Invuls are so useful that it's incredibly rare to find a shield-tanking ship without one.  Whether they have a passive mode or not, you're going to keep using them.  Active shield hardening modules are so useful that I can only think of two ship fittings where I use a passive shield hardener instead and I only have one character with the passive shield hardening skills higher than Level III.

And I think if we were honest with ourselves, we'd probably come to the conclusion that this is a problem.

In addition, the situations in which players rely on the passive modes of active hardeners are so rare that honestly, it's just hard for me to get very excited about this change.  Now, it's totally fair to ask CCP if they're going to put a multifunction passive shield resistance amplifier into the game.  After all, there are both active and passive multifunction armor resistance amplifiers in the game today.  But I would want to ask a fair question back to you: if there were such a passive shield resistance module... would you use it?  After all, it wouldn't be as effective as the tried-and-true "Invul" and would take the same kind of slot.

I dunno... I've thought about it, and other than a few specialized Drake fits, I can't think of too many ships where I'd sacrifice higher resistances for more solid tanking under neut pressure.  If I'm that worried about neut pressure, I fit a Cap Booster of some type to my ship and call it good.

So all in all, if you ask me how I feel about this change... I'd say I'm extremely ambivalent about how it came to pass, not that concerned about the change on its own merits, and thoughtful about what the change means within the philosophy of the game.  So I guess this post wasn't about "Greyscale again" after all.  I'm sure he'll be relieved to hear it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Kill of the Week: Sagain and again

Every once in a while, I like to look at Kugutsumen's Comedy Killmail thread for a source of KOTW inspiration.  And this week, there was lots of it.  For instance, I missed this last week but I would be remiss if I didn't commemorate this battle, the battle of the kiting Algos.  Fantastic job, Imoral valkyrie!  I salute you!

Also, brief tip.  Do not cyno in your Cynabal.  That's not what they're made for.  But no, that's not the KOTW either.  Even though it was tempting... dear Heaven what is with that fit?  Why?

No, I think I'll go with this:

Tip: this is not what a roaming Basilisk looks like.  Not even a little.  I'm going to pray that the conversation that led to this ship un-docking didn't go as follows (though I'll bet it did):
"I need one logi for this fleet.  Who can fly a Scimi?  Nobody?  Nobody can fly a Scimi?  C'mon, someone must be able to fly a Scimi."
"Well, no, but I can fly a Basilisk."
"We only want one logi."
"No big deal.  I can fit it so that it's cap stable."
"You can?"
"Sure, no biggie."
Again, I hope that isn't what happened.  But I'm scared that it was...  The weird thing is that the dual Ancillaries are what you need to start to fit a Basi properly, with four reps, two energy transfers, a MWD, and an LSE.  It's just literally everything else on this fit that's wrong.  A little bit of tank, please.  Just a little.

Number of dead super-caps this week: 0

That's right: big ol' stinkin' doughnut this week.  Every single super built this week was a net add to the super proliferation problem.  Matter of fact, there weren't all that many expensive kills of any kind this past week.

Closest thing to a super that died this week was this Rhea that died in Sagain.  And that's a pretty damn funny system.  It's a very common mid-point cyno system in the Tash-Murkon region.  There are two stations in system, one of which is a "safe un-dock" and the other of which is a "kick-out" (note to self: write about safe un-docks and kick-outs this Sunday).  Short version, though: if you un-dock from the kick-out, you un-dock far enough away from the station that you can't immediately re-dock if you get into trouble.  So if, say, the un-dock is camped... you're in deep trouble.

And so people camp the hell out of that kick-out hoping for freighter and jump-freighter pilots that don't know about this.  There are people who put jump-clones in Sagain for absolutely no other reason to participate in the glorious party outside that kick-out station.  They kill jump freighters and dreads and carriers and cloaky haulers.  And that's just... you know... yesterday.

Here's another tip: avoid Sagain.  Needless to say, it's becoming a meme.  ;-)  Fly safe.