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...

Monday, April 29, 2013

No dichotomy

In all the run-up preparations to Fanfest, I haven't had time yet to complete my response to Blog Banter 46, which you can find on Freebooted.  The key question of the banter is put this way:
With the return of Live Events such as the Battle for Caldari Prime, clearly the prime fiction of EVE is back in favour as part of this new thematic approach to expansions. However, EVE's story is very much a tale of two playstyles, with an entirely player-driven narrative unfolding daily in parallel to the reinvigorated backstory. Often, they do not mix well. How can these two disparate elements be united or at least comfortably co-exist in a single sandbox universe?
Now I'm going to make this response short because delving into this topic deeply could easily result in a novel's worth of material.  And honestly while such a novel might be very amusing to write, I think the basic question is flawed because it suggests a dichotomy that doesn't exist in EVE Online.

EVE Online is made out of its stories.  And New Eden doesn't care where they come from.

There are alliances and coalitions in EVE that drive the great stories of the game, there are those that have those stories inflicted on them (hee), there are smaller events -- heists, for instance -- that all of us hear about, and there are CCP-run events.  As a player, I've been involved in all of them, and all have contributed equally strong memories of my time in EVE Online.  They're all part of the overall story of New Eden.

Yes, sometimes the CCP-driven ones feel a bit more artificial than most, but even that's just an illusion.  Who could have guessed that a Band of Brothers director would defect?  Seems kind of contrived and overly convenient, right?  Who could have guessed that Goons would suddenly forget to pay their alliance bill.  Seems equally cringe-worthy as a story-telling device.  ;-)  Sometimes, the stories of EVE aren't pretty and don't make much sense.

But when they do, we're all hooked.  And all of us are hooked by different things.  Walking around Fanfest and seeing the great variety and imagination of faction costumes, I can say with a great deal of confidence that there are lots of players that get off on EVE's developer-created thematic story elements.  But there are thousands of players that enjoy the player-crafted stories.  And there are not a few that are just here to pew, or to mine... but are contributing to the story in their own way.

So nope, don't see much difference between one and tother on this one.

Thanks as always for the interesting question, Mat!

Fanfest Day Five: Sales pitch

I wanted a little bit of extra time to think about that CCP Presents keynote.  And the more I think about it, the more my thinking runs down three pretty distinct channels:
  • CCP wasn't presenting to its current customers on Saturday.  They were presenting to the press.
  • It should not surprise EVE players that since the DUST players were more agitated, they received more attention.
  • While as an EVE player, I was overall disaatisfied with Saturday, as a CSM member, I'm delighted.
Let's take them in order.

If you're not at Fanfest, the thing you don't see on the stream is how people are filtered into the keynote venue.  At the bottom and top levels are players of both games yes, but in the middle is the press area.  And press were everywhere at this Fanfest.  You couldn't throw a rock without hitting someone wearing a Press badge.  I saw everything from local media to Eurogamer to Playboy in attendance, and every media outlet in between.  I caught up with CCP Manifest at one point and asked him if he could arrange for a quiet place for me to write in the venue and he let me know that the press areas within the venue were totally full (I ended up doing my writing at the hotel).

What was the reason for the overlap with the other two keynotes?  Press attention.  What was the reason for the focus on the new products, particularly all that's happening in DUST?  Press coverage of CCP's new game.  Everything shown Saturday shows that CCP wants to broadly expand the audience of the "EVE universe".  Will the comic and the TV show and the clothing line and the books of lore and the EVE Collector's Edition and the TV spot and the MMA fighter sponsorship all succeed?  Of course not!  This is a shotgun approach.  You throw out mutliple things and you hope one or two things resonate.  Something goes viral.  That something expands your market.  That's how this stuff works.

Each of us probably has one or two of those that they liked.  For me, it was the 64-page comic and the Collector's Edition (which I'm pre-ordering the instant I get home).  For you, maybe it was something else.  We'll see what succeeds in the coming months.

Next up, the DUST focus.  I'm already hearing from lots of players that CCP Presents was nothing more than a second DUST 514 keynote.  No.  Not true.

But you could be forgiven for thinking it was.

Now part of this is EVE players becoming more and more wary of DUST in its tail that wags the dog role.  In talking about the PCU count, David Reid made it pretty clear that CCP expects the combined count of EVE and DUST concurrent players to pass 100k sometime this year.  That means that it's taken DUST eight months to find an audience equal to the size of EVE.  And they seem to be holding on to that audience in a shooter for coming up on a year (a life-age of the earth in shooter ages).  Let me clear my throat and say that again so that you hear it:

In less than a year, DUST has gained an audience equal that to the size of EVE Online.

But the DUST audience IS agitating for CCP to fill in the basic gaps in their game.  Are they at the level of player riot?  Not even close.  But they have a legitimate gripe, they're a key expanding market for CCP, and it didn't surprise me at all that CCP wanted to focus on that audience.  Besides, you might have noticed a bit of a personnel shuffle on the EVE side.  A lot of the stuff shown about EVE in the CCP Presents keynote was almost deliberately vague.  Watch it again and you'll see that lots of those promises can be interpreted in more than one way...

Which brings me to the point where as an EVE player, I was a bit aggravated by the keynote but as a CSM member, I was delighted.  I haven't had NDA-level conversations with anyone in EVE game design yet so I don't mind saying it's pretty clear these vague directions are undefined.  There's a damn good chance that CSM8 is going to be in a really good position come the May/June summit (whose date is not yet set, BTW) to influence the direction of this "space colonization" vision.  At the Party, I was able to buttonhole both CCP Seagull and CCP Arrow and tell them both "Know what was missing from that graphic of those Bustards building that stargate?  You zoom past that view and there's a hundred sub-caps fighting to defend them as they spend hours or preferably days at that work."

I'm all for a big industrial expansion or two (and that's what feels like is coming, honestly), but there's more than enough room in this theme for some explosions.  ;-)

So overall, I was of mixed emotions about the CCP Presents keynote.  The new Origins trailer, though?  That's the best trailer the video team has done in years.  Dear Heaven does it do a lovely job of selling the games.

And selling the games -- yes, plural -- was what Saturday was all about.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fanfest Day Five: Top of the world

I'm going to split my day five recap into two posts, one about the Party at the Top of the World, and one about the rest of the day because quite frankly, I'm still sorting out my thoughts about the CCP Presents keynote.

The average age of the CSM voters this year was 33, which puts me about a decade older than the average voter.  ;-)  And looking at me, you'd probably think "Hell, this clown probably still listens to Bon Jovi!" so it might surprise you to learn that I have a pretty modern taste in music.  I was on four pod-casts over the course of the election with non-standardized opening music and all of them asked me to pick the opening music.  In no particular order, I picked pieces from Muse, Linkin Park, deadmau5, and Zedd.  Still, when considering Fanfest as an overall event, the party was the bit I was least interested in.  I figured I'd poke my nose in, say hello to a few people, then slip out quietly.

How wrong I was.

Oh, not about the "club area" itself.  I spent a grand total of about 30 seconds in there Saturday night during one number.  The music was fine, but I was there to socialize, not to socialize, if you take my meaning.  ;-)  Adjacent to the "club area", the former PvP arena had been reset into a lower-volume "chill out" room apparently exclusive to Fanfest guests.  But even that room was pretty loud and I only went in there once.

However, the party also spills out into virtually the entire second floor of the Harpa.  A section of it is cordoned off for CCP employees only to relax away from the unwashed player masses.  But the bulk of it is open and surprisingly isn't too loud!  So... ummm... your humble moderator quite literally stayed at the Party at the Top of the World until 2:30am.  And I had a great time!

I met tons and tons of EVE players that I hadn't had a chance to meet previously... far too many to name, including most of the last few gaps on my list.  Guess who I still haven't met.  Go ahead, guess.  ;-)  Yup, still no face to face with the King of Space.  We came within a few feet of each other a few times but at those times, he was busy with something or I was busy with something or we were both busy with something, so no dice.  Another time, perhaps.

I also go to meet and/or talk to tons and tons of devs, including CCP Unifex, CCP Seagull, and CCP Pokethulu (David Reid), the last of whom I was finally able to express my keen admiration for.  Him: "Thanks!  That means a lot, coming from you."  Heh.  Apparently, I have a reputation for being hard on some CCP employees.  Excuse me while I glance away, whistling...  We had a great chat about CCP's "crazy ambition."  More on that in due course.

It was also a great meeting point for new and now-former CSM members to get together and chat.  Seleene has a very humorous story to tell now that perhaps he'll share.  I spent a good portion of the evening with Trebor Daehdoow, who was fantastic about helping me meet a last few devs I wanted to, and Marcel Devereux of Aideron Robotics, who helped with some last player meets (and was incredibly good at it!).  Both of these men are absolute princes.  The former issued me my "official" CSM shirt.  Anyone who thinks Trebor doesn't belong on CSM8 (and yes, I'm talking to you here, Poetic Stanziel) simply doesn't get it.  We need this guy's connections, knowledge, and background to be successful.  He amusingly described himself as a "fleet booster" last night, and I think that comparison is pretty apt.  He will help all the members of CSM8 be much more effective by his presence.

Anyway, don't get the impression I spent the evening talking shop, because that isn't the case at all.  This was just a great opportunity to relax, have fun, talk about everything from the future of EVE Online tournament play to the native booze of Portugal (thanks to the guy who let me try that; damn good!).  Hardly anyone got trash-talked, and to my knowledge, only a badly positioned wine glass got ganked.

Just a lot of EVE players having a good time, and I'm very happy I went.  Thanks to CCP for throwing a hell of a Party!

Next up: the wrap-up of the rest of Saturday, then some Fanfest wrap-up thoughts, then back to normal operations around here in between a travel day on Monday-Tuesday.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fanfest Day Five: Thank you

It's past two A.M. here, so I'm going to keep this short.  But there will be more tomorrow, I promise.

I will open with this: thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.  I am completely overwhelmed by your support.  You will find out exactly how overwhelmed on Monday when the numbers come out, but trust me when I say they're stunning.  They certainly stunned me.

When it was time to enter the main hall for the CCP Presents keynote, I was a nervous wreck.  It's a little known fact that you have two choices of how to watch the keynotes at Fanfest.  You can enter the main hall where drinks are (technically) not allowed.  Hint: this is why you see those nifty EVE Online flasks from time to time.  Or you can enter the side hall and watch the keynote on a video monitor... and you can bring your booze with you.  Because of something that had happened earlier in the day, the Rote Kapelle guys wanted to watch in the booze room.

I stuck with the main hall.  I knew however the results came out, I would get emotional.  And I didn't necessarily want to do that in front of my alliance mates.  ;-)  And get emotional I did.  Particularly when the Tweets started coming in.  I apologize for not responding to them, but wireless in Harpa was a bit overwhelmed by 2000 people trying to use it.  My access to the Internet was intermittent or missing until about 15 minutes ago when I got back to my hotel.

Tonight, I am alternating between very happy, very humbled, and quite frankly, a little terrified.  What have I DONE?!

It'll be real tomorrow.  For now, I'm going to bed.  Again, thanks to all of you.  I will keep my promises, and if I don't you know where I will be on May 1 of next year and you have my permission to come and kick my ass.  More, including a full recap of the day, in the morning.

Fanfest Day Four: Skál!

The only downside of being at Fanfest is that you sometimes miss some of what's at Fanfest.  As Trebor correctly pointed out to me yesterday, it's the sign of a good conference if you have trouble deciding which sessions you'd like to go to.

On Friday, it seems to have been universally agreed that the best session of the day was the Economy Roundtable, which I definitely would have attended except for the fact that it overlapped with the Alliance Panel which I definitely was NOT going to miss.  Oh well, that's what Youtube video replays are for.  One of the interesting statistics to come out of the Economy Roundtable: 50% of all EVE players "play solo", whatever that means.  I'll have to either watch the whole thing or corner DrEyjoG at some point to find out.  That said, the number does not surprise me in the slightest.

I also would have liked to have been in on Team Pony Express's Roundtable about the new player experience, but it was titled "The Un-Frankenstein Experiment" for some reason and by the time I figured out what the title was about, it was too late.  Whoops!  Another one I'll be watching on Youtube.

Nope, on Friday, I spent the entire day in the Singularity secondary hall until it was time for the EVE keynote.  My fixed position, particularly since I transmitted it on Twitter a couple of times, made it really easy for people to find me and lots of players swung by to say hello, which I really appreciated!  I guess I also appeared on the EVE TV stream at one point -- I think while I was watching the Art Panel? -- as part of an audience reaction shot.

I still haven't met Two step, Liang Nuren, and the King of Space, nor Elise Randolph, Shadoo, or Seismic Stan from Freebooted.  I hope to rectify this today.

Anyway, in the Singularity hall were...
  • World of Darkness.  Not a lot of progress on this one since last year.  There was a pretty bad-ass partial game-play video that was an advance from last year's Fanfest video, but I'm told they're not putting this session up on Youtube so if you weren't there, you won't see it.  I have to admit to being really intrigued about this one despite not being in the target audience for the property.  One thing is clear enough: the devs are not backing off a bit yet from having a bloody, violent game.
  • CSM Panel.  Present were Seleene, Trebor Daehdoow, Two step, Hans Jagerblitzen, Elise Randolph, and Greene Lee.  This one was surprisingly low-key!  All of the questions that you would expect to be asked were asked: "If you could go back in time, what would you change about what you did?"  "Why are you not running again?"  "What about that leak?"  "What about the STV system?"  Et cetera.  Very predictable, with few or no surprises.  The one thing that jumped out at me from this session is that Hans implied the first DUST 514 CPM is only going to be in office for a few months.
  • Alliance Panel.  Everyone appeared in cone-shaped party hats, reminiscent of the wizard hat that Mittens wore so famously last year.  It was also made clear that while those present could drink, they could only have one drink on the table at a time.  Still, nobody was in a hurry to repeat last year's performance.  As a result, this panel was a disappointment for two reasons: nobody took any risks, and there were far too many alliances scheduled to speak with Dirt Nap Squad taking far more than their fair share of the time.  Pandemic Legion, Fatal Ascencion, and a couple of others presented, which left Dabigredboat from Goonswarm with a grand total of about five minutes, which was a damn shame because their presentation looked better than three or four of the others put together and Boat had to rush through it.
  • Art Panel.  This one stole some of the thunder from the EVE Keynote by showing off the new gate effects, the new jump effects, a bad-ass new Crucifier model, some of the new v3 assets including the new Avatar, and other eye candy.  Well worth watching!
  • Prog. w/Ship Identification System.  This showed the new ship skill selection interface and unfortunately was the least interesting presentation I saw at Fanfest so far.  There just wasn't enough material here to fill the full hour though the devs involved tried manfully to make it do so.
  • Game Design Live Session.  This one was rather fun!  It involved CCP Greyscale, CCP Beattik(?), and CCP Masterplan walking the assembled group through the process of game design for EVE Online.  I learned a ton about the CCP software development process that might prove to be really useful pretty soon here.  ;-)
  • EVE Keynote (actually in Tranquility).  I'm sure all of you have seen it by now.  Most emotional moments were the standing ovation for Jon Lander after he finished his remarks about Retribution, and the birthday celebration for the company and the devs at the end.  As I said at the top, the minor downside of being at Fanfest is that you're too busy to read dev-blogs, so I've only read about a third of CCP Fozzie's dev-blog so far.  For now, I'll just say it doesn't surprise me at all that Fozzie got tasked with presenting the material rather than, say, Greyscale.  ;-)  All I'll say here is that I'm a little bit surprised that more of the features of Odyssey weren't covered during the keynote, but there was a lot of ground to cover in two hours.
A quick dinner, and then it was time for Pubcrawl with the Devs.  How this one works is that you go back to the Harpa at 9pm and you congregate at the bottom of the stairs.  You've chosen the group of devs that you want to hang out with, and my group was led by CCP Beattik and was number 15.  In due course, two devs come down the stairs waving a "EVE Fanfest Pubcrawl" banner with two big #1s on it.  Then #2, #3, and so on.  Each group is taken outside Harpa and gathered where there are four or five cases of beer, two bottles of Brennivin, and a couple of boxes of shot glasses.  And as a result, there's some pre-pub crawl drinking that goes on.  ;-)

As the picture at left probably shows, CCP Beattik is both a genius and crazy, in the way those two qualities sometimes combine...  He's a fantastic guy and great fun to hang out with.

I'm not a big fan of beer, and the beer in question is Gull.  It's a lager and I guess it's pretty good as lagers go but again, I'm not a big fan of beer unless it's Guinness, so I passed on that.  I was very curious about Brennivin, though, so I accepted one of the first shots of that.  And it's excellent!  It's a schnapps flavored primarily with caraway.  It doesn't have an alcohol flavor at all and so you can probably render yourself inert pretty quickly on it if you're not careful.  I myself had five shots of it over the course of the night which tends to scorch the back of the throat a little bit.

CCP devs are an enthusiastic bunch, it turns out.  ;-)  "And when we go out," one of them said to me, "we say skál, loud and proud!"


Friday, April 26, 2013

Newbies and champions

I'm going to make this really, really quick.  Tomorrow at this time, I'll know if I'm on CSM8 and chances are I won't feel comfortable writing this post then.  So I'm gonna get it out today.  If I'm not on CSM8 myself, whomever is on CSM8 is probably going to have to deal with it.

As we've heard, CCP Unifex will be stepping down from his Executive Producer role in about two weeks.  In terms of championing the cause of the CSM's stake-holder position, from an outsider's perspective, it feels like the list of people who are doing this within CCP currently -- in order -- are Unifex, then CCP Dolan, then CCP Seagull, then CCP Xhagen, then CCP Ripley, then "everyone else."  Now again, this is an outsider's perspective which might be totally wrong, but that's the impression I have right now at CSM8 Day Minus One.

Xhagen is also leaving his current position.  Dolan is brand new to his job.  Seagull is new to her job.  And Ripley is in a project management/personnel management position, not really a game design decision-making position.  CSM's champions are looking remarkably like newbies...

The question I have is will the new Executive Producer be a champion of the CSM stake-holder process in the same way that Unifex has become?  This single question probably defines the overall chances of success of CSM8 as a whole.  The good news is that during several presentations and round-tables on Thursday, the CSM was listed as an input source for the teams involved.  The bad news is that sometimes it was pretty low on the list...

Now again, my outsider's perspective might be very wrong.  But from a corporate politics perspective, suppose you're Seagull.  Your new boss is indifferent to the CSM.  Are you going to make the case for them when you're new to your job?  Or are you going to go with the flow, support your boss, and protect your new position?

So when CCP finally announces the new Executive Producer, I'm going to be watching very closely what he or she has to say on this subject.

Fanfest Day Three: Close quarters

There were some funny pictures last year of Fanfest attendees standing four deep in some of the more popular sessions, like the Null-sec roundtable.  Last year's Fanfest has nothing on this year's Fanfest.  ;-)

Fanfest itself is divided into four areas scattered around the Harpa venue.  The first area are two large theater-style auditoriums, labeled Singularity and Tranquility for Fanfest.  Singularity is a pretty typical theater style arrangement that can accommodate about 700 people.  Tranquility is where the EVE Symphony Orchestra performed.  It's a vast space able to seat about 1600, the entirety of the Fanfest attendees.

Next up are the Round table rooms, of which there are four this year, two "big" and two "small".  The big ones can seat perhaps 70.  The small ones, about 45.  Yeah, go ahead and raise your eyebrows now.

Next up is the PvP arena that can theoretically seat several hundred people but is obviously set up for its stated purpose.  I haven't been in there yet.  Thursday was too busy and today will be too.  I'll be checking it out Saturday.

Finally, there's an extremely large "gaming area" and associated food court with lots of tables plus three or so EVE console video games including an absolutely hysterical EVE side-scroller.  I can't help but laugh every time I walk past it.  But there are also gaming tables for poker, sci-fi related board games, and the like.  What's happening in practice is that from time to time, the round tables are spilling out into this area.  Most prominent among them was the Wormhole Round Table, which was scheduled for one of the smaller Round Table rooms.  I conservatively estimate some 120 people wanted to attend, about three times the capacity of the scheduled space.  I didn't attend that one, but apparently those that did were happy with what they heard.  ;-)

CCP has a terrific mobile version of the schedule which makes it really easy to find the sessions you want.  I didn't really commit myself to many of the sessions except:
  • PvE in EVE session.  This one was dominated by hard-core solo player care-bears, plus a few null-sec bloc care-bears and their concerns.  I attended because PvE in EVE is clearly one of the most broken things in the game, but absolutely nothing got settled in this session.  I think my amusement level peaked when a guy who lives in Pure Blind started complaining that his space is really bad for making money.  To his credit, the dev who took the question made it clear that Pure Blind isn't the problem.  ;-)
  • Null-sec session.  This one was dominated by the blocs, obviously, including a rather humorous and presumptuous Dabigredboat.  He kept trying to sit behind the table since "I generate most of the null-sec content!"  CCP Greyscale wasn't amused.  Someone trolled him right into the ground by joking that DBRB hates targets that shoot back.
  • Retribution Roundup.  This one was held in the main Singularity hall and it was here that I stepped up to the mic and asked my first question of CCP Explorer, CCP Greyscale, and CCP Seagull.  When I said who I was, the latter shielded her eyes from the stage lights to get a look at me.  ;-)  The session was mostly about application development project management concerns in Retribution and how CCP goes about measuring their workload.  My questions, in essence: "In the past, CCP has said the art team is a bottleneck.  In a project management sense, how does CCP manage such bottlenecks?" and "Again from a project management stand-point, is there any team concerned with the documentation of new features?  While Crimewatch is fantastic, I've explained it to literally hundreds of new and returning players who don't quite get it."  IMO, Explorer dodged the first question and Greyscale made it clear that they look to their players to solve the second.  I thought that was kinda interesting.
The other sessions, I drifted in and out of, not really committing myself to any one so I could get a sense of what the players in each were thinking.  In this way, I checked out "UI of EVE", "User Experience", and "The Art of EVE".  By mid-afternoon though, the close quarters of the Round Table rooms had caused me to have some kind of allergy attack.  More on that in a bit.

While I would wander from session to session, this was a great time to meet EVE players and in this way, I met CSM members Hans Jagerblitzen (as well as Trebor), CSM candidates Roc Wieler, Korvin, Greene Lee, and CSM candidate interviewer Xander Phoena (in a kilt) as well as dozens of others which space precludes me listing.  It was really great to put faces and voices to the names of people that I've chatted with in various fora!  And by the time it got around what I looked like, people were stopping me here and there to say hello, which I really appreciated.

The back half of the day, I spent in the Lowsec PvP/Crimewatch session and the Emerging Economies session in the Singularity secondary hall, followed by the DUST 514 keynote in the Tranquility main hall.  I must admit the latter did a great job of selling DUST 514!  I suppose it's now OK to let this out of the bag: during closed beta, CCP realized they were only using half of the graphics memory that the PS3 supported.  If you stopped playing DUST because of "ugly", you might want to have another look.  It now looks pretty freakin' gorgeous.  In addition, the new player experience and skills system "will probably make EVE players jealous."  Yep.  The new DUST 514 map of New Eden is also miles superior to the EVE map.

My original plan afterward was to get dinner then head to The Celtic Cross to meet more EVE players that I haven't yet had a chance to say hello to.  Unfortunately, by that time my allergies were really making me suffer.  In addition to having trouble breathing, I had an impressive headache.  The idea of food was repugnant.  I got back to my hotel room about eight, napped for a few hours, sketched out the four blog posts you'll be reading here today, then went to bed.  We old men need our oxygen.  ;-)

Other highlights of Thursday:
  • Roc Wieler telling me I have pretty eyes.  I told him not to get any funny ideas.  ;-)
  • A CCP dev made it said there are higher resolution skins for most ships but they haven't wanted to release them because of concerns about client size.  When he asked "If these were optional downloads, how many of you would download them?" virtually every hand in the room went up.
  • I met CCP Greyscale on a staircase... and absolutely nothing happened.  I'm getting soft.  ;-)
  • This bit was a tiny bit unclear, DrEyjoG and DUST's economist (whose name I didn't catch) said that there have been 600 trillion ISK of market transactions in DUST 514.  The number for EVE: 650 trillion.  The part that was clear was whether this meant "in total" or "since DUST started".  Either way, that's an enormous number for DUST.  I've been worried that EVE ISK might overwhelm the DUST economy.  Clearly, the concern might be in the other direction.  Everyone's been very careful not to say how many DUST players there are, but it's clear it's a big big number.
  • The DUST 514 TV commercial, I found really underwhelming.  IMO, DUST should market to its strengths and the fact that you respawn isn't one of them.  Every FPS MMO has that!  The commercial didn't show anything of the new graphics or the deepness of the game so I get the impression that the gaming community response to the TV spot will be "so?"

Tomorrow (today), Friday, Fanfest Day Four:
  • Most of today in the Singularity hall, with:
    • CSM Panel
    • Alliance Panel
    • Art Panel
    • Game Design Live Session
  • Probably not gonna risk the Round Table rooms today, but we'll see
  • Pub Crawl with the Devs
Day after, Saturday, Fanfest Day Five:
  • PvP Finals: Hydra Reloaded/Rote Kapelle versus Pandemic Legion!
  • Find out who won that whole CSM thing

Fanfest Day Three: Right hand, left hand

And here we are, the first official day of Fanfest!  There's going to be two posts about Thursday, one covering what I did from 9:30am through 11:45am, and a second post for the rest.  I apologize for the delay in getting these posts out, but you'll understand before too long.  ;-)

I was up until 2am the previous evening socializing, drinking, and writing.  Fortunately, I don't need much sleep.  So I was up bright and early on Thursday, figuring (accurately) that EVE players would queue up early to register for Fanfest.  I also figured (sadly, also accurately) that my situation wouldn't be as easy as most people's so that was all the more reason to get there early.  The first official activities were at noon.  I arrived about 9:30am.  To find myself about 250th in line.

Ah well.  ;-)  It was windy but at least it wasn't too terribly cold.

In due course, we started streaming into the building and I found myself at the registration desk.  "Good morning," I said, giving my name.  The only official proof that I'd be able to attend Fanfest was an e-mail from CCP Tyr (which I printed and had with me) that said I was allowed to attend.  Would it be enough?  Apparently not.  The lady at the registration desk didn't have my name on file.  "Hm, OK," I said.  "Well, I run a Community Fansite.  Is there another line for them?" I asked.  I had chatted with CCP Manifest Wednesday night and he had mentioned that there should be such a badge waiting for me.  She brightened and pointed me toward that line.

Where I wasn't listed, either.  Still, I got to spy on the list and see who was here.  That made finding people during the day much easier since the Fansite badges are purple whereas most badges are yellow.

I was then placed into the hands of CCP Falcon, who was guiding problem children to an upstairs registration desk for people who hadn't bought their tickets in advance.  Only my name wasn't there, either.

Is this an appropriate time to :ccp:?  ;-)

It was pretty clear that I was caught in a classic right hand-left hand situation.  And to be completely fair, there were more than a thousand people in the building and of those a good 10-15% appeared to be problem children like myself.  To say things were chaotic is understating.  CCP devs moved back and forth, back and forth, trying to contain the chaos.  Still, it was hard not to get a little aggravated.  Was I going to be stuck outside, pressing my face against the glass?  If what I suspect is going to happen Saturday actually happens, that would be pretty damn ironic, don't you think?

"Hm, OK.  I have this e-mail from CCP Tyr," I said, producing it, "and CCP Manifest said there should be a badge for me.  If we could find either of them, they should be able to sort me in about two minutes."  She agreed to pass the word, and I stepped aside.  A few minutes before while in line, I had encountered Trebor Daehdoow (who is every bit as nice a guy in person as he appears in various chats and videos) and he also agreed to see if he could find someone who could help me.

I don't want to belabor this story.  Just suffice it to say that the good news is that my placement right next to the problem child desk made me really easy to find.  I met a half-dozen prominent EVE players while waiting (including Xenuria... and his mom).  Want to know who eventually sorted out my badge?

CCP Dolan.  Dolan sorted out my badge.  I spotted him walking past and shanghaied him into the group that was trying to help me, and in about 10 minutes, he had it done.  Just something to keep in mind the next time you (or I, honestly) feel the need to bad-mouth Dolan.

By this time, I had been in the building for about two hours and the first sessions were about to start.  More about that in my next post.

Who won't be on CSM8

As I write this, we're about 32 hours from learning who will be on CSM8, so there are a couple of posts that I'd like to get out before we learn the results.  Both are quickies.

I've listed who I believe will be on CSM8.  How about the people I believe won't, and why?  In rough order of "who I wish would be on CSM8", that list starts with:

Roc Wieler
A lot of people have dismissed Roc for being a fitness buff in a game not exactly swarming with fitness buffs, or for being a role-player in a game where role-players are sometimes held in less than the highest esteem.  Dismissing Roc for these reasons is short-sighted (and of course, political).  There's no question that Roc has the best interests of the community in mind, is passionate about the game, understands many aspects of the game more than well enough to be a CSM member, and most important, has the real life experience and discipline that the job requires.  So it's rather depressing to me that we're likely going to miss out on having this man on CSM8.  I've already accused him once of hiding his light under a bushel and he wrote an impassioned defense of himself.  It probably won't be enough.  That's a real shame.
Steve Ronuken
I caught some heat for not endorsing Steve, but it's not because I don't think he would make a good CSM member.  I do and he would.  In my view, Steve simply lacks the experience and name recognition to make a good player advocate.  He struck me as a really fantastic candidate... for CSM10.  In short, I think Steve is in exactly the same boat this year that I was in two years ago.  I encourage him to run again.
Psychotic Monk
I think the voting numbers are going to be too weak to allow very many -- if any -- single issue candidates on CSM8 that aren't part of a null-sec bloc.  If James 315 had stayed in the race, a slot would have been his to lose.  But Psychotic didn't really capitalize on James dropping out the way he maybe should have.  It mnight have been interesting to see a James 315 endorsement.  Hell, maybe such an endorsement happened.  But if it did, it happened below the radar.
Unforgiven Storm
For the same reason, I think the "industrialist Goon" is also out of luck.  Too many industrialists will see the Goon ticker.  Too many Goons will see the "not on official ballot" thing.  This is a shame because industrialists in general have been unrepresented on the CSM the last several years.  Meissa Anunthiel was their advocate, but far too often he's MIA.
Mike Azariah
The single-issue candidate list continues with Mike.  Don't get me wrong: Mike is a fantastic guy: smart, low-key, relaxed, upbeat, and knowledgeable about incursions and role-playing.  He also should have the name recognition to be successful.  But he's another single-issue candidate in a year when single-issue candidates aren't going anywhere.  If he runs again -- and I encourage him to! -- he needs to broaden his base.
Unfortunately for this candidate, EVE voters realized two years ago that promising to fix specific issues within the game is a waste of time for a CSM candidate.  Sure, lots of people like him(?) but their votes for this candidate will be well down the list.  That said, he'll do pretty well in terms of votes, I suspect.
The first really tricky entry on this list.  If Ali Aras doesn't make the CSM, that vaults core into a much better position.  I'm pretty sure one of the two has a good shot, but not both.  There aren't enough Provibloc voters to put both of these candidates on the CSM.  And I think Ali has done a MUCH better job courting newer players.
Another really tricky one that I could easily be wrong about, but it won't be a tragedy at all if I am.  I've finally had a chance to meet Korvin at Fanfest yesterday after chatting with him for several weeks on and off.  He's a really smart guy, personable, and with long experience in both the game and real life.  Certainly, I believe the "Russian candidate" will be either Korvin or Greene Lee.  But who?  I already mentioned in my first post on this subject that this race could be too close to call.
Cipreh, Chitsa Jason, Ayeson
There is room on CSM8 for -- at most -- two wormhole candidates.  I think James will defeat Cipreh among those who are looking for someone with extensive in-game w-space experience.  In my opinion, Chitsa and Ayeson will fall in the early rounds to STV mechanics feeding their votes to other w-space candidates.
I really like riverini, but he talks as many people out of not voting for him as he talks into voting for him.  There's no question that he's knowledgable about the game and its players.  He'd also make a great player advocate.  But he's too divisive to actually be elected.
Arctura, Daehan Minhyok, Travis Musgrat, Awol Aurix
In my opinion, voting numbers are going to be too soft to allow down-ballot bloc candidates to push out stronger independent candidates.  But if I'm wrong about this, it will likely be the fault of the Javascript voting scripts that were available in the first few days of voting that made voting full slates of 14 candidates very easy for the blocs.
And that's everybody.  Who am I wrong about, Dear Readers?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fanfest Day Two: Deaf and hoarse

Holy crap, the night life in this country is going to take some getting used to.  I can handle the late nights very easily.  I can drink when required.  But Icelanders seem to have a need to fill their every bar with exquisitely bad music played at 85dB and I wish I was joking.  ;-)  To say it makes conversations challenging is quite the understatement.  Try to imagine discussing the subtleties of internet spaceships with people of varying accents who are also trying to tell you their character names while standing under an operating jet engine and you'll have a pretty good idea of the difficulty.

I am currently deaf and hoarse.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I woke up this morning apparently 100% acclimated to the time change, threw open the window shades, and started to laugh: it was snowing.  There was a good inch or so on the ground and it was coming down pretty steadily.  What would this mean for the Golden Circle tour planned for today?  I was willing to bet that the native Vikings would scoff at so little snow and I was right.

Still, it made for some pretty entertaining reactions.  Here's CCP Explorer on Twitter:
Hey, #evefanfest attendees, you did bring the Festival/Snowball Launchers with you, right?
CCP Masterplan:
To all our #evefanfest visitors: Sorry for the unexpected snow. We accidentally restored a DB backup from December.
There were others of course, but those were my two favorites.  Needless to say, the Golden Circle tour kicked off just in time... with more than 600 Fanfest attendees present!  That was my second laugh of the day.  I was told that last year, it took four buses to hold the attendees.  Today, it took eight or so.  There were so many of us that multiple tour groups kept overlapping, crossing each other, missing each other... oh, it was chaos.  Fun, though.  ;-)

The attractions themselves?  I have to admit to being slightly underwhelmed.  The snow reduced the countryside to monotones; I suspect the bus part of the tours works much better in better weather, later in the season.  Visibility was down to about fifteen hundred yards or so most of the day.  That cut the impact of Iceland's gorgeous geography pretty significantly.  If you can't see the cliffs and ridges and rifts, you can't admire the amazing geology.  If the differentiation between snow, lichen, and fauna is obscured by snow, you can't appreciate the differences.

Highlight of the day was far and away Gullfoss waterfall.  This is, quite simply, a beautiful incredible place... absolutely glorious.  I'm not even going to attempt to describe it.  All I'm going to say is: go.  I only had 40 minutes to spend with this wonder of nature and I spent that hauling ass down a path into the cauldron.  "It's an experience," our coach driver said.  Understatement must be a cherished Icelandic art form.  The steep hill and staircase back up out of the cauldron that looked so intimidating going down simply flew by unnoticed coming back up.  I came away from Gullfoss energized in a way I simply can't describe.  Like I said: go.

No devs on the "Golden Circle with the devs" tour, at least on my bus.  I get the distinct impression that CCP ran out of devs to both do the Golden Circle and still be able to handle all the work still needing to be done for Fanfest.  There were crowds of people setting up in the Harpa all morning before the tour departed.  Still, I have no regrets on that score.  And I have a couple of really funny stories to tell about that bus ride that I'll save for another post.

The snow ended by about three P.M.  And then it vanished as if it never was.

Iceland is a weird place.  ;-)

I hooked up with CSM7 Chair Seleene for dinner who continued the trend of not punching me in the mouth, hee.  What he did do was drag me into a PL blob.  ;-)  But it was fun and I learned a lot.  And in the best Gump tradition, that's all I have to say about that.

From there, it was off to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra playing music from EVE.  Yes, they played the most famous song you know, the one featured prominently in Clear Skies.  ;-)  But the rest was quite nice too, particularly the opening piece which was haunting and mysterious and really played up the "mystery of space" aspect well.  You'll probably hear a few people bitch that the boom camera operator "spoiled the show" on the big screen, but that was there for ambiance.  The music was the star attraction.

From there, the plan was Celtic Cross for the Twitter #tweetfleet meet-up.  We arrived to find a line to get in due to occupancy.  So, I allowed my alliance-mates to talk me into The English Pub instead.  But I still got a chance to meet a few people and chat.  See the "deaf and hoarse" bit at the top.  But I was hoping to meet Two step, Hans Jagerblitzen, Xander Phoena, Mara Rinn, Liang Nuren, and others.  No dice.  A meeting with The Mittani also continues to elude me.  I understand he was one of the people inside Celtic Cross.

Finally, I got to play an amusing little joke on alliance-mate Bacchanalian.  I've mentioned before that he strongly resembles Mittens.  Bacch had no idea what I looked like yet, so I walked up to him and said "The Mittani, I've been trying all week to say hello to you. *long beat*  I'm Ripard Teg."  Needless to say, Bacch's reaction was priceless.  ;-)

First official day of Fanfest is tomorrow!  Hopefully, I'll be able to meet some players for breakfast.  If nothing else materializes, I'll present myself at The Laundromat restaurant in the morning and hope I get lucky with the morning crowd.

On to some sleep!

EDIT (24/Apr/2013): Oh!  And yes, I heard about the CSM leak.  No, I haven't read it.  So I have nothing to say about it yet.  I'm sure I will but it will probably have to wait until this weekend at the earliest.  Sorry about that, but I'm kinda busy...

Fit of the Week: Brutix

And so it has come to this, my favorite of the combat battle cruisers.  That would be this monster:

[Brutix, Dual Rep]
Medium Armor Repairer II
Medium Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Damage Control II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Warp Scrambler II
Stasis Webifier II
Medium Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 400

Heavy Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
Heavy Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
Heavy Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
Heavy Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
Heavy Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
Heavy Ion Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge M
Small Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Medium Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Medium Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Medium Nanobot Accelerator I

Hammerhead II x5

I've mentioned the weakness I have for "green and covered with blasters" lots of times, and no ship exemplifies this philosophy like the Brutix.  The thing looks like a monster, and fit this way it hits like one, too.  And it's surprisingly durable as well as being wicked fast.

Let's start with the last because comparisons with the Talos are going to be inevitable.  Yes, the Talos is faster, lots faster.  There's no getting away from that.  In a battle between a Brutix and a Talos, the Talos is going to win both because of damage projection and because the Talos is going to have the option to run away.  The only good news here is that virtually any combat battle cruiser is going to be a bad match for the attack battle cruisers as they're currently designed.

And that assumes that the attack BCs won't get themselves rebalanced a little at some point, which I suspect they're going to be.

So much for what you can't do.  Let's talk about what you can do.  The terrific thing about the new Ancillary Armor reppers is how good they are at cutting down the one previous weakness of blasters: the fact that you had to take a lot of enemy fire during your closing stage without being able to apply your own.  Overheat your MWD as you close (of course), then overheat your MAR2 (not the Ancillary one).  Only activate the MAAR if you need to burst tank DPS against your targets.

Your goal is to close to pistol shot range.  The Talos has to kite, but the Brutix doesn't have to.  You have the tank, and the burst tank, to take a tremendous amount of fire as you close.  Drop your drones at about 15km and let them go in and apply your first DPS.  Then get your web and scram on the target.  At that point, you can shut down your MWD and orbit super tight... the closer the better.  Trust your web to manage transversal issues and manually pilot at 400 meters or so.

At that point, the beauty of a blaster ship comes in: just literally hit F1.  As soon as you drop to 50% armor, turn off the overheating on your MAR and burst tank with your MAAR.  Be careful with the MAAR!  Each cycle is going to repair about 20% of your armor so don't overdo it.  You have a ton of structure; don't be afraid if you bleed a little bit into it now and then.  Your real job is cap management: keep your cap as high as you can after your MWD is shut down.  The goal here is to be able to run the MAAR without charges concurrently with the MAR while you apply some 700 DPS to your target and outlast him.

If you've done your tackle approach on the right kind of target, you almost certainly will.  The Brutix is now a tough old monster as befits its heritage.

Mindflood booster of the Synth variety goes really well with this ship, as does Synth Drop to mitigate any residual transversal issues you might have.  You can switch to Null if you like and get more range but honestly if you want to fly like that, you may as well be in that Talos and take your chances at being tackled by a close range heavy brawler like the Brutix.

Not much more to say about this ship, so I'm gonna close with an alternative fit which is just nasty and fun.  Consider it a bonus FOTW:

[Brutix, Shield Gank]
Damage Control II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Tracking Enhancer II
Power Diagnostic System II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Warp Disruptor II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II

Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Heavy Neutron Blaster II, Null M
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I

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

Hammerhead II x5

This one flies exactly the same way, only you will need to overheat that Invul as you close and you're not going to have a web so you're probably going to need another tackler involved.  But the DPS is monstrous.  Overheated, it goes to 1000, and that's before you load Void if you manage to tackle a carrier.  It's a fun ship to fly and believe it or not has a 50k EHP tank before heat.  As I've said a couple of times before, Gallente shield-tanking isn't the joke it used to be!

Whichever of the two you choose, happy brawling!

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fanfest Day One: Blur

Thought I'd get this out before I go to bed this evening.  Today's kind of a blur, and I feel strongly that I should write about it while my impressions are fresh.  So I apologize in advance for any spelling or grammar mistakes.  This post may not live up to my usual editing standards.

After breakfast, I headed back to the hotel where I put the finishing touches on the blog post that I put out there this morning, then rapidly unpacked the more critical stuff.  Reyk seems to have a goodly number of hotels but a lot of Fanfest attendees like myself are renting converted apartment complexes rather than traditional hotel rooms.  The advantage of them are the full kitchens and the home-like amenities.  Quite nice, all in all!  They definitely have their quirks; the wireless Internet at the place I'm staying at drops constantly so playing EVE here would be impossible.

But of course, I'm not here to play EVE, am I?  ;-)

After that, I headed out into town to get a feel for the place.  This is something that I do whenever I'm in a new city: get out, walk around, learn my way around, get lost, try to get myself unlost.  Reyk is both an easy place to get lost in -- lots and lots of little side streets! -- and an easy place to get unlost in.  There are lots of good landmarks, including a quite prominent spire at the Hallgrimskirkja, a massive Lutheran church.  But it's also a lot more hilly than I expected, which made navigation a bit of a challenge.  I'm getting the hang of it.

Iceland this week is cold and damp, temperatures just at freezing.  It rained a good bit today, particularly in the early afternoon when I spent most of my time wandering about.  There weren't quite as many early Fanfest arrivals as I was expecting somehow.  A few hundred, to be sure!  But not the large crowds that I was otherwise expecting.  In due course I went back to my hotel to crash for a few hours.  At this point, I consider my sleep schedule completely acclimated to Iceland local time.  This is an advantage that I have from all the traveling I do in my normal job...

From there, off to dinner with Namamai and GunniH from Rote Kapelle, then I said I'd like to head over to Islenski Barrinn to see who might be gathered there.  I guessed -- accurately, as it turned out -- that there'd be a nice cross section of EVE players and devs there.  We ended up spending the entire evening there until well after midnight.  Here's a tweet from CCP Guard showing a picture of the place.  A more typical bar you're not going to find anywhere; only odd thing about it is that the restrooms are only labeled in Icelandic whereas every other sign I've seen in town so far is in both Icelandic and English.  For reference, "Harl" means "Men".  ;-)

There, I met CCP Unifex, CCP Guard, CCP Fozzie, CCP Dolan, Seleene, Sort Dragon, Marcel Devereaux and a host of other EVE players.  I had a great time!  Icelandic's local lager is... ummm...  well, let's just say I don't like lagers and leave it at that.  But the local stout is quite drinkable.  Even better, I didn't get punched in the mouth once.  ;-)

The CCP employees are -- to a man -- enthusiastic and excited about what they get to share with the players this week.  Seleene is excited and promising he gets to be smug about what CCP will announce on Friday.  Sort Dragon let it be known that he hopes that CSM8 chooses a "non-bloc chair", which I thought was a very interesting admission.  Sort himself seems a good enough guy, but he has the distracted air that a lot of highly technical people have.  You get the impression that he only needs about 15% of his concentration to carry on a converation with you and the rest is busy with other things.  Dolan is, as always, underrated.  He's a far nicer guy in real life than he comes off on camera.  He and Unifex both know the results of the CSM8 election.

I'm alarmed to report that Unifex was partially dangled off the upper level of the facility but also happy to report that he emerged from the experience apparently unharmed.  He had some complimentary things to say about my writing, but he also said that sometimes I'm way off base and -- and I'd like to make it clear that this was said in public with several witnesses! -- he's interested to see what happens to my output starting in a week or so.  Read into that what you will.  ;-)  I didn't get a chance to delve more deeply into what I write that Unifex disagrees with, nor was I able to have a meaningful conversation with Fozzie at all.  Islenski Barrinn distinguishes itself by being quite loud.  I ran a little sound meter app several times while in the place and it never went below 78dB and often went quite a bit higher.

A big "thank you" to everyone else I talked to tonight!  It was great to finally meet some of the people who read my stuff and of course flattering to be complimented on what I put out here.  On to day two!

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Fanfest Day Two:
  • Golden Circle with the devs
  • EVE music with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra
  • Late night at Celtic Cross

Day after, Thursday, Fanfest Day Three:
  • Official opening of Fanfest
  • Ship Balancing Roundtable
  • User Experience Roundtable
  • Null-Sec Roundtable
  • Lowsec PvP/Crimewatch Roundtable
  • Either the CREST Roundtable or the QA Roundtable, haven't decided
  • DUST 514 Keynote

Recycling day: Rigging the market

Just a quickie.  There will definitely be more about this topic.

Remember how back in July I said that capital size rigs were probably coming?  And remember how I told those of you out there that had an eye on a T2-rigged super-cap for one or another of your characters should get moving on that?  And remember how a small number of you told me I was being paranoid?

Yeah well, this happened today.

If you were getting ready to buy that T2-rigged super or were thinking a T2-rigged triage Archon would be fun, I'm sorry but you're already too late.  The T2 rig and salvage markets are going absolutely insane.  CCP just buffed veteran players by raising the value of their T2-rigged capitals and supers by anywhere from two to seven billion ISK.  Each.  And that's at today's prices.  We can only hope that "new exploration" possibilities include new sites for finding salvage because otherwise we're all pretty screwed.

If you are a new player that's been thinking about getting a carrier or dreadnought, buy it today and rig it today.  Even if you can't fly it for several months, get this done with large rigs right now.  Get another player you trust to help you.  There's every reason to think that the volatility in the T2 salvage market is going to hit the T1 salvage market too for parts like Armor Plates (used to make Trimarks) and Tripped Power Circuits (used to make CCCs).

I'll have lots more to say about this when I've had time to think it through.  I've also asked a couple of questions about it in the thread.  It's entirely possible that there might not be the capability to produce T2 rigs if CCP doesn't turn on the invention cycle for these new BPOs.  They didn't for the new mining rigs, after all...

Fanfest Day Zero: Arrival!

I can has Iceland!

My travel day is now complete and I'm sitting in my hotel room/apartment in Iceland.  U.S. politics means that a lot of flights are being delayed right now, and my flight from Phoenix to New York was no exception, delayed two hours due to "air traffic controller activity", a fancy way of saying that the FAA is furloughing air traffic controllers to save costs.  gg, U.S. government, gg.  That meant that my comfortable four hour layover in New York was suddenly a little less than two hours.

Still, I got very lucky in that regard: my incoming flight to JFK was on US Airways airline which lands in JFK Terminal 7.  Icelandair departs from JFK... Terminal 7.  So my turn-around basically involved walking out to the terminal, picking up my baggage at baggage claim, making a right turn, going up a set of stairs, and walking straight up to the Icelandair departure agent and checking the same bags right back in. ;-)

From there, it was straight over to my departure gate where there were two flights to Iceland departing 10 minutes apart from sequential gates.  My flight was leaving from Gate 1.  As I walked up, the Gate 2 agent was paging... Mittens.  Heh.  Well, not "Mittens", of course, but Mittens by his real name.  I got on my phone and cheerfully tweeted...
In other news, I'm within 25' of Mittens and the universe hasn't imploded. #tweetfleet
Mittens, meanwhile, was having the same issues I was.  So there wasn't an opportunity for me to walk over and introduce myself as he walked up just in time to board his flight.

So, get on the aircraft, takeoff, all the usual stuff.  Trebor Daehdoow warned me that Icelandair seats are... as I believe he put it... "formed from native Icelandic lava rock."  Yeah, confirmed.  Simply awful seats: hard, uncomfortable, and terrible for one's back.  It didn't help when the flight attendant informed all aboard that our aircraft was named after a volcano.  I laughed before I could stop myself.  Then I pulled up the seat display moving map to find that the primary landmarks available on the display were shipwrecks resulting in massive loss of life.  I wish I was making this up.

Quirky Icelandic humor.  ;-)

Landed in Reyk, made my way through the airport.  Those who commented on my customs post saying that the "red line" for Icelandic customs meaning that you have additional items to declare isn't staffed in the mornings?  Also confirmed.  Nobody could have stood in the red line had they even wanted to, and I shot into the duty free store, picked up what I wanted there, picked up my luggage, and went through customs like a missile.  To be greeted by this...

CCP Guard, CCP Fozzie, and a host of others holding up signs welcoming the new arrivals to Fanfest and offering us seats on the "party bus" into town.  I had to decline this offer as an alliance-mate had already graciously offered to pick me up at the airport.  As it turned out, he was also picking up two others so it ended up being five of us humorously crammed into a compact car along with all of our luggage.  I'm sure a picture of it will turn up eventually.  I got some mileage by waving cheerfully at drivers and pedestrians looking into our car in disbelief.

Had breakfast with the very same alliance-mates, and who walks right past the place where we're eating but Mittens again!  Guy won't leave me alone.  ;-)

Anyway, off to wander the streets of Reyk!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fanfest Day Zero: Lunch

Encountered in my travels today in Phoenix...

Appropriate, don't you think?  Two more flights...

Kill of the Week: Burn victim

KOTW honors this week has to go to a Burn Jita victim, so I think I'll go with this Golem.

It's worth 16 billion ISK.  Flying in Jita.  During Burn Jita.  Face.  Palm!  And that wasn't even the most expensive thing killed during the burn!  Goons killed five... count 'em, FIVE freighters and JFs worth ten billion ISK or more including one full of 19 billion in w-space loot.  More about the Burn Jita 2.0 butcher's bill in a day or two.

Amusingly enough, though, Goons themselves lost a pair of heavily-laden Anshars this week, both to The Marmite Collective war-dec, both in Nonni, both within a few hours of each other.  Here's the first.  Here's the second.  Know what else they have in common?  No loot drops whatsoever except for small piles of ice products.  The Goon conspiracy theories in the KB comments are rather amusing...

Sometimes it's fun to have a friendly little blue-on-blue engagement when alliance-mates get bored.  "Let me see how much damage I can do in this thing," or "I wonder how much alpha I do with a single volley?"  The most famous example of this that I'm aware of is PL destroying one of their own jump freighters a year or two ago with a single volley off of one of their super-carriers.  The pilot was just curious how much damage a single volley would do.  As was this Moros pilot, curious what his dread would do to this friendly Ares.  Whoops!

Number of dead super-caps last week: 3

Super kills this week started with this Nyx, which caught four doomsdays from Raiden. titans which were among the more than 100 ships involved in this kill-mail.  Sadly, his single local rep wasn't sufficient to handle the DPS, nor was his rather budget fit... except for the billion ISK neut, heh.  Presumably, the pilot involved picked that up off the wreck of a better-fit super-carrier.  Credit where credit is due, though: at least the kill seems to have happened in the midst of a capital fight rather than as a gank.  Three other capital ships -- Chimeras all -- were also killed.  Unfortunately for him, the Nyx's side was a little out-numbered...

Next up is this Nyx killed by Cumadrin and the PURPLE HELMETED WARRIORS.  I don't have to guess about the story on this one because Cumadrin was good enough to write it up.  It's a pretty standard story with this group: Cumadrin puts two and two together, determines there's a Nyx in system, probes its likely hiding space down, a lucky decloak, a little bit of drama, a dead super.  But the full story shows off just how much investigative work this group has to put into what they do sometimes and it's worth reading for that.

The final dead super of the week is this Aeon, covered in this story on TMC.  Short version of this one: a Provi FC gets curious about a fairly obvious cyno ship and follows it until it lights its cyno.  Sure enough, a travel-fit Aeon jumps in and is spotted warping to a planet.  The FC hurriedly calls his kitchen sink fleet into the system to try to tackle the Aeon.  The Aeon, meanwhile, warps around a bit, has rockets fired at it by a frigate (starting a 15 minute aggression log-off timer), then arrives at a safe and cloaks up.  And then logs off!  Damn, people are dumb sometimes.  Needless to say, the aggressed Aeon was scanned down and killed by an entertainingly random fleet.

It's helpful if you learn how the game works before you buy that super-carrier...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fanfest Day Minus One: Packing

My first flight departs in a little over eight hours as I write this and I am now all packed:
  • Incidental things like clothes, bathroom stuff, the usual.  ;-)
  • Heavy coat and gloves (it's just above freezing most of the week).
  • Lighter, water-resistant coat (I tend to be warm-blooded most of the time).
  • Umbrella (it's supposed to rain Tuesday and Wednesday).
  • Hiking boots and jeans (I'm doing the Golden Circle on Wednesday, presumably in that rain).
  • Passport (be embarrassing to forget that).
  • Computer, various computer supplies (the blog must go on!).
  • Tablet and charging cable (Android, if you're curious; for taking notes).
  • Lots of "digital packing", of course.
  • Heavy travel backpack.
  • Lighter wandering-around-town backpack.
  • Four power adapter plugs (and a power transformer that I hope I don't need).
  • Hotel room snacks (I hear food is expensive).
  • A big pile of print-outs of all my travel arrangements (print-outs don't break).
  • Spending money (duh, but you'd be surprised how many people forget).
Hoping to pick up a map of Reyk and some additional food on my first day in town, and I will be using my duty-free allotment for both booze and cigarettes (I don't smoke).  Let's hope I'm not forgetting anything!

Tomorrow, Monday, Fanfest Day Zero:
  • Travel day!  L.A. to New York, New York to Reyk (overnight).
Day after, Tuesday, Fanfest Day One:
  • Arrive in Reyk far too early, no official activities scheduled.

Who I think will be on CSM8

So, now that the voting is over I'm going to be completing the advice of Rixx Javix who advised me not to blog about who I thought would win the CSM8 elections until now.  His justification (and it made total sense) was that if I started saying nice things about people I wasn't endorsing, or not-so-nice things about people I was endorsing, it would undercut those endorsements and potentially affect the outcome of the election.  That's political thinking, but unfortunately for the STV process, it's very smart thinking.

The thing about STV that makes the election really interesting is what it does most is encourage like-minded candidates to "group up."  Obviously, the bloc candidates did this, but nowhere was this more common than than among the five wormhole candidates.  There's every reason to think that the vast majority of wormhole voters will have all five wormhole candidates in their top five slots and certainly the candidates themselves encouraged this.  So even if, say, Nathan Jameson aligned better with a few non-wormhole candidates in terms of his core beliefs, from a political stand-point it made much more sense for him to cross-endorse the people who theoretically are his biggest competitors for votes.

Because if you end up the strongest of those competitors, you not only get to have your votes, you get to have theirs too.

When writing about this to various supporters, I made amusing references to the movie Highlander.  For the three of you who haven't seen it, the basic premise is that immortals walk among us, but are competing amongst themselves to be the final remaining living immortal.  When one immortal slays another, he (because of writer stupidity, all of the immortals in the original were men) receives a "quickening" which in the movie is shorthand for part of the power, experience, and skill of the slain immortal.

Running for CSM8 is a bit like being an immortal, except to a certain extent you get to choose who receives your quickening when you die.

For that reason, virtually all of the CSM candidates endorsed for political reasons rather than reasons of alignment of beliefs.  mynnna and Trebor Daehdoow, and mynnna and myself get along fine.  In particular, you can hear mynnna and I chatting very amiably and agreeing on virtually every topic on the Declarations of War podcast that we appeared on together.  Assuming the three of us are on CSM8 -- and I think it's very reasonable to assume we will be, more on that in a second -- I expect we'll work extremely well together and agree on far more things than we disagree on.  But during crazy election season, mynnna didn't endorse Trebor or myself, and we didn't endorse him even though we endorsed each other.  That's how the politics portion of this thing works.

I'm also going to go against the grain a tiny bit and predict that CSM8 voting turnout will be equal to last year, or at most a few percent over.  It might even be a few percent under.  During the SCL a couple of weeks ago, CCP Dolan mentioned in his own words that voters were more motivated last year (true) and that both CSM7 and the player-CCP relationship has been much more serene this year than last (also true).  These two factors equal less motivated voters among the more "casual" voters.  In addition, as The Mittani has already pointed out, we've got fewer candidates this year than last year.  Only 31 candidates made the final ballot.  Fewer candidates means there are fewer people out there stumping for votes and directly encouraging people to vote.

As a result, net, I think we're going to see at most around 65000 votes this year, and maybe as few as 60000.  That's extremely good news for the null-sec bloc vote (they were very motivated this year), good news for the higher tier non-bloc candidates like myself, Trebor, and Mangala Solaris, but bad news for the lower tier independent candidates who to get elected needed a strong independent voter turn-out to dilute and weaken the bloc vote.  I don't think that happened this time.  I hope I'm wrong.  Let's say 62500 people voted.  And we'll further say that 90% of those votes were for winning candidates.  That means that there will be 56000 votes for winning candidates and the "quota" to be elected to CSM8 will be about 4000 votes.

Will STV be used again next year?  I think it's been a good experiment, and I think it has more strengths than it does weaknesses.  But its weaknesses are many and I'm sure whomever is on CSM8 is going to have to sit down with CCP, look at the election results in detail and decide how the system should be tweaked for CSM9.  It'll be one of the things I'll take a personal interest in.

So, with all that said, let's look at who I think is going to win this thing.  Starting with...

The top two

These are the candidates that I expect to win the two "permanent" seats on the CSM, meaning that they will be invited to the May Summit, the December Summit, and to Fanfest 2014.

1. mynnna
And I think he'll easily take one of the two permanent seats.  mynnna is #1 on virtually every CFC ballot and #4 on virtually every HBC ballot, so his election is assured.  Of course, you could have put a basketball in that position and the election of that basketball would also have been assured.  So it's fortunate that mynnna is very smart, knowledgeable, and presents the appearance of someone who will actually work in his position.  He has gaps -- big ones -- in his knowledge of some EVE topics, but that's everyone including myself and mynnna's gaps are not in any way fatal to his ability to be a good CSM member.  mynnna will be Chair of CSM8 if he chooses to be and if he decides to rally the other null-sec bloc CSM members to that cause.  Whether he will do so is open to some question.
2. Sort Dragon
He is an interesting choice to be at the top of the HBC ballot, but because he's at the top, he's going to get one of the top three or four slots.  I'm going to give HBC the benefit of the doubt and for purposes of this prediction, I'm going to put him in the #2 slot.  Theoretically, that should also give him the other of the two permanent seats and I also think that's likely, but it's nowhere near the lock it is for mynnna.  Sort is the first of many bloc candidates that didn't campaign very much this year, and the first of many who didn't have to.  Doesn't matter, though: not only does he have the HBC behind him, he's got terrific knowledge of high-end PvP and bloc large-fleet PvP mechanics.  He'll make a great delegate.

The upper tier

If the top seven vote-getters were going to Iceland, these are who I think will round out that top seven.  A few thousand #1 votes count for more than ten thousand #2 votes.  You can see this operating in this low-turnout simulation written by Alikchi.  Go down to the rounds with around 18-21 candidates left and you can see this mechanic operating.  Therefore, you won't see any CFC or HBC candidates in this group.  These are people that with a few thousand more surprise #1 votes than expected could challenge Sort Dragon or mynnna for one of the two permanent seats.

3. Mangala Solaris
If any independent has a chance of pushing Sort out of that second permanent slot, it's probably Mangala Solaris of RvB.  He'll not only have a strong majority of RvB voters behind him -- more than 6000 characters call RvB home -- but he'll be a terrific draw among new players, small-gang PvPers, high-sec players, and a number of other groups.  He's one of two candidates that drew endorsements from both bloc and non-bloc candidates which can only help him in that final run toward the #2 slot.  He's got a great background in the game and will be a fine CSM member.
4. Trebor Daehdoow
My feelings about Trebor are well-known at this point.  He received several thousand #1 votes when #1 votes were all that got counted.  His presence as the primary transitioning member of CSM7 can only help him, as can the positive press CSM7 received from CCP as voting began.  He's an easy lock for the upper tier, and a likely continued frequent guest of CCP in Iceland in 2013.  The only reason you might not see him in Iceland in December is if he gallantly cedes his seat to another delegate.  If mynnna doesn't take the CSM8 Chair seat for himself, then I expect a cross-section of CSM8 delegates will vote Trebor into the position.  And honestly, having a more "neutral" chair would be better for CSM8, IMO.
5. Malcanis
Malcanis seems an easy lock for CSM8, but where will he fall?  I'm going to gamble a bit and say his wide knowledge, experience, name recognition, and excellent and frequent posting right across the entire spectum of EVE Online forums is going to put him in the upper tier.  He's another candidate that was endorsed by both bloc and non-bloc candidates, but also should have a strong following of his own.  I think that's going to translate to a lot of #1 votes.  Certainly, the rest of CSM8 is going to be lucky to have him in the group.  He will definitely be one of CSM8's work-horses and will certainly earn CCP recognition in the form of multiple seats on Icelandair.
6. Ripard Teg
Hubris?  Probably.  But I'm going to gamble even more and say that I think I received a few thousand more #1 votes than anyone guesses.  ;-)  I hope so, anyway!  If it's not me in this group, it will be progodlegend and it will because he did an outstanding job rallying N3 #1 votes.
7. James Arget
The last member of this "upper" group will certainly be a wormhole candidate.  But which one?  Given that the criteria for this group is "lots of #1 votes", I suspect it's going to be James Arget.  But that's a hunch based entirely on his wormhole knowledge.  I don't think anyone can guess how the wormhole voters are going to tip their #1 votes and the owner of this slot is going to be the person with the most.

Everyone else

These are the candidates that will mostly receive CSM seats based on strong "trickle down" votes.  Though they won't have as many #1 votes themselves as the group just above, they'll have enough #2-#5 votes from strong candidates to receive CSM seats.  But there will be a couple of people with smaller groups of #1 votes in here, too.  But they'll all be on the team with the same access.

8. Kesper North
9. Sala Cameron
10. Kaleb Rysode
11. Banlish

For the purposes of this prediction, these four (the #2 and #3 on the CFC and HBC ballots) are easy predictions for CSM seats.  How they will do once they're on the CSM is a complete unknown.  Each of them has good strengths in their areas of expertise: Kesper has strong experience in building null-sec organizations, Kaleb seems to be a great small-group communicator, Banlish has good industry-related experience and knows outposts like nobody else, and Sala Cameron is this year's titan delegate.  How will this translate to being well-rounded CSM delegates?  God knows.  None of the four have campaigned very broadly.  With mynnna and Sort, these four candidates should exhaust the 24000 or so bloc votes that I suspect there will be this year, keeping lower-end null-sec bloc votes from influencing events too much.
12. Nathan Jameson
This is a bit of a wildcard pick.  With STV, what's going to happen on the low-end is going to be very difficult to predict.  But I suspect there are going to be some 6500 "wormhole votes".  4000 of them will be needed to put James Arget on the CSM.  That leaves about 2500 free, which means that a candidate that can add 1500 more votes on the side will take a second seat for the w-space bloc.  In that kind of scenario, I think Nathan Jameson sneaks in.  He's done the best job of the remaining wormhole candidates of presenting his platform to a broader base than just wormhole voters.
13. Greene Lee
The Russians shouldn't have too much difficulty electing a CSM delegate.  The question is which one is going to rally the field.  Even though I endorsed Korvin, I suspect it's going to be Greene Lee.  Yes, I'm sure he received hundreds if not thousands of votes from -A- last year, but several factors work in his favor.  He's another returning member of CSM7, he's had a year to build up a lot of contacts in Russian player organizations, and there only a couple of Russian competitors which is going to concentrate that voting base.  I think he'll squeak in.
14. progodlegend or Ali Aras (too close to call)
This one is just going to be too close to call and completely beholden to STV mechanics on the low end.  In fact I think when we get down to the final couple of rounds, it's going to be Ali and progod fighting to see who gets eliminated due to the lowest number of votes rather than any particular strength of #1 votes that each brings.  If progod gets the seat, it will be because he did a good job rallying his N3 base; progod wins on low overall voter turn-out.  If there's a higher than I expect voter turn-out, then Ali gets the seat probably based on new player voters or a broad base of high-sec players suddenly deciding to vote.  I've listed progod first because I consider the first scenario more likely.

Whew!  That went on much longer than I expected.  Next up: key candidates I think are out of luck, and why.

Fanfest Day Minus One: Alcohol

Welcome to the first of what I'm sure will be many many posts about my very first Fanfest.  Today is Sunday in the U.S.  I arrive in Reyk on Tuesday; my first flight leaves stupidly early Monday morning.  But there are lots of preparatory things that need to be done before tomorrow and today's posts on the subject will be tagged "Day Minus One".  My travel day will be "Day Zero", Tuesday will be "Day One", and so on.

Let's start with a fun one: booze.

Iceland is one of a couple of dozen or so countries that have an "inbound" duty-free shop at the airport, meaning that you can buy things there to your limit and not have to pay normal in-country taxes on them.  I've never been to Iceland, but I've been to two other countries that have this in place.  For Iceland for this trip, the main consideration is -- obviously -- alcohol.

Here's what Icelandic customs has to say on the subject(1):
Travellers can import duty-free alcoholic beverages and tobacco products as follows:

Alcoholic beverages:
  • 1 litre of spirits, 1 litre of wine and 200 cigarettes (1 carton) or 250 g of other tobacco products; or
  • 1 litre of spirits, 6 litres of beer and 200 cigarettes (1 carton) or 250 g of other tobacco products; or
  • 1.5 litre of wine, 6 litres of beer and 200 cigarettes (1 carton) or 250 g of other tobacco products; or
  • 3 litres wine and 200 cigarettes (1 carton) or 250 g of other tobacco products.
Spirits comprise alcoholic beverages having 22% alcoholic content or more; wines comprise alcoholic beverages, other than beer, below this alcohol content.

The minimum age for bringing alcoholic beverages into Iceland is 20 years, or 18 years for tobacco.
What this means in practice is that you can buy one liter of booze and one liter of wine or one liter of booze and six liters of beer at the Keflavik airport and bring it with you into the country when you pass through customs.  Plus one carton of cigarettes if you're a smoker or know an Icelandic smoker or someone else who might care to smoke a little more cheaply in Iceland.  Interestingly, apparently chewing tobacco and snuff is banned from import into Iceland.

So, now you know what the first thing many Fanfest participants will be buying Iceland.  ;-)

One more thing about Icelandic customs: Iceland appears not to have any particular restrictions as to the importation of computers.  The only lines in the customs file about this are as follows:
Travellers may bring into the country without payment of customs duty clothing, bedclothes, camping gear and other travelling equipment (including foodstuffs and other supplies) for their own use in Iceland, provided that these goods may be deemed of a reasonable quantity and nature for the purpose and duration of the visit, and consistent with the visitor´s other circumstances, and that they will be transported out of the country on the owner´s departure, in so far as they are not consumed in Iceland.

Traveller may bring with them a gift; the value of each object may, however, not exceed ISK 10,000. Should the value of an object be more than ISK 10,000 the person in question may utilise the customs allowance for that amount, and pay duty on the excess value.
I often travel out of the U.S. (including on this trip) with two computers.  Sometimes that's a problem, but it looks like it won't be this trip.  10k ISK is about $85.58 U.S. as of today's exchange rates.

Obviously, if I have any of this wrong, I hope experienced Icelandic travelers will correct me in the comments.

Next up: packing.

(1) And interestingly, Icelandic customs misspells "traveler" and "traveling" throughout this page.  Perhaps that's the British English spelling?  I assume so, because they also use the word "utilise".

Friday, April 19, 2013

Propaganda play

Now that the CSM8 voting is over, picture of the week honors goes to this funny bit of electioneering, presumably produced by Goonswarm and spotted by DarthNefarius being posted to Local channels here and there in New Eden:

That made me laugh.  Goons are so good at this sort of thing.  Anyway, now that the voting is over, I'll finally be publishing my posts on who I think is going to win this thing, and why, and just maybe a few thoughts on who should win it.  CSM8 election results will be announced at the CCP Presents keynote on Saturday, April 27.

Speaking of Goon propaganda, it's been amusing to me to watch mynnna, Marc Scaurus, Bagehi, and Alikchi spin out reasons on Twitter why there's been absolutely no mention of Burn Jita on themittani.com today.  mynnna finally got a little exasperated and typed this little gem:
We're actually paid to publish whatever we please. I hope the difference isn't lost on you.
This means, I suppose, that the money men behind TMC would frown on paying a TMC staff writer a hundred million ISK to advertise an event that might cost the GSF a JF or freighter kill.  ;-)  But it's rather hysterical in context, a purported gaming news site not covering... you know... gaming news.  I'm reminded of the end of Superman II, Lois Lane having received Superman's magic obliviate kiss, looking at a colleague and asking guilelessly "What's going on in the world today?"

What's going on, indeed...

Marc allowed as how TMC would certainly cover the event... after it's over.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Go tell it on the mountain

So, in a lot of recent interviews, CCP Unifex has appeared positively giddy about the success of the Retribution expansion.  He's implied fairly frequently that it's one of EVE's most successful expansions.  Is he right?

In a word: yes!

Keep an eye on logged-in players as I do and you see something startling and encouraging: people have been logging in to play Retribution in massive numbers.  Here's the standard table that I've been producing every few months for the last couple of years on this subject:

RMR/Bloodlines  T2s, Carriers+4.6%+7.0%+11.9%Success
Revelations IInvention, rigs  +4.3%-0.1%+17.6%Major success
Revelations IISov changes+0.8%+6.4%-2.6%Failure
TrinityNew graphics+2.4%+29.0%+19.5%Major success
Empyrean AgeFaction war+0.5%+7.1%-8.5%Major failure
Quantum RiseNano nerf+18.5%  +30.5%  +24.7%  Major success
DominionSov changes+13.6%+13.5%+6.4%Success
IncarnaCQ+0.3%-0.2%-10.7%Major failure
CrucibleIterations+7.7%+14.6%+20.4%Major success
InfernoMissile GFX-8.3%-6.9%-10.2%Major failure
RetributionBounties+17.0%+24.6%???Major success

Just to refresh your memory, each expansion is listed with a signature feature, and +30D, +60D, and +Next percentages.  Each corresponds with the growth in logged-in players.  +30D is 30 days after the expansion's release, showing initial excitement about the expansion.  +60D sometimes shows an initially exciting expansion dying off some (Tyrannis) or growing even more because of positive word of mouth (Trinity).  +Next is where the logged-in user base is when the next expansion is released, showing the final success or failure of that expansion.

Retribution hasn't just been successful, it's been an outstanding success, the most successful EVE Online expansion through its hey-day at getting players to log in since Incursion.  In terms of improvement to the overall logged-in player count, you have to go all the way back to the Empyrean Age/Quantum Rise expansions of 2008 when many of us -- including myself! -- started playing this game for the first time.  Unifex and his team are to be congratulated, particularly since at first blush Retribution looked like it was going to be a pretty lackluster expansion in terms of CCP's ability to market it.

EDIT (18/Apr/2013): Oh!  One other thing: CCP Fozzie assures me that these numbers do not include DUST 514 players and reports that the API does not yet publicly provide DUST players logged in.

A big question remains: where did all these logged-in players come from?  Are these returning previous EVE players being brought back to the fold, or brand new up-and-coming players?  My graphs can't answer that question.  Only CCP has that data.  My guess?  A bit of both, with a strong return of past players eager to play with the work of the ship balancing team, with the bounties as a nice side bonus.  Still, whatever the source, it's encouraging to see.  On the historical graph going back to 2006, the Retribution expansion towers like a mountain:

You can view this chart with the past expansions and year markers in my previous post on this subject, and I'll update this chart for 2013 toward the end of this year as is becoming my custom.  But it's sure nice to see Retribution in its current perspective.  The comparison to the Incursion expansion is obvious, though Retribution doesn't appear to have quite the staying power that expansion did.  You can already see a bit of falling-off of logged-in player numbers in advance of Odyssey.  This is perfectly normal, and something we've seen in EVE expansion after expansion.  People log in by the thousands to play the new game, but after they've exhausted the possibilities, it's time to give them even more.

Still, if Odyssey can retain and build on Retribution's success, we'll be in a period of EVE's history with more active players than any before.  And just maybe we'll be able to put the long flat-lands behind us and look forward to some long-term growth.  Here's hoping!